Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The Law is for All
“The O.T.O. should be put forward as a complete solution of the social problem not merely as an occult society. That is as far as the general public are concerned; keep the occult side of it for people who are interested in the subject.”
– Aleister Crowley to Frank Bennett, August 1916 e.v.
I believe the question “Is O.T.O. just for Occultists and Ceremonial Ritualists?” should be on the minds of those in the Order and those dedicated to promulgating the Law. There are many people in the world who, even if they don’t recognize it yet, are essentially Thelemites and potential O.T.O. members. Unfortunately, they may be driven away by the unduly heavy emphasis on occultism and ceremonial rituals. I can’t help but think that if we are to spread the Law and continue to facilitate the growth of O.T.O., we may need to rethink how we present our Order and our temples. I believe it is important to break down Thelema into practical facets so that it can be accessible for all.
“All you have to do is be yourself, do your will, and rejoice.”
– Aleister Crowley, The Law of Liberty
Just because Crowley was an occultist and ceremonial magician this does not mean we must adhere to the same path. Some may argue that we are considered Magicians as we progress through the Order, however Crowley stated, “Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will” and “every intentional act is a magickal act” (Magick in Theory and Practice). This is to say that our intention and Will are what is the Magick here. No where does he say that Magick or Thelema are equal to occultism and ritual. He suggests certain practices, yes. Yet the underlying statement and central tenet of this philosophy is to “Do what thou wilt.” In numerous places Crowley states things such as, “All you have to do is be yourself, do your will, and rejoice.”
You Don’t Need Rituals to Do Your Will
One of Crowley’s essential essays, Duty, is described as “A note on the chief rules of practical conduct to be observed by those who accept the Law of Thelema.” There are 4 Duties:
- A. Your Duty to Self: describes the self as the center of the universe, with a call to learn about one’s inner nature. Admonishes the reader to develop every faculty in a balanced way, establish one’s autonomy, and to devote oneself to the service of one’s own True Will.
- B. Your Duty to Others: An admonishment to eliminate the illusion of separateness between oneself and all others, to fight when necessary, to avoid interfering with the Wills of others, to enlighten others when needed, and to worship the divine nature of all other beings.
- C. Your Duty to Mankind: States that the Law of Thelema should be the sole basis of conduct. That the laws of the land should have the aim of securing the greatest liberty for all individuals. Crime is described as being a violation of one’s True Will.
- D. Your Duty to All Other Beings and Things: States that the Law of Thelema should be applied to all problems and used to decide every ethical question. It is a violation of the Law of Thelema to use any animal or object for a purpose for which it is unfit, or to ruin things so that they are useless for their purpose. Natural resources can be used by man, but this should not be done wantonly, or the breach of the law will be avenged.
As seen in the above essay, Crowley continues to emphasize devotion to one’s own True Will, respect for other’s True Will, and liberty for all individuals. Nowhere does he say anything about the necessity for ceremonial ritualism or occultism.
“Do what thou wilt—then do nothing else.”
– Aleister Crowley, Liber II: Message of the Master Therion
My original question about O.T.O. being an occult order stems from the fact that as a dedicated Thelemite and Magician in the O.T.O., I don’t have typical daily rituals or many ceremonial rituals in my life. Growing up as a Native American immersed in my ancestors tradition, studying Wicca, and eventually finding Thelema, the power of rituals are not lost on me.
I most definitely have had experience in constructing and performing rituals. However, throughout my experience I have learned that practicing ceremonial rituals doesn’t have the effect or meaning they do for many other people. This does not mean we are “bad Thelemites” or “bad Magicians.”
Rituals and ceremonial magick are not for everyone. It does not mean you are not a Thelemite nor does it mean you are not right for O.T.O.. It seems like a shameful secret amongst those that don’t practice daily rituals or find immense value in ceremonial rituals, as though it makes one “less Thelemic.” Even by The Book of the Law, that simply cannot be true because “thou hast no right but to do thy will.” We cannot know what another’s Will is and we can not impose our beliefs or practices on others.
On Group Rituals
I’m sure most people automatically thought to themselves that because of what is written thus far that means I’m essentially against rituals. Nay, my friend.
Of course I have to mention Liber XV: The Gnostic Mass here as it is the central ritual in our Order and said to hold all our Mysteries. I see and feel the importance of the Gnostic Mass and I believe it works at an unconscious level to heal the rupture in our society that has brought about the schism of duality.
Furthermore, our M∴M∴M∴ initiations are something I am fascinated with and most definitely consider powerful rituals.
Method of Science, Aim of Religion
The occult aspects (magic, alchemy, divination, astrology, etc.) is based on the study of a deeper spiritual reality that extends beyond pure reason and the physical sciences, that doesn’t quite fit in with the O.T.O.. Crowley stated that Thelema was a “scientific religion,” and stated, “Practically, Science is true; and Faith is foolish.” Crowley firmly believed in applying scientific principles to religion. Although I have an interest in those occult topics listed at varying levels, “The Method of Science, the Aim of Religion” is the way of Thelema. Sometimes I wonder if we’ve forgotten that. This doesn’t mean eliminate occult aspects, this means look for proof and not believe everything thrown in front of you.
So as you can hopefully see, I am not down playing the importance of rituals, magical aspects, or the occult. I find them all powerful and provocative when appropriate. I am simply saying that it may not be for everyone and if we are to grow as an Order and to promulgate the Law, we must extend the Law to all people. The Law is for all.
If someone wants to learn about the Law of Light, Life, Love and Liberty, who are we to say… “Well you have to do Resh four times a day and memorize these things and go to Mass every Sunday”? We can recommend things that were helpful to us. We can explain what Crowley what believed what was important. But the most important thing above all else is to follow your Will wherever that takes you. This is Thelema. It is your day to day choices, your intentions, your actions, and becoming aligned with your Will and the Light within you. It’s about bringing Joy and Beauty to your Brethren and basking in Love and Unity of Nuit.
“Keep pure your highest ideal; strive ever toward it without allowing aught to stop you or turn you aside, even as a star sweeps upon its incalculable and infinite course of glory, and all is Love. The Law of your being becomes Light, Life, Love and Liberty. All is peace, all is harmony and beauty, all is joy.”
-Aleister Crowley, The Law of Liberty
Love is the law, love under will.
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3 thoughts on “Is O.T.O. just for Occultists and Ceremonial Ritualists?”
I would love to translate it and bring it out for Swiss OTO.
Am I allowed?
93 – Yes, of course. Our only request is you make clear who the original author is, that it is from the Thelemic Union, and link back to the original article here! 93 93/93
Thank you for this article. Entering into the OTO and finding out its purpose threw me off track. I was following the path of Thelema and I ran into the OTO. I found that it was not in my will and stopped my process into the fraternity. The rituals and magic confused me as to why it mattered to a Thelminite and it did not fulfill me. Maybe I missed something in it. I have moved on with my will and am perfectly happy now.