by Frater Entelecheia
“In The Book of the Law this is implied throughout. The True Will of every Free Man is essentially noble.”—Aleister Crowley, “Antecedents of Thelema”
When Crowley talks about discovering and doing your true will, he tends to talk about it in terms of formulating and acting out a logos, a statement, or even a single word. You’re acting in a definite, describable way to the exclusion of acting in other ways. Your actions exemplify or instantiate a principle or concept. In other words you act according to a standard. You should be able to tell if you’re meeting your own standard of conduct, and because beliefs cause actions, a person observing you should be able to infer what your standard is by how you behave. In common parlance, the extent to which a person consistently follows their standard—especially under stress or temptation—is what we call their integrity or their character.
In a system of deontological ethics, such as that proposed by Immanuel Kant, a maxim or standard of action is moral insofar as it can be willed universally, by any rational being. This is not the case in Thelema. The requirement in Thelema is only that the principle accurately reflect the nature of the person willing it. The objective in Thelema is not to make one’s actions accord with a universal standard. Instead the point is to always act in accordance with what you yourself already know to be proper by your own standards. One must always maintain internal alignment between one’s speech and one’s actions and one’s own highest principle. For this reason, the moral relativism of Thelema does not contradict the need for character or integrity. In fact, it makes it even more important.
When Crowley set out to create an organization based on the philosophy of Thelema, he built these ideas into it. The three grades of O.T.O.—Hermit, Lover, and Man of Earth—are the three grades of AL I.40 which are contemplated in the word Θελημα.
As Crowley elaborates in his Old Comment on this passage, for the Man of Earth, spirit is submerged in and dominated by matter. This is a run-of-the-mill condition in which one’s actions do not consistently accord with a principle. How much stress do you have to be under before your internal alignment breaks, and you find yourself doing things which, even by your own standards, are stupid? An example of this would be ignoring all of a person’s red flags because of how you feel about them. Another example would be doing something you later regret because of your own arrogance. That’s the extent to which you are a Man of Earth. The Man of Earth grade of O.T.O. is supposed to be a proving ground in which the Order can determine who is fit to govern by testing who is fit to govern themselves.
The goal of the path implied by the word Θελημα is to move toward the inversion of the Man of Earth relationship, so that spirit is no longer submerged in matter but instead rules over ordered matter with strength and authority. This is, in part, how Crowley understands the Hermit grade. It does not imply that you no longer live in this world or participate in it. (Quite the opposite, see AL II.24). Nor does it imply that you do not experience emotion. (Again, quite the opposite, see AL II.70.) The greatest possible proof of integrity and strength would be the fullest imaginable participation in the world without breaking one’s ownmost code or word.
A good illustration of this ideal would be Marcus Aurelius. He was both a Stoic philosopher and Emperor of Rome. This is a person who, because of his political position and wealth, would be presented with almost unlimited and unimaginable opportunities to corrupt himself. And because he has no equal, there is no one but himself to hold him accountable for his actions. To continue to live in accordance with a principle under such circumstances—to keep one’s word, to act with integrity, to not overindulge—would be proof of tremendous character. Yet this is very similar to the Hermit ideal of Thelema.
The work of the Man of Earth degree of O.T.O. proves this and further specifies the principle. As Crowley stated in his Confessions, the sub-degrees of Man of Earth are intended to teach “discretion, loyalty, independence, truthfulness, courage, self-control, indifference to circumstance, impartiality, scepticism, and other virtues”.
Acting in accordance with these virtues should be necessary for anyone to effectively do their will, because these are the virtues which are necessary in order to invert the relationship between spirit and matter implied by the human condition. They are meant to elaborate, specify, and achieve the spiritual aim of Θελημα itself. Obviously a person does not have to be an O.T.O. initiate in order to do their will. There are other (possibly better) means by which one may cultivate those virtues besides going through temple initiations or being part of an occult fraternity. But you cannot make a sharp distinction between “doing your will” and doing the work implied in those degrees.
But if someone is an O.T.O. initiate, there is no question that they should act in accordance with discretion, loyalty, independence, and the rest. They should have better than average courage and impartiality. They may not be aiming at the same thing in life as you, but it should be clear what they are about as a person. To that extent, they should be eminently trustworthy.
A person who is untrustworthy, fickle, and just out for themselves is a failed initiate in the fullest sense of the word. Furthermore, they are not a King in the sense mentioned in the Book of the Law. They are a slave and a weak person.
Slave morality glorifies weak, harmless people. But a weak person is anything but harmless. A weak person is much more dangerous than a strong person. You do not want a weak person on your team, in your organization, or in your bed. They will undermine you and ruin your life. This is because they don’t ultimately stand for anything. They don’t do what is “right” in the Thelemic sense of the word—or for that matter any sense of the word. They do what they can get away with. They don’t cultivate convictions so much as preferences, and so they are constantly making exceptions and excuses for themselves. To place any trust in such a person, to make yourself vulnerable to them, or to get involved in their ceaseless drama is extremely unwise. You will absolutely get taken advantage of.
One way to test a person’s strength is to speak truth to them. If something seems “off” or “wrong” with a person’s behavior, pose difficult questions to them. When they do something you do not like, set boundaries. In other words, kindly or matter-of-factly let them know they did something you dislike and ask them if they would do something different in the future. Speak your truth to them. Do not tell them who they “really” are or give them a piece of your mind. Instead, just be honest about how you see their actions affecting you, and stick to your guns even if they attempt to manipulate you with guilt, self-pity, or anger. Perform these tests with them before letting them into your life, your lodge, your business, your heart, or your bed. Really get to know them. And have the courage and will to walk away, regardless of what hope you once had for them in your life.
If you exercise discretion, loyalty, independence, truthfulness, courage, self-control, indifference to circumstance, impartiality, and scepticism in your interactions with people, or if you turn this into a baseline culture in your organization, you will not have to worry about weak people undermining you. They will not be able to survive in that kind of atmosphere. They will either adapt and become stronger, or they will exclude themselves. And by practicing this kind of testing, you yourself will become stronger and more secure and will be well on your way to realizing the inversion of matter and spirit which is implied in overcoming the condition of Man of Earth.
It’s common in Thelemic communities to hear that Thelema is purely private and ineffable. Such individuals would reject the idea that Θελημα describes a clear path of strength and virtue, since what it means to walk this path is infinitely malleable and subjective. This is fashionable nonsense. Think of any activity in life. If you don’t set a clear, high standard for yourself—if there isn’t the real possibility of failure—do you get stronger, or do you get weaker? In the absence of truth and courage, does your potential actualize, or does it remain dormant? Every time you see someone bragging that a guy who has been dead for 72 years doesn’t get to tell them what to do, ask yourself: Have they substituted Crowley’s criteria with something harder to succeed at or something easier to succeed at?
The strength of the Thelemic path is not the supposed strength that comes from walling yourself off from the world. It’s not about seeking refuge in pseudo-mystical bullshit any more than it is about “being a tough guy” or ignoring feelings. This is the attitude Crowley represents by the Virgin Mary. Instead, it is the strength that allows acknowledgement and unflinching acceptance of what is, as it is. This is the strength symbolized by Our Lady Babalon. The virtues taught in the Man of Earth degree of O.T.O. are the bricks laid on the path leading to her Cup of Fornications. It is a path of radical vulnerability, of an open heart, of love under will—and hence of radical strength.
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