Thelema is neither liberal nor conservative. In fact, to reduce Thelema to any political ideology is both to demean it and to fundamentally misunderstand it. And yet, much of the turmoil within the Thelemic community and within OTO in particular is grounded on this very thing, to the detriment of all.
This does not mean that Thelema and political ideologies can have no relationship. Clearly they can. What’s important to understand is not only are they not the same things, but that Thelema does not objectively lead to any given one. Even if we were to limit the boundary of Thelema to the literal words of Aleister Crowley, there is more than enough material to support practically every existing political ideology there is. He touted ideas that fit comfortably within fascism, communism, libertarianism, socialism, feudalism, classical liberalism, monarchism, conservatism, and progressivism.
But of course, many do not limit the definition of Thelema to a strict reading of Crowley—when people integrate other schools of religious thought (or *gasp!* their own), it gets even more complicated. Add to this the fact that Crowley lived in a very particular place and time that had social dynamics very different from our own, and it becomes difficult to square his political and cultural references to our modern circumstances. Like it or not, there simply is no direct translation from Crowley to modern politics.
Besides this fact, there remains the reality that Thelema is deeper than a political stance. It is a fundamental way of being. This way of being requires a general outlook, and most Thelemites are familiar with the basics—genuineness, tolerance of variety, harmony of forces, truth-seeking, liberty of Willful expression, self-reliance, critical thinking, personal excellence, etc. A worldview that contains all of these elements, combined with the ongoing spiritual task of the Great Work, is far more profound and primordial than a modern political orientation.
As one becomes more self-aware, it is possible to find that one political ideology is more or less aligned with True Will (although this is certainly not necessarily so…the exact opposite might also occur). In other words, the way one is in the world might match the general outlook and aims of a political orientation. Even in this case, alignment with a political movement remains incidental, not mandatory. In other words, entering into a political context is but one manifestation of Will. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes of Aleister Crowley—
“There seems to be much misunderstanding about True Will […] The fact of a person being a gentleman is as much an ineluctable factor as any possible spiritual experience; in fact, it is possible, even probable, that a man may be misled by the enthusiasm of an illumination, and if he should find apparent conflict between his spiritual duty and his duty to honour, it is almost sure evidence that a trap is being laid for him and he should unhesitatingly stick to the course which ordinary decency indicates […] I wish to say definitely, once and for all, that people who do not understand and accept this position have utterly failed to grasp the fundamental principles of the Law of Thelema.”
Of course, it’s important to grasp that “common decency” is different from community to community and time to time—and what is law but codified rules about what common decency is and what we do when it is violated?
It is a common complaint that some given ideology is not “Thelemic”. Any person who says this, in my opinion, is more worried about politics than Thelema. In other words, the complaint isn’t really about whether or not someone is doing the Great Work or is interested in others doing the same, but is really about not liking a political position, and is choosing to use tidbits of Thelema (read: Crowley) to attack it. This is an insult to both Thelema and Crowley, not to mention being intellectually lazy and dishonest.
Something I might add to Liber Oz if I could: Man has the right to promote social policy as he will— to study political philosophers as he will; to inspire fellow citizens as he will; to run for office as he will; to vote as he will.
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