by Brother Sol-Om-On
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Many people come to Thelema, drawn by the spiritual and intellectual freedom it promises. True, Thelema provides these freedoms if one has the grit (and the wit) to achieve them. However, the trend in the last few decades — perhaps since Crowley himself died — has been to substitute the true disciplined rigor of freedom of Thelema with a sloppy sentimentality of “anything goes”. The sickness of post-modernism where everyone’s opinion is their truth, and no solid, capital-T Truth can be found.
There is a subtle seductiveness of this post-modern view. Each will is unique so each perspective or point-of-view is unique as well… naturally this means no one but you can with finality and certainty say what one’s Will is. But this does not mean every passing thought and opinion you have is true, nor does it mean anything you choose is part of your Will.
In practice, this relativism is used as an excuse for laziness of all types. If there are no truths, there is nothing out in the world to challenge your worldview. If there is no truth, then each person’s understanding will be a concatenation of cherry-picked philosophies and ideas. And if you pick your own beliefs, to some extent, you are bound to flatter yourself, exaggerate your flaws, overemphasize some aspects and exclude others because of your own blind spots and foibles.
This post-modern laziness seeps into our ethics and into our metaphysics. If our theology is lazy and its beliefs are weak, our Churches and Initiatory Temples will have a weak current indwell. Moral relativism is not the end of Thelemic ethics, it is the beginning. The fact that some actions are beneficial for some and detrimental to others is a commonplace and uninteresting position. The idea that each person is unique and requires a unique set of values to guide them is an elementary school-level understanding of ethics. We need to graduate past the childish postmodernism that “any opinion is just as true as any other opinion”.
We do not join a magical Order and expect them to basically say to us we already illuminated, we already know everything, and now you get a title and a badge to show how illuminated you are. No. These Orders insofar as they initiate are meant to challenge us, not confirm our biases. They have illuminated teachings bestowed to them but they have been watered down to the point that no one can tell you your interpretation is incorrect – that would be rude and non-inclusive! In this way the Orders that treat truth this way have nothing to teach. It all boils down to “find your own way” if nothing is taken seriously, and one can easily find that sentiment in a sports clothing commercial these days.
Post-Modern Orders Teach Nothing
One doesn’t need to pay the extra fees and go through the claptrap and rigmarole of initiation rites if all we come away from it all anyways is a vapid notion that “my own truth trumps all other truths”. While accurate in theory, in practice in becomes a superficial expression of autonomy that actually amounts to dismissing any viewpoints that happen to challenge oneself. “Thou then who hast trials and troubles, rejoice because of them, for in them is Strength, and by their means is a pathway opened unto that Light.” Those challenges are the very means to our actual spiritual growth and therefore are avoided by most by “veiling their vices in virtuous words”.
The absolute vacuum of real, strong leadership of these Orders has led to the point where OTO and other orders can barely even claim they teach anything. Since the Gnostic Mass (for example) can mean anything to anyone, some crazy person who took numerology a bit too seriously doing insane Qabalah math on a chalkboard is just as valid of an opinion as an established Bishop. Our modern current has Bishops and other authorities that are basically too afraid (or lazy) to ever put their foot down and say something actually means something in particular and not whatever you’d like it to mean. The Lance means something, the Cup means something; they are not interchangeable.
Post-Modern Oaths Mean Nothing
In fact, going deeper into the initiations, it is the practice (perhaps more explicitly in some areas than others) in many OTO locations to claim no one can interpret your oaths except for you. While this might sound nice on its surface, it undercuts the entire business of oaths: Oaths are bonds, bonds between you and the organization, and bonds between you and other Brethren. If everyone interprets oaths however they like, no oath has been sworn, no agreement has been made, no contract has been established — it is simply two people who happen to nominally believe similar things but in reality believe whatever they like. This post-modern view of oaths literally undermines the basis of real fraternity in similar Orders, the unity and commonality of oaths sworn by all Brethren. One might ask oneself: Do we all even believe the same things? Have we all sworn to the same things? If not, what exactly binds us together?
To bring it all back: If you came to Thelema and felt you already knew and believed everything Thelema offers, youve not come to Thelema. You’ve come to a mirror that lets you reflect your preheld beliefs back to you with the illusion of support from tradition. Crowley had very specific views on things and for our Thelemic Current to survive, we need to be defined. If Nuit means anything, Will means anything, if your oaths mean anything… then they all mean nothing at all. Thelema then becomes an amorphous blob that shifts constantly then it has no definition, no boundaries, nothing that makes it distinct from garden-variety New Agery. Thelema is not simply New Age cherry-picking on the spiritual marketplace but for edgy, spooky people. Or it at least has the potential to be so much more.
We need to establish First Principles. We need to establish Tradition. Not little gimmicks, not little shows. Real, lasting Thelemic traditions. Ones that both set us apart from other traditions and ones that bind us to the sacred archetypes and ancient modes of worship and magick that bore the light of Gnosis in the past. We can’t do this by “playing nice”, not being definitive for fear of hurting someone’s feelings or leaving someone out. If we define Thelema and it leaves some people out, so be it – our goal should not be to be as inclusive as possible, but as authentically ourselves as possible. We can only do this for ourselves as a Current if we establish our First Principles, and propagate a strong set of Traditions. I hope we can begin this Work or I feel our current may run its course sooner than we may like…
Love is the law, love under will.
Please see also my other previously published writing on Thelemic Union: The End of Liberal Thelema: A Eulogy.
- A Review of: Thelema’s Post-Modern Wasteland: The Need For First Principles In Thelema’s Future by Brother Sol-Om-On
- Thelema and Postmodernism: A Response
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