Pot-Shots from Nowhere
In Magick Without Tears Aleister Crowley counsels against regarding Thelema as a religion, and in some sense this is advisable, for to many seekers after enlightenment, religion means the same old stodgy dead end. For those of us who gave up on conventional religion years ago as simply being an instance of old men telling everyone else how to live their lives, the word has negative connotations. Yet Thelema is religion.
In Magick Without Tears Crowley offers this definition: "Religion is the attainment of Knowledge and Power in Spiritual Matters; it is a more or less coherent and consistent set of beliefs, with precepts and prohibitions therefrom deductable; and, to the Thelemite, religion must be a series of doctrines, no one of which must in any way clash with Science or Magick." He goes on to observe that the word, “Religion,” does not occur in The Book of the Law. This is true, but words that do occur in Liber AL include “God,” “Worship” and “Sin.” That sounds like religion to me.
And, of course, the use of the word, “Religion,” benefits many Thelemic organizations in the world we live in today. As an organization that has been granted “not-for-profit/religious” status, we are able to promote Thelema easier if we do function as a religious organization. So then, for all intents and purposes, Thelema is religion.
Perhaps then it is time to start functioning even more like a religious organization. Every Thelemic body in the world should seek recognition as a religious group by whatever region they are in. Priests and Priestesses should seek approval to perform legal marriages. Celebration of weekly Thelemic services of some kind should be a top priority of every organization. The development of the equivalent of Sunday School material needs to be a universal goal.
(An aside on this last item: The Fundamentalists, Evangelicals and Charismatics use Sunday School as an elaborate method of brainwashing children—even to the extent of sending out buses to pick up every urchin they can find and drag them to their churches. We have to combat that! We are few, and they are many; and while, as believers in the True Will, we cannot sink to brainwashing, we must have a coherent set of “Sunday School Lessons” to present to our children, so that they start learning about the love of Nu, and have a background in Thelema when the Fundamentalists start bombarding them with their bullshit.)
Getting Thelema established as a bona fide religion is a long, hard task; but it must be done. Religion, for us, must lose those old negative connotations, and become the vehicle of implementing the New Aeon. I believe that our catch-phrase for the 2000s should be: All shall be done well and in a religious way!
A View from the Prairie
Previously I discussed the topic of Thelema as religion; but on reflection I see what I was really trying to discuss was Thelema as “organized religion.” By that I mean the whole church building, Sunday school, weekly services, coffee-and-doughnuts-afterward type of thing. Of course my view is biased; as all I’ve experienced of Thelemic organizations is what we have out here in the middle of nowhere. But judging from our own experiences, what I perceive that we need is really the respectability and legitimacy of an organized religion. The intensity of my feeling is influenced heavily from the types of religious prejudice I’ve encountered since becoming a Thele-mite—I am so tired of every Fundamentalist / Evangelical / Charismatic calling my prophet a Satanist and saying I’m going to Hell that I could puke.
I touched somewhat on the topic of Sunday school previously as well. If none of you have seen much of that kind of thing lately, let me give a brief overview: a religious organization owns its own publishing house, it has someone write actual lesson plans that generally mix learning something with doing a craft. For instance: discussing the nature of Nuit (as revealed in The Book of the Law, of course), and then constructing a simple likeness of her. This is, of course, using the craft project to reinforce the lesson. Each week there is a new lesson and a new craft. There is a booklet for each student from which pages the craft is done; there is also a teacher’s manual with a lesson plan and added hints on how to conduct the class—I maintain that developing just this sort of material is a goal that we should set for ourselves in the ’10s.
If anyone’s interested in checking out just what this sort of thing looks like, most Bible book stores carry Sunday School material. Using that kind of material as a guide, I would think that it could be pretty easy to write a Thelemic equivalent; or, at least, that’s what my own past experiences with the material put out by Cokesbury, the United Methodist publishing house, seems to indicate.
Another area that we could pursue would be to counteract the negative effects of Televangelism by trying to get our own message across, and that’s not as expensive as one might at first suspect.
Surely most of us live in areas where there are Cable TV companies that have local- or public-access channels. On these channels we could either present our own programs (maybe even to include some sort of Thelemic service) or we could create a panel with other small denominations to discuss the problems that minority religions have to deal with.
This should not be too hard to do—and could go a long way towards establishing our legitimacy.
Let’s give it a shot.
I had mentioned religious prejudice previously. To be fair, I realize that it has colored my outlook, as I’ve experienced several unsavory incidents:
One day I was having what I thought was a nice philosophic discussion with an Evangelical. Somehow Crowley’s name popped up and this Bozo denounced Crowley as a Satanist, and refused to discuss anything other than the weather with me ever again. He later left me a booklet that claimed all Freemasons are Satanic. Sigh!
There is a lady at work who runs every time the topic of magick is brought up.
Some members of the occult community here are closet occultists because they fear getting caught up in some kind of witch-hunt.
A Fundamentalist I know informed me I was going to Hell for being a pagan. I informed him there was no such place.
It goes on and on and on. I try not to let these incidents turn me into a radical Thelemite, but it’s not easy to deal with these dunderheads with much patience at all.
But I suppose I have to try.
On the question of being radical, I am well aware that our lead article, “All This and a Book,” is in danger of coming across as some kind of Thelemic Fundamentalism. I regret that; but, at the same time, I realize that every essay we print in our “Centre of Pestilence” feature will not fall into the category of Intellectual Curiosity. As for the essay itself, I feel it addresses an important topic, and raises some vital questions.
Speaking of “Centre of Pestilence,” my own reasoning is: I find it very difficult to take “The Comment” in A seriously, it seems glib and cute. If we followed its instructions precisely, Thelema would never have a chance.
Instead, I prefer to follow Crowley’s instructions in The Equinox of the Gods:
Where the text is simple straightforward English, I shall not seek, or allow, any interpretation at variance with it.
I may admit a Qabalistic or cryptographic secondary meaning which confirms, amplifies, deepens, intensifies, or clarifies the obvious common-sense significance; but only if it be a part of the “latent light,” and self-proven by abundant witness... I insist that all interpretation shall be incontestably authentic, neither less, more, nor other than was meant in the Mind of Aiwaz...
a. The words of the Text are obscure in themselves; where
b. The expression is strained; where
c. The Syntax,
e. Spelling, or
f. The use of capital letters present peculiarities; where
g. Non-English words occur; where the style suggests
i. Ambiguity, or
j. Obliquity; or where
k. A problem is explicitly declared to exist; in all such cases I shall seek for a meaning hidden by means of Qabalistic correspondences, cryptography, or literary subtleties. I shall admit no solution which is not at once simple, striking, consonant with the general plan of the Book; and not only adequate but necessary.
To me this makes a lot more sense than an instruction that includes throwing a book, this complex, away after the first reading. Geez!
A question that comes to mind is this: how many of us are really living Liber AL? Yes, it seems full of the most intricate mysteries—no doubt some of us pick it up the way mundanes pick up their Sunday crossword puzzles; but there is more to being a Thelemite than pondering over R P S T O V A L.
In a future issue, I would like to see an examination of AL as a self-help book. No—don’t groan. The holy books of most religions include instructions on living in accord with their tenets—AL is no exception: “Remember all ye that existence is pure joy; that all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass & are done...” (AL II:9); “Fear not at all; fear neither men, nor Fates, nor gods, nor anything. Money fear not, nor laughter of the folk folly, nor any other power in heaven or upon the earth or under the earth. Nu is your refuge as Hadit is your light; and I am the strength, force, vigour, of your arms.” (AL III:17)—and there are many more quotes that all come together to form a life philosophy, a Thelemicly religious way of life. These are instructtions for living a life of force and fire, free from what I call “that old Christian guilt thing.”
If any of our readers have not regarded AL in this way before, I urge them to give it a thought—the result should be interesting!
Who Is Heru-Ra-Ha, and Why Is He Saying
All Those Terrible Things About Me?
Most Thelemic bodies have an on-going fund for the purpose of eventually buying their own temple. I used to have a certain type of building in mind: a store front with apartments overhead, so that income from the apartments can cover taxes and upkeep on the entire building. Many groups also have financial goals and a timetable.
Those are not lofty goals. Those are certainly attainable goals; and one must admit that the thought of actually being in possession of such a building warms the cockles of every aspirant’s little heart. Can you see it all now: a bookstore in front to make more money, a reception area, a meeting room, a library with a really good selection of occult books, a real office—and, of course, the temple! Ah yes, the temple! A large temple—one that really faces Boleskine—Oh gods! just the thought of it all makes a Thelemite so ecstatic he or she could burst.
But now back to reality: yes, this is a possible goal; and, yes, it would do a lot to establish you in your community as a legitimate church; and, yes, this would help to establish for you the kind of image that could guarantee further growth.
What is your prime concern, hopefully it’s the continued growth of your own region.
Doing ritual work in a basement is Okay. I’ve seen some nice basement temples; but there is a time when commitment and growth dictate a situation when tapestries are not hung in front of a water heater and the Leaders don’t enter from an old, musty fruit cellar.
Also, the periodic nominal donation is fine. Every penny helps; but there is a time when major blows need to be dealt to those who would destroy us. The time for delivering those blows is, no doubt, near to hand! (Superfluous perhaps, but sooner or later, one begins to look at things this way).
What is the solution then? What kind of balance needs to be struck? The word “Thelema’ itself answers our query. Follow your own True Will, in regard to this as in all things, and without restriction.
Are We Talking About Small-Block Chevies?
Gotta Go Warsh Mah Truck!
Sometimes we wonder about the changes necessitated by the advent of the aeon of Horus. How long will they take? What, exactly, will they be? How much will we see in our lifetimes?
Speculation piles upon speculation, but all we are left with is a stack of what-ifs. How do we try to see beyond all this? Well, there’s always the Tarot and the I Ching; provided, of course, that Ra Hoor Khuit allows intelligible answers to be received. After all, he’s the workhorse of the changeover. There are also a few hints to be found in AL, again, provided that R.H.K. feels that we are at the right spacemark for these items to be revealed.
Some things we know. “I am the warrior Lord of the Forties” seems to relate to the 1940s: World War II and the Korean War; and the invention of the Atom Bomb. This is a lot of death for anyone to take credit for, even a god. If all the wars of this century are but one gigantic bloody sacrifice, an offering to add further energies to the transition—well, it’s nearly more than the brain can cope with!
“The Eighties cower before me, & are abased” requires a little interpretation. What exactly in the 1980s could R.H.K. have been referring to. A lot of military situations seemed to have petered out by the end of the decade, only to have been replaced by new, more volatile conflicts. Maybe he’s referring to situations that are not necessarily military in origin, at least not on the surface. If the late ’60s were a giant pendulum swing towards the new aeon, then the ’80s were the nadir of this. Many of us here saw the ’80s (and, in truth, the ’90s) as a very repressive era. We would gladly relegate this decade to be no more than the dying gasp of the Osirian aeon; but Osiris seems to be far from his final death throes. What then about the ’80s could be seen as cowering before R.H.K.? The Televangelists got into real hot water—nothing new here— and they mostly seem to have recovered by now. If the Thelemic mode of life is construed to be one that is sexually liberated, then such diseases as A.I.D.S. and Genital Herpes can be taken as being an attack against a dawning age—we can only hope that these diseases will “cower” in the ’10s by cures being discovered. Perhaps only with the distance of time can this be duly appreciated.
Then there are those who feel that we must not use e.v. reckonings of time in interpreting this verse. If that is true, and we’re only at year IV, then none of us will see year XL in our current incarnations. Note also that The Book of the Law does not say to create a new calendar. Likewise, there are those who wonder if the ’40s and ’80s of every century will match off to some kind of formula—well, could be, but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting to find out.
“Hail! Ye twin warriors about the pillars of the world! for your time is nigh at hand” is another interesting verse. Some people take “twin warriors” as referring to the two Super Powers. If that is true, then the U.S.S.R.’s “time is nigh at hand” is happening right now. And the United States? I was wondering if we weren’t going to somehow get embarrassed by the Gulf War. [Yes, this entry is very dates.] But now the militaristic twits who run things are more cocky than ever. We could certainly be setting ourselves up for a fall. Others feel this might be in the form of a revolution in which the have-nots rise up and take things away from the haves. I really don’t see that happening, and I am not suggesting that such an event should take place. No one wants his own country to look bad, or to fall from Grace; but The Book of the Law says what it says. We should try to be prepared, provided we agree with this interpretation. Opinions?
Pot-Shots and Broadsides
My thoughts just now are that perhaps I should talk about Initiations—don’t worry, I’m not about to give out any secrets. Disappointed?
I agree that Initiations are not a race—there is no race to see who the next person to become some high exalted grade will be—but, damn it, it had better be me!
Hmm! I didn’t start out very well, let’s try again:
Yes, Initiations are not a race. As you read about the Initiations of any Order, you’ll encounter the philosophy that you should take the Initiations as you feel ready for them; and it’s hard to argue with that.
But my own feelings—and I don’t claim that they’re based on anything other than gut instinct—is that it’s very important to take the Initiations at proper intervals.
My rationale behind that is based on the magical side of things as it relates to the ordeals. And by ‘ordeals’ I don’t mean the little trials and tribulations that happen during the actual Initiation ritual. A few months before a scheduled Initiation, the real ordeal for that grade or degree begins—and it seems to last till six-to-nine months after the Initiation actually took place. Ending, of course, just in time for the ordeal for the next degree to begin. And it all seems to fit together rather nicely.
I think that things go wrong when an individual remains at one degree for too long of a time. I think that the positive energy or force of the ordeal then putrefies. And that the positive-learning-life experiences really go down the ol’ tubes. If you know of anyone who’s been at one degree for a long time, look at their life and see what you think for yourself.
Well, that’s how I feel about it—and I ask my readers to please consider this carefully and then, of course, to act in accord with their own True Wills.
There is another item in regard to Initiations that I think people do not consider in the proper light, and that is the matter of the Fraternal oaths.
These are just not little pleasantries to lengthen the Initiation while the Feast is cooking; these are magical oaths that become permanent while they are being spoken! They are not to be taken lightly; and they do not need a living physical hierophant, or some governing body to enforce them. They are magical in nature, and will enforce themselves! If someone has taken a Fraternal oath—and then lies to a fellow member of whatever order, or steals from him, or talks behind his back—well, that individual will pay the price, and no one has to tattle on him. It will happen!
I think this is something for all of us to consider, and adjust our actions accordingly.
On Thelemic Religious Ceremonies as Magical Rituals
I started celebrating my first Thelemic religious ceremony in the late Summer of 1989.
I really had no instructions as to how to do it. I mean I had the printed ritual, but there were no instructions as to how to do it.
Of course, I discussed it with my predecessor—but we disagree two-thirds of the time no matter what we’re talking about.
And yes!, I’ve heard that one high-ranking Initiate of a certain order says “Be thou Hadit!” every time he ordains a Priest—but I didn’t hear about that until after I’d been celebrating this particular Thelemic ceremony for quite some time.
From my own experience the key to the Priest’s role is in the holding of god forms. At the beginning of a certain ceremony, I held the “archetype form” of everyman and held that until after the Priestess has empowered me.
For the rest of that ceremony, the god form I hold depends on my actions or the speech I am giving. If I feel the speech is particularly solar in character, I hold the god form of Ra Hoor Khuit; otherwise I hold the form of Hadit.
And, of course, I pour all the energy I can into the actual elements of Communion.
But there are other matters to consider. The ceremony, any Thelemic ceremony, is not just a roomful of magicians all off doing their own little ego-centric, power-trip things.
Thelemic religious ceremonies are group rituals and it is paramount that everyone in general, but the Celebrants in particular, realize the important almost-symbiotic relation that exists between every individual in the temple.
This is aptly demonstrated by a particular Thelemic Celebration I used to do. It is a piece of teamwork between the Celebrants, not some ridiculous bit of ego-gratification on just the part of one or the other.
In fact, it is during this ritual that teamwork between the Celebrants is so very important. No one is doing a solo act.
I’ve always treated one line from this ritual as though it were a magical oath: health and wealth and strength and joy and peace; and that fulfillment of will, and of love under will, that is perpetual happiness.
If there is any energy left at the end of the Ceremony (and it does seem to recharge quickly), it is the Celebrant’s obligation to return that energy to the Communicants at the Benediction, making that blessing be more than just pleasant words:
The Lord bless you.
The Lord enlighten your minds, and comfort your hearts, and sustain your bodies.
The Lord guide you to the accomplishment of your True Wills, the Great Work, the Sumum Bonum, True Wisdom and Perfect Happiness.
More on Thelema as Religion
Previously, I printed Crowley’s definition of Religion, I think it bears repeating:
“Religion is the attainment of Knowledge and Power in Spiritual Matters; it is a more or less coherent and consistent set of beliefs, with precepts and prohibitions therefrom deductible; and, to the Thelemite, religion must be a series of doctrines, no one of which must in any way clash with Science or Magick.”
A lot of magicians, as well as pagans, are individuals who’ve given up on conventional religion—in fact, most of us were driven away from religion by the sheer stupidity of its adherents; but it behooves us to keep in mind that the laws are written to favor conventional religion—what with their tax breaks and all.
Thelema is a religion, but a religion for strong-willed independent thinkers who’ve little patience for the narrow-minded cretins of traditional religions.
I say to you why not use these laws to our benefit—oh, don’t fear that they’ll seduce us, we are far too strong. There are tax breaks and other advantages that we’ve been denied far too long. They are our right too.
My counsel is this, use all the advantages that conventional religion enjoys. If they accept us as harmless; if their children and grandchildren join our ranks; if one day we outnumber them; if one day traditional religion dies out as the opiate for the sheep/lemmings/slaves that we know it to be; if one day we are all a society of Thelemites seeking and doing our True Wills free from the sin of restriction — then so mote it be!
So mote it be!