We can finally present the penultimate essay in this discussion; Sef has the excuse of having moved house, and gained extra ordinary employment, to explain his delayed response. He also regularly climbs Glastonbury Tor these days, as some kind of pilgrimage/self imposed ordeal…
Thank you for your previous reply, which I would like to take a moment to answer. The points which you contend are coincidence of history, or my Gnosis achieved through whichever methods, I cannot debate as they are unprovable by their nature. I cannot claim to have all of the answers, or a complete and conclusive set of evidence, but I can safely hold that my personal paradigm regarding Liber AL and its implications and sources is internally robust.
What is more interesting certainly, is that we agree that there must be consciousness outside of this world, whether in a metaphysical manner or by pure weight of statistical xenobiology. I subscribe wholeheartedly to the ideas of consciousness in your Quantum Neopagan metaphysics, and I tend towards a nonlocal effect leading to shared information across the vast distances of time, space, and other dimensions. As above, that my experience tends towards an external and objective model of such intelligences, and that they are actively attempting to communicate, is unlikely to be proven to either of our satisfactions in this lifetime. I would however reference Liber AL once more:
“Thou knowest! And the sign shall be my ecstasy, the consciousness of the continuity of existence, the omnipresence of my body.”
-AL Cap I.26, as if to foretell the endless dreaming of the Elder Gods wherever and whenever they may be amongst the cosmos, the body of Nuit being those very stars. Perhaps in working the top end of the Chaobala, users of the Esotericon may find some answers.
Your response to my questioning of the priest or shaman figure in the Chaos magick world covered all the points, but for the record I would like to add that I can think of no finer person who is actively engaged in this work in the real world, than this blog’s own Julian Vayne, alongside Nikki and Steve and others, who are all wonderful people whom I have been privileged to work alongside magically and otherwise. I still think that there is an inherent need for such figures of support to be more common, even if not formalised (as dogma is the enemy of progress, and antithetical to Chaos magick I would hope!) and I look forward to a time when communities are capable of self-sufficient living with competent integral support for magick, community, and survival, as Greg of Future Tracks is putting into practice.
Now on to your final question: In [the Epoch] we applaud Crowley for what appears to us as some of his great insights, but we also make a number of specific criticisms of his work as well. What do you think the Thelemic community will make of it?
Let’s go through your comments on Crowley briefly:
- That Crowley published Mathers’s GD documents as Liber 777, slandering him in the process.
- That Crowley added sex and drugs to the techniques available for achieving altered states of consciousness.
- That he “never added any magical theory or attempted to tamper with the underlying PPM metaphysics”, and created a “middlebrow misogynistic Victorian neo-satanism by simply replacing the solar based monotheism of [Platonic Pagan Monotheism] with a solar Satanism of the beast 666 by reversing all the usual ideas.”
- That he “replaced the doctrine of Original Sin with his doctrine of True Will, he substituted Self Indulgence for Self Sacrifice, and he replaced Christ with the Crowned and Conquering Spoiled Brat of the Aeon of Horus.”
- That he was egregiously incorrect about the then-commonly held anthropological theory of the Aeons of Isis and Osiris preceding the current age.
- That Crowley “enjoyed himself, mainly at the expense of others”.
- That “his ideas continue to appeal to those who like him, grew up in a Christian household and then rebelled.”
As promised initially, I have put these comments out to tender with others in the Thelemic community, and here are a few responses:
“I would say the appeal of Crowley, certainly after the sixties, is, for me, down to his attempt (successful imo) to bring together magick and yoga, west and east in a corpus that is not just theoretical but always emphasises the practical. He does this in a way that acknowledges the latest ideas in science and philosophy and with a constant appreciation of the ecstatic tradition in poetry and literature. This is an impressive achievement and encourages us now to build upon it, showing that magick and the uncovering of the True Will is a path for the modern world, not just ancient grimoire nerds.”
-Paul Weston, Thelemic speaker and community organiser in Glastonbury, author of Aleister Crowley and the Aeon of Horus.
“Just about everything that Crowley has said in one place, he has contradicted in another… As soon as we use language, we are defining and therefore separating into dualism. Poetry perhaps comes closest to speaking to the oneness of existence. In Liber AL vel Legis, the Star Goddess Nuit speaks words which, for me as a female person, are experienced as current, elegant, and deeply and profoundly sacred. Crowley connected the spiritual and the sexual in ways that, on many levels, have yet to be fully embraced and integrated.
“That said, I see Crowley as having had the Madonna/Whore complex commonly exhibited by men who’ve been raised with extremist or restrictive Christian values–not only those who lived in Crowley’s own time, but today as well – with its polarities of pedestalization and demonization; of guilt laden chastity and dehumanization of sexual desire i.e. objectification; compartmentalization. I see him as attempting to override the sexual restrictions of his Christian upbringing by exalting the whore and demonizing the chaste woman. The Scarlet Woman is the Holiest of Holies, the Graal, but then the misogyny surfaces in a threatening hatred toward her; thus keeping her power in check. I think that we would do well in this New Aeon to recognize that the Feminine is both: Night and Day, Mother and Lover, etc., all at once. And, it is within all of us, women and men. We have much personal and collective work to do to heal this.”
-Aepril Schaile, international bellydance teacher and professional astrologer, and member of O.T.O.
“The community of Thelemites is something of a Tour de Force – greater than the sum of its parts; certainly much greater than even hoped for by Crowley. The World has seen his genius acknowledged throughout the Arts and Crowley’s influence upon the 20th and 21st Century developments in esoteric teaching methods has been encyclopaedic.
“What is often forgotten is that in terms of scholarship, Crowley was a leading intellectual of his time. Knowledge has moved on, but AC never claimed to be all-knowing (save in sagacious tongue in cheek fashion). In symbolic terms, he straddled two Astrological ages. Can we not be charitable and acknowledge that a monumental task was given to him in his field of expertise? Nowadays, Crowley’s behaviour and sexual predilections would not raise an eyebrow amongst the average festival goer. But this means that he was very much a man ahead of his time. But, above all else, the man was sincere. This shines out in his writings. His heirs gain much inspiration from this … and from his humour. It’s a pity some writers can remain so humourless when commenting on the man.”
-Steven Ashe, author of books on Rosicrucianism and the Golden Dawn, and longstanding Thelemite.
“I have yet to read EPOCH so I will admit that I am going by a précis of the main criticisms of Crowley contained therein, which has kindly been supplied by Sef. These and many more are already part of the warp and weft of Thelemic discourse, where critique of Crowley and his corpus is alive and well. In short, although some hardliners would disagree, it is obvious to me that Crowley was a product of his time and much of his work has to be viewed as that of a visionary working on the cusp of a massive change in western, if not global, culture. I tend to see Crowley’s legacy as the crack of a starter pistol that began a rather curious leg of an age-old race, the finish line to which Crowley as a late Victorian couldn’t have hoped to fully imagine (if indeed, can we). Thelema continues to work for me in the most surprisingly complex and powerful ways. More than two decades on from my first reading of Liber AL, I have yet to find a book to supersede it and yet I continue to wrestle with it daily. It does the Thelemic community a great disservice to suppose that it is no more than a lumpen mass of unquestioning lapsed Christians looking for a ‘safe’ satanism. It is far more nuanced and progressive than that. It seems that Pete’s aversion to ‘Platonic Pagan Monotheism’ is a position that can be refuted and in my own personal universe, that paradigm is still holding firm until further notice. In the meantime, it’s a case of ‘each to their own and Do what thou wilt’!”
-Adrian Dobbie, O.T.O. representative at the Occult Conference 2014, President of the Electoral College for UK Grand Lodge.
For me however, all but points 3 and 7 are completely immaterial. To say in point 3 that Crowley never added anything to the theory or metaphysical mechanics of magick is a great disservice, even the first pages of Magick in Theory and Practice, or his introduction to the Goetia, state clearly otherwise. It was a breakthrough in magical perspective and engineering, and my own practical results were greatly influenced by it as a younger man. Furthermore, your statement regarding misogyny within Thelema is a misdirection in the main, although I will gladly admit that finding female representatives for quotation above was difficult and I was turned down by some of those I approached for their own reasons. Within the magick of the Order itself, there are far better and more qualified discussions by female initiates such as Brandy Williams and Cathryn Crane (née Orchard) so I shall leave it to their words and perhaps other female initiates to comment on this post regarding the role of females in Thelema.
Finally, point 7 that Thelema appeals to those who grew up Christian and rebelled, may hold true for some, but LaVeyan Satanism is set up to better corner the market of rebellion against Christianity, and Thelema is for those who wish to free themselves from the conditioning imposed by any strict dogmatic faith and do their Will. This key point is what I would like to discuss for the remainder of my airtime on the Blog in this series.
Crowley is dead, happily so for many, and we would do well to remember as several pointed out above that the Thelemic community has grown far greater than he might have actually hoped, despite his grandiose aspirations in works such as the Blue Equinox. The Thelemic community is not just the membership of O.T.O., although it certainly encompasses initiates such as myself. Members of Ordo Templi Orientis must come to terms with our fellow Thelemites, and work with them to manifest the New Aeon of Light, Life, Love, and Liberty, the word of whose Law is Thelema – we are all part of this force for change in the world. For as much as Thelemites keep dividing and re-factionising themselves, there are some sterling examples of the work being done across boundaries in groups such as 2nd Century Thelema, podcasts put out by the Order including Thelema NOW and Speech in the Silence, and factual and thought provoking essays and works by Thelemites such as Frater IAO131 alongside those quoted above. The IOT itself, set up in opposition to O.T.O. as it may have been, is an expression of this continued evolution of magical endeavour, and I will plug the Book of Baphomet here to say I think that notion of tribe and communal responsibility is emerging within Chaos Magick of its own volition.
As we learn how the information revolution and capacity to connect and interact with one another shapes this new world in which Thelema can spread as an idea, with the notion of freedom and liberty being transmitted virally, we must act and plan according to the upcoming needs of those who will benefit most: not initiates, not even those who consider themselves Thelemites, but those who seek liberty and the freedom to do their Will. It is my contention that Ordo Templi Orientis is founded on the blueprint of a fully functioning Thelemic society, and that we must now focus on realising that potential. Not for ourselves per se, but to foster the environment where freedom is not an abstract concept but an integral part of life, and at no time has this been more needed than in the present geopolitical climate. Does O.T.O. fight for Liberty and do battle with the forces of tyranny, superstition, and oppression? Does O.T.O. lead seekers to greater understanding of themselves, their potential, and assist to manifest the accomplishment of their Will? Does EGC provide a full and true church with clergy who are committed to pastoral care for all comers, and facilitate births, marriages, funerals, and all supplementary life rites?
You said of Magical Orders:
“Then of course you can have Magical Orders set up to promote a specific cultish philosophy or set of beliefs. These beliefs will have to contain highly contra-intuitive elements, as with any religion; they will need to entice followers into a double bind of emotional commitment to unattainable or self-contradictory goals.”
I contend that these aims are neither unattainable, nor self-contradictory, and that the Order should seek to fulfil all of these charges wholeheartedly. Until O.T.O. leadership can answer yes to the above without hesitation, it will be at increasing risk of losing its relevance to the Thelemic community, and the support of its members will dissipate into nothingness. It is my sincere hope that the Order will meet these challenges, and take up the offers of those of us within the membership who look to enable its expansion into the Blue Equinox model, but if not then we will surely work with the grassroots to facilitate others to do their Will. I certainly know that I fulfil the accomplishment of my Will by such community interaction, and I look forward to continuing to do so within and without the Order, as evidenced by my creation (and subsequent passing of Mastership) of Calix Sanctus Oasis in Glastonbury, and the taking on of the Occult Conference, and founding of The Visible College to give others access to the tools and information required to fulfil their Will, whatever that may be.
In short, Thelema has never been more prosperous, and I would enjoy seeing the Order become a central and facilitatory part of the onward expansion of personal, private, social, and magical liberty which will surely continue for a long time to come. I have said before that the ultimate goal of O.T.O. should be to make itself redundant in respect of those who come to the initiations to find and do their Will in a group of like-minded people, as they will one day be in that position by the accident of their birth if we have made a whole society in which we are free to do our Will. The Order will still promulgate the Law, and maintain the Sovereign Sanctuary of the IX°, but those who take initiation will be joining to press on to the higher degrees and serve others rather than seek refuge from those forces of tyranny, superstition, and oppression – which currently beset us on all sides.
Finally, I come to the last of my questions. Thank you so much for this entertaining, challenging, and educational discourse Pete. As I have told you, around my circle of friends and proof-readers (and thank you to each and every one!) this has been known as the “Epistles at Dawn” series, and although this last entry was late to the party I am hoping I can finish it in a worthy fashion.
For all of Crowley’s flaws, failures, and frauds, he remains noteworthy for his prescience: the world since 1904, when Liber AL was received, has seen more cultural advances in the direction that Crowley foresaw than any other period of human history. Convenient labels for pet paradigms aside, Crowley does appear to fit the archetypal “Prophet” in the truest sense of the word. While advances in freedom, equality, sexual liberation, and so on may not have been directly brought about by Thelema and its adherents, this modern age is fitting the model of a New Aeon as Crowley foretold. I hope that I have conveyed throughout this series of essays that the Great Beast’s vision for humanity was not confined just to the praxis of A∴A∴ or O.T.O. as operative Magick is generally understood, but is wide-ranging socially and culturally, and seems to be playing out around us for good or ill.
You have watched 40 years of Chaos Magick blossom across the world; joined, created, and left Orders just as Crowley did; and our conversation here on the Blog of Baphomet has given a chance to air the insight that has brought. Do you foresee your own message as being equally prescient and far-reaching? Is Chaos Magick going to tell us as much about the next century or so as Crowley did with Thelema back in 1904? And what has been achieved so far?
To put it another way, as a member of the occult community, and a human being: What are the Chaotes doing for us? And what will become of them?
All the very best to you Pete, I await your final response, and look forward to further collaborations if our paths bring us back together.
-Sef Salem, IV°
Thank you Aepril, for making some rather important points that often get suppressed or ignored. As a woman, I agree.