Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The Book of the Law is scorching about Christianity, and many Thelemites follow Crowley in ranting about the evils of the religion. I know people who feel genuinely scarred by their families’ religious browbeating, and we’ve all seen how much influence a particular version of Christianity has on US politics. It’s easy to scare yourself into thinking Christianity will continue to regulate social discourse, TV scripts, scientific research and the contest of school textbooks far into the future.
Except this isn’t the case.
If you look at reports such as this one: http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/139575-7-startling-facts-an-up-close-look-at-church-attendance-in-america.html, you’ll see that scarcely more than one in six Americans goes to church every Sunday. This isn’t much more than the average across Canada, and it’s close to the low figures for western Europe. The Southern Baptist Convention is looking at having to close unneeded churches in a few years time, and we all know how poorly the Catholics are doing at recruiting new candidates for the priesthood. Even hard-charging groups such as the Mormons, who expanded immensely through the 1990s and into the 2000s, are seeing serious leakage in membership. (http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,934324,934324#msg-934324) Conversion might have been a lifelong step into the LDS Church in times past, but not so much any more.
Churches and independent ministers have tried various tactics, including downplaying the concept of hell (See: http://www.theguardian.com/news/2014/nov/26/-sp-my-life-in-hell). But while the unctuous TV ministers try to look confident about matters, the simple fact is, Christianity no longer has the ‘big’ answers it once possessed, or appeared to possess. Evangelicals you meet smilingly say they have Jesus in their hearts and they know they’re going to heaven as a result. But at some point, the utter silliness of the core mystery – we’re all born drenched in sin and only receiving God’s grace can save us from eternal hell – is a turn-off that produces swelling doubt long after the high of conversion has ebbed.
Combine all this with the twisted alliance (co-dependency?) between loony rightwingers, the military-industrial complex and evangelical churches, and you have an unholy goulash that the most ardent of conservative pundits can’t make seem to be about Christ and compassion.
G.K. Chesterton, one of Crowley’s contemporaries, famously observed: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” That is probably more true today than ever. We read of few Christian martyrs any more, outside of the shrinking sects of the Middle East, trapped within bloody turmoil. The Prayer of Jabez (remember that fad?), prosperity theology and anti-education, anti-science thinking and a profound disillusionment in North America with our own culture and its condition have reduced Christian fervour, not enhanced it, and there’s no end of that in sight. Like the British Israelites or believers in a flat earth, evangelical Christianity will always be there, but it is steadily declining and will continue to do so. There are exceptional situations in Africa, and also in Latin America where lapsed Catholics take up with some form of Protestantism. But the writing is on the wall.
That said, we also have to face the uncomfortable fact that Christianity has been the spiritual glue of western culture. Democracy was just a local phenomenon with the Greeks; it took fire in the hands of later Christians, as did rule by law, scientific discovery (‘revealing the wonders of God’s creation’), notions of fair-mindedness and tolerance, and so on. Yes, of course you can be an atheist and be a ‘good’ person, embodying all these principles. But in a Christian society, an atheist has to hold himself to a higher standard than the Christians around him, to maintain credibility. As Christianity dissolves, that is progressively less necessary. The spiritual core … isn’t. I would argue that even the extreme violence of Islamists is tied to an equivalent perception that the old religious and social structures can’t be saved, hence the frantic looking backwards to an imagined ideal time, when there was a Caliph, and living memories of the Prophet and his followers.
The Aeon of Horus is well under way: it’s also still in formation. We don’t see serious Thelemic values, which have to include an aspiration to being more than human, taking centre-stage just yet. We’re in a chaotic phase that Crowley compared to the phase of the Aeon of Osiris when the Roman Empire had peaked and went into decline, and the classical world had no valid answers to the implications of this. Christianity was the answer then, except it was still being invented.
“It is a thought far from comforting to the present generation, that 500 years of Dark Ages are likely to be upon us,” he wrote (of the Aeon card) in The Book of Thoth. “But, if the analogy holds, that is the case. Fortunately, to-day we have brighter torches and more torch-bearers.”
The world is undeniably scary, and in forming that perception we’re helped by the paranoid peddlers of Armageddon and Judgement, who sense the gap between spirit and their theology/philosophy growing ever wider, while only being able to see the problem manifesting in others, not in themselves. Serious seekers need to step aside from this; we must strive to rehabilitate the thick, still-potent residue of Osirian consciousness, which ever flinches from the potentiality and vastness of Nuit as the matrix of all existence within which each of us moves and has our being. Appreciation of this vastness (i.e., samadhi, or at the least, dharana, mindfulness), along with our sovereign, dynamic individuality within it, is what leads to the consciousness-perspective we equate with Horus (Heru-Ra-Ha).
Paralysing ourselves with fear and loathing over oily Gospel-pushers and their saved (i.e, lost) followers doesn’t help us in that. “Leave the dead to bury their dead,” said the Magus of Nazareth. That still applies, even though the zombie state of His faith today is producing the sort of ill manners attributed to all zombies, at least in any movie that I’ve seen.
Love is the law, love under will,