Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Peter Beinart has an interesting article in The Atlantic this issue. It looks at changes in religious observance the US, and how falling church attendance is not leading to a more open-minded society but an increasingly intolerant and racist one.
To call Thelema a religion is to start a modest flame-war, or sometimes a larger one. And I agree, it’s a very limiting term.
There are people for whom Thelema is an ethical code, even if the ethical basis is a rejection of things many people think of as ‘ethics.’ Others look to it for a community of fellow misfits as much as anything strictly ideological. There are others for whom it constitutes a spiritual perspective, a term that covers many different … well, perspectives. And there are those for whom it is primarily a spiritual quest for a transcendent understanding of human existence.
While acknowledging the preferences of people in other groupings, I fall into the last category. In this, nothing essential has changed for me over a lifetime, except of course a series of experiences and openings – closings, too – that have qualified what understanding I have. I’ve been on this ‘road’ for half a century now, and if there is no sense of “more-than-just-me” in what I’m into, I’m not interested in the game.
I can’t see the rise of the alt-right as anything but a narrowing of options. There is nothing in the Book of the Law itself that excludes anyone on grounds of race, despite Crowley’s own well-known personal prejudices. There is continuing tension around race and ethnicity, and not everyone excited by the topic is keen on debating it; but the alt-right strikes me as particularly uninterested in such things as constructive dialogue. In my limited encounters with people who identify with it, they’re rather pleased with their own exclusivity, and display little of the self-criticism of currently held opinions that Crowley advocated.
As the numerical decline of religious organisations proceeds, Thelema’s traditional beefs with Christianity will become increasingly passé. The principles of this Aeon aren’t dependent on any one group, or community of fraternities, but are, as I comprehend matters, inexorably infiltrating all levels of human activity. Some Christians themselves have therefore adjusted to the shifts in the society around them with an unconscious responsiveness to True Will, while retaining outer forms of their faith. The few people who adhere strongly both to the faith and to a meditated study of its scriptures and teachings are creating new options for its expression, while the tired qlippoth of Christianity, its mean-spirited husks, are increasingly claimed by those who are indifferent to serious spiritual enquiry; or serious much-else. As Beinart says:
“For decades, liberals have called the Christian right intolerant. When conservatives disengage from organized religion, however, they don’t become more tolerant. They become intolerant in different ways. Research shows that evangelicals who don’t regularly attend church are less hostile to gay people than those who do. But they’re more hostile to African Americans, Latinos, and Muslims.”
And, I suggest, to other things that follow on from rejecting the implications of such concepts as: “Bind nothing! Let there be no difference made among you between any one thing & any other thing; for thereby there cometh hurt.” (Book of the Law, I, v. 22).
The notion of any Thelemite being “a religious person” has always been a scandalous one. Even to write the words is, no doubt, to risk Crowley’s shade re-constituting his cremated remains and coming back to mock. But as time passes, the notion of a person with a constantly unfolding, if very private, sense of the “ins” – the Invisible, the Ineffable, the Indescribable – might be seen as less flakey, and more as a go-to source of guidance.
And, perhaps, at some stage, as the Aeon hurtles onwards through its wrenching, dislocating changes, we might find ourselves in less of a state of discord with other people who seek to know what each of us is, and is for. To advocate some kind of New Aeon ecumenism is probably a lame idea, given how lame it proved after first emerging a half-century ago. But we might yet recognise that there’s some common ground in the quest to realise a truth that rises beyond existential anxiety, through (in part) grasping that the root of that anxiety lies in an overrated notion of our personal importance. And that would mean the Thelemite’s oldest boogey-man, the righteous Christian, won’t always carry the shadow-projection of ourselves that s/he now does.
Love is the law, love under will,