Derek A. Bales is a Thelemite who associates with Crux Ansata Oasis, in the Valley of Denver, Colorado.
How did you hear about Thelema and what drew you to it?
Ignoring the numerous brushes that occurred throughout junior high and high school [cough-Beatles-cough-Ozzy-cough], it was during college that I read Robert Anton Wilson and Christopher Hyatt. A good friend of mine—Brandon—also read Wilson, and initiated. Before I moved to Denver he turned me onto The Equinox Vol 1, No. 1. Having some familiarity with these types of exercises, I tried out the experiments in Liber E, and was impressed enough by the results that I endeavored to read the Student Curriculum mentioned. By the time I finished that, I knew I wanted to be initiated.
What is Magick to you?
I’m currently biased toward the ideas of Pantheism and the evolution of consciousness, so with that disclaimer…: To me, Magick is a technique whereby I can willfully shed ego, become that will, and then move beyond even that so that my will is my wand. Anything that furthers this goal, including eating, sleeping, loving, working—it’s all Magick.
What do you love about OTO? What drew you to it? What makes you stay?
In my first thirteen years I remained dues-current, but mostly couldn’t be bothered with local groups and the politics that came with it. I mostly kept my distance and focused on my own personal work. I’ve had a change of perspective since then, and want to see this organization continue to grow into something that is increasingly wonderful and exciting.
This is almost entirely due to meeting more and more individual members from around the country, and seeing the strength of character that separates the more established members from the general public. People and promise: that’s what makes me want to stay.
What do you think are most important Magick and meditation practices?
I consider the magickal diary the most important practice. It’s our primary defense against un-willed self-delusion. Beyond that, different practices seem to work for different people.
What do you think is the thing that most people misunderstand about Thelema?
During my tenure as Secretary, I answered a lot of emails and met with individuals interested in what we’re doing. The biggest misconception that I saw during that time is that Thelema will excuse any and all behaviors that one might want to indulge. Those that I met with that attitude likely never showed up at an event, or maybe would come by once…never to return.
Now if I look into social media and the like, then it seems the biggest misunderstanding involves sporting events and nefarious purposes…but that’s got to be a minority, right? Right?!?
Why do you think OTO is important to Thelema?
OTO provides needed structure for Thelemites to work together. I imagine a world without OTO as a world where Thelemites would have no more power than Discordians or Subgenii. Those latter groups are fun diversions, but you don’t see them publishing books or filling lecture halls in the same way that OTO does.
Keeping Crowley’s writings available and unadulterated…that’s obviously very important. I also see the opportunities for friendship with people around the world as hugely important. I try very hard to avoid online chat groups filled with non-OTO Thelemites, because I find the discourse divisive, petty, and an emotional distraction from any kind of good meditative work. Our fraternal bonds help us keep the fighting on the constructive side of things!
What do you think are the most important aspects of Thelema?
The most important aspects within Thelema from my perspective include the balance of the four L’s: Life, Love, Liberty, and Light. We’re able to achieve a better balance between these abstractions than other groups or philosophies. Whereas the fraternal groups of ages past may have had a strong connection with Light and Liberty, they seem deficient in Love. More modern groups may have a good grasp of Liberty and Love, but lack the illuminating Light.
Our concept of Life also seems more evolved and in keeping with what science reveals to us. Life can be hard, with predators, environmental dangers, and the like. We know that this makes us stronger, and have no need to resort (necessarily) to belief systems that strive to harmonize a concept of a loving creator with the pain and suffering we see.
Where do you see OTO going in the next 10 years? Where would you like to see it go?
This question really excites me.
We find ourselves in a very good position. During my time in the order, we’ve seen a solid networking system come into being. OTO members can easily converse and plan events or travel around the world. The organization seems stable, secure, and reliable.
At the same time, we have some strong and interesting personalities throughout the governing bodies of the order, and down into the MOE triad. This will ensure that—10 years, 20 years, even 30 years from now—we will see some of the faces of leadership change and fall into very capable hands.
Do you have any stories from any experiences with Magick?
I’ve had experiences with brothers I’ve worked closely with that I can only explain as shared consciousness or telepathy. The first time it happened was very early on, as I was leaving a record store with a brother. I saw a girl walk by my car, and I thought that she looked familiar. The thought in my mind was “did I go to school with her?” To that my brother replied “Yes, we went to school with her.” He swears I asked the question out loud, and I know that I did not. I know that seems more like an anecdote than anything else, but I don’t think it would be appropriate to discuss my more private and personal experiences from within my temple.
How do you see the world differently as a Thelemite?
As a Thelemite I am very much attuned to and aware of my freedoms, as well as the dangers to my Liberty. This allows me to find joy in some of the very activities that might annoy non-Thelemites, such as standing in line or driving through rush hour traffic. I can be cordial and friendly with every passing stranger without fear of being manipulated or used. I can appreciate the beauty that’s all around me without judgement as to whether it is good or bad.
Being a Thelemite also frees me from unnecessary and harmful expectations from my friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers. They have their wills, and I have mine—Thelema has no expectations beyond that.
What is your favorite part about the Gnostic Mass?
When I first experienced the Gnostic Mass in 1999, I was underwhelmed; it felt a bit too ‘church-y’ for my tastes. I’d go on average a couple times each year, but only for the great conversations that happened afterwards.
Upon learning some of the parts, I began to see it differently, and now that I’ve received my ordainment I am an unapologetic and enthusiastic fan of this ritual. Part of the reason for this turn-around is a growing sense of continuity between the Gnostic Mass and all the other Thelemic rituals.
From the perspective of the Priest, my favorite part is the anthem; for me it’s a song of joy between myself and the divinity both within and without, as if I’m at a party and I’ve just shared my first moment with my beloved. We’ve met each other’s eyes, kissed; we’re now dancing in ecstasy before retiring to more private quarters and getting down to the business at hand…so to speak.