Frater Enatheleme is a Thelemite who associates with Horizon Lodge in the Valley of Seattle, Washington.
How did you hear about Thelema and what drew you to it?
I first read about Thelema in the writings of Robert Anton Wilson when I was about 14 or 15. I had an interest in self-discovery through esoteric techniques like the Tarot and astrology, and had read some work by Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. I didn’t understand Thelema very well at first, but I knew that self-discovery and self-actualization were at the core of it. I became interested in undergoing a “rite of passage” that would serve to initiate my inward journey, and that interest eventually led me to O.T.O. Although I knew that I wanted to find O.T.O. at about age 16, it took me almost 10 more years to find it. In the meantime, I did a lot of work on my own through rituals of Freemasonry and the Golden Dawn, as well as study of the Qabalah, Tarot, and dream interpretation. The whole story of how I got involved in O.T.O. and my work to date can be found on my website at http://thelema.thiebes.org
What is Magick to you?
Aleister Crowley defined Magick as the art and science of causing change in accordance with one’s True Will, and he said that any intentional act is a magical act. I think it’s difficult to express any more plainly than that. Magick involves coming to an awareness of one’s inmost nature and then actualizing that. Magick can involve performance of ritual, writing an essay, taking a class, publishing a book, creating a work of art, or inventing a new kind of rocket fuel.
Why do you think Thelema is different from other philosophies? What makes it stand out to you?
When we look at the other religious philosophies of the world, one thing they seem to have in common is some moral law which regulates the behavior of individuals. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and even Taoism all have some kind of moral code.
I think this is characteristic of the Aeon of Osiris: the paternal super-ego whence we have the Code of Hammurabi, the Magna Carta, and the Ten Commandments. It was through these laws, in the Old Aeon, that freedom was attained. The Ten Commandments helped people to avoid problems that tended to tear societies apart in ancient times. In Thelema, however, the word of Sin is Restriction, and we do ourselves harm by restricting our inmost natures. In the New Aeon, we rather attain freedom through self-knowledge and self-discipline.
One might arguably point out that Liber Librae, The Book of the Balance, is described as “an elementary course of morality suitable for the average man.” The difference is that this is a course of self-discipline, and a praxis of Karma Yoga, rather than an absolute set of laws that one must obey on penalty of eternal damnation or inauspicious rebirth. In Thelema, “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt,” and all one must do is be oneself, do one’s will, and rejoice.
There are many differences between Thelema and other religions, but I think this is one difference that really makes Thelema stand out to me: Rather than having a set of moral strictures, we have one Law which demands nothing more than that we discover our inmost nature, actualize that nature, and seek to realize our unity with the universe. Ethical considerations can be derived from this, and this is up to the individual to do, each for herself, rather than for priests to do for others.
What do you love about OTO? What drew you to it? What makes you stay?
The primary purpose of the O.T.O. is to promulgate the Law, which is to say, to publish and declare it, that it may spread. It does this through actual publishing, as well as through the ritual transformation of individuals to become soldiers of Thelema — servants of their inmost nature and the outward manifestation of that nature, as symbolized in the figure of Ra-Hoor-Khuit. This transformation takes place on the level of psychic imprint through the initiation rituals, and on the level of social conditioning through the Gnostic Mass and holiday festivals, and on the level of self-metaprogramming through individual daily practice. All these are reasons that I love O.T.O. and are the things that drew me to it.
Aside from the fact that I have promised to devote my life to O.T.O. (and my word is my bond), these are also the reasons I stay. Our rites and celebrations are as far as I know unequaled in undoing Old Aeon indoctrination and instilling the values of individual liberty. That said, we have a lot to learn and we can do much better. In any human organization there will be politics, and in some times and places those politics can be toxic. O.T.O. has never been exempt from this, and it still isn’t. Nobody is perfect. We have to get better at overcoming the difficulties of toxic politics, but it will never go away completely. That’s part of life. Indeed, acceptance of this constant struggle, as an inherent part of the joy of existence, is another thing that sets us apart from many other traditions.
What do you think are most important Magick and meditation practices?
For meditation, I am a big advocate of asana yoga at its most simple. Get in a comfortable position and stay there without moving for 5-10 minutes. It’s a lot more difficult than one might realize at first. It’s crucial for developing the focus needed for the most basic ritual work. There are few things more inadequate than trying to do ritual and being unable stand or sit without fidgeting for more than five seconds.
For Magick, I always stress the importance of the art of memorization — an art which is ironically nearly forgotten in our modern world. Obviously it is crucial to memorize one’s lines when performing dramatic ritual such as the Gnostic Mass or initiations. Memorizing the principal columns of 777, meanwhile, is important if one wishes to have a slight apprehension of the meaning of the ritual one is performing. As for the foremost actual rituals that I recommend, I’d say some form of daily Eucharist and solar adoration. This can be in the form of “Saying Will” and Liber Resh. All of this is augmented by the daily journal which should not be neglected.
What do you think is the thing that most people misunderstand about Thelema?
I suppose the most common thing is mistaking “Do what thou wilt” for “Do your whim.” It’s really such a common misunderstanding that it is almost cliché to talk about it. Of course, “Do what thou wilt” means that we must actualize our inmost nature. It does however afford the same degree of emancipation from morality as “Do your whim” might imply.
I think a subtler misunderstanding that is very common but not as noticeable is the one which places Thelema as one constellation in a galaxy of occult practices. Thelema transcends all distinctions of style and value. It is an organizing principle which can make use of any other practice and transvaluate it. For example, we can see many rituals of Thelema originated elsewhere. The Gnostic Mass is inspired by the Catholic Mass; Liber Resh by Salat; Saying Will by Saying Grace; The Star Ruby by the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram; and so on. Thelemic ritual is Thelemic by virtue of the underlying principle which exalts the liberty of the individual rather than upholding a moral code as “the word of god,” or demanding the humble supplication of the individual to a priestly class.
Why do you think OTO is important to Thelema?
O.T.O. is the most effective organization today which is engaged in the work of promulgating the Law. Thelema cannot survive without being spread, and it may not survive unless it is spread very wide and far. For this reason O.T.O. is extremely important to Thelema. I believe this is the reason that Crowley invested O.T.O. with the rights to publish his writings.
What do you think are the most important aspects of Thelema?
There can never be too much emphasis placed on the Yama and Niyama of Thelema. That is: “Do what thou wilt,” and “Mind thine own business.”
Do you have any stories from any experiences with Magick?
There are a few stories I could tell. I find it difficult to talk about experiences with Magick because so much of the experience occurs outside the realm of rationality and language. I mean, the actual act of Magick can be any intentional act, so there are a lot of such acts I could talk about.
For example, I love telling people all about my wonderful first date with Julia, which was a six-week excursion through five European countries. But the way that any particular act connects to the True Will, and how it expresses one’s inmost nature, is much more difficult — perhaps ultimately impossible — to articulate. Or I could talk about the time when my apartment and I were engulfed in flames in 2008, which was a peak experience signifying both a kind of failure and the beginning of a new part of my journey inward.
I feel like a lot of people will expect an answer to this question along the lines of, “I did this one ritual which was super spooky and everyone saw the smoke turn into a goat,” or, “I evoked a demon and found success in life.” These are the kinds of discussions of Magick which I find totally worthless. Magick is a discipline which encompasses the totality of one’s efforts to actualize one’s inmost nature, and that is a deep and complex process which evolves over a lifetime, not something that can be boiled down to any particular “experience.”
Where do you see OTO going in the next 10 years?
I think it will really depend greatly on how we meet the challenges before us. Right now, O.T.O. is a minuscule organization, and although we are growing very fast (roughly 5% per year by my last estimation, which is as fast as the fastest-growing religious movements in the world), we still have a long way to go if we want to overcome the forces of superstition, tyranny, and oppression which currently dominate the world.
Therefore I will describe the three major challenges that I see before us, and how I believe these must be addressed.
1) It is natural that any meritocratic organization tends to become oligarchic, as those who attain positions of power collaborate to protect what they have achieved, sometimes resulting in “closing ranks” against perceived threats. We in O.T.O. are not exempt from this very human and understandable tendency. If our growth trend is to continue, we will have to find ways to ensure that talented and devoted people are able to serve the Order with little interference.
2) I’ve said before in a variety of places (see especially my paper in Unity Uttermost Showed) that we must devote ourselves strenuously to the purpose of promulgating the Law, by publishing and declaring it as widely as possible. This effort should be undertaken not only by national sections, but by local bodies and individual members. It is a statistical fact that most religious movements fail, and one of the easiest ways that we can fail is by neglecting to spread information about Thelema to those who might be interested if only they had heard of it. This is not about converting people — it’s about getting the right information into the hands of those whose True Will is to accept and extend the Law of Liberty.
3) Aleister Crowley was not perfect, and because of this sometimes people have a tendency to not take him seriously, and even to mock those who do. However, Aleister Crowley was the Prophet who received this new Law, and as such his writings are authoritative. We each must make our own appeal to those writings in interpreting the Law for ourselves. One of the challenges that I see in O.T.O. is in the fact that many of our members have serious misgivings about the fact that our Thelema is that of Aleister Crowley.
I think that those misgivings about Crowley are understandable in a way, since many people may misinterpret this as a statement of the infallibility of Aleister Crowley, but it’s not that at all. Who could possibly claim that Aleister Crowley was infallible? Rather, the fact that O.T.O. is dedicated to the Thelema of Aleister Crowley is simply to safeguard against the interpretive distortions and corruptions that have plagued religions of the past. Rather than allowing any priest, priestess, initiator, or anyone with sufficient charisma to sway people to his or her personal interpretation of the Law, by upholding Aleister Crowley’s Thelema we are telling people: go to the source, and decide for yourself what to believe.
That’s all prelude to saying that all this a source of confusion for many people, and that confusion is a major challenge for us to overcome if we want to see O.T.O. succeed in its mission to extend a new paradigm of religious and philosophical praxis, rather than spreading merely the personal interests of our most influential members.
How do you see the world differently as a Thelemite?
Honestly it’s hard to say, since I don’t know how others see the world and I was pretty young when I was not a Thelemite. I would say however that, as a Thelemite, I do not see the world as inherently evil. I don’t believe in original sin and I don’t impose a moralistic dichotomy which seeks to exalt the spirit and deny the flesh. I also don’t see the universe as purely material, as all my observations are personal and subject to the interpretations of my nervous system, and the idea of materiality is simply a construct that I use to explain the world to myself. As a Thelemite, I see the world very differently from both Old Aeon paradigms — religion and science — and rather transcend and include them within Scientific Illuminism.
What is your favorite part about the Gnostic Mass?
The Gnostic Mass was written by Aleister Crowley as a means for people to experience religious ecstasy under the influence of a ritual which does not contradict common sense. I see the Gnostic Mass as a dramatic ceremony which, rather than being a vehicle through which “God” speaks to the congregation via the Priest or Priestess, is a demonstration of how each individual may come to full knowledge of their own divine nature.
The officers of the Mass represent various aspects of the individual self. This is one major reason why it does not make sense to have a Mass where both Priest and Priestess are the same sex or gender. The sexual polarity in the Priest and Priestess symbolizes the masculine and feminine aspects of the individual. Their union in the manifestation of the solar-phallus demonstrates that the One Organ manifests as both lingam and yoni, and the union of these is the generative mechanism for our species.
My favorite aspect of the Mass is the way that it emphasizes the three-fold nature of the Lord in so many places: the “visible and sensible” sun in the heaven, the “secret and most holy” phallic principle in every man and woman, and the “nourisher of all that breathes” that is the oxidizing respiratory fire of air. This symbolism is emphasized in the three crosses made by the Priestess on the Priest; the robe, crown, and cap; the phrase “enlighten our understanding, encourage our hearts, let thy light crystallize itself in our blood,” and so many other places. I also find this corresponds to the locations where we might find the Mark of the Beast emblazoned.
How do you see Thelema evolving in its 2nd Century of existing (i.e. after 100 years)? How is it different or how is it going to be different? What has grown or changed?
One thing that I see people grappling with now, and which I think will continue to be a source of inspiration and consternation for the next dozen or more decades, is the question of what implications Thelema has for politics. Some people, both conservative and liberal, seem to jump to concluding that Thelema supports the political ideals that they already believe in, and to an extent I think they are all correct in thinking so, but I think Thelema really transcends these common political ideals and is above them.
Aleister Crowley expressed political positions which included six months of welfare for new mothers as well as condemning traffic signals as sure mechanisms of tyranny, and I think this should be a sign to anyone that Thelema does not fit neatly into a conservative or liberal mold. Rather, I believe that Thelema takes precedence over any other ideological system, and places the liberty of the individual at the forefront, provoking the question: which policies uphold this liberty? Liber OZ states that “Man has the right to live by his own law,” and I think that this refers to the fact that a given law may support individual liberty in one context of time and place, and the same law can be oppressive in another time and place, and we must find out which laws will support liberty in our time and place.
I think that one can easily make internally consistent arguments for both a mandatory minimum wage and the right to bear arms under such a worldview. Surely there are also legitimate arguments against both of these positions as well. The point is, though, that we can explore and deliberate over such problems by basing our arguments on the question of what is better for the liberty of the individual, rather than blindly following a partisan ideology. I think that finding our way to that discussion and engaging it will be a major focus of this century in Thelema. [see more on Aleister Crowley’s view of politics at AC2012]
Is there anything else you would like to talk about related to Thelema, OTO, and/or Magick?
I would just like to mention that if anyone is reading this who is new to Thelema, please check out the podcast Speech in the Silence, which offers readings, lectures, music, and much more, all directly related to Thelema and Magick. It’s a great place to start learning about Thelema or to continue your exploration even if you are already familiar with it. A new program comes out every month.