Frater Ildanach is a Thelemite who associates with the Irish Order of Thelema.
How did you hear about Thelema and what drew you to it?
In my late teens a girlfriend lent me a few books on paganism –one had quotes from Crowley at the start of each chapter which caught my eye as all I knew of Crowley was the usual gossip that he was some sort of evil Satanist into black magic. A few months later on my 18th birthday, I saw a secondhand copy of ‘Magick’ in a bookshop and bought it to judge for myself if Crowley was as bad as people said, I was totally blown away by his introduction to Book 4, and the suggestion that there was a type of ‘spiritual’ experience, which the founders of the worlds great religions held in common – despite their differences in doctrine. The idea that this type of experience could be induced or reproduced and his sceptical, scientific, experimental approach towards investigating it made a big impact on me.
Around the same time my older brother and a few friends from Ireland who were living in the UK had also come into contact with Thelema through the OTO in Manchester, we exchanged a lot of letters on their experience of OTO and initiation and a few weeks later a friend returned to Ireland like a Thelemic whirlwind – we chatted for hours and within a few months I was in the UK myself, about to embark on my Minerval initiation into OTO. Coming from Northern Ireland at the height of its political and religious conflict, Thelema seemed to ring out loud and clear as a potential solution to the horror that Ireland was going through at the time.
A few of us then returned to Ireland and set up a local body of OTO in Belfast in 1992 and while I am no longer a member of OTO my time in it was incredibly influential and my experience of initiation was of great benefit.
What is Magick to you?
Magick to me is understanding myself and my conditions and applying that understanding to live in a way that is true to myself. in a broader sense it is also about using various tools and techniques to inflame and inspire myself and others in collective celebration and provide a focal point for a community of people with a common interest in the ideas individual liberty and the celebration of the principles of the Book of the Law.
Why do you think Thelema is different from other philosophies? What makes it stand out to you?
Its funny, but in some ways, I don’t think Thelema is really very different from other philosophies or religious traditions, in terms of its origins I have never really been sure what to make of Crowley’s version of events from 1904, a big part of me still thinks it sounds like bollox :), and like the foundation myths of so many traditions is a heady mix of the improbable and the unproveable.
On the other hand coming into contact with the Book of the Law and the traditions of Thelema had a massive impact upon my life, and I have found that the application of the Principles of Thelema has really worked for me, helping me develop discipline, to get rid of influences that restrict me, to develop my own strengths and skills and to work collectively with others of like mind on some really great projects. So really what makes Thelema stand out, is that I find that it works for me, and in ways gives me a sort of spiritual or religious framework that’s doesn’t offend my naturally sceptical and pigheadedly materialist nature.
I am sure other systems work equally well for other people with different needs.
What do you think are most important Magick and meditation practices?
Self-discipline, first and foremost, and keeping awake enough pursue your chosen course, the whole method of antithesis that Crowley emphasises so much is also something that’s has been very important for me– trying to see both sides of every question or position helps keep a lot in perspective. In terms of meditation practises – fly-fishing does it for me – just enough physical activity and concentration to keep me from thinking of anything else, but at the minute I don’t really feel the need for much in the way of ritual or magical practise in the narrow sense, my main ‘magical’ practises are getting out of bed at 7am, attending lectures and getting assignments finished on time.
What do you think is the thing that most people misunderstand about Thelema?
That it is all about ceremonial magic, Tarot and Qabalah.
Why do you think Thelemic community is important to Thelema?
I think a community is really important to Thelema, because it provides a social and cultural environment that doesn’t hinder individuals in the pursuit of their true will, that might sound obvious, but it’s really important to have a space where you are not constantly fighting against the inertia and restriction of so much of ‘normal’ society and culture.
What do you think are the most important aspects of Thelema?
To me the most important aspects of Thelema are its application to the everyday world and everyday life and to try and figure how to bring its ideals of individual liberty into the world at large.
Do you have any stories from any experiences with Magick?
Of course, like most people who have experimented with Magick I have a few funny tales of those rare occasions when it seemed to actually work, but I try and save those for late nights involving wine 😉
Where do you see the Thelemic community going in the next 10 years?
I would like to see the broad Thelemic community continue to become more established, focused and organised, the likes of securing physical ‘temple’ or other community spaces provide a great focal point and I would like to see more of this developing.
Also, after decades where the literary focus of Thelema has been on reprinting and annotating Crowley’s work and efforts to produce a definitive biography (both of which are important) I would like to see a new generation of work which focuses on exploring the ideas and ‘philosophy’ that Crowley developed under the banner of Thelema, giving his ideas the same level of attention and exploration that has previously been focused on his life-story and personality – I think that would be a really useful development.
How do you see the world differently as a Thelemite?
I think one of the main differences in perspective that I have developed from my involvement in Thelema is not to think in absolutes – it still surprises me sometimes to watch debates and arguments from people who hold fixed absolute positions – GMO’s are ‘Bad’, or GMO’s are ‘Good’ etc. I think the perspective you gain from applying the Law is much more relative, and gives a perspective that is more like – ‘based on my current level of experience, at the present time, and my current understanding, in this particular instance, I think….x,y,z, but also recognises that from a different perspective someone else might be totally justified in holding a contrary position.’ That simple change of perspective from fixed to dynamic instantly removes so many causes for conflict.
What is your favorite part about the Gnostic Mass?
After 20 odd years I still have very mixed feelings about the Gnostic Mass, some of it is really incredibly beautiful and striking – the likes of the Collect of the Sun is so incredibly simple, but striking, as are aspects of interaction of the Priest and Priestess, I also think the Mass has a depth of symbolism and a richness that holds a lot of appeal and sometimes makes some of the more recent ritual I have seen look a little shallow in comparison.
On the down side, sometimes I think that the Mass is more effective and enjoyable to participate in as an officer than it is as a member of the congregation, I’m not really sure how effective it is in inducing religious ecstacy among ‘the people’ or how well its creed really reflects Crowleys intent in creating a ritual that wouldn’t offend a hard headed materialist sceptic. Likewise, in writing it for Theodore Reuss, possibly as a means of bringing Thelema to Reus’s “Gnostic neo-christians”, I think that sometimes the mass has had the opposite effect in bringing a sort of neo-christianity to Thelema.
But what I most appreciate about it is that it stands as a first example of the application of Thelema to a pre-existing ritual tradition, and in that sense serves as a great model for the development of other forms of religious ceremony and traditions and bringing them into line with Thelema.
Personally I think that the influence of the Law is more likely to be extended globally by bringing the core principles of Thelema to a broad spectrum of religious and celebratory traditions, than by focusing on one particular ritual such as the Gnostic Mass.
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?
For my own work and that of the Irish Order of Thelema – the centenary of the writing of Liber AL was a really big turning point, and really solidified our focus on presenting the core ideas of Thelema within a symbolic framework that was specifically Irish, so I think that there is a lot more room to express ‘universal’ Thelemic principles, in a local form that maintains a level of cultural continuity.
I also think that the OTO’s victory in the UK copyright case in 2008 has already made an impact, it has solidified the OTO’s position and really closed the period of history where there were numerous organisations claiming to be OTO.
As someone who spent quite a lot of time working in a group that had claimed to be derived from the OTO but had no real legal basis for doing so, I eventually realised the futility of that approach and argued the case for bringing that era to a close, it was the right move, that organisation no longer exists, and I am happy to have moved on in a different direction. It seems to me a lot more honest for innovative groups to represent themselves as new and innovative rather than trying to hang on the reputation of the OTO, or claim to be something they aren’t.
In general I am optimistic for the future, I think there is a great new generation of people interested in Thelema, and I think there are a lot of encouraging projects out there – even this idea of 2c –Thelema, provides a great space to focus on the future, and set the work infront of us in context.
I also thought that the AC2012 project was a really brilliant way of getting the message of Thelema ‘out there’ in a really fun and innovative way. I think that sort of innovation is really important, along with promoting as much variation and experimentation as we can about how to organise and operate as Thelemites and how to make people aware of the Law in a way that minimises misunderstanding. Much of the variation we promote might come to nothing – but I think it really increases our chances of stumbling onto things that are successful.
To summarise what I’d like to see coming in the second century of Thelema:
- Greater presentation of the basic principles of Thelema as a way of life, and a critical evaluation of those ideas based on our present circumstances.
- A greater degree of intentional variation in religious, social and organisational expression of Thelema, applying its core ideas to a broad spectrum of traditions that can aid people to rise up and awake.
- More co-ordinated and systematic efforts to make people aware of the existence of Thelema Continuing development of physical centres, as focal points for Thelemic communities.
- A balance between working on future goals and development, and fulfilling the immediate needs of the Thelemic community as it stands, here and now.
So a lot of work to do and fun to be had – upwards and onwards! 🙂