Keith Taylor is a Thelemite who associates with Theorte Ekstasis Camp, in the Valley of Louisville, Kentucky.
How did you hear about Thelema and what drew you to it?
Funny story (although I’m sure for most of us it began this way), I was hanging out with some friends one night when I caught a glimpse of the occult out of one of them (that would be a story for another time). I decided to confront him the next day. I wanted to swoop in and educate him about what just happened. Mind you, I was pretty arrogant back in the day. Turns out I would be the student in this relationship. Silly me. He pointed me to a book called The Book of the Law and a man named Aleister Crowley. I had no idea about either of them.
So I searched the internet for this book and found it. During my first reading everything felt right and it made total sense to me – even the parts that I couldn’t grasp, if that makes sense. Even with my degree in Philosophy (stop laughing), I had never been able to coherently put my thoughts down on a moral or right life. But in those short few pages, was something even better than I could have written. It was almost every thought I had had on the topic of a right way of life (for lack of a better phrase).
Afterwards, all I did was read up on Thelema, Aleister Crowley and the OTO. Sadly it would be another 8 years before I had a body near enough so that I could take Minerval (and that is yet another story for another time).
What is Magick to you?
How about I explain what I use Magick for since this question to me is a lot like asking a mechanic ‘what is a screwdriver to you?’ For me, Magick is the tool(s) by which I bring about change in myself. My magical toolbox is full of different techniques and practices from shamanism to ceremonial magick, but in all of what I do, the central goal is to simply be me.
Why do you think Thelema is different from other philosophies? What makes it stand out to you?
I think it’s the fact that it recognizes, at its core layer, that it is only half the equation. It realizes that each individual is the other half. Most philosophies (and even religions could fall into this category) take an objective stance on the truth of their statements and their interpretations. Thelema, for me, is meant to be consumed by each person and then churned out into a unique and equally valid philosophy tailored to each person.
I don’t think I’m saying that everyone gets to do what they want. In the simplest of terms, I just mean that we are all travelling from New York to LA. The Book of the Law is the only map each of us has. We will all arrive in LA but each path and method of travelling will be unique depending on how each person read their map. And to me, it seems like the philosophy of Thelema is meant for this type of personal interpretation and implementation.
What do you love about OTO? What drew you to it? What makes you stay?
I really had no idea what I was getting into when I joined. I’d been in a greek fraternity in college, so I figure I had a mix of that imagery combined with the idea that I’d finally learn how to throw a fireball. But I really had no idea what was to come and what it meant to be a Brother in the Order. All I had known came from reading from 19th century magicians from the Golden Dawn and the early OTO era. During my Minerval I was totally blown away. I remember asking afterwards (not beforehand): OK, what am I supposed to be doing here?
What makes me stay? If you hear me half joking about it, you’d hear me say the food. I remember having a friend (who eventually took his Minerval) ask me before a feast we were attending, what do I mean when I say we are going to have a feast? It took me aback but then I realized that, before I joined, I really had no grasp of the concept of a true feast. And try as I might, I couldn’t convey the grandness of what it meant to say feast. It wasn’t until we got there and there were six long tables packed with food, including a whole cooked pig that he turned to me and said, “Oh, when you said feast, you meant a FEAST!”
But in all seriousness, I’d say it’s the fraternity. I’ve had the pleasure of travelling all over the US for work, and there is nothing like showing up in Anchorage, Alaska, calling a Brother whom I’ve never met, and asking if he’d love to spend some time with me. Then not only having him take me to lunch, but that he brought me into his home to meet his family, made sure I had company every night I was in town and that I got to see as much of Anchorage as I could get in. Then to turn around and be given the honor of sponsoring some of their first batch of Minervals there. There is nothing like the fraternity we have here and I love my Brothers and Sisters.
What do you think are most important Magick and meditation practices?
Realizing that Magick isn’t just gestures and incantations, but that it’s every action you take and every choice you make. I can do a dozen Star Ruby’s and six LBRP’s, but if I don’t actually get up and clean my room, what good does it do for me? Or if I perform rituals for strength but then continue to eat fast food… Or if I do 30 minutes of Asana but then get into a flame war with some internet troll. Magick and meditation go beyond the 30 minutes or so of words and movement we might do in the temple.
The Magick weapon of The Labour of Preparation is one of the best weapons a magician can wield in this regard. I almost think the real Magick happens at this point, not while we wave our wands and cups around. 😉
What do you think is the thing that most people misunderstand about Thelema?
Oddly, the biggest misconception I’ve heard down here in Louisville is “WOW! You guys aren’t as dark as I thought you were. Can you point me in the direction of some real Satanists?” Seriously, I don’t know how many people have come around thinking they were joining a drug and sex-fueled cult only to find some of the best fraternity that could have asked for and have been totally disappointed. We’re not all peaches and cream, you know, but I guess people actually expect us to be incarnations of the dark lord on the physical plane.
Why do you think OTO is important to Thelema?
I would speculate that, throughout history, there have been many brilliant and insight men who have seen the truth/divine/cosmos/whatever and, even if they had written it down, had that knowledge lost to history. Those ideas/thoughts/ramblings about truth/divine/cosmos/whatever that have survived are just the ones that have been preserved and passed down. Simple as that. It has nothing to do with their truthiness. The OTO, then, is the transmitter of the knowledge of Thelema. Without it, Thelema might be nothing more than a cool idea from a kooky old man.
What do you think are the most important aspects of Thelema?
Personal responsibility, and that includes the interpretations that we make of it. There is no old bearded man on high that’s going to reward you for good behavior and time served. There are no forest gods to blame for bad crops and hairdos. Not that I’m saying they don’t exist mind you, only that you and only you are responsible for each and every action and reaction in your life. And because of this, the onus is on us. Too many philosophies and religions take the personal responsibility out of the hands of the individual. Instead, Thelema places all the power (and the responsibility) squarely in each of our hands. Therefore: Thelema is not a thought experiment, it is a philosophy/religion of action.
Do you have any stories from any experiences with Magick?
Most of mine wouldn’t be anything I’d share with anonymous interweb users anymore. But I can share something about the Magick of the OTO initiations. Many years after first coming around and (if I recall correctly) right before my III° initiation, a dear friend and mentor to me in the Order confessed that when I first came around she hated me. I was rude, obnoxious and arrogant. But after watching me go through my initiations and actually work them, that I was someone she loved and cared for deeply. After several more years and a lot more work, she now gets to see what I’ve done with my OTO career, where I’m going and what I’ve done with the Camp I’ve inherited that she started. I think hearing how proud of who I’ve become is one of the best things anyone could ever say to me. Thank you, Sister.
Where do you see OTO going in the next 10 years?
To be honest, I don’t have any opinion on this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about promulgation, spreading the Law of Thelema, and helping the OTO grow into whatever it wants to grow into. But for me, I think the better question is where do I see myself in regards to the OTO in 10 years? And that I can answer. In 10 years, the present me hopes that I am still on this path, still taking initiations and still growing towards who I want to be. I know that I’m fully committed to growing the Order, spreading the Law, and providing a true service to the Order. I can only hope that in 10 years it’s still true.
How do you see the world differently as a Thelemite?
I don’t want this to sound arrogant or pompous, but I don’t see a world that I interact with, I see a world that interacts with me. It’s not about ego or importance or anything like that. There is a short story called The Egg by Andy Weir that really strikes a tune with me. It’s a complicated way of seeing the world but that story is very close to my thoughts.
What is your favorite part about the Gnostic Mass?
In the past I used to speak pages about the Mass, what the Mass was, and what happened during the Mass. Currently though, I’m trying to reign in my tongue on this issue. I can’t help but wonder if my past words on this topic have tainted others experience of the Mass, and what speaks to me about the Mass is that it’s experiential. Meaning: the Mass is transmitted through the experience itself. What I experience may not be what others experience, and to be honest, a part of me wants my Mass to be unique too. 😉
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?
As earlier stated about the OTO, I honestly don’t know. Since each individual interprets Thelema in their own way, there is no telling where we’ll be in 100 years, or even 10 years. But I can say with assuredness that it’s going to be one hell of a ride. Strap in everyone, downward trips in hand baskets ain’t got nothing on this!
Is there anything else you would like to talk about related to Thelema, OTO, and/or Magick?
I’m slightly chuckling right now. I’m sure all my Brothers and Sisters who know me will say that I almost never shut up, but I’m finding myself without a word at this moment. I wish I had something more to say. If anything, I guess I’d say thank you for reading about my thoughts on these topics, for indulging me this chance to put my thoughts out into the ether. But now I’d say forget everything you just read, get up, take a deep breath, find East, and keep going on your own journey. After all, who am I that my thoughts mean anything to your life? I hope you had a few moments of fun though, reading what I had to type; I know I did writing it down.