Krzysztof Azarewicz is a Thelemite who is Past Master of AMeTh Lodge in London, UK, currently serving as a Frater Superior Representative for Poland.
How did you hear about Thelema and what drew you to it?
When I was sixteen I read about Crowley and Thelema in a couple of silly books about black magic. The subject didn’t impress me at all, mainly because of the context in which was presented. My friends and I were looking for any literature on things occult. We came across a satanic organisation in New Zealand and ordered all the books and pamphlets they were distributing. Some of them appeared to be complete nonsense. But among those books there was a photocopy of the Book of the Law. The text seemed to be very obscure, I read it once and forgot about it.
A few years later I came across a book by late Nevill Drury, Don Juan, Mescalito and Modern Magic: The Mythology of Inner Space where he wrote about a few teachers and schools of the modern western mystery tradition, among others, Carlos Castaneda, Gurdjieff, Timothy Leary, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and Crowley. The book looked at Thelema from a different perspective. I picked up the Book of the Law and read it again. I had an impression that the book had changed, or rather it was me who throughout the intervening years had become a little bit more mature and could comprehend part of its message. I realised that it describes very well what I had already been experiencing. So I started to study it seriously and discovered that Thelema is not only a very well organised system for magicians, but also it postulates a new ethics, a new morality and a new culture. There is a deep perennial aspect to it. Crowley’s writings appeared to be illuminating, dealing with social problems, religion, art and science. Later on, I read his biography by Gerald Suster, Legacy of the Beast, and realised Crowley wasn’t just a ‘black magician’, a ‘Satanist’ and the ‘wickedest man in the world’, but also a poet, great chess player, mountain climber, and so on. I was wondering what inspired him and understood it was his Will, Thelema. So, I may add that I discovered Thelema thanks to the colourful biography of Crowley. Right in the front of me, I had an example of how to try to achieve the impossible, how to set out on the journey to the horizon and I liked it!
What is Magick to you?
I won’t be original when I say that I pretty much stick to Crowley’s definition that Magick is “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will”. Elsewhere in Book 4 he wrote that “Magick is a verb” and I think this really captures its essence. For me, Magick is a process of not being, but becoming. Without continual change everything would become stagnant and therefore dead. Magick introduces change – in fact it is change as it is happening. Hence Magick is Life.
Why do you think Thelema is different from other philosophies? What makes it stand out to you?
I know many people who are living Thelema but have never heard of it. While philosophies seem to conceptualize and categorise reality and noumenal realms, for me Thelema is a way of action. It is a state of mind, it is “force of energy, fire of motion”, to quote from the Gnostic Mass. For some people it is a religion, for others a science or philosophy. We can have as many definitions as people who study and practice it. Perhaps this is what makes it so different.
What do you love about OTO? What drew you to it? What makes you stay?
Before I joined OTO, I had been studying and practising Crowley’s magick for over a decade. I was very impressed by the way he laid down his system and its efficiency. Obviously, I had heard about OTO: I was curious about its initiation rituals and my first intention was to experience them. Minerval was a great empowerment – it forever changed my life.
I’ve been involved in OTO activities straight from the beginning and participated in all initiations I could. I saw how they change people, how they expand their awareness and mindfulness. Throughout all those years I was both witnessing and experiencing joys, tears, fears and transformations that are almost unreal and came to the conclusion that this stuff really works.
For me the OTO is also a laboratory where we conduct experiments in the implementation of the Law of Thelema on the social level. All those good things we get thanks to our own personal transformation through the initiatory progress are brought together and transmitted to fertilise a particular socio-cultural soil around us.
I would say that there are two aspects of the OTO: esoteric and exoteric. The esoteric aspect – which I would describe as psycho-magical – helps to build, develop and understand relations between the Aspirant, his Spirit (or Higher Self) and the Cosmos; whereas the exoteric (socio-cultural) helps to build, develop and understand relations between the Aspirant, his Soul (or Ego), and the planet on which he “chose” to incarnate. Simultaneous development of these two factors is what really interests me in the context of the OTO and has made me stay in the Order for over ten years.
What do you think are most important Magick and meditation practices?
Those practices that have transformative potential. Ritual and meditation could be just affirmative, focused entirely on reaffirming status quo. I have met many magicians who simply want to be drunk on power. Although I understand that people have different needs and for some of them power is a major reason to do Magick, I prefer a training that centres me and at the same time expands my consciousness. There are two things connected to it: an introspection by which one gets an insight into one’s self and a vision by which one is able to grasp the Nature of Things.
If you ask for examples from Crowley’s Magick, I would recommend such less known meditations like those described in his Liber 536 vel Batrachophrenoboocosmomachia or Liber HHH.
When it comes to the OTO, I see our tradition and customs as a way for practicing karma yoga: it provides amazing tools enabling us to be in a state of meditation while performing everyday duties. One can perform the most trivial actions and yet simultaneously experience the highest state of exultation. It may sound mundane or trivial but I do believe that part of our Great Work is “fixing the volatile,” to use an alchemical analogy.
What do you think is the thing that most people misunderstand about Thelema?
There have already been plenty of discussion about misinterpreting “Do what thou wilt” as “do what you want”. Also, quite often I meet people who think that in order to make any progress in Thelema, one must study Crowley’s biography and be interested in ceremonial magic.
Why do you think OTO is important to Thelema?
The OTO carries the banner of Thelema. It doesn’t only promulgate its principles of Light, Life, Love and Liberty but – through an experiential approach – it demonstrates how they work and how they can be applied to make us nobler and better human beings.
What do you think are the most important aspects of Thelema?
Above all, Thelema is a path to realisation through the efforts of individual. No one will lay hands on our heads and change our lives. Thelema demands proofs; it constantly tests us and helps to rend the veil of self-delusion.
Do you have any stories from any experiences with Magick?
I think that Magick, like Life, is a story telling. Terence MacKenna wrote in his The Food of the Gods: “Cosmos is a tale that becomes true as it is told and as it tells itself.” I have many stories and some can be told, some others can be whispered but some must remain veiled. I will share just one. A few years ago, together with three other members of AMeTh Lodge in London we performed an evocation of Bartzabel, mighty spirit of Mars. We did it in exactly the same way as Crowley did with his friends in 1910. One of the officers, exactly like Victor Neuburg, became “material basis for the spirit”, stood in the Triangle of Art and was possessed by Bartzabel so that the spirit could speak through a human being. It took us quite a few months to prepare paraphernalia, to do some preparatory work etc. that were magical operations on their own. The ritual went smoothly and we obtained an oracle that we wanted. One of the purposes of the evocation was “to have the power to help the weak”. The next day, I went to Paris to see a certain Arabic sorcerer and Brother who seemed to struggle with some problems on the initiatory level. My intention was to spend some time with him, offer a companionship and possibly help him is some way. Exactly 24 hours after working, we were sitting by the Seine River, a few yards from the place of execution of Jacques de Molay, drinking wine and talking when my phone rang. It was a woman whom I had met just once, a month before, at a Gnostic Mass celebrated at the Lodge in London. We exchanged our numbers and lost contact. Now she was calling me, crying and asking for help. She seemed to be in extremely bad mental state, thinking she was possessed by demons… The day before, Bartzabel was very precise in giving the instructions on what to do in both cases…
Where do you see OTO going in the next 10 years?
I don’t want to predict the future. Tendencies are subject to change and often dependent on other conditions. As Crowley put it in his Atlantis: “A Magician makes the future, and does not seek to divine it.”
Having said that, on the micro level, here in Poland, we are working on laying the Triad foundations and populating the Man of Earth. The OTO has been active here for just five years, so there is so much work to be done….On the macro level, I wish we could have more interactions with culture. One way of spreading the Law is through art. Very good examples of such interactions are the exhibition of Thoth Tarot paintings at last year’s Biennale in Venice where the OTO’s name was prominently exposed right by the paintings and the recent exhibitions in Australia that display not only Crowley’s artwork but also today’s artists that are influenced by Thelema. Art exhibitions, book launches, academic conferences, are activities that show the Order not only as a purely occult organisation, but also as a provider of a fertile cultural and academic platform to the outer world. This is already starting to happen and another good example of how our network can work in practice is Lon Milo DuQuette’s visit in Europe in May-June 2014 e.v. organized by 11 OTO bodies from 10 different countries! I have the impression that my dreams will become flesh in the very near future.
How do you see the world differently as a Thelemite?
may surprise you but I don’t call myself a Thelemite. And yes, “Who calls us Thelemites will do no wrong” (Liber Legis I:40) so let others call me as they like. I try to avoid putting labels on a human being who, in my eyes, is too multidimensional to be categorised.
If you are asking me about what Thelema gave me, I must say it had and still has enormous influence on my perception. First of all, I understood that realisation of Hadit is a relative experience. If I’m the centre of my solar system, with other beings serving as planets and celestial bodies, it is enough to make a quantum leap, just come closer to see what’s going on with another planet, to realise that it is a centre of its own system with myself being a small and meaningless planet in the farther corner of its galaxy. As The Book of the Law states: “Every man and every woman is a star.” Thelema teaches tolerance which comes as a surprise to those people who believe it’s just about force, fire and manifestation of strength. Thelema also refines our senses, teaches us how to seek beauty in all that exists. It shows life as a wonderful adventure and journey. I don’t think if I could see such things so intensely without my interest in Thelema.
What is your favorite part about the Gnostic Mass?
I just love the whole ritual. It functions so well on many levels. It is a joyful celebration of the facts of nature. It’s elaborated but at the same time very simple. It brings congregants together and transmutes them into a company of heaven.
I remember one of my first experiences with the Mass. I was moved by a beautiful performance and since it was the second or third time I was attending, I was quite nervous when it came to the partaking in the communion. When I came closer to the altar I found myself in a thick field of energy between the pillars and the black altar. I thought it was just me projecting my stress and tried to focus on just doing what was required. I took the communion, came back to my seat and tried to calm down. Next day I went to work in a completely different mood. I felt as if I was radiating with joy. My voice changed and became soft and gentle as never before. There was so much empathy within myself that I couldn’t quite believe it. All the problems I was dealing with on the day were solved without any effort. Clarity of perception was enormous. It was as if all puzzles came together and Universe was responding to all my calls in a beautiful and harmonious way. And then it came to me like a flash: the host and wine! They became “light crystallized in our blood” as says the text of the Mass. It was ecstatic state that lasted for a few days. It was nothing miraculous in a churchy sense of this word and sacraments weren’t drugs. I would say it was the right combination of aspiration and divine inspiration. If someone wants to experience the Gnostic Mass they need to make a bit of effort. The key to experience it in an ecstatic way is the intention to do so.
I’ve been serving as a Priest of the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica for many years and have celebrated the Mass in the UK, Poland, Germany and Croatia. I get little revelations about it not only when I “perform” it but also when I prepare myself for the celebration. It is as if all of my life becomes a contemplation upon it.
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?
There is a tendency that many people have to connect Thelema with occultism and in fact it draws many occultists. But Crowley wrote in his letter to Charles Stansfeld Jones: “We do not want the Law of Thelema to be the slogan of a few specially selected imbeciles but to be accepted by the busy business man as the sole solution of modern social difficulties.” But I think he, as the very first person who was promulgating the message of The Book of the Law as the Prophet of the New Aeon, made many mistakes. His writings, difficult to read for the majority of people and mostly on the subject of magic, indicate not only his successes but also his failures. But hey, it’s good to have a prophet who was a real human being. I think we are finally ready to seek the divine in what is also very human.