Culture vs. Cult
CALIPH HYMENAEUS BETA X°
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
OUR FOUNDING EDITOR, ALEISTER CROWLEY (also known as Baphomet X°, The Master Therion etc., etc.) considered a balanced, wide-ranging education a prerequisite to complete initiation. Unlike most spiritual teachers, Crowley was worldly-wise as well as unworldly-wise, conversant with the work of the artists, writers, scientists and philosophers who defined his times. He accordingly used The Equinox, which he subtitled "The Journal of Scientific Illuminism," to publish reviews and study guides, as well as individual works that have since become standard references. A poet in his own right, he maintained that initiation finds tangible expression in creative genius, and so issued the finest literature and poetry possible. This formed the editorial subtext of the original Equinox, and in that spirit we issue this new number. Successive generations of artists, writers, poets, filmmakers, dramatists, scientists and philosophers have contributed much to the birth of what we call Thelemic culture. Magick and the arts share the willingness to explore new modes of perception and expression, to experiment with consciousness itself, and communicate even if a new vocabulary is called for. This issue features both contemporary poetry and cinema (the poetry of light) that demonstrate this.
The poets have always been with us, although we (for our part) have not always fully reciprocated--after being introduced to Allen Ginsberg in the 1950's, my predecessor Frater Saturnus X° reportedly asked that ``beatniks'' not be brought around. I mean no disrespect to Saturnus, who after all knew and (in his way) encouraged half of the artistic contributors to this issue. But I am reminded of Robert Kelly's scribes & scholars of the College of the Holy Spirit, resting from their carnival appearances or conning the sermons they will whisper, o holy poison, in the ears of sleeping dominies. These are men who live for nothing but truth & love. Which is true of everyone in the world, but these men know it.
We must never forget that it is we who run the risk of becoming "sleeping dominies"--the poets know their business and a goodly part of ours. I should know--my poetry submission was respectfully declined.
The work of living writers forms a counterpoise to the historical material in this issue, all of whose authors are deceased (with the possible exception of Frater Ad Veritatem). We have collected virtually all of the O.T.O.'s founding documents for this number--it was dubbed the "ancestor worship" issue during compilation. The purpose of this collection is twofold: first, to provide a ready compendium of the essential O.T.O. material as a guidebook during the renaissance the Order presently enjoys, and secondly, to make plain to the public exactly what the Order is, and is not. The O.T.O. is a manifold organization with a complex history and philosophy, rich in written, oral and ritual tradition. It is also the Aleister Crowley Estate, responsible for preserving his writings and setting consistent standards for Thelemic scholarship. These are essentially conservative functions, yet the O.T.O.'s design preserves flexibility and adaptability, without which "Thelemic Order" would be a contradiction in terms. While it has never been necessary to join the O.T.O. to be a Thelemite, it is central to the Order's "experimental design" that being a Thelemite never becomes a bar to membership. In this important sense, the O.T.O. is a crucible for the development of the social models necessary to a Thelemic culture, as opposed to Thelemic cult.
My predecessor as head of the O.T.O., Caliph Hymenaeus Alpha 777 X°, rescued the O.T.O. from the brink of extinction. Only a decade ago the survival of the Order was in question, but as the leader of a handful of survivors from the Crowley era who had tended the flame for over forty years, Hymenaeus Alpha fanned it into life. Educated in political science and a management analyst by profession, he also successfully addressed the greatest long-term threat to the Order: the "cult" tendency in Thelema, manifesting as extreme conservativism on the one hand, and anarchic radicalism on the other.
The "conservative" wing--Marcelo Motta and his Society Ordo Templi Orientis (S.O.T.O.)--evinced a fanatical elitism that laid claim to exclusive representation of Thelema in all its forms. After tolerating repeated attacks from this group in their apocryphal Equinox "Volume Five," Hymenaeus Alpha filed suit in Federal Court and won a clear-cut victory--not for the O.T.O. alone, but also indirectly for many others who were abused in, or simply confused by, the offending works.
The "anarchic" wing's development was spurred by the writings of Mr. Kenneth Grant, whose excellent book The Magical Revival indeed contributed to a genuine revival in the early 1970's. In subsequent works, Mr. Grant (who was expelled from the O.T.O. in the mid-1950's) claimed to be Outer Head of the O.T.O., and proceeded to organize an "O.T.O." with complete disregard for the intent of Crowley and the original founders. Grant was, for example, extremely critical of the business aspects of the O.T.O., which are clearly a part of the original charter. Hymenaeus Alpha met this trend by simple example--he established a reputation as a tolerant monarch, and thereby gave the lie to anarchy. We count some of Mr. Grant's most enthusiastic readers among our members.
First published in England beginning in 1909 EV, The Equinox served as the Official Organ of the A.·.A.·.. Crowley issued a new number on each equinox, and the ten numbers of Volume I are now a standard reference-library set. After Crowley's induction into the Ordo Templi Orientis in 1913 EV The Equinox became an Official Organ of the O.T.O. as well, beginning with Volume I(10). Although they shared the same journal for several numbers, the A.·.A.·.. and the O.T.O. were and are distinct organizations. They are so often confused that Saturnus X° asked Crowley for an official statement on the subject:
The difference between the A.·.A.·. and the O.T.O. is very clear and simple. The A.·.A.·. is a sempiternal institution, and entirely secret. There is no communication between its members. Theoretically, a member knows only the superior who introduced him, and any person whom he himself has introduced. The Order is run on purely spiritual lines.
The objective of membership is also entirely simple. The first objective is the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. The next objective, omitting considerations for the present of the 6°=5 and 7°=4 degrees, is the crossing of the Abyss, and the attainment of mastership of the Temple. This is described very fully especially in Liber 418. Much less is written about the 5°=6 degree, i.e. the Knowledge and Conversation, because it is too secret and individual. It is impossible to lay down conditions, or to describe the experiences in detail.
The O.T.O. has nothing to do with this, except that The Book of the Law and the Word of the Aeon are essential principles of membership. In all other respects, it stands by itself as a body similar to Freemasonry, but involving acceptance of a social and economic system which is intended to put the world on its feet. There is also, of course, the secret of the IX° which is to say, the weapon which they may use to further these purposes.
To show you the difference, Theodor Reuss was Supreme Head of the O.T.O., but was not even a probationer of the A.·.A.·..
Crowley spent the last of his inheritance in releasing Volume I, after which its publishing history becomes erratic--The Equinox had the first of many interruptions in 1913 EV. Crowley termed this first hiatus Volume II, "a volume of silence," in accord with an A.·.A.·.. rule of alternating 5-year periods of speech and silence.
Volume III was issued by the O.T.O. under four administrations of the Order over 67 years. (The "5-year" rule was disregarded, presumably since it pertained to the A.·.A.·..) Volume III has a complicated bibliography whose twists and turns are a bell-wether of the Order's fortunes. The first number of Volume III to appear was the well-known "blue" Equinox, issued from Detroit in 1919 EV. Crowley outlined the proposed contents of the remainder of Volume III in this number, but Volume III(2) never appeared (although it reached galley-proofs and was included in the series as if issued). In subsequent numbers of Volume III The Equinox came to assume the character of a series of occasional monographs. Number 3 reached galley-proofs in 1927 EV, but was delayed until 1936 EV when it appeared in partial form as The Equinox of the Gods (actually part one of four parts of Book Four Part Four, to have included the Commentary to The Book of the Law). Number 4 appeared in 1938 EV as Eight Lectures on Yoga. Number 5 was announced in 1938 EV as the Tao Teh King but actually appeared in 1944 EV as The Book of Thoth. Number 6, Liber Aleph, was close to production at Crowley's death in 1947 EV but appeared posthumously in 1962 EV. (Its "publication fund"--contributions from the American O.T.O.--was found untouched under his deathbed.) This was followed by the Shih Yi (Yi King) (Number 7) in 1971 EV, the Tao Teh King (Number 8) in 1975 EV and The Holy Books of Thelema (Number 9) in 1983 EV. The present issue therefore completes Volume III.
The O.T.O.'s structure, history, aims and philosophy are well-represented in this last number of Volume III--the most comprehensive collection since Volume III(1). Caliph Hymenaeus Alpha was a pragmatist as well as a visionary, considering these papers plans for the future O.T.O. He observed the principles, and where practical, implemented them formally, as we are doing with the forthcoming promulgation of the Constitution. Although much of this material has been termed outdated or ignored outright--even by self-styled "representatives" of the Order--these papers stand as the foundation on which we must build if we would do honor to our predecessors' vision, and lay claim to their inherited wisdom.
Love is the law, love under will.