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Modern Promulgation Strategies for Spreading Thelema

Modern Promulgation Strategies for Spreading Thelema

Peace, Tolerance, Truth: Salutation on All Points of the Triangle; Respect to the Order.
Greeting and Peace.

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Many of the ideas which I will present in the following are not my own. Some came from Crowley, some from academia, some from friends, and some evolved out of discussions.

Introduction

This talk is not going to be a list of ideas for where to put fliers advertising classes about magick and qabalah. It will not be a discussion about where to put fliers for book-signing events.

This talk will not downplay or sugar-coat our doctrines or services as if they are a commercial product that must be made palatable to the masses.

I don’t think we need to have the conversation where I clarify that I’m not advocating wearing a sandwich board or using a megaphone—that is, unless it be your will.

This talk will not advocate looking for people with similar tastes in music, clothing, or people from specific economic backgrounds, niche subcultures, or religious upbringings. Promulgation is much more than finding other occultists and trying to get them to hang out with us.

Among the many night stars in the galaxy of O.T.O., that is to say our brothers and sisters, there appears to be a semantic black hole on the topic of promulgation, centered on a false dilemma: simply stated, the question of whether the focus should be on publishing, speaking, and generally proclaiming Thelema; or if the focus in promulgation should be on exemplifying the brilliant radiance of a Thelemite. These two are not mutually exclusive of course, and in fact both are necessary. Both these and other strategies for promulgating and establishing the Law of Thelema are discussed in a relatively straight-forward manner by Aleister Crowley, and we may gain some measure of scientific perspective on the subject from comparing his advice to the findings of modern social scientists. I’ll also present some of my own ideas including a diagnostic model for evaluating the total promulgation efforts at a local body, using the השוה‎י‎‎ formula.

What is Promulgation?

Before I talk about what promulgation is, I’ll tell you a couple things that it is not.

Promulgation is not about waiting for what Crowley called “drifting occultists” to grace our doorstep, with their many varied solutions to AL II:76. It is not about finding people who dress like us, look like us, have similar socioeconomic backgrounds, or who come from the same niche subcultures, or who have similar religious upbringings and aesthetic values. It isn’t about waiting for people who have already read Crowley’s books to finally get around to meeting us.

Promulgation is not coercion, and it is not enticement. It is not conversion, and it is not argument.

As it is written in the Book of the Law: “Success is thy proof: argue not; convert not; talk not overmuch!”1 and, “to each man and woman that thou meetest, were it but to dine or to drink at them, it is the Law to give. Then they shall chance to abide in this bliss or no; it is no odds.”2

Giving the Law is simply that. No more and no less. We do not pressure people or argue with them to try to convert them. We do not convert by the sword, of course. We do not put booklets in people’s hands unless they reach out to take one. We do not try to “sell” people on the idea of Thelema. We do not dilute Thelemic doctrines, nor do we paper over Crowley’s failings in order to make his legacy palatable for the masses. We do not seek to recruit, but we clear avenues and make ourselves visible to those who become interested after hearing the Law. Promulgation is simply about spreading the information, and letting people do with it what they will.

What the recipients do with the Law is their business. Roughly speaking, some 90% will refuse it. Of the remainder, 90% will throw it away or forget about it. Of those left, 90% will have a merely passing interest and maybe develop a book collecting habit. Of the remainder who become involved with O.T.O. or E.G.C., many will continue for only about two years. It is no odds. Almost everyone you talk to will, eventually, drift away. But at all these levels, we continue to promulgate the Law by declaring it and publishing it.

We must spread the Law by preaching, just as as Crowley wrote to Frater Achad in 1915 EV:

I have got my A∴A∴ grade . . . and that too, exactly at the time prophesied. . . . I must do my duty . . . and that is to preach my Law. Therefore this is the Word of Baphomet to all the members of the O.T.O.: ΘΕΛΗΜΑ. . . . One must take some very simple, very deep word which cuts at the heart of things. . . . I say ΘΕΛΗΜΑ. Go on, therefore, preaching this and nothing else in season and out of season. You won’t have to wait long for results.3

Sabazius offers us a definition along with some commentary on the meaning of the word in Agapé 10, No. 4:

The word “promulgate” is a term used primarily in the legal profession and means to publicly declare or announce a decree, rule, law, code, or constitution, thereby putting it into effect.

The etymology of the word is interesting: “1530, from L. promulgatus, pp. of promulgare ‘make publicly known,’ perhaps from provulgare, from pro– ‘forth’ + vulgare ‘make public, publish.’ Or the second element may be from mulgere ‘to milk,’ used metaphorically for ’cause to emerge.’” . . . The use of the term “promulgation,” then, carries the meaning of putting the Law into effect simply through the act of proclaiming it, of “putting it out there,” of disseminating it.4

The idea of “milking forth” the Law, as a metaphor for causing it to emerge, is rather evocative. As it is written, “They shall gather my children into their fold: they shall bring the glory of the stars into the hearts of men.”5

Why Promulgate?

On an individual level, the only reason Thelemites do anything is because it somehow supports the process of accomplishing our individual True Wills. In all cases, promulgation of the Law helps us in this way, to the extent that it causes our society to become freer. In a more free society, we become freer to do our own individual will.

Our sole “duty to mankind” according to Aleister Crowley is to Establish the Law of Thelema as the basis of our conduct. He explains, “You may regard the establishment of the Law of Thelema as an essential element of your True Will, since, whatever the ultimate nature of that Will, the evident condition of putting it into execution is freedom from external interference.”6 Karl Germer reiterated this admonition in a letter to Reea Leffingwell when he wrote, “Then there is the Greater Great Work to which we are all pledged, which is the establishment of the Law of Thelema. We can help it only if we devote ourselves exclusively to this one job. If you divide it with such phantasms as ‘redeeming another’ and similar things, you only sink into qliphotic obsessions. If, on the other hand, you lose yourself fully in your work, with the living thought and responsibility back of it to make your work subservient to the Great Work, then you will forget all nonsense. The Book of the Law is very emphatic on many of these aspects.”7

For we who are members of O.T.O., there is the additional reason of the fact that promulgation and establishment of the Law is the primary purpose of the organization, as indicated by leaders throughout the history of our Holy Order’s acceptance of the Law of Thelema all the way up to today. For example, the first stated purpose of the Order in the bylaws of O.T.O. International is “the high purpose of securing the Liberty of the Individual.”8 Additionally, U.S. Grand Lodge has made promulgation and establishment of the Law a core part of its Mission, Program, Vision, and Values Statements.9 Furthermore, Aleister Crowley made it more than abundantly clear that he felt O.T.O. should focus its efforts in this direction.10

Modern research by social scientists and economists such as Rodney Stark, Laurence Iannaccone, Roger Finke, and others, suggests that dissemination of core teachings is necessary for the survival of any new religious movement, especially such movements which are in a state of tension with their surrounding culture, as are we. In fact, in terms of numerical strength, we are minuscule and some would question whether our current existence is even significant. Fenway Park has a capacity of about 36,000. That’s about ten times the size of O.T.O. If you took all the O.T.O. members and all the A ∴ A ∴ members and all the self-identified Thelemites that have ever lived and put them in Fenway Park, you might come close to filling this one stadium in Boston. This is not quite what is necessary to establish the Law of Thelema.

What, then, is necessary to establish the Law of Thelema, and what strategies might we employ effectively in promulgating it? The following strategies and ideas are not specific activities or tactics, but are rather approaches which could have any number of specific applications. For any one of the strategies, there are an infinite number of possible specific tactics that could be applied. The idea here is to stimulate your creativity in finding new ways to promulgate in your locale by looking at a variety of successful strategic approaches.

Strategy: Medium Strictness

The first strategy that I will discuss is called “medium strictness.” Sometimes people chafe a little bit at the way this is phrased, thinking that it somehow refers to controlling or manipulating people, or telling them what to do. What it really means, however, is providing a program of training which many people are actually looking for. As Rodney Stark wrote:

To the extent people seek religion … the demand is the highest for religions that offer close relations with the supernatural and distinctive demands for membership, without isolating individuals from the culture around them.11

As Crowley said, “The world needs religion,”12 but what kind of religious traditions are the bulk of people looking for? In a number of studies, Stark and company have repeatedly shown that the largest demand is for religious traditions which offer “distinctive demands,” as well as “close relations with the supernatural.” These two features are inherent to Thelema as well as our Holy Order.

Concerning “close relations with the supernatural”: While some may argue that there is nothing “supernatural” in our system, at the same time it should be obvious that a sociologist like Rodney Stark would consider “praeter-human intelligence” to be in that category, as well as likely any ideas of “esotericism” or even possibly “metaphysics.” Many of our practices and studies therefore offer what Stark would consider “close relations with the supernatural.” This can be improved through increasing the studies and practices which lead to these “close relations,” or one might say “knowledge and conversation.”

Concerning “distinctive demands” within Thelema, these are clearly indicated by Aleister Crowley in a number of places. We will later examine ways that O.T.O. currently offers these distinctive demands and some possible avenues for improvement. Strictness is about the level of the demands that our movement places on people. The use of Thelemic greetings, and various other customs including our rituals and our aims as Thelemites, is included in this idea. “Distinctive” means that they are particular to our movement—particular to Thelemites.

What makes this strictness “medium,” and not too strict, is that the demands do not isolate individuals from the culture around them. Requiring people to renounce their families, blocking access to outside opinions, and blocking communication with outsiders are good examples of being too strict. I would add that of course, any degree of strictness employed in our communities must not be in violation of the Law of Thelema. At either end of the spectrum of strictness, the number of people interested is very small. It is in the middle of this spectrum where interest is greatest.

Let’s look at a couple more statements from Stark et al. about this concept of medium strictness.

The ultra-strict sects, communes and religious orders, and the ultra-liberal New Age and Unitarian Universalists are each appealing to a very limited segment of the total market. As groups appeal to the center of the continuum, however, the size of the potential market rises. Thus, most Americans are members of a congregation that falls somewhere between these two extremes.13

New religious movements are likely to succeed to the extent that they maintain a medium level of tension with their surrounding environment—are strict, but not too strict.14

I will resist the impulse to include a simple diagram of a bell curve here! Please imagine a bell curve.

On the spectrum that Stark and his colleagues are examining, O.T.O. lands squarely in the small end of the loose (opposed to strict) side of this curve. We’re not as liberal as, say, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, but we’re a lot closer to them than we are to the middle of the spectrum, occupied by e.g. the rapidly growing Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness congregations.

Thelemites tend to be naturally concerned about strictness because its abuse is such a hallmark of the Old Aeon. I would suggest that because of this natural disinclination in Thelemites, the danger of becoming too strict is not nearly as great as that of being too loose.

Remember that unbalanced force is evil; that unbalanced severity is but cruelty and oppression; but that also unbalanced mercy is but weakness which would allow and abet Evil. Act passionately; think rationally; be Thyself.15

Not all strictness is restriction, and many forms of discipline lead to greater freedom. This may seem paradoxical, but of course it should be an idea familiar to all of us, just as we understand that disciplined exercise routines lead to greater freedom of movement, disciplined thinking leads to greater freedom of thought, etc. Many Thelemites take up membership in Orders so that they may undergo a program of training to become more skilled to accomplish their Will. In fact, the findings of Stark et al. indicate that a moderate level of discipline is what the bulk of people are after. We would do well to increase the distinctive demands that we offer to our congregations; while this may alienate a few, it will appeal to far more, and thereby spread the knowledge of Thelema to a larger number of people.

Distinctive demands naturally create a tension with the surrounding culture. Stark et al. repeatedly find that a lack of tension with society results in a loss of organizational vitality. Moreover, that increasing the strictness of a loose organization has the result of increasing organizational vitality; and growth appears to be directly related to their ability to maintain medium strictness.

Religious movements will continue to grow only to the extent that they maintain sufficient tension with their environment—remain sufficiently strict.16

Our initial results show that when pastors of liberal denominations attempt to increase their congregations’ tension with society, they experience an increase in organizational vitality. Conversely, when pastors of liberal denominations attempt to further reduce their congregations’ tension with society, they continue to lose organizational vitality.17

Given that O.T.O. tends to be on the extreme liberal end of the scale of strictness, we can expect that an increase of strictness will result in an increase in organizational vitality, and an increase in the appeal we have to the bulk of people, thereby increasing our reach to spread the Law of Thelema. Simultaneously, increasing the distinctive demands of our movement will result in greater attainment by initiates, which is reflected in the idea of “closeness to the supernatural,” above.

Strictness in Thelema

There are a number of distinctive demands for Thelemites as given to us by the Master Therion. We can begin developing greater strictness by cultivating stronger expectations that these demands be met by Thelemites in our communities. Techniques for establishing and encouraging higher standards are a matter for leadership, which is a side topic too large to enter here. Nevertheless, a few examples of areas where standards could be raised might be in order.

First and foremost in importance for all of us is to study constantly in Liber AL. Read it, read Crowley’s commentary, and continually study the various class E tracts and other explanatory material. Begin engaging others in reading and discussion as part of your own study.

There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt. Yet it is well for Brethren to study daily in the Volume of the Sacred Law, Liber Legis, for therein is much counsel concerning this, how best they may carry out this will. […] The Brethren shall be diligent in preaching the Law of Thelema. In all writings they shall be careful to use the prescribed greetings; likewise in speech, even with strangers. […] The first and greatest of all privileges of a Brother is to be a Brother; to have accepted the Law, to have become free and independent, to have destroyed all fear, whether of custom, or of faith, or of other men, or of death itself. In other papers the joy and glory of those who have accepted The Book of the Law as the sole rule of life is largely, though never fully, explained.18

In Liber Aleph, Crowley offers a regimen of practices in De Cultu:

Now, o my Son, that thou mayst be well guarded against thy ghostly Enemies, do thou work constantly by the Means prescribed in our Holy Books.

Neglect never the fourfold Adorations of the Sun in his four Stations, for thereby thou dost affirm thy Place in Nature and her Harmonies.

Neglect not the Performance of the Ritual of the Pentagram, and of the Assumption of the Form of Hoor-pa-Kraat.

Neglect not the daily Miracle of the Mass, either by the Rite of the Gnostic Catholic Church, or that of the Phoenix.

Neglect not the Performance of the Mass of the Holy Ghost, as Nature herself prompteth thee.

Travel also much in the Empyrean in the Body of Light, seeking ever Abodes more fiery and lucid. Finally, exercise constantly the Eight Limbs of Yoga. And so shalt thou come to the End.19

Another area where our standards could be raised is in volunteerism and attendance. To lead by example, volunteer to participate in rituals hosted by your local body of O.T.O., and cultivate the expectation for this among your brethren. The Gnostic Mass and initiations especially should be worked on a regular basis, with or without congregations or even candidates. This work is of great benefit to the local body; the more people volunteer, the more the standard for joy and beauty of performance can be raised, and the more ideas and feedback will be generated. This also has direct benefit to yourself, as immersion in these rituals and memorization of their rubric will greatly improve your understanding of the core teachings of the Order (and your subsequent ability to teach others), yielding a field of indirect benefits to yourself and the local body, which then feeds into all your promulgation efforts).

Contribution of time and money is another important way that we are all expected to maintain strictness. Requiring contribution, and not allowing participation or initiation without it, is indispensable. If everyone knows that everyone is contributing financially, everyone can stop worrying about income so much because it becomes a known quantity which can be counted upon for basic operating expenses of the local body. This same concept also applies to members contributing their time; if everyone contributes time, then the amount of effort that can be counted upon is more knowable. Focus can then be directed to the work of practice and promulgation. Additionally, as it is said in other Orders, “Laborare est orare” (Labor is prayer). The time and money we put towards our movement is used to create Thelemic culture through our works. This contribution of time and resources inherently promulgates and invokes, and has a ripple effect through time and across continents.

Strategy: Khabs Am Pekht

Religious movements will grow to the extent that they can generate a highly motivated, volunteer religious labor force, including many willing to proselytise.20

Aleister Crowley’s Liber CCC: Khabs Am Pekht is a wide-ranging document which contains much advice on promulgating the Law of Thelema. This advice is worth a careful look with some attention given to the question of how to implement some of it practically, and we can evaluate it against the findings of Stark et al.21 Following this analysis is a description of one specific application combining some of Crowley’s advice from Khabs Am Pekht which is relatively easy to implement, and is being increasingly adopted by O.T.O. bodies around the world.

Making Indiscriminate, Cold Contact

Crowley encourages us not to discriminate, but to preach openly:

Note also, pray thee, this word: “The Law is for all.” Do not therefore “select suitable persons” in thy worldly wisdom; preach openly the Law to all men. . . . All those who have accepted the Law should announce the same in daily intercourse. “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” shall be the invariable form of greeting. These words, especially in the case of strangers, should be pronounced in a clear, firm, and articulate voice, with the eyes frankly fixed upon the bearer.22

This idea is also supported by Frater Sabazius:

While we have no duty to convert, we do have a duty to disseminate the Law as widely as possible throughout human society, not just within specific sub-cultures, classes, and social groups. Therefore, diversity among the membership is something to be sought after and actively encouraged.23

In making contact with people for the first time and declaring the Law to them, it can be confusing what to do since we often abbreviate to “93” in our usual conversation with brethren. Crowley stresses the importance above, that whomever we meet, but even especially in the case of strangers, the full greeting be employed.

While “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” can be a mouthful, we sure say “93” a lot too, don’t we? It is awkward. Yes, Crowley is the originator of the abbreviated, numerical greeting, but perhaps we can have a wider variety of abbreviations to pick from? “Do what thou wilt,” by itself is quite easy to say and has the same cadence as does “How do you do?”24 The Word, “Thelema,” by itself is also useful as a form of greeting among Thelemites.

Sometimes when giving the Law to strangers and other non-Thelemites, the other person will engage in discussion, either friendly or combative. In both cases, it is necessary to be prepared to hold up your end of the discussion by answering questions in a clear and concise way. Practice for this is therefore important. One good way to practice discussing Thelema is to hold group reading & discussions of the “Class E” tracts and similar basic explanations of Thelema by Aleister Crowley, such as those found in the collection entitled The Revival of Magick.

In the case of someone being argumentative or combative, it is best to simply explain that we are not interested in arguing, but that they are welcome to attend discussions where we can examine the source documents together.

Even when the other person is genuinely interested, perhaps especially then, it can be very challenging to engage them. Newer members don’t typically know where to look for Crowley’s comments on such matters, and once they do find what Crowley has said, they may often need to explore various ways of getting such ideas across to others. Consider hosting workshops where local body members can get together and discuss difficult interactions they have had, and brainstorm ways of overcoming difficulties. For example, the last time we held one of these brainstorming sessions in Portland, the hot topic was how to explain our use of blood in ritual. We brought out the commentary on Liber XLIV and the related chapters in Liber ABA, and we read and discussed them. Now 5 more people have: a) a more complete understanding of the concept of the lower life feeding the higher, b) the knowledge concerning to which books they can go for a review, and c) an increased ability to discuss this material with the next Mass attendee who asks about it.

Preaching to Existing Social Connections

The special tracts written by Us, or authorized by Us, should be distributed to all persons with whom those who have accepted the Law may be in contact.25

Naturally you don’t want to do this in a way that causes them to avoid you! While Crowley was universally adamant that the formal greetings be employed, he also recognized that there are times when it might be off-putting. As he wrote in a 1916 EV memorandum to Lodges:

[“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”] should be the regular morning greeting in a household; also at “Good-night.” It is not obligatory, though it is desirable to make it a habit. It may be omitted to a Superior, if you are afraid (but why should a King have a superior or be afraid?) that he will think you mad. All letters, especially official O.T.O. or A∴A∴ letters, should open with that sentence, and close with “Love is the law, love under will.”26

Speak openly about your values, your activities, and your zeal about the Law of Liberty, as it naturally may come up in conversation. Here is an example of how this can be done: my neighbor asked where my girlfriend and I were headed in our nice clothes. We explained that we were attending a wedding at our temple. He then asked what kind of temple, and we began to answer his questions directly, specifically being careful to answer the question asked and not to appear like someone trying to sell something. He asked quite a lot of questions, as it turned out, and the next time we saw him, we gave him a tract. When dealing with people to whom you already have a connection, you will have a better sense of what their interests and prejudices are, so you can tailor your explanations.

Disseminating Tracts

In the above quotation from Khabs Am Pekht concerning preaching to existing social connections, Crowley mentions tracts. There are a lot of documents that will work well for this, from the very short “The Beginning of the New World” to the booklet-length De Lege Libellum. Many excellent examples of relatively short, plain-English explanations of various aspects of the Law of Thelema can also be found in The Revival of Magick.

In addition to tracts, it is useful to make business cards and postcards with slogans and poignant quotations, artwork, scheduling and contact info. Hand these cards and booklets out to people, put them with other advertisements at coffee shops, and stick them in among relevant titles at the bookstore (with permission of course).27

Holding Social, Educational Events

Social gatherings should be held as often as is convenient, and there the Law should be read and explained.28

The above advice can be readily incorporated into local body activities. For example, on one occasion in Portland we celebrated the Feast for the First Night of the Prophet and his Bride. This consisted of a short lecture on the import of the First Night, which included a brief explanation of the Law of Thelema. Afterward, we held a performance of the Gnostic Mass. As another example, on an occasion of the Ritual of the Solstice in Cancer we performed Liber XXV, Liber XXXVI, and Liber V in sequence. Prior to these performances, we offered a short explanation of the symbolism of the rituals, a brief discussion about Boleskine and its relevance to our work, and this of course segued nicely to a discussion about Liber AL and the Law of Thelema in general terms. Then, to prepare attendees, they were guided in a brief visualization of themselves as divine and individually sovereign solar beings. You can imagine how other holidays and events can be made to incorporate explanations about the Law in various ways.

People can go to many places to learn about magick in general. There are many organizations that celebrate the Solstices and Equinoxes; thousands of books stand on the shelves of every bookstore and public library, ready to be sold or lent to the person interested in learning the principles of Hermetic Qabalah, Astrology, Tarot, and whatever other general occult interests someone might have. While these studies are certainly a vital part of our tradition as well, it is important that we regularly and persistently highlight the one idea which separates us from the masses of new-age and occult books and groups: the Law of Thelema, which under-girds everything we do and is the sole guarantee of individual liberty. Without this, any other system or technique can be used for the establishment of superstitious, tyrannical, and oppressive philosophical ideas from the old aeon.

One very important aspect of holding social events is to make them social. Not to put too fine a point on it, but with rare exception, “conversion” to Thelema will not take place unless the person is able to secure some social connections within the group of Thelemites. It is therefore important to not only explain Thelema at social events, but to make serious efforts to reach out to new people in a social way, asking them about their lives and how they came to be there that day, and perhaps exchanging contact information for a possible future discussion over coffee.

Shining Radiantly as an Exemplary Thelemite

One of the most memorable aspects of my own introduction to Thelema as it is expressed through the Order was seeing Thelemites who were obviously undergoing the inward journey to self-knowledge, and were applying their attainments to the accomplishment of their will while having absolute respect for those of others. I particularly remember one sister pointing out to me one evening, before I was initiated as Minerval, that “Do what thou wilt” is a statement in the second person; when she says it to someone in greeting, she is acknowledging their rights, not her own. I was impressed by the rigor with which she had considered this short statement of eleven words, and how its meaning has an impact on her every interaction with the world. Many of us have similar stories of having been impressed by someone’s exemplary demonstration of the principles of Thelema.

In Khabs Am Pekht, Crowley stresses the importance of demonstrating our success as our only proof. That is, instead of arguing.

Note, pray thee, in verse 42 of [the third chapter of Liber AL] the injunction: “Success is thy proof: argue not; convert not; talk not overmuch.” This is not any bar to an explanation of the Law. We may aid men to strike off their own fetters; but those who prefer slavery must be allowed to do so. “The slaves shall serve.”29 The excellence of the Law must be showed by its results upon those who accept it. When men see us as the hermits of Hadit described in CCXX II:24,30 they will determine to emulate our joy.

It’s worthwhile to note that this “success” is not itself promulgation, by definition. Instead, “success” provides interested persons with some evidence to evaluate, rather than rhetoric and argumentation, so that they may judge for themselves the effectiveness of Thelema, about which they necessarily must already have been made aware. Even in the example from my own experience above, there were two aspects of the interaction which impressed me: the exemplary way in which this sister seemed to treat others, and the fact that this apparently came from her understanding of the Law.

I haven’t yet found scientific research on this particular approach of avoiding argument in favor of demonstration. Many people have upheld this as the “best” strategy to promulgate, even a preferred strategy over actually talking about Thelema. It is however important to note that this strategy of demonstrating success is ineffective independent of other strategies. In itself, it does not constitute promulgation unless the Law is also actually declared, published, or disseminated in some fashion, so that the person can make a connection between your success and the Law of Thelema which helped you to succeed.

Childhood Socialization

Socialization simply means learning the customs, attitudes, and values of a social group. The rights of children to do their wills are important to protect, including their right to choose their own religion. Nevertheless, whatever beliefs they may decide to accept, we can teach them our customs, attitudes, and values.

All children and young people, although they may not be able to understand the more exalted heavens of our horoscope, may always be taught to rule their lives in accordance with the Law. No efforts should be spared to bring them to this emancipation. The misery caused to children by the operation of the law of the slave-gods was, one may say, the primum mobile of Our first aspiration to overthrow the Old Law.31

The cult of the slave-gods is well known for its severe approaches to indoctrination of children. Our approach is simply to teach them about our ways, that they may become part of our community, and that they may be brought to the emancipation of knowing themselves sovereign and divine.

Religious movements must socialise the young sufficiently well as to minimise both defection and the appeal of reduced strictness.32

Teaching and including children in our communities will help to ensure that they at least do not feel like outsiders, and perhaps they may even feel welcomed. This would naturally help to minimize any feelings of alienation they might otherwise feel which would otherwise drive them away from the community of Thelemites. Examples of how this can be done are numerous and include: saying Will with children before meals and explaining what the point of it is; performing Liber Resh where your children might see you, and explaining what it is about; including children in the celebration of Thelemic holidays; etc.

Including our children and educating them is important for their own development, that the light of their khabs may shine unimpeded by the restriction and complexes of the old aeon. It is also important for the growth and development of Thelema, that it may be transmitted from generation unto generation for all time.

An example combining several aspects of Khabs Am Pekht

In any group, when you have people attending who have a lot of expertise, and you also have brand new people, it can be a challenge to facilitate discussion between these extremes. Since adults generally learn best when they are able to share their own point of view and relate how their own experience fits into the topic at hand, one way to overcome the challenge in our situation is to have open discussions about a particular text.

Thelema Readings:

In Portland, we have printed some booklets and have held monthly readings where we have read and discussed one of Crowley’s tracts which explain Thelema in some way. The basic idea is, a facilitator reads the text in advance, practices reading it aloud, studies the language to get at what Crowley is saying in the document, looks up references, prepares a few questions to stimulate conversation, brings printed copies of what is to be read and discussed. This was done at a regular time so that it was easy for everyone to remember when to come and attend. At the discussion, we read a little from the text (or the whole document if it is short enough) and then pause for discussion. Many times it has proven useful to discuss Crowley’s more arcane language, so people understand what is being said, or to allow people to express their opinions and experiences in relation to the text. For the discussions, it is good for people to have their own copy of the document in question, and to that end we have printed booklets for each one, with the eventual idea of producing large numbers of them (1000 copies of one volume were once produced at Sekhet-Maat) for public distribution. This public distribution of booklets ties back to the above points about dissemination of tracts. The booklets also contained an invitation to attend the readings and discuss these concepts (and make social connections).

Centres of Pestilence:

Another way to learn about Thelema in a group setting is to take the verses of Liber AL, cut them out and put them in a basket. Draw a verse, read the Beast’s commentary aloud and discuss it. Preface the class with a reading of the Tunis comment to warn everyone about what is to take place.

Some tips on facilitating discussions:

  • If there is a lot of cross-talk, due to controversy or just exuberance, tell everyone that you will thank them to raise hands. Then jot down people’s names in order when they raise their hands (so they can then lower their hands while waiting their turn) and call on people in order.
  • As mediator, strive to hold off adding your commentary until after others chip in. If you are having people raise hands, put yourself on the list in order like you would with the others. But the main thing is, people will have a tendency to go into receptive mode if the mediator talks first or too much.
  • The first few times you stop and ask for questions/discussion/thoughts, it might require overcoming some inertia. Wait it out—if you feel uncomfortable with the silence, so does everyone else, and someone will pipe up to break it. Once that has happened a couple of times, attendees will open up and speak more freely.
  • Gauge the energy level of the group, and match it to establish rapport, and then slowly move yourself to the level of energy that seems appropriate for a discussion. In other words, if people are really sluggish and quiet, adopt that demeanor yourself, and start your introduction in a slower and quieter way, then gradually increase your energy, and the group will come with you.
  • Consider the object of the discussion and keep it in mind. Opportunities for further research are great, but don’t let them derail the discussion to the point of no return. If a tangent is off-topic and/or highly controversial, let it happen for a few minutes so that those participating in the discussion can say their piece, then bring it back on track when you notice that you aren’t alone in being bored or annoyed.
  • When there are others attending with an understanding of the text, consider your role as mediator and leader of the discussion, rather than as the lecturer or even as one of the experts. Though you most certainly do possess expertise, your role is to use that expertise toward the end of facilitating discussion among people of varying levels of knowledge, for group learning.

An Elemental Model of Promulgation

This model is at once descriptive of the progress of an individual in their acceptance of the Law of Thelema, and prescriptive of the areas on which we in O.T.O. must focus to develop our programs toward ever increasing levels of balanced sophistication in support of promulgating the Law.

Elemental Model of Promulgation - Enatheleme

Yod:

  • Imprinting: The typical scientific example of imprinting is the baby chick that imprints on the ping pong ball as its mother. There are other uses of the term however, and I am using a broader meaning to include major experiences that impress deeply into our khu, our body of light, and even in our muscles and nerves, and change us forever. Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson talk about imprinting as it occurs with entheogenic drugs. Initiatory rites (including rites of baptism, confirmation, and ordination in E.G.C.) can also be imprinting experiences in this sense.

Heh:

  • Conditioning: Daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal and annual practices which reinforce and deepen Gnosis— the Knowledge and Understanding of Self and Universe—throughout one’s life.

Vav:

  • Socialization: Learning the customs, attitudes, and values of a social group, community, or culture. Socialization is essential for the development of individuals who can participate and function within their societies, as well as for ensuring that a society’s cultural features will be carried on through new generations.
  • Enculturation: When we explain to someone any of our cultural norms, teaching them how to act appropriately, this is enculturation. Straddling the concepts of socializing and education, enculturation takes place at any events where people are taught the cultural norms, and this kind of activity might take place at many different events—from initiation rituals to wine & cheese socials. Some examples of things we teach people like this include: saying Will before meals, using Thelemic greetings, avoiding slanderous speech, observing Temple decorum, consulting the commentary on Liber AL, etc.

Heh final:

  • Social Bonding: Organic formation of interpersonal bonds which last and generate social networks. It is not the same as socialization above, which is more about learning the customs of a group. Where socialization is about learning the customs in a conscious or nearly-conscious process, social bonding occurs more organically. Social bonding is the interpersonal formation of bonds which last and generate social networks.

Shin:

  • The Law Descending into the Heart. Utilizing this model to develop a well-rounded program at the local body brings the Law of Thelema into the heart of the local body and the Brothers and Sisters who inhabit it.

More Promulgation Strategies

The remaining strategies we will explore come directly from the findings of Stark et al., who made a number of propositions about what would cause a new religious movement to grow, and they have found that these propositions bear out in reality through their studies.

Cultural Continuity

Cultural continuity simply means to maintain some “traditions” which help to engender a feeling of familiarity because it is similar to something that people have experienced previously. When we do this, we must of course retool the traditions to uphold the Law of Thelema.

New religious movements are likely to succeed to the extent that they retain cultural continuity with the conventional faith(s) of the societies in which they seek converts.33

Many of us are familiar with the story of how Christmas came to be; it certainly wasn’t “Christmas” to begin with, but rather was a celebration of the birth of Mithras which was later co-opted by Christianity, effectively utilizing cultural continuity as a strategy to get converts. We can do the same. Religious traditions which have become secularized (i.e. Christmas) can be adapted or reinvented. For example, on Winter Solstice at Sekhet-Maat we have for many years held a “Secret Satan” gift exchange, as a way to maintain gift giving as a tradition, but with our own symbolism to change the import of the tradition. Why not paint eggs and discuss the symbolism of the egg in a different context at Spring Equinox? Civil and secular holiday traditions are an opportunity as well, and we can celebrate them and talk about how they are important to us as Thelemites. Independence Day in the U.S. is a good example of such a holiday.

Again, I want to stress that cultural continuity is about familiarity of tradition, not replacing our values with those of the surrounding culture. Any imported tradition must be thoroughly gutted of any slavemorality or superstition for example, and it should be made to serve the cause of promulgation by including Thelemic symbols and doctrines.

Beyond adapting traditions from the past, the whole idea of having distinctive holiday celebrations is itself a matter of cultural continuity, and we should therefore be sure to celebrate all the Thelemic holidays as described in Liber AL and Crowley’s commentary.

Fraternity and World-Engagement

By fraternity here I mean having very close bonds with each other; and by world-engagement I mean being open to engagement with the rest of the world. We need both.

Religious movements will succeed to the extent that they sustain strong internal attachments, while remaining an open social network, able to maintain and form close ties to outsiders.343

As it happens, the U.S. Grand Lodge Vision Statement indicates precisely these ideas:

We will maintain a physical presence near every major population center in the country, from which we will offer services in support of our mission to our members and to the public. . . . We will espouse and defend the principle of individual liberty while cultivating strong fraternal bonds within our ranks. We will foster harmonious and constructive relationships with the academic, business, civil, and greater social communities within which we operate.35

Legitimate and Adequate Leadership

Religious movements will succeed to the extent they have legitimate leaders with adequate authority to be effective. This, in turn, will depend upon two factors: (a) Adequate authority requires clear doctrinal justifications for an effective and legitimate leadership. (b) Authority is regarded as more legitimate and gains in effectiveness to the degree that members perceive themselves as participants in the system of authority.36

When we think about leadership, it’s not just a question of the upper echelons of the Order. Leadership includes local body officers, priests and priestesses, initiators, and everyone who is a leader in any sense. We can even look at unofficial leadership by exemplary and senior members in considering this matter of legitimacy and adequacy. That is, there should be clear doctrinal justifications when leadership and/or authority are exercised, and the perception should be cultivated among those being led that they are participants in the system.

Competition with Conventional Religion

Other things being equal, new and unconventional religious organisations will prosper to the extent that they compete against weak, local conventional religious organisations… 38

Extremely large religious organizations (such as the Roman Church) which have merged so thoroughly with society that they can almost fade into the background are vulnerable to competition because they have many members who are only nominally involved. These loosely affiliated people may become interested in something new, vital, and unconventional which they hear about. There are many ways we can compete with conventional religion, but I leave this to your ingenious creativity.

Conclusion

We have to fight for Freedom against oppressors, religious, social, or industrial; and we are utterly opposed to compromise. Every fight is to be a fight to the finish; each one of us for himself, to do his own will; and all of us for all, to establish the Law of Liberty…

Let every man bear arms, swift to resent oppression, generous and ardent to draw sword in any cause, if justice or freedom summon him!38

Life and Liberty are threatened everywhere.

We need a Watchword and a banner for the battle.

We need a principle on which to reconstruct.

And so: Do what thou wilt Shall be the whole of the law. If you want Freedom You must fight for it.

If you want To fight You must organize

If you want to Organize, Then nothing remains but to Act!

Love is the law, love under will.


References

1. Liber AL III:42.
2. Liber AL III:39.
3. Aleister Crowley to Charles Stansfeld Jones, October 4, 1915 e.v., O.T.O. Archives.
4. Sabazius X°, “From the Grand Master,” Agapé 10, no. 4 (February, 2009 EV).
5. Liber AL I:15.
6. Aleister Crowley, “Duty,” O.T.O. U.S.A. Library, http://lib.oto-usa.org/crowley/essays/duty.html (accessed July, 2009
EV).
7. Germer, Karl. Karl Germer to Reea Leffingwell, March 7th, 1951 EV “Supplement to Catalog #7,” Weiser Antiquarian
Books, http://weiserantiquarian.com/catalogsevensupplement/ (accessed July, 2009 EV).
8. Bylaws of Ordo Templi Orientis International, Preamble (August, 2003 EV).
9. “U.S. Grand Lodge Planning,” U.S. Grand Lodge, Ordo Templi Orientis, http://oto-usa.org/planning.html (accessed July,
2009 EV).
10. See for example the numerous citations of Crowley’s writings on this subject at “Promulgation of the Law of Thelema,”
http://ararita.org/content/promulgation-law-thelema (accessed July, 2010 EV).
11. Roger Finke and Rodney Stark, “The New Holy Clubs: Testing Church-to-Sect Propositions.” Sociology of Religion 62
(2001): 175-189
12. Aleister Crowley, “Editorial,” The Equinox 1919 III(1): 9
13. Finke and Stark, “The New Holy Clubs.”
14. Rodney Stark and Laurence Iannaccone, “Why the Jehovah’s Witnesses Grow so Rapidly: A Theoretical Application.”
Journal of Contemporary Religion 12, no. 2 (May, 1997):133-157
15. Aleister Crowley, “Liber Librae,” The Equinox 1909 I(1): 17.
16. Stark and Iannaccone, “Why the Jehovah’s Witnesses Grow so Rapidly.”
17. Finke and Stark, “The New Holy Clubs.”
18. Aleister Crowley, “Liber CI,” The Equinox 1919 III(1): 207-224
19. Aleister Crowley, Liber Aleph vel CXI: The Book of Wisdom or Folly in the Form of an Epistle of 666 The Great Wild
Beast to His Son 777 (New York: 93 Publishing, 1991): 16.
20. Stark and Iannaccone, “Why the Jehovah’s Witnesses Grow so Rapidly.”
21. Not all of the ideas in “Khabs Am Pekht” will be discussed here, however, and there is much room for continued
exploration of the document and Crowley’s other writings where he comments upon the subject of promulgation.
22. Aleister Crowley, “Khabs Am Pekht,” The Equinox 1919 III(1): 171-182.
23. Sabazius X°, Agapé X(4).
24. Thanks to T Polyphilus for pointing this out.
25. Aleister Crowley, “Khabs Am Pekht.”
26. Aleister Crowley, “ΘΕΛΗΜΑ,” The Equinox 1990 III(10): 207-208.
27. A number of booklets and cards have been designed by myself, and I would happily customize them and assist your local
body to get them printed.
28. Aleister Crowley, “Khabs Am Pekht.”
29. Liber AL II:58.
30. “Behold! these be grave mysteries; for there are also of my friends who be hermits. Now think not to find them in the
forest or on the mountain; but in beds of purple, caressed by magnificent beasts of women with large limbs, and fire and
light in their eyes, and masses of flaming hair about them; there shall ye find them. Ye shall see them at rule, at victorious
armies, at all the joy; and there shall be in them a joy a million times greater than this. Beware lest any force another,
King against King! Love one another with burning hearts; on the low men trample in the fierce lust of your pride, in the
day of your wrath.”
31. Aleister Crowley, “Khabs Am Pekht.”
32. Stark and Iannaccone, “Why the Jehovah’s Witnesses Grow so Rapidly.”
33. Ibid.
34. Ibid.
35. “U.S. Grand Lodge Planning,” U.S. Grand Lodge, Ordo Templi Orientis, http://oto-usa.org/planning.html (accessed July,
2009 EV)
36. Stark and Iannaccone, “Why the Jehovah’s Witnesses Grow so Rapidly.”
37. Ibid.
38. Aleister Crowley, The Law is for All (Tempe, AZ: New Falcon Press, 1991): 16.

Enatheleme
Frater Enatheleme is a Thelemite, Priest, Initiator, artist, and scientist in Portland, Oregon. He served as an officer of Sekhet-Maat Lodge, Ordo Templi Orientis for ten years, and as its Master from 2006 to 2009. He is past editor of Agapé and of Lion & Serpent, founding co-producer of the Speech in the Silence podcast, and creator of the satirical campaign, "Aleister Crowley 2012." He created and moderated Thelemic Symposium, an annual event from 2002 to 2012 e.v., and co-created the most active and fastest-growing Thelemic group on Facebook.
http://thelema.thiebes.org

2 thoughts on “Modern Promulgation Strategies for Spreading Thelema

  1. Do what thou wilt Shall be the whole of the law

    Wow, I can’t thank you enough for such a powerful piece of writing. 👍
    EXCELLENT!

    Love is the law, love under will.

  2. Am not a Thelemite “officially”, but would surely like to congratulate you concerning how devoted you are to establishing general principles upon which novel religions might be nurtured and “grown”. I see in this, some hints at the need to study carefully, how such behemoth groups and their eggregores, as the mainstream faiths, have survived and also continued to grown over the centuries – even though many of them now face serious threats, and some are approaching their downfall. The lessons you learn while doing this for Thelema, would definitely benefit many a sect or cult, in the future – especially those of us looking to using the instruments of religion to bring about positive change in the world.

    On another note, as a Chaotte, it’s interesting to witness the evolution of a belief system at this scale. So interesting!

    Thanks for sharing brother.

    Do Thy Will, Shall be the Whole of the Law.
    SMIB.

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