| up a level
from the that's-got-Hoor's-own dept.
It is clear that, at least at times, Crowley expected that he would have a "Magical Heir" (see, for instance, his 1920 Comment on verse II:75). Quite a number of people, both in Crowley's lifetime and since his death, have claimed to be just that (and even more have privately held to that opinion of themselves). None of them have garnered many supporters. The person who Crowley recognized and then later disowned, C.S. Jones, is one of the more widely recognized, though certainly only a small minority of present-day Thelemites consider him to be Crowley's 'true' heir. Probably a majority of Thelemites do not follow anyone that they believe fulfills the role.
In this article I want to discuss some implications of Crowley's "Magical Heir" as a concept, but first I'd like to make a few remarks inspired by Colin S. McLeod, an articulate spokesman on this forum for what he might call the Thelemic literalist position. I, on the other hand, have often argued here for what I would term the transliteralist position. The inconsistencies I discern in McLeod's interpretation have led me to try to delineate what would qualify as a truly literal reading of the Class A COMMENT by Ankh-f-n-khonsu. It finally dawned on me that it is offering us two entirely valid yet diametric options. Either at one's "own risk and peril" one chooses not to destroy one's first copy of the Book of the Law but rather to study it and even discuss its contents, or one makes the literally "wise" decision and tears up the bloody "BOTL" and never has anything more to do with it. Half measures won't cut it. Refusing to discuss the issues raised by the text of Liber Legis may be a valid strategy for leading one's life, but it's scarcely an intellectually honest reading of the COMMENT.
Though I suppose you could make a case for treating the Book of the Law entirely as a fetish object, putting it up on the altar, but never reading it (that's the principal form of study!) or quoting from it (a form of discussion). Come to think of it, I've known Thelemites who do just that! Maybe they're the ones who have it all figured out. Frankly, I can't claim that myself. Paradoxically, perhaps, I shall not use this post to quote, interpret, or otherwise discuss the contents of the Book of the Law, but rather to ask my readers to consider how the concept of heirship relates to the future of Thelema as a social movement.
Most spiritually-inspired social movements seem to last for long periods of time only if they become either very widespread and diversified in a culture or very deeply rooted in some small but persistent subculture. It seems like Thelema could well be on its way to achieving the latter status, but in spite of the dreams of mass acceptance which lie behind much of Crowley and company's thinking about Thelema, there is no sign at present of such acceptance. Crowley may be Prophet enough, with a message compelling enough, to become the founder of a relatively long-lived religious movement, but there will have to be some major changes in both society and Thelemic practice for it ever to be anything like a majority viewpoint.
Enter the child of Aleister Crowley, his "Magical Heir," to succeed where he failed, in effectively evangelizing this gospel (if you'll forgive the phrase) of Thelema to all of Humankind. Success in this obviously takes talent, total dedication, and a lot of real magical "juice." But without some sort of fulfillment of Crowley's expectations of a "Magical Heir," Thelema seems to me unlikely to ever achieve much social importance.
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