| up a level
from the temple-of-social-set dept.
I recently came across a passage in The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman (1959: Anchor Books/Doubleday, NY) that gave me pause. Goffman uses the term "teams" to describe groups of people who are united to make some kind of presentation, an assertion of a particular model of reality, to an audience. For instance in a hospital, all of the personnel, from clerks to nurses and doctors, work together to give the public the impression of a competently run professional institution. But he draws a distinction between teams in this sense and "cliques."
In large social establishments, individuals within a given status level are thrown together by virtue of the fact that they must co-operate in maintaining a definition of the situation toward those above and below them. Thus a set of individuals who might be dissimilar in important respects, and hence desirous of maintaining social distance from one another, find they are in a relation of enforced familiarity characteristic of teammates engaged in staging a show. Often it seems that small cliques form not to further the interests of those with whom the individual stages a show but rather to protect him from an unwanted identification with them. Cliques, then, often function to protect the individual not from persons of other ranks but from persons of his own rank.
If we could stretch Goffman's "large social establishments" to describe society at large, it seems to me that people often become involved in Thelemic community for just these cliquish reasons. Sometimes, it isn't that we want to be with one another; we just want to be with people who aren't "them." As a result, it's often difficult for groups of Thelemites to work together.
This tendency would almost seem to be built-in to Thelema. Those motivated to act against societal norms often view Crowley as a kindred spirit. And some Crowley enthusiasts feel compelled to emulate his battles against the standards of his time. Of course, things have changed since Crowley's day. But I think I sometimes see Thelemites defending themselves against a norm that no longer really exists.
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