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  Thelema in the Midst of Religious Revival
General Thelema Posted by Xnoubis on Friday August 18, @05:20PM
from the carpe-deus dept.

There's been a lot of talk that the selection of Joseph Lieberman as Democratic Vice Presidential nominee is a sign that religious awareness is returning to the mainstream. Since this is a relatively inclusive vision of religion (compared to the retro fundamentalism of the Republicans), it might be a positive development for Thelema, Lieberman's moralistic attitude notwithstanding.

To clarify: 20th century American spirituality was largely the movement away from traditional Christianity toward secular humanism. This was followed by an attempt to revisit the Christian worldview of the past on one hand (fundamentalism), and an upsurge of alternate religions on the other (the New Age, Wicca, Paganism, Buddhism, "progressive" Christianity, etc.).

Thelema has been a small part of this latter trend so far. If we are at the beginning of a second, more mainstream, wave of this trend, how do we make the most of it?




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    Re: Thelema in the Midst of Religious Revival
    by Diancecht on Saturday August 19, @10:49AM
    I think the rather comical view of government officials or others expressing religious views or no is that ever since the invention of television these views and the people who possess them are merely role-playing in the glam-show. The trend seems more in-characterism than anything "fundamental" or "progressive".

    So...What does one make of it?

    Stay true. Accept that humanism is expressed by individuality and not a forced-view.

    Also, I think that both Lieberman and Bush, whenever they speak of God, are and have been cooed at, as most do not care to hear about God from a political figure, simply for that government does not and has not worked right in the past.

    Re: Thelema in the Midst of Religious Revival
    by Michael Sanborn on Saturday August 19, @11:25AM
    On the other hand, there is also interesting talk emphasizing the prudishness of this season's candidates: see Sexless in Washington or The New Sanctimony, for example.

    But I think that the nomination of an Orthodox Jew for Vice President is an important development of mainstream American religious consciousness, and is potentially of greater impact on Thelema than all the moralistic posing going on.

    • Re: Thelema in the Midst of Religious Revival
      by Diancecht on Saturday August 19, @01:00PM
      I would be interested, Michael, as I don't believe this has been clarified yet, what effect you think this would have on Thelema. To be frank, I don't see how the two issues are in the least bit related.

      Thelema has always been a philosophy and way of life, but it is closely associated with the OTO, what has always been more of a closed organization.

      That said, Thelema, it's teachings, are largely left on the obscure side of the fence, and unless the masses of Thelemites are willing and able to disclose and clarify exactly what its highest initiates have learned, then, it will remain a closed organization (and will not receive the wide recognition it may or may not deserve).

      And that is to say, we already have 'religions'. What we need are magical societies of the elite.


      • Re: Thelema in the Midst of Religious Revival
        by Michael Sanborn on Sunday August 20, @04:31AM
        Fair enough. What I see is the potential for Middle American awareness of the legitimacy of religious experience beyond the Christian context. Fundamentalism says: our ways are true, the other ways are lies. Secular humanism says: religious experience is claptrap. But there is another attitude, common in India, California, and wherever people are relaxed about their mysticism: many ways of religious experience are valid. We're so used to this, it seems trivial. As it should. But for much of the American populace this is real news.

        We've come to expect the usual "holier than thou" positioning from the Right. In some respects, the Democrats are just aping the Republicans in their newfound enthusiasm for God. There's no relevance for Thelema there. But Lieberman's Jewishness brings something new to the message. People can be bound together by their religious convictions outside of the boundaries of their particular religions.

        It is a very tiny, very basic step. But it's a step that's being taken by a very large mass of people, so I think it's important.

        I'm not saying that it effects Thelema directly. But it's another sign that the world is moving further away from the religious landscape that Crowley knew. Crowley sometimes seemed to envision a world where the oppressive forces of Old Aeonic religion held the reins so tightly that Thelema would need to be established by sword. Some Beast Bay readers may still hold with that.

        But I see the world moving into a more multi-faceted religious environment. With that in mind, we might want to rewrite Crowley's vision of the relationship between Thelema and other religions as the Aeon progresses.


        • Re: Thelema in the Midst of Religious Revival
          by Diancecht on Monday August 21, @07:16AM
          (o.k., let's compare the two)...Joe Lieberman, a whining Jew who wants to censor all of Pop Culture and Thelema?

          Michael, c'mon?

          Anyone voting Democratic this term does so at their own risk and peril.

          Why anyone would be turned on by the idea of BIG government is beyond me. Most intelligible people also despise BIG religion. Whereas those who need someone constantly looking over their shoulder would worship it. It has always been this way and to me shows no signs of changing.


        • Re: Thelema in the Midst of Religious Revival
          by Patrick Crumhorn on Monday August 21, @07:19AM
          I see small relevance in Lieberman's appointment, particularly since the campaign is going nowhere (given the choice between two conservatives, the Republican usually wins). And anyway, Lieberman is an Orthodox Jew with Moral Majority leanings; he's been a welcome guest on Pat Robertson's 700 Club on several occasions, talking about the need to save our Judeo-Christian heritage from all the new age deviance, etc.

          As for the OTO and "mainstreaming" of Thelemic religion, I've had it told to me by more than one OTO/EGC member, in hushed tones but with no oath of secrecy required, that the medium-term goal of EGC to to win acceptance as a "mainstream" church within some of the more liberal ecumenical circles, like National Council of Churches, etc. Problem is, that horse isn't gonna walk, much less run. Even the most open-minded Methodist is gonna have a problem with "I peck at the eyes of Jesus as he hangs upon the cross..." and the rest of that section of Our Sacred Holy Book doesn't exactly make a case for touchy-feely ecumenicism. So, short of revising or rejecting Liber AL as the primary religious text of a Thelemic religion, acceptance by the mainstream is not gonna happen in our lifetimes. Nor should it, IMO.

          While I enjoy using the religious aspects of Thelema in ritual, I feel that it is first and foremost a philosophical worldview regarding the individual and hir relationship to the "external" world and other people. In that sense, Liber OZ is much more important a Thelemic text than Liber XV. Religion can incorporate Thelema (as in EGC, EGnU, etc.) but Thelema exists quite nicely without any religious or church trappings whatsoever.

          Whatever the Aeon brings in the future, in the here and now I think the lure of "acceptance" is a false, seductive dead end, which can only be accomplished by herding individuals into a groupthink situation, a la "let's not scare the nice Methodists, Wiccans, etc. with all this Beast and his Bride talk." That way lies madness, or worse, the undifferentiated oatmeal of liberal ecumenicism.


          • Re: Thelema in the Midst of Religious Revival
            by Diancecht on Monday August 21, @10:17AM
            There is a strange beauty in the youthful mind, that if you proved to them that religions are lying to them, and (say) Thelema could provide them with all the spiritual benefits they could have ever hoped for or thought before impossible, then the end result would undeniably culture a new and widespread generation of Utopia, for aeons to come.

            I don't think this has anything to do with The Book of the Law. It's nice, but does no good for one in need of instruction on how to build a house.

            Now if one could target the majority of the youth, and at the same time openly and truthfully instructed them of all the highest secrets of rites and degrees, this would easily kill off all the swine. But, I fear Thelema at this point is not ready to do this; nor centered in its ideals or for that matter a connective basis of its studies. Which if you ask ten thelemites a question that should deserve one distinct answer you will most likely get 12 opposing views.

            (end chaotic case in point)


          • Re: Thelema in the Midst of Religious Revival
            by Mordecai Shapiro on Monday August 21, @12:35PM
            "Religion can incorporate Thelema (as in EGC, EGnU, etc.) but Thelema exists quite nicely without any religious or church trappings whatsoever."

            I agree with the general sentiment, but wonder if there isn't a difference between religious "trappings" and churchly ones.


          • Re: Thelema in the Midst of Religious Revival
            by Michael Sanborn on Monday August 21, @04:47PM
            First of all, it isn't that Lieberman or the Democrats are particularly admirable. It is rather that the selection of Lieberman by the Democrats is, among other things, a symptom of a changing public perception of spirituality, and in a subtle way pushes that change slightly forward.

            The kinds of changes we're used to thinking of as significant to Thelema are things close to our center that make very little impression on society as a whole. Think of the death of Jack Parsons, for example. My main point is that there are small changes to society as a whole that have relatively large effects on Thelema. A humorous but I think significant example would be the advent of Dungeons & Dragons. Uncle Al would cringe at the idea, but D&D has probably brought more people into Thelema (and other branches of the Occult) than the publication of the Thoth deck.

            (I've always been amused that the group "Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons" is the most discredited of all anti-cult organizations, and yet they kind of have a point. Not all D&D'ers become occultists, but it's amazing the percentage of occultists that went through a D&D phase sometime in their development.)

            I'm not even claiming that Lieberman's nomination is as important as D&D. But it's a sign of something (along with the popularization of Tibetan Buddhism, the self-help spirituality of Oprah, Madonna's boostering of Kabbalah, etc.) that does effect Thelema's environment.

            Secondly, I think that mainstreaming is inevitable, like it or not. Compared to the days of, say, the Solar Lodge, Thelema has already done a great deal of mainstreaming, and it's going to continue. The question becomes one of management. Do we want Thelemites to become the Mormons of the 21st century? If not, what sort of models are more appropriate? The Masons? Most likely, we need a model uniquely our own. I think that we should develop it intentionally, rather than just drift into it.

            I agree that in some ways, mainstream acceptance is a problem. But is it essential to Thelema that it remain marginalized?


            • Re: Thelema in the Midst of Religious Revival
              by Diancecht on Monday August 21, @05:47PM
              >It is rather that the selection of Lieberman by >the Democrats is, among other things, a symptom >of a changing public perception of spirituality, >and in a subtle way pushes that change slightly >forward.

              And you may be right. I just wonder if others see it that way, or if this view is exclusively your own.


              Also, I think we should as a whole cease judging persons by their label of religion and more by their perceptions, ideas and visions.

              An obsession is an obsession, whether under Judaism or Thelema. And obsessions just aren't cool, man.


            • Re: Thelema in the Midst of Religious Revival
              by Mordecai Shapiro on Monday August 21, @11:37PM
              "it's amazing the percentage of occultists that went through a D&D phase sometime in their development."

              Is this statement based on subjective impressions or have you seen any actual studies that were done on the issue? If so, a reference would be most useful to students of 'anticultism'.

              "I think that mainstreaming is inevitable, like it or not. Compared to the days of, say, the Solar Lodge, Thelema has already done a great deal of mainstreaming, and it's going to continue. The question becomes one of management. Do we want Thelemites to become the Mormons of the 21st century? If not, what sort of models are more appropriate? The Masons? Most likely, we need a model uniquely our own. I think that we should develop it intentionally, rather than just drift into it."

              How does this public relations effort deal with the issue of discussing the contents of the Book of the Law? Because they will be discussed. If Time and Newsweek are quoting "Kill and torture; spare not", "peck at the eyes of Jesus", and all that you're saying is, "We don't have any comment on what that means, everyone has to decide for themselves.", then Thelema will become about as mainstream as LSD.


              • Re: Thelema in the Midst of Religious Revival
                by Michael Sanborn on Tuesday August 22, @01:18PM
                > Is this statement based on subjective
                > impressions or have you seen any actual studies
                > that were done on the issue?

                Since you and I both know that there's not much academic research done on occultists, I suppose that what you're really saying is that your impressions differ. Okay, change that to, "I'm always amazed at the percentage of occultists I meet that..." Better?

                In regards to the controversial passages of Liber AL, I think of it as analogous to the Mormon doctrine that black people are born that way as God's punishment for some particular mistake in history (I forget the details). That is: the story comes out once in a while, some church spokesman comes out and makes some disclaimer, and the whole thing is quickly forgotten.

                The comparison with LSD is interesting. The use of the drug is extremely widespread, but the bad press has died down about it since the '60s. So on one hand, that's exactly where we want to be. I think I see the point you're making, though, that we could be publicly demonized on the scale that LSD was in the '60s. I'd like to think instead that we could be past our time of maximum demonization (the late '80s, perhaps?), and will gradually become more pervasive.

                Along those lines, did you see a segment of "The Awful Truth" where Michael Moore asked people on the street to describe the strangest thing that they ever saw on LSD? At least a couple of dozen people answered, of every age, race, and type, seeming to represent the whole demographic spectrum, describing their hallucinations as Moore just smirked into the camera.


                • Re: Thelema in the Midst of Religious Revival
                  by Patrick Crumhorn on Sunday August 27, @12:18PM
                  Well, I think you hit the nail on the head.
                  The "mainstreaming" of Thelema will require H.B. or some such personage looking into the camera and insisting that "Thelemites" don't actually pay any attention to Verse (insert offending passage here)
                  of Liber AL, and anyway we have private notes and letters written by Crowley in which he expressed a wish that Thelema be accepted by Christians worldwide, and further, Crowley and the Pope of the time had a "secret understanding" and Thelema
                  is in no way opposed to the doctrines of the Roman church. Oh, yes, and sorry about that "Gospel according to George Bernard Shaw" too. And all that "there is no God but Man" doesn't mean what it says either. And so on and so on. Why not just skip the charade and simply embrace Mother Rome now, instead of waiting for the future Thelemic apologists to do it for us?


                  • Re: Thelema in the Midst of Religious Revival
                    by Michael Sanborn on Sunday August 27, @06:45PM
                    I think that the mainstream is more Secular Humanist than Christian; that's why almost everyone gets the jokes about the Flanders family on "The Simpsons". They're creepy exactly because they're Christian. There's work that needs to be done in order to interface between Thelema and secular society, but it's not the challenge that Christianity would be.


    Re: Thelema in the Midst of Religious Revival
    by Stephanie Segel on Saturday September 02, @08:45PM
    I don't think we are quite "there" yet.

    Cases in point:

    * Gore recently declared himself a "born again Christian" on CBS's "60 Minutes".

    * George W Bush recently signed a declaration of "Jesus Day" in the state of Texas (I'll post the source when I track it down again)

    ....think there's still a long road ahead, folks.


    93 from Silicon Valley....
    Stevie :)

    • Re: Thelema in the Midst of Religious Revival
      by Stephanie Segel on Saturday September 02, @09:00PM
      in regards to the "Jesus Day" in Texas...you can find many references to it doing a search on SFGate.com (story appeared about two weeks ago). Good ol' "George W" has also been quoted recently as saying "Jesus is my favorite philosopher"
      (shudder)


    • Re: Thelema in the Midst of Religious Revival
      by Mordecai Shapiro on Monday September 04, @01:11AM
      And who knows where that road will lead. Often times it is the excesses of a social reaction which eventually undermine it. I hate to think that some sort of persecution is the price that has to be paid for the acceptance of pagan and/or Thelemite religious practices, but my historical studies lead me to see that as one very possible scenario.



     
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