Our Children

by T Polyphilus

Presented on 29 March, IV xvi
in Thelemic Symposium VII
at Sekhet-Maat Lodge, Portland, Oregon

What role will the children of today's Thelemites play in the future of our movement?
I hope that our own children will seize the opportunity
to embrace and extend the Law of Thelema through OTO
and other vehicles that may become available to them.
But I’m not convinced that they will,
and I’d like to enumerate the sources of my concern.

For one thing, very few OTO bodies
(and even fewer groups of Thelemites outside of OTO)
provide anything like accommodation for children.
Although Crowley expressed an enduring concern
with the importance of child-rearing for the Thelemic movement,
OTO work has tended to concentrate on our Masonic-style degree system,
which is quite appropriately reserved to those who have reached the age of majority.
Especially with the agitated presence of those elements in American society
who seek to legislate the parenting techniques of others,
many OTO members and organizers
feel a justifiable trepidation about making
times and spaces for children in connection with the work of the Order.
But this reluctance tends to shut out
not only children, but parents as well,
who are thus in effect marginalized
by the organized community of Thelemites.

Another factor is that while Crowley was emphatic
about bringing up little Thelemites,
and he stressed the role of the Thelemic community as a whole in this regard,
he was also an outspoken critic
of the nuclear family as a basic social unit.
It is in fact the case in the history of Western culture,
that the prioritization of the nuclear family
parallels the development of Protestantism,
which Crowley pithily calls “the excrement of human thought.”
The Holy Family of Christianity,
now so well-known to be Jesus with his parents Mary and Joseph,
in the Catholicism of the Middle Ages was actually
Jesus, his mother Mary, and grandmother Anne.
That is to say, a focus on generational continuity
was replaced with one on household propriety
--one that ill-befits our New Aeon.

As a footnote, I should remark
that the extreme individualism advocated by Crowley
went so far as to oppose in principle
even such metaphorical families as the one found in OTO itself,
recognizing that the most benevolent and supportive of social environments
always nevertheless exerts an influence
that can mask and distort the promptings of the personal genius.
Still, knowing that humans are social animals,
we should be alert to the fact that our societies
can also be the means for the expression of the genius.

Perhaps the most basic difficulty is
that the prohibitive majority of past and present Thelemites are adult converts.
We thus have no working models for Thelemic parenting,
outside of Crowley’s highly idealized writings on the topic.
Our own childhood indoctrinations in other religious traditions
tend to be highly irrelevant,
unless they serve as negative examples,
which in fact often inhibit contemporary Thelemites
from offering any sort of religious instruction to their children.

But I am not in despair about our circumstance.
I have several positive recommendations
that can help to give our children a continuing place
in our community.
An obvious one is for leaders, clergy, and local bodies of OTO
to recognize the importance of children,
and to assist Thelemite parents actively
by setting aside spaces and recruiting volunteers
for childcare during adult events,
and by organizing activities expressly designed
to appeal to children and their families.

We have important tools available to us
in terms of group liturgical work.
The first of these is the Feast for Life ceremony,
a benediction of a newborn,
welcoming the infant into the world of matter
as well as the community of Thelemites.
When my daughter went through this ceremony
at Circle of Stars Sanctuary in Austin,
it seemed to have a thaumaturgical effect.
The beautiful little girl was an unfocused baby,
unable or unwilling to make any real discrimination
outside of “mama versus other stuff,”
and by the end of the service she was making distinct eye contact
with members of the congregation as they approached her.
But the importance of this ceremony
is not in its direct effect on the child;
it is on the parents and the other adults in the local community.

We afford baptism in our Gnostic Catholic Church
to minors at the age of eleven,
with parental consent and participation,
and it may be that some children will elect
to undergo that ceremony of new birth into the Church community.
But potentially more important
in the child’s own life and spiritual realization
is the boy’s Feast for Fire or girl’s Feast for Water,
celebrating puberty and the approach of adult liberty and responsibility.
These should not be geared to incorporate adolescents
into a particular community or social institution,
but to emphasize the growth of their magical autonomy
in terms of the Law of Thelema.
I have worked up potential rituals for these occasions,
but they have not yet been tested.
My plan for my own daughter
is to start building her anticipation of her Feast for Water
after her seventh birthday.

Above and beyond community liturgy,
children themselves are impacted more by domestic ritual.
Our groups and leaders can and should do more
to develop and communicate such domestic rituals for the use of Thelemites.
These include the basics of saying Will over the main meal of the day,
and the daily fourfold adoration of the Sun,
with the understanding that such rituals become more meaningful
when shared in a household.
Other invocations,
such as the Cry of the Hawk, or Nepios,
can be presented to children as verbal charms and incantations—
which is how children in most religions
typically apprehend their first prayers in any case.

Even with all the help that we can give,
we have no guarantee that our children
will grasp the merits of Thelema through and beyond
whatever failings we may have as parents and local communities.
To paraphrase Kahlil Gibran: Our children are not our children.
They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.
They come through us, but they are not from us;
and though they are with us, they do not belong to us.

We can make opportunities for them
to contribute to the future of our movement,
but ultimately our aspiration should be
for them to accomplish their own True Wills,
whatever those may be.
If these two goals are both to be realized,
we must ensure that the Thelemic movement
does in fact serve its purpose
of securing the liberty of the individual,
and his or her advancement in wisdom, understanding,
knowledge and power,
through beauty, courage and wit,
on the foundation of Universal Brotherhood.

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