There is plenty of documentation outlining the benefits of membership in OTO, not the least of which is Liber CI. However, there are no clear documents (that I have found) that clearly express the benefits of local body membership. I am defining “benefits of membership” to mean what one specifically gets in return for the cost of being a member, and which generally cannot be obtained otherwise. Here at Scarlet Woman Lodge, we have a clear definition of the cost of local membership: regular payment of local dues. However, for the purposes of this post, I claim that full, meaningful local membership requires three components:
- making reasonable efforts to help sustain body operations (i.e. payment of local dues or other needed resources),
- a reasonable level of participation in local body events, and
- making a reasonable attempt to behave in a fraternal way (i.e. according to fraternal oaths and Order policy).
I actually think this is asking quite a bit, especially from those who have full time schedules (especially parents), and who might be just discovering Thelema and OTO. To expect all three components from someone, there must be some pretty compelling benefits. However, many of the “benefits of membership” that I see are not very compelling: access to the Lodge library, getting a small $5 bi-annual journal for free, discounts on a few public events, etc. The biggest “benefit” I see (which is one of ours) is the knowledge that one’s dues helps support the local body to maintain a temple or other space. However, I argue that this benefit is not very compelling to someone who is not already emotionally invested in the community. Besides, I can help financially sustain a temple without being a full member of the local body...I can even obtain this “benefit” anonymously while living in a different state.
So, I started to list out the true benefits of local membership. This turned out to be not so easy. First, I had to knock off everything that was really a benefit of the Order in general (i.e. those things that don’t require local membership to acquire). I also discounted benefits that were mainly dues-based (like discounts or free journals), because someone can pay their dues every month without ever coming around or participating in any meaningful way...besides, I argue that payment of dues is generally a necessary but not sufficient requirement for full local membership. Then I had to eliminate those things that you could really get without local membership at all. An example of this is “being a part of a Thelemic community”—there are several valuable people in the Scarlet Woman community who aren’t even initiates.
Finally, I think I have come up with the foundational benefits of local body membership (as I define it, anyway). These benefits are actually four opportunities:
- To undergo the various initiatory experiences along with familiar others over time, providing the chance for unique social bonding and mutual growth within a meaningful, Thelemic context.
- To be part of a unique social environment wherein one can fully and safely explore fraternal oaths with others who share those same oaths—providing the chance for feedback, dialog, and mutual discovery.
- To use one’s increasing understanding and social experience of fraternal oaths to develop and practice leadership skills based on Thelemic principles—again with the chance for feedback and dialog from those who share the same oaths. This can take place informally, by acting as an educator and good example for newcomers, or formally, such as becoming an officer of the local body, facilitating projects, or officering in the Mass or initiations.
- To assist others in their journey through the Man of Earth grade, to help celebrate our Mysteries, and to help promulgate the Law of Thelema within the formal framework of the Order (i.e. by becoming a chartered initiator or ordained clergy, paying dues to sustain a temple, attending initiations to support one’s siblings, etc.).