As I've discussed before, the foundational documents and essential model of OTO can be seen as a three-function structure:
- A system of initiations providing a fraternal, philosophical, and mystical path for individual members
- Creation of a spiritual society based on OTO/Thelemic principles
- Promulgation of the Law of Thelema
However, I think there is something I neglected to point out. These aren't "or" statements—they are "and" statements. In other words, being a member of OTO includes: undergoing a set of initiations for personal transformation AND being an active part of a spiritual society AND assisting in promulgating the Law. Each of these things are intimately tied together; they are not menu items. The Order was not intended for people to show up for their yearly initiation and then either vanish for the rest of the time or only make appearances at parties.
How do we change this? What will it take to fulfill all three in a robust, creative way? I would like to offer some suggestions (not one of which I claim to be master of...these suggestions are equally for myself as for anyone else):
Be explicit in our expectations, principles, and aims
There are many people in the Order who can lecture on ritual and the Qabalah in great detail, but when it comes to these three things, they become tongue-tied. We need to find clear and concise ways to explain what we expect of ourselves, what principles guide our actions, and what we are trying to accomplish. This is true at every level, from the individual initiate, to local and governmental bodies, to our Grand Lodges. A question to all our local leaders out there in the field: can you write down an answer to these three things in less then hundred words yet in such a way as to make them reasonably clear to a guest at your local body? If an interested acquaintance asks "what is OTO?" do you have a solid, under-one-minute answer that touches these three issues, at least in outline? The more we define and articulate our expectations, principles, and aims, the easier it will be for members to get behind them.
This is one of the cornerstones of our Order and worthy of mastery. Yet, in too many ways, we do not follow through in practice, especially with guests. We talk about training ourselves in magick, but why do we not discuss training ourselves in hospitality? How do we go about receiving guests (and each other) with warmth and generosity? This is more than just an attitude, it is a spiritual practice, illustrated in our very first initiations. Hospitality isn't something we feel, it is something we do, and every local body would profit beyond measure by ceaselessly working to master it and making it an intrinsic part of the local culture.
For Hermes' sake, communicate! Regular communication on the doings of the Order at all levels is vital. Beyond simple education, communication is ultimately an act of connection, which is necessary to form the underlying substrate of any community or society. While this might seem obvious, one half of communication is the act of listening. We don't always have to agree, but we should always respect what others have to say, and ideally find ways to integrate unique voices into the patchwork quilt of our Order.
Walk your talk, and do it in a regular way. Few things will unravel a community faster than inconsistency. This doesn't mean we should be inflexible...it means we should put in that extra effort to provide a firm foundation for our activities. While things like starting the Mass on time, delivering regular updates on projects, and following through on small commitments might each seem to be relatively small, in the end they add up to something huge. Ultimately, being consistent gives guests and members the confidence that we are serious, responsible, stable, and real. It enables mutual trust, which is the linchpin for any healthy group.
Constantly let members (and guests) know that we want people to be active and vital in the local community and the Order at large. As good as this would be, it isn't enough. Local leaders need to find ways to invite participation. The OTO is a complex organization with a plethora of arcane traditions and it can be easy to forget that newer members rarely understand what is possible for them to do. Creating projects, delegating responsibilities of various sizes, and finding out what talents and resources people can bring to the table are all great ways to promote a dynamic group. This isn't about handing out commands...it is about letting members know that we sincerely welcome their input and believe that their time, energy, and resources will help improve the community and the Order.
Find the courage to make the hard decisions
I am a fan of the Captain Picard school of leadership: when a decision needs to be made, listen to everyone that has relevant and educated opinions, weigh their advice on the scales of your own wisdom, then act with firmness and due authority. Very few decisions will be 100% popular...to abstain from acting or to make inadequate choices from a desire to displease no one will ultimately result in disaster. At the same time, most people will appreciate that you wanted and heard their opinion, even when you decide otherwise. True, some decisions can result in a lot of anger or disappointment, but as long as they are made with honor, good faith, and due consideration, such retreats from harmony will ultimately help build a yet more firm social foundation. And here is something we all need to come to grips with: we all make mistakes. Not every decision will be the right or best one. The key in all such cases is to give the benefit of the doubt when possible and to correct and learn from such errors as we can.
This is but a short list. I've elsewhere outlined a larger set of ideas based on group dynamics that might help build our local communities. The vision of OTO is grand, and we will have to put forth great energy to make it a reality. And to that end, we need to invite and find ways to include many hundreds and thousands of people to join us. We have reached a point in our history where the foundations of our Temple are close to being complete—we must therefore prepare ourselves for the next phase of our journey. We are not the A∴A∴ and we can no longer afford to think of ourselves as disassociated adepts who happen to share rent. We must continue to find effective ways to integrate our three core functions so that members can walk our path of initiation, be a part of our Thelemic society, and help bring the Light of the Law into the world of darkness.