Ritual magick was my doorway drug to Thelema. Goetia to be exact. There was something about that experience that utterly hooked me, and I became ravenous for information on the entire subject.
This was before the days of Internet and very few of Crowley's books were in print (I did get my hands on Magick in Theory and Practice). Soon, my small circle of fellow magicians were brewing all kinds of rituals, although they were mostly of the evocatory kind...other than demons, we chatted with Babalon on several occasions. It wasn't long before I came to O.T.O. and added the Mass and ritual theater to my repertoire. In those early days I also got into the A∴A∴ rituals, and diligently worked with the LBRP and the Star Ruby, along with various other original rituals based on the Holy Books and my handy copy of 777. For many years it was all about magick for me, and boy was I into it.
Thanks largely to the influence of the people around me (again, this was before the days of LiveJournal or even the ubiquity of email), Thelema was largely a vehicle for counter-cultural sentiments. Many of us enjoyed the idea of putting Thelema in people's faces, not unlike a scandalous t-shirt of the average rebellious teen. For myself, it was a way of adopting a spiritual path while not giving in to mainstream notions of religion (which had kept me away from any spirituality for my whole life). However, when I wasn't using Thelema to give voice to my disgust of normative Christian culture or GOP-style political oppression, I was using it as a context for ritual. I was thirsty for Answers, and I was seduced by the Crowleyan brand of writing, where Profound Insight was always just around the corner—if only I could just do the right combination of rituals long enough, hard enough, and with enough conviction.
What I wasn't fully aware of at the time was that my true motivation was to escape from my deep depression and sense of inadequacy. Magick/Thelema seemed custom made for this. On the one hand, ritual has the ability to provide intense experiences (what some call "fireworks"), which helped me to add color and vibrancy to my otherwise blue-gray emotional life. On the other, much of Crowley's Thelemic writings are filled with language that is music to the ears of those with chronic low self-esteem. Not only am I GOD, but all those other maroons out there are mere troglodytes, beggars, and weaklings, ready to be trampled upon. What bliss! Oh yeah, and let's not forget the sex. Thanks to Thelema (and O.T.O.), I found myself making whoopee with some amazing women who would not have otherwise given my skinny butt a second glance. Alas, Thelema and Magick are not designed to eliminate depression or build healthy self-esteem. The ritual fireworks did not linger, I found egoism to be hollow and unfulfilling, and sex with multiple partners eventually led to drama and complications.
Somewhere in there I started psychotherapy with a talented therapist, largely to kick my depression. After about two years of work, I found myself greatly strengthened as an individual. Even after my time with him, I continued to improve and build upon the foundations that had been built in therapy. I no longer craved ritual fireworks, soothing pronouncements of my superiority, or...well, okay, I still craved sex, but for its own sake, not to prove my own self worth. I was learning to be happy with who I was, and the more I grew, the less I needed to rebel. I found myself starting to fight for things rather than against them.
After this personal transformation, my own views of Thelema had changed radically. I no longer felt the drive to find Big Secret Answers...largely because I started to realize that there weren't any. I was still into ritual, but for very different reasons. My biggest motivation for it was—and still is—Transformation. This is one reason (of many) why I love the rituals of O.T.O. and E.G.C. so much...they are all about transformation, both personal and cultural.
For me, this has become what Thelema and all its methods and expressions are about—the inherent ability and freedom to explore, celebrate, express, and transform ourselves so to manifest our deepest, most sacred nature. While other religions hold somewhat similar concepts, Thelema is unique in that it abandons the one-size-fits-all model of morality and faith. It recognizes that everyone is unique, and that although we are all more or less based upon the same bio-psychological substrate, Nature has granted us the ability to express our potential in a virtually infinite number of ways. Put simply, Thelema is the conjunction of the concepts of evolution and sacredness set within the context of liberty, individuality, and joy.
This is why I am a Thelemite...I have a deep drive for genuineness, which I firmly believe is the key to all wisdom. To be the most "me" that I can be, which is both discovered and created, for as Crowley wrote, "this understanding that Stability is Change, and Change Stability, that Being is Becoming, and Becoming Being, is the Key to the Golden Palace of this Law." This is my calling, to not only do this for myself, but to aid anyone else I can in doing the same. I do this in O.T.O. as initiator and priest, I do this as a clinical psychologist in training, and I do this as a fellow human being every chance I get. I have been most fortunate, for as I've entered onto this Path, I've found that I have some excellent company. Let us walk together, you and I, and change the world!