On Worthiness

One of the big themes of Liber CI is recruitment. As we've already seen, Crowley established in Liber CI that the OTO was to be quite large, with well over 1000 members in every “district” (which could be, say, the entire Bay Area or similar geographic area). Moreover, we've seen that members have a duty to actively seek out “member-worthy” people and induce them to join up.

A big issue that we as an Order have to tackle is that of worthiness—what makes a person “worthy” for recruitment? There is also the question of how we recruit, but that is a topic for another essay…

There are a great many ideas about what members look for in terms of potential members. To date, I'd say that the most common prerequisites have been experience in ceremonial ritual, some study of Aleister Crowley, and ideally both. While everyone can certainly have their own personal standards, here is why I think this narrow criteria is a problem. The first is that it places ceremonial magick and AC as being the core purpose of the Order… i.e., to be a place where people primarily come to learn about magick and AC (i.e. a Club for Ritualists). As we have seen from our foundational documents, the threefold purpose of the Order can be generally viewed as offering an individual path for discovery of Will via our Rites, development of a spiritual society for initiates, and promulgation of the Law into the world. Ceremonial ritual and AC studies are integral parts of all three, but are (within the context of OTO) but means to these larger ends. Moreover, the Order is designed to offer education in these areas—which has been informal to date, but will soon be formalized thanks to the Education Committee. Therefore, previous ritual/AC knowledge is not strictly necessary, and might even get in the way of seeing the bigger picture. Finally, limiting our choices to experienced magicians who have studied Crowley narrows our potentially recruitable population to a tiny sliver.

This is not to say that ceremonial ritualists and AC scholars aren't welcome, of course. Rather, I'm suggesting that we would be well-served by expanding our ideas about what makes for a potential quality member. In my original essay, I offered the idea that worthiness was essentially determined by personal traits that show evidence that someone could and would fulfill the essential duties outlined in Liber CI. I would now like to expand upon that.

I believe that the key to estimating “worthiness” is a combination of character and attitude. Character, in this case, can be described as a consistent set of behaviors that are largely interactive in nature—i.e. it gives an idea about how someone will behave within the local body community. This is certainly of central importance in our case, since members are joining a fraternity and social behavior is of great consequence within our system. Attitude can be understood as a general mindset, and is used to interpret events and make future plans. This is important, because it is key to how someone might think about our various aspects, including Thelemic tenets (e.g. AL, Oz, Duty, & Librae), ceremonial ritual (e.g. Mass and MMM rites), and our brand of gnostic mysticism. Character and attitude are not really separate traits, but are two interconnected manifestations of a person's fundamental values and beliefs about themselves and the world. However, since it can be quite difficult to determine those core values and beliefs directly (often people aren't consciously aware of them themselves), it is more efficient for us to look at their offspring.

When Crowley talked about ideal personal character, he consistently used two words: noble and honorable. Other traits that he held in high regard include chivalry, tolerance, generosity, independence, mannerliness, dignity, and tact. In other places, it is clear that membership requires traits such as perseverance, skepticism, honesty, patience, hospitality, courage, and openness to experience …. In other words, someone who has never actually existed! I've often wondered if we can boil all these down to core traits. I believe we can, at least for the purposes of making shorthand estimations about a person's general character.

As I've written elsewhere, I believe that there are four traits that can be used to gauge excellent fraternal character: courage, integrity, cordiality, and foolishness. Courage is fairly obvious—it is the willingness to brave that which is frightening. Integrity is a combination of traits like honesty, consistency, discipline, follow-through, and responsibility. Cordiality is sincere good-will towards others, and can include traits like generosity, hospitality, and ebullience. Foolishness, in this case, is of the sacred type, and embodies traits like desire for new experience, a sense of humor, and the ability to be inspired (and to inspire others).

Attitude is a bit more complicated to gauge. However, there are several general mindsets that are in strong alignment with OTO. The first and perhaps foremost is what I call seeking the sacred. It is a frame of mind involving the desire for meaning and/or experience above and beyond secular materialism, even if the person has no clue what it is she is looking for. Without this general attitude, I believe, few people will find our initiatory path to be of much value.

However, by itself, this attitude is usually not enough to go on in terms of OTO suitability. I believe there are three others that make for an optimal OTO fit. In very general terms, those attitudes involve personal independence, positive sociability, and open-mindedness. Despite all the various interpretations about Thelema, I believe most Thelemites would agree that it places a strong value on individualism and personal liberty. At the same time, part of OTO is a spiritual society, and having a positive outlook towards interpersonal relationships is vital. Finally, the relatively unusual customs, values, and tenets embodied within the Order demand that one have a open mind, which means having the willingness to hear new ideas and the ability to consider and integrate them.

So, to review, my own standards for worthy candidates for OTO membership include:

Character traits: courage, integrity, cordiality, and foolishness.

Attitudes: seeking the sacred, independence, positive sociability, and open-mindedness.

By no means is this list exhaustive…there are many other great traits and mindsets. The flip side of this is the caveat that such a person who fully embodies all these things is exceedingly rare. In reality, people will have some of these traits in strength, some just a bit, and some will be only weakly present. Of course, part of the purpose of the Man of Earth triad is to help bolster these general traits (albeit in specific ways) so that the initiate will be prepared for invitation to the Fifth Degree. With this in mind, it is not necessary to find a person with all these traits in full bloom, but to have enough of them in evidence to see their potential.

At the same time, it can also be useful to look for traits that should raise some red flags, such as antisocial behavior, dishonesty, highly inflexible or rigid thinking, and emotional hypersensitivity. Again, these shouldn't be absolute blocks on membership, but they should be taken into strong consideration when pondering signing a Minerval application.

Much of this essay is really about changing the way we think of what an OTO member is. Is an initiate primarily defined as being a ceremonial ritualist and/or a student of Crowley's works? If this is strictly how we define an OTO member, then our Order becomes a fetish group, a club for Thelemic ritualists. But what happens when we broaden our ideas of what it means to be an initiate? When I look around, I see members who are teachers, carpenters, psychotherapists, engineers, lawyers, nurses, programmers, salespersons, artists, chefs, soldiers, and writers. At a different level, I see spouses, parents, siblings, lovers, and children. At the largest level, what I see are human beings who have some desire to find a Sacred Space that embodies principles like Self Discovery, Brotherhood, and Liberty, and recognizes that there is some greater meaning and purpose to life than what we've been taught. I believe there are many, many thousands of such people in the world, and that most of them would find a home in OTO. I also believe that it is our duty to let them know we are here, that the door is open, and that a great gift awaits them.