NOTOCON VI: 10 Aug 2007 e.v. -- Salem, Massachusetts.
Greetings of the eve of the First Night of the Prophet and his Bride, and welcome to the sixth national conference of the U.S. O.T.O. Before we get started with the business of the evening, namely the banquet, I’d like to update you on a few of the projects I mentioned last time. I’ll have more to say after we eat.
First, as you probably know, our planning committee has finished our first strategic plan, which is a plan to help us define and achieve some of our near-term organizational goals, such as improving communications, providing more services and resources to local bodies, improving our outreach efforts and the consistency of our services, and bringing us a little closer to Crowley’s vision for our Order as set forth in the Blue Equinox documents. We will be revisiting this plan every year for evaluation and updating—and, with a little bit of luck–it will help us to stay on track and efficiently manage our resources and efforts. I’d like to thank the planning committee for their work on this project. I consider myself privileged to be able to serve with such talented, dedicated and hard-working people.
Second, as you may know, we have completed our first USGL annual progress report, which is now available on the USGL website. If you haven’t seen it yet, please download it and have a look.
Third, Local Body Development – Last year, I mentioned the Group Tax Exemption, which has now been completed. This procedure exempts all local dues and donations paid directly to participating local bodies from federal taxation. As I've said many times now, our local bodies are really where the fundamental work of our Grand Lodge gets done: the initiations, the Gnostic Masses, the classes, the building of our fraternal community—and this year, I’d just like to thank all our active local body masters and officers for doing such a fine job of it. I’ve heard the SGIG reports, and with very few exceptions, things are progressing quite well across the country. It's easy to raise the bar when our local bodies just sort of push it up on their own. I'm really pleased with the work you’ve been doing, and I'm proud of you.
Fourth, the Kaaba Colloquium – Since the last Notocon, Kaaba has been offered in Portland, Tucson, Orlando and Minneapolis, with the next one scheduled for Houston this Fall. Kaaba has continued to expand its offerings with new material and new presenters. Since last year, Kaaba organization has been shifted from the hosting local bodies to the Kaaba group, allowing the locals to focus on attending rather than on providing logistical support. I’d like to encourage all of our leaders, and aspiring leaders, national and local, to attend a Kaaba every couple of years, as the material grows and changes in keeping with our evolving local dynamics. They’ve yet to offer the same line-up twice, and new material is always in the works.
Fifth, the Education Committee – At the last NOTOCON, the Eucation Committee had just set up its subcommittees. So far, they have launched a web site that currently lists 23 traveling lecturers willing to speak on a variety of topics of interest. They have also developed course materials, currently in review, on several basic rituals, classical mythology, the God Pan, and an intro to the Qabalah. Please get in touch with Sister Kayla if you’re interested in participating.
Sixth, Pastoral Counseling – since the last conference, we’ve held five pastoral counseling workshops at various locations around the country. The next one is scheduled for this winter in Chicago. We’re now considering the possibility of “phase two” of the pastoral counseling program, with a deeper level of training for “graduates” of phase one.
Seventh, the USGL Library – which now has accumulated 1,377 titles, has published its catalog on the USGL website, and is actively lending to local body libraries as well as to individual members of VI* and up. It is still accepting donations, which can be made via a special Amazon.com wish list.
Finally, I’d like to call Brother Vere up here to update you on the Thoth Tarot restoration project.
Break for Banquet
Our theme this year, as you know is “Beauty and Strength.” The tradition of giving a theme to our national conferences began in 1999 e.v., with our second national conference in Portland, Oregon; the theme of which was “Fraternity.” Subsequent conferences were themed “The Divine” (2001 e.v.–Long Beach, California), “Initiation” (2003 e.v.–Troutdale, Oregon), “Heretics and Kings” (2005 e.v.–Reston, Virginia)…[secret content for attendees only]
This year, however, thanks to Beth, Steven, Kim, the members of Knights Templar Oasis and the NOTOCON Committee, we are in historic Salem, Massachusetts—a city renowned for the brutal persecution of a minority religion, which somehow managed to survive both the persecution and the fact that it didn’t actually exist at the time, to become in modern times a major source of revenue for occult bookstores and renaissance costume shops worldwide. Salem, it seems, stands as a monument to some of the great forces that have shaped our history: intolerance, greed, treachery, hysteria, paranoia, and the entrepreneurial spirit. A marvelously fitting venue for one of our conferences.
While all that might have made a good conference theme, our theme this year is actually Beauty and Strength. This may have something to do with Chapter II, verse 20 of the Book of the Law, if so, no comment. Perhaps it also has something to do, however, with the polarity between Venus & Mars, the Bride & her Beast, etc., if we are to take the subtle hints of the rituals recently performed here. I’m sure you’ll all be exploring this aspect of the symbolism as the weekend progresses.
Now, I understand that our dear Frater Hrumachis will have a bit more to say about this formula later; and I don’t really want to pull the rug out from under him. So, for now, I’d just like to highlight a few aspects of it.
We’re all familiar with Keats’s equation of beauty and truth, and some of us have probably heard something said along similar lines near a certain spring. In the New Commentary on the Book of the Law, III:68, Crowley asks, “What is Beauty but the perfect expression of one's own Truth?”
Many come to Magick in search of personal power and freedom from oppression in one form or another. Some, when they find that power and freedom, find themselves facing a dilemma regarding what, exactly, to do with it. I think perhaps the most fortunate among us are those who learn to express their Truth in beauty—the artists, musicians, poets, dancers, actors, and other creative people among us. In Eight Lectures on Yoga, Crowley said that,
”[The student of Magick and Yoga] is, so to speak, an artist in the making…”
In the same work, he said,
“… the artist is in truth a very much superior being to the Yogi or the Magician. He can reply as St. Paul replied to the centurion who boasted of his Roman citizenship 'With a great sum obtained I this freedom'; and Paul, fingering the Old School Tie, sneered: 'But I was free born.'”
In his essay Eden and the Sacred Oak, he said,
“The artist is he who can discover Beauty in all things, for nothing is common or unclean; and by unvarying determination to discover beauty man comes to the heaven of the artist.”
And in Magick Without Tears, he said,
“There is no more potent means than Art of calling forth true Gods to visible appearance.”
From these quotes and others, I think we can deduce the high spiritual and even magical regard in which Crowley held the artist. But further, in Liber Aleph, Crowley said,
“the Beatific Vision is of two orders, and in the formula of the Rosy Cross it is of the Heart and is called Beauty; but in the formula of the silver star … it is of the mind, and is called wonder. Otherwise spoken, the former is of Art, a sensuous and creative perception; but the latter of science, and intellectual and intelligible insight.”
Beauty and Wonder, Art and Science—these things seem to exist in polarity, but they are more closely related than one might think. In the New Commentary on Liber AL (III:56), Crowley also defined beauty as “the fitness of proportion.” An ability to perceive and intuitively evaluate this fitness of proportion, i.e., a sense of esthetics, is as important for a scientist, an engineer, or a manager as it is for an artist.
Buckminster Fuller once said,
“When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.”
Further, while a great deal of science consists of hard work, rigorous logic, and meticulous record-keeping, many scientific advances have been the result of dreams, hunches, and other forms of inspiration—the intuitive manifestation of genius or personal Truth. A classic example is August Kekule’s formulation of the structure of the benzene ring based on a day-dream of a snake seizing its own tail, and there are many other similar examples of this. In this light, science itself can be viewed as a finely developed esthetic appreciation of the beauty of Nature.
In beauty, therefore, one may find Truth—in the beauty of Art, of Nature, and of Our Law, the Charter of Universal Freedom and the Joy of the World. As the Book says:
Yet to all it shall seem beautiful. Its enemies who say not so, are mere liars.
Truer words were never written, Brothers and Sisters.
Yet the freedom of the artist, the pure beauty of nature, and the liberty of each of us to live our lives as we choose are still under threat—and despite all our progress, this threat may be greater now than in many years. The Slave Religions have used the weapons of fear, guilt, superstition, greed, terror and paranoia to achieve significant gains in political, ideological, and cultural power during recent decades, notably in the forms of militant Islamic Fundamentalism and Christian Dominionism.
It takes strength to stand in defense of Beauty, Truth, and Freedom, and strength requires unity.
Even while we celebrate our diversity and individuality with justified exuberance, it is critical that we remember those principles we hold in common, and those things we owe to each other as brothers and sisters of this, our Holy Order.
We are a religious Order. Our religion is that of Thelema. Our Thelema is not some meaningless diversion like this so-called “Rabelaisian” Thelema—Saint Rabelais never intended his satirical, fictional device to serve as a practical blueprint for a real human society. And it is not some revisionist imposture, such as that put forth by some of the proponents of the so-called “New Aeon English Qabalah.” Our Thelema is that of the Book of the Law and the writings of Aleister Crowley—the Master Therion, the Prophet of the Aeon of Horus.
This is what we are about, and this is what we are—our guide is the Book of the Law, and our Law is “Do What Thou Wilt.”
Despite all our individual differences of manner, opinion, preference, interest, and enthusiasm, these are things on which we must agree.
How can we face the challenges of our age if we are divided against ourselves? Standing by our fundamental, shared principles does not mean that we must give up our individual wills, our freedom to create as we will and to be who we must be, or that we must let others do our thinking for us. Nor does it mean that we must lock ourselves into the past, like the Amish, blinding ourselves to the latest discoveries in physics, neuroscience, biochemistry, archaeology, anthropology, and genetics, or to the march of historical events and technological advances that continually transforms the cultural narrative of Western society.
Quite the contrary. Our Law is infinitely adaptable, and Truth has nothing to fear from Reality.
However, just as our Order must be firmly united to face the Slave Religions in strength, so must each of us be firmly united in ourselves to accomplish our True Wills. We must hold ourselves accountable for the Oaths we have taken, the commitments we have made, the allegiances we have forged, and the duties we have willingly accepted. In our dealings with each other, we must exercise the utmost in frankness and good faith. We must each become fluent in the literature of the Law of Thelema, we must learn to apply this Law in our day-to-day decisions and challenges, and we must extend it into the world for the benefit of those whose will it is to receive it. We must strengthen ourselves–and each other–with knowledge, wisdom, wit, energy, fraternity–and art.
There is strength in beauty, brothers and sisters, and there is beauty in strength.
Introduction of musicians