Based on active discussion of J. Cypher’s recent presentation “Anarchy as Spiritual Practice,” NATA-NY decided to interview Satra Wasserman about the spiritual tradition of Thelema. When Satra suggested that J. expand on her brief mention of Thelema and its potential intersections with anarchy, we decided that Satra was much more qualified to speak on the topic. Read the full interview below.
This is by no means an "official" statement.
What is Thelema? What does it mean to be a Thelemite?
Aleister Crowley is a name that many are familiar with. He was born on October 12, 1875. The Crowleys were a Quaker family that ran a brewery for over 200 years. They also owned several pubs. The father, Edward Crowley, left Quakerism behind and embraced a new fundamentalist faith known as the Plymouth Brethren.
From Matthew 18:20: Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
The Plymouth Brethren interpreted this as a new approach to Christianity. They believed that Priests or Ministers were not needed to commune with the Lord. This is significant because it clearly influenced the young AC.
He traveled about and joined the Masons and the Golden Dawn. He was married to Rose Kelly and the two went on a honeymoon in Egypt. They spent time exploring the Pyramids. Rose experienced some things that may be thought of as unusual. Crowley was well versed in the ways of magic and tested her a few times to get a sense of what was going on. This is all known as the "Cairo Working." I will not play biographer here. Suffice it to say that several rituals were performed during this time. Many of them within the inner chambers of the Pyramids. Rose instructed him to enter his temple at noon each day for one hour and record what he heard. On April 8, 9, and 10 of 1904 he followed her instructions and encountered a being named Aiwass. This being described himself as "The Minister of Hoor-Paar-Kraat." Aiwass dictated 3 chapters of what we now know as The Book of the Law.
I am not going to say much about this. Crowley worked diligently, and there is another presence known as V.V.V.V.V.. The Book of the Law is attributed to Aiwass. The other Holy Books of Thelema are attributed to V.V.V.V.V.. In our system, these books are known as "Class A." In The Book of the Law it says: Change not as much as the style of a letter; for behold! thou, o prophet, shalt not behold all these mysteries hidden therein.
Whenever we quote any words that are from these sources, they must be perfectly reproduced.
So, this is all very outrageous indeed. I will now offer some personal interpretation on the subject. Crowley is regarded as our Prophet. He is not a "saint." We do not think of him as being a living god. I do not follow the man or emulate him in any way. However, I am eternally grateful for what he did. I believe that he "cracked the code," and left behind the blueprint for human enlightenment. He put himself through a form of comparative religious training. He traveled the globe and really got into things. He studied Taoism and Buddhism, etc. In my eyes, he distilled the finer essence of these traditions and, "got to the bottom of it."
Thelema represents the evolution of religion. One term you'll see bandied about is The Method of Science, The Aim of Religion. Crowley created a system of attainment that works for the chemist, the baker, the politician, and the anarchist. There's something for everyone.
Is there something for the atheist? There may be. This it a great debate amongst Thelemites. I do not claim to be any sort of authority. In my view, a strict materialist/skeptic need not apply. What is required is an open mind-- the ability to leave the friendly confines of rational thought. What does X mean? Be Silent and perhaps you can tell me what it means.
Many members of the Ordo Templi Orientis call themselves atheists. I am not an atheist.
The Book of the Law lays down a code of conduct:
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Love is the law, love under will.
Crowley referred to this as, "The most sublimely austere ethical precept ever uttered, despite its apparent license."
What does it mean to be a Thelemite? A Thelemite lives by this code.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law is a challenge. It does not mean, "Do whatever you want." I can tell you that much. Few on this earth are courageous enough to do their Will.
Let's look at the second line. Love is the law, love under will. This part is oft-neglected by many in the community. Love is our value. It is also the technique and medium of our highest aspirations. We strive to attain what is known as Samadhi. This can be thought of as blissful union. You can attain Samadhi with your wife. You can attain Samadhi with a deity. There is something we refer to as the Holy Guardian Angel. Attaining what we call "Knowledge and Conversation" of the HGA is the Grand purpose of our system.
In conclusion, Thelema can be looked at from a philosophical vantage point, or other perspectives. It's quite open. There are fundamentalist types like myself. I am a member of the A.'.A.'.. The Order that hath no name among men. I've met many people who simply like Crowley and dig the vibe. What does Thelema have to offer? About ten years ago, my Father traveled to New York and performed a ritual invocation of the God TAHUTI. I was in attendance. I have seen many rituals. On this day, I saw my Father (the guy who sends checks for $50) become a God upon this earth. The ground shook beneath my feet. I will never, ever forget that day. That’s what Crowley’s system can teach you.
How does Thelema influence your daily “mundane” life? Do you find that your decision making process, your interpersonal relations, or your goals are impacted by your belief system?
Yes to all the above. As I mentioned before, I am a member of the A.’.A.’.. As such, I engage in daily practices and keep a magical diary with detailed records of what, when, and where. An example of this would be meditation, simple ritual, and perhaps a few solar adorations. This is where one greets the Sun in a formal matter. It is short and to the point. I also perform a short ritual before eating. In public, it is done under my breath and only an observant person will notice anything unusual.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Every decision is informed by this creed. I can’t even buy a pint of haagen dazs without having a moment to reflect upon the action. The idea is to manifest the True Self. During the course of our lives, every person is lulled into a form of sleep. We all remember “They Live” with Rowdy Roddy Piper. Beneath the veneer of an 80’s flick is a deep philosophical message. We are blind. There is great truth in that film. I am 34 years old. I cannot tell you how much of my time has been spent chasing the false image of an image. Look at the recent phenomenon of financial workers committing suicide. Imagine that. We’re talking about successful people. Were they doing their Will? I would guess the answer is No.
Who are you? Where are you going? What is your Work? These are questions that must be addressed. We are living in the Aeon of Horus. This time began on the first day Aleister Crowley received The Book of the Law. The Law of Thelema is in effect Now. Forgive me for skipping some explanation here but I will direct everyone to the appropriate resources later on.
Two teenagers tried to bully me the other day. It is a long story. I was doing my Will and they sought to interfere. This was not a situation where a show of physical strength was within the realm of possibility.
I put an end to it. I did so with the power of my voice. My victory was total and complete. That was an act of Magick. My goals are to find Love and give love to the world at large. Those are lofty goals indeed.
Does being a Thelemite have political and/or social implications? If so, what are they? What are your personal political, social or economic views? Do you feel that these are influenced by Thelema?
Liber OZ is where the rubber meets the road in terms of Thelema and politics. I am a staunch conservative and a fan of the great Ronald Reagan. Our readers can examine Liber OZ on their own. It can be thought of as the Thelemic Bill of Rights. Simply put, we demand FREEDOM. It is no idle demand.
I take Liber OZ extremely seriously. If Man is free to live by his own law…to work as he will…to think as he will…to move as he will on the face of the earth, then we must live in a land which accommodates those ends. You cannot move as you will on the face of this earth under an oppressive system which stymies the individual and prevents one from achieving economic freedom. It’s also more than just money. Do we want simple jobs that have no relation to our true selves? People should be able to earn money doing the things they would like to do.
I have crunched these numbers and come to the conclusion that free market capitalism is the best and bravest of systems. I am a fan of Peter Schiff. I share his opinion. A person should be able to graduate high school and walk into Goldman Sachs wearing a dandy outfit, courtesy of Mom and Dad. Wearing this outfit, you plunk down in a chair and explain why they should give you a shot. You walk out victorious and spend the next few years getting coffee and making copies. By age 24, you are earning real money and making your mark.
Perhaps you enjoy taking photographs, or would like to make baseball mitts. Whatever the case. A human being should be able to pursue these goals with a realistic chance of succeeding. I Need to live in a world like that. I think all drugs should be legal. Man has the right to play as he will. I support every word of the US Constitution. Man has the right to speak what he will. I certainly support the 2nd Amendment. Man has the right to kill those who would thwart these rights. And so on, and so Forth.
Get these goddamn autocrats out of our computers. Stay away from my phone. I do not have children. If I saw a man whispering into my son’s ear, I would be extremely interested to know what was being said.
America should have the smallest government possible. Power to the People.
Do you see a connection or intersection between Thelema and libertarianism/ anarchism?
Yes I do. In general, I notice a similarity in energy between what I think of as a fun body of Thelemites and today’s anarchists. There’s a willingness to think outside the box. I spent time around the National Anarchist Tribal Alliance, NY. Fraternity abounds and everyone wanted to hang out. It’s a nice intersection of motivated philosophers and fun loving people. There is a scene. And it’s not just anyone. We’re talking about folks who want to make a difference and impact the world in a positive manner. On the A.’.A.’. website, you will see the following line: “The door is open to all persons who in sincerity wish to join themselves to a Body of Initiates pledged to the Service of Humanity.”
That’s a far cry from the “devil worship” people typically think of when Aleister Crowley’s name is mentioned.
J. Cypher recently put a speech on youtube about Anarchism as Spiritual Practice. It was incredibly well researched. I enjoyed it. One thing in particular caught my ear. She kept using the word “anarch.” That means sovereign individual. It hit me that you could take every occurrence of the word anarch, replace it with the word magician, and end up with the same effect. Almost nothing would change. One of the books I recommend later on is The Temple of Solomon. Ordo Templi Orientis means, “Order of the Temple of the East.” That’s Solomon’s Temple. The idea is to build the Temple within. You are the Tower of Babel. The Arch of the Covenant. Protect yourself.
Getting back to mundane politics, it is my opinion that a Thelemite who embraces communism or its derivatives is suffering from a bit of cognitive dissonance. In the introduction to The Book of the Law, Crowley writes: “Ferocious Fascism, cackling Communism, equally frauds, cavort crazily all over the globe. They are hemming us in. They are abortive births of the Child, the New Aeon of Horus. Liberty stirs once more in the womb of Time. Evolution makes its changes by anti-Socialistic ways.”
These words are not “Class A.” I would like to point that out. If the state is in control then the people are not in control. There is no freedom in slavery.
The Knights Templar. The Masons. Those men came before us. As members of the O.T.O., we bear the same shield. We are Defenders of Society and Western Civilization. I do not sit around yapping about bitcoin and the evils of slavery. I say look at the bright side. How can we save the US Dollar? What can we do to protect this land? If I see a young girl crossing the street, I do not need for her to embrace Thelema. I want to make sure that she is protected and able to pursue her joy, whatever that may be. If America collapses, there is no telling what will happen to her, to me, or those I love.
How does Thelema support or facilitate community?
Thelema certainly does facilitate community. There is a great Order by the name of Ordo Templi Orientis. O.T.O. for short. This Order resides in many cities around the world. I am in personal contact with people in Japan, London, California, etc. We share certain bonds. It’s pretty cool.
What was the Thelema Abbey? Would you consider this an intentional community? What lessons can we learn from the Abbey’s history that could be applicable today?
The Abbey of Thelema was a place where Crowley spent a few years of his life. This subject is covered in great depth in many books, some of which I will list later. The path of Magick is one of scholarship. You will find large bookcases in all of our homes.
Your father [James Wasserman] is a major figure in the Thelemic world. Tell us a little bit about his journey and how he has influenced your spiritual beliefs.
My Father wrote a memoir named, “In the Center of the Fire.” Pick it up. It’s on amazon. All I can say is that I’m the luckiest kid in the world. My Dad is also my Brother. We met before I was born and I love him. I really do. He has devoted his life to Thelema and spent all his years in its great service. What does that mean? Well, this is a guy who knows how to keep Silent. Sometimes he doesn’t talk. That’s a funny thing. What does his silence mean? There is no greater communicator than this. On some levels, Thelemites worship at the Altar of Silence. It runs counter to normal thinking.
Being Silent, and being a Thelemite, he also respects Liber OZ. He knows that Man has the right to think what he will. All my Dad ever told me to do was to be myself, and to find myself. I thank him for that. He talked to me like I was a man when I was five years old. Pretty soon I’ll be 35. Same old Dad. He’s awesome.
For readers who are interested in learning more about Thelema, what recommendations do you have?
Here is a list of Books that I recommend:
The Weiser Concise Guide to Aleister Crowley- Richard Kaczynski
Magick in Theory and Practice- Aleister Crowley
Initiation in the Aeon of the Child- J. Daniel Gunther
In the Center of the Fire- James Wasserman
The Temple of Solomon- James Wasserman
On youtube, my Father has several videos. Search for “in the center of the fire” and watch everything there. Also search for “james wasserman” and watch one titled: The Temple of Solomon and Political Liberty.
The A.’.A.’. has a reading list. You can find the A.’.A.’. at www.outercol.org.
You cannot find the A.’.A.’. anywhere else. Heed these words. Any talk of “lineage” or aught else is fully erroneous. There is One Order.
The O.T.O. can be found at www.oto-usa.org. On this website, you will find links to the A.’.A.’. and a list of Lodges. It is a long list. I would recommend finding the Lodge nearest you and contacting them. Look at their calendar. Attend a Gnostic Mass. Check it out.
Do you have any other thoughts or comments that you’d like to share?
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Love is the law, love under will.
I am on facebook. Easy to find. Craig and J. are my extended family- my Brother and Sister.