The Cult Of Crowley
A local follower hopes to bring Aleister Crowley's message to Monterey.
Thursday, April 20, 2000
The year was 1904 and the place was Cairo, Egypt. A man sits at a desk in his apartment furiously scribbling a dictation. For one hour a day for the next three days, a voice from over his shoulder dictates a full chapter of a book later to be called Liber AL vel Legis, or the Book of the Law.
The man was Aleister Crowley, and with the Book of the Law as his talisman, he birthed a new religion, Thelema, based on the creed, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law."
Since its birth in Cairo, Thelema has spread throughout the world by inspired individuals and organized groups under the guise of fraternal organizations. One such fraternal organization, the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), exists today as the first fraternal order to accept the principles of Thelema.
The Central Coast has had the Thelemic seed sown into its fertile ground, and the teachings of Aleister Crowley have found fresh ears to hear his message and promote the cult of "Do what thou wilt." As the Book of the Law inspired Crowley to start a new religion, so has it inspired one local individual to bring Thelema to local residents by setting up an order in Monterey.
As a fraternal organization, the Ordo Templi Orientis has its current headquarters in New York. Prior to this, the main branch and the location of the organization''s latest revival was in Berkeley. It is from the Order''s Lodge in Berkeley, consisting of about 75 members, that a movement to bring Thelema to Monterey has spawned.
An OTO representative who asked to be referred to as "Kallista" is currently in the process of forming a center in Monterey. According to Kallista, his goal is a personal one, not an organizational effort.
"The Order does have plans to expand," says Kallista, "but I''m the one who wants to bring it here to Monterey. There aren''t any OTO groups any closer to the north than Berkeley, or south any closer than Los Angeles. I want to develop something here which I feel will benefit many who are ready for it."
How far along is a Monterey OTO? "When two more initiates join with me," says Kallista,"we can start performing the Mass locally. We must have at least three people, and one must be female to act as priestess. That''s my goal at present, to find a few other people that are committed. This would entail meeting with me and going up to Berkeley to see a Gnostic Mass performed at the main Lodge. If they were interested in continuing, they would need to become initiates."
The New Aeon
According to the principles of Thelema, all spiritual movements have existed within two basic structures, called Aeons. The earliest religious movements in human history are said to have been centered on the Goddess, the Divine Feminine aspect of nature. Woman was seen to be divine by her capacity for creating life, and the Earth was conceived as the Great Mother from which all life came.
In Crowley''s cosmology this age of the Goddess is called the Age of Isis. The Age of Isis was eventually superseded by a switch to male-centered religions, after the sun was seen to be the fertilizing principle in nature instead of woman. At the time, the sun was thought to die at sunset, and be reborn at every sunrise. Accordingly, religious movements are said to have adapted to this new structure, centered on death and resurrection. In Thelemic terms, this male-centered age is called the Age of Osiris.
This leads us up to the present, and the third Aeon, which Crowley called the Aeon of Horus. Horus is conceived as a hermaphroditic child, partaking of both the essences of the Aeon of the feminine, Isis, and the Aeon of the masculine, Osiris. These two polarities of male and female are brought together into a third, which is neither male or female, but both. Aleister Crowley is said to have inaugurated this third Aeon when he received the Book of the Law in 1904. The Thelemic calendar starts in 1904.
Here and now, Kallista feels that he is introducing a new paradigm as a fresh way to look at oneself and the world. According to Kallista, spiritual paradigms are frameworks that provide points of reference, tools to utilize in the quest for spiritual development.
"The OTO combines elements of various systems such as Eastern yoga and Hinduism with Jewish Kabbalism, Islamic Sufism, and Christian Gnosticism. We also place emphasis on actual work, not bland theorizing and incessant reading and discussion, such as other groups are currently engaged in. The OTO and Thelema in general attack spiritual development utilizing the scientific method. Experience and experimentation leading to definite results."
When asked what those results are, Kallista compared the goal of Thelema as similar to the Eastern idea of enlightenment: an expansion of consciousness, leading to a natural state that is markedly more aware than normal consciousness.
"One has to know that one is in a prison before one can seek escape," he says. "We are not trying to escape life, but see the truth, which is our right and part of our very nature."
Religion or Cult?
As with all religious movements outside the mainstream, Thelema is often criticized as being a cult. "Let me just say that Thelema and the OTO aren''t cults," contends Kallista. "Our primary statement, ''Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law,'' says just that: Every man and every woman is completely free.
"All our actions are rooted in learning what our True Will is. True Will is like a star in space. Each star has its place, and as long as no two stars interfere with each other and collide, all are at perfect peace. As individuals, we are mostly like confused stars, we don''t realize our place in the universe, and until we do, we constantly collide with each other."
OTO members regularly meet in followers'' apartments or homes, or in rented halls. Sometimes, members get together and rent a house together and the OTO contributes to the rent. Membership entails going through a process of initiations, each one entitling individuals to more of the Order''s teachings.
The initiations themselves, and the OTO in general, evolved out of Freemasonry, eventually becoming an independent organization. During its genesis within Freemasonry only men were allowed to become members, but since its independence both men and women are admitted. In fact, both sexes are essential elements to the Order.
The principal ritual of the OTO is the Gnostic Mass. Unlike most fraternal organizations, their principal ritual is open to the public. The Gnostic Mass was created by Aleister Crowley as an alternative to the Catholic mass. According to Crowley, the Catholic mass, or any mass in general, is a magickal (Crowley''s spelling) ritual. A god, goddess, or both are evoked, and through the actions of the priest and priestess their divine energies are transmuted into the bread and wine, which are then consumed by those present.
Crowley took the basic formula of the Catholic mass and arranged it in a contemporary fashion, utilizing both male and female elements rather than the strictly male element in Catholicism and Christianity.
"Anyone expecting gloom and doom thrown from a pulpit into the face of brain-washed congregationalists will be sorely disappointed," says Kallista. "They should stick with Christianity."
Kallista can be contacted at Kallista93@Yahoo.com.