The Thelema vs. Magic / Lodge vs. Solitary Debate…

discover_barnumInspired, no doubt foolishly, by a a blog post, I have decided to enter the Thelema vs. Magic/ Lodge vs. Solitary  debate. This is of course an impossible task, which is no doubt why it appeals to me.

In western cultures most magical practitioners start out in, or spend a major part of their occult career in “Solitary” or “Lodge” mode.It may come to some surprise for my readers, but I spent a number of years as a wand carrying member of the Golden Dawn,also moonlighting with the OTO and the A.A. (but found both systems not quite right for my Luciferian outlook).The Golden Dawn magical tradition comes out of a secretive underworld of magical lodges in England, dating back at least to the beginning of the eighteenth century. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn itself was founded in 1888 by a small group of magicians headed by William Wynn Westcott and Samuel Mathers. It was among the first organizations in British society to admit women and men on an equal basis, and some of the most influential female magicians of the time – Moina Mathers, Florence Farr and Dion Fortune, among others – were active members of the GD or its later offshoots. Problems in its leadership system led to a series of schisms starting in 1900, and the tradition fell on hard times in the early decades of the twentieth century. Schisms have continued to affect the Golden Dawn till today,stemming from the discussion in the Golden Dawn community on who holds the “true”Golden Dawn lineage. Regardie’s massive collection The Golden Dawn, published in four volumes between 1937 and 1940, included most of the Order’s rituals and teachings, and made the Golden Dawn system available to several generations of magicians around the world, ironically this makes most Golden Dawn magicians solitary practitioners, self-trained and self-initiated, making use of a growing collection of books on the system that are published each year. Most practitioners develop an initial interest in magic usually as a result of some personal experience, or because some book, or even a record or band. There may of course be some influence from a friend, a relative or even a teacher, but a solitary period, which often takes the form of some personal “quest for truth”, is a feature of most occultists’ formative years.My Great-Grand mother was Strega,In Sicily, Strega/Stregone/Streghe mean much the same thing, Witch. “Witch” encompasses an entire spectrum – from crotchety spinsters to fortunetellers to practitioners of folk magic to those initiated into the surviving remnants of Pagan religion. The terms Maga (f) , Mago (m) , and Magi (plural) also mean “Witch (es) ” in Sicilian. These were borrowed from the Hellenized Persian Magos (Priest / Miracle-worker).I was introduced to Magic by her world view,and it has colored the way I look at this debate.Streghe, like all other Traditional Occultists, value their Oaths and  Honor above all else. To “Know,Dare and Keep Silent” of the CM’s of today can’t hold a candle to the way Knowledge is held by those of the “Old Religion”.I wasn’t content with this state of philosophical solitude, although many simply feel that they are the only person in the world who sees things in a particular way, or that they have undergone some absolutely unique experience, which, if it were communicated, would cause other people to think them mad.And then there is the church, but that’s for another post.

Some practitioners committed to the solitary path, often those who have been worked over and/or ripped off by some phoney cult or “guru”, and who have survived “de-programming” and/or “conversion” to some other purported revelation of Ultimate Truth. Such experiences result in a powerfully aversive, and quite understandable, attitude towards occult groups generally, and, in lucky cases, can engender the deep rooted scepticism which is absolutely essential if one is to become successful in this thing we call Magic.

Firstly, what is it that distinguishes Thelma from Magic (as Practiced by non-Thelemites) ?Or Lodge Magic from that type of working that the solitary aspires to?To Quote Alistair Livingstone “In Starfire, Mick Staley attempts to distinguish Thelema from Crowleyanity. Thelema he suggested pre-existed Crowley`s formulation of it. This immediately causes problems, since for the majority of magicians, Crowley = Thelema. But if it can be accepted that there is a something which exists independently of Crowley`s writings, then it must be this something (Thelema) which is to be contrasted with..” So what is Thelma?According to the Thelemapedia –

Thelema is the name of the philosophical school and religious matrix established in 1904 with the writing of Liber AL vel Legis (The Book of the Law) by Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) and stands on the central axiom, the Law of Thelema. The Law is summed up in two phrases from the Book:

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” (AL I:40) and
“Love is the law, love under will” (AL I:57).
The central goal of a Thelemite (as adherents refer to themselves) is to discover and perform his or her True Will, which is generally defined as the innermost Nature or proper life course of the individual. The techniques used to achieve this goal fall under the heading of Magick.

Magic,Magick,two words that have found quite a love/hate home in the vocabulary of the modern Practitioner.They have become synonymous when it comes to the Art,but when it comes to Thelema,the word “Magick” covers much more then making your local farmers milk spoil.Although the modern Thelemic movement traces its origins to the work of Aleister Crowley, he pointed to important antecedents to his use of the term, and other instances are apparent from research. The word is of some consequence in the original Greek Christian scriptures. Crowley also acknowledged Saint Augustine’s “Love, and do what thou wilt” as a premonition of the Law of Thelema. In the Renaissance, a character named “Thelemia” represents will or desire in the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili of the Dominican monk Francesco Colonna. Colonna’s work was, in turn, a great influence on the Franciscan monk Francois Rabelais, whose Gargantua and Pantagruel includes an “Abbey of Theleme” which Crowley embraced as a direct precursor to modern Thelema.From my studies it seems clear that Thelemia is a path of  mysticism that has been inspired by Christian Mystics of the past,as well as their Hindu counterparts.Verily, wile Magick and mysticism have a very strong relationship to each other that is often explored simultaneously by practitioners, the end result is rarely the same.This I feel is the most damaging criticism of Thelema, that it has failed to cross over from mysticism to a practical system of magick.But I don’t have a Problem that,Thelema was never meant to be a System of Magick, but more a system to promote the central Thelemic ethic, individual liberty and the personal freedom to fulfill one’s Will.So,I’m not a Thelemia Basher, and I have great respect for a number of Thelemic writers who ply the pen (or Keyboard) to the working of Occult Arts as we approach them today.But the Goal,and often times the technique, is quite different from the Practical Witch,Conjurer or Chaos Magician.

To sum up, I’ve been a Member of a Lodge, a Solitary Practitioner,or some mixture of the two throughout my Practice of Occultism.I see the need for both,it all depends on where a Practitioner is in his or her life, as each mode of working can bring results,as long as we can see thru the bullshit of what works in our own practice,not what some grand poobah or “Secret Chief” tell us should work,if only we do the work with some prescribed system that only they can teach you.Always listen to your gut when it comes to the Art,no thing will lead you as true,and if you refute such advice,well, I will leave you with the words of an American Magician of no little fame ― P.T. Barnum  “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

The Thelema vs. Magic / Lodge vs. Solitary Debate… was originally published on The Hidden Left Hand

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