Do what thou wilt or whatever
I really started thinking more deeply about my spiritual practice because of the fantastic High Strangeness Docu-series Hellier. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading this and go watch it right now. I mean it.
A central theme of the series is the need for what they term “new magic.” I think that’s the right framework for talking not just about approaching High Strangeness, but also witchcrafts and occultisms. From my perspective, an important part of creating new magick in the Thelemic context involves bringing new perspectives into the fold. Over the last few posts, I’ve talked about anti-fascism as a way to encourage the development of an actively anti-fascist (and subsequently explicitly inclusive) Thelema. Another way that we can make Thelema friendlier to new perspectives is to make it less difficult to get started, and this can best be done by removing barriers to decoding our foundational texts.
Alright, so to explain my thinking better, let’s talk Shakespeare for a minute. Twitter user @ingloriousgigi shared a great series of thoughts recently about how we teach Shakespeare, and how the focus on form and obscure meaning makes it harder to share his work with new people. She suggests instead focusing on the actually universal bits (in this case the broad themes and story beats), and sharing contemporary retellings like Baz Lehrmann’s Romeo + Juliet that get more at the spirit of the thing rather than trying to approximate the experience of being at the Globe Theater circa 1600. Actually, read that whole twitter thread too. It’s also really good, and – again – I’m not going anywhere.
Thelemic texts could do with similar refreshing. There’s a lot of important gnosis encoded in Liber AL or Liber Tzaddi as originally transcribed, but frankly, what good does that do if the form of the original text is a barrier to digging deeply? There is value in having more straightforward materials and contemporary language to present to people who are new to Thelema – a sort of Thelemic Tao of Pooh, or New International Version Christian Bible. When we don’t provide accessible texts, we do nothing to address equity issues around 1) disability access, which create unnecessary barriers to reading and processing text for people with attention disorders, processing disorders, and learning disorders ; or 2) race and class, which create barriers to parsing Edwardian British English that have nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with exposure.
If the Law is truly for all, then we should want the perspectives of disabled people, people of color, and poor people in our conversations about attainment. By recognizing and dismantling barriers to that participation, we help others do their Will.
“But Nick, doesn’t that make it too easy? You’ve got to work for the gnosis!” Great question, imagined strawperson! Having more accessible entry points facilitates a basic understanding of the framework of Thelema, while empowering people who otherwise might get chased off by form that creates confusion on whether one is to take a literary rather than literal approach to the text, or where the language itself is archaic where it doesn’t need to be. My wife isn’t a Thelemite, in that she hasn’t studied anything Thelemic in depth before. She’s also bloody brilliant, and her worldview is already fairly Thelemic without any of that study. She WANTS to learn more about Thelema for herself. The thing holding her back from diving Scrooge McDuck style into Thelema is that, because of her disabilities, the literal words used are a distraction that creates suboptimal frustration and lead her to doing literally anything else.
Ultimately, having a more accessible entry point into these texts could set up my wife, and others like her, to know enough about what eg Liber Tzaddi is trying to say to really dig into the sometimes second and third layers of mystery when they get their hands on the original text. It’s less about creating an instruction manual, and more creating the scaffolding for an analytic approach. It’s like a free sample: enough to know what the new flavor of Mountain Dew tastes like, but not so much that you never have to pay for it in order to get the full depth of flavor.
Given that Orders, at least in their traditional conception, seem to be on the way out, it’s really critical that we have good tools for bringing new aspirants into the fold. Especially given that there are fewer barriers to solitary practice than ever before, having tools that make Thelema more accessible to a broader set of people will be key to maintaining the Current into it’s second century. And hopefully we’ll get some new magick out of it.
Love is the law; love under something IDK
Nick the Melaninated Magician
Nick AKA The Melaninated Magickian (They/Them) is a Thelemite and explorer of existence. They write observations about High Strangeness, Occultisms, and how those things intersect with race, gender, disability, and other social identities on their blog and on Twitter. In their normie work, they are a professional DEI practitioner, avid film watcher, and home cook.