March 23rd, 2010

Confronting sexism

Some people elsewhere are making the important observation that Crowley was sexist; they ask what we in O.T.O. are doing to confront this issue. I can only speak to what I have personally experienced, and the policies and programs that were developed and implemented while I was an officer of Sekhet-Maat Lodge. Please comment to note what you have been doing or experiencing in this respect. Comments are screened, and discussion will be strictly moderated to prevent personal attacks and insults, as this subject can turn quite ugly.
  • U.S.G.L. provides education in sexual ethics and related matters through its Kaaba Colloquia, Pastoral Counseling Workshops, National O.T.O. Conferences, and Women's Symposia.
  • At Sekhet-Maat, we have held regular frank & public discussions on gender, sexuality, and feminism; and how these subjects are addressed in Thelema. Class and discussion titles have included "Sex Magick and the Feminine," "Gender roles in the Gnostic Mass," and "The Magickal Woman's Guide to Her Cunt."
  • Sisters of Babalon is a quarterly meeting in Portland, open to members and the public who identify as women. This helps to provide a place for women to discuss issues of gender and sexuality in Thelema and the Order, and any other matters that are of interest, from a woman's perspective.
  • Thelemic Symposium is an annual panel of three long-time Thelemites who share their perspectives on Thelema. Every Symposium has had at least one woman on the panel. There have been at least three women panelists who I would consider to be leading feminist voices in the Order at the time of their inclusion, and who were chosen with this aspect of their work specifically in mind.
  • As Lodge Master of Sekhet-Maat, I took a very strong and controversial stand to help ensure that women are given plenty of opportunity to pursue advancement through service in the Gnostic Mass, and to help mitigate the not uncommon perception of the Gnostic Mass as a sexist ritual, by all but requiring that every Mass should have at least two women participating as ritualists. I was prepared to cancel performances of the Mass if it did not happen. This stand did not make me popular but it did help to ensure that we do not have performances of the Gnostic Mass where the only female is the Priestess, except in extenuating circumstances.
  • I have helped to facilitate a series of monthly readings and discussions of Crowley's work at Sekhet-Maat, with the purpose of confronting and analyzing Crowley's writings. This has helped many people to understand that while Crowley said many sexist things, he also strenuously asserted the equality of women, and he made it clear that sexism, racism, and any class prejudice is antithetical to Thelema. It has also helped people to understand that not everything Crowley said that sounds sexist is sexist, but that sometimes he was writing about metaphysical concepts. The format of these readings & discussions has been replicated elsewhere and is spreading as an easy way to facilitate learning about Crowley's writings.
  • At Sekhet-Maat we have always welcomed original ritual and routinely published the writings of members; in this respect we have historically gone out of our way to encourage rituals and essays that break traditional molds of gender and sexuality. See for example the "Feast for Fire or Water," or Fr. Arun's "Contemplation of Shiva" in Lion & Serpent. We have also encouraged anyone who wants to perform initiate-only gender-bending Gnostic Masses.
  • The library at Sekhet-Maat contains numerous titles pertaining to feminism, sexuality, and gender politics.
  • Not directly about sexism but related: In the wake of a tragic incident of domestic violence against one of our sisters in Seattle, we at Sekhet-Maat held two weeks of focus on domestic violence. This manifested in online discussion, a class facilitated by two sisters with years of experience in helping victims of domestic violence, and a round table discussion on the topic.
  • I have personally worked for years to educate people on Thelemic metaphysics, through essays, classes, and audio recordings, rejecting Old Aeon confusion of the planes and teaching that "Every man and every woman is a star."
  • I have personally striven to promulgate the non-sexist doctrines of Thelema, which is particularly well-expressed in the following quotations from Aleister Crowley:

    • "The soul is beyond male and female as it is beyond Life and Death.

      "Even as the Lingam and the Yoni are but diverse developments of One Organ, so also are Life and Death but two phases of One State. So also the Absolute and the Conditioned are but forms of THAT."

      -The Book of Lies, ch. 35

    • "This constitutes a profound Riddle of Holiness… Those only understand it who combine in themselves the extremes of Moral idea, identifying them through transcendental overcoming of the antinomy. They must have gone further yet, beyond the fundamental opposition of the sexes. The male must have completed himself and become androgyne; the female, and become gynander. This incompleteness imprisons the soul. To think 'I am not woman, but man' or vice versa, is to limit one's self, to set a bar to one's motion. It is the root of the 'shutting-up' which culminates in become 'Mary inviolate' or a 'Black Brother.'"

      -Commentary on Liber LXV, V:44

    • "The essence of a Man and Woman—each being a Star or sovereign God poised in Space by its own act—is clothed in thoughts and deeds as is its Nature, hidden by them."

      -Djeridensis Comment
What have you been doing in your valley, and what would you like to see done more?

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