“Now a lot of us are preachers, and all of us have our moral convictions and concerns, and so often have problems with power. There is nothing wrong with power if power is used correctly. You see, what happened is that some of our philosophers got off base. And one of the great problems of history is that the concepts of love and power have usually been contrasted as opposites – polar opposites – so that love is identified with a resignation of power, and power with a denial of love.
It was this misinterpretation that caused Nietzsche, who was a philosopher of the will to power, to reject the Christian concept of love. It was this same misinterpretation which induced Christian theologians to reject the Nietzschean philosophy of the will to power in the name of the Christian idea of love. Now, we’ve got to get this thing right. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love. And this is what we must see as we move on.”
Dr. Martin Luther King,
Where Do We Go from Here?
If we love, we empathize. How then, can an ethical person relish in their freedom while others are enslaved against their will? Ethics are impossible without compassion and love. But “there are love and love.” 1 In my reading of Liber AL, Nuit wants Agape from us; Eros from Hadit; and Philio from the Earth. In other words, the mysteries of love are revealed to us in our own holy books.
People have been obsessed with love since time immemorial. So much so that the Greeks have approached the mystery by dividing love into different categories and types, as well as explaining its influence by assigning it godly offices in their mythos. Why should we bother ourselves with the definition of love? Ethical behavior is connected to love in a very profound way, as we shall soon see. Furthermore, if we are ever to understand the whole of the Law, we will need to know what is meant by Love; it must be important. In other words, we must endeavor to determine what love means so that we might develop a greater understanding of Thelema in general. This should be pretty obvious, but love is often overlooked because “doing what one wills” sounds much more butch and Nietzschean than learning how to love.
For our purposes, we will examine three components of love corresponding to intimacy, passion and commitment. These components can be associated or attributed to three states: general individual, and personal.2 It isn’t unusual for a person to experience one or two facets of love toward the object of one’s attention, but “Godly Love” requires all three forms to be in place. This is so difficult to do, and so very rare since, for the most part, love is generally considered in terms of romance in today’s world.
How shall members of a TRUE Fraternity love one another? As Brothers and Sisters sharing the same struggle to understand the deity that resides within every man and every woman: as soldiers in the trenches in a battle to liberate the human spirit.
How shall we love our partners? As the object of our desires, with the same love and respect we show our Brothers and Sisters, but also as reflections of our Beloved worthy of our reverence.
So, how shall we love our God? This work isn’t for the lazy or half-dedicated. Approach your God as a lover and friend, but also as a disciple willing to sacrifice everything to accept Its Will as yours until you develop the Gnosis of God’s Will being synonymous with your own. To this end: Godspeed.
In Greek mythology, Eros is the god of love, son of Aphrodite. Eros can represent creativity, sexual yearning, or desire evoked by physical attraction or an expression of physical love. It is that “pull” that people feel when they are sexually attracted to one another. He excited erotic love in gods and mortals with his arrows. Eros love, however, represents a new, disorienting sort of passion. His influence was often conceived as an attack of undesirable yearning.
In psychiatry, Eros represents the sexual drive, the libido. The sum of life-preserving instincts that are manifested as impulses to gratify basic needs (as sex3); as sublimated impulses motivated by the same needs, and as impulses to protect and preserve the body and mind called also “life instinct.”
So much so-called brainpower has been spent debating whether or not polyamory4 is more Thelemic than monogamy that I refuse to waste ink going over this insignificant argument here. Suffice it to say, man has the right to love as he will, and doing what is most rightful to one’s true nature is as Thelemic as it gets. Making promises that one can’t keep, or forcing someone into oaths contradicting their own nature is not love, isn’t Thelemic, and certainly isn’t ethical. Misrepresenting one’s self is not only dishonest, but will eventually lead you to taking oaths you are unable of keeping. As my friend likes to say: Don’t write any checks you can’t cash.
Having said that, I have heard more than one critic of Thelema imply that Liber OZ condones rape.5 Some people are unable to hold two seemingly opposing thoughts until they are either reconciled or utterly destroyed. Liber OZ is applicable to all humans, not just Thelemites. Therefore, a rapist is in violation of his victim’s rights by forcing himself on her.6 The text reads: “love as he will,” and rape is hardly an act of love. Love is a God… and Love is the Law.
To the Greeks, Philio is brotherly love and represents the affection that one feels toward one’s comrades when a common bond is shared. It is a love that is manifested when we are united and/or supporting one another as we are working toward achieving a common goal. We are under its influence when we are being affectionate, welcoming or kindly to our mates. The city of Philadelphia in the United States gets its name from Philio. It is called “the city of brotherly love.”
Ironically, in psychiatry, Philio is synonymous with phobia. It represents an obsession with a particular thing or subject.
Agape is synonymous with compassion, caritas, charity, affection, altruism, amity, attachment, benevolence, benignity, bountifulness, clemency, generosity, goodness, goodwill, grace, humaneness, kindliness, magnanimity and mercy. It is a love of a spiritual nature, not concerned with sexual fulfillment. Agape denotes a divine, self-sacrificing love. It is an altruistic love, and we are under its influence when we do things for another person or god without the expectation of reward.
Agape indicates action. A willful act of doing and caring for someone as deeply as one cares for one’s self. It is considered a godly love because it manifests in the absence of the desire to personally benefit of Lust of Result. It is said that only God is capable of Agape. What does this mean today when “there is no god but man?” Are we capable of it? More than that: “Love is the law.” Are we required to
How shall we discover the nature of Agape without discussing Charity?
Charity comes from empathy and a direct knowledge of the thread that holds us all together. It often originates from some unconscious understanding that others are at the heart of one’s own universe, and therefore linked to the Self. Charity is a form of love7 that flows out from this realization.
Charity, no matter how well intentioned it may be, can also be used as a way to avoid work. The recipient may begin to feel they are getting something for nothing, while the bourgeois feels good about charity because they can throw money at the problem of homelessness without having to experience the desperation of the poor directly. This does not mean that cash contributions are unnecessary, unwanted or unwelcome, but the people that want to get their hands dirty in the trenches and physically help are a breed apart. They see themselves as the “magical link.”
Charity has to be regulated and monitored since it can lead to dependence. We must learn to view poverty (and wealth, for that matter) as cycles, always remember that the ultimate goal is to liberate people from the affliction of hunger and poverty, not make them dependent on anyone for relief. Also, we must be vigilant that the same people aren’t there to take advantage of our charity time and time again. This does not benefit anyone, even if at the time they might feel as though they have gotten something for nothing. Charity should be given with the idea in mind that the playing field is being leveled so that the needy will have the basic resources to do what is necessary to improve their condition. All men are not created equal, but everyone deserves opportunity. Charity is the way to help improve the starting point.
Even with such precautions in place, people will naturally gravitate toward dependence or abuse of charity. When confronted with the prospect of a “free ride,” very few people possess the necessary ethics to avoid abuse. And by “abuse,” I mean self-abuse. Some people will gladly manipulate the consequences of their lives in order to constantly qualify for assistance.
In his book Cultural Anthropology, Daniel Bates tells us of a tribe in Northern Kenya that has, until recently, survived quite well in the desert by raising animals and trading with other tribes for items like grains, tea and sugar. The recent introduction of Christian missionaries has resulted in the loss of tribal identity. Before this event, the tribe survived quite well as a result of their hard work. The government wants members this nomadic tribe to set up house in towns so that it can control them. The missionaries, on the other hand, can only benefit from separating these individuals from their tribe so that they can more easily convert them to Christianity. Bates’ message is simple: people will naturally give up their independence, and often times their own cultural identity8, in exchange for some free trinkets or provisions. This is the sort of welfare that enslaves.
On the opposite extreme, we find strong, ethical and self-contained individuals who will not compromise their dreams or self-reliance in order to protect some source of income.
So how does one address this problem? The Order of Thelemic Knights serves as a good example, since it is the first Thelemic Organization to be instituted to provide a public benefit. Whenever possible, charitable campaigns will contain employment support such as resume writing assistance, clean clothing for work searches, and a place to pick up mail. Charity, given without expectation, as noble as it sounds on the surface, undermines autonomy and conditions individuals to seek the reliance on others.
Of course, it may also be entirely possible for a person’s True Will to require them to live in poverty. It is said that a King may choose his own garments9. But in these cases one has learned to live in their poverty without having to rely on others, or burden charitable organizations for their survival. The exception to the rule is in the monastic, esthetic life. A good example would be the Buddhist, Catholic and Coptic monks who are supported by the community for the spiritual benefit their presence bestows.
We don’t have to look hard or far to see what occurs to charitable organizations when collecting money is the focus of their work. In light of sizeable coffers, the organization’s officers often begin by paying themselves unreasonable salaries rather than using the funds to further its mission. The more money they collect, the larger the salaries they pay themselves. It would be tacky to mention names, but suffice it to say that one of the largest “green” organizations dedicated to environmental stewardship is now largely ineffective in its stated goals as a result of this. Only a small percentage of donations actually go toward environmental protection, the largest percentage being spent on “operating costs.”
But what of the socially responsible individual? How much is enough, and when is one shrugging their responsibility to their fellow man? Obviously, donating until one is poor is a self-defeating enterprise.10 The best thing that we can do to be part of the solution is not to be an inconvenience on the already overburdened charitable groups.
Charity as a magical sacrifice
People are generally mesmerized with what the richest people in the world give to charitable causes. These donors should indeed be applauded for the remarkable amounts they have given, but they are not the most generous charitable people in America. Giving from surplus is painless. The most charitable donors are those individuals that donate small amounts out of what they need to survive. Their contributions are great sacrifices made to organizations that represent their values. Their numbers are in the millions but their names are largely unknown and their sacrifices go, for the most part, unappreciated. The impact they make, however, can be felt and seen everywhere.
A donation can be used as a sacrifice when one is working magick. But a sacrifice must be just that. A sacrifice, to be effective, must inconvenience in some way. If I do not smoke cigarettes and ceremonially claim cigarettes to be my sacrifice then how effectual can I reasonably expect it to be? To explain this, the writers of the Old Testament devised a little understood story in the parable of “The Widow’s Mite.” In short, it goes to illustrate the donation made at the temple by the poor widow is more valuable11 than the donation that a rich man makes because the widow is making a bigger sacrifice than the man for whom money is no object. Is she more sincere than he? If he were to inconvenience himself more than she, would he be equally ethical or sincere? To put it in a way that hits home: should we be inconvenienced by our charity? I don’t believe that it is necessary, provided it isn’t being used as a magical sacrifice of some sort. Nor would we ever need to inconvenience ourselves if everyone did his or her share. As it is now, the few carry the burden, while the majority could care less. In a magical context, the biblical parable makes perfect sense, but not so much in the practical sense, however. Unfortunately, many people have come to misinterpret this parable’s message. The recipients of the charity we provide have, on more than one occasion, benefited from the donations of various well-to-do supporters. This is how they support us. In Christianity, we are told that the rule is “others first.” However, one cannot help others if they have used up their resources to the point that now they need help themselves. It defeats the entire purpose.
Furthermore, charity must be freely given without expectation; otherwise it is little more than a bribe. Christian missionaries have done more to destroy cultures around the globe than the war machine. They teach, feed and comfort the sick with the expectation that they will embrace Christianity. The motivation is often times less than altruistic. In contrast, organizations like the Order of Thelemic Knights performs its charity work because it benefits our members in a profound way: the act of helping others is a noble end onto itself. Like the Christian churches, we also promulgate our chosen paradigm, but we do so by example.
Think about this. What if every employed human being on the planet donated $5.00 per month to feed the hungry at home and abroad? Provided that the officers of the organization did not spend the money on their own salaries, it is quite possible that with this $5.00, and the donations in food and supplies from corporate giants seeking tax breaks, we might feed the world’s starving population or use the money to teach and enable these people to survive on their own.
A personal story
When I first arrived in Portland on December 31st, 1992, I became horribly ill with a life-threatening illness.12 Having no money, I was driven to a Catholic hospital where I was first processed through the financial department and asked about my financial situation. I gave them all the data I had and was rushed into the emergency room for treatment. I couldn’t stop thinking about the financial burden I was about to encounter. I went home and recovered. Two weeks later I received a letter from the hospital that impressed me so much that I have kept it ever since:
“Dear Gerald. After evaluating your financial situation we have concluded that you are unable to pay for the medical care you received on January 18th, 1993, and we will not be seeking compensation. What we would ask, however, is for you to make donations to the hospital once your financial situation has improved so that we could continue to offer people such as yourself the sort of medical care this organization is known for.”
I kept this because this as a reminder of the kind of organization I want to have. This letter displays the sorts of ethics that should dictate how the leaders of the organization conduct business.
Teach your children well
Another true story, which is worth telling, begins with the clothing drive that the Order of Thelemic Knights held for the Lakota Indian reservation at Wounded Knee. We had donation receptacles in various place. The Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica Hermetica joined us in this drive and as a result we had a donation bin in a smoke shop in Kenosha Wisconsin. A little girl and her mother walked into the store and walked up to the shopkeeper. The little girl said to him: “Here you go. This is the $20.00 I collected in my lemonade stand to help pay for the shipping of these clothes.”
Out of the mouth of babes. If children get it, why do such few adults? How odd it is to begin our lives with this outlook on life, only to loose it in the bustle of today’s world, looking out for number one, minding ones own business, and then to have to spend the rest of our adult lives trying to get it back? The irony could kill.
Compassion in Thelema?
Many people question whether or not Thelemites can be compassionate. I usually answer with another question: “Can a person’s True Nature be to show compassion?”
The following is the content of an email exchange which occurred between an unknown interested party and Tau Apollonius from The Thelemic Gnostic Church of Alexandria. We have decided to include this since it is yet another example for how the Order of Thelemic Knights approaches the subject of Gnosticism and Thelema.
Them: Do you believe that compassion has a place in Thelema? Could you define “compassion” in your own experience?
Tau Apollonius: Compassion is the vice of Kings. We are told indulge our vices. Compassion has a place everywhere… or, I should say: I find compassion everywhere and in everyone. If we believe that compassion is spiritual, then it follows that it should be an integrated part of our spiritual practice.
Them: But Crowley was hardly compassionate!
Tau Apollonius: This isn’t a very logical thing to say.13 Does it follow that we should all be like Crowley? It may not be in everyone’s True Nature to be compassionate. Shouldn’t we be most concerned with doing OUR True Will? One of the many problems that people have with Crowley was that he would give uncompassionate instructions. It is hard to find compassion in much of Crowley’s work if one does not understand his sense of humor or commitment to his spiritual discipline.
For Crowley, promoting Scientific Illuminism was his priority, feeling that once a person accomplished Knowledge and Conversation with his own Guardian Angel his newly discovered True Nature would dictate the moral/ethical code most appropriate to the that individual, and that any externally adopted morality could interfere with the process of Knowledge and Conversation. In other words, he wasn’t teaching that morality was “wrong” but that it should come from ones self once one has discovered their true nature. How we should conduct ourselves until that moment occurs is, in my opinion, hidden in plain sight in the two statements that define the entirety of the Thelemic paradigm most succinctly: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” and “Love is the law, love under will.” Let’s look at these critically. On the surface we can begin to see that perhaps Love must come before Will – or more than that: That Love IS before Will. Or if you’d like to take it a step further, that one must first learn how to Love before learning to Will.
The use of “shall be” in “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” implies that some other thing must first occur in order to manifest this “Law.” It doesn’t say “Do what thou wilt is the whole of the Law.” When we look at the second part of this puzzle we see the word “is” to define what the Law is. Love. If by Law we mean Thelema, and by Love we mean Agape,14 then it seems pretty obvious what ones modus operandi should be as they strive to discover their own True Will. Agape and Charity are synonymous. Remember, Crowley didn’t come to his own Will by chance. He worked at it. Much of that work included devotional practices he picked up from the world’s religions.
As to his “bad boy” persona is concerned, much of what people dislike about him is either bad publicity, (something he preferred over no publicity at all), slander from his contemporaries or the second hand accounts of people who haven’t read his material either. He is often referred to as a fascist. How one can be a fascist and simultaneously insist everyone discover and manifest ones own True Will is something that still escapes me today.
One of the many problems facing the young Aeon of Hours is that most humans in this early transition period compare all prophets against the mythical Jesus while Thelemites compare them against Crowley. This is very unfortunate, but we can consider the Jesus problem as “residue.” But what about the issue with the Crowleyites? What we know from the life of Jesus is that he was a man,15 and not nearly as perfect as most people think he was. What we know about Crowley is that he wasn’t nearly as imperfect as most people think he was. If we keep comparing our prophets against some unattainable and mythological state the words of our Prophets will fall on deaf ears.
Them: I am curious about your take on human suffering. Do Thelemites have a role or responsibility to relieve suffering?
Tau Apollonius: I often look at Thelema, in my limited understanding to see if it addresses this problem. I think it does. For example, for humans ignorance is the root of suffering. By ignorance, I mean a reactionary state where one abscessed by material gain, recognition, or passion rather than being focused on self-knowledge. I am not saying that one should renounce those things as the Gnostics of the past did. We can have it all, but self-knowledge must come first. That Gnosis can only occur with sincerity and truthfulness about ones motivations. Remove ignorance, and everyone is living their own truth. That Truth transcends death, or at least that is what I feel.
Them: You said the “D” word. How does a Thelemite transcend death?
Tau Apollonius: Beats me. No one has been able to answer that question – ever… so I am flattered that you think I may have. How does a Christian, Buddhist, Taoist, Jew, Gnostic, Muslim, transcend death? There is a song that goes “all roads lead to disaster. Only God knows what comes after.” The answer in unknowable because we can’t ask anyone what it is like to die. I suspect that a salvation comes from Gnosis. All we can do is to interpret the Holy Books and the internal voice that will occur for each one of us as a result. If I shut up for a while, I hear a lot of things that I trust. The reason that death is such a preoccupation with humans is that the ego is unable to come to terms with its own demise. We all know that the physical body begins breaking down when we are young and doesn’t stop until we finally die. Identification with the physical body may sound like fun when one sweats testosterone or estrogen, but generally speaking one outgrows that, and then… we begin to look for something more. In my opinion, some parts of Liber AL seem to address a BIGGER problem than death: the problem of living. We should hasten the process of achieving self-knowledge so that we can get on with the joy of existence. The dying part will take care of itself.
Them: But why work at all? Most of what I have read in Thelema seems to lead people away from accomplishing anything of value.
Tau Apollonius: That is an unfair assessment. The same thing could be said from any religious movement. It isn’t the prophet/religion/Order’s fault if the majority of its adherents are insincere. It is a matter of ones priorities. If one wants to play and hang out with people of like mind, that is fine. Others will do that, and prioritize their lives to include a quest for self-knowledge, or in Thelemic terms, coming to the knowledge of ones True Will.
Them: I didn’t mean to offend. It just seems that I hear people saying, “There is no god but man” as if there is no reason to work anymore. Like it is a done deal.
Tau Apollonius: Okay. We are told, “There is no god but man.” Sounds nice, and this would solve the problem of suffering, but saying it doesn’t make it so. Many people will take that phrase for granted to the extent that it will justify their laziness. So what? Others will understand that the knowledge of this is meaningless unless it is understood in a Gnostic sense and put into practice. This self-knowledge that I keep talking about is different than mundane knowledge that preoccupies scholars and mental masturbationists. I am referring to the ability to know the difference between physical and spiritual matters. While these two overlap, there are areas where they (in my limited understanding) appear incompatible. If you want to know who is sincere about their godhood, observe them for a while. How much control do they exercise over their own lives, and how much does this godhood mean to them? How much of themselves do they give to help others discover their own immortality? In other words, what do they do with this gift?
So how much is enough?
The question of “how much is enough?” can never really be addressed. One is either charitable or they are not. Giving out of pressure or guilt is not true Charity, and no self-respecting Thelemic organization will ever resort to such tactics to get support from its members outside of what they might pay in regular dues.
Other churches have, however, come up with a way to get the needed funds out of parishioners by asking for a tiding. A tiding is generally an amount based on a percentage of one’s income, often times as high as 10% of gross. It works very well since someone who is well off will end up paying more than one who is not. Everyone pays the same percentage. And at least in the US, those donations are tax deductible, which appeals to people’s self-interest to be charitable. One of the nice things about charity is that we do not have to concern ourselves with the reason behind donation. The important thing is that we receive them in order to continue helping others get on their feet.
Are monetary donations the only way to be charitable?
Charity does not always come in the form of money. Doctors Without Borders send badly needed medical supplies and assistance to some of the most dangerous places in the world, putting themselves as great risk for the benefit of others they don’t even know. They are fighting the battle for freedom in their own way according to their own talents.
Ethical people that are unable to serve their elected cause by throwing money at the problem can join with others according to their strengths and talents to achieve their chosen directive. This is what the Battle for Freedom is really about. Each of us should fight in whatever way is natural for us according to our own True Nature. As already has been said, for a doctor, disease might be his foe; for a teacher, ignorance. And this is how it goes for soldiers when they have come to realize their own True Nature: they can now choose their battles according to their own True Wills, thereby maximizing their chances of causing change in conformity with that Will. This is the mark of a true soldier who MUST fight as opposed to those that play and will not.
Members of the Order of Thelemic Knights and the Thelemic Gnostic Church of Alexandria often contribute above and beyond his or her annual dues. All contributions are equally important regardless of how insignificant it may appear on the surface. Sewing altar cloths, making icons for the Church, writing for the curriculum or newsletter, illustrating, building, cooking, publishing, phoning possible contributors, fundraising, etc.
I posit that every individual possesses at least one skill that has charitable value and can be used by one’s Order, Church, or chosen charity to achieve their stated goals. If one has a special talent for oration and reading, the Order of Thelemic Knights will endeavor to place them at a children’s hospital so they can volunteer to help a child through a difficult and frightening time, or we can place them in an adult learning program where they might help adults to learn how to read. If you are charitable, you will never stop thinking how to use your talents to exercise charity. Our Order and Church are both vehicles. Use them and support them.
Gerald del Campo is an Episcopal Bishop, poet, musician, song writer, photographer, magician, philosopher, author, and lecturer on occult and religious topics and is profoundly concerned with the positive and responsible promulgation of the Law of Thelema.
1 Liber AL, I:57.
2 They correspond rather nicely to The Man of Earth, The Lovers, and The Hermits mentioned in The Book of the Law, as well as the three outer Grades of the Order of Thelemic Knights: The Squire, The Knight, and The Peer.
3 Sex can lead to offspring, which is a form of preserving ones genes. Immortality through ones children.
4 A new trendy name for a relationship in which there are multiple lovers.
5 “Man has the right to love as he will…when, where, and with whom he will.”
6 Or vice versa.
7 Inseparable from Agape.
8 And soul!
9 Liber AL, I:58.
10 This is likely the objection that Crowley appeared to have with the Christian sort of compassion which suggest that we put others first.
11 At least on some magical level.
12 E. coli from tainted fast-food.
13 A perfect example of a syllogism: Crowley was a Thelemite. Crowley was not a compassionate man. Therefore to be compassionate is not Thelemic.
14 Both of which enumerate to 93 in Hebrew Qabalah.