The New Aeon in the New World
The Law of Liberty in the Wild West
Delivered in Vancouver BC, May 16, 2015
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
This morning we share a joyous moment together—the celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of the Order’s efforts to cultivate the energies of the New Aeon in the New World. To be able to do so in Vancouver—where our first great organizing success began—is a special pleasure.
Daughter of Sunset Lodge is a modern successor to the first OTO Lodge in North America—British Columbia Lodge No. 1, founded by Frater Achad, Charles Stansfeld Jones, in 1915. Jones initiated Wilfred T. Smith, who founded Agape Lodge in Los Angeles in 1935. Smith initiated Grady McMurtry in 1941. Agape was the sole O.T.O. Lodge in the world at the time of Crowley’s death in 1947. Grady became Caliph Hymenaeus Alpha and reconstituted the Order in 1969—based on Crowley’s letters of Emergency Authorization.
The primacy of Western culture in the Thelemic movement, and the fact that The Book of the Law was transmitted in English, are self-evident. I would like to focus on some of the other cultural idiosyncrasies shared by our three great English-speaking colonial Order centers in Canada, the U.S., and Australia. Common themes include: their isolation from direct monarchical rule; their distance from the restrictions of their European roots; and the wide-open spaces all three regions enjoy.
Those hardy souls who left behind the familiarity of England encountered similar practical, psychological, and political trials in their new homes. The settlers and pioneers enjoyed the freedom—and suffered the responsibility—to review, accept, and discard those values that no longer served their purpose. They were all forced to reject the State as the defining Authority in their lives—as it had been since the days of the Pharaohs.
Ra Hoor Khuit defines Himself as “a god of War and of Vengeance.” Crowley repeatedly counseled that the more rude virtues of the human evolutionary experience are a necessary element of the Law of Liberty. The dislocation of these three groups of British expatriates from Europe—and their relocation to unknown, uncivilized, and uncharted territories—demanded they embrace the concomitant ethics of the Warrior: self-reliance and hardiness of spirit.
In all three territories, colonists waged fierce wars against, and subjugated, the indigenous peoples of their new environments. They also battled the elements, far from the long-established amenities and security of their countries of origin—the conditioning of the known. What we might call “the rituals of the old time” were no longer either possible or efficacious in the Martial cultures they were forced to establish.
Settlement History of the Three English-Speaking Territories
Canada was the first North American territory to be colonized by Great Britain—as if in anticipation of the later progress of O.T.O.. England claimed Newfoundland in 1583, a half century after the French took possession of a portion of the St. Lawrence River valley. England established its first permanent Canadian settlement in 1610. The original Canadian settlers (both British and French) were a tough lot—explorers, traders, trappers, hunters, and fishermen.
The first English colony, in what was later to be the United States, was established by entrepreneurs in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. These brave souls experienced an 80% mortality rate in their first few years. In 1620, the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts, specifically seeking religious freedom—in exile from the tyranny of the state religions of their native lands.
In 1770, almost two hundred years after the colonization of North America began, England laid claim to Australia. It was first settled as a British penal colony in 1778. Australia was, thus, initially populated by those on the outermost fringes of society, people who lived by their own rules, who had violated the norms of their community, and who paid the penalty for their behavior.
A brief look at the American and French Revolutions
As the plans for the colonization of Australia were being formulated in England, two nearly simultaneous upheavals would shake Europe to its core. The overturning of the civil compact through the revolutions of the late eighteenth century was a harbinger of the blood and fire of the birth pangs of the New Aeon—about to spring forth fully armed as the Crowned and Conquering Child just over a hundred years later.
The sea change in the transition from the Old World to the New began with the American Revolution of 1776. It was followed in 1789 by the French Revolution. The profound effects of both continue to reverberate to this day—as headlines catalog the seemingly endless battle between the individualism of the so-called “right” and the collectivism of the so-called “left.”
The two revolutions are so confused in popular opinion that a word here may be useful. While both were ostensibly fought to accomplish political liberty, they were so radically different as to be nearly unrecognizable. In fact, I believe their differences help to explain the modern success of the O.T.O. in North America—and the fact that the Order is still banned in France.
The American Revolution was a refreshing exploration of new and untested ideas, the most important of which is that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. “All men” would have included the politician and the citizen, the wealthy and the poor, males and females. There were no “subjects” or peasants in the New World—other than the bound servants working off their debtor status for a fixed period of time, or the slaves, who were a true relic of the Old World from which the settlers had fled. (The unresolved immorality of slavery became a critical part of the American Civil War and its 600,000 American deaths some eight decades later—exactly as had been prophesied during the passionate debates on the ratification of the Constitution during the latter half of the 1780s.)
Although the American Revolution was fought at times using guerilla tactics, it was mostly conducted within the bounds of the warrior’s code of honor, and in accord with transcendent moral and ethical principles which overrode the passions of the mob.
For example, in 1770, John Adams—the first American vice-president and second president—successfully defended a group of British soldiers in court. They were found not guilty, despite a media campaign as virulent as that of the Ferguson, Missouri farce in 2014. Adams argued that the higher principle was justice, not resentment; and that the facts of the case transcended the deaths of those American citizens whose lives were lost when the soldiers defended themselves during the Boston Massacre.
Adams was able to separate the individual soldiers (that is, the Stars imbued with unalienable rights directly by their Creator) from the onerous policies of the British occupation. He made it a point of honor and duty to defend individuals whose presence in his homeland was as repugnant to him as the outcome of that terrible night. The Rule of Law triumphed as his arguments convinced the jury of their moral obligation to judge the case dispassionately, based solely on the evidence. Adams would later write that the American Constitutional design required a moral citizenry—those who understand, “thou hast no right but to do thy will.”
The French Revolution, by contrast, was a bloodbath of ancient anger, hostility, and resentment—an uprising of a slave class against a millennium-old tyranny of privilege and domination. Church and State were joined at the hip, their boot planted firmly on the neck of the French people. And the aristocrat and priest were slaughtered by a population raised to mania by fevered radicals whose guiding principle seems to have degenerated during the course of the Revolution into revenge. Among their early victims were the moderate leaders who proceeded them. Even the “Divine Marquis” was imprisoned by Robespierre for his excessive lenience and unwillingness to punish severely enough!
The French mob attacked and overran the king’s palace, where they fashioned turbans from the intestines of his Swiss Guard. The people’s age-old frustration impelled them to a crescendo of violence that could only have been spawned by a repressive tyranny. That revolution quickly plunged deeper and deeper into madness and paranoia—at the last, birthing an insipid, politically-inspired, pseudo-paganism that mocked even the concept of the spiritual reality it pretended to celebrate. The inevitable conclusion was the bloodthirsty blade of the guillotine consuming the Revolution’s own insane children. The rise of the tyrant Napoleon was a desperate and inevitable effort to grasp at the straw of sanity.
The Unique Position of the United States
Looking back some 239 years, the U.S. was the most successful of the three British-based colonies in meeting the rigorous demands of the Law of Liberty. In order to stake its claim to independence, it was forced to rebel violently—to disconnect fully from its Old Aeonic roots and European masters—to declare and fight a brutal war in which its courage, fortitude, and persistence were taxed to the limits. “There is no bond that can unite the divided but love.”
Through a combination of martial prowess, skillful diplomacy, and good fortune, early America was able to accomplish one of the most profoundly transgressive acts in the political history of mankind. Her revolutionaries, many of whom were Freemasons or inspired by the European Enlightenment, fully rejected the Mother State and founded a sovereign republic. Australia and Canada chose to remain members of the British Commonwealth—and are willing subjects of the British Monarchy to this day.
I believe the U.S. became the first enduring home of the O.T.O., in part, because it sanctified its embrace of autonomy in blood. I also note that the birth of the modern O.T.O. began under the leadership of an American-born O.H.O.
The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights spell out political Liberty in an elegant and persuasive manner whose likes would not be seen again until Crowley penned Liber Oz in 1941. I believe all three proclamations describe the conditions of a society in which spiritual attainment is most accessible during the Aeon of the Crowned and Conquering Child.
That there be no confusion—even in so illustrious a group as this—let me be clear about the difference between the founding principles of America I celebrate, and the haplessness of modern America I find beneath contempt. Thelemic adept Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1798, “In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” Modern American politicians and an ever-growing percentage of our citizenry are acting like those trapped wild animals known to bite off their own legs to escape their shackles. Free men and women, by contrast, practice the self-discipline that distinguishes our species from the human mollusks America is increasingly breeding.
Rebellion and Dislocation as a Condition of the New Law
Crowley’s rebellion was pervasive: he fought against the stultifying fundamentalist Christianity of his upbringing; against the severe moralistic restrictions of Victorian England; and against the provincialism of his British birth and citizenship. Crowley spent nearly half his adult life out of his own country, in unfamiliar territory, where his inbred patterns and cultural conditioning were regularly challenged.
The New Law itself was first proclaimed in Egypt—home to an alien language, religion, culture, and economy for any Westerner of that day or this. The archetypes who revealed themselves in the text of the Book of the Law—although perhaps quite familiar to one immersed in the magical culture of the Golden Dawn like Crowley—are completely alien to the bulk of those to whom the Book is addressed. The “Law is for all.” Yet all people will be forced to walk well beyond their comfort zones—as each of us has had to do before we were free to perceive Liber AL and its comment as “ultimate sparks of the intimate fire.”
In a letter to Arnold Krumm-Heller dated June 22, 1930, Crowley discussed his revised rituals:
“I must here pause to point out that the fundamental and essential change which is necessary in any rituals with which I have anything to do is the complete renunciation of the cult of the slave-gods. It is impossible for free men to acknowledge any system which is bound up with the fetishes of savages whose only motive for action is the fear born of their ignorance.”
Our North American founders, Stan Jones and Wilfred Smith, were also born in England. They followed a similar path to Crowley’s by rejecting their homelands to travel to the New World—shunning the warmth of the familiar to become explorers and pioneers … like Moses, strangers in a strange land. Their great success as O.T.O. organizers took place in foreign lands—well outside the tyranny of age-old restrictions, and the grinding down of creativity and discovery by the millstone of the familiar. (We might add here—“and far from Crowley’s dominating personality!”)
Modern Culture and the Loss of Undiscovered Territory
Scott Fitzgerald closes his 1925 masterpiece The Great Gatsby with a meditation on the first visitors to Long Island Sound: “… for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.”
Today we have explored, colonized, mapped, charted, and surveilled almost the entire planet. “Do not bend, fold, spindle, or mutilate.” The earth has become the oyster of Google Maps. There is no place to go, no place to hide from the prying eyes of Big Brother. Today the entire world has become like the familiar, mechanized, and controlled Europe from which seventeenth and eighteenth century rebels fled in their quest for new and undiscovered territory—just as a later nineteenth and twentieth century Crowley, Jones, and Smith walked away to seek the unknown, the unfamiliar, and the exotic in foreign lands.
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How do modern Thelemites recapture the Pioneer Spirit that proved so fertile a breeding ground for the growth of the Order in North America and Australia? How do we of today regain a new perspective, indulge in the Unknown, challenge ourselves with the unfamiliar? How do we encourage others to open their minds to new possibilities? In other words, how do we recreate a new Wild West in which the Law of Liberty may gallop forth in all its resplendent glory?
Stepping Out of the Old Aeon Into the New
Our North American Founder, Frater Achad, gave us a clue in his essay “Stepping Out of the Old Aeon Into the New” published in the Blue Equinox in 1919.
He described a technique of inner exploration whose action extends well beyond the reach of the Surveillance State and the tools of the NSA.
He proposes an exercise whereby the individual’s Point-of-View may be expanded beyond the confines of three-dimensional Earth-bound consciousness—a method whereby we may become pioneers in inner space, freeing the mind to grasp the potential of the New Law. Achad writes:
“I want you to come with me—if you will—just across the border-line of the Old Aeon and gaze for a moment at the New.…
“… our ancient brethren, seeing the Sun disappear at night and rise again in the morning, based all their religious ideas in this one conception of a Dying and Re-arisen God. This is the central idea of the religion of the Old Aeon but we have left it behind us …
“ The Sun does not die, as the ancients thought; It is always shining, always radiating Light and Life. Stop for a moment and get a clear conception of this Sun, how He is shining in the early morning, shining at mid-day, shining in the evening, and shining in the night. Have you got this idea clearly in your minds? You have stepped out of the Old Aeon into the New.
“… In order to get this mental picture of the ever-shining Sun, what did you do? You identified yourself with the Sun. You stepped out of the consciousness of this planet; and for a moment you had to consider yourself as a Solar Being.”
Achad cautions of the difficulty an explorer will face—and of the universal desire for the comfort of the familiar. But at the same time he entices us with the possibility of the extension of consciousness and reminds us of what we have learned when in our new state of mind.
“Now, if you want to step back into the Old Aeon do so. But try and bear in mind that those around you are in reality Suns and Stars, not little shivering slaves. If you are not willing to be a King yourself, still recognize that they have a right to Kingship, even as you have, whenever you wish to accept it….”
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Our task as modern seekers—before whom the undiscovered physical frontiers of this world continue to recede—is to recapture the sense of wonder and discovery our not-too-distant spiritual ancestors were able to experience. As members and leaders of O.T.O., we must be able to communicate the excitement of its revolutionary newness to those attracted to our Law.
The Ever-Renewing Son will no longer be held captive in the Land of the Night.
Love is the law, love under will.