How possible is it, now, to make a meaningful change in the world? Are we at a point, historically, where people think that they must limit the extent to which they can envision making significant contributions to some larger, and important, transformation? What effect does this limit place on our lives?
"You could also adduce the narrowness of political hopes in our time. [Historically], someone with a relatively meaningless job might have nevertheless felt he belonged to a very meaningful group, whether he was a fascist or a socialist. I feel out of my depth talking about this stuff. It is very important but hard to wrap your head around. I think men inherit -- if from nowhere else than from the movies -- the impression that in order to win the respect and love of a woman, you ought to be doing something meaningful in the world. And if you can't hold your head up high in that sense, then why ask somebody to love you?"
- Benjamin Kunkel (from here)
This morning I thought about how difficult it is to get people in the OTO, especially its leaders, to take the group seriously. Other churches and religious organizations take things like property, solid strategic planning, and emergency relief funds for granted; our leaders evade the issue and make excuses. This sort of "Teaberry Shuffle" (as Jerry Cornelius used to term it) has become as depressing as it is predictable.
Is this because Crowley designed the OTO before people "narrowed" their political hopes? Are we naive, or are we acting "ahistorically" to expect people in the OTO to take the organization as seriously as Crowley intended - given the way bourgeois society has jettisoned its ideas about what is possible? Is this why it is so difficult to get people to take the OTO seriously? We may, some might say, have moved past the point where projects like the OTO can be taken seriously.
What contributed to the condition we find ourselves are in - in which it is difficult for any of us to take projects like building the Blue Equinox seriously? It's not enough to critique the leaders for not having a strategic plan. We need to ask: why don't they have a plan? Why do they resist having a plan? I theorize that their reluctance to take the OTO seriously stems from problems about taking anything seriously. This disinclination to take on projects like the BE is part of a wider phenomenon.
"As soon as a group believes itself to be in possession of a certainty, it will impose this certainty on others to the extent that it has means do so. That is the lesson we have learned. In a sense, if we do not seek truth, it is precisely because we are afraid we might actually find it. In its excesses it engenders everything we hate. It as though truth - or what is deemed truth - will inevitably lead to evil."
- Chantal Delsol
Look at the way the people in the OTO defend relativism. They do so in the exact way that Delsol describes. In order to take on the BE as a serious project, wouldn't people have to be really committed? Of course they would. And what would engender that kind of commitment? The group would have to be motivated and be, on some level, certain. But how can we ever be certain if "being certain" leads to everything we hate? We may have traded away the certainty we need to build something like the BE OTO, but at least we aren't a cult or like the Nazis, right? What has trading away our chance for certainty cost us? Is it a price we really are willing to pay?
Benjamin Kunkel points out that people who aren't engaged in meaningful projects suffer diminishments in every other aspect of their lives. They know, on a certain level, they are unlovable. Love, we know as Thelemites, is related to will. Without will, there can be no love. Giving up on will means giving up on love. Where there is no will, there is no love.
"Any coherent ethical project takes on overblown proportions in the face of the deconstructed nature of contemporary ethics, and immediately threatens it, for chaos is uncomfortable, and nothing is more reassuring than certitude. He who deliberately embarks on a project of this nature — he who chooses meaning — implicates, like it or not, the whole of society, and tends to transform a value into truth, which revolts contemporary man. This is why our contemporary so conscientiously tries to protect himself from the dangerous whisperings of seekers of meaning and strives to conserve a smooth and colorless society peaceful in its indetermination. The only defendable ethics is the ethics of complacency."
- Chantal Delsol
How can we expect the leaders of the OTO to seriously commit to establishing the BE model if they are afraid to "choose meaning" for the reasons Chantal is describing? Can they really be legitimate Thelemic leaders if they have bought into the "ethics of complacency" and therefore resist "coherent ethical projects" out of a fear of what they might become? As Kunkel points out, their own lives are diminished the more they shrink away from participation in projects that are truly meaningful. Are we content with that diminishment, or do we bristle against it?
Some might argue that anyone trying to take a project like the OTO seriously, after the world had experienced both the Holocaust and the end of communism, betrays both a willful and dangerous naiveté. We, thus accused, must then respond by asking what new and compelling project replaces the OTO? Are all such projects impossible? Must we, as Heidegger points to, merely content ourselves with business concerns and entertainments?
One could expect Thelemic leaders to confront the "culture of complacency" the way Crowley would have - by attacking it and critiquing it, as well as by advancing a challenging alternative to it. But, as we can all see, this is not what is happening in the OTO. And, sadly, the individuals who are complacent, and who collaborate with the ethics of complacency, know in their hearts that they cannot ask anyone for respect, or for honor, or for love. They also, I fear, cannot respect nor honor nor love themselves.