Heather Keith Freeman (jnanacandra) wrote,
Heather Keith Freeman

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Women and Thelema

For anyone in or interested in O.T.O. or Thelema, there is a vitally important conversation beginning to happen. How do we acknowledge, deal with, and move beyond the fact that Aleister Crowley was unapologetically racist and sexist?

Crowley was a genius, a prophet, a brilliant and prolific writer - and a flaming misogynistic asshole. Most Thelemites I know do admit this, yet in the Order there is a widespread refusal to look critically at the problematic aspects of his work. The philosophy of Thelema is a precious and vital thing that needs to grow beyond Crowley if it and/or O.T.O. is to have relevance to the modern world.

Below are the recent posts on the topic. Good, if sometimes painful, discussion happening here. Please read and add your own thoughts, there or here.

matertiamat: The Brotherhood of Man
brandywilliams: They also promulgate who call a spade a spade
brandywilliams: Women's experiences in Thelema

Here are some of my thoughts on what I would like to see happen next (also posted as a comment to Brandy's second post).

I'd like to see more recognition and analysis of Thelema as distinct from Crowley, as a living and breathing philosophy. You actually have to dig into OTO's website to find mention of Crowley; yet in practice so many of us are terrified to even appear like we are interpreting his work for others that the work needed to make the philosophy relevant to changing times is just not happening; at least not where anyone can see it. If there is more weight put on Thelema rather than Crowley, I think the problematic aspects of his work will be less likely to throw a shadow over the Order as a whole.

I'd like to see more feminist Thelema analysis and ritual published. I'd especially like to see female-oriented ritual that does not focus on assuming the role of the Scarlet Woman. I know there's some of this out there, but it's hard to find and not organized at all; most of it is performed once or twice at the local level and then forgotten. Ideally I'd like to see a compendium of Thelemic ritual by women published and promoted within the Order. That's a project I'd love to help with, though I don't think I'm equipped to take it on by myself. Would Magistra Press be a potential vehicle for this project?

I'd like to see more secular Thelemic organizations focusing on social justice, ideally female-led with explicit feminist/anti-racist bent. I'd like to see explicit recognition and cooperation between these organizations and the Order, at both a national and local level.

I'd like to see an explicit statement from the Order rejecting sexist/racist interpretations of Crowley's work, but I doubt that will happen out of deference to individual interpretation. The fact that the Order will re-ordain transgendered clergy I think is FANTASTIC, and I would like to see more actions and policy like that which affirm the worthiness of marginalized people.

I'd like to see an examination of the gender essentialism which seems to be so fundamental to Crowley's work, and yet which is rejected by most Thelemites of my acquaintance. (Example: when asked why a man must hold the Priest role in the Mass, the stock answer is "well, everyone has a mix of male and female energies, but we don't want to confuse the public with that") I'd like to see more than lip service paid to that idea that we are all a mix of male and female, with ritual and essay embracing the feminine within male bodies and the masculine within female bodies, and normalization of that mixture.
Tags: feminism, oto, philosophy, social justice, sociology, thelema
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