Thelema Community Calendar for April 2004 e.v.

Thelema Community Calendar for April 2004 e.v. Abbreviated web edition.

Volume I, Number 1: The Sovereignty Issue.

The viewpoints and opinions expressed herein are the responsibility of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of OTO or its officers.

Copyright © O.T.O. and the Individual Authors, 2004 e.v.

There is No God but Man

by Gregory Peters

This is a great and holy mystery. Although each star has its own number, each number is equal and supreme. Every man and every woman is not only a part of God, but the Ultimate God. "The Centre is everywhere and the circumference nowhere." The old definition of God takes new meaning for us. Each one of us is the One God. This can only be understood by the initiate; one must acquire certain high states of consciousness to appreciate it.
--- Aleister Crowley, New Comment to Liber Al vel Legis, I:4

"The Kings" are evidently those men who are capable of understanding Themselves.
--- Aleister Crowley, New Comment to Liber AL vel Legis, II:64

We are all free, all independent, all shining gloriously, each one a radiant world. Is not that good tidings?
--Aleister Crowley, The Law of Liberty

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Perhaps the single most powerful message of the New Aeon is enshrined in the preceding eleven simple words. This, the Law of Thelema, is the ultimate injunction of self discovery, self discipline, and individual sovereignty. Throughout the corpus of the writings of our Prophet will be found again and again this message of the amoral sovereignty of the True Will. Amoral, as one who lives according to the True Will stands outside the moral constraints of mundane society; sovereign, as such a person is ruler of their own universe, as well as a potential King or Queen of the earth, the very aristocracy of the new Thelemic society.
The Gnostic Creed of Liber XV contains the declaration, "And I confess my life one, individual, and eternal that was, and is, and is to come." As the cult of the infinite within, the Law of Thelema declares the birth right of every man and woman to fully know and be themselves; and in so doing, to know and be God (Hadit/). As the cult of the infinite without, we experience the paradox of our individual Godhead, our unique self governance, to in truth be the expression of the One, or None, or Naught (Nuit/). This is perhaps best exemplified in the Gnostic paean of Liber V vel Reguli:

I also am a Star in Space, unique and self-existent, an individual essence incorruptible; I also am one Soul; I am identical with All and None. I am in All and all in me; I am, apart from all and lord of all, and one with all.
I am Omniscient, for naught exists for me unless I know it. I am Omnipotent, for naught occurs save by Necessity, my soul's expression through my Will to be, to do, to suffer the symbols of itself. I am Omnipresent, for naught exists where I am not, who fashioned Space as a condition of my consciousness of myself, who am the centre of all, and my circumference the frame of mine own fancy.
I am the All, for all that exists for me is a necessary expression in thought of some tendency of my nature, and all my thoughts are only the letters of my Name.
I am the One, for all that I am is not the absolute All, and all my all is mine and not another's; mine, who conceive of others like myself in essence and truth, yet unlike in expression and illusion.
I am the None, for all that I am is the imperfect image of the perfect; each partial phantom must perish in the grasp of its counterpart, each form fulfill itself by finding its equated opposite, and satisfying its need to be the Absolute by the attainment of annihilation.

One is at once individual, unique, the God of one's own Universe; and yet at the same time, an integral aspect of the continuum. As Crowley comments to verse I:3 of Liber Legis, man is the "middle kingdom" which bridges the gap between the individual and the Absolute.
What are the inherent rights of one who is doing their True Will? Crowley penned them clearly in his Liber Oz, the Rights of Man:


"the law of
the strong;
this is our law
and the joy
of the world."
-- AL II:2
"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law." -- AL I:40

"thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that,
and no other shall say nay."-- AL I:42-43

"Every man and every woman is a star."-- AL I:3

There is no god but man.

Man has the right to live by his own law--
to live in the way that he wills to do:
to work as he will:
to play as he will:
to rest as he will:
to die when and how he will.
Man has the right to eat what he will:
to drink what he will:
to dwell where he will:
to move as he will on the face of the earth.
Man has the right to think what he will:
to speak what he will:
to write what he will:
to draw, paint, carve, etch, mould, build as he will:
to dress as he will.
Man has the right to love as he will:
"take your fill and will of love as ye will,
when, where, and with whom ye will." AL I:51
Man has the right to kill those who would thwart these rights.

"the slaves shall serve." -- AL II:58

"Love is the law, love under will." -- AL I:57

Clearly this is a doctrine of willful, amoral self-governance; we are each King and Queen, if only we make the great effort to discover and fulfill the True Will, and grant the same right of self discovery and independence to every other star. The key to unlock this great mystery is to Know Thyself; yet to know the Will is not enough. One must have the discipline to live it, and allow others to do the same. As Crowley writes in the essay "Duty" (which "outlines the chief rules of practical conduct to be observed by those who accept the Law of Thelema"), "He who violated any right declares magically that it does not exist; therefore it no longer does so, for him."
Further in the same essay, Crowley directs us to "[find] yourself to be the centre of your own Universe;" then to "Explore the Nature and Powers of your own Being," developing in "due harmony and proportion every faculty which you possess." One is further enjoined to contemplate "your own Nature," and find the "formula of this purpose, or ‘True Will,' in an expression as simple as possible":

Each being is, exactly as you are, the sole centre of a Universe in no wise identical with, or even assimilable to, your own. The impersonal Universe of "Nature" is only an abstraction, approximately true, of the factors which it is convenient to regard as common to all. The Universe of another is therefore necessarily unknown to, and unknowable by, you; but it induces currents of energy in yours by determining in part your reactions. Use men and women, therefore, with the absolute respect due to inviolable standards of measurement; verify your own observations by comparison with similar judgments made by them; and, studying the methods which determine their failure or success, acquire for yourself the wit and skill required to cope with your own problems. […] You may regard the establishment of the Law of Thelema as an essential element of your True Will, since, whatever the ultimate nature of that Will, the evident condition of putting it into execution is freedom from external interference. [Emphasis added.]

This "freedom from external interference" is the hallmark of the amoral aristocratic sovereignty of Thelema; for so long as one is living according to their True Will, the entire momentum of the Universe is supporting you. Liber II: The Message of the Master Therion, elaborates further:

The Key to this Message is this word--Will. The first obvious meaning of this Law is confirmed by antithesis; "The word of Sin is Restriction."

Again: "Thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that and no other shall say nay. For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect."

[...] Then, and then only, art thou in harmony with the Movement of Things, thy will part of, and therefore equal to, the Will of God. And since the will is but the dynamic aspect of the self, and since two different selves could not possess identical wills; then, if thy will be God's will, Thou art That.

As the Priest intones in Liber XV, "O secret of secrets that art hidden in the being of all that lives, not Thee do we adore, for that which adoreth is also Thou. Thou art That, and That am I."

The Kings and Queens of the earth are to rejoice and live a triumphant life of victory, in service to their sole God, which is identified as Ra-Hoor-Khuit. The Lord of the Aeon is no external God that demands we bend our knees in supplication and worship; rather, this is the symbol of the One True and Living God, that solar-phallic radiance that is recognized as both the Sun in the macrocosm, and the phallus in the microcosm; the Hidden God, the Dwarf Self or the Silent Babe Harpocrates; all cogent talismans of the Holy Guardian Angel.
To one not living in accordance with the True Will, the bonds of the slave religions create delusion, misery, weakness. For those who have embraced the Law, the lies of old time are shattered. Shakyamuni's declaration is rendered impotent in the face of the ecstatic cries of union enshrined in our Holy Books; the bleeding heart of Jesus is crucified by the copulation on the glorious solar-phallic fire of the Rosy Cross. The "Knight Monks of Thelema" are to live as Kings and Queens of the Earth, our every act an act of worship to the Divine and in service to our True Will:

This is the only point to bear in mind, that every act must be a ritual, an act of worship, a sacrament. Live as the kings and princes, crowned and uncrowned, of this world, have always lived, as masters always live; but let it not be self-indulgence; make your self-indulgence your religion. -- The Law of Liberty

Writing further The Law of Liberty, Crowley enjoins us to celebrate the newfound victory of the Crowned & Conquering Child Horus that is the herald of the New Aeon:

Lift yourselves up, my brothers and sisters of the earth! Put beneath your feet all fears, all qualms, all hesitancies! Lift yourselves up! Come forth, free and joyous, by night and day, to do your will; for "There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt." Lift yourselves up! Walk forth with us in Light and Life and Love and Liberty, taking our pleasure as Kings and Queens in Heaven and on Earth.
The sun is arisen; the spectre of the ages has been put to flight. "The word of Sin is Restriction," or as it has been otherwise said on this text: That is Sin, to hold thine holy spirit in!
Go on, go on in thy might; and let no man make thee afraid.

As Crowley writes in Liber CLXI: Concerning the Law of Thelema, "those who accept the New Law, the Law of the Aeon of Horus, the crowned and conquering child who replaces in our theogony the suffering and despairing victim of destiny, the Law of Thelema, which is Do What Thou Wilt, those who accept it (I say) feel themselves immediately to be kings and queens. 'Every man and every woman is a star' is the first statement of The Book of the Law." Also, we read in the fifth practice of Ethics from Liber Had that the Aspirant is to bear himself "as a great King" and to "root out and destroy without pity all things in himself and his surroundings which are weak, dirty, or diseased, or otherwise unworthy. And let him be exceeding proud and joyous." Further, in the third practice of Ethics the Aspirant is instructed to "strengthen his body by all means in his power, and let him with equal pace refine all that is in him to the true ideal of Royalty. Yet let his formula, as a King's ought, be Excess."
In conclusion, Crowley writes of the Law in Liber CL, De Lege Libelum:

Behold! the Kingdom of God is within you, even as the Sun standeth eternal in the heavens, equal at midnight and at noon. He riseth not: he setteth not: it is but the shadow of the earth which concealeth him, or the clouds upon her face. [...]
Know first, that from the Law spring four Rays or Emanations: so that if the Law be the centre of your own being, they must needs fill you with their secret goodness. And these four are Light, Life, Love, and Liberty.
By Light shall ye look upon yourselves, and behold All Things that are in Truth One Thing only, whose name hath been called No Thing for a cause which later shall be declared unto you. But the substance of Light is Life, since without Existence and Energy it were naught. By Life therefore are you made yourselves, eternal and incorruptible, flaming forth as suns, self-created and self-supported, each the sole centre of the Universe.
Now by the Light ye beheld, by Love ye feel. There is an ecstasy of pure Knowledge, and another of pure Love. And this Love is the force that uniteth things diverse, for the contemplation in Light of their Oneness. Know that the Universe is not at rest, but in extreme motion whose sum is Rest. And this understanding that Stability is Change, and Change Stability, that Being is Becoming, and Becoming Being, is the Key to the Golden Palace of this Law.
Lastly, by Liberty is the power to direct your course according to your Will. For the extent of the Universe is without bounds, and ye are free to make your pleasure as ye will, seeing that the diversity of being is infinite also. For this also is the Joy of the Law, that no two stars are alike, and ye must understand also that this Multiplicity is itself Unity, and without it Unity could not be. And this is an hard saying against Reason: ye shall comprehend, when, rising above Reason, which is but a manipulation of the Mind, ye come to pure Knowledge by direct perception of the Truth.

Unlike the religions of the past, the New Aeon brings with it the message of individual sovereignty; the divine legacy of the True Will; the glorious standard of Truth that is on our banner of Light, Life, Love and Liberty, under the regency of the One Law of Thelema: Do what thou wilt.

There is no god but man.

Love is the law, love under will.

Rulership and the Soul in the Platonic Tradition

by Soror Diotima
In his political philosophy, Plato (427--347 BCE) asserts a fundamental symmetry between the ordering of the city and of the individual. Each possesses a three-fold structure. Even as the individual soul is composed of epithumiai (desires), thumos (will), and logos (reason), so is the city composed of workers, guardians, and rulers.1 For both, justice is achieved by having the better parts rule over the worse.2 In the self-controlled soul, reason rules over will, and will over desire. In the just city, the workers obey the guardians, and the guardians obey the rulers.
This social rulership can be understood as fulfilling his tenet, "before one acquires virtue it's better to be ruled by somebody superior than to rule; this applies to men as well as boys."3 But as Plato expands upon this scheme in the social realm, he comes to certain conclusions that seem startling to modern sensibilities. For instance, he endorses the selective breeding of the populace for the sake of the common good, but realizes the difficulty of enforcing this on the public.

Because our rulers will then have to use a lot of drugs. ... I mean that it looks as though our rulers will have to make considerable use of falsehood and deception for the benefit of those they rule. And we said that all such falsehoods are useful as a form of drug.4

The specific deception recommended in this case is for the rulers to rig a lottery determining who will breed with whom. The people will believe that they are paired up on a random basis, but the results will in fact be covertly dictated by the rulers. This example is fairly typical.5 In sum:

This is what we must practice in peacetime, right from childhood--the exercise of authority over others and submission to them in turn. Freedom from control must be uncompromisingly eliminated from the life of all men, and of all the animals under their domination.6

It is perhaps not surprising that the application of Plato's views to the individual have been more widely embraced by succeeding generations than have his political ideas.

For Plato the individual soul is properly ruled by reason, logos, but logos for him is not simply calculation and thinking (although it is those, too). Logos includes innate memory of eternal and transcendental truths, as Socrates demonstrated when he elicited knowledge of geometry from an uneducated slave.7 The Platonic reverence for the logos comes to take on a kind of religious dimension:

Now we ought to think of the most sovereign part of our soul as god's gift to us, given to be our guiding spirit.8

This sentence from the Timaeus ties the doctrine of the logos to Plato's abundant and often fanciful references to the guardian spirit, or daimon. Although later Platonists did not make this same association, the notion of the guardian daimon has remained a source of fascination to this day.

From Plato we learn that each individual chooses his guardian daimon before birth.9 These daimons were originally crafted as seeds by the demiurge from the materials left over after the creation of the World Soul, and divided into a number equaling the number of stars in the heavens, with each one assigned by him to a particular star. They are immortal, and woven into mortal flesh -- specifically, into the head -- by the gods who are the children of the demiurge.10 These gods also open a channel from the lower body to the head, so that this seed may vent out through the body as semen, thereby producing the love of procreation.11 (Women, apparently, possess reason and guardian spirits only vicariously.) One nurtures one's daimon by bringing one's understanding into conformity with the harmonies and revolutions of the universe -- the study of philosophy and astronomy/astrology.12 This ultimately results in ‘that most excellent life offered to human kind by the gods,'13 a return to one's companion star to live happily in a way that agrees with one's character.14 If this is not accomplished in one's lifetime, one chooses another guardian daimon in the afterlife, and tries again.15
The most significant philosopher to follow Plato was Plotinus (204 -- 270 ev), "the founder of Neoplatonism." His grasp of Platonic doctrine was aided by his visionary experiences outside of the body.

Often I have woken up out of the body to my self and have entered into myself, going out from all other things; I have seen a beauty wonderfully great and felt assurance that then most of all I belonged to the better part; I have actually lived the best life and come to identity with the divine; and set firm in it I have come to that supreme actuality, setting myself above all else in the realm of Intellect. Then after that rest in the divine, when I have come down from Intellect to discursive reasoning, I am puzzled how I ever came down, and how my soul has come to be in the body when it is what it has shown itself to be by itself, even when it is in the body.16

This further informs his doctrine of the soul:

Now when the soul is without body it is in absolute control of itself and free, and outside the causation of the physical universe; but when it is brought into body it is no longer in all ways in control, as it forms part of an order with other things.17

In his treatise "On the Allotted Guardian Spirit" (Ennead III. 4), Plotinus attempted to reconcile the contradictions of Plato's teachings regarding the personal daimon. He was also concerned to make sense of an incident when an Egyptian priest attempted to conjure Plotinus' own guardian spirit to visible appearance. What appeared was not a daimon, as expected, but a god.18 Plotinus concluded that each of us has a "working principle," that is, the level of being that is dominant in our lives. Our guardian spirit is the level of being within us that is immediately above our working principle. However, if one disciplines oneself to constantly follow the dictates of that higher level, one becomes an entity of that order after death, and into the next life, continuing from life to life, until one "reaches the heights."

The summit of Platonic teachings regarding the daimon came from the Syrian Neoplatonist, Iamblicus (c. 240 -- c. 325 ev). For him, the daimon is derived, not from a particular star, but from the whole cosmos, and is established within us before birth. This daimon is to be discovered through acts of theurgy, or ritual and contemplation toward the divine.

There is, therefore, of each of us one peculiar presiding daemon... the invocation of him is effected through one God, who is the lord of daemons; who from the first defined to every one his peculiar daemon; and who, in sacred operations, unfolds to every one his proper daemon, according to his own proper will... Hence, when the peculiar daemon is present with each of us, he then unfolds the worship which is proper to be paid to him and his name, and likewise delivers the proper mode of invoking him.19

Theurgy then becomes, not only the means of discovering the guardian daimon, but also the way of responding to the presence of the daimon in our lives, and even of transcending it:

We also perform such things as he suggests to our intellect, and he continues to govern us till, through sacerdotal theurgy, we obtain a God for the inspective guardian and leader of the soul. For then the daemon either yields or delivers his government to a more excellent nature, or is subjected to him, as contributing to his guardianship, or in some other way is ministrant to him as to his lord.20

Such an advanced theurgist is described as being "superior to all law."21

In this way, Iamblicus became the first to clearly set down the doctrine of the higher genius as we know it today. This idea spread from him to the later Platonists, the alchemical tradition, and Islamic mysticism, and thence to the syncretic theurgic technology eventually known as High Magick.

1. Republic IV, 434d -- 441c.
2. Republic IV, 431a -- b.
3. Alcibiades, 135b, trans. D. S. Hutchinson.
4. Republic V, 459b -- c, trans. G. M. A. Grube, rev. C. D. C. Reeve.
5. For a thorough treatment of the totalitarian thread in Plato's work, see

Karl R. Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, volume 1 (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, rev. 1966), especially chapters 6 -- 9.
6. Laws, 942b, trans. Trevor J. Saunders.
7. Meno,, 82b -- 85b.
8. Timaeus, 90a, trans. Donald J. Zeyl.
9. Republic X, 617d.
10. Timaeus, 41c -- 42b.
11. Timaeus, 91a -- b.
12. Timaeus, 90a -- d.
13. Timaeus, 90d.
14. Timaeus, 42b.
15. Republic X, 617d -- 621b. The above summary could be faulted for
combining Plato's more rigorous reasoning with the speculations of the
Timaeus and Republic X. But these accounts were similarly
conflated by later Platonists. Cp. Albinus, The Platonic Doctrines
(Grand Rapids: Phanes Press, 1991), sec. 16.
16. Ennead IV. 8. 1., trans. A. H. Armstrong.
17. Ennead III. 1. 8.
18. Described in Porphyry's The Life of Plotinus, chapter 10.
19. De Mysteriis, 283-284, trans. Thomas Taylor.
20. De Mysteriis, 280.
21. De Mysteriis, 231.

Great Sea

O Great Sea endless in expanse, dark night
Of this soul's burden of ancient delight
All these rivers of my own thoughts so bright
In their own light drowned now beyond any sight
Their streams join course in your ocean of bliss
Down slope of time worked free of ego's blind
Distraction from your pure and present kiss
And whom is it to yourself you bind?
What gift of Grace prospers this wedding great?
Them only whose own truth burns clean of smoke
Them only are fit for their final fate
Beneath the shade of the sacred Oak
The Magus lay sore wounded with a spear
And took the Runes as Gnosis without fear
--Nathan W. Bjorge

Ra-Hoor-Khuit: God of Autopoiesis

or, Cognitive Science Walks Like an Egyptian

by Michael Sanborn

"O Ra, who art Heru-Khuti, the divine man-child, the heir of eternity, self-begotten and self-born..."
-- The Papyrus of Nekht

"O Thou who hast formulated Thy Father and made fertile Thy Mother!"
-- Invocation of Horus According to the Divine Vision of W. the Seer

The notion of the self-begotten being appears in many of the world's mystery traditions. Several of the Egyptian deities, including Tahuti, Maat, Neith, and Ra-Heru-Khuti as above, were described as self-created. Self-made beings are depicted in the Nag Hammadi Library, the Chaldean Oracles, and the Pistis Sophia.1 And of course, self-creation is perhaps the foremost attribute of Ra-Hoor-Khuit, the Lord of the Aeon, as transmitted by Aleister Crowley.
As it happens, one recent school of thought in cognitive science (the scientific study of the mind) places the concept of self-creation at the center of their model of knowing--and of life itself. This approach, called variously "autopoietic systems theory," "the Santiago school of cognition," or simply "autopoiesis," is based on work begun by Chilean biologist Humberto Maturana in the early 1960s and continued by Maturana and his student-turned-collegue Francisco Varela starting in the mid-60s. Varela proceeded to use this framework to make substantial breakthroughs in neurophysiology, immunology, and epistemology before his untimely death in 2001. But autopoietic theory continues to make its impact known in fields as diverse as social theory, mathematics, and artificial intelligence.
"Autopoiesis" means "self" (auto-) "creation" (poiesis). According to Maturana and Varela, self-creation is the defining characteristic of living entities.
To make this more clear: picture a homeostat, such as a thermostat in a household heater. A homeostat is a system designed to keep a variable, the temperature of a room in the case of the thermostat, within a certain range of values. The thermostat detects the room's temperature, and if it gets too high or too low, it turns on the heater or the air conditioner until the temperature is once again within the desired range.
Now picture another kind of homeostat. This time, the variable to be maintained is not a temperature, but the components of the homeostat itself. (Get a clear mental picture of that before reading further.) This autopoietic homeostat is in a continual state of self-production. If there is a disturbance in the environment that would tend to disrupt this self-production, the homeostat attempts to adjust itself in order to continue its cyclic functioning. This, in autopoietic theory, is characteristic of all living things on Earth. This circularity is, they claim, what we mean by "a living thing."
Not only that: Maturana and Varela assert that this kind of systemic adaptation is the essence of knowing. Knowing is not a prerogative of human beings, or of animals. In autopoietic theory, knowing is even characteristic of individual cells. This radical new definition of knowing is summarized by one of the central tenets of autopoiesis: "All knowing is doing, and all doing is knowing."
One of the main aspects of autopoietic theory to stand out for the Thelemite is the stance that all autopoietic systems are autonomous; they make their own laws. To understand this better, consider the human environment. Besides the elements that we interact with on a regular basis--trees, houses, other animals, etc.--there are wide ranges of things around us that form no part of our functional world, such as protozoa, cosmic rays, faint gravitational forces from distant stars, and so on. We see and hear within a particular range of frequencies. We only notice movement that is not too fast and not too slow. The same is true of the individual cell. There are a great many things going on in its environment. But it only responds to particular changes as relevant to its self-production. Does the environment determine which changes are responded to by the cell? No, this determination is made by the cell's own structure. This structure is the summation of the historical interactions between organism and environment. Unsuccessful responses to environmental change get weeded out. Successful responses mean that the organism can continue its self-production, and this self-production will include the capacity to make this successful response. But while the environment determines which responses survive, the environment never specifies the response. The response is the cell's own. This is due to the cell's operational closure.

Autopoietic systems exhibit operational closure because "their identity is specified by a network of dynamic processes whose effects do not leave that network."
--Dr. Randall Whitaker, Encyclopedia Autopoietica2

The development of this biologically-rooted autonomy is worked out with great detail and subtlety in the writings of Maturana and Varela. They provide a system of operational definitions whereby "Do what thou wilt" is seen to be the whole of both autopoiesis and cognition.

But how does this work at a level beyond that of an individual cell? In part, this involves groups of cells developing mutual and recurring interactions in the course of the preservation of their autopoiesis. It also involves the development of reproduction as one kind of structural adaptation for the preservation of autopoiesis. These two factors combine into an "adaptive strategy" whereby an organism is in one stage a single-celled creature, but then develops into a network of interdependent cells, each preserving their individual self-creation while providing also for the preservation of the entire network. Even today, each multicellular organism begins its life as a single cell. It might be said that a multicellular organism is a zygote's way of making more zygotes.
Another adaptive strategy with profound effects is the development of the nervous system. Of the many roles that different kinds of cells play in the multicellular organism, a certain variety comes to connect cell-clusters that can sense with cell-clusters that can move. These, when sufficiently specialized, are known as nerve cells. In advanced multicellular organisms (i.e., animals), these nerve cells form vast, intricate networks that allow for amazing ranges of behavior and adaptation.
But remember that each nerve cell is still simply acting to preserve its own autopoiesis through its interactions with neighboring cells. Contrary to old-fashioned models of the "brain-as-computer," there are no representations or messages being handed down from nerve-to-nerve. The nervous system, like the organism as a whole, has operational closure.

The nervous system, therefore, by its very architecture does not violate but enriches the operational closure that defines the autonomous nature of the living being.
-- Maturana and Varela, The Tree of Knowledge, p. 166

And all of these modes of adaptation are knowing. Multicellular functioning is knowing. Reproduction is knowing (just as it says in the Bible). And when multicellular organisms interact over time, forming societies, a new kind of knowing emerges: communication. But it's important to note that in autopoietic theory, this knowing is not about objective properties of the "world out there." Rather, each act of knowing is an adaptation of the organism to those changing conditions it selects out of the environment.

Maturana and Varela draw a parallel between evolution and cognition. Some evolutionary theorists speak in terms of a species attaining an "optimal fit" for their environment. But it's clear from the mechanics of natural selection that there's no notion of "optimal" involved. Genetic traits are inherited if they fit "well enough." Similarly, acts of knowing don't correspond to "facts out there" that are successfully grasped, but of adaptations that fit "well enough" to preserve autopoiesis.

Man is ignorant of the nature of his own being and powers. Even his idea of his limitations is based on experience of the past, and every step in his progress extends his empire. There is therefore no reason to assign theoretical limits to what he may be, or to what he may do.
-- Aleister Crowley, Magick in Theory and Practice3

An explanation is always a proposition that reformulates or recreates the observations of a phenomenon in a system of concepts acceptable to a group of people who share a criterion of validation. Magic, for instance, is as explanatory for those who accept it as science is for those who accept it.
-- Maturana and Varela, The Tree of Knowledge, p. 28

Here is a second area of overlap between autopoietic theory and Thelema. For Maturana and Varela, each act of knowing brings forth a world: the world we know is not a set of pre-established properties that we model with our minds, but the result of our engagement with select parts of the environment on an individual and species level. As scientists, they are then concerned with refining their research and its applicable technology. But as magicians, we see this as a reaffirmation of the foundation of magick itself. "It's our world? Let's hack it!"

It is not that the world is anything that we decide it is. It is that there is no one formulation of the world that corresponds to a singular reality. We are thus free to adopt alternative frameworks and refine them through continual interactions with the environment. "Success is thy proof." (AL III:42)
So far, we have discussed knowing as a property of all living systems, specialization and interdependence as a property of all multicellular systems, and touched briefly on communication as a property of all societies of multicellular systems. Communication here refers as much to birdsong as it does to human language. What are the properties that mark out the human realm as unique?
According to autopoietic theory, the great leap occurs when a system of communication is capable of making distinctions about the communications themselves. This, Maturana and Varela assert, is the essence of language. It enables the users of language to describe themselves and their situations. At this level, at last, what we conventionally think of as knowing emerges: a world of linguistic distinctions, the foremost of which is the self.
This observation has a curious implication for the notion of autonomy. As autopoietic organisms with nervous systems, our autonomy is structurally assured. But the self we identify with as part of our engagement with language is an expression of autonomy at the level of society. The self-concept that we usually think of as the autonomous agent, the observer, is completely co-emergent with others through our linguistic interactions.
This distinction between the world of embodied knowing and the domain of language invites comparison with the Platonic, Gnostic, and Hermetic doctrine of the Demiurge, who weaves the illusory world of ordinary experience while shielding us from a more fundamental reality. (The scenario of the Matrix trilogy isn't out of place here, either.)
Another interesting property of language as an adaptive strategy is that it preserves cognitive flexibility in individuals, since they need to maintain the ability to make linguistic distinctions. This means that there is a major distinction between the relationship of cells to organisms and the relationship of human beings to societies:

The organism restricts the individual creativity of its component unities, as these unities exist for that organism. The human social system amplifies the individual creativity of its components, as that system exists for these components [...] Organisms and human social systems, therefore, are opposite cases in the series of metasystems formed by the aggregation of cellular systems of any order.
-- Maturana and Varela, The Tree of Knowledge, p. 199

This in turn implies a biologically rooted principle of ethics. Our unique abilities as human beings depend on the capacity to exchange linguistic differences with others. When we exhibit "certainty," we not only mistakenly attribute concreteness to our linguistic constructs, we also negate our prerogative as a languaging entity to receive the distinctions held by those who disagree with us.

Biology also shows us that we can expand our cognitive domain. This arises through a novel experience brought forth through reasoning, through the encounter with a stranger, or, more directly, through the expression of a biological interpersonal congruence that lets us see the other person and open up for him room for existence beside us. This act is called love, or, if we prefer a milder expression, the acceptance of the other person beside us in our daily living.
-- Maturana and Varela, The Tree of Knowledge, p. 246

Now Love is the enkindling in ecstasy of Two that will to become One. [...] Here also is Nature monitor to them that seek Wisdom at her breast: for in the uniting of elements of opposite polarities is there a glory of heat, of light, and of electricity. Thus also in mankind do we behold the spiritual fruit of poetry and all genius [...]
-- Aleister Crowley, De Lege Libellum4

The individual is fundamentally autonomous. The world is a magical construction. Love is the law. In these ways--and others--a leading school of contemporary scientific thought independently confirms the tenets of Thelema. May this stand as a testimony to the depth of the insight gleaned by our Prophet.

Abra had Abra, indeed.


Bateson, Gregory. Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity, Dutton, New York, 1979.
Capra, Fritjof. The Web of Life, Anchor, New York, 1996.
Maturana, Humberto and Francisco Varela. Autopoeisis and Cognition, D. Reidel,

Dordrecht, Holland, 1980.
Maturana, Humberto and Francisco Varela. The Tree of Knowledge, Shambhala, Boston, 1987.
Varela, Francisco. Ethical Know-How: Action, Wisdom, and Cognition, Stanford
University Press, Stanford CA, 1999.
Varela, Francisco, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch. The Embodied Mind,
MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1991.

1. Nag Hammadi Library, III 4: 97, 14; X 1: 2, 19; and the name

"Autogenes" (self-begotten) in II 1. Chaldean Oracles, 107.
Pistis Sophia, Chapter 1.
2. Citing Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela,
The Tree of Knowledge (Boston: Shambhala, 1987/1992), p. 89.
3. Magick: Liber ABA, Book 4, part III (York Beach ME: Samuel Weiser, 1994/1997), p. 129.
4. The Equinox III:10 (New York: Thelema Publications, 1986), p. 67.

Tarot and the Psychic Body

by Hymenaeus Alpha

This previously unpublished essay by Grady L. McMurtry, Past Grand Master of O.T.O., was discovered in the editorial archives of The Magickal Link.

The paths of Initiation are many and varied. One of them is Tarot as it relates to the psychic body, i.e. to the chakras, the Tree of Life, the Buddhist Stupa, however we prefer to think about it. In 1961 I was working as an Administrative Analyst for the State of California in Sacramento. It was interesting enough, in its own way, but it could not keep me from my metaphysical turn of mind. One day, while I was sitting at my desk communing with the Great Computer which is the heart, or brain--or soul?--of such agencies, I had a psychic vision. My desk was facing east. On my left (the north) I became conscious of a dark gulf, in the midst of which blazed a single great star, in the conventionalized configuration of a Christmas star. Below this was a great black fortress, or city. It was the Vision of the City of Dreadful Night. I immediately turned to my typewriter on my right (the south) and started writing:

Beyond the Fortress of the Night
That rules the Gulfs of Avatar
My own transfigured soul burns bright
And glorious: A Deathless Star!

When I had finished I titled it, "The Star of the Magi." It was obviously a subjective reading of Atu xvii, the Aquarius card. Having done it so, it would occur to me that it would be a suitable exercise in psychic self-discipline to write one poem for each of the Major Arcana. It took me about ten months to do so, and by the time I had finished I was working for the Federal government in Washington, D.C. (Which is why I would not know either that Karl Germer was dead or that Aleister Crowley's library had been ripped off, until years later.) The completed cycle of twenty-two poems I titled The Angel and the Abyss, from Aleister Crowley's dictum that we really only have two tasks in any particular incarnation: (1) to achieve the Knowledge and Conversation of our Holy Guardian Angel, and, under the guidance of that divine instruction, (2) to essay the Adventure of the Abyss.
I will not say that all twenty-two poems are of uniform quality. Some I like and some I took just to get on with it. But I will say this: the exercise in itself was a fantastic initiatory experience. I was quite a different person when I finished from what I had been when I began. One test for the validity of an initiatory exercise, especially one lasting over a period of time, is whether or not one finds a break-point at which one goes through from here to there, or whatever. In this particular experience the break-point came with "Alien Star," the poem for Atu xviii, the Moon card. I was not involved with any of the pharmacopeia at the time. I was riding a purely psychic high. But the impression I got, astral or otherwise, was that I was, as it were, a skin-diver feeling my way along at the bottom of a pool of the deepest, blackest night it is possible to imagine. It was a profound experience. After that you will notice a distinct change in style as the imagery becomes more abstract and energy oriented, until it is practically exploding in bursts of radiation, as it were. In any case, each will find their own lessons in it, and it may act as a stimulus for others to do likewise. Or better.
-- July 1977 e.v.

Welcome to the premiere issue of The Thelema Community Calendar. Each month, we hope to bring you a variety of essays and offerings from the members of our community, as well as our schedule of classes and events, both at Thelema Lodge and elsewhere.
This month, we bid a fond and reverent farewell to the eighteen year run of The Thelema Lodge Calendar. Words cannot begin to express the depth of gratitude we all feel towards founder Bill Heidrick and the editor for the past decade, John Brunie, for their immense hard work, dedication, and unparalleled editorial standards.
Fortunately, the entire archive of back issues has been lovingly presevered at It is a rich legacy that rewards careful study.
Future issues of The Thelema Community Calendar will be mailed to O.T.O. members in the local area, and distributed in local bookstores. To make this possible, we will be making a limited amount of advertising space available to businesses offering products and services of interest to the Thelemic community. Please contact for rates and further information.
The Thelema Community Calendar will soon be available on the web in PDF format. Check our May issue for the address.

The viewpoints and opinions expressed herein are the responsibility of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of O.T.O. or its officers.

Classes and Events

Monday, April 5, 7:30PM: "What is Thelema?" An introductory lecture by Michael Sanborn, held at San Francisco State University, Humanities Building, Room 279. In partnership with the Association for the Study of Thelema:

Thursday, April 8, 8:00PM: The First Day of the Writing of The Book of the Law. A reading of the first chapter of The Book of the Law, in celebration of the hundredth anniversary of its reception. The reading will be followed by a pot-luck feast of champagne and and chocolate, so please bring what you can.

Friday, April 9, 8:00PM: The Second Day of the Writing of The Book of the Law. The anniversary festivities continue with a reading of the second chapter of The Book of the Law, and a pot-luck feast of cakes and fruit. Extra helpings gratefully accepted.

Saturday, April 10, 8:00PM: The Third Day of the Writing of The Book of the Law. Our centennial climax occurs with a reading of the third chapter of The Book of the Law, with the pot-luck feast on this occasion being a Mexican-style dinner. Guests are invited to bring entrees as well as drinks.

Monday, April 12, 8:00PM: Overview of the Section Two Reading List. A look back at the past ten years of the Section Two reading group, whose activities have spanned the whole of the second section of the reading list from Crowley's Magick in Theory and Practice and beyond.

Wednesday, April 14, 8:00PM: Aries Birthday Party. In honor of the Rams among us. Bring your own noisemakers and streamers.

Thursday, April 15, 7:30PM: Fundamentals of Magical Practice. This month, explore Liber 777, the definitive reference work of Golden Dawn and Thelemic qabalah, with host Gregory Peters. Special emphasis will be placed on the creation of talismans.

Wednesday, April 28, 8:00PM: Thelema Dialogue. An exploration of language, communication, and thought, based on the ideas of physicist David Bohm.

The letters O.T.O. stand for ORDO TEMPLI ORIENTIS --the Order of Oriental Templars, or Order of the Temple of the East. The O.T.O. is dedicated to securing the Liberty of the Individual, and his or her advancement in Light, Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, and Power. This is accomplished through Beauty, Courage, and Wit, on the Foundation of Universal Brotherhood. The O.T.O. is in sympathy with the traditional ideals of Freemasonry, and was the first of the Old Aeon orders to accept The Book of the Law.

Many aspirants to the Great Work have a genuine need for information, guidance, fellowship, or the opportunity to assist their fellow aspirants and serve humanity. Such aspirants will find welcome in the O.T.O.
The structure of the O.T.O., like that of Freemasonry and the ancient mystery schools, is based on a graded series of initiations, or Degrees. In these Degrees, the O.T.O. seeks to instruct the individual by allegory and symbol in the profound mysteries of Existence, and thereby to assist each to discover his or her own true Nature.
Every man and woman of full age, free, and of good report, has an indefeasible right to the introductory Degrees of the O.T.O.
The O.T.O. also includes the Gnostic Catholic Church (Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica), whose central public and private rite is "Liber XV," the Gnostic Mass.

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Thelema Lodge--the oldest continuously

operating lodge of the O.T.O.--has been

regularly performing "Liber XV," the

Gnostic Mass, in the San Francisco Bay

Area since 1977 e.v. Friends and guests

are invited to join us any Sunday evening

by 8:00 pm for the celebration, which

begins shortly after nightfall. If attending

for the first time, please call ahead and

speak with the lodgemaster for additional

information and directions to the temple.

Love is the law, love under will.

4/3/04OTO Initiations. Call to attend(510) 652-3171Thelema Ldg.
4/4/04Gnostic Mass 8:00PM Horus Temple(510) 652-3171Thelema Ldg.
4/5/04Full Moon in Libra 4:30PM
4/5/04What Is Thelema? lecture SFSU,
4/8/041st Day of the Writing of
The Book of the Law 8:00PM
In Horus Temple
(510) 652-3171Thelema Ldg.
4/9/042nd Day of the Writing of
The Book of the Law 8:00PM
In Horus Temple
(510) 652-3171Thelema Ldg.
4/10/043rd Day of the Writing of
The Book of the Law 8:00PM
In Horus Temple
(510) 652-3171Thelema Ldg.
4/11/04Gnostic Mass 8:00PM Horus Temple(510) 652-3171Thelema Ldg.
4/12/04Section II reading group with
Caitlin: Overview
8:00 PM in the library
(510) 652-3171Thelema Ldg.
4/14/04Aries birthday Party 8:00PM(510) 652-3171Thelema Ldg.
4/15/04Fundamentals of Magical Practice
in the library 7:30 PM
(510) 652-3171Thelema Ldg.
4/18/04Gnostic Mass 8:00PM Horus Temple(510) 652-3171Thelema Ldg.
4/19/04New Moon in Aries 6:21AM
Solar Eclipse
Sun enters Taurus 10:50AM
4/25/04Gnostic Mass 8:00PM Horus Temple(510) 652-3171Thelema Ldg.
4/28/04Thelema Dialogue in Horus Temple
(510) 652-3171Thelema Ldg.

The viewpoints and opinions expressed herein are the responsibility of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of OTO or its officers.

Thelema Lodge
Ordo Templi Orientis
P.O. Box 2303
Berkeley, CA 94702 USA

Phone: (510) 652-3171 (for events info and contact to Lodge)