This simple phrase, which appears at the opening of the Manifesto of the O.T.O., is often encountered as part of the introduction of many a formal letter within our Order. As often as we may have heard or read this phrase, how many of us have actually stopped to consider the implications of each of the three simple words contained therein.
Peace and Truth are easy enough. Everyone seems to understand the principles behind these words, even though we may not always put those principles into practice. Tolerance, on the other hand, seems to be a more nebulous quantity. Oh sure, we mostly know what it means in a literal sense, but would we actually recognize it if we saw it walking down the street or experienced it in our personal lives? I would like to dwell for a moment, if I may, on my own views regarding the significance of tolerance. Not that I am in any position to boast, mind you. In fact, I have found this article to be one of the most difficult I have written in the history of the Breeze. The overall concept and the feeling of what I wanted to say having been in the works for over six months, the precise words and ideas continued to elude my grasp.
Tolerance is defined in the The American Heritage Dictionary as: “the capacity for or practice of allowing or respecting the nature, beliefs, or behavior of others.” Considering how closely this echoes the principles of individual freedom professed by most Thelemites, it continues to amaze me how we continue to judge other persons or groups on the basis of whether their nature, beliefs, or behavior is akin to our own. It has become almost an instinctive reflex of casual conversation to look at those beliefs or customs which are different from our own and to label them as weird, mistaken, or (worse yet) “old Aeon.” Each of these labels is, of course, relative to the circumstances and the objectives of the other individual (and which of us really understands another individual’s circumstances and objectives). Besides, who is to say that someone else would not consider our beliefs and customs to be just as “weird” as we might consider theirs.
It is certainly a self-evident truth, within our particular system of belief, that nobody can expound the meaning of Thelema for any other individual. Everyone must discover how best to interpret Thelema in their own lives, according to their own True Wills. What I have to offer here is my own viewpoint, at this moment in time, with which you may each do as you Will.
Liber OZ expounds certain rights to which every individual is entitled. When we greet another Thelemite with the accolade “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law,” the other person (in this case, thou) is the explicit subject of the statement. In a way, what we are asserting by this greeting is that the only rights we have as individuals are those which are granted to us by our peers. In fact, part of the “oral tradition” surrounding “Liber OZ” holds that these rights are, in fact, reciprocal — that is, what rights we assume for ourselves we must, by definition, simultaneously grant to every other human being. This view is echoed in Crowley’s own comments in Duty (see the Winter 1990 issue of the Breeze) regarding crime and the rights of criminals.
This reciprocal interchange is often the most difficult aspect to deal with, yet it is by far the most important in terms of learning to live in accordance with the Law of Thelema. Indeed, every one of us has the right to define our own surroundings — to live in the way that we Will to do; to associate with only those persons with whom we happen to agree, if that be our Will. However, unless your Will is also to live as a hermit, a modicum of social indulgence is often necessary.
There is a fine line between what is right and wrong for ourselves and what is right and wrong in general. We have the right to disagree with each other. However, just as the other person has no right to try to convert you over to their opinion, so you also have no right to do likewise. There is no reason that we need to stop liking or respecting another person simply because we do not agree with their views. The infinite Body of Nuit has plenty of room for all sorts of opinions, beliefs, behaviors, and customs.
This reciprocal granting of rights should extend as well to the relationship of ourselves, as a group, with other groups. We cannot expect (or, in extreme cases, hope for) the Old Aeon religious establishments to die out — nor should we. In wishing ill on those who may want to wish us ill, we are simply buying into their enmity; by wishing ill on those who hold different beliefs or values from ourselves, we are (at best) guilty of projection. Everybody has a unique Will and every extant organization will continue to have its staunch adherents. The worst thing that could possibly occur would be to limit the free choice of future generations by doing away with the old establishments. We must do all we can to ensure our right to exist, as well as the right of all groups to exist. Any action beyond that infringes on the rights of the other groups. When an established group or belief has really become obsolete, it will delete itself from the pages of history.
Burning bridges seems to be inherent in modern human culture. When the Templars traveled to the area we currently call the Middle East (which was considered the Orient at the time), they actually learned from the Arab cultures they encountered. I am afraid that if we, as “Modern Templars,” were to visit the Holy Land today, we would spend much of our time convincing ourselves and our fellow “Thelemites” that the Mid-eastern cultures and religions were archaic or “Old Aeon.” We would project our ideology onto their culture instead of accepting their views and learning from them.
Any system of belief with which we have been in intimate contact for some period becomes an inseparable part of our past and, hence, of ourselves. Even if we have “graduated” (i.e.: ideologically departed) from a group, the influence of that system affects what we are as well as how we think. That influence cannot be erased. If the group in question had never existed, the ex-members of that group would not be the same individuals that they are today. If we seek to destroy the group once we have departed, we deprive those who come after us of ever reaching that stage which we have reached (at least via the same route). Even destructive groups and beliefs can serve some legitimate purpose (perhaps as lessons for those who are directed thereto by their own Wills). How presumptuous, therefore, to assume that any belief or group, no matter how ancient and timeworn, is no longer of use in the process of human evolution. Unless you are the last of your race, there will always be someone coming along behind you.
As I see it, the “New Aeon” represents a change in societal evolution. This evolution reflects the level of consciousness of the majority of the beings on the planet — perhaps even in the Universe. It is not, however, necessarily true that every being in the Universe will share that same level of consciousness. Each individual is exploring his own course through life and it may be that some are not yet ready to abandon the comforts of the past. Nor is that necessary. All we ask of anybody is “Peace, Tolerance, and Truth.” And with these three words we have indeed said a mouthful.
Those of us who have taken it upon ourselves to “spread” the Law of Thelema have an even greater responsibility. We must examine ourselves and our motives. We must ask whether we are to teach Thelema by example or by coercion? Can you really “pound” intolerance out of an individual and, in so doing, have you not also pounded it into yourself? It seems to me that “tolerance” is simply a question of balance. How can anyone who is at odds with another being possibly hope to achieve this balance?
As I ponder where we are and imagine where we are going — looking at this fledgling “New Aeon” — I am reminded of the child Pharoes of Egypt long ago. These children, by circumstances of birth and death beyond their control or comprehension, found themselves in charge of a society whose laws and customs they had yet to learn.
We, like these children, do not yet fully comprehend the nature of the entire Universe. Still, as guardians of the New Aeon, we are called upon to skillfully maneuver the Ship of Society through the waters of reality into the safe harbor of a new Age of Enlightenment. This is not always an easy task.
We are still children — lacking the Wisdom of Experience but filled with the Vitality of Youth. The faltering of the restrictive ideas of the past 2000+ years has left us suddenly in control of our own destinies. We can choose to spend our energies fighting among each other — or possibly in rebellion against the already faltering regime — or, we can concentrate our efforts in the exploration of new states of awareness and the forging of a new society.
Much of history’s greatest exploration and expansion grew out of the oppression which existed at the time. It is sometimes the yoke of restriction which drives the soul onward to greater heights. The toothpaste would not choose to exit the tube unless squeezed out from behind.
It is easy to single out oppressive forces and point at them and say “This is why I cannot…”. It is much harder to notice in what direction the oppression is leading one, to treat it as a “direct dealing of God with your Soul,” and to turn in that direction and plow ahead with all your might.
The great Buckaroo Banzai once said “The missing circuit is in your head.” We hear constantly of a “battle” for freedom — of war, fighting, and victory. The real paradox is that war and fighting are among those things which we should strive to be free from! Who is truly free in the midst of ideological battles and spiritual one-upmanship?
Where, then, is the War? Is it not within ourselves? There is an old Japanese saying, “Masakatsu agatsu” which means “True Victory is Victory over oneself.” We cannot truly be free from external superstition and oppression unless we are first free from the internal superstition and oppression which causes us to see others as different from and inferior to ourselves. The battle for freedom is waged from within — and the ammunition is called tolerance.
Conservatives, fighting to preserve often outdated social mores, tend to see liberals and leftists as “chaos mongers” who are out to uproot all that is good and moral. The uninformed often see Thelema as a “godless” or “chaotic” non-religion. In actual fact, we believe in a single central principle which is as dogmatic as any from the “old” Aeon. Do what thou wilt. We must not only be ready to smash the superstition and oppression from without our ranks which would seek to have us abolished. We must also smash the superstition and oppression within — those attitudes which would cause us to want to abolish other religions, or to alienate us from our fellows, simply because their beliefs do not conform to our standards of “enlightenment.” We must fight for the freedom of every individual with the same ferocity as the most staunch conservative would fight for his moral beliefs. And, we must carry this freedom beyond the initiation temple. Indeed, we are the “New Conservatives.”
This article was re-posted from my legacy web site. Originally published in the Baphomet Breeze (does anyone remember when? 1991 or 1992?).