Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
There are a few individuals who have qualms about promulgation of the Law of Thelema on the Internet, specifically through social media outlets such as Facebook. The basic argument against doing this is that promulgating on Facebook “dumbs down” the Law by just using a single quotation or image.
I understand this concern, and I agree to some extent. It would be better for people to read the source texts of Crowley’s writings rather than simply to click “Like” on an image on Facebook. That is a fairly unarguable point in itself, yet – within the context of the Internet – there are many reasons why this argument misses the point.
First of all, here are some relevant quotations from Crowley himself on promulgation:
- Crowley wrote to Frater Achad in June of 1916: “Observe: the business before the meetings is this: How shall we put into effect the Law of Thelema. We have the Law already; I don’t see that we need any more knowledge; but we need very badly the power to administer it. I think I’ve been making a fool of myself, thinking and talking and writing. What I need is efficiency in promulgation.”
- Crowley also wrote on August 28, 1936: “One thing I will say: that I do not expect anything to come of qabalistic speculations. I think that they may even be extremely mischievous in times like the present. Our sole business should be to use the Law to reconstruct the world from the chaos into which it is already half tumbled. That formula is a simple one, and requires no specialised training. The work requires the cooperation of tens of thousands of people who have never heard of the Qabalah, and they have to be addressed in language which they can understand.”
- Crowley also wrote to Grady McMurtry (Hymenaeus Alpha) in August of 1945: “It is necessary to broaden the scope of presentation of the Law of Thelema so that people of all types may be able to appreciate that particular part which they can understand. In this manner the thought processes of the majority will be so directed that all those who can Understand the Law will be given the opportunity to do so while at the same time providing a guide for those whose Understanding is incomplete.”
Sabazius X° has also written in Agape X:4, “While we have no duty to ‘convert,’ we do have a duty to disseminate the Law as widely as possible throughout human society, not just within specific sub-cultures, classes, and social groups.”
From these quotations, we can see that Crowley was interested in several things regarding promulgation of the Law:
- Crowley wanted more power and efficiency in spreading the Law.
- Crowley wanted the cooperation of tens of thousands of people who do not need to understand specialized things such as the Qabalah.
- Crowley wanted the Law to be presented in a way that people of all types can appreciate the parts of the Law that they can understand.
Therefore, good promulgation requires (1) a powerful medium (or diverse media) to spread the Law, (2) the ability to reach thousands of people, and (3) presentation in a simple and straightforward way.
I personally believe that the Internet is a perfect medium to fulfill all 3 of these requisites for good promulgation. Facebook in particular is currently a medium that allows many people to not only see bits and pieces of the Law through quotations and images, but it also allows individuals to easily share these things to further promulgation. For example, the image that heads this essay was seen by over 10,000 different individuals in a single posting. It (1) used a powerful medium of Facebook that (2) reached over 10,000 people and (3) was a quotation that most people, even without any knowledge of Thelema or more technical subjects such as Magick or Qabalah, could appreciate.
The potential reach of Facebook is actually fairly astonishing. To give an example, the “Aleister Crowley” Facebook page currently has an average weekly reach of around 45,000 individuals. That means that, in any given week, some post (whether text, link, video, or image) is seen on the News Feed of around 45,000 unique users. What other promulgation effort can reach 45,000 people every week? To continue with this example, any time that someone clicks “Like,” comments, or shares a post on the “Aleister Crowley” Facebook page, it can be seen by any of that person’s Facebook Friends. How many Friends of people who are “Fans” of this Facebook page are there? Over 24 million. Friends of these Fans can then click “Like,” comment, or share so the number of possible viewers is actually higher than 24 million. This is only a single Facebook Page (let alone all the others and people’s individual Facebook Profiles), and the numbers should, in my opinion, speak for themselves. Does it not say in The Book of the Law, “Success is your proof”? It is possible that this is, in fact, the largest and most widespread promulgation effort that Thelema has seen in its entire history.
What do these efforts do that are beneficial toward the end of promulgating the Law?
- Thousands of people will see content, whether a link to a full text or a quotation or whatever else, that they otherwise would not have seen or thought about.
- Thousands of people who have never heard about Thelema or Aleister Crowley are given a chance to see a small bit of what the Law is about.
- Thousands of people are given an opportunity to promulgate the Law themselves (who would often not do so otherwise) by spreading the content.
- Everyone can choose whether to follow these Facebook pages, and they can choose to comment or share on them. It is, in a way, the pinnacle of promulgation as opposed to proselytization. No one is being forced to do or see or listen to anything.
Is this a replacement for people reading the source materials, engaging in their local communities, doing the practices of Yoga and Magick, and generally integrating the Law into their lives? Of course not. But neither is any other form of outreach, including the most beautifully bound and articulately written book. It is just as likely for someone to read an entire book on Magick and never perform a ritual as it is for someone to share a quotation on Facebook and not really integrate it into their lives.
We have no power to force Thelema on anyone: it is the Work of each individual to study, understand, and integrate it into their lives and no amount of work by other people can ever replace that. It never has and it never will. These Internet promulgation efforts simply give more and more opportunities for individuals to spread the Law to “people of all types” as Crowley wanted. It is, in a way, even more powerful than books because it is free, efficient, allows people to perpetuate the ideas with little to no effort, and can reach many individuals who would not otherwise have even heard of Crowley or the Law of Liberty. Also – although it may come as a shock or an insult to many Thelemites – not everyone is an intellectual who has time to read long, obtuse essays or books. Whether from lack of education, interest, or proclivity, there are many people – in fact, I would say most people – who are not bibliophile eggheads like myself (and many current Thelemites). “The Law is for all,” and that does not mean only bibliophile eggheads.
Some people are concerned whether these Internet promulgation efforts have led to increased initiates at the local OTO body or even more Thelemites. At the core of this is a concern as to how much people are really integrating these ideas and putting them into practice. As I just said: it is the Work of each individual to study, understand, and integrate it into their lives and no amount of work by other people can ever replace that. More importantly, there is absolutely no way to ever know for sure. Aside from the fact that we don’t systematically ask every single new face at an event what specific things led to them showing up, there is also the fact that many people are not exactly sure, cannot remember, or do not even want to say (perhaps in part because of the chance of being met with sanctimoniousness!) There is also no way to know how these promulgation efforts affect existing members of organizations like OTO. I personally think that if some Facebook post got someone to think a little bit about Thelema that day, even if it is only for a few moments, then that is better than them not thinking about it. Perhaps they have never even encountered that particular link or quotation before. Further: Aside from organizations like OTO, there is absolutely no way to determine how this affects Thelemites (and non-Thelemites) who are not associated with any particular organization.
In short, as I’ve already said, there is absolutely no way to ever know sure. What we do know is the incredible extent to which these Internet promulgation efforts have reached people in some way or another, Thelemite and non-Thelemite alike. It is a certain fact that “tens of thousands of people” (just as Crowley wanted) are seeing this content when they otherwise would not have seen it. The Book of the Law says, “and to each man and woman that thou meetest, were it but to dine or to drink at them, it is the Law to give. Then they shall chance to abide in this bliss or no; it is no odds.” Really, should we be concerned about whether or not other people are truly engaging with the material anyhow? Are we not affording individuals a “chance to abide in this bliss or no” and, whether or not they do anything at all with it, “it is no odds”? Isn’t the insistence that individuals do a certain thing or act in a particular way a fundamental breach of acknowledging “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”?
The Book of the Law says, “Success is thy proof: argue not; convert not; talk not overmuch!” Let’s engage in a little thought experiment: Consider the difference between (a) an individual who, for example, creates an image with a quotation about the Law and spreads it on Facebook versus (b) an individual who criticizes this effort. Person A is creating an opportunity or chance for someone to hear about the Law, think about the Law, and share the Law without any attempt to convert anyone (“Success is thy proof”). Person B is, first of all, reactive – they are setting the causal principle of their actions outside of themselves by re-acting instead of acting. Person B is arguing rather than spreading the Law (“argue not”), trying to enforce and impose their standard of how to behave as “a real Thelemite” on others (“convert not”), and are spending time and energy chastising others (“talk not overmuch”) instead creating their own material that would, obviously, be so much better. If 10,000 people see something about Thelema because of the posting of an image, how many people are really being reached through criticizing it?
While constructive criticism is always beneficial to honing the efficiency of an approach, there is a lot of criticism that is simply emotional and reactive (i.e. not constructive). There seem to be some people who, whether consciously or not, want to keep Thelema as a cloistered, elitist, and tiny clique. That is their prerogative – Do what thou wilt, of course – but I believe that I, along with tens of thousands of other people, are doing a lot of substantial work to spread the Law of Thelema to the rest of the world in accordance with the attitude of the Prophet (as seen in the quotations above). “The Law is for all” after all, and I say: If we truly believe that Thelema is the Law of Liberty – the Key to our evolution as individuals and a species – we should give as many people as possible the “chance to abide in this bliss or no.”
Love is the law, love under will.