A Path of Service (1/3)

“You great star, what would your happiness be had you not those for whom you shine?” 
—Saint Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Brethren of Sekhet-Maat,

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law

In the few months since being appointed lodge master I’ve gotten into a number of conversations about plans for the future and what my vision is for our lodge. Most of these conversations took place amid sanding drywall mud and scraping gummy adhesive off of vinyl flooring while we worked together building our new temple. Then during our first member meeting in our new space we had a group conversation about these topics. Now that the dust is settled from our move I’d like to dig into these ideas a bit more and do so in writing where people can read these missives at their leisure and hopefully provoke more discussion that further action.

When reflecting upon the central theme of the next step in the evolution of Sekhet-Maat I see an expansion upon our core value of service to humanity. In particular I think of service to our community here in Portland. Our order has aims of aiding humanity in many dimensions. OTO’s charge to promulgate the Law in the world is not principally for our benefit but for everyone’s. Thelema girds us as initiates and adherents, but it is also the overarching formula of the times, affecting even those who never have and never will hear the word “Thelema.”

Carrying on the tradition of the Templars of our namesake, our work is to guard pilgrims on their trek to the Holy Land. This sacred destination is not Jerusalem or Boleskine or even our own temple on which we’ve worked so hard in recent months. It is the temple whose walls will never crumble, whose doors will never open to the profane or impure. It is a temple that must be built even as it is discovered, each brick hewn, polished, and set by the one who wills to enter it.

The path of the pilgrim is fraught with dangers. As during the times when the original Templars guarded the Christians, this route toward the vision of the eternal self is beset with adversaries, many of whom would be as familiar to the medieval person as they are to us. There are thieves who will steal the travelers’ possessions, both material and psychic, robbing them of their supplies and, more desperately, of their attention. There are “purse-proud penniless ones that stand at the door of the tavern and prate of their feats of wine-bibbing,” who with vapid but voluble criticisms discourage the pilgrim from entering. There are thugs who fear the knowledge of themselves and, by extension, fear the devout who hunger for it. And then there are always charlatans and hucksters, who in general only attract the weak but in this also serve to cripple the strong with cynicism.

How we go about guarding the travelers varies considerably from our medieval antecedents. To some extent this is due to social and cultural differences in the two time periods, but principally it arises from the fundamental difference in the pilgrim’s journey in either situation. Those of long ago were going to a physical place, and ours today is a journey within. Most of today’s seekers do not face the threat of physical violence to the degree of their counterparts of almost a thousand years ago. The dangers facing us today tend to arise in more subtle ways, with more pervasive reach. We no longer spend the better part of our service offering physical protection and safe money transfer. Our “guarding” comes from providing inspiration through our rituals which we perform with “joy and beauty,” education in the esoteric tools and ethical principles which gird the aspirant in their work, and camaraderie to offer warmth and reprieve from what is ultimately a very lonely journey.

I should make a quick side note here to clarify that I do not mean to draw too sharp a distinction between the pilgrims and the knights. One may be (and if you’re reading this, likely are) both. What good can come of a knight who isn’t themselves also a pilgrim? And every pilgrim who pounds the dirt on their way to the Temple helps clear the thicket for the next who comes that way. But we as OTO initiates expressly pledge ourselves to this work as laid out in our founding documents.

However, unlike our medieval forebears we do not always know how to identify a pilgrim. They are not sent by a church we can see. They do not wear special clothes. They can’t be recognized by a particular form of prayer. Our charges may not even yet realize that they are pilgrims. So how do we fulfill our work in the absence of this knowledge? We must rely on expressing our values out in the world to serve as a beacon and offer gracious hospitality to those who manage to find our doors. More detail about what I think this means will follow in subsequent posts.

Love is the law, love under will.

(Continued in What it Means to Grow)