What it Means to Grow (2/3)

“We have for the whole Beginning of Our Work, praise be eternally unto His Holy Name, the Fire of our Father the Sun. The inspiration is ours, and ours is the Law of Thelema that shall set the world ablaze.” —Khabs am Pekht

(Continued from A Path of Service)

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

Running as a constant loop through the subconscious of any O.T.O. lodge master is the question “How do we grow this lodge?” Even before my appointment as master I spent over a decade pondering this question and working on it from the perspective of my various roles. It is difficult to read more than a page or two from our various foundational documents and not find at least one admonition to grow the Order in size and prestige, to spread knowledge of Thelema throughout the world.

Each master has been oriented toward their own vision of what it means to grow the Order, and for the most part that translates to growing in membership. In my twelve years as an initiate of O.T.O. our community here in Portland has hovered somewhere between 35–50 active, dues-paying initiate members. We’ve hit the high a couple of times as well as the low. It’s not a monotonic graph by any stretch. More notably it’s overall a rather stable graph, not an increasing one. Try as we might throughout the years, that number has not gone up appreciably despite our various campaigns and almost constant endeavor to do so. This ceiling is not peculiar to Portland but appears to be a widespread phenomenon among O.T.O. lodges all over.

At this point I feel like I have to consider that that number is not going to go up. I’m a little embarrassed that it’s taken me this long to come to the conclusion that this is a possibility. It shouldn’t be a surprise: life as an initiate is very demanding. On a material level, the considerable expense of dues and fees and the demands on time and attention to participate in maintaining and cultivating our lodge go beyond “casual.” Intellectually, the education we are driven to put ourselves through requires years of involved study and practice if we are to make the most of these experiences and effectively connect with each other on a deeper level. And the spiritual and psychic demands placed on the initiate are not lightly referred to as “ordeals.”

Each of these demands raises the bar a little higher. People are very selective about which demands they will allow to be placed upon them. We should understand this and accept the fact that all but a few will choose to adopt other responsibilities. They’ll choose to instead use those resources to further their careers or their domestic lives or their art. Or they’ll choose to fritter it away on addiction and consumption, never really applying the “change” that accords with their will. Whatever the case, they will not choose a life as a Knight Monk of Thelema, as Crowley dubbed initiates.

Returning to growth, if this is the case that it’s not really an option to grow our lodge by materially increasing the number of initiates, what else can we mean by “grow”? Drawing from the analogy of my previous post, perhaps the question is not “How do we get more knights?” but “How do we serve more pilgrims?”

Love is the law, love under will.

(Continued in Just Showing Up Is Enough)