Last year, our first major public undertaking with The Thelemic Order was a series of celebratory readings for Thelemic Holy Season, an idea originally suggested by the College of Thelema spanning the time from the Vernal Equinox to the Three Days of the Writing of the Book of the Law. http://www.thelema.org/home/thelemic_holy_season.html, and opening on the 19th with the Prologue of the Unborn.
Over the next 22 days of the Thelemic Holy Season, starting on the 20th, in addition to a more robust series of online broadcasts and discussions of the various readings and daily attributions, we will be carrying a “Saint of the Day” feature. We feel that one way to make Thelema more accessible is to feature the lives of various individuals whose lives bear scrutiny. Humans are best at understanding things with a human face, and the Saints provide those faces.
Obviously the canon is that of the Gnostic Heterodox Church. We consider it to be “the canon” and have no interest in arguing with anyone else about it. Other Thelemic Groups may have their own canon of Saints, and given our heterodox nature we have no dispute with them. We feel the implication is clear from the catalog given by Crowley in Liber XV which includes “and many an holy bard,” that there were understood to be many more Saints than those whom happen to be catalogued in Liber XV. In fact Crowley had no especial concern with the enumeration and wrote of them as “a rhetorical flourish – little more.”
We understand that in the opening days of the new aeon there was, on several fronts, a tendency to rationalize, along several pseudo-magical axis, the exclusion of persons from the Canon based on gender. The most historically sound explanation for the omission of women is that the list was largely taken from the list of ancient members supposedly included in the constituent originating assemblies of the 1912 O.T.O. Manifesto, which stated that “The names of women members are never divulged.” Other painfully obtuse explanations justify the practice on the basis of a narrow understanding of the IX°. Whatever the historical case the end of perceived gender as a basis for the canon, or indeed for any element of Esoteric ritual, is long overdue to end.
Two things we have not obsessed over are Crowley’s personal opinion of an individual, and whether or not they were a Christian. By definition numerous Saints were Christian as was Rabelais, the philosophical founder of Thelema, and even in the modern day the practice of Christianity does not necessarily keep a person from being remarkable as a Gnostic Saint. Likewise Crowley’s opinion of individuals was often overly personal and narrow, motivated by the politics of the day, rather than the broad lens of history. We are not original constructionists, and Crowley may be a progenitor of Thelema, and his expressed philosophy does inform its initial practice, yet as someone said we are Thelemites, not “Crowleyites” and modern Thelema cannot weigh most issues by recourse to his personal preferences or disputes. His days and circumstances are very different than ours, and just as we respect that he was, for his day, quite progressive, we accept that time has moved on and his day is not ours.
In the future the naming of Saints will be the prerogative of the College, however individual Groups of TTO are free to name “local saints,” just as many European congregations reckoned canonization locally, often based on pre-Christian tradition. In this fashion Groups may have their own patrons without the necessity of appeal to some arbitrary authority. That said, they may petition the College to recognize any given saint, and as our model is inclusive rather than exclusive, reasonable petitions should be granted. The Three Days will see the announcement of the first College of Prelates of TTO, a first step on a long, well planned, path toward a leadership representative of, and elected by, the congregation or membership.
TTO takes the novel step of cataloging separately “Gnostic Saints” and “Patron Saints,” though all are held to be “Saints” in the spirit of the appeal to saints “of the true church of old time.” Patron saints are those entities such as Pan or Mentu. Crowley adhered strongly to the Euhemerist concept that all mythological tales can be attributed to some actual historical figure, which was highly progressive and anthropocentric for its day. The influences on Crowley in this regard can best be seen in the writing of Robert Graves, including The White Goddess. While any interpretation of mythology must allow for Euhemerist kernels, the model widely popularized by Graves and others has largely been rejected by scholars. By separating “Patron Saints,” and including figures such as Mentu, Pan, and Dionysus, we facilitate the addition of patron deities which in turn promotes the syncretism of Thelema, and allows the core symbolism of Thelema to be experienced through those figures whom our congregations already feel a kinship with, and investiture in.
We hope that you’ll join us for our public readings and discussions during the Holy Season, and that you’ll find a look at the EGH Canon both interesting and inspiring.