Frequently Asked Questions
Have a question? Hopefully we have an answer. As we receive questionsa about the Order, some silly, some serious, we attempt to answer them below
A collection of the most common questions we get asked, including the irreverent, or unsettling questions that people actually ask as well as the fluffy stuff that we want you to know like “how do I join?”
We are serious. That does not mean we spend most of our time wearing black robes, chanting and trying to act as sober and dark as possible, engaging in solemn candlelit rituals while avoiding laughter.
We’re fun, carnal, and passionate about what we do. We try to keep a sense of proportion and humor. We take safety and consent seriously without being buzzkills or downers.
In tone, most of our groups are more Dionysian than Apollonian.
We’ve felt for a long time that Thelema was badly represented in the larger magical, alternative-religion and spiritual world. These days Wicca and Satanism both seem to have a better, cooler, reputation than Thelema. A few extreme adherents of Thelema have spoken in defense of white supremacist rallies and ideals, and have adopted social stands we feel are inconsistent with Thelema, giving us all a bad name.
We’ve also watched as people of immense talent, including some very notable magical writers whose names you’d probably recognized, collided with the “top down” structure of other Thelemic Organizations and fell out of Thelema altogether.
Additionally, in a group which was organized by a queer person, we’ve seen difficulty in moving ahead for all queer people. Organized Thelema has at times seemed riddled with “gotchas” aimed at making sure that talented queer persons expend their energy “fighting the system,” instead of “changing the world.”
We’re out to change the world. The original adherents of Thelema had to guard themselves carefully because their group involved “sex magick,” which was considered indecent in most of the Western world. Those days are over and it’s the 21st century. Most adults, even legal authorities are perfectly capable of understanding that a group which promotes healthy human sexuality is not inherently perverse, nor do esoteric beliefs about the nature of human sexuality make it in any way likely that anyone will expose minors to inappropriate sexual content. To the extent there are places that people do not understand those things, its up to us to set a healthy example and teach them.
Thelema does not profit from hiding in the shadows, but should be out and proud.
You’ll want to check out The Government of the Order for a quick and easy explanation of exactly how TTO is run.
Thelema is syncretic. Over his lifetime, Crowley dealt with, and wrote about, dozens of systems of magical practice and spirituality, and found something of use in nearly all of them, except for the monolithic, mainstream, repressive, Christianity of his day.
We want to encourage our members to be active in many different activities. We intend to be a networking nexus and a clearinghouse for information, not a place where ideas go to suffocate.
A lot of our founding members are queer. Some of them are not. While we’re not an explicitly queer group, if the idea of hanging out with queer people, or socializing in an atmosphere where people may not presume heterosexuality as a precondition of interaction, makes you uncomfortable, this may not be the group for you. If you think anyone is going to try to make you be queer, that’s really not how any of this works.
In general we believe in most of our presentation of gender as a social construct and reject interpretations of Crowley’s writing, including the IX degree secrets, which are preconditioned on gender. That means respecting everyone’s gender and sexual identification.
We feel the historical record shows that Aleister Crowley was unambiguously queer, an outspoken advocate for the rights of queer people, and was persecuted heavily for his advocacy.
As Thelema moves into its second century our goal is to balance initial ideas and materials written by Crowley with the needs of a modern, growing, organization. There is no pleasing everyone.
Even in the broader esoteric community there is a lot of misunderstanding of Crowley that makes him seem weird or irrelevant.
Crowley was a racist
For some people the idea of a broader magical organization which does not make an iron fence around Crowley’s work and admit to nothing else is
For others who are suspicious of Crowley, while we hope many of them will give him a chance, seeing his name come up in quotes so often is going to be too much, and Thelema, at least under that name, may not be the best choice for them.
In order to have an organization which is run by the members, rather than the fiat of the leaders, everything needs to be spelled out. And if you write all the procedures out, they tend to be long. “Go Fish” is a simple game, but if you write out the rules, they take up a page.
The organization is simple and linear without a lot of dark, mysterious, “upper echelons.” But doing business in the open means putting all the rules in plain sight., not just the ones that concern members.
We’ve also chosen to try to place almost all our rules in one place, rather than in three or four different, confusing booklets or rules sets. This is to ensure they are easily available and everyone can know what they are.
You can keep track of our commitments under the timeline.
The easiest answer is that the founding Secretary General and other Officers (announcement Dec. 21) are people with public reputations, and wide circles of friends. Given the choice of adhering, as closely as possible to the plans, or becoming hated tyrants in front of everyone we know, we’ll choose to be honorable and respected rather than humiliating ourselves in front of the broadest possible audience.
Our goal is to balance creating a queer-friendly, progressive, branch of Thelema, which many people have told us they want, without the chaos and free for all of “start from zero.” We’re also aware this means a commitment to place our personal funds, reputations, energy and time behind the success of the organization, making sure it gets off the ground and doesn’t flounder. The provisional officers aren’t elected, but they are constitutional, and take very seriously their commitments to transparency, following the blueprint laid down, and fair dealing.
To this end we’ve already paid for incorporation, various related legal fees, and hotel deposits for our first national event in June 2020, and other events later in 2020 and 2021, TBA.
If there are reasons to change schedules, they will be discussed with the entire membership, but we consider the timetables firm commitments. If the organization grows quickly it is certainly possible to move timetables up, and none of us would mind being off the hook earlier
We’re not a fetish or kink group, and we don’t require or expect participation in ordeal rituals. We do however support all lifestyles and as might be expected in a group organized around principles of sex magick, many of our members are involved in aspects of kink, fetish. Many also aren’t.
TTO and Thelema are not “kink” activities. They are however sacred sexuality activities, and sacred sexuality falls under the “big tent” of alternative sexuality.
People active in Thelema in the 1970s and into the 90s will talk about the “bad old days,” a wild west time when all the things people worry about in sex cults actually occured. Sex could be a precondition of initiation. Drugs could be a precondition of initiation.
The same issues of coercion and irresponsibility were confronted by kink communities in the 1990s and later. “Straight” groups handle issues of coercion by repressing sexual expression. In an environment where no-one is allowed to be sexually expressive, inappropriate behavior is theoretically impossible.
Unfortunately in some Thelemic groups this became the default. In order not to “return to the bad old days,” the default was to forbid any sort of sexual expression. In practice that strategy fails and may actually empower bad actors, creating an atmosphere of taboo and secrecy which can be exploited by abusers and promotes malicious rumor mongering.
It is clearly not a viable strategy for any sex-magick group, particularly one based in Thelema. Thelema requires a transparent environment that allows for sexual expression, without shame, while preventing coercion or other violations of consent.
The alternative-sexuality and sacred sexuality world, which includes kink, gives us models for consent that have been developed through trial and error, in hundreds of thousands of real-world situations over three decades. In particular the National Coaliation for Sexual Freedom, NCSF, has done work in bringing together consent resources to enable people in complex social situations to navigate the realities of consent.
We feel that by “baking in,” modern principles of consent from the alternative sexuality and sacred sexuality communities, we can create a cultural ethos where the influence and presence of bad actors is heavily circumscribed.
There are two attitudes towards consent and safety. The most common one in many organizations is to depend on “common sense,” and never mention subjects which may be scary.
If your group deals with adult situations it is easy to become seized with a mortal terror of litigation or persecution that keeps you from mentioning minors except somewhere in a footnote, in hopes nobody will notice.
It is easy to not want to get into the morass of consent issues, and so just tiptoe around the situation and hope if violations happen they will go away on their own. No matter the personal cost to our members.
That’s not our approach. We put firm strong rules right up front. Yes they’re scary. We take issues like consent, zero tolerance for the abuse of minors and drag them out into the light. We’re not afraid to discuss them, in order to train our Masters in how to combat consent violations and ensure a safe environment for minors.
In terms of safety we want you to know how to deal with first aid, to create a safe location, to avoid fires and create safer party spaces. We’re about the nuts and bolts of real life.
If you are going to run a Group of TTO, we presume you already study and understand a fair amount about Magic. We don’t need to train you in that to lead a group We need you to pick up those skills that make it possible for you to ensure that no accidents ever happen.
Consent violations and most other abuses happen when everyone relies on “common sense,” and no one trains pro-actively to have a dialog about, and create, safe spaces.
We hope that most of the situations we provide resources to face never come up. But if they do, we want Masters in TTO to face them fearlessly, and be able to take strong, ethical, action, without confusion or hesitation.
Real life is scary. But we intend to insure our Leaders are prepared.
We cannot specifically advise you on your status in a different organization.
In general TTO expects its members to emerge as leaders and strong supporters in many other communities. TTO is a center for networking and resources, not a jealous partner worrying about losing attention or membership. We feel an organization should receive attention, time, and support because it is useful and serves needs, not because it discourages contact with those outside the organization.
We can state categorically that membership, ordination, leadership, or promotion of any other organization (excepting hate groups) is not a barrier to full participation in TTO from our perspective. It is our objective to be a resource for leaders throughout the alternative religious, magical, and related communities.
One does not have to participate in Rituals of the EGH, or undertake ordination as Clergy to be active in the Order General, or the Initiatory Arm.
Because the history of Thelema is entwined with that of the Ordo Templi Orientis, and because it is a well known Thelemic organization, specific notes regarding O.T.O. have been requested often enough to be a “frequently asked question.” There is no barrier on the part of TTO to members of O.T.O. joining or taking part in TTO.
- The Ordo Templi Orientis is a Thelemic organization headed internationally by Hymenaeus Beta, PO Box 7666, New York, NY 10116-7666, USA, and in the United States by U.S. Grand Lodge National Grand Master Sabazius X, P.O. Box 32, Riverside, CA 92502.
- The Thelemic Order is not associated with, nor does it claim in any way to be, assert the authority of, represent, or be descended from the O.T.O. The names Ordo Templi Orientis, O.T.O., and the O.T.O. Lamen design are registered trademarks of Ordo Templi Orientis as determined by a UK court case in 2008. The O.T.O. is the sole owner of the copyrights of Aleister Crowley, for his works still under copyright, as determined by court cases in 1985 in the US and 2002 in the UK. The Thelemic Order recognizes that under U.S. Law, the above corporation was found to be the legitimate successor to the O.T.O. under Aleister Crowley in US 9th Federal District Court in 1985.
- The Thelemic Order is neither a concordant or appendant order to the O.T.O. The Thelemic Order does not exclude current and active members of the O.T.O. from its membership.
The Thelemic Order is a 501(c)(3) Religious organization. While the EGH is specifically organized as a “Church” all of the TTO is a spiritual group, dedicated to Thelema, which, whatever one’s hair splitting regarding religion v. philosophy, meets and exceeds the legal qualifications to be considered a “faith.”
While all 501(c)(3) organizations are tax-exempt charities, only those with IRS Letters confirming their exemption are safe to consider tax-deductible donations.
The Thelemic Order has submitted an application to the IRS and will update this section as soon as we have obtained appropriate IRS documentation.
Deduction of Contributions
Direct contributions to a 501(c)(3) organization are theoretically tax deductible, though until the organization has appropriate IRS documentation it may be impossible to claim that deduction. Bear in mind however that if actual services or goods are received, only the portion which are a donation are deductible. For example if you purchase a shirt for $16 from TTO, and the shirt cost $10, only $6 is deductible.
“Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” TTO does not, as an organization, participate in, promote, or act on behalf of any candidate for elective public office. Note that no part of the IRS guidelines requires that TTO refrain from advocacy on social issues.
For More information:
Revenue Ruling 2007-41 (PDF) an IRS publication outlining “how churches, and all 501(c)(3) organizations, can stay within the law regarding the ban on political activity. Also, the ban by Congress is on political campaign activity regarding a candidate; churches and other 501(c)(3) organizations can engage in a limited amount of lobbying (including ballot measures) and advocate for or against issues that are in the political arena.” The IRS also has provided guidance regarding the difference between advocating for a candidate and advocating for legislation.
Easier to read:
Affiliate Groups acting under the TTO affiliation, explicitly at events advertised using the TTO affiliation. must adhere to the IRS guidelines. The members of TTO Affiliate Groups, when acting individually or under other sponsorship, are private individuals.
TTO is legally a church. There are philosophical debates as to whether or not Thelema is a religion, however there is no question that it meets the bar to be a “Church” as legally defined in the United States by the Internal Revenue Service:
- Distinct legal existence – Delaware incorporation
- Recognized creed and form of worship – Thelema, Mass, Magical Ritual
- Definite and distinct ecclesiastical government – EGH
- Formal code of doctrine and discipline – The Law of Thelema
- Distinct religious history – Thelema has a rich history, and we also share a history with other nonconformist religious movements.
- Organization of ordained ministers – EGH
- Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study – EGH
- Literature of its own – The Canon
- Established places of worship – EGH has an extensive system for establishing local groups.
- Regular congregations – EGH has an extensive system for establishing local groups.
- Regular religious services – EGH Temples perform regular public services
- Sunday schools for the religious instruction of the young – TTO promotes youth activities and growth, and encourages the organization of children’s educational activities and camps.
- Membership not associated with any other church or denomination – as a matter of our beliefs we do not prohibit our members from associating with any other denomination.
- Schools for the preparation of its members – like many other, smaller, denominations, TTO does not yet run its own schools, it does however provide its own educational materials.
- Rituals or Ceremonies of the EGH
- Rituals or Ceremonies of the Order General. Like many Religious groups, these are spiritual services led by lay-persons, and constitute the development of an important area of spiritual development.
- Initiations. Like many Religious groups, these are spiritual services led by lay-persons, and constitute the development of an important area of spiritual development.
We hold emphatically that as our doctrine is Thelema, and our study of magic is an element of Thelema considered necessary for spiritual perfection, the performance of magical ritual, and education about magic are religious activities in regards to the law.