Anonymous asked: Privilege and oppression are big talking points on tumblr. Oftentimes, people following "you do your thing, I'll do mine" are accused of allowing those hierarchies to continue due to noninvolvement. ("if you aren't fighting the good fight, you're part of the problem." Kind of thinking)
How can one be a humanist while still respecting individual autonomy a la Thelema?
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Thelema is entirely a humanist philosophy. “Every man and every woman is a star” (AL I.3). This verse from Liber AL is one of its most famous. The entire philosophy is centered around individual humans discovering their unique will and following it into a life of authenticity; an existence of pure joy (AL II.9). Like other forms of existentialism, humans are at the very center.
The most humanistic act of any person is to not impede upon the freedom of the other to discover their will and to follow it. But, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Thelema espouses a doctrine of noninvolvement toward the structures of privilege and oppression. As with everything else, if the following of a person’s unique will leads them into conflict with a structure of privilege or oppression then they must contend with it.
If we take another look at the quote that was posted yesterday, from Magic Without Tears, we can gain a better understanding of this intersection between the doing of our will and the helping of another person. The first thing to note is how Crowley rightly identifies the role privilege plays in acts of charity. In his example, we see a privileged person using the power of that privilege (in the case, the power of wealth) to relieve themselves of their guilt at the expense of the other. The “charitable” person is thus using the less privileged person as a means to an end, namely to “go off with a glow of having done” a good deed. Crowley rightly calls this wrong as it dehumanizes the less privileged person.
Crowley instead recommends that the privilege person invite the other for lunch. In other words, to treat that person as a star; as an equal. Then, out of gratitude for the company, the privileged person picks up the check. The motivation for the act is shifted from the relieving of guilt to the honest desire to spend time with another human being. Now, it is possible for this to be done inauthentically. And, it is possible that the privileged person could still use the other as means to an end, in this case no longer being lonely. But, regardless of the ulterior motives of the privileged person, the other has been treating humanely.
Thelemites are under no obligations to confront, fight against or to dismantle structures of privilege and oppression. However, if a person’s True Will leads them into such challenges then they have no choice but to face them squarely. In cases of philanthropy, again, the Thelemite is under no obligations. But, if they do act then they should act in accordance with their True Will, from a place of authenticity, as one star greets another.
“Yet there are masked ones my sevants: it may be that yonder beggar is a King. A King may choose his garnet as he will: there is no certain test: but a beggar cannot hide his poverty. Beware therefore! Love all, lest perchance is a King concealed” (AL II.58c-59a)!
Love is the law, love under will.
*If you have a question about Thelema and Crowley’s philosophy that you would like answered, you may submit it here.