Law of Thelema
Issued by Order:
BAPHOMET XI O.T.O. HIBERNIAE IONAE ET OMNIUM BRITANNIARUM REX SUMMUS
An Epistle written to Professor L B K who also himself waited for the New
Aeon, concerning the O.T.O. and its solution of divers problems of Human
Society, particularly those concerning Property, and now reprinted for
My Dear Sir,
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
I was glad to receive your letter of inquiry with regard to the Message of
the Master Therion.
It struck you naturally enough that on the surface there is little
distinction between the New Law and the canon of Anarchy; and you ask, "How
is the Law to be fulfilled in the case of two boys who want to eat the same
orange?" But since only one boy (at most) can eat the orange, it is evident
that one of them is mistaken in supposing that it is essential to his Will
to eat it. The question is to be decided in the good old way by fighting for
it. All that we ask is that the fighting should be done chivalrously, with
respect to the courage of the vanquished. "As brothers fight ye!" In other
words, there is only this difference from our present state of society, that
manners are improved. There are many persons who are naturally slaves, who
have no stomach to fight, who tamely yield all to any one strong enough to
take it. These persons cannot accept the Law. This also is understood and
provided for in The Book of the Law: "The slaves shall serve." But it is
possible for any apparent slave to prove his mastery by fighting his
oppressors, even as now; but he has this additional chance in our system,
that his conduct will be watched with kindly eye by our authorities, and his
prowess rewarded by admission to the ranks of the master-class. Also, he will
be given fair play.
You may now ask how such arrangements are possible. There is only one
solution to this great problem. It has always been admitted that the ideal
form of government is that of a "benevolent despot," and despotisms have only
fallen because it is impossible in practice to assure the goodwill of those
in power. The rules of chivalry, and those of Bushido in the East, gave the
best chance to develop rulers of the desired type. Chivalry failed
principally because it was confronted with new problems; to-day we know
perfectly what those problems were, and are able to solve them. It is
generally understood by all men of education that the general welfare is
necessary to the highest development of the particular; and the troubles of
America are in great part due to the fact that the men in power are often
utterly devoid of all general education.
I would call your attention to the fact that many monastic orders, both in
Asia and in Europe, have succeeded in surviving all changes of government,
and in securing pleasant and useful lives for their members. But this has
been possible only because restricted life was enjoined. However, there were
orders of military monks, like the Templars, who grew and prospered
exceedingly. You recall that the Order of the Temple was only overthrown by
a treacherous coup d'etat on the part of a King and of a Pope who saw their
reactionary, obscurantist, and tyrannical programme menaced by those knights
who did not scruple to add the wisdom of the East to their own large
interpretation of Christianity, and who represented in that time a movement
towards the light of learning and of science, which has been brought to
fruition in our own times by the labours of the Orientalists from
Von-Hammer-Purgstall and Sir William Jones to Professor Rhys Davids and
Madame Blavatsky, to say nothing of such philosophers as Schopenhauer, on the
one hand; and by the heroic efforts of Darwin, Huxley, Tyndall, and Spencer,
on the other.
I have no sympathy with those who cry out against property, as if what all
men desire were of necessity evil; the natural instinct of every man is to
own, and while man remains in this mood, attempts to destroy property must
not only be nugatory, but deleterious to the community. There is no outcry
against the rights of property where wisdom and kindness administer it. The
average man is not so unreasonable as the demagogue, for his selfish ends,
pretends to be. The great nobles of all time have usually been able to create
a happy family of their dependents, and unflinching loyalty and devotion have
been their reward. The secret has been principally this, that they considered
themselves noble as well in nature as in name, and thought it foul shame to
themselves if any retainer met unneccessary misfortune. The upstart of to-day
lacks this feeling; he must try constantly to prove his superiority by
exhibiting his power; and harshness is his only weapon. In any society where
each person has his allotted place, and that a place with its own special
honour, mutual respect and self-respect are born. Every man is in his own way
a king, or at least heir to some kingdom. We have many examples of such
society to-day, notably universities and all associations of sport. No. 5 in
the Harvard crew does not turn round in the middle of the race and reproach
No. 4 for being merely No. 4; nor do the pitcher and catcher of a crack
baseball nine revile each other because their tasks are different. It is to
be noted that wherever team-work is necessary social tolerance is an
essential. The common soldier is invested with a uniform as well as his
officer, and in any properly trained army he is taught his own canons of
honour and self-respect. This feeling, more than mere discipline or the
possession of weapons, makes the soldier more than a match morally for a man
not so clothed in proper reverence for himself and his profession.
University men who have passed through some crisis of hardship or temptation
have often told me that the backbone of their endurance was the "old shop."
Much of this is evidently felt by those who talk of re-establishing the old
trade guilds. But I fear I digress.
I have, however, now placed before you the main points of my thesis. We need
to extend to the whole of society the peculiar feeling which obtains in our
most successful institutions, such as the services, the universities, the
clubs. Heaven and hell are states of mind; and if the devil be really proud,
his hell can hurt him little.
It is this, then, that I desire to emphasize: those who accept the New Law,
the Law of the Aeon of Horus, the crowned and conquering child who replaces
in our theogony the suffering and despairing victim of destiny, the Law of
Thelema, which is Do What Thou Wilt, those who accept it (I say) feel
themselves immediately to be kings and queens. "Every man and every woman is
a star" is the first statement of The Book of the Law. In the pamphlet, The
Law of Liberty, this theme is embroidered with considerable care, and I will
not trouble you with further quotation.
You will say swiftly that the heavenly state of mind thus induced will be
hard put to it to endure hunger and cold. The thought occurred also to our
founder, and I will endeavour to put before you the skeleton of his plan to
avert such misfortune (or at least such ordeal) from his adherents.
In the first place he availed himself of a certain organization of which he
was offered the control, namely, the O.T.O. This great Order accepted the Law
immediately, and was justified by the sudden and great revival of its
activities. The Law was given to our founder twelve years ago; the O.T.O.
came into his hands eight years later, in the vulgar year 1912. It must not
be supposed that he was idle during the former period; but he was very young,
and had no idea of taking practical measures to extend the Dominion of the
Law: he pursued his studies.
However, with the sudden growth of the O.T.O. from 1912 E.V. onward, he began
to perceive a method of putting the Law into general practice, of making it
possible for men and women to live in accordance with the precepts laid down
in The Book of the Law, and to accomplish their wills; I do not say to
gratify their passing fancies, but to do that for which they were intended
by their own high destiny. For in this universe, since it is in equilibrium
and the sum total of its energies is therefore zero, every force therein is
equal and opposite to the resultant of all the other forces combined. The Ego
is therefore always exactly equal to the Non-Ego, and the destruction of an
atom of helium would be as catastrophic to the conservation of matter and
energy as if a million spheres were blotted into annihilation by the will of
God. I am well aware that from this point you could draw me subtly over the
tiger-trap of the Freewill Controversy; you would make it difficult for me
even to say that it is better to fulfil one's destiny consciously and
joyously than like a stone; but I am on my guard. I will return to plain
politics and common sense.
Our Founder, then, when he thought over this matter from a purely practical
standpoint, remembered those institutions with which he was familiar, which
flourished. He bethought himself of monasteries like Monsalvat, of
universities like Cambridge, of golf clubs like Hoylake, of social clubs like
the Cocoa-Tree, of co-operative societies, and, having sojourned in America,
of Trusts. In his mind he expanded each of these to its n power, he blended
them like the skilled chemist that he was, he considered their excellences
and their limitations; in a word, he meditated profoundly upon the whole
subject, and he concluded with the vision of a perfect society.
He saw all men free, all men wealthy, all men respected; and he planted the
seed of his Utopia by handing over his own house to the O.T.O., the
organization which should operate his plan, under certain conditions. What
he had foreseen occurred; he had possessed one house; by surrendering it he
became owner of a thousand houses. He gave up the world, and found it at his
Eliphaz Levi, the great magician of the middle of the last century, whose
philosophy made possible the extraordinary outburst of literature in France
in the fifties and sixties by its doctrine of the self-sufficiency of Art
("A fine style is an aureole of holiness" is one phrase of his), prophesies
of the Messiah in a remarkable passage. It will be seen that our founder,
born as he was to the purple, has fulfilled it.
I have not the volume at my side, living as I am this hermit life in New
Hampshire, but its gist is that Kings and Popes have not power to redeem the
world because they surround themselves with splendour and dignity. They
possess all that other men desire, and therefore their motives are suspect.
If any person of position, says Levi, insists upon living a life of hardship
and inconvenience when he could do otherwise, then men will trust him, and
he will be able to execute his projects for the general good of the
commonwealth. But he must naturally be careful not to relax his austerities
as his power increases. Make power and splendour incompatible, and the social
problem is solved.
"Who is that ragged man gnawing a dry crust by yonder cabin?" "That is the
President of the Republic." Where honour is the only possible good to be
gained by the exercise of power, the man in power will strive only for
The above is an extreme case; no one need go so far nowadays; and it is
important that the President should have been used to terrapin and becasse
flambe before he went into politics.
You will ask how this operated, and how the system inaugurated by him works.
It is simple. Authority and prestige in the Order are absolute, but while the
lower grades give increase of privilege, the higher give increase of service.
Power in the Order depends, therefore, directly on the willingness to aid
others. Tolerance also is taught in the higher grades; so that no man can be
even an Inspector of the Order unless he be equally well disposed to all
classes of opinion. You may have six wives or none; but if you have six, you
are required not to let them talk all at once, and if you have none, you are
required to refrain from boring other people with dithyrambs upon your own
virtue. This tolerance is taught by a peculiar course of instruction whose
nature it would be imprudent as well as impertinent to disclose; I will ask
you to accept my word that it is efficient.
With this provision, it is easy to see that intolerance and snobbery are
impossible; for the example set by members of the universally respected
higher grades is against this. I may add that members are bound together by
participation in certain mysteries, which lead to a synthetic climax in which
a single secret is communicated whose nature is such as to set at rest for
ever all division on those fertile causes of quarrel, sex and religion. The
possession of this secret gives the members entitled to it such calm of
authority that the perfect respect which is their due never fails them.
Thus, then, you see brethren dwelling together in unity; and you wonder
whether the lust of possession may not cause division. On the contrary, this
matter has been the excellent cause of general prosperity.
In the majority of cases property is wasted. One has six houses; three remain
unlet. One has 20 percent of the stock of a certain company; and is frozen
out by the person with 51 percent.
There are a thousand dangers and drawbacks to the possession of this world's
goods which thin the hairs of those who cling to them.
In the O.T.O. all this trouble is avoided. Such property as any member of the
Order wills is handed over to the Great Officers either as a gift, or in
trust. In the latter case it is administered in the interest of the donor.
Property being thus pooled, immense economies are effected. One lawyer does
the work of fifty; house agents let houses instead of merely writing
misleading entries in books; the O.T.O. controls the company instead of
half-a-dozen isolated and impotent stockholders. Whatever the O.T.O. findeth
to do, it does with all its might; none dare oppose the power of a
corporation thus centralised, thus ramified. To become a member of the O.T.O.
is to hitch your wagon to a star.
But if you are poor? If you have no property? The O.T.O. still helps you.
There will always be unoccupied houses which you can tend rent-free; there
is certainty of employment, if you desire it, from other members. If you keep
a shop, you may be sure that O.T.O. members will be your customers; if you
are a doctor or a lawyer, they will be your clients. Are you sick? The other
members hasten to your bed to ask of what you are in need. Do you need
company? The Profess-House of the O.T.O. is open to you. Do you require a
loan? The Treasurer-General of the O.T.O. is empowered to advance to you,
without interest, up to the total amount of your fees and subscriptions. Are
you on a journey? You have the right to the hospitality of the Master of a
Lodge of the O.T.O. for three days in any one place. Are you anxious to
educate your children? The O.T.O. will fit them for the battle. Are you at
odds with a brother? The Grand Tribunal of the O.T.O. will arbitrate, free
of charge, between you. Are you moribund? You have the power to leave the
total amount that you have paid into the Treasury of the O.T.O. to whom you
will. Will your children be orphan? No; for they will be adopted if you wish
by the Master of your Lodge, or by the Grand Master of the O.T.O.
In short, there is no circumstance of life in which the O.T.O. is not both
sword and shield.
You wonder? You reply that this can only be by generosity, by divine charity
of the high toward the low, of the rich toward the poor, of the great toward
the small? You are a thousand times right; you have understood the secret of
That such qualities can flourish in an extended community may surprise so
eminent and so profound a student of humanity as yourself; yet examples
abound of practices the most unnatural and repugnant to mankind which have
continued through centuries. I need not remind you of Jaganath and of the
priests of Attis, for extreme cases.
A fortiori, then, it must be possible to train men to independence, to
tolerance, to nobility of character, and to good manners, and this is done
in the O.T.O. by certain very efficacious methods which (for I will not risk
further wearying you) I will not describe. Besides, they are secret. But
beyond them is the supreme incentive; advancement in the Order depends almost
entirely on the possession of such qualities, and is impossible without it.
Power being the main desire of man, it is only necessary so to condition its
possession that it be not abused.
Wealth is of no account in the O.T.O. Above a certain grade all realisable
property, with certain obvious exceptionsthings in daily use, and the
likemust be vested in the O.T.O. Property may be enjoyed in accordance with
the dignity of the adept of such grade, but he cannot leave it idle or
sequestrate it from the common good. He may travel, for instance, as a
railway magnate travels; but he cannot injure the commonwealth by setting his
private car athwart the four main lines.
Even intellectual eminence and executive ability are at a certain discount
in the Order. Work is invariably found for persons possessing these
qualifications, and they attain high status and renown for their reward; but
not advancement in the Order, unless they exhibit a talent for government,
and this will be exhibited far more by nobility of character, firmness and
suavity, tact and dignity, high honour and good manners, those qualities (in
short) which are, in the best minds, natural predicates of the word
gentleman. The knowledge of this fact not only inspires confidence in the
younger members, but induces them to emulate their seniors.
In order to appreciate the actual working of the system, it is necessary to
visit our Profess-Houses. (It is hoped that some will shortly be established
in the United States of America.) Some are like the castles of mediaeval
barons, some are simple cottages; the same spirit rules in all. It is that
of perfect hospitality. Each one is free to do as he will; and the luxury of
this enjoyment is such that he becomes careful to avoid disturbance of the
equal right of others. Yet, the authority of the Abbot of the House being
supreme, any failure to observe this rule is met with appropriate energy. The
case cannot really arise, unless circumstances are quite beyond the ordinary;
for the period of hospitality is strictly limited, and extensions depend upon
the goodwill of the Abbot. Naturally, as it takes all sorts to make a
worldand we rejoice in that diversity which makes our unity so exquisite a
miraclesome Profess-Houses will suit one person, some another. And birds of
a feather will learn to flock together. However, the well-being of the Order
and the study of its mysteries being at the heart of every member of the
Order, there is inevitably one common ground on which all may meet.
I fear that I have exhausted your patience with this letter, and I beg you
to excuse me. But as you know, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth
speaketh...you are perfectly right to retort that it need not speak so much!
I add no more, but our glad greeting to all men:
Love is the law, love under will.
I am, dear sir,
Yours in the Bonds of the Order,
J. B. MASON