On Teaching in the New Aeon
by Frater Y.V.
“You are all individuals!”
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
As Thelemites, we tend to perceive the world to be in a period of major social transition. Such times are bound to be characterized by passionate controversy over issues relating to continuity within social institutions. These issues are often expressed in terms of tradition, which represents the continuity between the past and the present; and education, which represents the continuity between the present and the future.
Our Order is a good example; it is a social and educational institution with its roots in tradition and its leaves and branches in the New Aeon. Because O.T.O. is the primary public representative of Thelema, it is important that these issues be carefully considered and resolved in accordance with our own Thelemic principles.
Crowley began this process within O.T.O. as well as within the A:.A:. In O.T.O., he substantially revised the initiation rituals and the Constitutional structure of the Order. In A:.A:., he eliminated most of the Outer Order altogether, drastically revised the remaining rituals, and completely revised the Order’s approach to teaching.
Crowley understood that teaching was of paramount importance in the New Aeon, not only in the subject matter being taught, but also in the methods used to teach. Teaching methods used in the Old Aeon were based on the formula of the Old Aeon, that of the Dying God; teaching methods used in the New Aeon must be revised in accordance with the Formula of the New Aeon, that of the Child.
Old Aeon education is characterized by the formula of the Dying God, that of self-sacrifice. Education in the Old Aeon was established to benefit the group: whether the group was Country, Society, or the Order, at the expense of the individual. The individual will must be sacrificed to the Great Will, the individual mind to the Group Mind. Old Aeon teaching methods are paternalistic, mechanical, and uniform in approach. The teacher represents the Father, the Authority, the focus of the group, the single source of all knowledge and truth. Knowledge is considered to emanate from the wise teacher for absorption by the ignorant student. The student must sacrifice his or her own unique perspective in order to be receptive to this knowledge, which is considered to be absolute and unchangeable. Adherence to a uniform program is critical. Progress is assessed by comparison with a standard which is applicable to all. Competition is encouraged as a means to defeat individuality and focus the students’ efforts toward standardized goals.
The student in an Old Aeon teaching system is considered to be a “Blank Slate,” upon which must be inscribed the wisdom and knowledge of the teacher. All “Blank Slates” are by nature identical, so all students should, in theory, receive the same teaching. Students are expected to accept what they are taught as simple fact. When students are examined, they are expected to provide the “correct answer” to each question, i.e., they are expected to conform to the established dogma. An answer which is not “correct” is necessarily “incorrect,” no matter how well thought out or how creative it may be. In such a system, the emphasis on standardization often leads to the trivialization of the teachings. A student finds him- or herself “jumping through hoops” in order to meet the minimum criteria for advancement. Individualized research may be permitted or even encouraged, but such work is usually considered “extra-curricular” and its results are usually ignored.
A New Aeon teaching system would follow the formula of the Child, that of exploration, experimentation, and growth. As education in the Old Aeon was viewed as a zero-sum game between the individual and the group, education in the New Aeon must recognize that stronger, more intelligent, more independent individuals make for a stronger, more intelligent and more independent group. The focus of education, therefore, would be on the individual.
Truth would be viewed in terms of personal experience. Rather than a paternalistic dispenser of knowledge, truth and judgement, the teacher would be viewed as a leader or guide; and as a facilitator or a catalyst; someone who encourages exploration and experimentation; someone who provides tools and opportunities for discovery; someone who provides interesting questions, not pat answers. Knowledge would be considered as growing from within the student, not as being inoculated by the teacher. The individualized, first-hand knowledge of each student would thus be treated as more valuable than “traditional” or “authoritative” second-hand instruction. Rather than evaluating student performance by gradation on uniform scales based on mythical ideals and norms, each student’s progress would be evaluated individually, by their efforts and contributions.
The student in a New Aeon teaching system would be considered to be a fountain of truth sealed by lack of experience. Students would be expected to question what they are taught, and to bring fresh perspectives to the teaching. When students were examined, they would be expected not only to demonstrate their acquisition of basic skills and knowledge, but also to demonstrate their development of such talents as self control, the ability to concentrate, adaptability to unfamiliar circumstances; and, most importantly, the ability to synthesize what they have learned with their own experience and energetically apply the results to create a meaningful contribution. Blind conformity to established dogmas would be considered laziness.
Unfortunately, established traditions possess a great deal of inertia, and significant effort is required to overturn them. Even now, many people are still more comfortable with the old ways of teaching. Many still seem unable to accept the idea that they already possess the truth within themselves. Many find it difficult to recognize the value of individual achievement unless it is measured against some “standard.” They seek organizations like O.T.O. and others in the hopes that they will receive a treasure map to the Holy Grail. They expect that they will somehow be transmuted into Adepts by the mysterious influence of the great occult powers of the Order they have joined. For these seekers, the first lesson must be “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”
As O.T.O. continues to develop, its teaching methods continue to develop as well. Crowley never established a formal teaching curriculum for O.T.O. We do not know if he ever intended to develop such a curriculum, or if he would, in fact, have been opposed to such a curriculum. However, we can be relatively certain that he would have disapproved of such a curriculum if it were based on Old Aeon teaching methods. For O.T.O. to adopt such methods might bring in more seekers, but it would be a betrayal of our Thelemic principles. It would reduce our Holy Order from its position in the vanguard of the New Aeon to that of just another of the many pompous purveyors of occult “secrets.” Let us leave them to their work, and proceed with ours.
Love is the law, love under will.
Original Publication Date: 1997
Updated: September 1999