I am a bit bored tonight, so since I have written both here and in Behutet on” Rabelaisian Thelema”, I thought I might offer a few thoughts regarding Sabazius’s comment on the same at Notocon this year. In his address he said:
We are a religious Order. Our religion is that of Thelema. Our Thelema is not some meaningless diversion like this so-called "Rabelaisian" Thelema—Saint Rabelais never intended his satirical, fictional device to serve as a practical blueprint for a real human society.
Now, he is entitled to his own opinion, and it is no longer any business of mine what the Order does or does not believe. But just for fun I would submit the following:
First: It was far braver for Rabelais to write about an Abbey of Thelema in the 1500's than it was for AC to actually start an Abbey of Thelema in the 20th century. Whether the man wanted to make it reality or not, and I would argue that Sabazius had no better insight into this than I do, he COULDNT do it, The church would simply not allow it.He would have been killed. As it was, only the influence of very powerful friends kept him being labeled a heretic after the Sorbonne and Catholic Church condemned and banned his books. Far from a simple “satirical and fictional device” his books were allegorical fiction, sending up a beacon of freedom amidst a stifling spiritual climate, and continuing the thread laid down by Colonna in the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, another book that is WAY more than fiction.
More important than the above however is that Rabelaisian Thelema isn’t really about Rabelais or his book. This fact is of course hard for gung-ho OTO types to understand because they are evolving Thelema to be just another religion adhering to one supreme book and one supreme prophet. In fact in the last five years, I have seen a dramatic increase in OTO members looking to mainstream churches as a template for their goals: replacing Christ with Crowley and the Bible with AC. This was particularly amusing when I read the cracks Sabazius made that "our Order must be firmly united to face the Slave Religions
Rabelais is a convenient name to show that Crowley borrowed his ideas and was just one thread in much wider fabric. Franscisco Colonna, PB Randolf, St Augustine, Meister Eckhart, Didymus Thomas, and countless others have articulated other threads, and the Rabelaisian Thelemite is free to explore them all precisely because there isn’t a vast corpus of work from one man claiming to be a prophet that supersedes everything that came before. Even more importantly they are free to articulate their own expressions of the current without having to keep it in line with “The Prophet” and the symbol set he spun.
A well known Thelemite once said to me in a journal post “what if I declared a Rabelaisian Buddhism, how would you feel about that?”. My reply was that if Rabelais articulated the four Noble truths 400 years before the Buddha, I would be thrilled to accept it. My reply and his question to me were of course, wiped from his journal…
The same Thelemite had criticized the movement saying: (paraphrase here) “Where are the writings? What has it produced? If I could see the kind of amazing libers that Crowley produced than I might take it seriously…”
My answer is two-fold. First, is that vast amounts of written material are NOT an indicator of Gnosis. Neither Buddha, nor Jesus, nor Mohammed left ANY written writings of their own. I don’t know what most Thelemites mystical experiences are like, but genuine visions and earth shattering mystical states don’t exactly leave me itching to write, Indeed what is often conveyed is so ineffable that its hard to write it down.
The second part of the answer is that Rabelaisian Thelemites, or Free-range Thelemites (a term Sam Webster recently shared with me) aren’t necessarily looking to crystallize something into a religion or an order with oodles of pompous pronouncements and manifestos declaring yet another new path. We have enough of those. Instead, free-range Thelemites seek to imbue the current into whatever they are in: be it Christianity, Buddhism, Hindusim, Masonry, or god-forbid Crowleyanity… which could use a good dose of it from time to time.