Golden Thread Camp: Unconference & Sagittarrium Art Show

This month’s Local Body Spotlight features Golden Thread Camp in the Valley of Pittsburgh, PA.

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Golden Thread is composed of three pillars.  One pillar is our M.·.M.·.M.·. program: performing and facilitating initiations into the Man of Earth degrees of Ordo Templi Orientis.  Another pillar is our EGC program: performing and facilitating the rituals and services of Ecclesia Gnostic Catholica.  The third pillar, our Middle Pillar, is our unique identity: the place where spreading the law of Thelema, practicing the Gnostic Mass, and offering initiations intersects with the unique culture of our geographic region and the needs of the individuals who form our community.  It is nothing short of our group identity.  And a strong identity is necessary for growth, stability, and the continued success of our ventures.  

The most important thing that we can do to support our Third Pillar is to empower our members to share their passions: whether that be leading a Yoga or meditation group, holding a class or roundtable on their favorite topic, sharing their favorite movie during our occult movie night, or having the opportunity to talk about their favorite book or graphic novel in our book club. We are a developing community, so many individuals have not have had the opportunity to share their unique ideas in a supportive environment.  The response to this approach has been powerful.  Our schedule is full of high-quality events led by people enthusiastic for the opportunity to share their unique knowledge, experience, and perspective.  This is one of my favorite parts of participating in a local body – watching members engage with their passions.  

We host two large annual events that highlight this dedication to individual creativity:  The Thelemic Unconference and The Sagittarrium Art Show.  

The Thelemic Unconference

The Thelemic Unconference is a unique event.  Unlike the typical conference where a set schedule is planned weeks or months in advance, the classes are developed at the beginning of the day by the participants themselves.  Attendees are encouraged to share their passion and knowledge on all Thelemic and Magick-based topics, using different teaching methods including roundtable discussions, hands on workshops, practice sessions, etc.  Classes or groups can range anywhere from five minutes to several hours. Attendees can also request a class or discussion on any topic. The format is liberating.  Think of it as an event full of only the conversations that happen between the classes at NOTOCON.  We just hosted our second annual Unconference and already have the third planned out.  The Thelemic Unconference is the result of the hard work and grace of Kashmira, who also serves as our Event Coordinator.  

Sagittarrium Art Show

Next, we are beginning to gear up for this fall’s Sagittarrium Art Show.  Last year we hosted this event in our previous Temple – a 400 square-foot storefront. (We have since moved to our current 2400 square foot Temple.)  We could not have anticipated the turnout.  For the duration of the event, our Temple was packed full of members, friends, and interested Pittsburghers.  We raised over a $1000 in profits for the Camp from selling prints and original pieces.  The show provided an artistic platform for members to show their work, offered inspiration the attendees, and also served to raised our profile.  It showed that Golden Thread had a part to play in the local art community.  We have expanded the scope of this year’s show to include performance such as dance, live music, poetry, and whatever else our artists dream up.  The Sagittarrium Art Show is brought to life by the dedication and passion of Courtney, who also serves as our Camp Secretary.  

Unique events such as these allow us to promulgate to the various cultural cliques in our geographic region.  A necessary step in order to establish a strong and lasting presence in the area.  

More details on these events are available on our website: goldenthread-oto.org.  Also check out our recent blog post “The Three Pillars of Golden Thread Camp” for more of our unique events in addition to an overview of our “Three Pillar” philosophy.  

Love is the law, love under will.

Terry M.

Master, Golden Thread Camp

 

Membership Incentives

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

In Liber CI:

44. The first and greatest of all privileges of a Brother is to be a Brother; to have accepted the Law, to have become free and independent, to have destroyed all fear, whether of custom, or of faith, or of other men, or of death itself. In other papers the joy and glory of those who have accepted The Book of the Law as the sole rule of life is largely, though never fully, explained; and we will not here recapitulate the same.”

In 2007 U.S.G.L. adopted a strategic plan for implementing our vision and mission along core Thelemic values. One objective was to support existing local body growth. One strategy for achieving this was to “Educate local body officers regarding use of local body membership incentives”. This task was assigned to the Kaaba Committee and for several years, this was offered at Kaaba Colloquium. It was eventually retired as the message seemed to have permeated our culture.

Yet this topic is important enough that we wish to bring attention to it again by posting it as an essay to the Electoral College blog.

Why did we need this? Because there is an ongoing initiative to encourage all members to belong to and support their local bodies. This is not about bringing in new members, who generally accept dues policies and training programs as part of our system, but rather retaining older members as we move in a more organized direction, with the ultimate goal of fulfilling Crowley’s vision for spreading the Law of Thelema, in addition to, or as part of, doing our own wills.

Individual leaders in the Order understand this, but how do we communicate this in such a way as to retain and interest those older members? Prior to the formation of U.S.G.L., most local bodies had no dues structure and once it started to become custom, it took a number of years to roll out. Some local bodies still have trouble collecting dues and some members who have been around for awhile, chafe at the need to pay dues and don’t think we need to leave the living rooms or aspire to greater visibility in society. We must therefore examine what motivates our members to bring them on board.

Those of you who have attended Treating Workers Well at Kaaba Colloquium know that we discuss one method to examine our membership’s motivations for service, defining three types of workers in our Order: lovers, barterers, and special interests.

Lovers will join the body because they are called to our Order, believe in its goals and trust the leadership, or simply because they take their oaths seriously. For some of us, it was enough that Frater Sabazius X° asked us to join our local bodies and pay dues. For other lovers, the success of the Order is enough.

Special interests can be enticed pretty easily by giving them permission to do the work they are called to in exchange for their name on the membership roll.

Barterers are another story and here we must be careful to treat them well and make them welcome, but not to encourage a value based relationship.

Three Main Types of O.T.O. Membership

  • Lay Affiliation for non initiates who have an interest in the E.G.C. and the work of the local body and want to support that work. Often pays a lesser fee in a dues structure.
  • Initiate Affiliation for those who live over 100 miles away who wish to support the work you are doing. If there is a local body in their area, hopefully they are belong to it.
    Minervals may fall into this affiliate category, since they are not full members of the Order until their Lustration and often pay less in dues.
  • Full Membership for those who wish to take an active and often vocal role in the running of the local body. This level should include all local initiates of the first degree or above. Members pay full fee in a dues structure, outside of hardship considerations.

Incentivizing O.T.O. Membership

We did an informal poll of 20 masters and past masters of highly developed Oases and Lodges, and they, like we, worried that incentivizing membership can lead to value based activity.

Membership should not be contingent on prizes and takeaways, this encourages members to ask “what am i getting for my money? Do I pay $500 (or more) per year to get a couple newsletters and admission to classes for free or an email with the body’s name in it?”

This is the wrong way to think about things. This comparison will always be unfavorable because the true benefits of membership are extrinsic to these incentives.

Do people pay $200 to PBS for a tote bag? No, they pay so they can support the mission of the Public Broadcasting Corporation and hear NPR every morning on the way to work. We pay dues to support the mission to help individuals to discover their true nature in a free society. The member’s question should never be “what do I get for my money”, but instead, “how can I help?”

However, there are certain benefits of belonging to a local body that can be emphaized by officers and which can be divided into two categories:

3 Tangibles and 8 Intangibles of O.T.O. Membership

Tangibles

  1. Access to and ability to participate in our Mysteries, such as the Initiations and Gnostic Masses (and certificates that mark these milestones)
  2. Member Discounts on event attendance and initiations such as at some local bodies where most events are free to members and special events. Or, for dues paying members, waiving the G.T.G. approved 20% add on to local initiation fees (due to the expense of doing them in your region)
  3. Access to the resources of the local body: having a temple, private temple use, library access, etc., also classes, lectures, workshops, seminars, and special events.

Intangibles

  1. Membership – This is extremely important all by itself. To be an accepted member of a group of people you have chosen is something that nearly all humans desire at some level. It is built into our psyches. One of the theories that attempts to explain the high rate of anger and depression in modern society cites the now common lack of a sense of community and membership.
  2.  Fulfilling the request of Grand Master Sabazius
  3. A voice in the community and the ability to help guide the direction of the local body.
  4. Fraternity – A support group of like-minded individuals at various places on the same initiatory path you are, who have experienced or are experiencing the same ordeals you are.
  5. The growth and transformative process catalyzed by our initiations.
  6. Hospitality- that warm, welcoming feeling of being at home, in the place where you belong. This is so important for new guests and members that we give a talk at Kaaba on this in the developing body track.
  7. Responsibility – what is the reward for great work? More work. Membership grants the right to serve in leadership or administrative roles, if qualified and so called.
  8. Recognition and appreciation for their work, whether it be a one-time task or an officer celebrating three years in their office, we all crave recognition for our work, even if that is not why we do the work.

The greatest incentive for membership is providing all comers with the best possible O.T.O. experience and fostering the pursuit of their individual will, while showing them that the furthering of the Order is essential to bringing about the freedom to pursue this to the greatest number of people.

Do you want to be a free man or woman standing in a herd of sheep or standing in the fellowship of other free men and women?

Love is the law, love under will.

Ararita Encampment

The following is an update from the Local Bodymaster, Brother Sacha, of ARARITA Encampment and is our featured Local Body Spotlight for May 2017.

Despite the sometimes thankless work that goes into running a body, the experience of running ARARITA Encampment has been the single most fulfilling thing I have done in my life. This is not a statement that I make lightly. My life has been full of excitement, from writing software for embedded heart monitors that help save patients’ lives to traveling to the remains of the Abbey of Thelema and doing ritual amidst art painted by our Prophet, among other things that discretion dictates I omit from the public record. Still, there is nothing quite like the feeling one gets in building a Brotherhood that has such a profound impact on the lives of its members, especially knowing the potential said Brotherhood has in one day transforming society on a massive scale.

As an Encampment, ARARITA is a young body and still has many trials to overcome before it blooms into its full potential. I think this sometimes causes others to underestimate us, and I completely understand. After all, countless previous camps have come and gone, many left buried in the sands of time, forgotten to all but a handful of former members. I feel most honored to count myself among a group of people that I think are worthy of breaking the so-called “Curse of San Diego,” being a term others before me have used to describe the inability of a body to really take off here.

My vision for ARARITA, to date, can be summed up in three phrases: “with business way,” “the Law is for all,” and “we take care of each other.” I am doing my best to embody each of these as best I can, in hopes of creating a sustained momentum that continues long after my time as Master comes to an end. I’d like to briefly outline what each of these phrases means to me, in the context of running ARARITA:

“with business way” – On the surface, this one may seem obvious. I strive to adopt a business-like attitude toward body operations. Yes, we are a fraternity, but we still need to pay the bills and draw in new members. This means having multiple streams of revenue, setting a monthly advertising budget along with a sophisticated marketing strategy, and encouraging innovation.

Innovation can be as simple as investigating emerging technologies and experimenting with their application to local body operations. I like what some members are doing with technologies like virtual reality and Periscope, for instance. One of my goals right now is to develop a simple SMS reminder service that allows our members to opt in to receive text messages notifying them of upcoming events, schedule changes, Mass roles for which they’ve signed up, etc.

We have only just recently begun enforcing regular dues payment, but with that accomplished we can finally expand our Facebook advertising strategy and begin experimenting with print ads and other options. In the past, Facebook has had a substantial impact on event attendance. With experimental targeting and sustained campaigns, I think we can take it to the next level.

One thing I believe very strongly is that there are many thousands of people out there looking for exactly what O.T.O. offers, without knowing that something like this exists. Without a strong promulgation campaign, those people will never come across us.

“the Law is for all” – In the context of running ARARITA, to me this means identifying the different needs and desires of our attendees and potential attendees. While Mass and initiations are core activities in O.T.O., people have repeatedly expressed that they appreciate the fact that we host regular classes. For some people, this is all they are looking for. By making classes available to them, we are able to encourage a proliferation of Thelemic thinking into society outside of O.T.O.. and bring in revenue from people who may otherwise not be interested in Mass or initiations.

Along a similar note, there are many people who are absolutely in love with the Mass and other ecclesiastical services, but who have no interest in pursuing initiation. We are currently experimenting with the idea that maybe initiation isn’t for everyone. While we certainly have no interest in discouraging people from initiating, we also want to make sure people who are exclusively interested in E.G.C. feel welcome returning as lifelong members of the laity.

Finally, I want to do everything I can to avoid unnecessary cliquishness and some of the problems that are associated with that. While there will always tend to be friend groups within a body, and obviously not everybody will like everybody else, I want to make sure that people of all stripes feel welcome coming by. Nobody should ever feel unwanted or like their advancement might be capped at a certain point because they aren’t friends with the right people, for example. Similarly, we should be reaching out to all kinds of people, not just people in our own subcultures.

“We take care of each other” – In my opinion, some of our fraternal bonds compel us to assist each other when difficulty strikes. The extent to which we are obligated to do so can be argued, but I want to build a culture in which our members know that we have each other’s backs.

I recently had the great honor of being able to assist one of our members in attaining freedom after he was abducted from his home by immigration officers and locked in a detention center for a month because of an expired piece of paper. Said member is bisexual and transgender, and we are now working to help him seek asylum in the United States.

While many of the benefits described in Liber 101 will never exist, or belong to the distant future, it is my opinion that our Prophet clearly envisioned an Order in which members took their obligations to their Sisters and Brothers very seriously. This vision seems to be reinforced in the Baptism ceremony, where sponsors agree to “accept, protect, and aid this Candidate as you would your own child.” I’d like to see a future in which this agreement is fully taken to heart.