USGL is Opening

 

Priestess' Cup Under O.T.O. Lamen

 

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law

U.S.G.L. O.T.O. is OPEN!*  

*Subject to state and local law, and mandatory U.S.G.L. COVID guidelines.

ALL INITIATION AND GNOSTIC MASS requires a written proposal and  clearance from the U.S.G.L. COVID Response Team.

Fun fact: every single proposal submitted to the team has been accepted.

OTHER OUTDOOR EVENTS do NOT need advance clearance–but DO NEED to follow the U.S.G.L. COVID guidelines–to hold OUTDOOR events that are not initiations or Gnostic Mass. Need some ideas? Meet up at a cafe patio or outdoor beer garden. Practice yoga or meditation outdoors. Take your book club to the park. Go hiking or biking. Write an original ritual for outdoor performance (bonfire, anyone?). Celebrate the full moon, the summer solstice, or another feast for the times.

ALL INDOOR EVENTS require advance clearance, and the COVID Response Team is ready to help you plan a safe and successful event.

BREAKING NEWS ON FVPs! The CDC has recently released new advice on best practices for fully vaccinated people (F.V.P.), defined as those who had the final dose of their vaccine two or more weeks ago. In accordance with the news, U.S.G.L. has relaxed many of the requirements for F.V.P.-only events. In addition, the Local Body Master (or the High Priestess and Most Wise Sovereign, for Chapter-sponsored events) may now choose one of two options for OUTDOOR events: either (1) everyone wears a face mask, or (2) documented F.V.P.s only are not required to wear a face mask, all others wear face masks.

NEED MORE…?

…details? Find COVID protocols here: https://admin.oto-usa.org/covid19

…help with your proposal? Email planning@oto-usa.org

…ideas for outdoor events? Send an email to The Watering Hole the-watering-hole@oto-usa.org where Local Masters, Electors, and Mentors share ideas.

…recognition for your Local Body’s awesomeness during COVID? Tell planning@oto-usa.org to share your success via Agapé, future EC blog posts, and more.

…publicity for your Local Body’s public offerings–online and in-person? Email mackay@oto-usa.org to be added to the USGL Education Committee’s public events calendar.

…material for your outdoor class/discussion? Grab one of the USGL Education Committee’s outlines and class resources. Email education@oto-usa.org

Love is the Law, love under will.

11 Principles to Craft Your Local Body’s Social Media Strategy

Social media is constantly changing. It seems like every month there’s a new platform trending along with new standards and, of course, new memes. 

The purpose of this post is to empower you to navigate the trends and to make informed decisions about how to engage on social media, no matter what platform you choose. 

Rather than telling you exactly what to say or not say on social media, these 11 principles will help you create your own strategy that will allow the unique gifts of your local community to shine and attract loyal members. 

Principle #1: Start with Why

People aren’t interested in what we do so much as why we do it. 

As O.T.O. initiates and leaders, so much of our attention is focused on producing great Gnostic Masses, initiations, social events, and classes. But we do all these things for a higher purpose: the positive life change that occurs when people attend those Gnostic Masses, undergo those initiations, make positive connections at those events, and learn at those classes. 

It’s what all that great content allows them to go on to do and to be in their own lives that makes people loyal to us. That’s the glue that holds this organization together, and it’s the power that attracts new people to us.

So in everything we say, and in everything we do, we need to consider why we’re doing it. That’s as true of social media as it is of holding a fundraiser, affiliating with a local charity, or even celebrating a Gnostic Mass

Principle #2: Use social media to get people’s attention

The particular kind of positive life change O.T.O. brings to people depends in part upon our ability to get people to attend our events. In order to do that, we need to get their attention. The whole reason we’re on social media in the first place is because that’s where people’s attention is.

Of course you could stand on a street corner and hand out copies of Liber Oz, but that’s not going to be anywhere near as effective as being on social media, simply because the attention of more people is on social media than on any street corner. Social media also offers tools to target attention in certain ways.

The main difficulty we run into getting people’s attention on social media is that we’re competing with other groups and organizations to get their attention. When any of us goes on social media, we spend a lot of time scrolling past content. So an important component of any social media strategy is creating content that will stop a person from scrolling in order to give you their attention.

Principle #3: Repeat = Defeat

I don’t know about you, but I can be lazy when generating social media content. I find a format I like (a certain combination of images and words), and I “stamp off” a few variations on it. 

This is okay to a certain point, but when your content becomes repetitive, people tend to ignore it. How many of your own local body’s social media posts do you immediately recognize and ignore? 

Mix up your style. If your local body has a logo, do not use it on everything. That goes against received wisdom regarding brand recognition. Recognition can also mean something is familiar and safely ignored. 

One common way people break the pattern is to screencap something from one platform (like Twitter) and post it on another platform like Instagram or Facebook. When you see that Twitter format in a FB or IG feed, your brain immediately feels like something is off, so you stop and look.

Another really easy way to stop the scroll is to post pictures of people’s faces. Humans are social creatures. We have neurons in our brains dedicated to facial recognition. Pictures of people’s faces—especially smiling or interacting or expressing an emotion—are more likely to grab a person’s attention than a picture of an object. (USGL policy states you must get the express permission of any individual if you are going to post any recognizable image of them, not in the public domain, on any local body websites or social media pages.)

Principle #4: The 1 in 5 Rule

The main mistake O.T.O. local bodies make on social media is that they tend to use social media primarily for in-person event promotion. They’re trying to use it as a billboard.

The problem is that social media is not a billboard. Billboards are one-way communication. Social media is meant to be used for two-way or multiple-way communication. 

No more than 1 out of every 5 of your posts should be advertisements for in-person events. 4 out of every 5 posts should be content made specifically for social media. 

What we do in person is important and necessary. But think back to principle #1. As important and necessary as our in-person events are, they’re not the ultimate reason we exist. The ultimate reason we exist is to bring a certain kind of positive life change to people. We do that through the gift of the Law. 

In a normal year, we can bring that gift to people on a Sunday evening at Gnostic Mass. But come Monday morning, it’s not as though they stop needing or wanting that gift. 

Thelema isn’t just for Sundays. Thelema is for working through family conflict. Thelema is for important business decisions. Thelema is for tackling life’s frequent frustrations.

Thelema is a total life path. 

The whole reason we do Resh is to remind ourselves four times a day of the Great Work. The whole reason we say Will at every meal is to remind ourselves of the Great Work. 

We need to use social media to bring that spiritual message to people, not just because it’s our duty as O.T.O. to promulgate, but because that spiritual message is one of the most compelling things about us.

Principle #5: Start Meaningful Conversations

There are many ways to do this. 

One approach I used at my local body was to post a question twice a week. Some questions I asked were:

  • What’s a favorite memory you have from your childhood or adolescence of doing magick?
  • What’s your favorite video game of all time?
  • What are your favorite burger toppings?
  • What’s a familiar passage from our Holy Books you return to in times when you need inspiration?

I would usually put the question on a photo and post it to the Facebook page with the question also in the photo’s caption so those who are visually impaired could also easily access it.

These questions would often provoke dialogue not only among our community members but also between our community members and individuals who had been lurking at the edge. It was a fun way to bring people out of the woodwork.

As you can see from the examples, not all of the questions have an explicit spiritual focus.

This is important. Do we sit around only talking about magick and spirituality when we’re at O.T.O. events? Of course not. We talk about all kinds of stuff that’s important to us.

When I first started coming around to O.T.O. events, that people shared interests in common with me that had nothing at all to do with magick was a huge factor in my decision to initiate and to become a permanent member of the community.

The purpose of these questions is to stimulate dialogue that brings that human dimension to the foreground. You’re showing off one of the most compelling parts of your community. That’s not possible to do if the discussion is focused purely on spirituality (to say nothing if you’re only using social as a billboard).

Principle #6: Promote Spiritual Practice

Don’t just invite people to a Saturday evening ritual. Get them to do magick right where they are.

How much time do we waste scrolling endlessly through social media? How cool would it be to get someone to stop in the middle of that to have a meaningful experience, no matter how small? How beneficial would that be for them, and how much would it strengthen their positive feelings toward you?

There are a lot of different ways to do this. 

  • Right now, for the next minute, do a small, silent ritual to connect with your Holy Guardian Angel.
  • Spend the next 60 seconds reflecting on this passage from the Book of the Law: [insert passage here]
  • Make a calendar and cross off every day you remember to say Will at every meal.
  • Start a 30 day LBRP/Star Ruby/Resh/Will/etc challenge.

There are all sorts of things you can do. Use your imagination.

Principle #7: Tell your local body’s story

Again, our people are our strength. People don’t join O.T.O. so much as they join a local body, a local community of practitioners. 

Bring your people and your story to the forefront.

Instead of posting pictures of an altar from a ritual you did, post behind-the-scenes photos of setting up the ritual, of putting on the makeup, of setting up the lights, etc. Have the person who wrote the ritual do a short write-up on what inspired them to do it.

Instead of posting a picture of your Mass team posing together after the ritual, again, post pictures of people setting up, interacting, laughing, looking at one another (not the camera) and having a good time. 

If you had a successful fundraiser, don’t just post how much money you made. Talk about the work that went into it. Talk about the process that led you to want to do the fundraiser in the first place. 

Celebrate your successes, but celebrate the human dimension of those successes. Show the passion. Show the dedication. That’s powerfully attractive to people, and it makes our spirituality look more compelling.

Principle #8: Go deep, then go wide

Do not try to be active on every social media platform. There’s just no way to keep up, and you’re going to just end up copying content from one platform to another without any sensitivity for the strengths and weaknesses of individual platforms.

Pick one platform, and dedicate yourself to it for at least a year. Craft your strategy. Get a rhythm. Become comfortable with it.

If after a year you think it would benefit your local body—again, per principle #1, be sure to stop and have the conversation about why you’re doing what you do—then branch out into one additional platform.

Around 7 in 10 American adults are on Facebook, so Facebook is an obvious place to start. 

Different platforms attract different demographics. There seem to be a lot more young people on Instagram or TikTok. Depending upon who exactly you’re trying to attract, that could also influence your decisions. 

Principle #9: Go from public to private

If you are in local body leadership and have a meaningful interaction with a person on a public post, consider reaching out to that person privately to make a connection, either via direct message or by friending them.

Relationships are the foundation of what we do. It doesn’t matter how good your rituals or classes are. People aren’t going to want to remain part of a community if they can’t build meaningful relationships. 

If a member of your extended community says something in a public post to indicate they’re going through a hard time, consider reaching out to them. Don’t just wait until someone is initiated and paying local dues before you show concern for them. Put your magnanimity up front.

(Guys, you need to do this with other men, too. Not just women. Otherwise it gets weird.)

Principle #10: Document every win

We’re not doing this for lust of result. We’re doing this to bring attention to our innate gifts as Thelemic communities: to let who we are shine. 

That being said, if a conversation on social media leads to a person attending a first event, document it.

If your question about what topping people prefer on pizza leads to a fun Friday night movie and pizza party, write it down. (In fact tell the story on social media on Monday.)

If your 30 day LBRP challenge leads to someone taking baptism next month, document it.

I attended my first O.T.O. event the very same week they published their Gnostic Mass video. Vimeo isn’t really social media, but that was, generally speaking, a success stemming from a compelling online presence. 

Keep track of these things. Double down on what works.

Principle #11: Experiment

Make these principles the driving force of your social media activity for the next year. 

Forget about “likes”. Keep your focus on positive life change. Find ways to document that instead. That’s the real reason we’re here.

O.T.O. local bodies tend to be very small (fewer than 50 people). That can be a huge advantage. It’s much easier to push off in a completely new direction when you’re a small group. It makes it possible to experiment more.

Use that to your advantage. 

As we continue to navigate the greatest communications shift in 500 years, one factor must remain constant: our dedication to our highest purpose. 

The positive life transformation we bring to individuals through our events and through the friendships we form is our most powerful gift. 

My hope is that these principles empower you to use social media in a way which amplifies that gift for a broader audience and helps to sustain strong morale among current members.

Click here or the image below to download a digest version of these principles.

Master Selection Process

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

As previously announced, the Electoral College has recently adopted changes to its procedures for the selection and appointment of body masters.

At any time, any OTO member in good standing and of III° or higher may submit to the Electoral College a Mastership Volunteer Application to indicate their interest and willingness to serve as body master. The College will review all applications received and will keep them on file until a change of mastership is requested by the master or otherwise becomes necessary.

Masters who wish for the College to appoint a successor will continue to submit to the College an Application for Change of Mastership. This application has been revised to remove the section in which a designated successor is identified; that section has been superseded by the separate Mastership Volunteer Application.

Upon receipt of an Application for Change of Mastership, the College will consider possible successors from among any who have previously submitted (or may soon thereafter submit) volunteer applications. Masters should encourage those who they believe would be good successors to submit volunteer applications and the College expects that a current master’s feedback on potential successors will continue to be welcome and valuable. To that end, the College will directly solicit feedback from the current master as well as from the chapter of mediation, providing them with a list of the candidates under consideration. Masters are also welcome to provide feedback on potential successors in their statement attached to the Application for Change of Mastership.

The Mastership Volunteer Application and the updated Application for Change of Mastership are available from the USGL Document Control Officer.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the E.C. Master Selection Secretary at Mike.Estell at oto-usa.org

Love is the law, love under will.

The Virtual Valley

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

As of this writing seventy percent of local bodies are in the process of moving into what is known as the Virtual Valley. It is seeing regular use and further support resources are soon to begin rolling out, so an increasing number of members are becoming aware of its existence and are wondering what it is all about. I wanted to take a few minutes to give you all the history and vision of the Virtual Valley.

No one joins the Electoral College without some experience in the operations of a local body. Some of us may have ideas or goals for improvement coming into service. Some of us get the opportunity to realize those goals, some learn that we were woefully clueless before serving five or so years. That certainly happened with me. I came in wanting to support the development of local body leadership and specifically to raise local body standards.

Through my service on the College and the Kaaba Colloquium team, I have had great opportunity to observe our strengths and weakness, mine included, over the last eleven years, and I came to some surprising conclusions. Or at least they surprised me.

To raise standards, we didn’t need to just increase the requirements placed on local bodies and expect them to meet them, placing undue pressure on the members to live up to these aspirations. Instead, we needed to provide better resources and more training, and to focus on the development of a strong leadership core from all the initiates interested in one day serving in this capacity.

The College had two committees tasked with the discussion of developing resources for masters and mentors, but they did not seem to be getting anywhere quickly, so as the President of the College, I rolled them into one committee and solicited members from outside the College to participate. Specifically, I solicited seated and past masters interested in the objective.

We started with what they wished they had or had had when starting in the role and issues the College had seen repeat over the years, and as chair of the committee, I started outlining a plan.  It would take multiple years and would culminate with local bodies moving into the U.S.G.L. Workspace in semiautonomous electronic oases, we call the Virtual Valley.

Six months later the pandemic hit. Just as we were about to solicit volunteers for our traveling resources lists, suddenly no one could travel.  We put that project on hold and started looking at what the local bodies needed right then to maintain their communities. The answer was first to provide the ability to stay connected.

So, we would give them the ability to Meet online for free in the U.S.G.L. Workspace. To do this, they needed oto-usa.org emails. We would buy them for all officers of local bodies. I asked the Assistant Internet Secretary what it would cost the Electoral College to buy up to 4 emails for each local body. Turned out, we had enough emails included in the U.S.G.L. workspace to do it for no additional charge. But, with that email came so much more than a calendar and the ability to host a Meet for up to 250 attendees and we had other goals from the plan that could be met at the same time. Resources local masters needed. Resources that would solve recurring issues.

We started rolling out the Virtual Valleys on a voluntary basis at the end of March 2020 and the initiative was announced in the Spring 2020 issue of Agape. Subsequently, at the EC’s Spring Policy and Procedure meeting, I outlined for the College what the Virtual Valley came with and how it could help by providing:

  • email archives that pass from one office holder to the other with ease
  • calendar for online meetings
  • drive space to place all electronic resources in the hands of the body rather than individual members
  • groups for communication between the local and regional leaders, a public announcement list, member lists, and others by request (with proper security settings prescribed for said lists to protect member contact information from accidental public exposure)
  • training sessions on how to use all of the above.

The College voted to mandate the use of the Virtual Valley, leaving the calendar and electronic meeting software as optional, knowing that several bodies had paid services with which they were happy. This was announced on the internal U.S.G.L. policy update elist in June of 2020.

The Resource Development Committee continues to work on resources we plan to roll out over the coming months, including the aforementioned traveling resource lists. It turns out, however, that the first developed resource released in the Virtual Valley after the initial roll-out was not developed by our team, but instead came from the Diversity Task Force of U.S.G.L. This is quite encouraging, as one of the committees’ goals is to provide easy access to resources from across Grand Lodge to the local body leadership, and we are thrilled to collaborate.

If you have any questions, or to set up your local body, do not hesitate to contact me.

Love is the law, love under will.

Fraternally yours,

Hattie Quinn

 

 

Announcing the Diversity Task Force’s Educational Modules

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

The U.S.G.L. Diversity Task Force has released the first six educational modules (MoMods) that focus on racial diversity and inclusion. The module descriptions are listed on the U.S.G.L. Education Committee’s Diversity page. The monthly modules were created by a subgroup of the Task Force known as the MoMod team and were guided by the U.S.G.L. Values Statements, in particular:

“We advocate the principles of Scientific Religion and Universal Brotherhood, and oppose tyranny, superstition, and oppression.” — U.S.G.L. Values Statement #4

“We believe that a membership free from unfair discrimination is essential to accomplishing our Mission, and reject doctrines that promote bigotry, prejudice, and intolerance.” – U.S.G.L. Values Statement #6 

The MoMods were designed to be a tool for local leadership to provide space to have hard discussions, increase awareness of underserved populations, and challenge participants to self-reflect on the module topic as it relates to Thelema. The modules also provide room for those who wish to complete them alone, but in either case, it is the team’s desire to give each individual the knowledge and confidence to talk about these topics whether it is with other siblings or in other parts of their lives. 

The MoMods were birthed and fueled with the idea that our physical spaces and online events should be welcoming. They must be free of ignorance and the bias that discourages many members of underserved populations. If individuals want to embrace Thelema, take initiation, attend Liber XV, participate in classes or ritual events, then race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability should not be the limiting factor. The Law must truly be for all! 

Love is the law, love under will. 

 

Assisting our Siblings with Addiction Issues

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

We recently had a “design thinking” workshop to better understand the problems in our community due to the pandemic, and to brainstorm solutions. (You can read about the workshop here and here.)

One of the things that some participants noted, was an increase in siblings struggling with addiction issues.

This increase in addiction not limited to Ordo Templi Orientis. Many healthcare professionals are already talking about and researching this aspect of the COOVID-19 pandemic. In June of 2020, alcohol sales rose 27% from March 7 before lockdowns began.

Soror Promethea, head of the U.S.G.L. Psychology Guild will present a workshop to assist local leadership to help members during this challenging time.

Please note, the limit of 16 participants. If there is need, perhaps more sessions can be scheduled in the future.

I would encourage you to ask yourself if you see a need in your community and if “no”, but you’re still interested, ask to be on the waiting list.

Love is the law, love under will.

Assisting our Siblings With Addiction Issues: A Workshop for Local Body Officers, Ordained Clergy, and Chapter Members

Hosted by Soror Promethea

This has been a difficult time for all of us and many people in our community are struggling in various ways.  Nationwide, substance use and related issues are increasing, and it is not surprising to see addiction problems increasingly impacting our Order members.  You may wonder how you, as a local leader, can best reach out to, talk with, and assist those in your community who are struggling with substance use issues.  

Letting someone know you are concerned about their substance use can be a difficult conversation, and it is not always clear how to help.  Soror Promethea is a licensed psychologist with a specialty in substance use and addiction. She currently supervises an outpatient substance use program for a major regional health system.  Her research-based approach to difficult conversations on substance abuse, can help move the bar. Studies show that even one conversation with a trusted person such as a primary care doctor, pastor, or friend can make a difference for someone who is struggling. 

You will learn positive approaches to difficult conversations that you can put into practice with someone you may be concerned about. She will draw from her training in methods for encouraging others toward positive behavior change.  She will also provide a general discussion of substance use issues, discuss common misconceptions, and provide ideas on engaging with resources in your local community. She will discuss ideas for making your local body a friendly place for those who wish to abstain from alcohol and those in early recovery.  You will have time to practice skills discussed and talk about your questions and concerns.

This class will not certify you in any formal method of therapy or counseling or intervention, nor will she provide any professional opinion or advice on particular issues within your local body.  But she will assist you, as a lay person, to have a productive approach to conversations about substance abuse with your local members.

The meeting link will be sent to registrants closer to the date of the workshop.

Date: Saturday, January 9, 2021

Time: (1.5hrs)  beginning at 9am Pacific, 12pm Eastern

Registration is Limited to 16 attendees, first come first served, future iterations are planned

Please email sororpromethea@gmail.com to register and include your civil name, local body affiliation and/or role or role in the Order, and the email you would like the link sent to. 

 

Soror Promethea

President of the Psychology Guild

Asherah Chapter

Song of Freedom Oasis

 

Meet the U.S.G.L. Education Committee

This guest post is from Br Scott, the Education Committee Secretary.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The mission of the U.S. Grand Lodge Education Committee is to research, discuss, and recommend instructional materials and classes for local bodies. But what, exactly do we do?
First, let’s start with our course materials. One of our services is the production of high-quality course outlines which should make it easy for anyone interested to lead a discussion/presentation/lecture on a variety of topics.
Current offerings include a discussion on the Eight Limbs of Yoga, Exegesis in Theory and Practice, a discussion of Liber Resh, an introduction to O.T.O., and a discussion on Little Essays Towards Truth. We have several modules which are presently in the development/approval stages, and for the most current list of our offerings you can always check our courses page at:  https://edu.oto-usa.org/courses/
On this page you’ll also find our bank of fonts as well as a host of other offerings including a spreadsheet for tracking local dues, an image pack for Liber Resh, flashcards for memorizing Hebrew and correspondences, and a selection of useful bibliographies from Don Karr on Cabala, Solomonic Magick, the Zohar, etc.
Please note that while the font banks and bibliographies are available to everyone, the courses and other specific materials are only available to local masters and organizers who can email the secretary of the committee at:  education@oto-usa.org
A more recent function of the committee is the organization and scheduling of online presentations, both public and private. We’ve hosted a number of these presentations which have been recorded and uploaded to U.S. Grand Lodge’s Youtube channel, which you can find here.
These presentations are announced via local leadership channels and are also posted on our news page, which you can follow here:  https://edu.oto-usa.org/news/
We’re always looking for new presenters, so if this is something that you’d like to discuss then feel free to email us at education@oto-usa.org
We also maintain a calendar of local body public events, where you can always find an online event to check out on nearly any given day. It’s a great way to meet people from all over, and an even greater way to learn about some pretty amazing topics. Study groups, book clubs, social gatherings, Hermetic practice workshops, Pagans in recovery, Qabalah… I could go on and on or you could just go check it out for yourself at:  https://edu.oto-usa.org/usgl-local-body-public-events/
Finally, the committee maintains a database of traveling presenters who (once the current pandemic is over) have indicated that they are willing to travel to local bodies and lecture on various topics. Different presenters have different requirements and offerings, so take a look at the list and see if there’s something that you’re especially interested in or someone whom you’d really like to bring to your local body!
If you have any questions about the committee, who we are, what we’re doing, or how you could get involved then please feel free to reach out directly to us. Thanks!
Love is the law, love under will.
In the Bonds of the Order,
SCTT PLLR
Secretary, U.S.G.L. Education Committee

Re-Envisioning the OTO in a pandemic – part 2

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

On Oct 25, 2020 e.v. 12 local leaders gathered together to work to figuring out how to navigate member needs in the midst of a pandemic that is spread by social contact.

Part 1 gave a description of how we structured our conversation and the problems we identified.

As anyone should expect, there are no magical answers within the constraints of current conditions. The real solutions will happen based on advances in medicine (vaccines, treatments, etc.)

The solutions that are easiest to reach for, are those that feed the mind. Classes can be consumed in person or online. Online may even have better reach due to lack of commute time.

But spiritual and emotional nourishment are harder to figure out in a socially distanced world. Full sensory experiences are also limited to mostly sound and sight.

Yet, some local bodies are finding ways to navigate within the current constraints. Some are finding ways to thrive. And others are trying to find a path forward.

This article is a collection of ideas, and includes the solutions and ideas generated in our workshop, as well as some things that some bodies are already doing.

In this article, we will share the solutions and ideas we generated.

Nourishing social connections

Social distancing has left many people feeling profoundly alone and isolated. This isn’t limited to our membership, but in an organization built on fraternity, distancing chips away at some of what is at our core.

Webinars and spending time with others on Google Meet, can often feel like a cheap facsimile that barely touches our human needs to connect with like minded others.

Many local bodies are exploring ways to spend outdoor time together in ways that are in accord with health department guidelines.

Some of these things may not seem to be directly related to O.T.O. in a core way, but each of them helps facilitate contact and fraternity.

  1. Outdoor campfire (perhaps with marshmallow roasting)
  2. Camping with social distancing
  3. Check in calls to members (asking if members would like to opt in to such may be helpful for some people but others may prefer to not participate)
  4. Watching a movie together, each in their own homes, but with side chat (press the start button around the same time)
  5. Watching magick oriented youtube videos together with side chat is similar but more focused

Facilitating play

We think of play as being something for children. But the power and pleasure of play can help strengthen a sense of connection and well being. Few things in life are better than sharing laughter.

Some of our local bodies are already doing activities like the following:

  1. Geocaching
  2. Snowball fight
  3. Sledding
  4. Croquet (no shared mallets and easy ability to maintain distance)
  5. Cemetery walk
  6. Scavenger hunt

Inspiring each other

  1. Art exchange (either local with centralized drop off or by mail)

Spiritual nourishment

This one gets closest to some of what is at the core of our existence. And without mass or initiations or even group ritual, it’s deeply impacted.

  1. Local bodies could send Cake of Light by mail or geographically smaller Valleys, may be able to leverage a centralized pickup place
  2. Participants identified a need for new eucharistic rituals that may have resonances with Liber XV: O.T.O. Ecclesiæ Gnosticæ Catholicæ Canon Missæ Perhaps these eucharists could be shared via Google Meet in order to commune together while socially distanced.

Intimate connection

  1. Some local leaders have found that when only 1 person shows up for a class, something unexpectedly positive can happen. That 1:1 conversation can nurture new members or potential members, and provides opportunities for personal conversations in addition to mentoring.

Support

Food insecurity and substance abuse are both up within the United States. Our members are not immune to these nationwide changes.

  1. Golden Thread Oasis is running a food bank where people in need can come and pick up food. (This may become its own blog post if there is interest.)
  2. Dove and Serpent hosts a Pagans in Recovery weekly meeting. You can find it every Friday, posted on the U.S.G.L’s shared calendar hosted by the Education Committee.

Ideas that are beyond individual local bodies

Some of the ideas and asks would require Grand Lodge support. Stay tuned for follow up on these items.

  1. Centralized place to find speakers for Google Meet calls. This is partially fulfilled by the Education Committee’s list of traveling lecturers. In 2020, “travel” could mean hopping on to a meeting with others.
    If you are a member in good standing and want to be added to the list, contact the committee directly.
  2. Crowd sourcing course content. This is central to the Education Committee mission but local leaders may not know enough about the program. Courses that are available are listed here. Contact the Education Secretary if you have ideas you’d like to contribute.
  3. Centralized place for rituals. There is a desire to have a repository that may help inspire people in their practices. Any rituals optimized for a Google Meet call would be especially valuable.
  4. Centralized Discord or Slack channel for all members in good standing.
    (Order wide social media has always been tricky. If you have a proposal, feel free to run it by the Electoral College).

Love is the law, love under will.

Re-envisioning the O.T.O. in a pandemic – part 1

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

The problem

No one joined the Order because we have great classes on Google Meet. Our core services of initiating and celebrating the mass are limited or unavailable. Our core values of fraternity and hospitality are challenged by social distancing.

Our needs for connection, belonging, and purpose don’t disappear simply because we can’t interact in our usual ways.

The doing

12 local leaders came together for a 3-hour workshop. We time-boxed to 3 hours but could have easily used another hour. Nonetheless, the creativity and ideas that came out of the workshop were inspiring, and there may be additional future opportunities.

The process

Design thinking is a process developed at Stanford University’s d.school and uses empathy to help understand needs. Once we have a deep understanding of the problems, it becomes easier to challenge assumptions and find breakthrough solutions.

We used a modified version of “classic” design thinking, with the following steps.

Step 1. Empathize – design thinking has its foundations in empathy. People paired off and interviewed each other. Interviewers were encouraged to be curious and ask, “why” as much as a child would. Interviewers dig for stories and emotional content.

Step 2. Define – needs are uncovered in step 1. This steps starts driving towards solutions by:

  • questioning assumptions
  • asking how to amplify whatever good is currently happening
  • asking how to remove or decrease the bad
  • identify unexpected resources
  • create analogies from identified needs or contexts

Step 3. Ideate – in this step, participants work to identify solutions. We use sketching as it frees up parts of the mind that are not as available when using words.

Step 4. Testing – design thinking is a flexible process and due to time constraints, we tested by sharing with the entire group.

Themes

We had some high level themes for identified issues.

  • leadership burnout
  • physical and mental health challenges due directly and indirectly to the pandemic
  • struggles with engagement and turnout for webinars
  • social needs are hard to fulfil
  • spiritual needs are mostly absent from current services

This article will focus on identified problems. A follow up article will share the solutions that the group found.

Burnout.

Local leadership is stressed, lacking sustenance, and is at risk of burnout.

Each of us stays in the Order for different reasons. What sustains and nurtures us are questions we each need to answer for ourselves. But when the entire infrastructure of an organization is pulled apart, whatever fed any individual member, may not exist anymore.

On a plane, we are told to put our own oxygen mask on, even before helping our children.

It is impossible to feed others when you are starving.

Physical and mental health issues are impacting our membership.

This issue is not limited to our Siblings.

Alcohol sales and consumption have sharply spiked in the US as a whole. Membership is not immune to this broader impact on the country. Lack of social interaction and exercise are also contributing to additional health issues.

Keeping people engaged is hard. Social needs are not well fulfilled.

This isn’t a shocker. People are using video calls for work and many don’t want to also use it to socialize. Sitting in a room with people is not as draining as sharing a screen.

Differences in online vs face-to-face meetings:

  • Online meetings are focused on everyone’s face.
  • There is no eye contact. It’s hard to tell if a person is listening.
  • With your face is the main focus, people can feel like they’re being watched and become hyper aware of how they look. Your brain is distracted by how you are appearing to others. Are you smiling enough? It’s exhausting.

Being socially connected with others is not the same as being on a video call together. And many people are burned out on virtual meetings. People that were enjoying online classes may not be showing up for them anymore.

Spiritual needs are not well met.

Magical practices can be solo or in a group. Many people find that the social aspects of the Order keep them more accountable in their solo practices too. Curiously, solo practices have also suffered in the pandemic due to lessened social bonds.

Surprising insights

The group surfaced a few points that provided deep food for thought.

Sensory inputs are constrained. We meet on Google Meet and we have sound and sight. But when we see each other in person, we also have touch, smell, and taste.

Are there ways to bring more sensory modalities into our interactions with each other? (This is one of many points we will look at in part 2.)

People need to play. While this isn’t a core part of what we usually think of as O.T.O., play facilitates social connection and makes us feel good.

Play is relaxing and makes us feel good.

In part 2, we will explore some ways to facilitate play in a safe, socially distanced way.

Part 2 is coming soon and will be a list of ideas that came out of the workshop.

Love is the law, love under will.

Message from the U.S.G.L Covid-19 Response Team

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

Please note that an updated version of the outdoor events policy for U.S.G.L., originally published July 5, 2020, has been posted to the U.S.G.L. COVID-19 Announcements Page. 

The U.S.G.L. COVID Response Team (CRT) has been working over the past months to develop protocols for Order events in the safest possible manner. At this time, we have determined that indoor events remain prohibited.

Local Masters may request one-time dispensation for outdoor celebrations of the Gnostic Mass or Minerval initiations by contacting the CRT via planning@oto-usa.org. The team will communicate the process for submitting a proposal and work with masters one one one to ensure their outdoor facilities and COVID mitigation planning is sufficient.

Love is the law, love under will.

U.S.G.L. COVID-19 Response Team