Monday, May 4, 2015

O is for Oz (but not that Oz)

I hope I'm not hopping around too randomly in the world of manifestos.  I am trying for some semblance of logical progression, but the alphabet is a harsh mistress!

Today I'm thinking about a one-page broadsheet written by infamous British occultist Aleister Crowley.  He was the self-appointed prophet of a new religion for a new age of humanity.  In his life, he wrote (and channeled!) millions of words of fascinating, mystical, and often obtuse text.  But Liber OZ was designed to be super simple.  Words of one syllable only, in order to promulgate the new creed to one and all.

In fact, calling it a "broadsheet" is a little much, since he often squeezed the whole thing onto one side of a business card. 
Man has the right to live by his own law — 
   to live in the way that he wills to do: 
   to work as he will: 
   to play as he will: 
   to rest as he will: 
   to die when and how he will.
We're clearly back on the side of "Do your own thing" in manifesto-land.  Other parts advocated free love, freedom of movement throughout the world, and the freedom to be intoxicated in any way that one wills.  The most powerful part, I think, was the advocacy for absolute freedom of expression...
Man has the right to think what he will:
   to speak what he will:
   to write what he will:
   to draw, paint, carve, etch, mould, build as he will:
   to dress as he will.
Je suis Charlie, indeed.  If all this wasn't controversial enough, Crowley capped off his list of non-negotiable rights with a slightly ominous final line:
Man has the right to kill those who would thwart these rights.
Also, at the beginning is a slightly cryptic religious header:
There is no god but man.
Despite sounding like materialist atheism, Crowley's take on divinity was quite nuanced and strange.  He taught his students to use the techniques of magic and mysticism to get into direct contact with one's "Holy Guardian Angel," whose precise nature he never quite elaborated in full.  Was it supposed to be an actual spirit?  A usually suppressed part of one's subconscious mind?  Debates on this continue to go on and on.

One interesting aspect of Liber OZ is that initiates to Crowley's Ordo Templi Orientis (a kind of quasi Freemasonry, but adjusted for the New Aeon of Freedom) were obligated to show their devotion to the new creed by posting a copy of OZ in a public place -- preferably near police stations, churches, or other seats of the "Old Aeon" power structure -- complete with their full legal name and address.

I've lived in cities with O.T.O. temples boasting hundreds of members, but I've never come across one of these.  I think there are informal rules about leaving them posted only for a day or so... or maybe stretching the rules about what counts as a seat of power!  :-)

Oh, I shouldn't mock.  If you search for images of this micro-manifesto, you will find a few with real names and addresses on them... and you'll also see lots of evocative calligraphy and art.  One of my favorites seems to have been created right around the time that I was born...

By the way, I don't think Crowley ever intended to refer to L. Frank Baum or his Yellow Brick Road.... "OZ" in Hebrew is supposed to be a word meaning sometimes "goat," but sometimes also "strength" or "glory" or "violence."  I'm sure the multiple meanings gave Crowley a good chuckle.

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