Fountain and Font: On the Culture & Philosophy of Golden Thread

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

Inspiration can arise from all forms and all places.  When carried to its conclusion, inspiration has one overall effect: union with the divine.  Finding the ability and energy to channel that inspiration into action can be an elusive task; particularly when it is communicated in such idiosyncratic and subtle ways.  One of our guiding goals at Golden Thread Camp is to aid our members in the work of increasing their capacity for inspiration and providing means by which it can be funneled into a personal or group experience – within the reasonable restrictions of our mandate.  Furthermore, we can then offer a symbolic language via our public and private rituals by which the individual can explore the mysteries of Will and Love: the fountain and font of inspiration.

This may all sound a little flowery and idealistic, but it does work on a practical level.  Although a new local body, our team of officers has the benefit of many cumulative years of magical and artistic experience.  And we have applied that experience to developing such necessities as our unique dues policy, mission and diversity statements, annual plan, even the creation of our logo – these processes are internalized through meditation and group ritual.  By this method, enacting these foundational steps becomes a matter of willful intention rather than just checking another item off the to-do list.

This process is perhaps most evident in the overall structure and vision of Golden Thread.

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.

Some members may choose to dedicate themselves to all three of these pillars – certainly our officers do just that.  Other members may choose to focus on only the EGC or the M.·.M.·.M.·.  Currently, about a third of our dues paying members are not involved in our M.·.M.·.M.·. or EGC programs.  These are individuals who enjoy our public events enough that they have chosen to support us – or in some cases they attend so frequently that it is cheaper for them to become a member than it is to pay each individual entry fee.

I believe this is one of the most important membership categories to cultivate.  In my life, I have been in the Order longer than I have not.  It is difficult for me to adapt the perspective of a new comer.  But I believe that a level of commitment is required from anyone who is attending an event for the first time.  This level of commitment comes from how we present ourselves.  If I were to google “attending an O.T.O. event” lots of results talk about initiation or the participatory nature of the Gnostic Mass.  An individual must commit themselves to the possibility of going through a strange and potentially disagreeable initiatory ritual or of standing before a crowd and making unusual proclamations after eating a dubious cookie.  Now this expectation of commitment is not all bad, but it invites a lot of apprehensions and doubts to slip in to the mind of a new comer, without any accurate context.

So, we advertise our community first.  The general idea is to be perceived as open and exciting, so that individuals can attend events without needing to overcome challenging jargon such as “initiation” in order to get in the doors.  Rather they can form their opinions on these subjects by interacting with the friendly and knowledgeable members.  In short, we are attempting to move our pool of potential initiates and congregants from outside our front doors to inside our front doors – from the abstract to the personal.

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.

I understand that this approach does not work for everyone.  And it is very likely that at some point in our developmental journey we will need to rethink our philosophy.  After all, there are only so many events we can fit on the calendar. But for the stage that we are at right now, it is a focus of our work – our very foundation.

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

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.

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 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.  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 artist dream up.  The Sagittarrium Art Show is brought to life by the dedication and passion of Courtney Padrutt, 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.

In addition to these larger events, we have hosted over one hundred events since January 1st – roughly half in person and half online.  Our “Online Temple” program has been a lot of fun.  Our Skype study group has tackled “Liber Aleph”, “Liber 888” and is currently working on “777 and other Qabalstic Writings of Aleister Crowley”.   We tend to dive deep in this study group, “Liber Aleph” took about a year and a half to work through, but the careful attention and detailed study make it an extremely rewarding experience.  A different type of online event is the Holy Season Discussion Group, which we co-host with Black Sun Lodge.  This is a 23-day event, in which we host online readings and discussions of all the Class A material and excerpts from the composite Class AB material.  Yet another online group we host is our “Skype Book Club”.  This group is for members to share the fiction that inspires them.  We are just starting into “Jitterbug Perfume” after which we will be moving on to Alan Moore’s “Promethea”.  These online events are easy to host and are open to everyone regardless of geographic locations or familiarity with the material – some people just listen in and some people choose to dive right in.  This allows interested individuals to easily check us out, even before attending an event.  It also helps to illustrate the larger community of the Order since members from all over the country are typically tuned in.

To coordinate all of this we rely on a few handy apps:  Slack and Trello.  Slack is a messenger app, similar to Facebook messenger, but it allows for the creation of private channels.  We maintain an open channel where members and visitors can ask general questions, coordinate rides, and otherwise keep in touch.  A separate Officers channel allows us to discuss everything from planning events, collaborating on rituals, to figuring out who is bringing the wine.  Trello is a collaborative “To-do” list style app that allows us to build meeting agendas and track Temple needs.  Both of these have been critical to our development.

I am fiercely proud of what we have accomplished so far at Golden Thread.  The successes we have had are the simple result of following the method of Magick. We approach every aspect of building our local body as if we were creating a ritual- whether it be our policies, our financial plans, our membership criteria or our events. Our goal is to bring the original inspiration, the whispering voice of Will, into reality.  Of course not ever one of these “rituals” is viable.  But this method has allowed us to establish a recognizable and respected group identity and a strong and growing community.  The faces may change, the Temple may move, the schedule evolve, and so on – but with these principles, Golden Thread has put down a firm foundation that has the potential to sustain us throughout the many phases of our developmental journey.

As Master of Golden Thread, what inspires me is Courtney Padrutt, our Secretary.  And Susan Nolan, our Deputy Master and Scheduling Secretary.  And Kashmira our Event Coordinator.  And Frater Och our Treasurer.  And Geoff, our “can-do” guy.  These are the finest and most capable magicians that I have ever had the opportunity to work with; they are the both the demons that get all of the gritty work done and the angels that show the way.

Love is the law, love under will.

Terry M.
Master, Golden Thread Camp