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What is the Function of Terasem? — Projecting to the Near Future (3/3)

This article by Dan Massey, originally appeared on Venus+X, continues a series of posts dedicated to a discussion of Terasem. Please read the “Truths of Terasem” (ToT) and join the discussion here and/or at Venus+X.

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this discussion we explained some of the factors which contributed to the current development of the Ta (the organization) of Terasem and raised the question of whether and how Terasem, as a transreligion, might be seen as attractive by parts of the transhumanist community.

The Joiners and supporters of the Terasem philosophy and vision now must deal with the realities of a developing Ta. Specifically, what really needs to be done by the Ta to advance the cause of the Terasem Transreligion or to bring consciousness of the cosmic reality of Terasem to greater public attention? Or should the joiners and supporters be trying to do anything in this regard?

At present, the founders largely control the direction of material development of the Ta, but have declared themselves open to new visions of joyful immortality beyond the materialistic. What should be the role of the Ta in advancing awareness of Terasem as a universal transreligion? Or is any form of outreach desirable or appropriate? Martine Rothblatt (in her talk to the Turing Church Workshop) warned against overly rapid development as unlikely to produce a lasting result.

One might ask “how lasting a result?” Given the scope of the Terasem vision, as revealed in ToT 5 and many other materials, the answer must clearly be “eternal”—and that is a very long time!

Small, extremely secretive cults guarding fragments of truth (e.g., Hemetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Argentium Astrum, Ordo Templi Orientis, Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, Great Brotherhood of God, Thelema, etc.) have tended to flourish only as long as their founders remained in agreement on the direction and objectives of the organization, and as long as new recruits were readily available. While the theologies of such groups have had great influence in modern transhumanist thought, the groups themselves are but historical footnotes in the advance of human enlightenment. Close-held secrecy regarding great truths does not work but adoption of fantastic mythologies (as possessed by human evolutionary religions) does not seem to hinder the spread of ignorance, bigotry, and confusion .

If we define Terasem by exegesis from ToT 5, then Terasem gives us an opportunity to develop a Ta consistent with its principles that will endure forever and uplift the planet. In short, the total vision of Terasem is a universal cosmic reality (once Terasem is fully developed). By comparison, the Ta today is the result of large investments of time, energy, and assets by the founders and early joiners, but is necessarily small in relation to the vast size of the task at hand. How might or should this small community of seriously committed supporters take direct, intentional action to advance the grand vision of Terasem?

As increasing numbers of transhumanists are considering and speculating on the religion-like aspects of tranhumanist beliefs, the Terasem Transreligion stands at a major crossroads in examining belief and approach. Is one aspect of development (the material support systems) of greater or lesser importance than the complementary aspect of educating humanity about the true potential and significance of the Terasem vision?

If you care about the future of transreligion on this planet, I hope you will join us in exploration of these issues.

martine_yoga_open
Martine Rothblatt at Stratford, New Hampshire
  • One characteristic of religions, as opposed to political ideologies, is the bottom up personal approach. Religions tend to be spread one to one. In my book The Praxis I list several features common to most successful religions. The one I consider paramount is “community” – which is the one most lacking in anything H+ related. I am not talking about “tick a box” Facebook friends, but getting real friends and family involved. It is a slow process, but one that “sticks”.

    • @Dirk – Thanks for your thoughtful reply and please accept my apologies for slow response. Thanks to Giulio’s recommendation, I have read Praxis and enjoyed your thoughts and observations. I concur completely that any emergent religion will not succeed unless it appeals to a community. So far, Terasem does not have “community” as such, there being far too few participants in any location. The largest group is in Melbourne Beach, Florida, and numbers about a half dozen. There exist about three dozen actual joiners, across all locations, and about half of these are founders, family of founders, contractors, or employees engaged in maintenance of various Terasem facilities and services.

      I have met many of these joiners (and am one). This is an extraordinarily nice and honest group of people. However, until Terasem establishes a community vision of purpose that has broader appeal, it is hard to see how it will become truly attractive. The vital essence of any religion is group communion with a Supreme Being. Alhough Terasem texts define Terasem (the evolving deity) as Supreme, the concept of vital communion does not seem to exist within the Ta, having been displaced by a number of activities of personal significance to the founders.

      I would like to think that Terasem could grow to fulfill the grand vision of a superstition free, rationally conceived cult of personal dedication to communion with and implementation of the purposes of the Supreme Being; however, this will surely take some time since many joiners do not even conceive of Terasem as an active deity in everyday affairs, so much as an “Omega Point” that is simply unknowable and uncharacterizable. Of course, it is impossible to know the individual belief systems of individual joiners, except when they find expression in visible actions.

  • René Milan

    This is addressing two points: one of corrections of statements in this article, and one of critique of how Terasem presents itself to the public.

    1. As a self-defined thelemic transhumanist I have studied the principles of Thelema in theory and practice for over four decades.

    Thelema is not a secretive cult, even though many people outside and even “inside” see it as such. One of Crowley’s (AC) major early accomplishments was his exploding of the Golden Dawn by publishing all the “secrets” of “esoteric” traditions to finally get this idiotic issue off the table. Secrecy had evolved among mystics and magicians in the west under constant threat by the roman church, but soon had taken on an additional paranoid “justification”: to keep black magic at bay. This was based on a profound logical error, and was used as a tool in the politics and economics of virtually all esoteric organizations before the 20th century and of many even today.

    It’s not a cult or a religion (the only difference between the two being age and number of adherents) at all, but more akin to a philosophy, but beyond that it’s an exploration and application of the principles of the new æon of the child (not to be confused with the precessional “new age” concept and all the nonsense riding on it).

    AC never founded any organizations but people consider these two to be among his legacy: the A∴A∴ (Argentium Astrum) and the OTO (Ordo Templi Orientis).

    Wikipedia claims the he “founded” the A∴A∴ with Jones in 1907 which is true only in the sense that he used the structure to instruct students, but he also emphasized the idea that it represents only the three highest degrees that are beyond the physical and astral realms and beyond space and time, thus being (relatively) eternal and ubiquitous, as well as being at the heart of any effort, organized or not, to attain enlightenment.

    The OTO was a masonic order distinguished by its interest in and practice of sexual “magic” (alluded to even in the choice of name-abbreviation and its graphical symbolism). According to AC the then OHO (Outer Head of the Order), a man named Reuss, approached AC in 1910 accusing him of having revealed the innermost secrets of the order in his writings, while AC had never heard of the organization (and Reuss apparently didn’t know that these techniques had been described in tantric texts for over a millennium). Reuss saw no alternative to initiating AC, who subsequently turned the OTO into a thelemic body and became OHO.

    When i was a young man there were four organizations claiming rightful succession.

    In 1970 I visited the one run by Hermann Joseph Metzger in Stein Appenzell (claiming lineage through Karl Germer, ACs successor as OHO), and found them to be nice people of little consequence who had trouble remembering the words to the ritual of the Gnostic Mass to which they had kindly invited me. (http://www.parareligion.ch/sunrise/thelema.htm)

    Also claiming Germer’s authority was Kenneth Grant’s UK based Typhonian OTO. While I was and still am impressed with his quite profound writings, I didn’t know (in pre-web days) about any of the organization’s activities and didn’t bother to try to establish correspondence. However I find his ideas to be the most intriguing among the multitude of current thelemic organizations.

    Another and weaker claim to Germer’s authority (through his wife) was put forward by Marcelo Ramos Motta in brazil; however for about a decade he published new volumes of the A∴A∴’s Equinox and the OTO’s Oriflamme which I found quite convincing. I guess he went too far by claiming ownership of all AC’s writings in the name of the OTO which was denied by a u.s. court in ‘78, and after he died 10 years later he left no impact outside of brazil.

    The least convincing claim was put forward by McMurtry in ’69. I don’t understand it to this day (and don’t care enough to investigate) but I believe his Berkeley based group may go back to the californian Agape Lodge run in the 40’s under AC’s authority by Jack (John Whiteside) Parsons, a much more convincing proponent than Rand of libertarian ideas (who was “befriended” by the conman Hubbard who ultimately stole his woman, his boat and the OTO writings whose contents his organization to this day sells as “secrets” to people with too much money andor too little sense). But their published output wasn’t convincing, and when I moved to Berkeley in `82 I half heartedly applied for admittance, which was denied for ridiculous reasons (frankly I had half-consciously laid a trap into which they promptly walked). As expected, like many other groups (and, I predict, ultimately all) in spite, or rather because, of their “success” they are now beleaguered inside and out by politics, and power and money issues.

    This was final confirmation of what I had concluded years earlier, that physical-social organization is not conducive but detrimental to the initiate’s work. I suspect that toward the end of his life AC realized that after WWII when all his European organizations had ceased to exist or to function, that this was completely in accord with Liber Al vel Legis, his seminal 1904 (semiconscious andor inspired) writing that he didn’t like or understand and unsuccessfully tried to suppress for years, but later embraced as the essence of Thelema and whose date of “dictation” he designated as the begin of the Æon of Horus.

    As Dan writes: “the groups themselves are but historical footnotes”, which is as it should be (however it’s not “the theologies of such groups” that “have had great influence in modern transhumanist thought”, but their “philosophies”, as theologies are used merely as a language to describe universal forces – see Liber 777). After all it’s never been the content, no matter how crazy or reasonable, of religious systems, but the banding together of people in pursuit of spreading these ideas that’s been and is causing much of human misery.

    2. So why do I even bother to show interest in Terasem and to engage in this discussion ? Only because my dear friend Giulio, whom I know as an extremely wise and reasonable man, has been consistently promoting it in recent years and months, which prompted me to, so far very superficially, gather information.

    However my response to “the question of whether and how Terasem, as a transreligion, might be seen as attractive by parts of the transhumanist community” condensed quite immediately upon visiting http://terasemfaith.net into “no” (whether) and “not at all” (how).

    Here are the reasons:

    A. Pledging allegiance to the flag – only americans can come up with that kind of nonsense (and I’m surprised that and how deeply it’s rooted in the minds even of people whom I consider to be at least as intelligent as myself) – well, to be fair, so did nazis, stalinists, maoists, military organizations and japanese corporate culture. Even at the age of five I would probably have politely declined.

    B. The proposition that I’m already part of it simply by virtue of my existence (why incorporating and marketing then?) is even more revolting than the claim of the roman church that by virtue of having been baptised as an unconscious baby I can’t quit their club, just live in sin and go to hell.

    C. As I read about “Ambrosia, Earthfire, Aqualung, Starmind, Crownaura, Alum-Almithral, Recitation of 30 Sequential Truths” I remembered a visit to Findhorn 12 years ago (I had been interested since ’73 in their then unique approach to gardening as described by Tompkins and Bird in “The Secret Life of Plants”) where they invited (incited?) visitors to join in song, hand-holding circle-dance, “prayer” and “meditation” – so much for that. I’m too old, frankly have been at least for the last 60 of my 64 years, to waste time on that sort of thing, especially in light of the ever more urgent need for real work to be done.

    This stuff doesn’t turn me on, quite the opposite. But don’t get me wrong, in spite of rejecting the idea of organizing for purposes of mental (“spiritual”) growth, and of religion in general, I find what I perceive (probably wrongly) as the underlying idea of this group, as well as its connection to TH and the participation of some people whom I’ve come to respect a lot, at least interesting. But unless someone can show me the errors of my ways, an outcome that I find to be extremely unlikely but to which I will nonetheless remain open, I will pass on this one.

  • Giulio Prisco

    @Dirk – I totally agree on the importance of community, and on the fact that it is the one most lacking in anything H+ related. At Terasem meetings (one is ongoing right now in Vermont), participants do feel a strong sense of community, but meetings are infrequent and with only a few participants. I think Terasem should expand at least a thousandfold to begin making a difference.

  • Giulio Prisco

    @Rene’ – good to see you here!

    I will not “show you the errors of your ways” because I don’t think there are right ways and wrong ways, but only different personal ways.

    And, perhaps, more and less useful ways (ref. William James).

    We all need useful ways to cope with the heartache of life, which can be so crippling to completely paralyze people and push them into idle despair, including (especially) the most alive and creative people.

    There are philosophical ways to cope, and this website is mostly dedicated to them. But philosophy is not “huggable” and it is not meant to keep you warm at night. For that you need hopeful visions, mythologies with aesthetic and emotional appeal and, as Dirk says, community.

    Religions have provided these things for centuries, and helped billions of persons in their pursuit of happiness. But more and more people are unable to find solace in religious or spiritual visions, because they appear to conflict with science.

    Terasem and other “spiritual transhumanist” mythologies provide hope, aesthetically compelling visions and powerful positive emotions without conflicting with science but, on the contrary, embracing science as one of the paths to transcendence. I would not be doing what I do if I didn’t believe that this can give a lot of help to persons who really need help (most of us today).

    Re allegiance to the flag etc. Like you, I can do without swearing allegiance to flags. But I consider this part of the ToT as a nice ritual for those who find emotional value in community symbols, and many people do.

  • René Milan

    Hi Giulio,
    thanks for the kind welcome.

    I completely understand your points and don’t disagree with you.
    When i write “show me the errors of my ways” i mean it in part in a slightly humorous way; however i would consider myself to be in error if it were demonstrated to me that i let myself miss something more valuable than the price of discomfort (actually a mild word) i would have to pay to gain it, just because of letting myself be guided by however strong emotional reactions, this being something i could after all overcome fairly easily for the right reasons.

    And i agree with Dirk’s point. I’ve known for a long time that people “flock” together not mainly for reasons of agreeing on some esoteric doctrine (like transubstantiation, virgin birth etc) that they (indeed anybody) cannot understand anyway, but for community. But as we have seen for millennia, and more than ever today, these communities are very vulnerable to manipulation and abuse by ruthless agents for political and financial, or simply psychotic, purposes.

    I have lived in five different countries for longer than four years each, and my friends and family are dispersed – oops, wrong word, in truth we are home always and anywhere – over four continents. I have always been and will be part of tight communities. Friends have saved my (physical) life three times, and i have saved friends’ mental lives (their sanity) at least half a dozen times. If you – heaven forbid – find yourself waking up from a nightmare, find that it persists into the waking state, and decide to call me for help, i will find a way to fly to Budapest and to restore your peace of mind right now, regardless of circumstance. And others will for me.

    None of these instances of community are based on “faith” (faithless bastard that i am), or on the “need” for community, but on nothing but the sheer joy it provides. And i am rather wary of what i perceive as dishonesty (if only to oneself) in joining communities for any other reasons, be it the village church or Terasem, the Sai Baba temple or the whirling dervishes, with the possible exception of political agendas. Mental growth does not require community, but can be advanced by friendship and informal and temporary relations ranging from those with therapists and gurus to ones with psych workshops to voyages and expeditions.

    I have posted my opinion for two reasons as stated, the lesser one to correct imprecisions, misunderstandings, misinformation, as i am apt to do on subjects that i know and care about vis-a-vis people i respect, and more importantly because Dan’s article provided a blanket invitation to answer his question “of whether and how Terasem, as a transreligion, might be seen as attractive by parts of the transhumanist community”, in the only way i know how, with sincerity and within the limits of my understanding. And i am truly hoping that the requested feedback will be useful in some way or other.

    • @René – Thank you for your very thoughtful response to this series of posts. I apologize for taking so long to respond. I could hardly have anticipated that someone familiar with Thelemic philosophy would encounter this and take the time to comment. Thelema was one of the first philosophical/religious systems with which I became familiar when I began to break out of the received ignorance on such matters of my family and society. I am fully familiar with the history of Crowley’s multiple efforts to popularize his vision. I trust you understand that this was not the subject of my discussion of the Terasem “Ta” and would have added great length to the post. My intent in raising the history of esoteric vitological movements of the past was simply to emphasize that “secret teachings” no matter how potentially valuable are simply unable to appear attractive to a non-specialist community or inspire major changes in society. In effect, I was meaning to say that Terasem must make its vital vision more accessible to the less informed public, through education, outreach, and personal engagement if it is to survive the interests of the founders.

      I certainly agree that “the banding together of people in pursuit of spreading these ideas [has] been and is causing much of human misery.” I do not believe it is community that leads to this evil. Rather, it is a consequence of the amplification of the vitological delusions of the community members. Communitization amplifies the power of a group to make itself known, and possible influential. But the value of the community is an aggregate of the values of the individuals comprising the community. When (as in Christendom and the communities of other accepted “world religions”) there exists a managing hierarchy that has established itself as a necessary intercessor between the worshiper and the deity worshiped the spiritual reality of the communion is largely lost, even though everyone may be the best of friends. The only valid spiritual experiences are personal and direct. Moralities, theologies, and similar superstitions have no place in a cleanly conceived religion. Because the values aggregated by evolving human religions are greed, prejudice, egotism, and the like, with love, truth and service of good to others only given occasional lip service, the result is useless ceremony vitiated by a complete lack of psychological participation by the majority of the communicants, who have been compelled to believe falsehoods as elements of the “faith”.

      I think you have fairly accurately identified some unattractive ideas that have survived from the founders’ own secular belief systems. A few speciics.

      A. Pledging to the flag. Yes. Utter nonsense and in no way uplifting. Merely a forced recitation of a collection of ideas, not necessarily wrong, but not necessarily enlightening within the framework in which presented.

      B. Being “already a part of it”. You are already a part of the evolving universe of the Supreme Being. Since the word symbol Terasem is clearly simply an inaccurate cult-name for the Supreme Being, in that sense you are part of Terasem. But you are clearly not part of the Ta (the physical, secular manifestation of Terasem created by the investments of the founders). Nor is there any reason to be unless you seek to work “from the inside” to uplift the Terasem Ta concept to something that is a worthy ideal for humanity as a whole. Giulio, my partner Alison, and myself are the only Terasem joiners I know who are interested in vitalizing Terasem through uplift of the Ta, but I don’t know everybody. Nor can I know what is really intended in the hearts of those who cared enough to join.

      C. Yoga. I have already put myself on record with the founders as disputing the utility of this systematically organized cycle of yoga exercises every four hours of the day. When would one actually get any useful work done? Perhaps the founders know. I think the answer is to skip a lot of the meditations. Personally, I have developed my meditative practices in directions that are satisfactory and useful to my needs. I have reviewed the yoga material from Terasem online and have learned some useful techniques to add to my own practice, but my life simply won’t accommodate all that busy-ness. One can make a similar complaint about the monthly, quarterly, annual, and quadrennial rites and celebrations of Terasem; however, this is akin to a christian complaining about Xmas being an unspiritual pagan holiday.

      You have thoughtfully identified three significant obstacles that exoteric Terasem presents to a modern public. There is nothing intrinsically wrong in these things, only perhaps in the way they have been packaged and presented as apparently (though not really) obligatory and with very simplistic understanding of their meaning as part of a transreligion. I believe that Terasem will finally grow to achieve a Supreme destiny; however, the correction of the presentation and resulting perceptions by the public will be a necessary part of this to enable growth. Terasem needs an educational outreach program that fills in the gaps in perspective and understanding that will enable people to see the meaning of its concepts, rather than being hung up on the text and legacy religious visions.

      The question, of course, becomes who will actually do this education? Will the Terasem Ta choose to implement such a program? Or will it necessarily be done by “outsiders”? My own hope is that it can be done by cooperative effort of people who have the cosmic vision and perspective, be they joiners or not. Those of us who perceive the spiritual potential implied by, say Truths of Terasem sec. 5, must explain how the Supreme is made real and how its properties necessitate cosmic evolution. The honest and sincere members of the Ta today are surely ideal students once the real experience of Supremacy is identified and explained. From these and other interested parties who many not themselves “join” I think there can emerge an ever-growing team of teachers.

      Thank you for stimulating my own thinking.

  • Giulio Prisco

    @Rene’ re “None of these instances of community are based on “faith” (faithless bastard that i am), or on the “need” for community, but on nothing but the sheer joy it provides.”

    I have no “faith” (in the sense of blind acceptance of something that I have been told) and I also prefer to do something for the joy it provides, as opposed to any “need.” But then, we all need to feel joyful, don’t we?

    This gives me joy: http://turingchurch.com/2012/01/02/ten-cosmist-convictions/

    and I wish to find ways to share this joy with others.

  • René Milan

    “wish to find ways to share this joy”
    Well, Giulio, you just did – thanks. I just left my response at the link you provided – best, R.