What does "Subtlety or Force" mean? That sounds scary!
"Subtlety or Force" is taken from Liber 90, a Thelemic Holy Book, verse 19, "Only those who fear shall fail. Those who have bent their backs to the yoke of slavery until they can no longer stand upright; them will I despise. But you who have defied the law; you who have conquered by subtlety or force; you will I take unto me, even I will take you unto me."[90:18-19] It can be interpreted as endorsing those who bask in the power of Horus by actively resisting oppressors.
Is your Camp the real OTO?
OTO is an international organization (see: oto.org). OTO-USA is its national branch that operates and is incorporated in the United States. It operates principally through Camps, Oases, and Lodges. These are gradations of a "local body" which serves principally to Thelemically stimulate the local community, perform initiations when needed, and regularly celebrate the Gnostic Mass. Ours is a Camp given our newness and relatively green initiates. Alternatively, our level of activity (classes, Gnostic Masses, and initiations) rivals the statistics of some Oases.
Why do Thelemites convene? If one's true will is one's own, then why do people work together?
Principally, because people are stronger in numbers. If we leave the world to its own devices, the dispersive madness and paranoid mania of the masses would quickly evoke a schizotypal enmity whose hazardous miasma would prove an ill climate for one's higher aspirations. Therefore, we operate publicly to encourage our Friends, Families, Associates, and Acquaintances in their Way and to promote the virtues of individual liberty and minding one's own business at large. Secondarily, Thelemites are Magicians (in an abstracted sense) and Magicians tend to be more sane and stable when in the presence of peers who are not afraid to criticize and counsel. Lastly, synergy. Initiations, group ceremonial magick, and celebrations of rites such as the Gnostic Mass tend to build a magical momentum where the sum of the parts far surpasses the whole. Not only do we become more socially efficient and secure through cooperative endeavor, but more magically efficacious. Initiations then provide an opportunity to propel a candidate into an alternative state of being much more powerfully, and ceremony similarly to the world.
Why take initiation?
I would never encourage a person to take initiation as the event itself eternally distinguishes the few from the many and, in the case of an unprepared person taking initiation, it would be similar to waking up in a foreign country with no knowledge of the language or capacity to learn it. The utility of initiation is debated by various schools and philosophers. Modern anthropology reduces initiation to petty social rites where one is welcomed into a community and their welfare made symbiotic with that of others. Ancient philosophers praised initiation as an opportunity to discover a type of cosmic wisdom whose understanding would increase one's attenuation with the divine and possibilities after physical death. Masons look at initiation as an opportunity to better one's self either through honor or wealth. Henri Corbin, a French sufi-philosopher, posited initiation deepened sensory possibilities to include subtle "imaginal" phenomenon. Julius Evola believed initiation brought one into a fulfillment of one's own Nature by realigning and reaffirming the relevance of karma and caste. Marcel Eliade believed initiation made one sacred, or made the sacred within one begin to infect the material vessel, and that initiation would alter one's consciousness by realigning ontological imperatives with a new state of being. Aleister Crowley, I believe, would posit instead that initiation would expedite a person in the discovering and doing of one's own True Will, thereby making initiation a type of cathartic catalyst and synergizing towards a higher Aim. I believe all of these philosophers and sages are correct in their respective context, and there is surely some overlap; however, it is reasonable to assume that different initiations (or mystery schools) accomplish different ends, just like any type of magical operation. Therefore, the relevant question is: what is the unique utility of Thelemic initiations? The best answer I can give is that it will vivify your higher aspirations, instruct you in codes and methods by which you might fulfill your immediate and eternal oaths, and that it will present a philosophy of discipline through limitation through which an aspirant might find, with certainty, Freedom within instead of being suffocated by "freedoms" without.
What can the OTO do for me?
Before I recall the immortal saying of JFK I'd like to hearken to several cliches one hears when considering joining the military. The OTO is the perfect example of "you get out of it what you put into it." We provide directive, lessons, opportunities, activities, and insights, but all of these are useless without the excited and honest initiative assumed of any member. We are not a frivolous religious group promising to teach the secrets of Qabalah in an overpriced seminar, nor are we the modern materialistic masons guaranteeing you a new promotion if you'd come say some oaths and play the game. We are a legitimate organization with the lofty and completely unreasonable goal of the liberation of mankind. Our work isn't easy, it's hard, and that's why we do it. Therefore, before coming into the OTO one must banish any sense of petty entitlement or neediness. OTO is an opportunity, an opportunity to better yourself, your closest comrades, your community, and your world through honest labor and dedication. So, with that in mind, ask not what the OTO can do for you, but what you can do for your local body!
If you have any other questions, feel free to write me, the Body Master.