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Open Source Magick

To: alt.magick
From: "Fr. A.o.C." 
Subject: Open Source Magick (was Re: Aleister Crowley's Golden Dawn)
Date: Sun, 09 Nov 2003 10:31:04 GMT

First. let me point out that the message you are replying to did not
come from me, but from the local imposter-drone. The statements in it
are not representative of the doctrine or practices of the OSOGD.

However, you raise valid issues that certainly deserve to be discussed.
Thank you for that.

Old Coyote wrote:
> Can I ask what exactly makes you guys 'open source'? Are any writings
> that issue from your organisation copyrighted under any kind of gnu
> style copyright? Are your members bound by agreements to publish in
> that fashion? Do you publish works in progress for other people to
> contribute to?

The among the core group of people who started the OSOGD, there are
people who work in various aspects of the IT field (not so odd among
pagans and other magickal types these days). We knew about the Open
Source software movement and what it means. There're even some LINUX
code jockeys among us. The more everybody examined the Open Source
concept the more we felt it was what we wanted to model our principles
after. (There was some resistance to naming the Order what we did -- it
doesn't sound very "occult", after all.)

We have looked into modeling our distribution of material with the GPL
kind of copyright, but since no money is changing hands yet, it's not a
high priority right now; we're not finished writing the final corpus of
basic Grade rituals and Knowledge Lectures. Or more to the point, we
don't feel they're ready to be publicly released yet. Once we get around
to needing to do it offically, the GPL will be the model we'll use. See below.

> I'm asking because, I looked at the Manifesto on your website, and
> I got the idea that the term 'Open Source' was being used to denote
> the idea that you don't keep secrets. 

That is, of course, and aspect of it. We think there is a other strong
similarities in what we do vis-a-vis the more traditional Orders to Open
Source software. We approached the published corpus of GD works and it's
classic permutations as if it were one large bundle of open source
software. We treated the basis of the system -- the Cipher Manuscript --
as if it were the operating system "core." We took "modules" from
"coders" of various other "applications" (Stella Matutina, A.A., Whare
Ra, with some Vajrayana "plug-ins") and grafted them together into an
application that does what we want it to do.

So we naturally wouldn't feel right if we didn't offer to pass on our
creations to the world in the same way that we acquired them ourselves.

And the way we relate to other Lodges is also based on the Open Source
model. What's published on our website are the work of one Temple -- Het
Nuit Lodge. But other lodges and study groups can use our materials and
modify them without restriction for their own use. If they want to be in
"comity" with the Order they would have to also offer what they've
created to the public without restriction.

This is a fairly radical concept among organized Western Magick groups.

> Frankly I got the idea that
> it was being used as more of a marketing slogan than anything else.

Fair enough. I ended up writing an essay based on many of our internal
e-mail discussions and the principles that came out of it. which I had
totally forgotten about it until you raised your question. So I thank
you for that also -- it'll end up published on our website soon, but
here it is in answer to your question.


Open Source Magick
by Fr. A.o.C.

Much has been made of late in the Computer Sciences of the "open source"
style of computer programming. To many, it is the Holy Grail of
computing, to others (like Very Large Software Inc.) it is the end of
civilization as we know it.

But what is the idea behind it, and how does it relate to the practice
of Magick?

Open Source computer programs are, simply put, those whose inner
workings -- the computer "source" code itself -- are available to anyone
and furthermore, are modifiable by programmers other than those who
created the software in the first place.

The most famous Open Source computer software is Linux, the operating
system that was fashioned after Bell Laboratories UNIX system, and
competes with other operating systems such as Windows and Mac OS.
Another widely used Open Source program is Apache, an Internet server
program that is the host software for more than half the ISP computer
systems in the world.

This is in contrast to "closed" computer programs -- for example,
everything Microsoft has ever created, and what they jealously guard and
protect by both technological and legal means. To their way of thinking,
if everyone had the ability to mess around with software "intellectual
property", then the incentive to create new and exciting computer
programs -- i.e. the ability to make great sums of money of them --
would be destroyed, and chaos would soon follow.

In the computer science community, Open Source also implies that it's
not only POSSIBLE to examine and alter the original programming code,
but such tinkering is ENCOURAGED, rather than surpressed. To this end,
certain commonalties of usage and form are generally adhered to in order
to make the modification process as accessable as possible.

To be specific, Open Source computer programs must follow these guidelines:

1. Free Redistribution

Anyone is free to copy and pass around the program without restriction
or payment of royalties. It is "non-copyrighted" material.

2. Open Source Code

Source code is the inner workings of a computer program, in the form
that was used by the original programmer. Virtually all computer
programs are originally written in a "high level" language (like C++,
Java, Pascal, or BASIC) that humans can understand and manipulate, and
then "compiled" or converted into the ones-and-zeros that only a
computer can use. Once converted, it is difficult or impossible for
someone to understand, much less alter, the program. So Open Source
programs always include the "source" information so others can alter or
expand on the program's functions.

3. Derived Works

As mentioned previously, this permits other programmers to modify and
derive new programs from an original program.

4. Integrity of The Author's Source Code

The idea here is that when someone modifies or adds to an original
program, they include all of the original material along with it, so
others can also modify it.

5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups

The license must not discriminate against any person or group of
persons. It must be open to all.

6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor

For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a
business, or from being used for genetic research.

7. Distribution of License

The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program
is redistributed without any further authorization.

8. License Must Not Be Specific to a Product

The rights attached to the program must not depend on the program's
being part of a particular software distribution. So for example, a
programmer can extract a searching routine from a database program and
use it in a graphics program.

9. The License Must Not Restrict Other Software

This simply allows a programmer to distribute their OWN special (even
copyrighted) software along with Open Source software.

There are legal definitions used to cover Open Source software, most
commonly the General Public License or GPL, which codifies much of the
above list of attributes. Since software can be commercially useful and
valuable, some kind of legal codification is always in place when money
changes hands.

So how does all of this apply to the Art of Magick?

If we draw a comparison between the rituals and methods of ceremonial
magick and those of computer programming, some interesting parallels
emerge. Both are somewhat "arcane" human endeavors, requiring much study
and inculcation of unique symbolism and nomenclature before they can be
effectively used. Both disciplines are goal-oriented, generally
undertaken to codify certain procedures that yield a definite result.

While the computer sciences work with mathematical symbols and
operations that drive analytical-calculation devices to achieve certain
goals, magickal sciences work with psychological symbols and operations
that drive the subconscious and psychic mind to achieve certain goals.

In the bona fide magickal "traditions", such as the Goetia, Enochian or
Abra-Melin, it is made abundantly clear that NO modifications to the
original texts, artifacts, incantations, procedures, pronunciations,
symbols, etc. are permitted. While these restrictions are not
enforceable by law or contract, the traditions that come down with these
systems usually include admonishments to the practitioner to change
nothing, or risk dire consequences.

Other magickal traditions, such as those associated with lodges or
covens, such as Wicca or the Golden Dawn, are approached as "secret
societies" whose members are under oath not to reveal various levels of
secrecy; oaths are enforced by decree from the upper echelons and by
fear of reprisal by either arcane means ("curses upon the oath
breakers!") or in some case, such as the O.T.O., by legal copyright sanctions.

In some cases only certain parts of the tradition are secret (such as
passwords and handshakes), in some cases the major part of the lodge's
functions are kept secret (the rituals and symbolism), and in extreme
cases one is not even allowed to admit to others that the lodge or coven exists!

In this manner, the great majority of magickal traditions can be
compared to the "secret" and copyrighted forms of computer programs.
Only certain "inner circles" (the company's programmers and officers)
are allowed access to the "inner secrets" (the source codes) of the
software, usage of the software is restricted to those "initiates"
(people who have bought and paid for the software) who possess the
"passwords" or "keys" (such as original CD or disk copies), and
distribution of the software ("revealing the secrets") is prohibited by
oath (licensing agreements) and by copyright law.

So what then would constitute "open source magick"?

Simply put, it would be a magical "tradition" -- and it doesn't matter
if the tradition is one hour or a thousand years old -- which conforms
to the same parameters as open source computer software. To use the same
list of attributes as before:

1. Free Redistribution

Anyone is free to copy and pass around the rituals, operations,
lectures, knowledge documents, etc. without restriction or payment of
royalties. It is "anti-copyrighted" material.

2. Open Source Code

All the symbolism and ritual procedures of the magick are spelled out in
simple, easy to understand language, with no effort to bury the real
meanings in arcane names, archaic terms or specialized nomenclature. If
such trappings are a necessary part of the system, then they are
explained fully so that a person of reasonable intelligence and learning
can grasp the basic fundamentals. Symbols and their meanings are clearly
explained. Background materials are referenced and explanatory notes are
included. The goal is to make the inner workings accessible enough that
a canny practitioner could expand upon and/or modify the system and
still derive magickal value from it.

3. Derived Works

The actual goal of open source -- as mentioned above, one may take parts
of the original works and derive variations that would also be magically
useful. No artificial restrictions are placed on it, such as the
admonishments "not to change so much as the style of a letter!"

4. Integrity of The Author's Source Code

That those who expand upon the original system make reference to that
system, so others may "backtrack" to it and derive their own expansions
and derivatives.

5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups

One cannot restrict the use of the system to certain people -- by
gender, for example, or only by those of a particular ethnic background.

6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor

One cannot include admonishments to "only use it for personal
enlightenment" or "only for healing aims", or some other value judgments
such as "white" or "black" magick (whatever that may mean to a
particular philosophy.)

7. Distribution of License

That every practitioner of the system is fully "authorized" to use the
system and it's tools and procedures -- that no one is considered a
"heretic" or "usurper" to be sanctioned against its use. There are no
passwords or secret procedures open only to "official" members of the tradition.

8. License Must Not Be Specific to a Product

That the original system's philosophies or intentions are not made part
and parcel of the system itself. A person or group may develop a magical
procedure or system for accomplishing some large overriding goal (such
as "World Enlightenment"), but it is not required that other
practitioners share that goal in using the tools of the system.

9. The License Must Not Restrict Other Software

This would apply to other practitioners that add on to the original
system -- such add-ons would not be considered "non-canonical" or
improper for any reason.

There are three notable examples of groups promoting real Open Source
Magic that can be accessed on the World Wide Web.

The AutonomatriX (, a Guild of Chaos
Magicians dedicated to the propagation of magickal knowledge and
information (of which I am a member.) Their entire "Book of Shadows",
called The Corpus Fecundi, is publicly available and "anti-copyrighted",
allowing anyone to use the materials therein in any way they see fit.
They also maintain a page on their website for Commentaries by others
who use their work. The Guild has no "secrets", and membership is open
to anyone who can get an active member to Sponsor them.

"The AutonomatriX is a networking chaos magic guild of those striving to
discover, rejuvenate and disseminate magical ideas and technical skills
with success as the only key to validation. AutonomatriX is control
under self and selves under their own control. A Member of the
AutonomatriX agrees that he/she can be inspired by others' work and
wishes to exchange information with and inspire others; the only
requirement for Membership is the willingness to contribute and
distribute information."

The Horus-Maat Lodge (, a Thelemic
organization based on the works of Crowley and Nema (author of "Ma'at
Magick"), with an open membership by declaration and access to all the
Lodge's rites and workings.

"The Horus Current of revolution and ecstasy, which was heralded through
the Eye of Frater Perdurabo and others; The Maat Current of mystery and
mutation, which was heralded through the triangle of Soror Nema, Frater
Achad, Frater Belarion and others. These systems have been found to be
excellent springboards from which to leap into your own True Will, a
basis for your own individual formulae of magick... There are no
degrees, lessons, laws, requirements, or restrictions of any kind in the
H.M.L., save Truth. Your suggestions are eagerly invited, the Lodge can
go anywhere from here."

And there is the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn
(, of which I am also a member, which has taken the
vast corpus of the Golden Dawn tradition, modifying and updating it, and
releasing it's resulting rituals and teaching materials to the general
public. Unlike the Horus-Maat Lodge, it is an Initiatory Order with a
teaching curriculum based on the classic Hermetic Order's methods and sources.

"Following the demonstrably advantageous practice of the Open Source
Software movement, we build our Order on the sources of knowledge that
are accessible to anyone. Our sources are already open; we simply affirm
this obvious fact. We have no "secrets" to conceal, in particular those
that have already been revealed. And in any case, the era of artificial
secrecy is at an end. Ours is the Information Age, and we embrace it

The spirit of "D.I.Y." and building on what has gone before -- the
spirit of the Open Source movement -- will continue to influence and
typify the exploration of Occult Arts in the 21st Century, and it is a
development that is long overdue -- one that can break the antiquarian
and hierarchical systems that have shackled us to the past and hamstrung
the Art for millennia.


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