interview : paul : webmaster lashtal.com

today on rune logix i’m pleased to present an interview with Paul from lashtal.com. since 1999, lasthal.com has been the premiere Thelemic community portal on the net. lasthal.com is a success story of technology enabling the free exchange of information, a friendly user community, and one of the best resources for learning about Aleister Crowley and Thelema on the internet.

one of the most exciting things for me to learn that this is just the start of lashtal.com’s incarnation, with new features, and resources being made available to the scholar and beginner alike.

on behalf of the Thelemic community of rune logix, i would like to extend my thanks to Paul and Ian for the dedication and sacrifice it takes to persevere with this act of love. love is the law, love under will.

without further introduction, the interview:

> Tell me about the history of LAShTAL.com, how did it come into being?

I’ve been involved in what could loosely be described as online Thelema since before the Internet became widely available, going back to the old days of Bulletin Boards when a 1200 baud modem linked to a Commodore Amiga was as much as anyone would ever need. LAShTAL.COM has had many online incarnations, becoming recognizably the site it is now around 1999.

> LAShTAL.com, Thelema Coast to Coast, and Thelemapedia, are recent examples of a new generation of tools for the Thelemic community on the whole to communicate and discuss topics in a sophisticated and easy to use format. What do you think about the broad implications of so many people hearing about Aleister Crowley and the Law of Thelema?

I’d like to think that we can expect a decreasing obsession with “the demon Crowley” and the quite ridiculous view in the media that Thelema, “black magic” and “Satanism” are synonyms. My personal hope, also, is that Crowley’s legacy will be reassessed and that his positive contributions to spirituality and mysticism, art, chess, mountaineering, poetry, philosophy, comparative religion and all the rest will be acknowledged. I intend that LAShTAL.COM, as “the Home of the Aleister Crowley Society” will continue to serve…

> What are some of the issues that come up on a regular basis with running an online community?

Thelema is probably unique among religions – or belief systems whose aims are essentially coterminous with religion – in that its devotees and enthusiasts are able to latch onto one of its two major tenets and use it as self-justification for every foible and foolishness. On occasion, LAShTAL.COM welcomes a new member claiming extraordinary levels of initiation who then proceeds to lecture and harangue existing members, occasionally in terms that many would consider brutish, arrogant and libelous. When advised to “tone it down” the new member asserts his “Liber Oz” rights, complains that no true Thelemite ought to censure or censor and retires hurt to lick his wounds. I don’t think this experience is unique to LAShTAL.COM, by the way, or even to Thelema,

> What are some technical skills needed to accomplish this?

The static site development tools – in my case NetObjects Fusion, then FrontPage, then Dreamweaver – only allowed me to go so far, being so laborious to update that they never allowed real interactivity or spontaneity. I then discovered the world of Content Management Systems and have used Postnuke ever since. In my humble opinion, it’s a wonderful tool. A volunteer with significant technical skills in respect of PHP and MySQL has since taken over the techie side from me, which has allowed me far more time to focus on the content.

> What has been your most rewarding experience with LAShTAL.com?

Absolutely and without doubt the friends and acquaintances I’ve made through the site who have confirmed my belief that your average Thelemite and Crowley student is intelligent, generous and witty.

> Most challenging?

The reinforcement that fundamentalists and obsessives exist in all arenas…

> One of the best features of LAShTAL.com, in my opinion, is the Thelemic time server. now there is a central website that can list the Thelemic calendar on any website. thats awesome, what inspired this?

We know that Crowley and others recognized the importance of the Thelemic date but to use it frequently and consistently really does require a computer. Ian Rons, my technical administrator, needed the tool for LAShTAL.COM so he developed it: making it freely available to the wider Thelemic community seemed an obvious next step.

> Will the future bring more features to LAShTAL.com, and if so, what the devil are they!

Lots of plans! Next up will be a truly collaborative Thelemic bibliography, which I’m very excited about and which enters beta testing phase today. Then we’ll be looking at using LAShTAL.COM to host serious research essays and cultural submissions for peer review. Meanwhile, I continue to work on the media articles archive. After that? You wouldn’t believe me if I told you!

> What were some of the best qualities of Thelemic sites that are no longer active, like Beast Bay, and others?

They paved the path, as it were, and created a real sense of community. I suspect some lacked the discipline and commitment to grow. Others, like crowleyana.com and the Austin Osman Spare email list, enthusiastically passed the torch on to LAShTAL.COM.

> Do you see more Thelemic blogs, podcasts, videopods, voipods, and networking services coming in the future?

Definitely – and it’s just possible that LAShTAL.COM will join the sport in some of those areas!

> What is an online service that would be most helpful to Thelemites that does not exist today?

Interesting question… What Thelema needs most now is the thing it’s least likely to get: a complete archive of Crowley’s written and artistic work. All the stuff: published and unpublished. All the letters, all the diaries – the full texts of all the works, supplemented by constructive annotations. Because, as Crowley wrote in his role as the reincarnated Ankh-f-n-Khonsu: “All questions of the Law are to be decided only by appeal to my writings, each for himself.”

> Now for a serious question: would Aleister Crowley use a Mac or PC?

A PC. Crowley was, at heart, a very conservative man.

> Whats on your reading list?

The McMurtry biography in the latest two Red Flames; a couple of standard works on Egyptian hieroglyphics; and, my third re-read of Norman Mailer’s wonderful “Ancient Evenings”.

> Final comments you would like to share?

Perhaps I could be forgiven for providing a couple of my favourite quotations:

“Mankind can live free in a society hemmed in by laws, but we have yet to find a historical example of mankind living free in lawless anarchy.” (Stephen Fry)

“All words are sacred and all prophets true; save only that they understand a little… Remember all ye that existence is pure joy; that all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass & are done; but there is that which remains.” (Liber AL)