Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The statement: "Every individual in the armed services, of whatever country, has surrendered the most precious quality of all - personal freedom. While I do not require that you agree with this choice, I do request that you respect it." - (Christopher VandeLinde <email@example.com>)
The question: "Why? i.e., Why respect the choice to surrender personal freedom?" - ("Rev. Doubt-Goat" <firstname.lastname@example.org>)
I would suggest that the statement, as well as the question, are both too broadly worded to be accepted or rejected, as regards Thelema (my interpretation), in a blanket fashion.
Please permit me to explain.
I. Vague On The Issue Of Thelemic Forethought
No mention is made in the statement about the level of forethought that went into the decision to join the armed service. Was there proper consideration given to the individual's Will? Does the individual expect that actions taken under contract and oath to the armed force in question will aid in the exertion of said Will? If so, Thelema is at work, and I should think other Thelemites would respect it, provided, of couse, they are cognizant of this facet of the process.
I furthermore submit, however, that most would not be privy to this knowledge. Therefore, whether we believe a Thelemic thought process to be at work or not, and hence, whether we respect the decision or not, we should, in all likelihood, not interfere with the decision on the basis that it might, potentially, be a Thelemically driven action. At the risk of invoking the clause regarding Centers Of Pestillence, I would remind Thelemites that we cannot know if we are looking at a King in guise; there is no certain test.
Therefore, whether or not we respect the decision to join military service, I submit that there is enough doubt about whether the respect should be there that the decision cannot be safely disparaged on the grounds of its perceived failure to adhere to the tenets of Thelema. Or, in other words, though we may not know if the action can be respected, we cannot know that it should be disrespected.
II. Misleading Statement Regarding The Term "Surrender"
Not all personal freedoms are surrendered when one joins a military service. Some personal freedoms are, for lack of a better phrase, temporarily and voluntarily suspended; but even in this, not all personal freedoms are thusly surrendered. Therefore, this "surrender of personal freedom" is not so complete as the original poster's phrase may have suggested.
In the end, moment by moment, one still does generally have the choice to breach the contract of service and execute one's Will contrary to the contract and oaths given. What personal freedoms are surrendered, then, are surrendered in action only on a superficial level, and are only truly surrendered in name, the importance of oaths to the individual notwithstanding.
I therefore submit that the personal freedom is only sacrificed in so far as the individual in question intends to honor the contract and the oath, and for only so long as this intent continues.
Were this a complete surrendering of personal freedom, I might see more room for debate on this issue, but, as I see it, one does not actually surrender all personal freedom simply by the act of joining a military force. Therefore, in my opinion, there is less of an action deserving of the lack of respect suggested by the question than might be implied by the broad and sweeping nature of the original statement.
This is a typical case of an event in daily Life where not all the details surrounding the incident are known, and, as should be common sense, suggests that any judgement made regarding such an event is likely to be flawed in one capacity or another.
If the statement were qualified such that it were clear that the individual in the armed service has, with full forethought and with the intent to exert the Will, chosen to surrender the portion of their personal freedom necessary to the task, then it is a Thelemically respectable action.
Likewise, if such considerations were not undertaken, the action is not specifically Thelemically respectable, though we still suffer the disadvantage of never really knowing the True Will of another star.
Without that knowledge, we can never be certain that any act, undertaken with intentional respect to Will or not, is or is not in harmony with the True Will, and, as such, it is not our place to judge that action as regards its adherence to the tenets of Thelema, and, by extension, whether that action should be respected or not.
Barring the ability to dispassionately accept the actions of others, I tend to agree with the original poster, in that the decision to join the armed forces is at least an action, and generally an intentional one (though less stringent definitions of "intentional" may be required in the company of Thelemites in order for the statement to be viewed as accurate). In keeping with the philosophy that generates the belief that "Any intentional act is a magical act," I feel that any intentional act deserves at least some level of respect for having been intentional, with varying degrees of judgemental respect accorded with the perception of the level of Thelemic forethought involved.
Really, though, the only safe thing to do is to try to avoid wasting our time in the judgement of the actions of others, and to instead concentrate our energies on our own attainment, our own Will, our own sense of Love, and our own actions as they support these elements of our Path. We have no right but to do our Will, and to rejoice in the rewards therein.
Love is the law, love under will.
Many thanks to Rev. Doubt-Goat <email@example.com> and Christopher VandeLinde <firstname.lastname@example.org> for the post on the Thelema93-L mailing list which precipitated this review.