Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Modern Thelema

Hello everybody! Wanted to introduce another piece of occult writing that is to be published in our premier issue. This is written by a budding Thelemite that practices the ritual and adheres to the ethos of this magical tradition. Make sure to check out issue 1 for the full article!

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the Law, love under Will.” This phrase alone can be used to express the fundamental meaning of what it is to be a Thelemite. Thelema is simply the Koine Greek word that translates into English as “Will”. While the monk, Fran├žois Rabelais, was known for his satirical writings on the concepts of Thelema, it was British writer and ceremonial magician, Aleister Crowley that put Thelema into workable practice. Inspired during a visit to Egypt in 1904, Crowley's Holy Guardian Angel, (Aiwass) dictated to him the Book of the Law. The book was written in three different segments and on three different days. It is from this sacred Book that “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” comes from and through this saying, modern Thelema has gained a foothold in our culture’s religious philosophy.
            Quite a few people mistake “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” with do AS thou wilt. The difference between these two seemingly identical phrases is that one tells you to find your Will and enact it while the other refers to your “lesser will” or desires. This confusion is one of the first principles understood by the budding Thelemite. Finding the True Will becomes the focal point of the Thelemite. It is not uncommon for the Thelemite to search through several different kinds of occult sciences and various philosophies as well as religions in search of their True Will. Once that True Will has been discovered, the Thelemite makes it the point of their life to only perform what is in alignment with that True Will.
There are many rituals that a Thelemite will enact to further their Will and keep the concept in the front of their consciousness. One of these rituals, “saying Will”, is done before a meal. The idea behind this small ritual is to remind the Thelemite than even so small an action as consuming food is designed to further their True Will. In Book Four, Chapter XIII, Aleister Crowley wrote as a footnote : “…The point is to seize every occasion of bringing every available force to bear upon the objective of the assault. It does not matter what the force is (by any standard of judgment) so long as it plays its proper part in securing the success of the general purpose.” 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New post!

Hey everybody! Wanted to give you another excerpt of an article that is from my book and going to be featured in the upcoming issue of MagusMagazine. Still needs some fine tuning, but give it a read and tell me what you think! Also look out for the official website that is getting ready to launch!

 Since the enlightenment, supernatural or indeed, spiritual belief has been attacked as nebulous superstitions propagated by irrationality. Philosophers of the time looked at supernatural belief as something to be discarded in favor of reason and logic. This attitude prevails even today as mainstream academia and science strive for secular supremacy in modern culture. Hufford makes this point when he states that “the conventional view assumes that there is no distinctively “spiritual” set of experiences, that there are, rather spiritual interpretations of ordinary experiences that vie with secular interpretations of the same things” (27). By this viewpoint, one person’s demonic attack is another’s undiagnosed ‘night terror’ and so on. Although this view is persuasive, if doesn’t work in reference to the occult because the occult actively seeks to be part of the folk process. Unlike a UFO abduction narrative or an Old Hag attack, the occult practitioner willfully uses his belief to shape the experience. That’s not to say that somebody who wakes up aboard an alien craft or paralyzed by a ghostly hag doesn’t draw upon belief to interpret their experiences, only that the occultists uses belief to sanction his chosen interpretation of the experience.
            Another way in which occult-lore differs from other forms of supernatural narratives is in the legitimacy granted to it by consensus reality. Unlike a ghostly haunting or UFO abduction, society at large believes in the power of the occult. And always has. Whether it be the fear of diabolic ritualization or abduction of our children, the occult is accepted as a tangible or at least feasible institution. Often times, supernatural elements of the occult are set aside and the belief in brainwashing misguided or marginalized members of society becomes a catalyst for rumor panic. For those who believe in the magic and mysticism of the occult, rationalization of their belief parallels that of the church. Belief in the occult is analogous to belief in the power of prayer, holy relics, or communion. Although the occult is largely tabooed belief, it negotiates the same beliefs as any religious institution. Because of this, faith in the occult is no different in principle than faith in Pentecostal snake-handling or charismatic Christian revivals.
            In fact, the snake-handling practices of southern Appalachia is so similar to supernatural experience that the two are intrinsically connected. For example, when author Dennis Covington asked a member of ‘The Church of Jesus with Signs Following’:
           “What’s it like to take up a serpent?”
“It’s hard to explain,” Uncle Ully had said. “You’re in a prayerful state. You can’t have your mind on other things. The spirit tells you what to do.”
“But why do people get bit?”
He thought about it a minute. “In that situation, somebody must have misjudged the spirit.”

This misjudging of the spirit is no different in principle than the occult belief of misjudging a demonic entity. Both negotiate the supernatural and make use of folk belief to interpret the experience. Also, consensus reality accepts that there are dangers associated with both experiences. Although the snakes are a very real, physical danger to the handler, the occult ritual carries the threat of psychological manipulation or damage.
            By assigning the modern occultist the designation of ‘folk’, we reaffirm the need to take into consideration the actions and ritualization of the occult as part of the academic mainstream. Occultists are held together by their similarity in narratives and in their performance. Occult-lore also makes use of traditional folkloric forms in its commercialization and dissemination. When we read of modern demonic invocations, we are implicitly reminded of ancient Egyptian, Grecian, and Roman motifs. As survivals from the past, these rituals have adapted to fit the needs of modern belief. The occult is the agent provocateur of past mythos and ritual. In it lays the secrecy and mysticism of symbols long thought dead. As a cabal of supernatural thought, the occult folklorist protects the mirth and magic of ancient mysteries only to find their symbolic and psychological correspondences in everyday experiences. It is these perceptions of belief that make the study of occult-lore viable for academia. The narratives are simultaneously informative and entertaining.     

Tuesday, June 7, 2011





It seems to me, that the long-raging debate between “free will” and determinism is unusually marred by unresolved semantic differences. What one side of the fence is trying to convey, often never makes it across the fence, and thus the issues raised in the debate, are seldom properly addressed. I would, in this post, like to clarify some of these semantic issues, so people can avoid their pitfalls, and engage in productive discussion concerning this matter.
What will be a primary focus here, is the way various people define “free will”, and how this affects the debate. First however, I would like to clarify a point about determinism.
Determinists contend, that the universe, at least as far as we know, operates according to the laws of cause and effect, and thus, everything is predetermined (which is different, I might add, from arguing that everything is predictable). While not the central tenet of determinism, a natural outgrowth of this perspective is the idea that “free will” is a myth, and “choice” is but an illusion.
The first thing we need to recognize then, is that not everybody defines “free will” as being indeterminant. In fact, many definitions of “free will”, do not specifically address the issues raised by determinism, and so it’s often unclear, whether a given definition of “free will” is compatible with determinism or not.
For example, many Objectivists and “post-Objectivists” (people who have abandoned Objectivism as a whole, but still maintain many Objectivist notions), define “free will” as (something along the lines of) “the ability to think and form concepts”. Personally, I have never heard of a determinist who does not recognize the human ability to think and form concepts. There is nothing about this particular definition then, that is specifically antithetical to determinism. However, Objectivists (like Ayn Rand) and post-Objectivists (like Stefan Molyneux), often speak with great virulence against determinism. As a result, it is unclear (to me at least) whether:
a) Objectivists and post-Objectivists (Os and POs) even know what determinism is (what the actual position held by determinists is),
b) Whether Os and POs ARE or are not determinists themselves (despite what they claim),
c) Whether or not Os and POs consider our “choices” to be the EFFECTS of prior CAUSES, or
d) Whether or not Os and POs have ever bothered to address the issues raised by determinists, despite claiming to disagree with determinists.
I will come back to this issue in a bit.
I’ve also heard people define “free will” as “the ability to make choices”. This definition, once again, does not address the issue raised by determinists, and so it is unclear whether or not such a definition is compatible with determinism. What needs to be clarified, is what a “choice” actually is, and whether or not a choice is the effect of a prior cause (or prior causes).
Two good questions to ask, when confronted with this sort of ambiguity are as follows:
“When you describe our ‘will’ as being ‘free’, what do you believe it is FREE FROM? Do you, or do you not, believe that the ‘will’ is FREE FROM the laws of cause and effect?”
Some people of course (such as Daniel Dennet) DO in fact define “free will” as being “indeterminant” or at least “to some degree undetermined”. Such definitions, are clearly incompatible with determinism. This is where the REAL debate lies.
Most often (at least in intellectual circles), people who argue that our will is “undetermined”, make some sort of appeal to quantum mechanics. In some cases however, some people make appeals to concepts like “God” or “the soul”. As it were, EVEN IF gods and souls were real things, we would STILL know absolutely nothing relevant or verifiable about what such things were and and how they function. As such, such things are simply irrelevant to the discussion. At least when it comes to Quantum Mechanics, we know a little something about it, and thus have “something to go on”. QM is something we can discuss in a meaningful way.
Let me return now to the issue of Os and POs. What’s important to understand about Os and POs is this:
Many Os and POs believe (despite any contrary evidence found in dictionaries) that any given word can ONLY have ONE definition, and the way that THEY define any given word is the “correct”/”right”/”true” way of defining it, whether or not their own definition is commonly recognized or found in any dictionary. In other words, if you define a term differently than they do, they believe you have made an “error”. In their own minds, it’s as if you have declared that 2+2=5. As such, Os and POs are often incapable of evaluating an argument based on it’s intended MEANING. Rather, they can only evaluate an argument in terms of how it SOUNDS. This often causes them to not only straw-man people, but to straw-man people they actually AGREE with. Allow me to illustrate this point with an example.............