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Happy Birthday, Janet

Today is the birthday of my wonderful wife, mobyjane. As is so often the case with genuinely wonderful people, she is not aware of how wonderful she really is. Janet is beautiful, graceful, funny, loving, nurturing, and wikid smaht. Ok sure, she can be a little neurotic sometimes and when I'm sick she's the one that gets irritable...but her tiny, um, challenges are but pebbles at the foot of the mountain of her awesomeness.

Sweetie, I hope you have a great day and know that there are at least two guys in your life that think you are the best. I love you.

Oaklander

For all those around LJ that don't hover around my Facebook page, my family and I have just recently moved to Oakland. I'm here to complete my degree and I'm starting my one year of internship. I will be working with children, mostly with a group of middle school kids. I've already met most of them and I'm really looking forward to getting back into the psychology swing of things. Although the move was an incredibly stressful event, I'm happy to say that we are all settling in quite nicely.

(Repost) Thelema Revisited: A Critique

Apologies to those who have already seen this entry. I am posting this for two reasons: lots of people seem to think I'm still a Thelemite and I wanted to explain why I no longer am. I have no interest in insulting anyone and I am happy for all those who find Thelema to be rewarding. At the moment, I don't have much time for drama, so I'm only willing to reply to thoughtful, even-handed comments. Knee-jerk reactions, especially ones clearly not based on what I actually wrote (hint: read the essay before attacking me), will either be ignored or deleted. If reading critiques of your belief system upset you, then I recommend skipping this post. Otherwise, I welcome your feedback.


It has been a couple of years now since I formally bid farewell to Thelema. Since that time I haven't thought much about it, my attention being largely given to my academic studies and my new-found interest in Religious Naturalism (not to mention my family). A few days ago, however, I did find myself pondering Thelema and noticed that my thinking was different now that I'm emotionally detached from it. Like breaking up with a lover, once the painful fire of separation cools, it is possible to look back and get a clearer picture of who that person really was and what the relationship was really like.

First I want to say that I don't begrudge anyone being a Thelemite. Thelema provided an important developmental stepping stone in my own life and I am not qualified to judge another's experiences or needs. This does not mean that I don't have honest critiques of Thelema, I simply hope that they aren't mistaken for scoldings of individual adherents or any claim that my views represent a single objective truth generalizable to everyone. These are simply my impressions as they currently stand, and people are welcome to consider or dismiss them as they will.

First, keep in mind that at one point I was a True Believer. It isn't that I accepted anything that Aleister Crowley wrote without question, but I was happy to believe in the general outlines and the myths that Crowley wove. I bought all his books and practiced his rituals. I joined and was highly active for thirteen years in his quasi-masonic fraternal organization, Ordo Templi Orientis, rising in rank to Fifth Degree and taking orders as an ordained priest in the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica. I was really, really into it.

So what happened? In about a two-year time span I went from being a zealot to an apostate. This essay is not going to retell that tale, however, since my primary interest is in offering a critique rather than a biography. I will say that it primarily involved a project that required examining many of Crowley's core documents with an analytical eye. Although I initially went into that project fully expecting the examination to support my Thelemic faith, it was eventually to dissolve it. I fought it tooth and nail until the very end, performing all kinds of theoretical contortions to justify holding on to Thelema, but it just wasn't enough. I came out of that tunnel a non-believer.

The Problem with Will

I begin with the core doctrine of Thelema—the concept of Will. In terms of Thelemic doctrine, Will is not a well-defined structure. In fact, many theological debates within Thelema involve the proper definition of Will, what it means, how it works, and what it implies. At the bottom of Will, however, is the notion that every person has within them a central drive to action that is either externally derived—most often from a being called the Holy Guardian Angel—or internally provided by an unconscious "silent self". However, humans are generally blinded to this Will, in part due to egoism (a too-strong sense of "I") and in part due to cultural contamination. The main duty of a Thelemite, therefore, is to work through the veils of blindness so to achieve a clear understanding of their own unique Will. Moreover, he or she must develop certain skills (i.e. "magick") and personal traits that will allow that Will to be manifested via action.

I reject this general concept of Will on several grounds. First, its definition is vague enough to be without any real utility; if we were talking about something real, a nominal definition would be more clear. In ontological terms, I cannot accept the idea that a single way of being or acting is ideal in every given situation or that we all have a potential destiny for us to fulfill. Ethically, I detest the notion that manifesting one's Will is of higher priority than any social obligation or that it requires overriding one's inherent sense of compassion, fairness, or emotional attachment (I address ethics more fully below). Psychologically, I see no evidence to believe that there are thoughts or behaviors originating from any process other than normal neural activity, based on innate mechanisms and data perceived from the physical world using the five sensory inputs. Further, the notion of a discrete "ego" and "unconscious" has been long abandoned scientifically—meaning that, objectively speaking, there is no hidden authentic mind privy to occult truths that could be accessed consciously if only the ersatz "I-mind" could be quieted or eliminated. This simplistic idea does a great disservice to the complex functions of the brain and the way humans maintain a sense of self and experience the world.


Continue to original post....

Thelema Revisited: A Critique

I am posting this for two reasons: lots of people seem to think I'm still a Thelemite and I wanted to explain why I no longer am. I have no interest in insulting anyone and I am happy for all those who find Thelema to be rewarding. At the moment, I don't have much time for drama, so I'm only willing to reply to thoughtful, even-handed comments. Knee-jerk reactions, especially ones clearly not based on what I actually wrote (hint: read the essay before attacking me), will either be ignored or deleted. If reading critiques of your belief system upset you, then I recommend skipping this post. Otherwise, I welcome your feedback.
It has been a couple of years now since I formally bid farewell to Thelema. Since that time I haven't thought much about it, my attention being largely given to my academic studies and my new-found interest in Religious Naturalism (not to mention my family). A few days ago, however, I did find myself pondering Thelema and noticed that my thinking was different now that I'm emotionally detached from it. Like breaking up with a lover, once the painful fire of separation cools, it is possible to look back and get a clearer picture of who that person really was and what the relationship was really like.

First I want to say that I don't begrudge anyone being a Thelemite. Thelema provided an important developmental stepping stone in my own life and I am not qualified to judge another's experiences or needs. This does not mean that I don't have honest critiques of Thelema, I simply hope that they aren't mistaken for scoldings of individual adherents or any claim that my views represent a single objective truth generalizable to everyone. These are simply my impressions as they currently stand, and people are welcome to consider or dismiss them as they will.

First, keep in mind that at one point I was a True Believer. It isn't that I accepted anything that Aleister Crowley wrote without question, but I was happy to believe in the general outlines and the myths that Crowley wove. I bought all his books and practiced his rituals. I joined and was highly active for thirteen years in his quasi-masonic fraternal organization, Ordo Templi Orientis, rising in rank to Fifth Degree and taking orders as an ordained priest in the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica. I was really, really into it.

So what happened? In about a two-year time span I went from being a zealot to an apostate. This essay is not going to retell that tale, however, since my primary interest is in offering a critique rather than a biography. I will say that it primarily involved a project that required examining many of Crowley's core documents with an analytical eye. Although I initially went into that project fully expecting the examination to support my Thelemic faith, it was eventually to dissolve it. I fought it tooth and nail until the very end, performing all kinds of theoretical contortions to justify holding on to Thelema, but it just wasn't enough. I came out of that tunnel a non-believer.

The Problem with Will

I begin with the core doctrine of Thelema—the concept of Will. In terms of Thelemic doctrine, Will is not a well-defined structure. In fact, many theological debates within Thelema involve the proper definition of Will, what it means, how it works, and what it implies. At the bottom of Will, however, is the notion that every person has within them a central drive to action that is either externally derived—most often from a being called the Holy Guardian Angel—or internally provided by an unconscious "silent self". However, humans are generally blinded to this Will, in part due to egoism (a too-strong sense of "I") and in part due to cultural contamination. The main duty of a Thelemite, therefore, is to work through the veils of blindness so to achieve a clear understanding of their own unique Will. Moreover, he or she must develop certain skills (i.e. "magick") and personal traits that will allow that Will to be manifested via action.

I reject this general concept of Will on several grounds. First, its definition is vague enough to be without any real utility; if we were talking about something real, a nominal definition would be more clear. In ontological terms, I cannot accept the idea that a single way of being or acting is ideal in every given situation or that we all have a potential destiny for us to fulfill. Ethically, I detest the notion that manifesting one's Will is of higher priority than any social obligation or that it requires overriding one's inherent sense of compassion, fairness, or emotional attachment (I address ethics more fully below). Psychologically, I see no evidence to believe that there are thoughts or behaviors originating from any process other than normal neural activity, based on innate mechanisms and data perceived from the physical world using the five sensory inputs. Further, the notion of a discrete "ego" and "unconscious" has been long abandoned scientifically—meaning that, objectively speaking, there is no hidden authentic mind privy to occult truths that could be accessed consciously if only the ersatz "I-mind" could be quieted or eliminated. This simplistic idea does a great disservice to the complex functions of the brain and the way humans maintain a sense of self and experience the world.
Read more...Collapse )

Happy News

I have had little motivation to post to LJ in a long time (obviously), but a great deal has been happening in my life lately. As many here already know, mobyjane and I are getting married soon, on May the 22nd. It will be a simple ceremony held at her workplace, which happens to be the beautiful headquarters of the UUA in Boston.

The primary reason we are getting married so quickly is because of our other happy news: we are now 14 weeks pregnant. That's right, we're going to be the parents of a bouncing baby boy sometime in early November!

We have waited to make the general announcement until we got back all the genetic testing, and we can happily say that the kid has no genetic abnormalities whatsoever (that the test can screen for). In all, this has been a textbook experience for a normal, healthy pregnancy.

We are wildly happy about this new little human, and can't wait to meet him.

Job Update

I thought I'd give a brief update about my new job. It's with The Center for Community Independence in Revere, MA. This agency works with folks who have brain damage to help transition them as close to independence as possible. Although a few clients have congenital damage, most of them are there due to a traumatic injury. As you might expect, there are a wide range of issues, including motor, emotional, and behavioral. Some clients live with family but most live in nearby condos that are owned by CCI.

I am one of the staff members who help them live their lives and offer what therapy might be possible. Every client has a different program, but nearly all of them need some form of serious assistance, such as transportation, money management, domestic routines, and even basic self care, such as hygiene. So far, what that means is making sure they take their meds, driving them around for chores and whatnot, helping them prepare meals, and provide whatever therapeutic services they might need, such as cognitive or physical exercises.

I haven't met all the clients yet and have worked with only four (out of 17). However, I'm sure that that will change as they break me in. I think they are starting me out on the "easy" clients who have been in the program a number of years, are physically able to care for themselves, and have already made some good progress. Again, I'm sure that will change.

So far, I really enjoy the work. It isn't exactly in my line of training, but I think it will nevertheless provide invaluable experience for me. Right now I'm just part time, but if I continue to like it, I will eventually ask to go full time.

Public Service Announcement

My yearly post outlining my journal's rules.

Essentially, there is only one real cost to having my journal remain public—it must remain a place for adult behavior.

I do not mind disagreement. You are welcome to comment on my journal and offer an opinion different than or contradictory to mine. If you are so inclined, please note the three standing rules:

1) You must be respectful of me and other commenters (i.e. no personal attacks or aspersions).
2) You must have a willingness to exchange information, meaning listening to it as much as giving it.
3) You must engage with good faith, meaning the object is not to twist or use my words to attempt injury to me or another.

EDIT! I've decided to add a fourth rule:

4) Verbal diarrhea is not allowed. Granted this is a bit vague and so will initially earn a warning, but most people can recognize this kind of comment when they see it.

Clear violations of any of these rules will get your comments deleted. Repeated violations will get you banned. If a situation flares up, I might ban for a short period for things to cool off. Asking me later to unban will likely succeed.

That is all. Have a nice day.

Snowy Video

Here's a little video from the other day here in Salem...

Why I am no longer a Thelemite

Since declaring my separation from Thelema, many have asked me for my reasoning. I am writing this entry for my own convenience, as a place to refer such inquirers in the future instead of having to rewrite my reasons each time. Please note that I am not putting this up here to anger anyone or dissuade anyone from Thelema. It is simply a catalog of my own reasons for moving on.

1) I am a Naturalist. Naturalism is a philosophical orientation that does not acknowledge the existence of supernatural beings, forces, or places. It's motto is "The natural is real and the real is natural." Thelema is predicated on supernaturalism, from it's basic cosmology to its origins (i.e. the "reception" of Liber AL). As a naturalist, I do not believe in "elemental" or "planetary" forces, the soul or body of light, holy guardian angels, personal god(s), change at a distance, astral or enochian "planes", reincarnation, clairvoyance, gematria, talismans, divine "offices", or divination.

More importantly, I do not believe in True Will as a construct. This is because I do not believe that there is a divine plan or destiny for us to adhere to, nor do I believe in ascending spiritual states of clarity regarding hidden layers of reality. I have no doubt that people can experience such things, but those experiences are subjective with no meaning outside of the individual's personal set of beliefs and expectations. In other words, such experiences do not lead to any objective or even pragmatic changes in a person, unless as a byproduct (eg. the ability to focus the mind can be useful in many circumstances).

I do understand the appeal of transcendence, and Thelema does offer techniques to create intense experiences that significantly shift one's state of awareness. But in all, the general goals of Thelema are better achieved by such things as learning practical skills, experiencing novel things in the world, becoming better educated, making strong interpersonal connections, staying physically fit, increasing one's personal integrity, and going to psychotherapy to clear up any emotional tangles. And I find the natural world to be far more awe-inspiring, beautiful, and worthy of reverence than anything described in a holy book or vision.

2) Maturity. As I've grown as a person, I am no longer attracted to the ethics or culture of Thelema. I consider both to be essentially adolescent in nature—specifically, Thelema promotes individuation, rebellion, and experimentation, which are things that are common to the teen years. These are not necessarily bad things and can even be very valuable to a person depending on one's emotional state. I myself needed those things when I found Thelema in my early 20s, and I'm thankful for it.

But as a whole, Thelema is very limiting in this regard. As one moves through the adolescent stage one comes out at a place where the individuated self needs to reconnect with others and move priorities beyond strictly personal interests. It is a more complex arrangement, balancing personal wholeness with social interconnection and responsibility, which is something that Thelema does not address (and often rails against). For a time I was assuaged by the pro-social principles of Ordo Templi Orientis, but the growing attitude of literalistic supernaturalism, preoccupation with semi-taboo sexuality, and a chronic lack of social stability finally broke me. In the end, I had many wonderful friends, but had lost all faith in the Order as a vehicle for social transformation or my own personal fulfillment. (Edit: I fully support members of OTO who find their participation to be meaningful and fulfilling. I'm not attacking OTO so much as explaining those elements that I myself could no longer tolerate. I still adhere to many of OTO's core principles, such as fraternity, harmony, honor, and nobility. Understand, I left OTO primarily because I left Thelema, not the other way around.)

Mix adolescent morality with magical thinking, and you get my primary reason for leaving Thelema. I am not claiming that Thelema is without any virtue, but what there is eventually became swamped by what I could no longer stomach. I am now a strong proponent of Religious Naturalism and explore those ideas at my site, SacredRiver.org.

Although I'm sure I've offended people, please know that that was not my intention. I simply hope that this post makes clear my reasoning for moving beyond Thelema.

Perfect Summary of Bush

The most perfect one line description of the Bush administration I've come across:



An epoch of unmitigated misery, an era of bunglefuckery.



Man on Wire

I have seen many movies, and of those, only a small handful have I considered to be perfect. The 2007 documentary Man on Wire has joined this small list. It chronicles Philippe Petit's 1974 walk across the Twin Towers on a thin wire illegally strung up by a small group of friends and accomplices. The story itself is astounding, but everything about the movie is flawless, from the score to the editing to the cinematography. Man on Wire is funny, riveting, and beautiful. See it at your earliest convenience.

Warm Greetings

Excepting this cold I can't kick, this has been one of the best holiday seasons I've ever had. Being here with Janet, watching the snow come down, seeing the Revels and the incredible Boston Nutcracker, well, it's been magical for me. There's a bright blue sky out today, lots of sweets around the house, and music in the air. Xmas for me has always been about celebrating life and love, and with all the wonderful people in my life, I have much to celebrate. I hope your own season is as bright and warm as my own.

Slut Survey

A huge international survey by David P. Schmitt at Bradley University looked at sexual attitudes around the world. Part of this was ranking attitudes and behaviors in regards to sexual promiscuity, number of partners, casual sex, marital fidelity, sexual freedom, prostitution, and divorce. The researchers call this the Sexual Permissiveness scale. The rankings are as follows:

  1. Finland
  2. New Zealand
  3. Slovenia
  4. Lithuania
  5. Austria
  6. Latvia
  7. Croatia
  8. Israel
  9. Bolivia
  10. Argentina
  11. UK
  12. Estonia
  13. Germany
  14. Netherlands
  15. Morocco
  16. Switzerland
  17. Serbia
  18. Fiji
  19. Brazil
  20. Czech Rep
  21. Australia
  22. USA
  23. France
  24. Turkey
  25. Mexico
  26. Slovakia
  27. Peru
  28. Canada
  29. Italy
  30. Poland
  31. Spain
  32. Belgium
  33. Congo
  34. Greece
  35. Ukraine
  36. Romania
  37. Philippines
  38. Malta
  39. Portugal
  40. Lebanon
  41. Botswana
  42. Ethiopia
  43. Japan
  44. Hong Kong
  45. Zimbabwe
  46. South Korea
  47. Bangladesh
  48. Taiwan
You can find a PDF of the entire study here. It is a large read.

Top 15 Teen Movies

1) Ferris Bueller's Day Off
2) Sixteen Candles
3) Fast Times at Ridgemont High
4) Dazed and Confused
5) Grease
6) Say Anything
7) American Grafitti
8) Heathers
9) Fame
10) Napoleon Dynamite
11) Back to the Future
12) Breakfast Club
13) Risky Business
14) Dead Poets Society
15) Weird Science

Edit: I have replaced WarGames with Napoleon Dynamite. This was a hard choice, but I was compelled. I still love WarGames and do consider it a teen movie, but J. pointed out correctly that the central events in the movie could have been played by people other than teens, which put it on the edge. Also, even with all the teen issues in it, the core concern was about war, which goes beyond a teen-centric concern.

Edit #2: I want to add an honorable mention that isn't a movie, but a television show: Freaks and Geeks. The show was so good that I put it up there with the best movies.

Edit #3: Other movies that don't rank or don't quite fit but that I still want to mention include: WarGames, Adventures in Babysitting, Revenge of the Nerds, Pretty in Pink (there ya go, S.), Donnie Darko, Ghost World, My Bodyguard, Foxes, Pump Up the Volume, The Lost Boys, Footloose (I know, I'm sorry), Hairspray (the original), Big, Peggy Sue Got Married, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Edit #4: For anyone who cares, the criteria I use are:
* all lead characters are teens
* central story addresses core teen issues
* events are seen primarily from the perspective of the teens
* has an element of fun or humor
* something about the movie became infused into popular culture
* the x-factor, that special creative something that sets it apart

Edit #5: OOPS! Better Off Dead gets a huge honorable mention (although I still don't put it in my personal top 15). Thanks for the reminder, folks.

FIrst Obama Fireside Chat



Obama will be doing these weekly. It's such an obvious thing to do, but it took BHO to make it happen.

Begich Pulls Ahead + Garbage news

Well, it looks like Begich might win in Alaska after all. I think the Dems can chalk up one more win...

Edit: From the "About Fucking Time Department"...

Plasma Turns Garbage into Gas

Every year 130 million tons of America’s trash ends up in landfills. Together the dumps emit more of the greenhouse gas methane than any other human-related source. But thanks to plasma technology, one city’s rotting rubbish will soon release far less methane—and provide power for 50,000 homes—because of an innovation in plasma technology backed by Atlanta-based Geoplasma.


And finally, the best fucking roundtable on the planet...the Black Man is now the master race.

Ash93 + Psykhosis = Ashkosis

Okay, I've made up my mind. Right now I have three journals and that makes no sense. So, I am combining my personal Psykhosis LJ with my Ash93 account, giving you Ashkosis. Ash93 will automatically forward to this new account, which I will use for all personal updates as well as any Thelema-based ideas I feel like expressing. Psykhosis will no longer be updated, so you can unfriend that one if you want.

My other journal, sacred_river, will continue to be used only for my Sacred River writings. The purpose of that journal is to explore the nature of religion and to develop an approach to spirituality that is (a) progressive, (b) in harmony with natural science, and (c) beneficial to the health and well-being of individuals and communities. I will be drawing from many models, including religious naturalism, process theology, emergence theory, neurotheology, and other schools of thought that focus on personal and social development. It is not a Thelemic approach, although Thelemites will certainly recognize many similar principles, such as self-reliance, human sacredness, and critical thinking. Everyone is welcome to join in the conversation.

Thelema and Discomfort

There is within Thelema a strong adherence to the notion that spiritual advancement is tied to various forms of discomfort, such as social isolation or persecution, dissolution of identity coherence, aggressive conflict, loss of reason, and the endurance of phenomena that tests one's physical, emotional, and cognitive fortitude. On the flip side, attempts to achieve greater well-being, coherence, and tranquility are often seen as unworthy or even detrimental.

Now then, it is beyond doubt that growth is frequently painful. For some, pain itself becomes a marker of spiritual advancement, whereas a lack of discomfort implies a lack of advancement. A standard of spiritual measurement can become the degree to which one can endure discomfort rather than other things such as agency, character, or wisdom. This form of Thelema is embodied by a kind of sadomasochistic ethos—a common aspersion of these adherents involves accusing another of seeking cowardly comfort rather than noble pain as motivating a particular belief or practice they happen to disagree with. In their view, few people have the strength or skill to handle a wide-aperture view of reality (although they, of course, do). In the end, the true motivation here is to feel powerful—a not uncommon drive, even if this manifestation is particularly annoying.

Even setting aside this extreme, to which most Thelemites certainly do not ascribe, there does remain a general ethos that says it is better to move towards discomfort than away from it. This is not surprising—Crowley himself tended towards sadomasochism, and this occasionally leaked into his writings. At the same time, he agreed with those who thought that winding one's way through to an understanding of Ultimate Reality is a painful and frightening journey. The assumption here, of course, is that there exists an objective, discoverable spiritual reality and that it's nature is somehow at odds with everyday or common beliefs and behaviors.

It is certainly possible to embark on a spiritual program designed to induce great discomfort. It is also reasonable to suggest that taking such a journey can have many beneficial effects in one's life, depending on the circumstances. That is not in question. But what I question is the belief that such a journey is inherently better than one that is not designed to produce pain. Again, all growth is uncomfortable to one degree or another, but it doesn't follow that discomfort necessarily leads to growth.

The key comes down to what one is trying to accomplish. This is something that Thelema does not answer, leaving it to the individual to figure out. I have, however, observed several categories—many Thelemites seek power, some want a sense of specialness, and others want an escape from everyday life without feeling ignoble. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but I think it does cover the majority of Thelemites. What connects this batch of adherents is a sense of exceptionalism, that ordinary conditions do not apply to them, that they are somehow different than most people.

In a society that deifies pleasure and comfort, it makes sense that some who seek specialness would plant their flag in discomfort. This is not unique to Thelema; many religions have a similar ethos. Thelema goes further by explicitly claiming adherents that are "kings" or "masters". But again, this is not uncommon—many religions claim that their adherents are the "chosen ones" or "the elect" or some such thing. It's amazing how similar Thelema is to most Western religions in this regard.

Another similarity is how some adherents suppress critical thinking. When a Christian expresses that something in the Bible might be nonsense, a common reply is that he did not have adequate faith or strength to resist satanic reason. Similarly, comfort has become the latest bludgeon against anyone who questions Crowley (or, more commonly, questions that person's opinions about Crowley). The implication, again, is that truth is painful and difficult, and requires a special strength that the questioner or dissenter clearly does not have. It is the natural end result of a religion that idealizes pain, dominance, and conflict.

I will end by acknowledging again that discomfort often accompanies growth. Certainly no one disagrees with this. But those who attack (a) the desire for increased well-being or (b) any questioning of Crowley or them as being equal to a comforting retreat from truth or personal improvement only show themselves to be without meaningful argument. As far as I'm concerned, it is akin to Godwin's Law, where the first person to make a comparison to Hitler or the Nazis automatically loses the argument—call it Ash's Corollary to Godwin's Law: "the longer a Thelemic argument goes on, the probability that someone will be accused of retreating fearfully towards comfort approaches one." As such, from now on, the first person to accuse someone of this automatically loses the argument.

A Conversation

An interesting conversation...in thykaaba's journal, I wrote the following:

Now then, with all the above in mind, it makes sense to me that Thelema would initially appeal to liberal humanists. After all, human sacredness, self-rule, the right to develop as unique individuals, empiricism and anti-superstition, "There is no god but man", and so on, all reflect humanist values. But then Thelema is also filled with anti-humanist principles as well—anti-compassion, pro-conflict, a master/slave ideology, and so on. It is no surprise that many liberal-minded people either leave Thelema after a time or hold on only to those elements they are attracted to, making them a kind of pseudo-Thelemites (both of which happen to describe me). As such, liberal humanists do not seem to be an ideal choice when it comes to cultural continuity, especially since humanism is a much deeper and more well-established worldview than Thelema.
Continue on, if you dare...Collapse )

For ThyKaaba (or anyone else)

A question for thykaaba (and anyone else who wants to answer)...

Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that you are absolutely right, that Thelema offers a scaffolding that provides for cultural continuity, at least for people you describe as secular. I have posited in another post that, as an example, a major reason why Wicca has been so successful is that it tapped into a growing feminist movement. By doing so, it fulfilled a need, which, simply said, was for women to have power and authority within a religious tradition. Since that time, Wicca has also tapped into the growing eco-movements, providing a spiritual component to a largely secular structure.

You argue that the success of OTO/Thelema is being limited, in part, by a lack of adequate proselytizing. I think it is safe to say that effective proselytizing addresses a need that people have—it solves a problem or offers some attractive benefit not available elsewhere. What needs do you see Thelema addressing, especially any that already have existing secular movements to tap into as Wicca has done?

EDIT: Alas, no one was able to offer a social need that Thelema/OTO might fill with a positive cost/benefit ratio. I hypothesized as much, although I'm still open to suggestions. A larger question becomes, what does Thelema have to do to overcome this? Some say that a structure needs to be set up between the public and Crowley, and I agree that that might increase recruitment. But retention will still be a problem as soon as most people are introduced to Crowley (and such a filter will be ineffective anyway, since a quick Google search will bring up every detail). I agree with those that say that Thelema as it is will never be much more successful than it is now, and I predict it will decrease in popularity over time (except with fringe emo males).

Thelema and Cultural Continuity

[I know that this journal was recently "archived", but this is a Thelemic topic, so I'm briefly reviving it...]

I have been having an interesting discussion with omphalos111 in his thykaaba journal where he is discussing Thelema in the frame of sociology. In his series, he has been arguing that Thelema can be a successful New Religious Movement (NRM) because it conforms with Stark's list of 10 traits that describe successful NRMs. In this entry, he posited that Thelema conforms to this theorem: "New religious movements are likely to succeed to the extent that they retain cultural continuity with the conventional faith(s) of the societies in which they seek converts."

Read on if you care what I think...Collapse )

This is a fascinating topic. I suspect that Thelema is destined to being a very small group (<10,000) unless it does something to radically change in some way. What are your thoughts? Can it thrive without changing? Are there any "conventional faith(s)" within modern society that Thelema can "retain cultural continuity"? If it does have to change to grow, what might that change be? Is it best kept small?

UPDATE:

Most of the conversations agree that Thelema as it currently stands (i.e. bounded by the works of Crowley) simply cannot link into any existing cultural norms in a way that leads to increased membership, resources, or influence. I offer the issue of cost/benefit. As it stands, Thelema's purported benefits simply do not justify the huge cost to joining. Such costs include the time, energy, and money needed to collect and decipher Crowley's works, as well as the dangers of social damage, including occupational and legal troubles. I and others agree that Thelema might be able to overcome these things and develop a working cost/benefit balance if it added a non-Crowley entry system that could interface with some segment of modern society. But that leads to the issue of changing Thelema to being more than Crowley, and too many Thelemites find this unacceptable. In all, therefore, NRM success for Thelema much beyond its current state seems highly unlikely.

Endings and Beginnings

I have been in a state of transition for quite some time now in many areas of my life. Such transitions are rarely simple or smooth. In my Thelemic life, it perhaps began when I wrote the Oct 2005 essay, Compassionate Thelemite. As I continued to explore Crowley's writings in a more critical way, Thelema began to unravel before my eyes, culminating in my essay, Aleisterianism. At this point I had largely abandoned what most people call Thelema.

In Aleister and Me and Psychotherapy and Thelema: An Analogy, I attempted to set up a framework for seeing Thelema in a larger context than the works of Crowley. Although I still feel that my ideas here were sound, I also felt that my ties to Thelema as it is and to the community of Thelemites had become so thin as to be more effort than it was worth. In other words, I was going to spend more energy on maintaining the link than in developing my ideas. The momentum was against me, and in that time the final embers of Thelema that burned within me had finally become extinguished.

This does not mean that my spiritual life has faded...far from it. Leaving behind Crowley has liberated me, and I finally feel completely free to develop myself in a genuine and fulfilling way. I still am developing many of the ideas that you've seen in my Ash93 journal, but I am no longer trying to fit them within a Thelemic context. As such, I can finally be true to myself rather than trying to be true to Crowley. Whew!

And so, I am officially archiving Ash93 as a memorial to my Thelemic life. I will keep it up and all the essays will remain open to the public. Keep in mind that nearly all of those essays also exist on Eidolons of Ash, many with updates and small improvements.

Anyone wishing to join me in my continuing explorations, you are welcome to friend me at my new LJ account, sacred_river.

I want to say thank you to everyone here who offered ideas, encouragement, and honest critiques of my writings. For those who do not follow me to my new journal, I wish you joy, fulfillment, and the accomplishment of your wills.

Coming to Cafe Thelema tonite

I'll be at Cafe Thelema tonight...I hope to see you there...

Satanic Bondage

I simply have to share this email that I got from "Sharada Kaplan" today:

Don't you agree that it's the worst kind of shame that this perverted piece of evil crap mesmerized his followers into a life of satanic bondage and not to mention taking away the innocence of little boys by sodomizing them and destroying their spirit forever. I pray for Jesus to help all of the lost souls and the hurts of those children.


I am tempted to ask how she can say that the spirits of the boys that Crowley sodomized are destroyed forever but then say she is going to pray for Jesus to help them. I mean, if Jesus can heal them, then their spirits aren't really destroyed "forever", are they?

So, I'm asking all of you folks that are still in bondage to Satan, what do you think?

Ash in Austin, Aug 19-25

Just to let my Austin peeps know, I'll be in Austin for another visit from August 19 through the 25th. I'd love to see you all. So, maybe a get together or outing of some kind? If anyone is feeling socially industrious, let me know!

Selling my occult books on Ebay

If anyone is interested, I am selling many of my Crowley books on Ebay as a single set (too much trouble to sell each individually).

14 Crowley - Magick - Thelema Books

Magick, Book 4
The General Principles of Astrology
The Book of the Law (2004 hardcover centennial edition)
Commentaries on the Holy Books and Other Papers, Equinox IV(1)
The Vision & the Voice With Commentary and Other Papers, Equinox IV(2)
The Goetia the Lesser Key of Solomon the King
Konx Om Pax
The Equinox III(10) (The "Blue Equinox")
Magick Without Tears
Enochian World of Aleister Crowley
The World's Tragedy
Do What Thou Wilt : The Life of Aleister Crowley, by Lawrence Sutin
The Golden Dawn, by Israel Regardie
Secrets of Sex Magic, by Frater U.D.

Psychotherapy and Thelema: An Analogy

In the field of clinical psychology and psychiatry, there are several main domains of theory and practice, including the biggies: psychoanalysis and its derivative psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), existentialist/humanistic therapy, and family or systems therapy. There are numerous others, of course, such as narrative therapy, gestalt therapy, play therapy, and feminist therapy, just to name a few. Some of these are relatively similar, and others are wildly different.

Now then, it is arguable that someone going to a classic psychoanalyst will have a very experience than someone going to, say, a therapist trained in CBT. In the former, the client will likely be asked to lie on a couch and verbally free associate, with the analyst offering the occasional interpretation (not as simple as that, of course, but this is for illustrative purposes). The cognitive-behavioral therapist will most likely have the client sit up while they work together to examine his or her thought processes and behaviors that are influencing the symptoms or events that the client wants to change, often using worksheets and at-home exercises as central tools. Very different experiences.

It is again arguable, and I would agree with this, that not only would the in-session experience of therapy be different, but that the end results would be significantly different as well. Someone completing psychoanalysis (a process that can take years) might come away with a great deal of insight relating to their deepest personality traits and how their early childhood experiences have impacted their adult lives, whereas a client completing a course of CBT (which is generally short-term, often less than 20 sessions) might come away with only those thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that relate to a specific set of symptoms (e.g. depression or anxiety) having been explored or changed. Very different outcomes.

And yet, everyone agrees that both psychoanalysis and CBT are forms of psychotherapy. True, there are passionate and persuasive arguments on all sides regarding such issues as efficacy, efficiency, and validity. Many CBTers see psychoanalysis as turn-of-the-century witchdoctory while many analysts see CBT as shallow and cold. Both of them largely ignore the humanists.

And yet, everyone agrees that both psychoanalysis and CBT (and client-centered humanism) are legitimate forms of psychotherapy. While an average CBTer might argue that psychoanalysis is outmoded and inefficient, very few would argue (I believe) that it constitutes malpractice, while many analysts would concede that there is strong empirical evidence that CBT is highly effective in reducing many distressing psychological symptoms. Added to this are recent and compelling studies that suggest that a large chunk of what affects change is the relationship between therapist and client, regardless of theoretical orientation.

The key point that I want to make here is that even though all these various forms of psychotherapy provide different theories, approaches, and even outcomes, they are held together by the common goal of improving psychological well-being grounded in a common practice, that of two (or more) people talking to each other.

And finally, this brings us to Thelema. Just as the analyst and cognitive-behaviorist have very different theories about human psychology and methods designed to bring about change, so is it that many adherents of Thelema will have different conceptions of reality and techniques to promote spiritual development. Rather than focusing on specific theological beliefs or spiritual practices as strict measures of a global definition, Thelema is best served by defining it according to a basic set of principles and goals.

Now then, the nature of those principles and goals are open to discussion. I would offer the following as a possibility:

Thelema is a spiritual path that has the central goal of increasing awareness of and expressing one’s unique (True) Will, generally defined as one’s deepest nature or destiny. While the methods for accomplishing this Great Work are many, they focus generally on expansion of awareness, discipline of thought, celebration of the sacredness of humans and nature, and the gnostic uniting of consciousness with all other things. Adherents of Thelema commonly attempt to promote and embody the principles of individual liberty, critical thinking, self-reliance, self-efficacy, harmonious balance, and the virtues of courage, integrity, beneficence, and open-mindedness.


While the above statement is far from perfect, I believe that many adherents would agree with the basic precepts. Moreover, it is general enough to allow for a wide range of Thelemic articulations while being specific enough to differentiate it from other religious traditions.

I am not naive—I understand that there will always be those who will define Thelema strictly as the product of Aleister Crowley as embodied in his holy books (just as there will be those who define psychotherapy as the product of Sigmund Freud). I have no interest in locking horns with such folks: they are free to believe as they will. But I suspect that there is a large quantity of people interested in a broader, principle-based view of Thelema with more room for individual differences in belief and practice. Just as a person seeking therapy should have multiple options available to him, so should the Thelemic adherent have a choice.

Regardless of whatever impact (or lack thereof) I might have on the greater discussion, I am satisfied at least for myself in this orientation towards Thelema. I always have been and continue to be uncomfortable with narrow and rigid definitions of nature, whether corporeal or spiritual, especially when based on supernatural intervention. Perhaps due to my UU upbringing, I am far more comfortable with principles rather than supernatural beliefs. But more than comfort, a principle-based path is, in my experience, more pragmatic as well...it allows for greater flexibility as I grow and mature. Rather than trying to squeeze myself into an ever-more-narrow box of rigid beliefs, I am able to find new and ever-more-sophisticated interpretations of principles as I gain experience and perspective. Staying true to myself seems much better than staying true to Aleister Crowley. And, ironically, I'm not sure he would disagree with me.

Aleister and Me

It has been quite a while since I updated this journal. In part, this is because I've been dealing with some health issues which took a lot of my attention. Perhaps a larger reason is that I've stepped back from thinking about Thelema so that I might eventually come back at it with a fresh perspective. I am not ready to do that with the vigor I want to do it with, so I'll simply jot down a few notes on where I stand now.

When I wrote my essay on Aleisterianism, I was motivated by the understanding that all spiritual systems are artificial (although they are meant to reflect the natural). They are constructed to help mediate the relationship between humans and reality, specifically in terms of meaning. There are of course many components to spiritual systems, including a desire for control, safety, love, power, and joy. But at the root, I believe, is the fundamental human need to be connected with something larger than or beyond the self, along with a sense of what such a connection means.

What I call Aleisterianism is a compilation of pre-existing spiritual concepts and practices that were meaningful to Aleister Crowley. They were mostly a collection of ideas gleaned from popular Victorian occult movements and eventually contextualized within the mythology Crowley constructed for himself. There was nothing especially unusual in what Crowley did; it was and remains a popular pastime with many spiritually-minded people who have strong personalities and a powerful imagination. However, few people will ever have the strength of personality that Crowley had, and his large body of works will ensure that the ideas he promoted and his mythology will live on.

My own relationship with Aleisterianism changed radically within the last three years or so. I lost interest in the hocus pocus, in the focus on Crowley the man, and in his personal philosophy. The trite master/slave mentality he promoted is especially offensive to me, both intellectually and morally. I also got tired of a system that was largely set up as oppositional—to Christianity, to society, even to basic human needs. In this way, Aleisterianism promotes rebelliousness; which is fine, of course, and can certainly be both fun and transformative, but rebelliousness is a largely an adolescent function. A fully mature system needs something more.

I fully admit that Aleisterianism's adolescent rebelliousness was a phase I needed to go through in my own spiritual journey. Now that I've reached a place where I am capable, albeit imperfectly, of examining my own feelings and motivations and also of making decisions that might go against the popular grain, I have lost my appetite for Aleisterianism's artificial (and often hypocritical) rebelliousness. Rather, I've come to a point where I am much more interested in integration—in the ability to be both a unique individual and a positive member of society. I am only just starting to explore that path and so I will leave that topic unfinished for now.

While many believe that Aleisterianism and Thelema are synonymous, I do not. I maintain that Aleisterianism is an expression of Thelema (just as OTO and the AA are expressions of Aleisterianism in institutional form). Once I was able to outline the nature of Aleisterianism to my own satisfaction, I was then better able to see what Thelema is. Said another way, I truly believe that there is a fundamental spiritual principle that runs not only in Aleisterianism, but throughout all the world's religions. It is that core Thelemic principle that I am most interested in exploring.

Now then, as I said before, all spiritual systems are artificial—my understanding of Thelema is and always will be a work in progress. That said, I have come to a starting place, a beginning Thelemic Thesis, if you will:

Thelema, at it's heart, is about the primacy of Universal Will as the fundamental spiritual force of being. Will is both primordial and constantly emerging, eternal and fleeting. We humans arise out of this paradox and mirror it—we also have, both at the same time, a deep abiding self and a self that constantly emerges from moment to moment. The aim of the Thelemian is to align, as closely as possible, not only these two "selves", but also one's consciousness and behavior with the River of Universal Will. Thelema is a journey both inwards and outwards, a celebration of individuality and unity, and a connection of self with Self and self with All (thus a variation on the Hermetic Principle: as Without so Within). In seeking the flowing center of the Sacred River, the Thelemian develops exceptional character, an appreciation for and curiosity about all things, and a new-found freedom to be the genuine person he or she is meant to be.


Some will say that what I've just described isn't Thelema. I respect their opinions. But please note, I have completely lost my appetite for debating it. I very sincerely do not care about the man Aleister Crowley or his status as prophet, guru, sacred scribe, or social lecturer—although some of his individual works will certainly remain on my reading list. Is my thesis "real" Thelema? Is it "reformed" Thelema? Is it something wholly non-Thelema? I honestly don't care. My passion is now focused on integrating Will with all areas of living—relationships, work, pleasure, intellectual pursuits, culture, and with nature herself. That is a conversation I'd love to have.

Over time, my conversations here will focus on the above Thesis, with a full expectation that it will change and mature. Please note, I am not seeking a perfect statement of Sublime Truth. Rather, I am interested in the process of discovery and transformation, and playing with words is one method I enjoy. I sincerely hope that many of you will continue to play with me...

"As men's prayers are a disease of the will, so are their creeds a disease of the intellect." —R.W. Emerson, "Self-Reliance"

Eidolons hits 20k

Brief note: Eidolons shot past 20,000 unique visits yesterday. Also, it shows up nineteenth on Google when searching "Thelema." That is all.

Crowley I Like...

Although I have been critical of Aleisterianism of late, some have accused me of rejecting or hating everything Crowley wrote. I'm not sure why that is, since I've written again and again that any text can potentially be a source of inspiration and guidance. Be that as it may, I wanted to take a moment to praise some of Crowley's work that I still very much enjoy. The list below doesn't comprise the entire list of works that I find valuable, but it does provide a nice set that I return to often.

The Book of the Balance. This remains perhaps my favorite work of Crowley's. It inspires courage, thoughtfulness, tolerance, fortitude, temperance, generosity, and self-respect. One of my top three Crowley quotes comes from Libræ—"Act passionately; think rationally; be Thyself." Edit: I have heard before the suggestion that Crowley did not write this document, but only added a few key edits. Even so, he clearly endorsed it and I consider it to be a staple in the Aleisterian collection of texts.

The Heart of the Master. I consider this work to be perhaps Crowley's most spiritually eloquent (even if it is a bit rambling).

The True Self is the meaning of the True Will: know Thyself through Thy Way!
Calculate well the Formula of Thy Way!
Create freely; absorb joyously; divide intently; consolidate completely.
Work thou, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, in and for Eternity.


Liber Oz. Although I think this document is incomplete as an outline of basic human rights (offering only rights related to individual action), Oz is a great manifesto of personal liberty.

On Thelema. This, in my opinion, is Crowley's finest summary of his understanding of Thelema. A couple of passages:

....the ultimate Will of every conscious being must be to so increase his general experience as to understand and know himself, which he can only do by studying and understanding the whole universe. That the task is endless is no detriment to this process, but makes it all the more interesting. It is the way of the tao. Finality would cloy.
[...]
No other individual has any right to determine or restrict the choice of another except in such cases as the experience of one includes for all practical purposes the experience of the other; as in the case of parents and young children. There are also various other cases where the free choice of the individual must be restricted insofar as that unhampered choice might interfere with the equal rights of others. But this is in no way a question of abstract right and wrong, but a matter of practical politics.


The Initiated Interpretation of Ceremonial Magic. This was Crowley's introduction to The Goetia, edited by Mathers and Liddell. He lays out, in concise and compelling terms, how "magical phenomena" are products of the mind (e.g. "The spirits of the Goetia are portions of the human brain."). It is a bit ironic that he penned this a year before writing AL.

The Sun Symbolically Considered. This short essay appears in the book The General Principles of Astrology by Crowley and Evangeline Smith Adams. It is a wonderful paean to the Sun. My favorite excerpts:

For each one of us is the central figure of a drama divine and human. Each one of us has clothed immortal splendour in a veil of flesh, has doomed himself to suffer and to die in order to rise again and mount the heaven with ever-increasing joy and majesty. It is hard for us to realize why this formula must be fulfilled, why the nature of things is such that the incorruptible must feed on corruption, the immortal shroud itself in the cerecloth of mortality. Only when we consciously attain to the enjoyment of life as a sacrament, only when the universe is understood as being a vast replica of our own nature, do we accept the cross, and hail death as the culmination and prize of life.
[...]
In this way, we shall not only harmonize and perfect our natures, but thrill them with the rapture of illumination. We shall lose the petty personal consciousness that is the cause of our selfishness, and so of all our miseries and fears, of all our cruelty and our injustice; we shall regain the cosmic consciousness; we shall be once more one with all things, and the universe will appear in its unsullied glory, freed from the veil of horror and darkness that our own imperfect light has seemed to cast upon its holy and adorable splendour.