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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.
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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.
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(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....
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.