Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Video(s) of the Day: The Glass Pipe Fallacy

When it comes to defending the claims of various religions and supernaturalism in general, there are many awful arguments. But there’s nothing quite like a poor, religious person babbling a string of incoherent words to support wacked out beliefs.

Today’s three videos of the day come from the internet show The Atheist Experience, and they feature callers who base their religious beliefs on drugs trips that they’ve had, using these experiences to justify jumbled nonsense.

Read on for descriptions of these videos and links.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Video of the Day: Matt Dillahunty on Essentialism

Today’s Video of the Day is a podcast starring Atheist Experience host Matt Dillahunty. In this video, Matt talks about the essentialism that underlies the thinking of most people (and that finds its expression in a lot of religious arguments).

The guy talking to him is kind of annoying, but luckily he doesn’t have too much to say: the video mostly consists of Matt freely discoursing on this subject, with the interviewer just bringing up various topics for him to discuss. Some of the topics covered include the “Ship of Theseus” thought experiment, identity/labels, abortion, gay marriage, Hitler sweaters, and in what way numbers can be said to “exist.”

This is one of the best podcasts I’ve listened to in a really long time.

You can find the video here.

Readers may want to reflect on the ways that the argument from definition – a favorite of religious dunderheads – is the product of one kind of essentialism. As Matt mentions in the video, words don’t actually have (essential) meanings…they have usages that vary in different contexts and that develop over time. He tells the story of one debate he did in which the Christians in the audience were dumbfounded by this idea and mocked him for it…but it’s precisely this kind of essentialism that underlies so many faulty religious arguments, from assumptions like “Marriage is a union of a man and a woman” to “Materialists start from the assumption that the natural world is all there is.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Happy Bloomsday, 2015


And they are met, face a facing. They are set, force to force. 

And no such Copenhague-Marengo was less so fated for a fall  

since in Glenasmole of Smiling Thrushes Patch Whyte passed  

O'Sheen ascowl.

    Arrest thee, scaldbrother! came the evangelion, sabre accu-  

sant, from all Saint Joan's Wood to kill or maim him, and be  

dumm but ill s'arrested. Et would proffer to his delected one the  

his trifle from the grass.

    A space. Who are you? The cat's mother. A time. What do 

you lack? The look of a queen.

    But what is that which is one going to prehend? Seeks, buzzling 

is brains, the feinder.  

    The howtosayto itiswhatis hemustwhomust worden schall. 

A darktongues, kunning. O theoperil! Ethiaop lore, the poor lie.

He askit of the hoothed fireshield but it was untergone into the

matthued heaven. He soughed it from the luft but that bore ne

mark ne message. He luked upon the bloomingrund where ongly

his corns were growning. At last he listed back to beckline how

she pranked alone so johntily. The skand for schooling.  

    With nought a wired from the wordless either. 

    Item. He was hardset then. He wented to go (somewhere) while 

he was weeting. Utem. He wished to grieve on the good persons, that

is the four gentlemen. Otem. And it was not a long time till he was

feeling true forim he was goodda purssia and it was short after that

he was fooling mehaunt to mehynte he was an injine ruber. Etem.

He was at his thinker's aunts to give (the four gentlemen) the presence

(of a curpse). And this is what he would be willing. He fould the

fourd; they found the hurtled stones; they fell ill with the gravy

duck: and he sod town with the roust of the meast. Atem.

    Towhere byhangs ourtales. 
 
-- Finnegans Wake

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Laws of Logic in Thelema

“Study Logic, which is the Code of the Laws of Thought. Study the Method of Science, which is the Application of Logic to the Facts of the Universe. Think not that thou canst ever abrogate these Laws, for though they be Limitations, they are the rules of thy Game which thou dost play."
 – Aleister Crowley, Liber Aleph
 
Whatever is, is what it is. Whatever is, is not what it’s not. Something cannot be both what it is and what it’s not at the same time and in the same way.

Those sentences above are descriptions of the foundational laws of thought (or the “laws of logic”). The first thing that you’ll notice about them is that they are tautologies. They’re circular statements that are necessarily true because the contrary in each case is impossible. While it may not be possible to demonstrate in any absolute way that they are true (I’ll get to this in a moment), it would appear that these laws are true and applicable to everything (or, more accurately, to our conceptualization of everything).
Without these laws, thought itself would be impossible because each thought is what it is and is not what it’s not. Ditto with language: every word is what it is. That is to say, each word encompasses a range of meanings and uses, and these meanings and uses all together comprise what that linguistic building block is. Each one has to be what it is – and not what it’s not – in order for there to be language at all. The same holds true with logic: logic is built on the foundation of these laws, which establish that true, mutually-exclusive dichotomies are possible. Without dichotomies, it would be impossible to construct and validate syllogisms.

There seems to be a great deal of confusion about these laws, on the side of believers and nonbelievers alike. These laws are not contradicted by quantum mechanics, they are not contradicted by the fact that people can develop logical systems with different categories for ranking truth value (“Multi-valued logic”), and they cannot be argued against (because to argue is to invoke these laws).
Their place in Thelema is also frequently misunderstood. As Crowley clearly states, logic is the code of the laws of thought, which cannot be abrogated. Though he acknowledges that these laws are “Limitation,” they are also “the rules of thy Game which thou dost play." To use the analogy he invokes often in Liber Aleph, the laws of logic are like the rules of chess. So long as we’re playing chess, it’s absolutely true that bishops can only move diagonally. It is senseless to object to this statement on the grounds that it’s possible to pick up a bishop and put the piece in your pocket. Whether or not this “law” applies in contexts outside of playing the game is irrelevant. It’s one of the rules of the game, and within the bounds of the game it’s absolutely true. By agreeing to play the game we bind ourselves to it.

The laws of thought are very much like this. So long as we play the “game” of thinking and logical argumentation, we are bound by them, and there is no way to escape them. Whether or not they are “really” absolute is irrelevant because within the game they are as absolute as the rules of chess are in that game.
This remains the case even when thinking and reasoning about subjects that are irrational, counter-intuitive, and paradoxical. A photon of light may behave like a wave and a particle, but it’s something that behaves like a wave and a particle and it’s not not-something-that-behaves-like-a-wave-and-a-particle. An abstract painting may exist to defy our conventional notions of what art is, but it’s still an abstract painting and it’s not not-an-abstract painting. We may have a conflicted desire that partially wants to commit to a sexual partner and partially wants to remain single, but it’s a desire that partially wants to commit to a sexual partner and partially wants to remain single, and it’s not not-a-desire-that-partially-wants-to-commit-to-a-sexual-partner-and-partially-wants-to-remain-single.

So long as we’re playing the game of thinking and talking about stuff, you have no choice but to play by its rules. You cannot abrogate these rules, as Crowley tells us.
Read on for way too much more on this subject. Toward the end of the post, I start talking about the more direct relevance of all these ideas to Thelema.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Invoking the Holy Guardian Angel


Last year, a comment on my post about the Middle Pillar Ritual led me to write a short essay on the process of invoking the Holy Guardian Angel. I recently reread it and thought that I would make a post out it.
Presented below is my essay with some minor modifications. The impetus for writing it was a question about whether the Holy Guardian Angel (or HGA) is an external being or not. As I state in the essay, this question is explored very thoroughly by Erwin Hessle's excellent essay on the subject, which concludes that the HGA is most definitely not an external being. Interested readers may also want to peruse this link and this link and this link for more details about what is meant by True Self and True Will.

Read on for more.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Happy Third Day of the Writing, 2015


But terrible Orc, when he beheld the morning in the East, 

 
Shot from the heights of Enitharmon, 

And in the vineyard of red France appear’d the light of his fury, 

 

The Sun glow’d fiery red!       

The furious Terrors flew around 

On golden chariots, raging with red wheels, dropping with blood! 

The Lions lash their wrathful tails! 

The Tigers couch upon the prey and suck the ruddy tide; 

And Enitharmon groans and cries in anguish and dismay        

 

Then Los arose: his head he rear’d, in snaky thunders clad; 

And with a cry that shook all Nature to the utmost pole, 

Call’d all his sons to the strife of blood.
 
--William Blake, Europe

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Happy Second Day of the Writing, 2015


Los is by mortals nam'd Time, Enitharmon is nam'd Space:

But they depict him bald & aged who is in eternal youth

All powerful and his looks flourish like the brows of morning:

He is the Spirit of Prophecy, the ever apparent Elias.

Time is the mercy of Eternity; without Time's swiftness.

Which is the swiftest of all things, all were eternal torment.

All the Gods of the Kingdoms of Earth labour in Los's Halls:

Every one is a fallen Son of the Spirit of Prophecy:

He is the Fourth Zoa that stood around the Throne Divine.

--William Blake, Milton

 

 

 

And this is the manner of the Sons of Albion in their strength;

They take the Two Contraries which are calld Qualities, with which

Every Substance is clothed, they name them Good & Evil,

From them they make an Abstract, which is a Negation

Not only of the Substance from which it is derived,

A murderer of its own Body : but also a murderer

Of every Divine Member: it is the Reasoning Power,

An Abstract objecting power, that Negatives every thing.

This is the Spectre of Man: the Holy Reasoning Power,

And in its Holiness is closed the Abomination of Desolation.

 

Therefore Los stands in London building Golgonooza,

Compelling his Spectre to labours mighty; trembling in fear

The Spectre weeps, but Los unmov'd by tears or threats remains.

 

I must Create a System, or be enslav'd by another Man's

I will not Reason & Compare: my business is to Create.

 

So Los, in fury & strength: in indignation & burning wrath

Shudd'ring the Spectre howls, his howlings terrify the night.

He stamps around the Anvil, beating blows of stern despair,

He curses Heaven & Earth, Day & Night & Sun & Moon,

He curses Forest Spring & River, Desart & sandy Waste,

Cities & Nations, Families & Peoples, Tongues & Laws,

Driven to desperation by Los's terrors & threat'ning fears.

 

Los cries, Obey my voice & never deviate from my will

And I will be merciful to thee: be thou invisible to all

To whom I make thee invisible, but chief to my own Children,

O Spectre of Urthona: Reason not against their dear approach

Nor them obstruct with thy temptations of doubt & despair;

O Shame, O strong & mighty Shame I break thy brazen fetters;

If thou refuse, thy present torments will seem southern breezes

To what thou shalt endure if thou obey not my great will.

 

--William Blake, Jerusalem