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


Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Illusion of Free Will

The term “free will” commonly refers to the felt sense that people could have acted otherwise than they actually did. For example, I decided to sit down and write this blog post. Someone who accepts the common notion of free will (sometimes called “libertarian” free will) would argue that I could have chosen to do something else with my time, but I instead deliberately selected to write this blog post.





This is all well and good, and it describes how nearly all normal, healthy people subjectively experience the world. But do we have free will in this sense? *Could* I, in fact, have done differently than I did?
Read on for some reflections on free will.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Battle of the Bald Claims?

There’s a common tactic used by religious believers that has surfaced (once again) on the Temple of Thelema Forums. It might be instructive to look at this tactic and how religious believers use it.


On the thread I was posting on just prior to the start of a ban on certain posts (that is, any posts that do not begin from the assumption that “we are spiritual beings”) Jim Eshelman was doing his usual act of declaring, without any justification, that “the universe is inherently conscious […] consciousness itself is the fundamental substance of all that is.”


When I correctly called it a “bald assertion,” he responded, “That ‘bald assertion’ [is] just possibly the most important foundation principle of everything we're about."


This prompted the following response from me:



Right. That’s been my big criticism of your philosophy: you rest everything on a principle that you just baldly assert. I’ve asked you to support your claim with evidence, and not only do you not, you pretend that it’s not necessary to do so.


In a recent post over there, Eshelman actually did concede that his position (which he phrased this time as “Consciousness […] is the root matter of the universe”) is,“As stated […] just a bald, unsubstantiated claim.” He proceeds to add that the statement “consciousness itself is cerebral activity” is also a “bald, unsubstantiated claim.”


Well, what we’ve got here is a battle of the bald claims, isn’t it? Looks like neither side has evidence, so it’s a draw, right? I guess it all comes down to whichever side you just randomly pick because you like believing it or because your daydreams support it, right?


Wrong.


This tactic is remarkably similar to what religious types often say about atheism: they say that the statement “There is no god” is just as unprovable as the statement “There is a god,” so it takes just as much faith to say that there is no god. Therefore, we’ve got a battle of the faiths. You got faith in one thing, and I got faith in one thing, and nobody can be sure, so it’s equal, isn’t it? You make a bald assertion, I make a bald assertion, and then people just pick whatever they like. Like flavors of ice cream.


That’s what these religious believers want: they want important issues to be reduced to a question of preference.


Read on for an explanation of what this dishonest religious tactic gets wrong.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

"In between brain and mouth...there was no interlocutor."




This article is a response to a post directed at me by a contributor on The Thelemic Fruitcake Factory. I’m putting it here because dissenting opinions are no longer tolerated on those forums, and I am therefore unable to post there.
Here’s my blog post that got this section of the conversation rolling.
Here’s the guy's response (his "Interlocutor's Response") on the Fruitcake Factory.
You can read my response below. Enjoy.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Middle Pillar Ritual

"Now is the Pillar established in the Void; now is Asi fulfilled of Asar; now is Hoor let down into the Animal Soul of Things like a fiery star that falleth upon the darkness of the earth." -- Liber LXV


The Middle Pillar ritual is a basic magical exercise in which a magician affirms the “middle pillar” of the Qabalistic Tree of Life within his or her aura and then draws down and circulates its light. It can be seen as an extension of the Qabalistic Cross ritual.


Like all rituals, it is an enacted meditation that can be performed bodily or, once proficiency is gained, entirely in the mind.


This article describes how to perform this ritual and provides commentary.


Read on for more.

“Mock on, Mock on”: The Importance of Mockery

I’m making a very short post just to recommend a link. I came across this blog post the other day. It’s a pretty old article authored by Russell Glasser, one of the rotating co-hosts on The Atheist Experience television show and one of the hosts of The Non-Prophets radio show.                 


His article is about how important it is to mock ridiculous ideas.


I agree with what he says, and I enjoy how he says it, and I encourage you to read it.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Believers Say the Darndest Things: The Argument from Definition


Elsewhere I’ve written about the tendency of religious believers, such as occultists, to mistake the idea of absolute knowledge for actual, tentative knowledge (read all about this subject here).

We can see this tendency clearly when religious believers turn to the argument from definition to defend their stupid beliefs. In this argument, they confuse their idea of a word’s definition (or, rather, what they think a word’s definition should be) with the way that the word is actually used.

It is useful to recall that dictionaries don’t create meaning. They record usage. Language is a living thing, evolving over time. As an obvious example, the word “gay” no longer means what it did a hundred years ago. In fact, the word “gay” often does not have the same meaning that it had even twenty years ago: in some idioms, “gay” has become a pejorative largely disconnected from literal homosexuality (a point amusingly illustrated on The Simpsons when Nelson’s friends declare, upon seeing him kiss Lisa, “Dude, you just kissed a girl! That’s so gay!”).

Let’s use the distinction between the current usage of this word and its denotation. Let's say a religious believer’s child tells him, “Dad, I’m gay. I’m attracted to members of the same sex.” I can pretty much guarantee that nobody in that situation would respond, “No, you’re not! It says in the dictionary that ‘gay’ means ‘happy,’ so therefore you can’t be attracted to members of the same sex!”

Obviously, no one is stupid enough to say that. Yet strangely, when the word in question is “atheism” or “materialism,” the same people who would never dream of making the above dumb response make even dumber responses.

This post looks at the stupidity created by the argument from definition and how believers use it in their quest to pay attention to their ideas about reality instead of reality itself.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Speaking Ill of the Dead

I recently stumbled across some blog posts about the relatively recent death of occult author Donald Michael Kraig. Apparently, some people who have nothing better to do with their time have used the occasion of this author’s death as a chance to badmouth him (mostly on pretty dumb grounds, as far as I can tell).



What’s more interesting than this expected display of bad form, however, is the way that some occult types reacted to it, specifically their criticism of certain interpretations of Liber AL, revealing not only the flaws of some interpretations but the drawbacks of their own hermeneutics.

In this post, I critique both the detractors and defenders of Kraig, concentrating on misreadings of The Book of the Law.

Read on for more.