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

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Video of the Day: Sam Harris on the Illusion of Self

Today's video of the day is a short clip of Sam Harris talking about how neuroscience helps to reveal how what we call "self" is an illusion: the sense that there is a "center" to our experiences, that there is a self that is more or less continuous and permanent, that there is a "thinker" in addition to thoughts. These are illusions.
You can watch the video here.

I reflect briefly on this video below the jump.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Paths on the Tree of Life: Sephiroth 7-9

This post continues a series of essays about the paths connecting the Sephiroth on the Qabalistic Tree of Life. This essay addresses paths 27 (linking Hod and Netzach) 28 (linking Netzach and Yesod) and 30 (linking Hod and Yesod).

Read on for more.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Paths on the Tree of Life: Sephiroth 7-10

The Tree of Life is a Qabalistic symbol to which anything and everything can be attributed. Because of its versatility, it is incredibly useful for categorizing experience, conceptualizing virtually any situation, and analyzing the relationship between ideas.

Much has been written about the Tree of Life, and it is not the intention of this post to reinvent the wheel or even discuss the symbols exhaustively. Many resources exist that will introduce the symbol, and one very useful primer is Erwin Hessle’s "Qabalistic Framework" the first chapter of his excellent book on the small cards of the Tarot.

Since Erwin has done such a fine job elucidating the Sephiroth by means of his discussion of the small cards of the Tarot, I thought that it would be useful if I explored the subject of the paths connecting the Sephiroth (to which are attributed, among other things, the Tarot trumps). If I come even close to doing half as good a job as he did with the Sephiroth, I will be most satisfied with this post (and the ones hopefully to follow) as an introduction to the subject that will get readers thinking about the Tree of Life and that will spur their own investigations.

Read on for more.

Friday, January 2, 2015

True Will and Privilege

The term “privilege” is often used to designate the social advantages arbitrarily given to members of particular groups in a particular society, advantages that are largely invisible to members of the groups in question.

While the concept of privilege can certainly be abused and misapplied (often by people with good intentions but poor thinking skills), it also is useful for thinking about certain social issues. More important for the subject of Thelema and Skepticism, the concept of privilege can be useful in helping us see the unarticulated assumptions that underpin our rational judgments. If the work of discovering the True Will is, as I have argued on this blog, the work of identifying the ways in which the mind veils reality from an individual, one of the most difficult veils to pierce are the assumptions that often do not register themselves as conscious thoughts.

Read on for a discussion of privilege and its application in Thelemic practice.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Believers Say the Darndest Things: "You Can’t Prove Reason with Reason. Therefore, _____."

It appears to be impossible to use reason to prove that reason is absolutely reliable. The operation of evidence-based inquiry relies on presuppositions that were not, themselves, arrived at by evidence-based inquiry.

There are some religious believers who learn these ideas and run completely off the rails with them, mistakenly thinking that they’ve gotten hold of some knockout blow to evidence-based inquiry.

The purpose of this post is to explore the arguments that believers often make based on these ideas, with the intent to show exactly where believers go wrong.

After all, in conversations between believers and skeptics, it is very common for the skeptics to request evidence for the wacky claims that believers make (since, obviously, nobody has any reason to think that a claim is likely true unless there is evidence for it…and since the believer actually does accept the claim under discussion, the believer must implicitly think there is evidence for it).

Sometimes this request is met with honest effort on the part of believers. They’ll point to things that they mistakenly think are evidence. Other times, believers will try to redefine what is meant by “evidence,” either honestly misunderstanding or purposefully and dishonestly confusing the issue. They’ll claim that their subjective feelings are somehow “evidence” for the existence of powers or beings that, if these powers or beings were real, would have a detectable effect on the world outside of these believers’ heads.

But on some occasions, the believers will question the very idea that evidence and reason are useful tools in the first place.

“What evidence,” they sometimes ask, thinking themselves clever, “do you have that all claims require evidence?”

Another way to phrase this objection is, “What’s your rational argument for thinking that reason is an effective tool? Oho! You can’t do it without being circular!” The implication is that any rational proof of reason’s effectiveness has to begin from the presumption that reason is effective, thereby begging the question (since it assumes the thing that it’s trying to prove).

In other words, their argument boils down to “You can’t prove reason with reason. Therefore, God.” [Or whatever nutty claim they’re making]

What’s happening here is that the believers in question have learned a small bit of philosophy. But, as I’ve noted elsewhere, a little philosophy can be a dangerous thing. Their half-comprehension of this issue leads them to all kinds of confusion.

Read on for a full explanation.

The Role of Gnosis in Thelema

“I give unimaginable joys on earth: certainty, not faith, while in life, upon death” – AL I:58

“Wipe your glosses with what you know” – Finnegans Wake


What is gnosis, and what does it have to do with Thelema?

The word “gnosis” literally means “knowledge” in Greek, and it’s usually used to refer to spiritual knowledge or knowledge of an esoteric nature. Occultists seem to use the word in various ways, ranging from certain trance states (“I intone a mantra to generate gnosis before I begin the ritual”) to daft poetry (“What’s that? Your magical order doesn’t produce laughable poetry? Ha! Looks like you guys have no new gnosis!”) to certainty about spiritual claims (“I know that reincarnation is true because I have acquired gnosis!”).

One way that some kinds of supernaturalists often use the word is to contrast their beliefs with those of other religionists. The argument they make goes something like this: “Most religious people – like those Christians! – just have a bunch of beliefs that the priests tell them and that they are expected to believe. So they take it on faith. Bleh! But we superior supernaturalists don’t take our ideas on faith – we know. You see, we get into our trance states and achieve gnosis. We don’t just believe that we have had past lives. We experience past life memories, and we therefore have direct knowledge that reincarnation is true. No belief required! We have knowledge!”

Unfortunately for these supernaturalists, they are incorrect.

Read on for a discussion of knowledge, belief, and gnosis in the context of Thelema.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Link of the Day

I came across this New Age Text Generator, and it's hilarious.

It's a site that randomly generates profound-sounding nonsense. Read below the jump to see what I got: