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

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Gems from the Forums: Is Thelema a Religion?

Here’s a short forum post from last year that discusses the ever-popular question of whether Thelema should be considered a religion.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Gems from the Forums: Moral Nihilism in Thelema

This post reproduces a forum post from several years ago in which I discuss moral nihilism and its relevance to Thelema.

At the end, I address two new objections to moral nihilism.
Further reading includes three excellent essays by Erwin Hessle on the subject of moral philosophy (link, link, and link).

Read on for more.

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.