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.
The meat of Gnosomai Emauton's (GE's) argument is that by my own account of my early magical practices, I might not have been practicing long enough (or might not have been practicing in a sufficiently rigorous, sufficiently well-documented fashion) to have “developed enough to make the distinction” between magical results that actually do have “objective reality or philosophical validity” and magical results that are merely self-delusion.
[Note: In the context of the post he’s replying to, an “objective/philosophically valid” result would be something like actually causing coincidence by using magick or actually talking to an angel, rather than mistakenly thinking that one had done those things]
In fact, although the body of his post peppers this claim with indirect language and qualifications (“one wonders if [Los] had yet mastered his machine completely enough to move beyond these safeties [of Liber O’s injunction not to attribute “objective reality or philosophical validity” to results] and start ‘believing’"), he states in his summary of the post that “Los's description of losing his religion stands as a vivid example of the dangers of practicing Old Aeon-style magic without the checks and balances of Scientific Illuminism.” (emphasis added)
In other words, GE is emphatically making a positive claim. His argument is that, from my description, my practice was too “slip-shod” and insufficiently documented for me to have been able to sufficiently distinguish between “objective/philosophically valid” results and delusion.
The underlying assumption of this argument, of course, is that there actually is some way to become “developed enough,” and that there actually is some way to distinguish objective/philosophically valid results from delusion. In fact, the argument assumes that there is such a thing as an objective/philosophically valid magical result.
However, these very assumptions are the points on which he and I disagree. By taking these assumptions as given, GE effectively elides the question of whether it’s possible to distinguish objective/philosophically valid results from delusion – or whether there even is such a thing as objective/philosophically valid results – and he instead and turns the conversation into “let’s talk about Los.”
And talk about Los he does. The whole piece is filled with speculation about me, about how rigorous my work was, about how documented my work was, about how he thinks I’m “projecting” onto the occupants of the Fruitcake Factory, etc. All of it exists entirely in his head, and all of it is irrelevant to the substance of the discussions I had on those forums for little over a year.
And nowhere in his post -- in fact, nowhere ever, as far as I'm aware -- does GE address the substance of the issues I raise. By assuming that there actually is a way to become “developed enough to make the distinction” between objective/philosophically valid results and delusion, GE avoids an actual conversation on the subject.
Here are a few interesting points we could discuss, if he’s interested:
-What makes you think there actually is a way to “develop” in order to become able to distinguish between objective/philosophically valid results and delusion?
-What makes you think it’s even possible to make a distinction between objective/philosophically valid results and delusion?
-What makes you think that there is such a thing as objective/philosophically valid results in the first place?
-If you think it is possible to “develop” like this and that it is possible to “make a distinction” of this sort, by what standards should an individual judge that he actually has developed sufficiently and actually has correctly made a distinction?
-How would an individual judge that a particular group or system does enable such “development”?
[Remember, lest we lose track of the context, the “development” we’re talking about is developing to be able to tell “objective/philosophically valid” magical results from self-delusion.]
These are all interesting questions that GE ignores in favor of his Los fantasies. With regards to that last question I listed above, GE actually writes the following:
Temple of Thelema, as I understand it, acts as the gateway for those who are looking for guidance in applying a scientific method to their search for religion. There are a million and one ways to become interested in the subject matter but very few legitimate guides towards studying it profitably.
Once again, his assumption here is that there is such a legitimate guide, that there is such a thing as the “development” he’s talking about, that there is such a group or teacher who actually can aid such development.
But those are the very claims under contention, not assumptions that he should take for granted.
[Of course, this last “should” statement itself makes the assumption that GE actually wants to have an intellectually honest conversation, and while I’m hoping that assumption is correct, it also might not be. Time will tell.]
Altogether, GE’s post is the sort of deeply unimpressive and unreflective essay that sometimes rolls out of the Fruitcake Factory. It refuses to treat seriously the subjects under discussion, preferring instead to take for granted the very things it should be trying to demonstrate and then using these assumptions as a springboard for exploring his mildly weird fantasies about me. Clearly this GE guy is more intelligent and articulate than the average goon over on those forums, and that’s what makes him so much more dangerous to himself: intelligent people are really good at deceiving themselves, in part because they’re so good at hiding their premises from themselves.
Not to dust off an old chestnut, but the Book of the Law warns against the dangers of reason, and a key example of its dangers can be seen in the ways in which smart people talk themselves into stupid ideas.