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


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.





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.

27 comments:

  1. On a side note, there’s been a little confusion about Eshelman’s banning of me from the forums over there. GE actually posted a thread where he characterized me as “pack[ing] up [my] toys and go[ing] home,” which he says “just goes to show how tenuous those positions actually are when put to the question.”

    In point of fact, I did not leave the forums because my positions were “put to the question.” What a silly and obviously false accusation. I left because Jim Eshelman instituted a new policy that he will delete any posts that do not begin from the assumption that “we are spiritual beings.” Obviously, my posts don’t start from that assumption (though neither do they start from the converse assumption), so I effectively cannot post there.

    As Eshelman put it in a recent thread, he “intend[s] to achieve balance [on the forum] with respect to the last year by shutting down one side of the conversation for at least as long (12-15 months).” You can read his words for yourself here: http://www.heruraha.net/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=13633&start=0#p92339

    If you go back and read my first post on the Temple of Thelema Forums, you’ll see that I say I am posting because I saw Eshelman say that dissenting views were welcome there, and I wanted to make a dissenting view available to the readership. Evidently, dissenting views are no longer welcome there. That’s fine. As I said recently, I have to give credit where credit’s due: Eshelman tolerated the presence of critical questions on his forums way longer than I thought he would (even though he refused to answer nearly all of those questions).

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  2. "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."

    This time around, your typical and tired tactic turns out to be true. The pre-judged assumption that I will not bring myself to join you at the vaunted table of honest discussion holds water because, as is typical with you, you've moved the goalposts beyond a discussion that I'm interested in having.

    This discussion did not start from your blog post as you claim above, it started from my two questions on HeruRaHa.net, namely: "How did you go about 'wising up'? What was your process of 'realization'?" The discussion, in order to stay on topic, should relate to those questions and, up until this blog post, it has. This isn't a conversation about what "objective reality or philosophic validity" mean (thought, if it were, I would take issue with your gloss above as being overly simplistic in order to support your own argument). This is a conversation about what sorts of data and what kind of analysis of that data might lead one to conclude that there is no objective reality or philosophic validity in the results that they had, up until the moment of analysis, taken to be "real".

    With this blog post, you once again do what you do so masterfully in every other discussion thread of which you are a part: ignore the parts of discussion that you don't find interesting and add new topics of discussion that stem from your accepted axioms of how the world works. And then, when you find discussion partners who are unwilling to accept those axioms as naturally binding, you drop the burden of proof on their shoulders, effectively hiding the initial topic of discussion and once again hammering out your tired old song. That is the song that has currently been banned from HeruRaHa. If you want to stay on topic and discuss the potential dangers of practicing magic outside of the laboratory conditions of Crowleyan Magick, as currently demonstrated by the fall of proto-Los (or contradict that claim with data and analysis), your opinion would be welcomed on that thread. If you just wish to move the goalposts towards questions of epistemology which, if redirected and applied to science could not be answered either, I see no reason why you should be allowed back at the table.

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  3. This discussion did not start from your blog post as you claim above, it started from my two questions on HeruRaHa.net, namely: "How did you go about 'wising up'? What was your process of 'realization'?"

    Assigning a “starting point” to a discussion is often fairly arbitrary, since discussions grow out of other ones, and the lines between them are often blurred. In this case, your questions to me were prompted by a sub-thread where I was explaining why I don’t accept certain claims as a given.

    The point of my answering your questions wasn’t to start a new conversation about the specifics of my practice. The extremely brief way I talked about the practices should have been your first clue that that wasn’t the point. Instead, the point of my answering your questions was to furnish the background that led me from taking such claims practically as given to challenging these claims (the very sorts of claims that your post takes as given). I was showing you why it's a stupid idea to accept such claims as given without interrogating them.

    It’s not “moving the goalposts” to return to the initial point that motivated my post.

    This is a conversation about what sorts of data and what kind of analysis of that data might lead one to conclude that there is no objective reality or philosophic validity in the results that they had, up until the moment of analysis, taken to be "real".

    To be clear, when I say that I figured out that I was deluding myself, I didn’t reach that conclusion by “analyzing” my “data.” I figured out that no amount of analyzing one individual’s visions or coincidences – and no amount of analyzing even a small group’s visions or coincidences – comes anywhere close to demonstrating that “real” magick has happened.

    In the first place, one would need a reason to think that “real magick” even exists.

    In the second place, one would need a methodology to distinguish “real magick” from mere coincidence. Now, it might be possible to create a rigorous study that could determine this, a study that would involve representative samples, very specific goals, control groups, repeatability, etc. But nobody has any reason to think that there's a way for an individual to "develop" to the point that he can just "tell" real magick from coincidence. Sure, you baldly assert that there is some way to “develop” to be able to determine this, but you don’t seem to be able to explain why you think there is a way to "develop" in this way and how the discerning would actually work.

    But I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. Why don’t you explain why you think there is such a thing as “real” magick and then explain why you think there's a way to "develop" to be able to analyze this subject properly and then explain the kind of analysis that you think would demonstrate that “real” magick is happening, and how you determined that that kind of analysis actually would demonstrate this.

    I mean, presumably you think you have good reasons for accepting these claims, right? So what are those good reasons?

    your accepted axioms of how the world works.

    Name one.

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  4. "Why don’t you explain why you think there is such a thing as “real” magick and then explain why you think there's a way to "develop" to be able to analyze this subject properly and then explain the kind of analysis that you think would demonstrate that “real” magick is happening, and how you determined that that kind of analysis actually would demonstrate this."

    In light of your most recent blog post (7/5/14), I hope you are able to use the following to start to catch a glimpse of the blind spot I and others reference. I do not think there is such a thing as "real" magick. I do not think there is not such a thing as "real" magick. Just as you refer to yourself as part of the fourth, italicized kind, the kind who does not believe in any of these things, so would I. By projecting onto me this assumption that I am one of the dreaded "supernaturalists" that you've built up in your mind as the scourge of the Thelemic Internets, you've blinded yourself to my actual presentation of myself. I believe nothing. Period. Full stop.

    That said, unlike you, I am not content to live my life resting on the laurels of what is "most likely" or "currently proven" by whatever slice of evidence I happen to have chosen as my current baseline. If that were the case, every time I drove up the coast, I'd take the interstate instead of the scenic route because it would be "most likely" to get me to my destination fastest. At the races, I'd only put my money on the horse closest to 1:1 odds because he's the one "most likely" to win. When offered a free Tesla, I'd laugh in the guy's face because electric cars are "most likely" to be useless paperweights. When searching for a bed-mate, I'd only seek out the desperate and physically unattractive because they'd be the "most likely" to put out on a first date.

    You're an intelligent guy. You see where this is going. Why do I practice magick? Because it's the path through life that's "most likely" to prove to be "True" when the universal ledger books are finally tallied? Of course not. Don't be obtuse. There is not nearly enough evidence (yet) to make that general claim. This does not preclude individual cases determining through their own experience that they've seen enough evidence. Every man and every woman is a star.

    I practice it because the reports of those who have gone before me intrigue me. If they turn out to be true... holy shit! If they don't, I will have spent several years training my will, focus, and physical beast in ways that I haven't tried before and I will have learned something in the process. And no, to anticipate your next tired old question, I don't necessarily know what it is that I will have learned. If I did, it would be a pretty pointless exercise.

    "your accepted axioms of how the world works.

    Name one."

    Based on your writing, I'd have to say that you accept that consciousness exists.

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    1. I do not think there is such a thing as "real" magick. I do not think there is not such a thing as "real" magick. Just as you refer to yourself as part of the fourth, italicized kind, the kind who does not believe in any of these things, so would I. By projecting onto me this assumption that I am one of the dreaded "supernaturalists" that you've built up in your mind as the scourge of the Thelemic Internets, you've blinded yourself to my actual presentation of myself. I believe nothing. Period. Full stop.

      I wasn’t projecting anything onto you. The following is what you wrote in your “Interlocutor’s Response”:

      This [quote from Liber O] does not say that these results do not have objective reality or philosophical validity, merely that the student, in the early years of her practice (i.e. those spent mastering the techniques of Libri E & O) is not yet developed enough to make the distinction.

      Setting aside for a moment the objections I could raise about your interpretation of Crowley, your reading of this passage implies that there is a way to develop to make the distinction between results that do not have “objective reality or philosophical validity” and results that do (or, for short, between “real magick” and delusion). Your “Interlocutor’s Response” essay takes that implication as an assumption, since the thrust of your argument against me is that I failed to develop sufficiently and that therefore my conclusions are invalid.

      If you don’t think there’s a way to develop into being able to make that distinction, then your argument does not make sense. If you didn’t think it was at least reasonably plausible that someone could develop to distinguish between the two, you wouldn’t make the argument. Now, I’ll grant that it *might* be true that there’s a way to develop to make such a distinction, but what reason does anyone have to think that? That’s the essence of the questions I asked you.

      In short, I’m not projecting onto you. I’m reading what your words say and responding to them.

      I really would like an answer to that question: what reason does anyone have to think there’s a way to develop to make the distinction between “objectively real or philosophically valid” results and delusion?

      If all you’re saying is that it might be possible to develop in that way, then you’re not saying much. Obviously I agree it might be possible, but there are a million things that might be *possible* that you don't spend any time investigating. Do you have any reason to think that these particular claims about "developing" and "distinguishing" are even remotely likely?

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    2. I’ll respond briefly to some of the other points you raised, but please note that I consider the point I made in the previous response to be central. That's the one that should be the focus of any response you write.

      That said, unlike you, I am not content to live my life resting on the laurels of what is "most likely" or "currently proven" by whatever slice of evidence I happen to have chosen as my current baseline. If that were the case, every time I drove up the coast, I'd take the interstate instead of the scenic route because it would be "most likely" to get me to my destination fastest. At the races, I'd only put my money on the horse closest to 1:1 odds because he's the one "most likely" to win.

      When I talk about what’s “most likely,” I’m talking about accepting claims, not deciding on a course of action. I’ve gone out of my way many times to point out that Thelema teaches that we shouldn’t reason our way to a course of action (hence the whole curse on “Because” in Liber AL).

      What you’re trying to do here is make a reductio ad absurdum argument against me, but that only works if you perform the reductio on the actual argument I make. Since you appear to be under the mistaken impression that I'm advocating always taking the "most likely" course of action, you're refuting an argument that I don't make.

      ”Name one [accepted axiom of how the world works]."

      Based on your writing, I'd have to say that you accept that consciousness exists.


      I indeed accept that consciousness exists, but that is not an axiom.

      I realize that there are a few different definitions of “axiom,” but the way it’s often used in these sorts of philosophical discussions is as a premise that cannot strictly be demonstrated to be true but that is accepted as a starting point in a system of thought.

      For example, we might consider it to be an “axiom” (in this sense) that there is an external universe and that our senses connect us to that universe. You could make a case that that cannot strictly be demonstrated to be true but that most people assume it as a starting point for their investigations about the world.

      The existence of consciousness is not an axiom in that sense because it can be demonstrated. I am, in fact, demonstrating it to myself right this moment, and I am demonstrating its effects to anyone reading this post.

      So "consciousness exists" is not an "axiom" of mine. But, more broadly, I doubt that you disagree that consciousness exists. The implication of your phrase "your accepted axioms of how the world works" is that I have some undemonstrated premise with which you disagree (perhaps one that I don't even realize -- hence the accusation of a "blind spot" that you still haven't substantiated). If that's what you meant by it, then let's have an example of something you think I accept axiomatically with which you disagree.

      [Note: I reposted this to correct one unfortunate typo in the original.]

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    3. To answer your first question, the one you consider to be central: Yes, I think that it is possible for a person to develop their self-examination abilities to a point that they can determine, through analysis of data collected through experimental experience, whether or not the "results" they've been achieving have some level of objective reality and/or philosophic validity.

      By reducing the potential answer to a dichotomy, you've created the "implication" that is getting in the way of actually seeing my position on the matter. I again refer you to your most recent blog post (7/5/14) for a description of not only the third option but also the italicized fourth.

      My statement does not necessarily imply that magick practices can manifest objectively real or philosophically valid results, merely that a person can develop their faculties in a way to effectively run the experiments. This is akin to a physicist in the late 60s projecting that there would be some way in the future to concretely determine that a boson does exist in objective reality, even though that physicist had no way at the time to even talk about what would go into realizing that proof.

      In order to determine experimentally whether or not a boson was an objectively valid thing, physics needed to develop measuring capabilities in a way to be able to detect one if it did end up actually existing. This is the analogy I'm working with that you keep looking over in order to generalize towards your favorite "what reason does anyone have to think that?" I'm working on building up my particle-detecting matrix so that, if bosons do exist, I'll have a way of detecting them. I don't really see it as a "reason" in your sense of the word but I would cite the recorded experiences of those who have gone before me as motivating factors in this drive. Much the way our physicist might have looked towards Pasteur for inspiration.


      "Thelema teaches that we shouldn’t reason our way to a course of action."

      This development of self-examination abilities, to me, is a course of action, not the reasoned conclusion that you keep trying to make it. These labels that you use--"supernaturalist" being the current incarnation--aim to reduce the labeled down to a certain conclusion. You then critique that conclusion as being un-reasoned. The middle term that you are eliding over is that, at least in my case, and I would say the case of any honest follower of the A.'.A.'. methods, this is a process, not a conclusion.

      My critique of your process and the reason why I don't find your conclusions to be convincing is that you don't demonstrate a dispassionate scientific examination of the actual evidence in front of you. On the contrary, the first half of your practice demonstrates several years of self-delusion towards "believing" in the philosophic validity of what you were creating. This was then followed by a generalized analysis of just the negative side of hive-minded religion as modern-day tribe. This would be on par with a quantum physicist spending the 60s fully believing in the objective existence of the boson even though there was no data or even math to back it up. Then, sometime in the 70s, as soon as the cause started to get picked up by others and the Japanese team started to show that there was potential in the math for an actual objective particle, our physicist looks around at the world, realizes that messing around with sub-atomic particles has led to the world-wide paranoia of the Cold War, and changes his mind, evangelizing that there is no good reason to think that a boson exists because we've never measured one and that there's no good reason to keep searching for one because particles can be dangerous and turn good people bad.

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    4. "What you’re trying to do here is make a reductio ad absurdum argument against me."

      Yes, I am… because your argument is absurd. Life is a course of action, however you look at it. Anything that you accept as a claim influences that course of action. By accepting claims that you determine are "most likely", your course of action is directed by those claims. Thus, your life, by necessity, follows the "most likely" path. I choose not to pare things out of my experience simply because my current understanding of the evidence regarding them might suggest that they are unlikely. This doesn't make me a "supernaturalist", this makes me a skeptic in the true sense of the term. As I would agree that you are. The difference that I see between us is that your battle cry seems to be, "Show me the evidence! Until then, common sense materialism prevails as the default position!" while mine is, "Buzz off, I'm collecting evidence".


      "I indeed accept that consciousness exists, but that is not an axiom."

      Has consciousness always existed as a part of Universe (measuring Universe from the beginning of time) or is consciousness something that did not exist for a period of time and then started existing at some quantum moment? Or is there a third option that I'm glossing over? Or does this fall into the fourth italicized category?

      Please note that this is the part of the discussion that I consider to be central. This is the one that should be the focus of any response you write.

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    5. Yes, I think that it is possible for a person to develop their self-examination abilities

      You’re changing the language a little bit. We were talking about “developing” in order to be able to distinguish an “objectively real of philosophically valid” magical result from delusion (for example, distinguishing coincidence “caused” by magick from a regular ol’ coincidence that one might mistake for being caused by magick).

      You were implying very strongly that you think that kind of development is possible – and not only possible, but that such development has a good enough chance of being real that you’re willing to investigate.

      Do you think that?

      I think it is possible for a person to […] develop their faculties in a way to effectively run the experiments. This is akin to a physicist in the late 60s projecting that there would be some way in the future to concretely determine that a boson does exist in objective reality

      Look, if we were around in the 60s and if we asked 60s physicists to explain why they thought these particles might exist, they would be able to give us an answer. They weren’t just randomly guessing.

      And that’s the point I’ve been trying to get you to see. What makes you think that the claims we're talking about are likely *enough* that you want to investigate? I'm assuming that you're not randomly guessing, so there's got to be something leading you to that conclusion. What is it?

      My critique of your process and the reason why I don't find your conclusions to be convincing is that you don't demonstrate a dispassionate scientific examination of the actual evidence in front of you.

      My conclusion was that no amount of analyzing the “data” of one individual’s coincidences or visions can determine that an “objectively real or philosophically valid” magical result has happened.

      If I’m wrong, then explain how you think such analysis can reveal this. Oh, that’s right – you think there’s some way for a person to “develop” to be able to analyze it properly. Okay. What makes you think that a person might be able to develop in this way?

      Everything keeps coming back to this question because it’s the question you’re doing a desperate song and dance to avoid answering.

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    6. Life is a course of action, however you look at it. Anything that you accept as a claim influences that course of action. By accepting claims that you determine are "most likely", your course of action is directed by those claims.

      Awareness of the actual environment doesn’t “direct” action. It informs action.

      Knowing what food I have available to eat for breakfast doesn't "direct" my choice of breakfast. It informs it. I can't make an *informed* decision without knowing the facts.

      Having as clear an understanding of reality as possible allows an individual to choose the course of action most in alignment with his or her nature and with the realities of the environment. For example, if it's in my nature to bet on a long-shot horse, I can't do that unless I know which one has the long-shot odds. Knowing the reality of the situation doesn't *direct* my action in any given way: my knowledge of the reality of the situation is a necessary precondition for successful action.

      Similarly, a scientist has to be aware of what we know about the universe thus far in order to come to a conclusion, based on that evidence, about what *might* be true. That's how hypotheses are developed. They're not random guesses. They're *informed* by an understanding of the universe and conclusions about what *might* be true.

      So what leads you to your hypothesis that such development might be real?

      Has consciousness always existed as a part of Universe (measuring Universe from the beginning of time)

      I don’t know. The evidence that we have at our disposal strongly suggests that consciousness is tied to brain activity, so it doesn’t look very likely that it has always existed.

      What would lead someone to conclude that consciousness has always existed? Based on the evidence, that sounds like a bizarre claim, but I’m willing to consider some evidence that I may have overlooked.

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    7. I take your point on the first half above. As has happened several times before, it looks as though we're coming at the problems of life from opposite ends and not seeing each others' forests for the trees.

      What leads me to my hypotheses? The records of those who have gone before me: John St. John, Brother Proserpinus, Clouds on the Sanctuary, Patanjali, Ignatius Loyola, Kelley & Dee. In various ways they have all lucidly described experiences that are more exalted than any that I have yet had. Each of them have left behind instructions towards attaining their experience and all of those instructions seem to mesh.

      Hypothesis: These experiences are real and can be achieved.

      Control: Normal, middle-of-the-road human life (35 year record established). Throughout the course of the experiment, subject's social peers will continue as a control group.

      Experiment: Follow the instructions of one or several of these forbears on my own person. Record results.

      Potential outcomes:
      - Nothing. No change from control.
      - Results manifest as predicted by previous records.
      - Results manifest outside of those predicted by previous records.
      - None of the above.

      Analysis: To be conducted once sufficient data has been collected. Until then, to be actively avoided.


      "The evidence that we have at our disposal strongly suggests that consciousness is tied to brain activity, so it doesn’t look very likely that it has always existed."
      The stickler in me wants to know from where you're pulling your evidence and what leads you to give it more credence over others but, in order to keep things on track, I'll take this part as read.

      So...

      If it hasn't always existed, where did it come from? What brought it into being? Was it created ex nihilo at some point? If not, from what was it created? All of the matter/energy of the universe has existed since the beginning. Prior to consciousness (and its attendant bugaboo "free will") one assumes that all of that matter/energy ran like clockwork, laws of physics playing out perfectly as particles bonded and separated throughout the vast aeons of space-time. How did something that isn't clockwork arise from clockwork? Where did this "consciousness" thing-y come from?

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    8. Sorry... missed this one in the shuffle. I'll try to keep the answers short to keep things on target.

      "You were implying very strongly that you think that kind of development is possible – and not only possible, but that such development has a good enough chance of being real that you’re willing to investigate.

      Do you think that?"

      Yes, I think it as a good enough chance to make investigation worth my time.



      "Look, if we were around in the 60s and if we asked 60s physicists to explain why they thought these particles might exist, they would be able to give us an answer. They weren’t just randomly guessing."

      Actually, no. Those few who came up with the hypothesis did it because there was a very slight hole in the math of quantum mechanics that nobody had an explanation for. So they posited a particle that no-one could detect and that had no effects on any other particles of matter. Its only property is mass. The vast majority of physicists (we're talking the 99% range) dismissed this undemonstrable, un-measurable particle as fantasy. It was another decade before the math actually caught up with the hypothetical guess to show that it might, in fact, hold some weight.

      The parallel: there is currently a hole in the explanation for where consciousness comes from. One of the many pie-in-the-sky guesses might turn out to be true some day. Perhaps there's even another sub-atomic particle that can't currently be detected, that has no mass and no effect on other particles. Its only property is consciousness. I can guarantee that 99% or more of scientists would dismiss that hypothesis as fantasy. The only way to find out, though, is to figure out how to measure for it. (please note, I'm not positing this particle of consciousness as my personal belief, theory, or whatnot... merely providing a direct parallel to the history of the boson)



      "Everything keeps coming back to this question because it’s the question you’re doing a desperate song and dance to avoid answering."

      Sorry, I thought I had sufficiently answered that one. Here it is, point-blank: There are records of practices that have led individuals to the point of being able to determine these things that I have read and that I find compelling enough to motivate me to attempt the practices myself. (As a quick side note: I have met at least two individuals who make these claims and have found them to be centered, aware, scientifically-minded, put-together folk which has aided in my evaluation of their writings). By contrast, your record of practice does not offer the same convincing conclusion. Had you run a series of experiments wherein you willed change in the world through magical means and then recorded the data as to whether or not those changes occurred and then used that data to analyze the results and compare your success rate to the expected norms of coincidence, then I might listen to you. But, "My conclusion was that no amount of analyzing the “data” of one individual’s coincidences or visions can determine that an “objectively real or philosophically valid” magical result has happened" can currently only be verified as your opinion on the matter. It is a product of your reasoning faculty, not a valid analysis of verifiable work. That reason (may it be damned for a dog) has become your personal belief on the matter and I see no reason (pardon the repetition) why I should allow your reasoning faculty to hold sway over mine.

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  5. What leads me to my hypotheses? The records of those who have gone before me: John St. John, Brother Proserpinus, Clouds on the Sanctuary, Patanjali, Ignatius Loyola, Kelley & Dee. In various ways they have all lucidly described experiences that are more exalted than any that I have yet had.

    But we weren’t talking about generating experiences.

    We were specifically talking about – and I went out of my way above to reiterate this point – developing in order to distinguish certain classes of “results,” such as identifying a seeming coincidence as a “result” that was actually caused by magick.

    Let’s use a concrete example. Let’s say Guy X does a ritual for money. He finds money in the street later that week. I took what you were saying to mean that you think there is a way for Guy X to “develop” enough to distinguish whether or not that coincidence was caused by his magick.

    That’s the sort of thing I was talking about, and I thought my initial post (the one I link to at the top of this article) made that very clear.

    Can you clear up exactly what you’re claiming? Are you *only* talking about *nothing more* than generating visions? Or do you think it’s possible for someone to “develop” to the point where they can distinguish a “result” caused by magick from mere coincidence?

    If all you meant this entire time is nothing more than that people have had experiences (visions) by doing rituals and that it might be possible for others to have similar kinds of experiences by doing similar kinds of rituals, then not only do I agree with that claim, I find nothing particularly controversial about it. In the same way, the writings of various Christians lead me to conclude that following certain actions (fasting and repeated prayers to Christ, mainly) will most likely induce a certain class of ecstatic visions and experiences involving Christ.

    I’ll hasten to add, though, that if that’s all you meant this entire time, then your “Interlocutor’s Response” -- along with many other things you've said -- makes little sense.

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    1. Distinguishing the validity of results is an experience, one of the many that are referenced in the texts I listed. Having the ability to do it is the skill that is trained. Actually doing it is an experience.

      Nowhere did I say that these texts were focused on "'nothing more' than generating visions". That's entirely your projection into the discussion. The documents I reference suggest that those writers developed to a point where they were able to distinguish a result caused by magick from mere coincidence. I have no personal data to verify those claims but I find some of theirs to be compelling which is why I am currently following in their footsteps in order to collect that data. That doesn't make the claims "unverifiable" as you tend to label them, it makes them unverified, as yet, by me. As I've said before, where your typical response in this situation is to demand to be shown the evidence for accepting such claims, my method is to gather the evidence myself.

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    2. The documents I reference suggest that those writers developed to a point where they were able to distinguish a result caused by magick from mere coincidence. I have no personal data to verify those claims but I find some of theirs to be compelling which is why I am currently following in their footsteps in order to collect that data.

      There we go. That's the clearest you've been so far about what you think and why. We also know from that other thread you're posting in that the *consistency* of these accounts is important to you in making this judgment.

      Unfortunately for you, consistent accounts comprise a very poor reason to accept this sort of claim, for reasons I’m about to explain.

      In the first place, your claim isn’t just about generating visions – for which consistent accounts would be compelling evidence, since we know that the mind can produce visions, that the mind is affected by ritual drama, and that it therefore makes sense that certain kinds of ritual psychodrama might produce certain kinds of visions. If a bunch of accounts consistently suggest that doing X leads to vision Y, then there's good reason to think that that claim might be at least worth checking out.

      But you're not talking about generating visions. Instead, the claim you’re talking about deals with the process of evaluation itself. You’re saying that our normal ways of evaluating claims are insufficient for evaluating a certain class of claims (such as, “magick can cause coincidence”) and that there is some other, better way to evaluate this particular class of claims, a way only available to people who undergo a particular set of practices properly.

      But this argument is deeply flawed. It starts from the assumption that our usual ways of evaluating claims are insufficient for evaluating a certain set of claims. What's the justification for thinking that? Further, if our usual ways of evaluating claims are insufficient for evaluating a certain set of claims, how would someone tell that he's found the right way to evaluate this set of claims? Even if we accept the assumption that our normal way of evaluating claims is insufficient for the task of evaluating this set of claims, how would we tell that this other way of evaluating claims isn't similarly insufficient?

      For these reasons, no amount of accounts (no matter how “consistent”) can even suggest that there's a decent chance that this argument might be correct. How did the people who wrote those accounts confirm that they actually did arrive at a better way to evaluate this particular set of claims? No one appears to have any reason to think that they did, including them.

      As a point of comparison, consider that there are Christians who say that our normal ways of evaluating claims are insufficient for evaluating the claim “Jesus is the One, True God.” They also say that there is some other, better way of evaluating that claim, available only to people who undergo a particular set of practices. There are lots of consistent accounts of this.

      How, precisely, does your claim differ substantially from the claims of these Christians? I know the *details* of the practices are different (the Crowleyan practices, for example, include keeping records), but the substance of the claims are almost identical. “Until you do X – properly! – you are in no position to evaluate claim Y.”

      How does either of those groups tell that the practices enable them to properly evaluate the claim? How would you, after engaging in practices, actually know that you have, in fact, discovered some other, better way of evaluating this class of claims (and not, say, just talked yourself into thinking you had)?

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    3. I would agree that our normal ways of evaluating claims are insufficient when attempting to evaluate a certain set of claims. This is specifically because, in this case, we are using consciousness to evaluate consciousness. Countenance beholding Countenance. The mind revealing itself to itself. I thought it was pretty self-evident that our normal way of evaluation could not possibly work under these circumstances. We're attempting to see our own retina, taste our own tongue, smell the inside of our nose. The work is becoming aware of our awareness.

      Magick proposes that it is something in this matrix of "things what we aren't normally aware of" that can be utilized to cause change in the world in conformity to will. It is by training our consciousness up to a point that it is able to witness this level of interactions between the "things what we aren't normally aware of" that we can evaluate that proposition. That is the theory, at any rate.


      "For these reasons, no amount of accounts (no matter how “consistent”) can even suggest that there's a decent chance that this argument might be correct."


      Yes, we know... you've used your reason admirably to create this little self-contained loop. Pardon me while I head out to attempt the experience anyway. What will happen to your vaunted reason if I come back in a few years with evidentiary proof? Will you be able to analyze the evidence dispassionately? Or will you be so tied up in this logical net you've woven for yourself that you won't be able to see the truth in front of your eyes?




      "How, precisely, does your claim differ substantially from the claims of these Christians?"

      I'm not making a claim. I'm running an experiment to test one. The one that I'm testing isn't different from that of your hypothetical Christians in much other than language and placement. They "believe" Jesus Christ is an independent entity, I don't. I'd say that pre-existing belief colors their results.





      "I know the *details* of the practices are different (the Crowleyan practices, for example, include keeping records)"


      This is THE fundamental difference. This is the innovation that pulls these practices out of mystical hogwash (anyone can write any sort of fantasy fiction about how meditating makes them feel and what the visions told them and how it changed their life for the better) and places them in the arena of scientific experiment. We test them because they have persisted for millennia. What we are now testing is whether that has been all a function of self-delusion or whether there is actually something super-normal behind them.




      "How would you, after engaging in practices, actually know that you have, in fact, discovered some other, better way of evaluating this class of claims (and not, say, just talked yourself into thinking you had)?"


      Dunno. Not there yet.

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    4. I’m going to re-order your points and trim some of my response. If you think I overlooked something important, tell me, and I’ll answer it.


      Magick proposes that it is something in this matrix of "things what we aren't normally aware of" that can be utilized to cause change in the world in conformity to will. It is by training our consciousness up to a point that it is able to witness this level of interactions between the "things what we aren't normally aware of" that we can evaluate that proposition. That is the theory, at any rate.

      And why do you think this theory is likely enough that you intend to spend years testing it? Oh, that’s right, because there are consistent accounts where people say they’ve confirmed the theory. And how do those people know they’ve confirmed the theory?

      As I pointed out to you in my last response, those people don’t know -- because the first assumption of this “theory” is that nobody can trust their normal process of evaluation when it comes to this one arbitrarily selected set of claims. In addition to that assumption not being justified, there's a logical problem even if we grant it: if people can’t trust their normal process of evaluation, how are they supposed to evaluate that they’ve arrived at a superior process of evaluation?

      You keep claiming that you’re doing something like science. What a joke. If a scientist were running an experiment, he could tell me exactly which specific results would validate the hypothesis and which specific results would falsify it.

      Which specific results would indicate that you’ve arrived at a better way of evaluating these claims, and how do you know it’s actually better? Which specific results would falsify this claim? If your answer is “Dunno,” then you don’t have a hypothesis. You have a religious practice, a method of slow self-hypnosis that you're arbitrarily selecting because you happen to like it.

      What we are now testing is whether that has been all a function of self-delusion or whether there is actually something super-normal behind them.

      Again, which specific results would confirm or falsify this “test”? If you can’t trust your normal method of evaluating claims, how will you determine that some other method is better, and how will that other method work?

      What will happen to your vaunted reason if I come back in a few years with evidentiary proof?

      Proof like what? Which specific results would confirm or falsify this “test”? If you can’t trust your normal method of evaluating claims, how will you determine that some other method is better, and how will that other method work?

      Yes, we know... you've used your reason admirably to create this little self-contained loop.

      That’s your comeback? I demonstrate the serious logical flaws that underlie your position, and you think that calling my points a “little self-contained loop,” without bothering to address them, is an adequate answer? In what way is anything in my post a "self-contained loop," and what *is* your answer to the flaws I pointed out (which I kindly restated above in the paragraph above beginning "As I pointed out")?

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    5. "And why do you think this theory is likely enough that you intend to spend years testing it? Oh, that’s right, because there are consistent accounts where people say they’ve confirmed the theory. And how do those people know they’ve confirmed the theory?"

      This is getting tediously circular. I've answered these questions. You don't like the answer because it doesn't fit your metric. There's nothing I can do about that. You have an answer.

      "You have a religious practice, a method of slow self-hypnosis that you're arbitrarily selecting because you happen to like it."

      Sounds remarkably similar to the reason you gave a few months back regarding why you continued to pound your head against the wall on the T.O.T. forum: "Because I enjoy having these discussions." Why is enjoyment a good enough reason for you to pursue pointless practices but not for me?

      "Again, which specific results would confirm or falsify this “test”?"

      Measuring a particle of consciousness would probably do it.

      "Proof like what?"

      Dunno yet. You are basically asking a kindergartener how he would prove that that photons behave like particles and waves simultaneously. I don't even know what a photon is, yet, much less how to measure one or how to make that measurement meaningful. I'm mixing vinegar and baking soda because the reaction is enjoyable. But a few grown-ups have told me that light is actually made of these things that sometimes act like matter and that, because of that, really amazing things happen in the world. Like when I walk up to a sliding door and it knows I'm there and slides aside. They've told me this is because of these photon things and that some day, if I study hard, I'll understand how they work.

      I'm done here. I'm tired of inflating your sense of self-importance through this illusion you're creating that your reason is sound. It's not. My rhetorical thread looking for a justified definition of consciousness below was getting there but I'm tired of this. Your loop is closed, the circular logic has calcified. I'm moving on.

      Enjoy blogging.

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    6. This is getting tediously circular.

      Indeed.

      I've answered these questions.

      You have not. You’ve given no response to the logical flaws I pointed out in your so-called “hypothesis” (flaws that make it nothing like a hypothesis). Anyone can scroll up and see that you have failed to address these flaws.

      "You have a religious practice, a method of slow self-hypnosis that you're arbitrarily selecting because you happen to like it."

      Sounds remarkably similar to the reason you gave a few months back regarding why you continued to pound your head against the wall on the T.O.T. forum: "Because I enjoy having these discussions." Why is enjoyment a good enough reason for you to pursue pointless practices but not for me?


      Because I was explaining why I was engaging in an activity, and you’re (at least in theory) attempting to give an explanation for why you think a so-called hypothesis is likely enough to be true that it’s worth investigating.

      “I have an arbitrary preference for activity X” is a perfectly fine reason for someone to do activity X.

      But “I have an arbitrary preference for activity X” doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense for explaining why you think hypothesis Y might be true, you dolt.

      Look, if you’re just dropping all pretense and admitting that the reason you’re engaging in these practices is just because you arbitrarily like them, then fine. Just come out and say that you have no good reason to think this stuff might be true, but you just find it fun, so there. I wouldn’t challenge that at all. In fact, I’d respect the honesty it takes to say that. By all means, do what pleases you.

      "Again, which specific results would confirm or falsify this 'test'?"

      Measuring a particle of consciousness would probably do it.


      This makes absolutely no sense in the context of what we’re talking about. Do you think you’re going to be measuring “particles of consciousness” by prancing around a circle in a robe? Call me when that groundbreaking experiment is featured in a reputable scientific journal.

      You are basically asking a kindergartener how he would prove that that photons behave like particles and waves simultaneously.

      Oh, great…another crappy analogy.

      You know, if you actually tried to sit down and think through your actual position on a subject – without making these metaphorical leaps that are just confusing you by assisting your mind in veiling your assumptions from yourself – you might stand a fighting chance of figuring out how stupid your arguments are.

      a few grown-ups have told me that light is actually made of these things that sometimes act like matter and that, because of that, really amazing things happen in the world. Like when I walk up to a sliding door and it knows I'm there and slides aside. They've told me this is because of these photon things and that some day, if I study hard, I'll understand how they work.

      And you just trust these “grown ups” because you’re a gullible dope, as has been amply demonstrated by this thread and your inability to explain yourself when your ideas are seriously questioned.

      I'm done here.

      I’ll say. When you find that you are unable to sensibly respond to reasonable questions about your positions, it’s time to head out.

      Your loop is closed, the circular logic has calcified.

      More empty accusations from you. I’ve invited you to explain how anything I’ve said is “circular,” I’ve invited you to point out what you think my supposed “blind spot” is…and you don’t. I strongly suspect it’s because you are unable to do so.

      I'm moving on

      Okie doke. My point has very adequately been made.

      Enjoy blogging.

      I can more or less guarantee that I will.

      And, with the sincerest of intentions, I wish you well.

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    7. "Just come out and say that you have no good reason to think this stuff might be true,"

      I never claimed to have a "good reason". All I've ever claimed is that I am doing and intend to continue doing the practices, recording my results as I go, because I find the prior records compelling. I have a goal and a motivation. The "because" in that sentence could be taken as a "reason" if you weren't so distracted by finding any way possible to critique any and everything that comes across your radar. I wouldn't, though, say that it's logically deduced which seems to be the only definition you are willing to accept.

      I sought out your prior record because you presented yourself as one who had engaged in the practice, gotten results, and came to a negative conclusion regarding them. I was hoping to add another valid record to the pile to assist in my own work. To see how a person who seemed to be getting valid results analyzed them and proved to his own satisfaction that they were not, in fact, valid. I found yours wanting due to unjustified belief at the beginning and unjustified dismissal of your results at the end.

      You're the one that keeps laying the need for a reason onto the conversation. If you honestly wouldn't challenge the above at all, then the only challenge in this conversation has been Los v. Los.

      "This makes absolutely no sense in the context of what we’re talking about."

      Your context makes absolutely no sense. Thus the facetious answer.

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    8. I never claimed to have a "good reason".

      Well, it's a good thing, because you clearly don't have one.

      All I've ever claimed is that I am doing and intend to continue doing the practices

      But when I asked you if you thought the "theory" behind these practices had a good chance of being true, you said yes. That's a claim, one that you have not been able to substantiate.

      I'm posting below my response from the other thread on this blog, just so nobody misses it. In the quotes, GE is quoting and responding to me when I said that "I arrived at my conclusions [about magick] by figuring out that no amount of analyzing visions or coincidences can support the kinds of claims routinely made about them." Enjoy.

      "I arrived at my conclusions by figuring out..." holds no weight without data to support it.

      "...that no amount of analyzing coincidences or visions..." No amount? That's a pretty bald assertion. Especially for someone who hasn't done much of it himself.


      Boy, you are slow. Some conclusions are evaluated based on analysis of data. Some conclusions are evaluated by logically determining whether the conclusions follow from other premises.

      Here, I’ll give you an example. Take the “hypothesis” that scratching my back causes someone nearby me to blink shortly thereafter. It’s possible for me to gather tons of “data” by writing down every time I scratch my back and whether someone around me blinks and how often it takes for the blink to occur.

      I could amass a huge amount of data this way, and it would all show how a scratch was followed *very* swiftly (in some cases *immediately*) by someone nearby me blinking.

      But guess what? That data isn’t worth jack shit because we know, logically, that no amount of recording blinks in this way can ever demonstrate this particular claim.

      Why? Setting aside everything we know about blinking being an inevitable and regular motor action, my “analysis of data” is a huge post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

      And that’s the problem with your gob-stoppingly stupid idea of collecting “evidence” of coincidences. Here’s the so-called “evidence” you want to collect: “I want X, I do a ritual for X, and sometime later X happens.” That’s an example of post hoc ergo propter hoc. You could gather a million instances of that happening, and it would come not even a jot closer to demonstrating that your magick makes coincidences happen.

      If you really wanted to demonstrate this claim, you would have to study waaaay more than coincidences that happen to one guy. You’d need to pick some kind of specific result, you’d need representative sample groups of “magicians,” you’d need a magick-working group and a control group, and you’d need a calibration period to determine how statistically likely the specific result is to happen on its own. THEN you’d be able to have the magick-working group work magick for the result, and THEN you could gather data.

      If you did that, then you *would* have a chance able to show that doing magick makes the result more likely to happen – to a statistically significant extent – than without doing magick.

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  6. If [consciousness] hasn't always existed, where did it come from?

    Dunno.

    What brought it into being?

    Dunno.

    Was it created ex nihilo at some point?

    Dunno.

    If not, from what was it created?

    Dunno.

    Incidentally, are you asking these questions rhetorically (i.e. do you intend to use them to lead to making an argument for a particular position)? Or are you just sincerely asking if I happen to know the answers?

    How did something that isn't clockwork arise from clockwork?

    What makes you think that consciousness isn’t “clockwork”? Note that I’m not asserting that consciousness necessarily *is* clockwork, but I’m pointing out that your question is predicated on an assumption that I don’t think is justified.

    Anyway, what’s the point of these questions? If the answer to each of them is “nobody knows,” it doesn’t lend any more support to the idea that consciousness has always existed. That claim still needs to be demonstrated on its own.

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    1. It would have been really helpful if you did have the answers. However, I wasn't really holding my breath on that one so let's assume for now that they were meant rhetorically.

      "What makes you think that consciousness isn’t “clockwork”? Note that I’m not asserting that consciousness necessarily *is* clockwork, but I’m pointing out that your question is predicated on an assumption that I don’t think is justified."

      Well, if consciousness *is* clockwork, then it's lost all meaning as something particular to brain function or humanity or this discussion, no? If it's just a manifestation of the underlying inertial cause-and-effect that drives every law of physics, then we are all just Calvinistically pre-destined automatons predictably reacting to perturbations set in motion at the big bang. Free will loses all meaning and, with it, True Will.

      Like you, I'm not saying that this isn't the case. There is a logically sound, rational case to be made for this version of Universe. That there is no such thing as will and pre-destination has been baked in since the beginning. That version doesn't really leave room for this other thing called consciousness arising from somewhere in the midst of everything, though, and you did say that you think consciousness exists.

      So, is consciousness something different than the clockwork of inertia or is it, as you would say, "nothing"? Or is there a third thing that I'm leaving out?

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    2. Well, if consciousness *is* clockwork, then it's lost all meaning as something particular to brain function or humanity or this discussion, no? If it's just a manifestation of the underlying inertial cause-and-effect that drives every law of physics, then we are all just Calvinistically pre-destined automatons predictably reacting to perturbations set in motion at the big bang. Free will loses all meaning and, with it, True Will.

      I don't agree. First of all, on the "predictability" point, even if our “free will” really just *seems* free and we’re actually just reacting to stimuli, it doesn’t follow that we would be able to predict the outcome of a given scenario with total accuracy. This is because of the limitation of our ability to know things: Humans and our experiences are really complex, and there may be way too many factors affecting each situation (way more factors than we can know about), such that we cannot predict what’s going to happen next. If hard determinism is true, then it might be theoretically possible that if we knew *everything* about the current universe (i.e. down to the exact position of every subatomic particle) we might be able to predict the future, but that doesn’t seem like anything we’ll be able to do any time remotely soon.

      Second of all, it doesn’t matter, in any practical way, if free will is an illusion because the “illusion” of it is what is important for all practical purposes. In the same way that it doesn’t matter whether I’m “really” a brain in a vat who is having a dream, it doesn’t matter whether I’m “really” determined and dreaming that there is free will. Whether I’m determined to act in a certain way is irrelevant because it *feels* as if I have free will, and the feeling is the only thing that counts for every practical activity.

      It’s an academic question, at the end of the day. Sure, it might be fun to talk about, but even if we were to somehow prove that free will is an illusion, it would change hardly a thing.

      [By the way, from the perspective of Thelemic metaphysics, individuality (and, with it, free will) *is* an illusion created by Nuit so as to enjoy the *appearance* of separate existence. One way to describe the Great Work is the process of identifying with Nuit and thereby exposing this illusion for what it is.]

      That there is no such thing as will and pre-destination has been baked in since the beginning. That version doesn't really leave room for this other thing called consciousness arising from somewhere in the midst of everything, though, and you did say that you think consciousness exists.

      Why don’t you think there would be room for consciousness in such a universe? If consciousness is the product of brain activity – which it seems to be – then it’s entirely possible for a deterministic universe to give rise to an evolutionary process that produced creatures who developed brains that give rise to consciousness. It’s free will – under one particular definition – that would be impossible in that universe, not consciousness.

      Incidentally, that “one particular definition” qualifier in the last sentence is pretty important because there’s more than one way to define free will. Are you aware of the philosophical position of compatibilism, which holds that free will is compatible with a deterministic universe? There’s a good book on this subject, “Freedom Evolves,” which makes the case that free will is an emergent property of consciousness and brains, much as “wetness” is an emergent property of water.

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  8. I've been rereading this conversation

    Gnosomai Emauton asks above in his July 11, 2014 at 1:47 PM post,

    "Yes, we know... you've used your reason admirably to create this little self-contained loop. Pardon me while I head out to attempt the experience anyway. What will happen to your vaunted reason if I come back in a few years with evidentiary proof?"

    The answer would be that if he comes back with evidentiary proof then we would be hailing him as the new instigator of a ground breaking, earth shattering discovery and we would be celebrating him as the latest esteemed recipient of a Nobel Prize.

    August 25, 2014 at 5:16 AM

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