Faith and Healing in Paganism – Premiere

Faith and Healing in Paganism - Premiere

This is the first in a series of articles in my column “Faith and Healing in Paganism.” I must say that I am eager to see where the discussion will go, and I hope you can share some of my excitement along the way.

The focus of this column will be on healing. The advantage of this focus is that it allows for articles on healing, pagan and comparative religious experiences, and cross-cultural perspectives on many pagan and magical practices. My specific approach as a healer is usually embodiment, or the experience of a person being inside their body, rather than being “in their head.” I am looking forward, in future posts, to writing on aspects of healing that seem to be problematic, but because of the larger debates going on, it is probably important to start with “faith” as a topic.

I feel some trepidation using the word “faith” in a pagan context. Certainly, I am unwilling to use it unexamined and undefined. That, then, will be the purpose of this first column: to look at the meaning of faith as a basic human experience of the numinous, and to look at what other meanings have been added to it, so that they can be stripped away, allowing the flowering of something that is more wholly pagan. In discussing faith in a pagan context, it will be critical to cut the core idea away from many of its associations and, in the long run, pagans will need to redefine “faith” to match pagan cosmology and theology.

Faith does not mean what we think it means.

An examination of the meaning of faith is, I believe, timely. In the news media, in current books and magazines, and on the internet, there are ongoing discussions of the meaning and importance of faith. The many authors all have different meanings for the word. Some imply belief alone, some mean unquestioning belief in a religious context, and others hold it to be an irrational belief in a system opposed to humanist rationality. While these may all agree with one another on some points, none of them reach to the core of the idea, or more accurately, the core of the experience of faith.

Faith is associated with the dominant monotheistic religions, as well as with “blind” belief. Just this week, as I was writing, Newsweek (February 22, 2010 edition) had two discussions about religion: one about Moderate Islam, and the other about the debates around teaching religion at Harvard. The cultural pitfalls that surround discussing religion and faith, the social dangers of disagreeing with someone else’s protestations of faith, and the general humanist vs. religious aspects of faith are all apparent parts of the cultural landscape. In short, everyone is talking about faith.

“Faith” is a dirty word in some circles, even, or especially, pagan circles. Yet at the same time, a religion free of “faith” would be a hollow thing. I believe that pagans should come to their own understanding of what faith is, recognizing the differences and similarities of their experiences to those of other religions. Faith is what happens to the human mind when it is confronted with spiritual presences that are vastly greater than us. For pagans, however, that is not some distant, solitary God. In my experience, there is an immanence to our spirituality, the awareness of the spirit in all things. This “spirit” is not somehow separate and directing, but interwoven and integral with the world. For pagans, such experience is not tied to removal from the world we live in, but rather it ties us more closely to this world. The clear experience of the “numinous other” does not have to happen only in some distant Heaven, but is just as valid as we stand here on the Earth.

Faith has come to mean many things, mostly as a result of our cultural exposure to Western Christianity. What has happened is that the simple, unclouded experience we could call faith has been redefined and informed by two thousand years of tradition based on different underlying assumptions of the universe — ones that, as pagans, we categorically reject. Perhaps the most important of these is the belief that the world of the spirit is remote, and somehow greater in power than the world in which we live. To hold the earth as sacred disrupts this separation; to hold the earth as inherently and simultaneously physical and spiritual is to begin to recognize that these divisions are not “outside” of us but “inside.” At the same time, as members of our culture, these are mental associations that we often unthinkingly accept. They are simply part of the way our culture and language are “shaped.”

For example, I would like to critique the idea that faith and belief are synonymous. This suggestion is not true, at least not as I am going to define faith below. Faith is a spiritual experience which can lead to belief, but it is not the same thing. Culturally, faith has come to mean “unquestioning belief.” Let’s look at the simple sentence, “I have faith in Sarah.” What does this generally mean? Well, if I read it, I would say that it means that the speaker has an unquestioning belief about Sarah. It probably does not mean that the speaker has had (or is having) a spiritual experience based on Sarah. This is a co-opting of the word “faith” for much more mundane reasons. It is this understanding of faith that I wish to escape. It might be easier, with all the associations that come with the word, to turn our backs on it, avoid it, and dodge the debate. That would mean that we have taken the easy way out. Instead, I suggest that we embrace the term, taking our place in the great intellectual and religious wrestling match that is going on around us. Some might argue that the specific word “faith” is not important. However, in the end, I cannot use a different term because faith is the best term for the experience I am discussing.

Faith is personal and spiritual.

What I would like to do now is momentarily step aside from the above debate and talk about what “faith” means, not so much as a word, but as an experience. Behind the many uses of the word, I would argue, there is a simple experience of the Divine. Faith begins in the moment that one travels the road from “I believe in higher powers” to “I have direct experience of higher powers.” That is what faith, as a word, means here. This is not about blind belief, but about beliefs that seem blind from the outside because the person who carries them has based them on experiences that are personal and cannot truly be shared. Faith is about experiences that are beyond words.

Faith is a spiritual experience. The ideas attached to that experience, and used to interpret it, are actually a mental filter between the numinous and the everyday mind. Religion, in the context of numinous experience, is not so much a set of beliefs as an interpretive construct for understanding that which is purely spiritual — or perhaps more accurately, outside of everyday experience. Traditionally, in Western culture, religion tries to codify, interpret, and pass down to future generations these valued experiences. What the culture is less good at, in my opinion, is accepting that these beliefs are interpretations of something that was intensely personal and contextual. The words, and not the spirit behind them, are recognized as sacred. It is in this way that faith and belief have become entangled.

Faith is a key part of human religious experience.

What is faith, then? If it is not a set of blind, non-rational beliefs that we pass from generation to generation, then what? Faith, as I mean it here, is directly analogous to the Christian “state of grace,” the direct communication with something (usually represented as a god-figure) that informs and directs our experiences in the world. That sounds pretty heady, doesn’t it? Well, it is. This is not an experience that belongs alone to the Christian Charismatics, or the Sufis of Islam. It is a basic experience that belongs to all people. The religions themselves, the sets of beliefs that we share, are ways that we use to find meaning and relate these experiences in words. Faith, itself, goes beyond words. Faith does not belong to the part of the human mind that uses words.

Years ago, when I was being social with friends, a woman turned to me and asked, “Do you believe in witchcraft?” I looked back at her and responded, “Do you believe in rocks?” “But rocks exist!” “Yes, exactly.” My point then, as now, is that only ideas and beliefs can be analyzed for truth value, and that once we have experienced something, it is not a matter of belief. Moments of faith, therefore, are transformative. They realign our perceptions of the world. To wax metaphorical, belief alone can do no more than sow the fields of faith. That is not to say that belief is without merit itself, but it does mean that belief is not faith. Belief, however, does allow us to interpret and ascribe meaning to our experiences of the other.

With our hands, we reach out and touch rocks, and we know that they exist. Certainly, we can argue the implications of the idea of “exist,” and say that the meaning of “exist” that we use in our culture is probably horribly wrong, but we have no doubt that they exist. We can say that they do not exist outside of our own minds, and while that might be true, we can nonetheless pick them up, admire them, or make houses from them. By placing existence in our minds, we have simply changed the value of the word “exist.”

With our spirits, we can reach out and touch the numinous. With our spirits, we can look around us and see the effects of that spirit within the world. This is not something that is solely the purview of certain religions, but is instead something that is a part of all humans. Insofar as we are in touch with our own spirits, we are aware of the spirits of others. This recognition of the spirits of others is called “compassion.” This compassion is in fact a key aspect of healing work. It is important in Christian and Muslim faith healing, it is important in such modalities as Reiki, and is important in the practices of Buddhism. I am suggesting that these religions are all pointing to the same experience: the awareness, by means of our own spirits, of the existence of the spirits of others. But, let me throw in a word of caution. Compassion is not simply “being nice.” Compassion is not a weakness. And compassion is a virtue, but not the only one.

Like compassion, faith is an opening of a part of the human spirit to the outside. As a healer, I would argue that the opening to faith is a valuable part of being a healthy human. Faith is as much a part of us as “instinct” or “being grounded” (a term which I will argue in a later column has two separate meanings, depending on context). Of course, while we might like to be paragons of virtue, the purpose of virtue is to have something for which to strive, not berate ourselves and others for not living up to our beliefs.

Pagans will need to redefine faith to match pagan cosmology and theology.

For faith to be a useful thing for pagans, we must reexamine the foundational ideas out of which all other notions grow. These foundations will be different from those of the monotheistic religions of the world, but not unrelated. Faith should be a part of pagan religion, as should belief, but it need not be the sole foundation.

For this, we must remove from the term a belief that faith alone is the cornerstone of religion. With all this talk of faith, it would be very easy to slip into a position that it is the core of religion. But for pagan religious experience, it is important to relegate faith to a place where it is balanced with other aspects. Faith can be a guide, but reason, compassion, and grounded experience of both our culture and the world at large must be balanced as well. Faith offers one kind of truth, but that truth should be recognized for its value without being placed on an untouchable pedestal. The beliefs that come from faith must be recognized as personal and contextual. The experiences can be powerful, but it is sheer hubris to believe that they are more “true” or more “valuable” than other kinds of knowledge.

Pagan faith lends itself to being integrated into the wider, global world, without leaving us helpless to act in it. Pagan religions are, by their nature and creed, more accepting of a wider world in which there is a polyvocalism, rather than a single voice of Truth. For this, we must focus on living in the world as it is, not as we believe it should be.

©2010 by Christopher Drysdale.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Book Review: Animal Reiki to Go

June 5, 2009 by  
Filed under books, energy work, healing, mysticism, reviews

Book Review: Animal Reiki to Go

Animal Reiki to Go
by Mary Caelsto
The Lotus Circle (February 16, 2009) $20.00
ISBN 978-1419980756
128 pages plus keychain charm and drawstring pouch
Reviewer: Lupa
Full starFull starFull starFull starHalf star

There are several books and other resource that cover reiki for animals, either as the entire book or as part of a broader work. However, this one’s nice “to go” as the title says, as a pocket-sized kit for the reiki practitioner. Just a note to start off with – I only got the book to review, not the keychain or pouch, so the review’s only for the book.

I think the best target audience for this book would be people who already have a basic knowledge of reiki, and want to expand that to nonhuman animals. While the author does give a very basic summary of reiki for contextual purposes, I wouldn’t want to use it as my only source (a bibliography or recommended reading section would have been a bonus in the back, but is sadly missing).

That being said, if you already are a reiki practitioner, then you’ll find some great analogues between human and nonhuman animal treatment. Caelsto does a good job of showing just how simple it is (sometimes!) to transfer knowledge of practice on humans and transferring it to other animals. For example, she shows where the seven primary chakras are on other animals, and explains how best to work on them. This includes some incredibly valuable practical and safety issues – some animals simply do not like being handled, while others are shy around certain parts of their bodies, such as the head.

Information on distance healing with reiki comes in very handy.

Caelsto also adds in some uses besides straight healing. She explains how to use reiki to protect a certain population of animals, such as an endangered species, or a herd of deer living near a busy road. Having done a good bit of activist magic myself, I had to applaud this quite a bit. (Though after reading the sentence “Don’t set traps, send reiki” from page 16, there’s part of me that totally wants to set up a reiki-based pest control service with that as the ad line!)

No, this isn’t the longest book on the subject, and as mentioned I would suggest it for people who already have the basic knowledge of reiki down. However, it’s concise and packed full of a lot of good, practical, hands-on (no pun intended) information on the topic at hand. Caelsto does a great job of explaining what to do, why to do it, and adds in some anecdotes to show some of the possible effects. She’s an effective teacher through writing, and while I would have liked more references, it’s a good book for what it was intended to be. Good either as part of the kit, or as a standalone text.

Four and a half pawprints out of five.

Review ©2009 Lupa
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Lupa is the author of Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, A Field Guide to Otherkin, and co-author of Kink Magic, among other works. You can read her blog at http://therioshamanism.com and see her website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.

The Dictionary of Traditional Magick and Etherical Science #2

The Dictionary of Traditional Magick and Etherical Science #2

 

A column by Gerald del Campo, The Dictionary of Traditional Magic and Etherical Science features ten author-selected definitions per issue. The definitions included in Mr. del Campo’s Dictionary do not necessarily reflect the views of the administrators or other contributors of this magazine.

Anima

(Psychology) A Jungian term meaning the feminine side of man. The anima is the archetype of life. It is a personal and archetypal symbol of the woman in the male psyche. It is an unconscious element embodied afresh in every male child, and is responsible for the apparatus of projection. Starting with the identification of the mother, the anima later matures and is applied to other women. It is a repetitious influence in a man’s life. It manifests as mother, daughter, sister, mate, and Goddess.

Animus

(Psychology) The male side of woman. (See Anima.)

Collective Unconscious

(Psychology) Oftentimes referred to as the Universal Unconscious, this is a layer of the human psyche accommodating historical genetic material distinct from the personal unconscious. This genetic memory is often referred to as “racial karma.”

Dark Night of the Soul

(Psychology) A condition marked by depression, and lack of energy both mental and physical. Not pathological. The energy that is not available to the conscious is re-routed and used in other areas of the mind, usually the imaginative functions of the brain. Often encountered during magical work, the Dark Night of The Soul often signals a new beginning. It is a decent into Hades, the underworld; it is an immersion in the unconscious. The experiences of Osiris, Christ, Dante, etc., are examples describing this condition. The condition is normal, and even desirable, since it often leads the individual to a break in neurosis.

Diagnostic

(From the author’s personal lexicon) A person who does not believe in two gods.

Docetism

(Gnostic) Like most Gnostic concepts, this has its roots in a Greek word whose root is “image.” Docetism is a belief which subscribes to the idea that the way to salvation is not through the belief in the historical Christ, but in the Gnosis caused by the scripture which explains his account.

Ethical Egoism

(Philosophy) The doctrine that actions are right only insofar as they are advance the agent’s own interests. Ethical Egoism is a form of Consequentialism. It differs from Psychological Egotism, which dictates that concerns itself with things that motivate the agent into action, whereas Ethical Egoism is a doctrine about what it is right to do.

Pranayama

(Yoga) The Hindu processes of controlling the breath. Breathing properly is at the heart of good health. Each inhalation brings in oxygen, which in turn sparks the transformation of nutrients into fuel. With each exhalation, the body purges itself of carbon dioxide, a toxin. Breathing affects our state of mind. It can excite or calm us. It can make our thinking confused or clear. Ancient yogis created many breathing practices to take full advantage of the benefits of prana.

Scientific Illuminism

Scientific Illuminism was a term coined by Crowley, probably after reading Nietzche’s arguments against the existence of a living god. It is a fantasy many Thelemites indulge in, where science has become the new religion and a suitable method for measuring Gnosis. A well-intentioned idea wherein a person’s most personal spiritual experiences and processes are compared to Crowley’s advances, and disregarded as trash when they don’t match. The arena for this “Scientific Method” is often the internet, where well-intentioned magicians have their most personal and beautiful experiences posted all over the Internet to be critiqued by “scientific” individuals that couldn’t illumine themselves out of a wet paper bag.

Scientufalism

(From the author’s personal lexicon) A classical Scientific Illuminist blunder. The mental gymnastics and justifications which occur when a Scientific Illuminist attempts to use the principles of Scientific Illuminism to force some badly formed philosophical, magical, spiritual or metaphysical opinion where it doesn’t belong.

©2007 Gerald del Campo
Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Gerald del Campo has authored three books on the subject of Thelema: A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed. He is a photographer, musician and CEO for the Order of Thelemic Knights, the first Thelemic charitable organization. You can visit his blog at http://solis93.livejournal.com and his websites at http://thelemicknights.org and http://egoandtheids.com. Gerald formerly served as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.

The Dictionary of Traditional Magick and Etherical Science #1

The Dictionary of Traditional Magick and Etherical Science #1

 

A new column by Gerald del Campo, The Dictionary of Traditional Magic and Etherical Science features ten author-selected definitions per issue. The definitions included in Mr. del Campo’s Dictionary do not necessarily reflect the views of the administrators or other contributors of this magazine.

Abramelin Operation

(Magic) A magical operation described in The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage for the purpose of achieving Knowledge and Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel, and requiring a strict six-month period of isolation, meditation and asceticism. It is said that a person that completes this operation can compel the compliance all demons.

Assmosis

(From the author’s personal lexicon) The process by which some people seem to absorb success and advancement from the asses they kiss.

Bhakti Yoga

(Yoga) Gives mastery over love, and leads to the control of the powers of divine love. Devotional Yoga.

Categorical Imperative

(Philosophy) In Immanuel Kant’s ethical system, an unconditional moral law that applies to all rational beings and is independent of any personal motive or desire.

Cynic

(From the author’s personal lexicon) A sneering faultfinder; one who disbelieves in the goodness of human motives, and who is given to displaying his disbelief by sneers and sarcasm.

Elixir

(Alchemy) In alchemy and magick, a liquid version of the Philosopher’s Stone possessing the same ability to perfect any substance. When applied to the human body, the Elixir is said to cure diseases and restores youth.

Ethics

(Philosophy) The sphere of philosophy that deals with moral issues. Key questions in ethics include: What is the right or wrong thing to do? Which is more important, the intentions behind action or the actual outcome? Are there any ethical rules that can be applied universally?

Gnosis

(Gnostic) From the Greek knowledge, meaning a Divine knowledge gained by the union of Wisdom and Understanding. The word is a reference for a number of religious sects that existed around the time of Christ. They believed in two deities: one who is responsible for the creation of the Spirit world, commonly referred to as “the Logos,” and the other who created the world of Matter, called “the Demiurge.” Gnosticism underlines a return to the Spirit world via the development of mystical knowledge, which leads to salvation. Today, the term “gnosis” has become somewhat fashionable, and seems everyone wants a piece of it, but not badly enough to actually attain it or at least use the word correctly. Consequently, “gnosis” has been interpreted in a lot of silly ways, and is used in some ridiculously incorrect ways as a mundane “knowing” (e.g. financial gnosis, real estate gnosis, etc.) by those want to try to make everything they do “magical.” Also used, incorrectly, to mean the “state of magical readiness,” a definition applied by Chaos magicians.

Sushumna

(Yoga) Sanskrit. Also referred to in Hindu texts as “the sustainer of the universe,” “the path of the universe,” and “the path of salvation,” it is attached to the center of the spine, beginning at the same level as the anus and extends to the top of the head. Sushumna runs along the center of the spinal cord or spinal column, passing through the chakras, and is said to carry Prana. The real work of the Magician or Yogi begins once Sushumna begins to function.

Utilitarianism

(Philosophy) A form of Consequentialism. The doctrine that an act is right only if the consequences maximize the general happiness and/or pleasure. A popular and controversial argument of Utilitarianism philosophy is whether the general happiness must be interpreted as the happiness of the majority.

©2007 by Gerald del Campo.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Gerald del Campo has authored three books on the subject of Thelema: A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed. He is a photographer, musician and CEO for the Order of Thelemic Knights, the first Thelemic charitable organization. You can visit his blog at http://solis93.livejournal.com and his websites at http://thelemicknights.org and http://egoandtheids.com. Gerald formerly served as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.

Personal Thoughts on the Ethical Implications of Thelema #3/13 – What is an Ethical Person?

Personal Thoughts on the Ethical Implications of Thelema #3/13 - What is an Ethical Person?

Notice that in speaking of destruction of the intellect, nothing more is meant than recognition of the vanity of the intellect in relation to the absolute; so also for conscience. Twice two still makes four, and killing is still murder; but all this is relative, and relates to the individual in his limitations, not to the absolute. This very simple truth, that the planes are separate, is the greatest of all the discoveries of Fra. P. It is a complete key to life.
— Aleister Crowley, Equinox I:8, p. 23-4

Is a person that does the right thing due to fear of religious, judicial, or legislative repercussions ethical? What about people whose behavior is based on fear of losing societal standing? Can ethics be a part of a person’s genetic makeup? Does a person will ethics, or can ethics be forced upon a person by society? Can ethics be used as a means to discover one’s true nature?

Society can try teach ethics (via formal education), and enforce laws by exacting penalties for failure to act ethically — but doesn’t this type of society risk becoming a fear-based society because the motivation for right action will be based solely on self-interest instead of a love for Light, Life, Love and Liberty?1 Furthermore, some laws require unethical behavior. Law is concerned with what is legal rather than what is right. Wouldn’t you rather be a member of a society composed of ethical citizens? People who act ethically out of their own desire to be ethical, rather than motivated by fear? People acting out of fear are not inherently ethical. Ethics concerns itself with action.

We have seen what occurs when unethical people use fear in order to make laws in our own society. Consider how in recent days Americans have given up freedom of association, freedom of information, freedom of speech, the right to legal representation, freedom from unreasonable searches, the right to a speedy and public trial, or the right to liberty.2 The message those laws and regulations send is that it is okay to do the wrong thing, even when it violates the lofty ideals upon which this country is founded, provided that it is legal or lawful.

Right thought leads into right action. Words mean nothing. So if we are to make intelligent decisions about other people, then we must ignore what they say and pay attention to what they do. If a person complains, but makes no effort to correct a situation or condition, then it seems clear that the issue is not really serious in that person’s mind because it hasn’t driven them into action.

What shall we say of a person who is aware of corruption and injustice in government but who ignores political involvement, such as voting? Is a person who ignores their knowledge of unpleasant things, preferring instead to justify inaction by believing lies when the facts are in front of his face, being ethical?

“Nevertheless have the greatest self-respect, and to that end sin not against thyself. The sin which is unpardonable is knowingly and willfully to reject truth, to fear knowledge lest that knowledge pander not to thy prejudices.”3

“Despise also all cowards; professional soldiers who dare not fight, but play; all fools despise!”4

Ethics and laws are often opposed to one another. This is clearly the case when we see people who sacrifice their own freedom for their fellows, principles, ideals, or even ethics by breaking bad laws. Laws are not necessarily ethical, as when regulation and licensing prevent freedom of movement, freedom of speech, or making a living, when laws based purely on religious morality force non-adherents into compliance, or when government or big business (same thing, really) can make use of loopholes (not available to all) in order to avoid responsibility for wrongdoings. In fact, law is a bad model for ethics — unless, of course, Love happens to be the Law. What shall we say of a justice system that jails Martha Stewart, whose only crime was to sell her company’s stock when she heard that the market was about to crash, but lets off criminals like Tom DeLay, who committed perjury, smoked Cuban cigars during an embargo against Cuba, took bribes from casinos, and funneled corporate contributions to state campaigns during the 2002 election cycle? What pride can we have for our modernness with all of our medical breakthroughs if the best, most sophisticated bioethical solution for a woman on a feeding tube is to allow her to starve to death? Sometimes humans seem to get more excited by the possibility of cloning sheep than they are by advancing as an enlightened species.

The law should only be a marker for minimal standards for behavior necessary for a productive society. We must never forget the fact that laws are often created so as to have an unethical end, such as the laws justifying Apartheid in South Africa. Legislators that create and support laws like these also create a social disrespect for them. It is not unlike the disservice that a zealot does his religion when he uses it to justify his own means. Nor should a law’s popularity be a marker of ethical value, since an unethical law can placate the majority of people, as occurred in Hitler’s Germany. The absence of social agreement on many issues makes it impossible to link ethics with what is socially acceptable. The same is true of Thelema, but that shouldn’t stop us from discovering our own, personal ethical standards.

Ethics, on the other hand, are something more than forced compliance. One cannot be forced into ethics; they must be willingly embraced. But today, so-called “ethics” tend to focus on rules, and this is simply another form of control. Furthermore, ethical values should be in compliance with one’s True Will. This is not to say that it is impossible for groups of people to adhere to a unified code, or agree on a codified set of ethics in order to accomplish a task that would be impossible without the assistance of others.

Aristotle tells us that the focus of ethics is on character, not rules. In other words, how one tackles problems is a measure of a person’s self-worth. It reflects an idea of one’s value. According to Aristotle, the central question is what one should be, rather than what one should do, because if good character is in place then by necessity, good action will follow. Right thought leads into right action. Therefore, he tells us, we would do well by developing our character rather than trying to fit into some moral rule or law . . . unless, again, Love happens to be the Law.

Rabelais appears to have held similar beliefs. “Do as thou wilt” is the only rule of his Abbey of Thelema, for a person with good breeding will naturally do the right thing at the right time. Consequently, you won’t find any clocks in this monk’s Abbey, since according to him it seems ridiculous that man would regulate his life in accordance to a mechanical time-telling device, because the Thelemite (being possessed of the above mentioned good breeding) can only do things at the right time.

The Ego

The Ego is a topic of both metaphysical and psychological concern, and in many instances the line that separates these two fields of human study is quite blurred and becomes important to the topic of ethics. This is especially true in present times where pseudo-intellectuals have reduced the spiritual reflex and the domain of the soul to simple but comfortable well-known psychological impulses, without offering any real solutions to the problem of living a spiritual life in a world that demands selfishness and greed. God Is Dead. More on this later.

The following example is by no means all-inclusive. There are many paths that a person can travel to find spiritual freedom. The observation that follows is what I perceive as the ideal or best case scenario, and comes in part from watching people and reflecting on my own experiences on the path to self-discovery.

This piece necessitates an explanation of how the term “ego” is being used. For the religious creature, the ego signifies arrogance, self-importance, and unearned pride. For the psychologist, the ego is the function in the human psyche that organizes the different aspects of the Self5 in order to create a facade of wholeness and integration; it is a function of deception that serves to affect the individual and those around them. It is a necessary tool for survival in the world. Both schools of thought are correct, but again, neither offers a clue as to how to use this information to create a true method for gaining access to the Higher Self.

There is a false assumption in religious types that this ego must be destroyed. Individuals that have actually had some success in this area find themselves having to go through years of therapy to get it back. In fact, the religious insistence of defining the ego as an enemy that must be destroyed at all cost may be little more than a sinister strategy to control people. The ego questions everything and insists on individual freedom. It will not readily accept unjust or destructive demands of religious groups. It is an ally of the Will. Destroying the ego in order to achieve some resemblance of enlightenment is ludicrous because it is a component of the Self, created by the Self to interact with all other aspects of the physical universe.

For the purposes of this article, I choose to define “ego” as the narcissistic, automatic, habitual desire to see oneself as separate from the universe and from people within and without one’s sphere of influence. It isn’t anything evil, but it can be problematic when it is immature. In our present state of evolution, the ego is underdeveloped in most people. The ego can often be so successful in identifying the “I” from the “not I” that it can become self-centered and behave in ways detrimental to its own self-interest, as well as the interests of other individuals.6

The following stages have been oversimplified, but they serve to illustrate the point.

  1. The unrestrained articulation of the Ego. “I do whatever I want.” In the first stage, the individual has been duped into seeing his ego as the whole of the self. He enthusiastically surrenders to every whim promising exaltation or pleasure, often believing himself capable of indulging in destructive behavior without consequence. Here we may find people with unhealthy obsessions with drugs, alcohol, sex, or material and financial gain. They may have little regard for how their actions affect the lives of others. During this stage of development, there is little hope for progress in the area of true love or understanding toward others, much less for oneself.
     
  2. The awareness of the Ego in relation to others. “Doing what I want causes unhappiness for those around me, which may ultimately alienate me from others.” Here, the ego has come to realize others as intrinsic parts of its own existence and well-being. This realization usually comes as a result of trial and error and various failed attempts to act without consequence. This is the stage of most adults. The realization that they have hurt others frequently results in feelings of guilt, then backlash when the individual attempts to find redemption by immersing himself in religious or metaphysical practices. On the surface this appears to be a desirable step in the process of development, but in some cases an individual will develop a sort of psychopathology, because he may (as a result of all that spiritual practice) begin to see himself as better than his fellows. In reality, at this stage, this is nothing more than another mask the ego has spun out of arrogance. One vice has simply been replaced with another, much more palatable vice that pretends to espouse a higher, more lofty ideal. One may be capable of seeing the Holy City from this stage, but it is an illusion projected by the ego itself. Many religious people are inadvertently caught in this direful trap. Sometimes the use of drugs is employed to escape, or one may simply stop here, feel sorry for oneself, and blame problems on everyone else, rather than taking responsibility and moving on.
     
  3. The subjugation of the Ego to the True Self. “I am more.” After various attempts to achieve some relationship with the Higher Self, or to connect with something outside of its own delusions, the ego may actually be perceived at work, and the individual may become conscious of its capacity to deceive. Here, an individual may safely offer this false aspect of himself up to some higher cause or deity. The emotional attachment to the ego provides the necessary fuel. This sacrifice cannot be offered as an act of faith, but rather as a modest, cognizant, and intentional undertaking that adheres to the magical paradigm embraced by the individual. In our particular case, this must be a sincere and total sacrifice: an act of love under will.
     
    The ego experiences an inner struggle during this stage of development, as it is only concerned with its own survival and fears its own demise more than anything else. This is where our mettle is most severely tested. Courage and perseverance are the most useful keys. Some people have associated this struggle with “The Dark Night of The Soul.”7 To succeed is to embody the Law in the flesh, and achieve the inner peace during tribulation that so many mystics have written about throughout the ages. One becomes a Lover in the Sufi sense, as the absence of the ego8 makes it possible, for the first time, to see oneself in all things, and the way to the Higher Self is opened. The longer the individual continues to hold this position, the greater the reward, and the clearer the road to the Holy Land. Many have tried to write about this experience but have failed from a lack of a suitable language.
     
    This is important: The actual act of questioning something greater (as well as the actual act of sacrifice) does not originate with the Higher Self, or God, or whatever you choose to call it, because It already knows. The Ego itself is doing the questioning. Remember: The ego’s function is to question, and now we are seeing it exert itself in order to become self-aware. In this stage, we can observe the ego actively progressing toward enlightenment.
     
  4. Union with the Higher Self. In Western Hermeticism, “I who am most like himself” or “I am that I am” — in the Sufi tradition, “I am the Truth,” “I am Love,” or “I am the Law.”
     
    This may appear to be a contradiction, or even a similar condition to what is explained in Stage Two. The difference is that the Ego (having been completely united with the totality of the Self) is in fact an integral part of that Truth which is the Higher Self. The deluded ego described in Stage Two can only make these statements while thumping his chest like a frightened gorilla. At this stage, the individual makes these statements in humility, realizing that his Truth belongs to all.

    “Remember that this earth is but an atom in the universe, and that thou thyself art but an atom thereon, and that even couldst thou become the God of this earth whereon thou crawlest and grovellest, that thou wouldest, even then, be but an atom, and one amongst many.”9

    To explain the differences between the ego and the Ego, consider the following statements, as they serve to illustrate the two stages very well.

    • “I am God.” — One doesn’t become one, or come to full realization of this in the Gnostic sense, by simply saying it. It doesn’t matter how often one repeats it. Whether “God” is really in there or not, the host will never really know it because he or she is trying to assume something without knowledge. This is faith.
       
    • “I am not God.” — By beginning here, one is forced to separate those parts of his or her makeup which are made of “god stuff” in order to examine them objectively. After one has externalized the entire idea, one can go about assimilating it as one’s own attributes. When one finds himself indivisible from the Higher Self, the Ego sees no reason to cheapen the experience by broadcasting it.
       

    Here we approach the gates and stand before the two pillars flanking the door to the Temple: Love and Law.
     

  5. The Ego is assimilated by The Higher Self. “There is only Truth.”
     
    This stage marks Freedom in its ultimate sense. One is an agent of his own Divine Force and moves through the world confidently, without fear and completely trusting his newly found Divine guidance. The individual has been reborn10 into an existence where every experience is an encounter with the Divine. Here, and only here, can a person say of himself: “There is no God but Man.”

There is an idea that has become quite popular with pop-occultists, which espouses the concept of absolute happiness once one reaches this stage. I believe that there is a tremendous joy that comes from being able to view the universe beyond the veil of illusion and deception. Suffering and sorrow, however, are still there, but you may now appreciate them (and isn’t experience what Nuit calls us to do?) without the necessity of being emotionally involved with them, because you will know that these experiences only have meaning in the duality of the physical universe. Existence is Existence, and tears of joy are no less salty than tears of sorrow.

Only Eleven?

“The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature that cannot.” — Mark Twain

Consider the Eleven Virtues of Thelemic Knighthood and what they mean. Some of them have a more obscure, deeper meaning. See if you can get a sense of how these qualities are necessary to our own personal mission of gaining knowledge of our true nature, or our world mission of promulgating the Law of Thelema through acts of charity and service.

Valor — Right action in the face of any challenge

Valor means to be valiant, brave and strong, both mentally and physically. It is the ability to face danger with firmness11 and courage. It is the power to do the right thing, stand up against wrongdoings, and it is synonymous with courage, heroism, bravery, gallantry, boldness, and fearlessness. But its Latin root translates into “value” and “worth.”

Valor is the state one is in when one does what must be done, when one understands and accepts the consequences of one’s actions, even if those consequences are painful. It means doing something with the foreknowledge that one may be hurt, may lose, fail or not make any difference at all, and then doing it anyway because it is the right thing to do. It is the ability to accept fear, and it is possessing the inner strength necessary to undergo trial.

Valor is not recklessness, however; we must constantly consider the source of our courage to make sure it comes from a worthy place. Shakespeare once said of valor, “When valor preys on reason, it eats the sword it fights with.” He was right.

The Rose Cross is a worthy symbol to explain the idea of valor. The Rose simultaneously symbolizes a sacrifice of our desires and the blooming of our True Will.12

Nobility — Poise and elegance in both word and deed

This term is very misunderstood. Generally speaking, the word “nobility” describes a class of persons (the peerage of British society) distinguished by high birth or rank, such as dukes and duchesses, or barons and baronesses. The Order of Thelemic Knights prefers to reward members with titles for displaying a state of being possessed by superiority of mind or character, and commanding excellence, rather than acknowledging individuals simply on the notion that nobility can be inherited. Therefore, the Order of Thelemic Knights defines nobility as a quality belonging to all individuals that possess these following virtues:

Discernment — Piercing all glamour to see the Truth in oneself and in others

Synonymous with discrimination, it is the faculty of the mind that distinguishes one thing from another. It is the faculty of the mind which demonstrates keen, acute insight and good judgment. It is a skill that, when developed, enables us to view the differences in people and the relationship between us all. Discernment is the power of penetrative and discriminate mental vision, and is capable of seeing a multitude of things that escape others. A discerning person is not easily misled.

This shouldn’t be confused with the nonsense that so many blathering idiots on the internet try to pass off as “critical thinking.” In fact, discerning people will not waste their time educating individuals that already know everything.

Pride — Having a true sense of one’s worth

True pride is free of guilt and fear. It never second-guesses. Many good, deserving people are generally incapable of feeling pride. The insistence of humility over pride by misguided Christian leaders has created a social neurosis where people are afraid to exceed or take credit for their hard work.

“O be thou proud and mighty among men!”13 Pride is a wonderful thing. It is what one feels inside when one has triumphed in the face of adversity, created beauty, acted correctly and honorably, or faced his own illusions. Acting ethically leads to pride, and so we don’t view pride as a vice but a virtue. Pride is not humble, and is often confused with arrogance.14 (Arrogance is indeed a vice because it is an attempt to deceive others, but most importantly, it is a great source of willful self-delusion.) To say it another way, pride is the ability of deriving pleasure, self-respect and confidence for knowing and accepting oneself without indulging in some delusion of adequacy that does not exist. It is the willingness to reveal something within or about oneself to others as an example to one’s peers, and taking joy in personal honorable achievement or the achievements of one’s comrades.

The virtue of Pride leads to an accurate realization of one’s self-worth. Its vice is an over-inflated impression which relies on the comparison of oneself with some other person perceived to be less worthy. A good example of malformed pride is clearly visible in today’s so-called “intellectual Thelemites”15, who take great pride in pointing out the faults of others and insist on the need for dialectic and critical thinking, while they themselves are completely clueless with regard to the “scientific method” or the proper tools by which to measure a person’s worth. This is the problem with individuals that are Thelemites and intellectuals in name only — they fail because they spend more time looking for faults in others than trying to understand their own. They are therefore unable to develop the tools and social skills necessary to make the criticism philosophically valuable. Their approach only serves to placate their petty needs for external validation. These “misguided prophets” often congregate in small groups where there is always someone nearby to pat them on the back and tell them just how great they are, but are also always on the lookout for some poor unsuspecting soul to add to their collection of “followers.” They often quote the great philosophers to prove their own limited view of the universe, and are completely impotent when it comes to grasping more lofty meanings hidden in the writings of the philosophers they claim to know, or when it comes to creating something original.

When it materializes as a person’s truth, Pride is a source of ethics, an elevation of character and dignified bearing, and loathing for what is beneath or unworthy of oneself — a deep and uncompromising sense of self-respect and noble self-esteem. When a doctor puts his career16 on hold to help the poor, he or she often does so because of a deep belief that he has the knowledge, know how, and gumption to do a job no one else seems willing or able to do. It may be that the way a doctor is forced into conducting business is at odds with the Hippocratic Oath he or she has taken upon hir graduation from medical school. Perhaps pride prevents them from the hypocrisy inherent in capitalist medical practices or in the radical idea that sick people should be patients and not customers, or that hospitals should not be instituted for the generation of capital. Such actions and thoughts originate with pride.

Pride comes from a sense of purpose, and a love of accomplishing the impossible. The more difficult the obstacle, the more lofty and ethical the mission may be, the greater the sense of pride. Just ask any soldier that is willing to sacrifice his life defending his kin or countrymen if he is proud.

It is pride that pushes and gives us a sense of accomplishment, even when beginning a task that we can never hope to finish, because there will always be someone dying from hunger or a lack of medical attention. Liber Librae tells us to work for its own sake.

“Do good unto others for its own sake, not for reward, not for gratitude from them, not for sympathy. If thou art generous, thou wilt not long for thine ears to be tickled by expressions of gratitude.”17

We may become overwhelmed by this work, and we may often ask ourselves why we even bother when one person’s contribution is so small in the face of such huge problems. Support from a fellow soldier during those difficult times can provide light, encouragement and motivation in the darkest times. Working together, people can make a noticeable change in the world, and this is the position of the Order of Thelemic Knights.

A prideful person with a strong ego is not threatened by being a part of something larger than himself, because he is aware of the resources that they are able to provide for the greater good. A prideful person takes pleasure in the knowledge that while he is a necessary component to achieving a communal objective, he is no more or less important than anyone else lending their talents to the accomplishment of the goal. People have pride in something they value highly. Pride is confidence stemming from the projection of one’s personal values. Our communal values are the reason that members of the Order of Thelemic Knights are prideful.

Coincidentally, a pride is a gathering of lions. A consciousness of power (and hence, responsibility), fullness of spirit, lust and sexual desire. Interestingly, an excitement of sexual appetite in a female beast.

Compassion — The vice of Kings!

Have you ever had a deep awareness of the suffering of another living thing and wished to help for no other reason than wanting to relieve suffering? This is compassion; it is a human quality. Pity is not compassion. Compassion manifests as a sensation of sorrow provoked by the affliction or misfortunes of another. Pity, on the other hand, is the act of placing oneself above those less fortunate. Compassion is everywhere; it exists in nature, and therefore, we consider it a spiritual quality. It follows, then, that it should be integrated as a spiritual practice.

Fidelity — Loyalty to oneself, one’s comrades, and one’s word

It implies faithfulness. It is adherence to careful and exact observance of duty, truth, honesty, integrity or a discharge of one’s obligations.

You cannot have an army without fidelity. Spiritual warriors must be faithful to their obligations, duties, or observances, or they are little more than loose cannons or mercenaries. They must stand fast by their allegiance with the principles they have embraced, regardless of the circumstances.

Hamilton may have described our Order’s approach best: “The best security for the fidelity of men is to make interest coincide with duty.”

Passion — To do all with love under will

Passion comes with boundless enthusiasm, ardent love, conviction, and certainty. It is a powerful emotion. People who are unable to take a stand one way or another are not possessed of passion.

A passion can be one’s desire, such as the passion for one’s duties, art, or lover. It is the fervor and zeal with which we approach our missions, the fire that burns within us, and the driving force behind any pursuit and the enthusiastic partiality for anything.

Strength — The body is the Temple of God

In personal terms, strength is a source of mental, physical, and ethical power to resist strain or stress. It is a form of control necessary to hold firmly to one’s ethical or intellectual position firmly. It is an attribute or quality indicating worth or utility; it is an asset.

Organizationally, it is the embodiment of protective and supportive supremacy, the capacity to endure or resist attack — impregnability. It is the gumption to carry out a mission in the face of opposition, the ability to work effectively, efficiently, and to produce an effect and secure results. Or, as Rudyard Kipling puts it, “Enough work to do, and strength enough to do the work.”

Each of us is strong in our own areas, each according to his or her True Will. When we put all of our strengths to the service of Our Order; we become an army. Force19 is the application of strength.

Discipline — Perseverance, that the Work may be accomplished

Discipline is the organization of behavior subject to will. It is any exercise that is expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces ethical, physical, or mental improvement or self-control. It is indicative of a branch of knowledge, such as the discipline of martial arts, yoga, or psychology. It also alludes to the rules regulating the practice of a church or religious order. It is synonymous with education, instruction and training.

When a man submits himself to a certain lifestyle or ethical code in order to remove badly formed habits and substitute them with good ones, he is exercising discipline.

Self-Reliance — Only a free man may walk our path

Freedom begins with the recognition of a person’s sovereignty. The next step is to use that freedom to self-govern, to choose one’s course. Independence and freedom come from the reliance on one’s own capabilities, judgment, and resources. When a man or woman is self-reliant, he or she does not become a burden to his or her Brothers and Sisters. On the contrary, such a person is an asset that can be counted on to do his own share of the work and contribute to the best of his ability. . . each and everyone in compliance with his own True Will. A self-reliant person will never need anything because he is self-contained.

Hospitality — To share what one has with others, especially those far from home

Cordial and generous reception of, or disposition toward, guests is synonymous with Chivalry and Courtly Love. Hospitality is a lost art form. Few individuals really understand manners and a proper upbringing, preferring to lump it all in the rebellion of society and modern culture. It is a display of pride, generosity and respect toward one’s peers that is infectious. Unlike charity, hospitality is designed as a gesture of mutual recognition of one’s autonomy. It can be best described by the Sanskrit word namaste, which is to say, “I respectfully greet the divine spirit within you.”

Footnotes:

  1. Consider the motivation behind paying taxes in the absence of equal representation. Is it done as a sense of duty for one’s country or social responsibility, or out of a desire to stay out of prison? If it is the later, then is it unreasonable to think of taxation as something akin to extortion?
  2. If this seems fictional I would encourage the reader to examine the so-called “Patriot Act.”
  3. Liber Librae, Paragraph 15.
  4. The Book of the Law: Liber Al Vel Legis III:57
  5. The archetype of personal totality; the governing nucleus of the psyche, and that influence that surpasses the ego.
  6. In many ways, the Demiurge and the Ego are synonymous because both take credit for being they aren’t, or having done something they haven’t.
  7. Often encountered in magical work, this is a non-pathological condition marked by depression and a lack of mental and physical energy. The energy that is not available to the conscious is re-routed and used in other areas of the mind, usually the imaginative functions of the brain. It is symbolic of the decent into Hades, an immersion in the unconscious. The experiences of Osiris, Christ, and Dante are examples describing this state. This condition is normal and even desirable, since it often leads the individual to a break in neurosis.
  8. The use of the word “absence” is misleading, since the Ego hasn’t really gone anywhere, it has simply transcended its home in the lower places. Also, this stage is what the Sufi calls “mystical love.”
  9. Liber Librae, paragraph 14.
  10. A process usually experienced following The Dark Night of The Soul whereby an alteration of the personality has occurred. Examples of rebirth appear in the world’s mythology in the form of The Transmigration of the Soul, Resurrection, and Reincarnation.
  11. This can be done with little to no though when one knows his or her True Will.
  12. Liber Tzaddi, paragraph 16
  13. The Book of the Law: Liber Al Vel Legis II:77
  14. Unearned pride. Pride has no problems with humility, whereas vanity, on the other hand, avoids it at all cost.
  15. “Nietzschean Thelemite” might have been a better term, but it would have given Nietzsche a bad name.
  16. And financial goals.
  17. Paragraph 11.

©2006-2013 Gerald del Campo. Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Gerald del Campo has authored three books on the subject of Thelema: A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed. He is a photographer, musician and CEO for the Order of Thelemic Knights, the first Thelemic charitable organization. You can visit his blog at http://solis93.livejournal.com and his websites at http://thelemicknights.org and http://egoandtheids.com. Gerald formerly served as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.

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