I've debated for awhile whether or not to post the following. After all, why not just let sleeping dog-faced demons lie? But I keep coming up against the fact that, if the past year or so was indeed an experiment, then it's useless without analysis. The following is one attempt at analysis of one specific factor of the experiment, submitted for peer review (or peer ignore ).
As he was on his way out the door a few weeks back, Los fired off a few parting shots that highlight the importance of maintaining a scientific attitude when approaching studies of the mind, consciousness, the occult, magick, etc.
In the thread that acted as a catalyst for his departure (viewtopic.php?f=4&t=13584), he wrote:
Los wrote:One of the reasons I don’t believe in this stuff anymore is that I wised up and realized that daydreams and subjectively trusting how it all feels to me doesn’t demonstrate the actual existence of "powers" or "other worlds."
To which I responded:
Gnosomai Emauton wrote:How did you go about "wising up"? What was your process of "realization"?
I ask because, to me this reads as one of two possibilities:
a) After a long period of "believing" certain things, you were not able to manifest results and so you determined that results are not manifestable. This is logically sound but does beg the question as to your actual work. What did "believing" involve for you? What sort of training did you engage in to develop the skills necessary to manifest results? How much time did you commit? Of what quality was that time? Do you have a record of your work that shows a sustained concerted effort?
b) After a long period of "believing" certain things, nobody else was able to demonstrate results for you and so, due to a lack of outside evidence, you gave up the hunt. This is not logically sound as it relies on a negative proof. You would be supported in a turn to skepticism. It does not, however, support your position of incredulity.
I realize your response to the latter (as often stated here on the forum) is that you remain open to proof but that none has been forthcoming. The thing is, that's your burden, not ours. This is Thelema. It is the responsibility of every individual to do their own work and find their own answers. You are allowed to believe whatever you like but, if you hope to convince anybody else that your beliefs are, in fact, truths... you need experiential evidence from which to begin your argument, not logical discourse growing out of an argument from silence.
If you are unwilling to show your work and present a convincing case that you engaged fully in the practices as passed down through unbroken lines from ancient wisdom to develop your own super-normal abilities and were unable to manifest results, then there isn't really a starting place.
Shortly thereafter, I received a PM from him providing the answers that I had requested. I'm not in the habit of sharing the contents of private communication but, since he did then turn his side of the discussion into a blog post, you can check it out at (http://thelema-and-skepticism.blogspot. ... alist.html).
As you might notice, he ignores everything from "b)" onward in his reply so that he can paint my contribution to the discussion as "classic believer script 'you aren't doin' it right'", about which he conveniently already has a blog post written. Even his gloss of possibility "a)" skips over the relevant questions. It's the typical Lossian Straw Man that we've all come to expect around these parts.
His extended answer, however, highlights a deeper failing in his process of intellectual maturation that should act as a warning to anyone focusing their energies on studying the occult arts.
In answering my question, "How did you go about 'wising up'? What was your process of 'realization'?", he finally provides some insight into the Los of yore, proto-Los if you will, who once upon a time was--dare I say it--a "believer". This proto-Los appears to have tried every tool in the toolbox: Enochian scrying and invocation, charging talismans, invoking deities, banishing, consecration... He threw all the spaghetti at the wall and, contrary to my assumptions, he got results, too. He had conversations with angels that he could see and he "got a lot of the things [he] asked the angels for." At least in his imagination. Current Los isn't quite willing to admit that proto-Los actually, honestly, truly believed all of this. But he was 93% of the way there.
Despite all of this work and seeming success--several years of it to be... um... precise?--there is one major flaw that jumps out immediately: there appears to be absolutely no method to this madness. He claims that he "didn't just jump into these practices, [he] spent a substantial period of that time performing the basics," but what exactly is a substantial period of time? What are his basics? He performed the Star Ruby "a boatload" but is that a Titanic or a canoe? "Liber-E type exercises"? What are they? Liber E provides a very specific regimen of training to build a solid foundation. Did he test out on all seven chapters or was he just kinda sorta doing something like what was in there? In other words, was his Temple actually in full working order?
To the outside observer, this might seem a bit pedantic: a question of semantics. But it is exactly this sort of specificity that Aleister Crowley saw as fundamental when he began developing a workable system of Magick from the ashes of the failed traditions of the past. It is for this reason that the first part of Liber E is dedicated solely to the practice of the detailed Magical Record. It is then followed up with the above-mentioned series of training exercises in Physical Clairvoyance, Asana, Pranayama, Dharana, Physical Limitations, and Reading capped off with one more exhortation: "As at the beginning, so at the end, we here insist upon the vital importance of the written record as the only possible check upon error derived from the various qualities of the experimenter." These exercises are not focused on producing results or manifesting "supernatural mumbo jumbo". They are focused on training the body and mind to comply with the directing power of will. Without mastering these--and their sister practices in Liber O--it is not surprising that one would be unprepared to confront the phenomena produced by Enochian invocation and talisman charging with the balanced, analytical mind of the scientist.
When Los claims that he "thought they were true because [he] thought [he] was personally experiencing "results" from them," my justified response is the one that he sarcastically put in my mouth: "You aren't doin' it right." He was doin' it like a magician of the Golden Dawn. He was violating the oft mis-quoted exordium from Liber O:
The student, if he attain to success in the following practices, will find himself confronted by things (ideas or beings) too glorious or too dreadful to be described. It is essential that he remain the master of all that he beholds, hears or conceives; otherwise he will be the slave of illusion, and the prey of madness.
There is little danger that any student, however idle or stupid, will fail to get some result; but there is great danger that he will be led astray, obsessed and overwhelmed by his results, even though it be by those which it is necessary that he should attain. Too often, moreover, he mistaketh the first resting-place for the goal, and taketh off his armour as if he were a victor ere the fight is well begun.
It is desirable that the student should never attach to any result the importance which it at first seems to possess.
By doing certain things, certain results will follow; students are earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophical validity to any of them.
This 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. If proto-Los only practiced for "several years", one wonders if he had yet mastered his machine completely enough to move beyond these safeties and start "believing". It's unfortunate that there isn't a more detailed record from the time to evaluate. His present-day description, though, all but confirms that he became the "slave of illusion": "I told myself all kinds of silly lies and platitudes to keep up the fun game playing."
This attitude provides a very clear explanation of present-day Los's driving need to go after the "looney toons" at the "Fruitcake Factory". Because his method was so slip-shod, he assumes that every so-called magician is likewise picking up the books, doing the practices, and believing in the results. The sort of plug-and-play ritual that he and some of his hangers-on decry as an epidemic amongst the magically-minded. His own failure has turned into his nemesis, a dog-faced demon that he must eradicate from the world in order to conquer his own lost past. Freud would have a field day.
The thing is, in many cases, Los is not incorrect. There certainly are a large number of magicians and occultists and new agers and dilettantes out there who believe in certain things without evidence. Those who mix up potions from some dime-store recipe or give psychic readings without tabulating results or perform ceremonial rituals by rote. In attacking these, I have no doubt that Crowley would sidle right up to Los in calling out "People who produce maudlin and hysterical gush, inane sentimentality, who are faddists, fools, drivellers, dodderers..." (The Psychology of Hashish, Equinox I.ii, p.87). Crowley, however, would do it with the intention of motivating those with the potential toward practicing a scientific method in their studies, not toward dismissing the subject altogether. Again, from The Psychology of Hashish, pp. 53-4:
[T]he masters of meditation have erred. They have attained the Mystic Vision, written long books about it, assumed that the conclusions drawn from their vision were true on other planes... never noted possible sources of error, fallen foul of sense and science, dropped into oblivion and deserved contempt.
I want to combine the methods, to check the old empirical mysticism by the precision of modern science.
I assert--more or less ex cathedra--that meditation will revolutionise our conception of the universe, just as the microscope has done.
Then my friend the physiologist remarks:
'But if you disturb the observing faculty with drugs and a special mental training, your results will be invalid.'
And I reply:
'But if you disturb the observing faculty with lenses and a special mental training, your results will be invalid.'
And he smiles gently:
'Patient experiment will prove to you that the microscope is reliable.'
And I smile gently:
'Patient experiment will prove to you that meditation is reliable.'
So there we are.
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. Given that purpose, it should be expected that there will be posts on these boards that are perhaps not yet up to snuff in the areas of self-observation and evaluation. There will be those that are off-the-wall bonkers and those that are unexpectedly insightful, if not yet provable. Regardless, the guiding force that I've seen around these parts--and the reason why I stick around--is one of education and guidance towards that impartial self-observation that is fundamental for useful occult study.
Without that discipline and rigorous record-keeping, the student will one day find herself at the crossroads that proto-Los approached a decade ago. She will "[want] to be sure that these beliefs [are] actually accurate and not just some security blanket to make [her] feel better." If she had kept a detailed and accurate record, she'd have several years worth of data to peruse and compare. If that didn't answer her questions outright, it would at least give her direction towards specific experiments she could run to test her hypotheses. If she had found herself a guru in her time of study--as strongly recommended by Liber E--she would also have another set of eyes that could look over her work and point out blind spots that she had missed. She'd have the strength of the scientific method to support her conclusions.
Without a reliable record, it's very likely that she'll fall down the pit that proto-Los descended. Instead of testing the validity of his own scientific work, he chose to look at the world around him and draw conclusions from what he saw there. And what he saw--holding the mirror up to nature--was "how incredibly common self-delusion is, particularly in 'spiritual' matters." He examined the history and practice of religion and saw a plethora of contradiction and disorder. He looked at other people and took them as his metric. He ignored himself. He saw that others had "personal experience" of God, he saw those examples to be unsupported by reality and, by the transitive property of reptilian thinking, applied that stupidity to his own several years work.
In other words, he discovered what any high school student should have realized by the end of her first semesters of world history and psych 101: world religions are messed up and self-delusion is easy.
The sloppiness of his "reasoning" at the time still permeates his current description of it: "Lots of people think they can work magic... stuff that probably would have just happened on its own anyway... People attribute... nearly everyone is deluding themselves... every one of these people is accepting claims supported by insufficient evidence." No specifics. No reliable data. Just empty generalizations derived from his fears of religiosity. This naturally spun him down the maelstrom towards "Irrational beliefs lead to terrible consequences." His Pillar of Justice overbalanced his Pillar of Mercy and knocked any sort of reasoned equilibrium out from under him. He grasped onto analogy and circular logic, ignoring completely any of the actual data he had accumulated over several years of concentrated effort, likely because none of that data had been usefully recorded.
Crowley would have laughed this joker out of contention before reaching the end of his application.
So why do I bring this up now that Los has moved on to greener pastures? Why poke the hornet's nest? The one positive that was noted here and there during Los's time among us was that his constant attack on weaker positions improved the level of thinking about these matters across the board. Just because he was arguing from a place unsupported by recorded data doesn't mean that his presence didn't force us to be more on our game. Buried deep in that axe that he constantly felt the need to grind was an important truth, the source of which is finally apparent: Belief without reason is a dangerous pitfall for which one needs always to be on the lookout.
Beliefs can be chosen for certain work, beliefs can be held when one trusts their source, and beliefs can be discarded when their usefulness has passed. However, one should always have the data of work accomplished or the ability to design new experiments to test those beliefs in order to protect against the fascination and illusion that knocked proto-Los off his hobby horse. This core guideline is something that has and will continue to guide my own work.
It is also something that I hope to guide my responses to posters who start coming back out of the woodwork, making fantastical claims without rigorous testing. Unlike Los, I do not disbelieve anything outright. I do not feel the need to lash out with the Emperor's sword at any and every seeker who hasn't attained a balanced place of thinking. But the Hierophant is a useless teacher if he refrains from correction in deference to belief. If something outside of my experience is going to effect my thinking, I'll want to see the data first. If there is no data, I'm likely to suggest that data be collected. I'd like to think that others would expect the same from me.
ESP, levitation, invisibility, transmutation, goblins... these are all things with which I have no personal experience. In fact, the extent of what might be called "results" that I have personally experienced is limited to one full ceremonial ritual, one observed exorcism, one experience of spontaneous willed protection, several hands-on healings, and a growing facility for divination. I don't "believe" in any of them. I don't "disbelieve" any of them either. I did certain things. Certain results followed. I recorded both. In time, repeated success might push me toward accepting that what I'm doing is causing the results. In time, an unremarkable mixture of "success" and "failure" might push me toward accepting that what I'm doing is not causing the results. In the process of my work, there have and will be times when I willingly "believe" something for a period of time in order to test its effect on me. This is the method of science. Create a hypothesis, something that has never been tested before. Design an experiment to test that hypothesis. Run the experiment multiple times with sufficient controls in place to guard against bias. Record all results. Analyze the data. Adjust as necessary.
This is how we advance the world and assist in humankind's evolution. Not by generalizing the false to overshadow the truth but by proving the true in order to destroy the false; by rehabilitating "religion" from the uneducated tribalism of its mindless followers to the individualized pursuit of Self and Truth.
In closing, I'd like to turn the floor over once again to The Psychology of Hashish on the necessity of scientific self-observation. The "gentlemen" to whom it is directed could easily be the Los crowd of a century ago: proto-proto-Los. (I trust the illustrious Oliver Haddoo will forgive me for removing his one bit of antiquated and unnecessary misogyny):
Here, gentlemen, are a number of genuine mystic states; some home-grown, some imported. Please tell us what they are! (You are fond of telling us what things are.)
It is useless to label the whole lot as insane: nor are they unimportant.
In my view, most of the great men of the world have known them; themselves attributed their greatness to these experiences, and I really do not see why admittedly lesser men should contradict them. I hope to argue this point at greater length when I am better documented; but at the very least, these states are of the most extraordinary interest. Even as insanities, they would demand the strictest investigation from the light they throw upon the working of the brain. But as it is! All the sacred literature of the world is full of them; all the art and poetry of all time is inspired by them; and, by the Lord Harry! we know nothing about them. Nothing but what vague and troubled reflections the minds of the mystics themselves, untrained in accuracy of observation, bring back from the fountains of light; nothing but what quacks exploit, and dotards drivel of.
One single trained observer with five years' work, less money than would build a bakehouse, and no more help than his dozen of volunteer students could give him, would earn himself a fame loftier than the stars, and set mankind on the royal road to the solution of the One great problem. Scientific Illuminism would have deserved its name, or mysticism would have received a blow which would save another young fool like myself from wasting his whole life on so senseless a study and enable him to engage in the nobler career of cheating and duping his fellows in the accredited spheres of commerce and politics, to say nothing of the grosser knaveries of the liberal professions.
But I have no doubts. Let the investigator study his own brain on the lines I have laid down, possibly in the first place with the aid of hashish or some better physical expedient, to overcome the dull scepticism which is begotten of idleness upon ignorance; it is useless to study the no-brain of another, on the strength of a reputation for fraud, as the spiritualist investigators seem to do. Your own brain is the best; next, the trained and vigorous brains of clever and educated men, in perfect health, honest and wary.
You will get more from them than you will from some maudlin hysteric professional mountebank. All talk to the contrary is the merest froth; Mohammed was a great lawgiver and a great fighter; try your experiment with the sane, and not with the crazy!
True, you will get hallucinations more easily with the unsound; but you will never, never, never find a... degenerate who is capable of any trance of type higher than Vedana. Take my word for it!
No! take my word for nothing: try all things; hold fast that which is good!