Technical upgrade

April 7th, 2013

The internals of this web site (and don’t bother asking me what “internals” are) have recently been upgraded. Everything appears to be working smoothly, but please let me know if you come across any weird glitches.

The illusion of separateness

October 19th, 2012

Just a quick reminder that “unity” is no less of an illusion than “separateness” is. “Nonduality” is not somehow closer to the way things really are than “duality” is. The absence of a consciousness of separation doesn’t mean that things aren’t separate any more than closing your eyes makes the universe disappear. If you say that when you routinely perceive things as separate during everyday life but that it’s an illusion, you can’t sensibly claim that when you perceive things as one during a mystical state that it’s not. The perception that “everything is one” is still just a perception. The universe isn’t affected one tiny little bit by your choice to perceive one big thing, or lots of little things. Both are simply functions of consciousness, and have no existence outside of it.

Don’t mistake mystical “insight” for “truth”, kids.

See also:


August 21st, 2012

This website has recently been migrated to a new server, and may behave unexpectedly for the next few days. Normal service will be resumed presently.

Update: everything seems to be working, please report any bugs or unexpected behaviour.

Technical issues

August 14th, 2011

This web site was recently hit with technical issues which took it offline for a few days. Since the issues arose, the entire staff of the technical department (yes, all one of her) have been working only when bribed by promises of expensive material gifts tirelessly and selflessly to resolve them.

The issues remain unresolved, but a workaround has been implemented to restore most functionality to the site. In the meantime, please endeavour not to be perturbed by any momentary glitches.

Infants, toys, prams (or Don’t do it, kids: Part two)

May 23rd, 2010

The common warnings about the psychological harm that occultists can cause themselves as a result of their practices are well known. In The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic, for instance, Israel Regardie wrote that:

In the practice of Magic or anything which releases unusual amounts of energy from the unconscious the infantile megalomaniacal substructure is re-activated, and all the illusions and delusions of self importance and elevation of babyhood re-emerge…A new source of energy is released, an energy which is seen as carrying with it not only new feelings but new knowledge and a greater capacity for self-confidence with the ability to impress and motivate one’s fellow man. This energy floods the unprepared ego with almost infinite promise. Unless the candidate is properly prepared for this phenomenon, or is guided and guarded by a competent experienced teacher, he is likely to take this seriously. Effective self-criticism seems to have vanished into thin air.

Of course, this talk about “a new source of energy” is tommyrot. The real dangers come from simply believing that the subjective feelings aroused during occult practice actually represent something real, since when this starts to happen the occultist gets further and further away from reality, and suffers as a result. Read the rest of this post »

Fresh eyes

May 11th, 2010

The mind runs along well-trodden ruts, and it does this by design. As we explained in Let there be no difference made, the mind would quickly become overwhelmed if it was necessary to fully process all stimuli received by the senses which would, apart from other things, be an enormous survival disadvantage.

Suppose we are cavemen, and we have roamed t0 an unfamiliar area and found a nice cave to make a home in. An early and necessary task will be to locate a safe route to water. Being unfamiliar with the territory, it would behoove the mind to play close attention to its surroundings. There may be various dangers, including bogs and quicksand, slippery rocks, hornets’ nests, and protruding tree roots, which could be hazardous to miss. We would also want to pay close attention to landmarks and other signs which will enable us to both find our way back, and to find our way to the water again on future trips. We may want to keep an eye out for animal tracks, fruit trees and bushes, and other possible resources which may come in handy. There are, in short, many reasons to pay close attention to the unfamiliar so that it may become familiar.

However, once we are familiar with the route, there is much less reason to pay attention. Moreover, there could be a reason why we would positively want to pay less attention – namely, because it frees up attention for other tasks, such as keeping an eye out for lions, or planning a power struggle against the local caveman chief. Having excess processing power in the brain may generally be considered to be a good thing, so anything the brain can do to increase that power may be helpful.

Once we are familiar with a route, and we know that, for instance, there are no bogs or quicksand along it, then there is no benefit in continuing to look out for them. Once we’re familiar with all the sources of resources in the area, there is no benefit in continuing to look out for them, either. Once we are familiar with a route, a lot of stimuli received by the senses become greatly reduced in importance compared to when we were unfamiliar with it, and needed to scope it out. Read the rest of this post »

Reading lists for the religious

May 9th, 2010

The student syllabus for Jim Eshelman’s A∴A∴ branch contains the following books:

  • The Equinox (Crowley, 1909–1913)
  • Raja Yoga (Vivekananda, 1896)
  • The Shiva Samhita (trad., English translation Shri Chandra Vasu, 1884), or The Hathayoga Pradipika (Svatmarama)
  • Konx Om Pax (Crowley, 1907)
  • The Spiritual Guide (Molinos, first English edition 1688)
  • 777 (Crowley, 1909)
  • Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie (Levi, 1861) or Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual (Levi, trans. Waite, 1910)
  • The Goetia (Crowley & Mathers, 1904)
  • Tannhauser (in the Collected Works, Crowley, 1905–1907)
  • The Sword of Song (in the Collected Works, Crowley, 1905–1907)
  • Time (in the Collected Works, Crowley, 1905–1907)
  • Eleusis (in the Collected Works, Crowley, 1905–1907)
  • The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage (von Worms, trans. Mathers, 1897)
  • The Tao Teh Ching (Sacred Books of the East edition, 1892)
  • The Writings of Kwang Tze (Sacred Books of the East edition, 1892)

For readers lacking excessive familiarity with Crowley’s works, this reading list is lifted verbatim from 1912’s The Equinox Volume I Number VIII, having appeared earlier that year in The Equinox Volume I Number VII minus the last two items. It’s aim was to avoid “the unnecessary strain thrown upon Neophytes by unprepared persons taking the Oath of a Probationer” by creating a three month “student” grade. The student had to pass an examination in these books prior to being admitted to the grade of Probationer, where he was “expected to show a thorough acquaintance with them, but not necessarily to understand them in any deeper sense.”

There are several things to note about this list: Read the rest of this post »

Essence of rabbit

April 30th, 2010

More from Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth:

As we trace the ancestry of modern Homo sapiens backwards, there must come a time when the difference from living people is sufficiently great to deserve a different specific name, say Homo ergaster. Yet, every step of the way, individuals were presumably sufficiently similar to their parents and their children to be placed in the same species. Now we go back further, tracing the ancestry of Homo ergaster, and there must come a time when we reach individuals who are sufficiently different from “mainstream” ergaster to deserve a different specific name, say Homo habilis. And now we come to the point of this argument. As we go back further still, at some point we must start to hit individuals sufficiently different from modern Homo sapiens to deserve a different genus name: say Australopithecus. The trouble is, “sufficiently different from modern Homo sapiens” is another matter entirely from “sufficiently different from the earliest Homo“, here designated Homo habilis. Think about the first specimen of Homo habilis to be born. Her parents were Australopithecus. She belonged to a different genus from her parents? That’s just dopey! Yes it certainly is. But it is not reality that’s at fault, it’s our human insistence on shoving everything into a named category. In reality, there was no such creature as the first specimen of Homo habilis. There was no first specimen of any species or any genus or any order or any class or any phylum. Every creature that has ever been born would have been classified – had there been a zoologist around to do the classifying – as belonging to exactly the same species as its parents and children. Yet, with the hindsight of modernity, and with the benefit – yes, in this one paradoxical sense benefit – of the fact that most of the links are missing, classification into distinct species, genera, families, orders, classes and phyla becomes possible. (The Greatest Show on Earth, Chapter Seven, pp. 195–196.)

He gets to the heart the confusion underlying this point earlier in the book, where he shows how Plato’s “theory of forms” – termed “essentialism” today – led to the theory of evolution being so counter-intuitive: Read the rest of this post »

Crowley in print?

April 2nd, 2010

I came across a page on Facebook the other day called Petition the OTO to publish Crowley’s out of print books and Thoth deck. It appears to be a platform for criticising the OTO for – as the name clearly suggests – not keeping Crowley’s books in print, heavily populated by professional complainer “Keith418”.

Other than buying new editions – coincidentally, issued by the OTO – it’s been years since I tried to buy any new Crowley books, so I figured I’d put this complaint to the test by taking a look at the largest online bookseller – – and seeing how easy or difficult it was to acquire said books. Regular readers will be aware that I am not, never have been, and never will be, a member of the OTO, that I can hardly be accused of not being critical of them in the past, and that I therefore have no axe to grind, so this can be viewed as a relatively objective experiment.

I searched for the following books, which represent substantially all of Crowley’s important works, and certainly the only ones someone interested in buying cheap books would be likely to want to acquire:

  • The Collected Works of Aleister Crowley
  • Magick (including Book Four – Parts One and Two, Magick in Theory and Practice, and the Equinox of the Gods)
  • Moonchild
  • The Diary of a Drug Fiend
  • Liber Aleph
  • Little Essays Toward Truth
  • The Confessions of Aleister Crowley
  • The Law is for All
  • Konx Om Pax
  • The Equinox, Volume I
  • The Equinox, Volume III, Number I
  • Gems from the Equinox
  • 777
  • Magick Without Tears
  • The Goetia
  • The Book of Lies
  • The Book of Thoth
  • The General Principles of Astrology
  • Heart of the Master
  • The Revival of Magick
  • Eight Lectures on Yoga
  • The Holy Books of Thelema

The results may be surprising. Read the rest of this post »

Ultimate reality

March 23rd, 2010

In the same thread referred to in Majesty in nature, the idea of “ultimate reality” arose, exemplified in the following comment from Ian Rons where it is termed “absolute meaning” or “absolute knowledge”:

However, yes of course people do make statements which they presume to be meaningful; but I would say that, ultimately, they are kidding themselves if they believe those statements tell us anything concrete about the universe absolutely, even if it helps people to interact with the universe…but ultimately we realise (through a fairly simple and not-very-abstract train of thought) that we cannot reach the absolute this way, so therefore our statements can never have absolute meaning or represent absolute knowledge.

Although not in direct response to Ian’s points, I made a separate post specifically on this idea of “absolute reality” or “ultimate reality” which warrants reproducing here, and therefore follows.

It’s worth looking at these purported “other modes of apprehension” for a moment, because it ties in with this idea of “ultimate reality” that such “modes” are hypothesised to apprehend.

In a sense, we already know what “ultimate reality” is. If we ask “what is the ‘ultimate reality’ of a cat?” for instance, then we already basically know the answer: it’s little subatomic particles whizzing around. Even if we don’t have the much-vaunted “theory of everything” yet, we can make a reasonable guess that what it will reveal is pretty much more of the same. Even if we never find it, we can still make that reasonable guess.

Now, this is obviously not what people of a mystical inclination mean when they talk about “ultimate reality”, but the idea that there is an “ultimate reality” beyond this is definitely not an idea that should go unchallenged. Read the rest of this post »