Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Organized religion offers easy answers to existential questions about life, death, the search for meaning and a connection to the unseen. They do not encourage people how to think, but what to think. To this end, we are the recipients of the followers’ projections, where women, minorities and heretics end up as scapegoats, and the search for personal truth is shadowed by absolute truth-claims in the form of dogma.
It would be a half-truth to say that organized religions are cults. After all, they started off as cults, and their norms inform our cultures in whatever countries have been dominated by them. But organized religions are politically too powerful and followers too large in number to be considered a mere cult any longer. Unable to stand the test of time, the leaders of organized religions have slowly relaxed their policies over a period of centuries so as to attract more followers and maintain their stronghold over our lives and oppress all except those who conform and do not realize the chains binding them.
This stronghold is especially apparent in a theocracy. Everyone in it is considered to be of the official religion. Whether they actually follow it or not, it is still their culture. Subtler is the stronghold in a country undergoing a long process of secularization where there is not yet a true separation of church and state, such as the U.S. In either type of stronghold, the striving is for a masochistic self-torture towards ego-loss, and an otherwordliness in which one is in the world but not “of” it.
As a result, for many people – sometimes even a minority – these aspects do not serve them. We have, collectively, lost a sense of the sacred – at least, a sense which is not commodified and does not hold materialism to be the highest goal. There is no longer a mysticism which allows a spiritual connection to the unseen or to find truths which are not dependent on the authority of others. We are living, but not feeling alive in our innermost beings.
I say “rediscovering” as part of the title of this paper since as children we have a curiousity and joy about life that we lose as we age into adulthood. Joseph Campbell would call this the “hero’s journey,” but this only relates to masculinity and is often construed to mean colonialism. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that one bucks their mentors and previous authorities before eventually returning to any sort of collective. Yet in order to do so without risking one’s life, it is necessary to go stealth; a true king wears the clothes of his countrymen.
“Monotheism strenuously denies the need to return to a cultural style that periodically places the ego and its values in perspective through contact with a boundary-dissolving immersion in the Archaic mystery of plant-induced, hence mother-associated, psychedelic ecstasy and wholeness, what Joyce called the “mama matrix most mysterious.”
― Terence McKenna, Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge
There are of course many ways of rediscovering a sense of the sacred: through the use of hallucinogens, yoga, mantras, dance, music, and Tantra. Ironically, these are pretty much all the things condemned by religious fundamentalists as sinful. Ralph Waldo Emerson said,”People only see what they are prepared to see.” So if one comes ill-prepared, or refuse to see, they will have a bad trip. What these all do is aid the aspirant in uncovering more about themselves and breaking the trance-state of the everyday mundane routine. Temporarily suspending prejudices, reactionary impulses and preconceived notions allows one to recondition themselves more consciously and deepening their perception and intuition of reality; since divisions such as “good” and “evil” or “right” and “wrong” only exist below the Abyss, one can come to a greater understanding that allows for nuance and subtlety. It also allows them to better pay attention to the details (i.e. “the devil’s in the details”) and the messages we are bombarded with via the media which are meant to brainwash us. This is the “unseen” which is not readily apparent, certainly not to the five senses.
Timothy Leary advised that we create our own religion. We are at a time where the external, organized authorities (or self-ordained authorities) of science and religion are relied upon for answers on reality, and serve as substitutes for a personal and self-deterministic philosophy and spirituality. We are pressured to choose one or the other. Yet either one can be used towards purely political and biased ends – just as “scientific racism” and religious racism have existed. Like in 1984, the collective agrees on a commonly-held belief as “truth” and specifically looks for its confirmation in science and religion.
“The impact for this, philosophically, is that it demonstrates in a highly visible instance why expecting Truth from science is futile. Science has limitations. In this case, the limitations are in the measurements and the scale of the problem. Science, when pursued with intellectual integrity, produces contingent factoids only. It never produces facts which are not reversible under future refinement of technology and / or theory. If one wants Truth in one’s worldview, then science is not the source for it.
Now the fetishers of science might declare that there are no Truths to be had. Why? Because science says so. But that claim is made based on the limitations of science: if Truth existed, science couldn’t be depended upon to recognize it. This is demonstrated by its own definition: science produces only contingent factoids.” – Sam at Atheism Analyzed
Eventually, one will come across mythology, especially when studying comparative religions. The oldest native mythologies tell stories of the elders and how their peoples came to be, emphasizing the value of animals and the wildness of nature before domestication occurred. Myths uncover the power of the unconscious and its drives which rationalism fails to address. They form the basis of the distinct cultures of all religions. These not only demonstrate what we have in common with other animals but what sets us apart from them, in the forms of man-beasts and man-gods. Evolution-wise, our brains have grown from the rudimentary nervous system to higher cognitive functions. But one need not interpret myths literally to experience the wonder that they bring and the power of the archetypal images they invoke.
“Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may jump out of a third story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behaviour and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.” — Terence McKenna
“Half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.”
– Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor
In the processing of “uncovering” truths, the veil is a fitting symbol.
“You are not naked when you take off your clothes. You still wear your religious assumptions, your prejudices, your fears, your illusions, your delusions. When you shed the cultural operating system, then, essentially you stand naked before the inspection of your own psyche…and it’s from that position, a position outside the cultural operating system, that we can begin to ask real questions about what does it mean to be human, what kind of circumstance are we caught in, and what kind of structures, if any, can we put in place to assuage the plan and accentuate the glory and the wonder that lurks, waiting for us, in this very narrow slice of time between the birth canal and the yawning grave. In other words we have to return to first premises.” ― Terence McKenna
Ecstasy comes from the Greek word ekstasis, which means, “to stand forth naked”. We can interpret this to mean an end to female body-shaming, sensuality (and hence ‘earthiness) as evil, or the “false self” that covers our essence with prejudices and conditioned responses and behaviors. Historically, veils were placed over sacred objects, consecrating them for divine purposes. They were also worn by women: royalty and the upper classes, who did not have to work; and the religious, who devoted themselves to a life of prayer and charity. Both of these were demonstrations of chastity and modesty, to sexually objectify and keep women from participating in the world at large; in essence, preventing them from fully being because they were considered inherently sinful, materialistic and property of their husbands. From this come all the modern accusations that women are gold-diggers, welfare queens, etc.
Back when Christianity was an infant religion and gaining political power, the leaders had to find a way of appealing to the pagans and women. They did this by pretending that the pagan gods were really just different manifestations of the one God, but also – in Roman Catholicism – by the veneration of the Virgin Mary. During this process female deities (embodying the feminine principle as the fundamental cosmic force) were eventually overshadowed by several male gods, then eclipsed by the monotheistic male God of Judaism and Christianity (Judy Chicago, The Girl God).
“The cult of the Virgin Mary enabled the worship of the Goddess to flourish, all be it in a cauterised form. As I keep repeating in a mantra, sex is power. The Virgin was a method of turning the sexual impulse of Christians back into the Church and onto the figure of the crucified Christ. I would describe this as a particularly unsavoury form of magick. This is the use of repression and misery as a spiritual battery. This enslavement of the worshipper’s natural desires is the exact opposite of the natural and healthy lust for Babalon.
With the resolutely chaste Mary in position, churches had a surrogate Goddess back in the house. Christ knows, they needed one. To sell Christianity to the fans of the God who dies and is reborn (like the crops in the fields) the Church used statues of Mary and Jesus that were rather close to those of Isis and the Child Horus. This mother/son icon propaganda was like a Pepsi taste test for the wavering pagans. They failed.
It requires other women to keep women as slaves stripped of their sexual power. The BVM did that job. She was the only role model that you could fixate upon.
As a Goddess she is a clitoridectomy. If you lift her skirt you can see the coarse black thread where she has been snipped and stitched. The thread is plaited from the beard of Jehovah himself. This is not a woman anymore. Look under the hem and learn.”
– Peter Grey, The Red Goddess – “Mary Inviolate”
Etymologically, “chastity” comes from the Latin word castus which is also the origin of “caste.” Hence the virginity myth was used to sexually and otherwise repress women in a hierarchical caste system. The upholding of the sacred in this sense also resulted in putting some women on a pedestal while reserving scorn for women as a class in everyday life, and creating the Puritan (false) dichotomy of virgin-whore. We still have the wedding veil to this day, with the ceremony of the father “giving away” the bride meaning that he gave her up only to be the property of another man; the ring was a literal symbol of slavery That is the literal interpretation, however:
“A woman who is a virgin, one-in-herself, does what she does—not because of any desire to please, not to be liked, or to be approved, even by herself; not because of any desire to gain power over another, to catch his interest or love, but because what she does is true. Her actions may be unconventional. She may have to say no, when it would be easier, as well as more adapted, conventionally speaking, to say yes. But as a virgin she is not influenced by the considerations that make the nonvirgin woman, whether married or not, trim her sails and adapt herself for expediency. “ ~Esther Harding, Women’s Mysteries
In another interpretation, both materialism and mater both have their roots in the Latin mater, which is mother, matter, source or origin. Materialism also refers to earthliness. So we have the connection of the divine with the earth and the earth with woman; both earth and women colonized by men. Additionally, women are considered to not matter as much as men; they are expected to not take up much space, or be loud, or choosy.
The search for a sense of the sacred therefore is a return to divine nature. However, this does not necessarily entail a denial of the body or senses. It may be that the so-called “sixth” sense or psychic sense (third eye) is really the result of the five senses working simultaneously.
Yet I still wonder: is there an objective or ultimate reality beyond the senses and the mind? For this answer, I must examine the best tool we have, science, and its limitations.
Scientists use an objective approach in investigating the unknown and how things work, and the measureable and observable effects of nature using tools available to them. This is done according to certain presupposed “laws” which have been repeatedly observed, and the testing of initial theories. Here, one is an observer and not a participant, although the very act of observing can affect what is seen. It also encourages more questions after questions – even to the point where a theory must be completely revamped.
What is missing from science, however, is the importance of the emotions to inform one’s decisions. Emotions are stored in the body. We also have that which we know as feelings, or physical sensations, receiving input from the environment and informing us. This is the “unseen” and the transcendent and perhaps, a more balanced sense of truth than any claim to “objectivity” can offer.
I fail to see how one can be 100% objective. After all, we are not robots. Our experiences are filtered through our senses and interpreted by our minds; they are colored by our subjective perceptions which cannot be empirically proven to others. For example, I cannot prove that my significant other “loves” me. I supposed the closest term to “objective” would be “impersonal” and “detached” in the sense that we are still embodied but able to perceive from a safe distance before reacting; in which case, let us be more careful with the words we choose to use. Language matters.
In an actual laboratory a scientist could observe the altered states of consciousness of the brain in an fMRI. During meditation (which has already been studied in Buddhists and nuns) it will be seen that activity in the parietal lobes is reduced, creating a sense of timelessness and spacelessness But this only shows what is happening in the brain and not whether the transcendent state, or object of contemplation, is real. Newberg has this to say:
“Similar experiences can be triggered when we exercise vigorously or make love, for at such times we momentarily “lose ourselves” in the experience. We feel more connected to the object of our attention, whether that is a lover, nature, the universe, or God. […] spiritual, mystical, and transcendent experiences occur along a continuum ranging from the most subtle to the most profound. The stronger the experience, the more likely the practicioner will feel a sense of connection to a different reality that exists beyond the brain.” (Newberg, 177).
Therefore, I can conclude that the “different reality” is that which has never been experienced before and seems completely foreign to the mind so formerly stuck in preconceived notions.
“The end result of all this brain activity is that the object of contemplation merges with a vivid sense of reality. This suggests that any closely held belief – whether personal, relational, political, spiritual, or scientific – will eventually become a personal truth. […] Since no long-term studies have been conducted with people who are being trained in meditation, we do not know whether our subjects were born that way – this would imply that they have a biological predisposition toward meditation, religious experience, and perceiving the spiritual realm – or whether intense meditative practices permanently alter the thalamus so as to allow certain states of consciousness to be experienced as real.” (Newberg, 183 & 185).
From this, I can interpret that it is not important to prove the reality of altered states of consciousness; the fact remains that we temporarily embody the experiences resulting from them and more permanently when we act upon our newfound beliefs. Beliefs are indeed very powerful.
Most of us do not have the high-tech tools to observe in a laboratory as Newberg does. Yet ultimately, one cannot find balance spiritually without a scientific approach in testing their worldview and experiences and for this we are able to develop and rely more upon our intuition, that sixth sense. This is why it is said a Thelemite’s approach is,”The method of Science, the aim of Religion.” Both the creative and analytical sides of the brain must be utilized. But metaphysical worldviews are just that, metaphysical; their influence in one’s perception of reality is enough to alter their reality insofar as they change their behavior to act upon their expanded or changed beliefs.
Love is the law, love under will.
Sunday, April 20, 2014ev 11:50am
Sol in 0 degrees Taurus
Luna in 10 degrees Capricorn