Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Almost everyone has thought about or had questions of morality for centuries. It seems the only people uninterested in any type of moralism are scientists; not that it makes them any less susceptible to bias or political manipulation. Yet there is a stigma surrounding so-called vices that is deeply embedded in the psyches of Judeo-Christian and Muslim cultures. The countries from those two combined encompass pretty much the entire globe. Hence, it is safe to say that we are dealing with a collective issue and not merely an individual one. We are interconnected and it can take several hundred years for a culture to truly be secular.
This stigma – consisting of guilt, shame, even denial – is difficult to counter even when one is outwardly free from the chains of religious dogmatism. One does not suddenly transform as soon as they become an atheist or an apostate, after all. This conditioning towards the striving of ego-loss, masochism, and playing upon altruism results in people who subconsciously attempt to suppress and even annihilate these natural human impulses, or just replace one vice with another. New-Agers and certain schools of Buddhism come to mind; they promote ego-loss, in spite of the fact that it is the ego telling itself it needs to be lost.
The very word “sin” denotes immorality in a behavior which goes against cultural and social norms, the family, ancestors, or gender roles; a spark of individuality that bucks the hierarchal system of power. In the past, virtue for women was the conservative practice of “modesty”; currently, it is heterosexual promiscuity. Both are gender roles which attempt to pigeonhole women and proclaim “true” or proper womahood through the male gaze. Macho, patriarchal norms where we were divided into gender roles are no longer done for survivalism in our civilized world, and so are now obsolete. If you’ve heard of the phrase,”It’s a dog-eat-dog world,” this is exactly what I’m talking about.
Such is the emotional wasteland of our times. More specifically, there is the tribal clannishness of the Muslim countries whether in poverty or in education, and then there is the scientific progress, eugenics and entitled welfare mentality of Europe. In either, people have already made up their minds as to their authorities to whom they turn for truth. So it is very easy to get ‘culture shock’ and undergo existential crises overseas, even though it is achievable without having to leave the country.
Some people say the solution to this is a postmodern view of moral/cultural relativism which is an attempt at egalitarianism; one is no more better than the other. Others point to the phrase,”Nothing is true; everything is permitted,” better explained below:
“To say that nothing is true is to realize that the foundations of society are fragile and that we must be the shepherds of civilization. To say that everything is permitted is to understand that we are the architects of our actions and that we must live with their consequences whether glorious or tragic.” Ezio Auditore Da firenze.
The first step to knowledge is realizing how little one actually knows, and accepting their flaws. We are trapped in the game of vices when we belief that if we eradicate certain behaviors we will achieve heaven, or happiness. It is the very search for happiness that is a dead-end; we must search for meaning in our lives:
Alexis de Toqueville, a Frenchman who came to America more than a century ago, made some astute observations about the American temperament, atmosphere, and idiom. He said that we have a misleading idea in our Constitution, the pursuit of happiness. One can’t pursue happiness; it won’t work.
A formulation for these days could go something like this: “If you will serve your reality, you will be flooded with happiness. But if you merely search for happiness, you will dispel the very happiness for which you are looking.” – Robert A. Johnson, He: Understanding Masculine Psychology
The search for happiness is also problematic since we expect to find the be-all and end-all to sorrow and pain; so too do some people feel entitled to do whatever they want without regard to ethics just because it ‘feels good.’ This entails seeing things and other people as the means to an end. Unfortunately, the popularity of the Abrahamic religions is a result of the claims of ‘result’ in miracles which are really just mundane wishes.
“For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.” -Liber AL chIv44
Compare with the below quotes:
“If you care enough for a result, you will most certainly attain it.”
“If you want it, you get it. If you do not want it, you make an excuse.”
The last line is referring to the rationalizations people tell themselves either to get out of doing something, or to deny or cover up their true motivations. On the other hand, the quality of “earnestness” (serious and sincere intent or purpose) is akin to “zeal,” which is alluded to in the former line. When we are successful in channeling our vices into something constructive, that is sublimation; when we are not, we usually end up replacing one vice with another.
To return to what vices are: they are the unconscious elements of our psyche, or those aspects which are not yet conscious. They also include the primal impulses of the more animalistic parts of our brains. Remember how they are associated with the Devil or with demons? These “demonic” influences are really messages; daimonos in Greek meaning,”messenger.” Repression of them under an organized Abrahamic or patriarchal religion results in so-called “demonic possession” which we better know as mental illness. In milder forms, their repression results in the various rationalizations people tell themselves when they attempt to deny or cover up their true desires or motivations.
Recognizing these shadow aspects and integrating them leads to becoming a more whole and consciously aware human being. But this process does not come without struggles as befit the aspirant. This process is often misinterpreted as ego-loss when in actuality we “lose ourselves” in and unite with our experiences, as opposed to being antagonistic towards life. It is also a double-edged sword; the creative force is a destructive one just as I needed to analyze the subject of “vices” before composing this paper. This includes not only Death but Sex as acts of self-transformation.
“Perfection can only be arrived at from what is conventionally thought of as sin – which must truly have to do with the energy created by the friction of opposites – If I’m right, only the clash of destructive forces can create something new.
The sexual drive is a demonic and destructive force at the same time a creative force in the sense that it can produce out of the destruction of two individualities a new being – But the individual must always overcome resistance because of the self-annihilating nature of the sexual act.”
Liber Pyramidos and Liber Tzaddi, along with Liber AL, are Thelemic texts that encourage the aspirant to examine and accept their character both “good” and “bad,” since such value judgements attempt to hold the self as static and be one’s own prison warden. “Remember all ye that existence is pure joy; that all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass & are done; but there is that which remains.” (AL chIIv9)
Within the grades of the A.’.A.’. the aspirant undergoes ordeals of initiation. For the Probationer, the Ordeal of the Vampire is about breaking free from the family and clannish consciousness; that which drains energy/life-force in a toxic relationship of dependency and creates a false sense of self that is defined by groupthink. If society is oppressive, then the building block of society is the family and we can look to it as one possible manifestation of oppression and abuse.
“The False Self : We have internalized our masters, which is a well-known psychological response to trauma. When faced with overwhelming terror, the human mind splits, with part of itself modeling itself after the oppressor. This is an act of appeasement: “Look,” the mind says in effect, “I am like you, so do not harm me.” As a result of the civilizing process, together with this psychological defense mechanism known as “identification with the aggressor”, we now hear the alien voices of the various representatives of civilization in our heads. Because of these alien ego-identifications we no longer hear our own tribal/primal voice. In order for deep thinking to commence again in the human mind, it is necessary to break down these internal authorities, overcome the resistances, that prevent tribal ideas from coming to consciousness. The modern problem is not simply that we do not listen to primal ideas, but rather that primal ideas are unable to come to consciousness at all, because of the internal counterforces, or ego-alien identifications, that contradict and overpower them.” -Glenn Parton, The Machine in Our Heads
For the Neophyte, the Ordeal of the Nephesch (Arabic: Nafs) or Kundry – is about the “old sweetnesses” so cursed in Liber AL. Some men believe that if they hole themselves up against women, and deny themselves intimacy with them, they’ll be okay. This is not about the female sex1, but really translates to the woman’s shadow side and the man’s anima, or feminine principle2; another form of the Vampire, which in repression works against the Aspirant. Chaotic as it is, it involves the development and control of the animal soul or lower ego by way of tests. One suspends but is not necessarily completely free from prejudices, but in receiving and absorbing the impressions from the environment and the emotional body, there are ‘new’ sensory experiences that could not be had before. This is a passive role in which one must open his/herself up to the world; the irritating sand in the oyster. Without being overwhelmed, it is necessary to build up the momentum to overcome the inertia that keeps one stuck in their habits.
I must also note here that the vices are commonly associated with women, starting with Eve who gave into curiousity and the temptation of knowledge. The 7 deadly or cardinal sins of Catholicism also make up the 7 heads of the beast Babalon rides:
Libido: Lust (i.e. the ‘wandering womb’)
Superbia: Pride (i.e. the ‘vain woman’)
Irae: Wrath (i.e. ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’)
Ambitio: Ambition (i.e. the ‘bitchy boss’)
Luxuria: Extravagance or decadence (i.e. the ‘immodest’ woman)
These vary depending on the school of thought, and sometimes include Avarice (i.e. ‘stingy old hag’), Greed (i.e. ‘greedy old maid’) and Sloth (i.e. ‘idle hands are the Devil’s playground’). What they promote is the belief that there are things inherent to womens’ nature; in other words, gender essentialism. I do not see many Thelemites attempting to move beyond this or offer an analysis; instead, they leave it at that. What would Babalon be if she couldn’t be hated and so reduced to every straight man’s wet dream? Yet we are conditioned (nurtured) and socialized into gender roles, and this can be undone. In the meantime, we must look out for their maladaptive expressions; both in ourselves and in others.
The 7 vices were also each associated with a demon; Beezlebub, who was the god “Baal ze bub” or Lord of the Flies of the tribe conquered by the Hebrews, then became a demon. Lucifer is associated with pride.
“The word ‘sin’ is derived from the Indo-European root ‘es-,’ meaning ‘to be.’ When I discovered this etymology, I intuitively understood that for a [person] trapped in patriarchy, which is the religion of the entire planet, ‘to be’ in the fullest sense is ‘to sin.’”
– Mary Daly
“Marcuse observes that the Establishment abuses the term “obscenity” by applying it, not to expressions of its own immorality but to the behavior of another: Obscene is not the picture of a naked woman who exposes her pubic hair but that of a fully clad general who exposes his medals rewarded in a war of aggression; obscene is not the ritual of the Hippies but the declaration of a high dignitary of the Church that war is necessary for peace. […] Marcuse’s own insightful juxtaposition of the naked woman and the fully clad general reveals the basic reversal in phallic morality which is still observable in socialist and well as capitalist societies. […] It is not a genuine liberation of sexuality that displaces the obscenity of generals and projects it upon naked women, and the essential disease is not affluence in itself. The lifting of taboos on genital sexuality does nothing to liberate from sex roles.”
– ps. 175-176 “Earth, Air, Fire, Water: Ecology As Cosmic Covenant” ch6: Sisterhood as Cosmic Covenant, from Beyond God the Father by Mary Daly
Therefore, we can conclude that the idea of Woman as the Other, or Not-I, is a denial of female existence. Colonizing women’s bodies represses their ability to be free from dependency on man’s relation to and definition of them, and Othering has resulted in the oppression of women and minorities that are not “like me.” In fact, many of the accusations made of women are actually androcentric projections. Gender roles oppress women based on their sex, and promote a very black/white worldview. Yet nature is neither kind nor cruel, but indifferent, and the laws of the natural world and our impulses do not follow our preconceived notions and prejudices. To wit, the inventors, rebels, thinkers, and artists did not make progress by following the herd. As the grey areas of subtlety and nuance are what most people fear to explore, how much more then are the various colors of perception.
Love is the law, love under will.
Sunday, April 20, 2014 ev 7:48am
Sol in 0 degrees Taurus
Luna in 7 degrees Capricorn
1 Cf. Bending Out of Shape, by Layla Anwar.
2 Cf. Owning your own shadow – He – She – Inner work by Robert A. Johnson