Monday, May 25, 2015

What Went Wrong? Whatever Works!

I can't stand this argument - ''whatever works'' - you hear it repeated endlessly through the WMT. The essence of it is that we are all individual, we are all approaching the great Nous along different paths so people are going to get different results from different approaches - whatever works for you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that position in principle, we are all different, there are many different paths in the occult sciences and we should avoid ''one-true-way-ism'' but ''whatever works'' is constantly used to defend intellectual and spiritual weakness.

Its lazy.  Have a bit more investigative rigor.  Just because a thing works doesn't mean it works the best.  You can argue that your forehead works to hammer a nail into a plank of wood. You have got results.  You have successfully hammered that nail haven't you? - alongside pulverizing your skull. This is called pragmatism bias - ''if it ain't broke don't fix it''.  The thing is that different tools can do the same job as another tool but better.  In the future for hammering a nail, just use a hammer, right? A Pogo-stick and a jet-pack will both allow you to travel.  Although one may be enjoyed from time to time for recreation and comic relief the other is going to get you where you need to go faster and more directly.


Sometimes we may want to maintain an antiquated practice for sentimental, aesthetic or historical reasons. Sometimes the Grimoire Magi give me this impression - that they are the re-constructionists you might find at a Renaissance festival - pursuing the ''authentic'' methods and whatnot - like my mum is into her lacing guild or one of my mates likes to recreate the Battle of Bosworth. Occasionally that does speak to me of choosing the Pogo-stick over the jet-pack although I do appreciate the beauty of the grimoires, lace and medieval warfare. Sometimes we do lose things in the pursuit of the future and must search in the archives of antiquity, but sometimes our narrow focus on the past is denying us access to arcane advances.

''Whatever works'' is also used to defend the status quo.  Good God, the times I have heard my colleagues say that their objections to my Qabalistic theories are in defence of pluralism - when actually the idea I am presenting (Cellular Consciousness, the Saadia Tree) represents a new contribution to what is actually an incredibly inert Tradition.  The pluralism argument tends to come from my colleagues when I am lambasting the Kircher Tree - they seem blithely oblivious to the fact that the Kircher Tree is often presented in WMT circles as the Tree of Life, not as Tree of Life - in this sense it is Kircher that stands in the way of a purely pluralistic approach to Qabalah in the Western Mysteries.

In Science when a new theory/approach comes along we test it and if it works better we adopt the new method.  In the WMT by contrast, outdated/faulty methods are clung on to because way too much time has been invested in writing/reading about them and the vested interest of the authors/orders makes them really wary of invalidating their own work - any admission of error will cut into book sales, profit margins and political influence.  Your street cred may vary.

Now and then though, the WMT invents/adopts a piece of ''technology'' that works but is also toxic and harmful - think asbestos, glyphosate, etc, for real world equivalence.  The classic example of this is the way in which the Kircher Tree is used by the Golden Dawn - building an inherently unbalanced Tree of Life into the aura is going to continue to produce imbalance in the individual or the society.  There are things about this particular Tree which allow it to work and generate results - think the Sefirot - there are things which allow this Tree to work but which produce severe inaccuracy - think the Letter Paths - there are things about this Tree that are positively dangerous - think building the Kircher Tree into your aura.


Another dangerous offshoot of ''whatever works'' is thinking that all spiritual paths are spiritually equivalent and this can lead to spiritual tourism.  On this point I'd like to say a couple of things - while it is true that there are many paths that lead to the summit there are also many false trails and dead ends.

Some paths, like Yoga, have been more thoroughly tested and refined due to the length of time and conditions that the tradition which guards them has persisted in.  We have our own cultural and psychological conditions which might make one path more palatable than another even though it is less refined due to long dark ages of ignorance, poor communication, mistranslation, political suppression, etc - think the Western Mystery Tradition.  This said, I find that rather than boldly taking a path, many are paralyzed by the ''whatever works'' philosophy and end up just looking at the mountain and discussing the possibilities rather than climbing it.  This paralysis can lead to musing over the relative relativism of the paths but torpedo your devotion to one path, thus limiting your spiritual growth.  There is something in the process of devotion which harnesses and shapes the will - this is where the Grimoire Magi gain their strength, I think, if it seems at the price of fundamentalism regarding their particular niche, nook or cranny.

So whilst ''whatever works'' should be a good motto for an individual practitioner that emphasizes the unique and private nature of the spiritual path and encourages them to seek the specific and best path for them, in reality it often ends up being used to justify lazy intellectual attitudes, poor research, spiritual tourism and to protect vested interest.

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