This article addresses the topic of the nature and general description of Thelema, without being as tangential as its previous incarnation.
I am happy to report that Thelemic Union has published my essay “Learning the Joy of Existence” (site founder and manager IAO131 renamed it “Learning the Joy of Existence in Thelema,” presumably to make it appear more relevant) on their site.
This essay covers the notion that existence is inherently joyous from a Thelemic perspective, and how to view it as such by engaging in the trances that Crowley discusses in his short book Little Essays Toward Truth.
Feel free to check it out.
“Anything based on the masses, the herd, carries in itself the seeds of slavery. This crowd, which does not self-determine its values, is incapable of defining its own life.”
I usually try to eschew labels: Sure, they’re useful, but let’s be honest—the world is too large a place, its cultures and creeds too diverse, its philosophies too many, its religions too vastly different. The notions of those cultures and creeds and philosophies and religions are simultaneously sweepingly broad and narrowly specific. No one “-ism” or “-ology” can contain the totality of useful and meaningful concepts that exist.
That being said, the alignment of my political and spiritual notions, as of late, have produced something I like to call anarcho-aristocracy.
Give me a moment to explain:
To clarify the concept of “the State”, I will paraphrase part of a cogent 2013 post by Skyler J. Collins at Everything-Voluntary: The State, according to libertarian thinker Stephen Kinsella, is the firm (group of individuals) which monopolizes the ability to provide governmental functions (“law and order”) in a society, making itself the arbiter of power and the “final word” in conflict settlement—even conflicts within or involving itself. This means that there is no “third party”, so to speak, to adjudicate conflicts regarding the State, making the State almost infallible, if not unchallengeable, when or if the time comes to question its ability to function properly as an institution which works (or is supposed to work) to provide freedom and happiness for those it governs.
This implies, simply, that the existence of the State creates a situation in which decision-makers—policy-makers and so forth—are too far removed from the effects of their decisions. This often leaves the brunt of the State’s failures to rest on the shoulders of citizens, and creates a class system in which a hierarchical difference exists between the rich and powerful—who remain at the top—and those whom the rich and powerful control—who remain, and suffer, at the bottom.
Closing this gap, by whittling down the State until it becomes indistinguishable from the citizenry, turns the vertical power structure into a horizontal one (the column into a row), in which all members of society are valued for their individuality, and in which all members may contribute to the maintenance of those societies of which they choose to be a part.
As Collins notes: “Monopolies are always an illegitimate arrangement of authority in society because nobody has the right to prevent others from providing any good or service of their choosing. This includes governmental services. … To be a consistent libertarian, a voluntaryist, or an anarchist is to oppose the monopoly of governmental services, i.e. the State, and to instead favor competing providers of law and order. It really is that simple.”
I would also go further to say that, in an ideal state (that’s with a little “s”), a society may even eliminate such “competing providers of law and order”, with individuals acting based on voluntary association, or based on a sort of constitution on an as-needed basis.
Voluntaryism, on one hand, is something I believe we should pursue to its fullest extent, as the idealization of the greatest amount of freedom for the greatest number of present and future persons. But, on the other hand, we should recognize that the decision-making process, even rendered as free and non-binding as possible, should still always be informed by reason and, hence, merit, in the form of individual experts capable of lending their expertise to other citizens, so that those citizens may offer their opinions in a state of understanding, not ignorance.
This is where meritocracy, and thus aristocracy, comes into play.
While in an anarchist society power structures have effectively dissolved, and all human beings are free to pursue their desires so long as they do not interfere with the freedom of others, the aristos are needed to stabilize such a society through the dissemination and clarification of useful information and lead as examples in a more effective decision-making process.
In terms of experts in the fields of science and engineering, such a system would emerge as a king of quasi-technocracy—“government by an elite of technical experts”.
To be clear, what I’m advocating isn’t “government by”, but rather, “exemplification by”. This is aristocracy in a more free and practical sense—the siphoning of reason from a class of experts capable of creating more informed views, and hence better at solving problems.
In simpler terms: A thorough education is paramount in a system intended to benefit individuals based on contract and mutual benefit; information is and will always be useful for the maintenance of any society; third, a society lives or dies based on its ability to adapt, made possible by the participation of skilled individuals and the use of tools, typically developed by those individuals.
Of course, it must be said that expertise is no longer merely sourced from individuals. Despite a worldwide culture of pedagogy, in the form of universities, and a slew of think-tanks manned by ostensible experts in various fields, the future may hold sources of information we can scarcely imagine. What began with libraries as a repository for human-consolidated information and has since developed into the Internet may take on a wholly new form as A.I. and machine learning become more and more capable and advanced.
I have not dismissed the idea that these machines, the progeny of humankind, may one day even surpass us in knowledge and understanding, and then will become an invaluable asset to us in the form of teachers and organizers of information and raw data. (That is, of course, if they don’t destroy us first, as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk seem to worry.)
Whatever the future holds, so long as human beings remain individual in their personalities and autonomous and self-determinant in their desires, there will always be an opportunity for the actualization of the conscious experience. From birth to death, humans encounter every day their own, raw potential. This can give rise to aristocracy in the more inward sense, which I will address in Part II…
Note: Some of my ideas, as they’ve been framed here, have changed recently. (Typically, they’re in some kind of transition, anyway!) Otherwise, I think that they are perhaps better presented through the dialogue (between myself and Los, a fellow blogger) in the comments section of this post. I invite readers to view that dialogue and add their own input, should they like.
(November 29, 2015.)
This was written circa 2013, as an essay presented during a weekly discussion in one of my previous philosophy classes.
If you take issue with any of the views presented herein, feel free to bitch, debate, or spam the comment section below.
As it is:
Scientism, thus defined: “an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities).” Effectively, this is the idea that all knowledge and truth is subject to, and only confirmed by, the scientific method, to the exclusion of all other methods. It is a position that was born from the scientific philosophy of positivism (the notion that all useful knowledge comes from logical, mathematical, and directly observable means) as well as materialism (the idea that all that exists are matter and energy and the forces within their domain, i.e. material), and the iron grasp of the analytic philosophies that pervaded 20th-century thought, and pontificates that science is and forever will be the ultimate arbiter of truth in the world. Science, it is claimed, is falsifiable, because it progresses through rigorous self-criticism, and yet this distinction among the various disciplines actually makes it unfalsifiable, basically speaking.
In 2010, physicist Stephen Hawking wrote the following in his book The Grand Design: “Why are we here? Where do we come from? Traditionally, these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead… Philosophers have not kept up with modern developments in science. Particularly physics.”
Similarly, the physicist Lawrence Krauss more recently criticized philosophical investigations into the nature of being and non-being, or metaphysics, more broadly, in the wake of the publication of his book A Universe From Nothing, which provides theories and evidence that matter spontaneously creates itself from quantum fluctuations and gravitational forces. In review of his book, philosophers like David Albert note that the laws of nature and quantum strings still constitute “somethingness,” in reply to which Krauss claims that there is a difference between the “nothingness of philosophy” and the “nothingness of reality.”
Krauss’s scathing dismissal of metaphysics drew some scorn from contemporary philosophers, and in reply Krauss half-apologized, snidely stating, “So, to those philosophers I may have unjustly offended by seemingly blanket statements about the field, I apologize. I value your intelligent conversation and the insights of anyone who thinks carefully about our universe and who is willing to guide their thinking based on the evidence of reality. To those who wish to impose their definition of reality abstractly, independent of emerging empirical knowledge and the changing questions that go with it, and call that either philosophy or theology, I would say this: Please go on talking to each other, and let the rest of us get on with the goal of learning more about nature.”
Of course, Krauss’s ideas rely on a materialist worldview, as well as an evidentialist one, materialism and evidentialism both being philosophies, grounded in historical dialogue. In the realm of modern scientism, peddled by the so-called New Atheists (most famously Richard Dawkins), there is no room for a reality outside of the objective.
Now, on that note, I want nothing more than to hark back to Kierkegaard’s views on the two “insanities,” one of which is objective madness: being so utterly enamored with and taken over by the objective world that subjectivity no longer matters. Subjectivity dies under the purview of scientism, as do mentalism, idealism, existentialism, and various other philosophies which assert the existence of subjective realities that can exist alongside objectivity. The death of subjectivity is a terrifying concept. It is not the business of science to become so imperialistic as to deny all other forms of knowledge and understanding as “pseudo-science” or flat-out wrong. Science is a beautiful tool that, alongside philosophical domains such as ethics, aesthetics and, yes, even metaphysics, helps to build upon humanity’s heritage of coming to terms with and understanding the world. If we are to leave it to science to determine what is ethically right or wrong (as Dawkins suggests, at least to a degree) via biology, neuroscience, etc., are we really doing morality a favor? How can science so finely tune our ideas as to tell us what is right and wrong in every sense or context? Or, more broadly, how can science truly distinguish being from non-being, or categorical ontologies? Take those presented by Sartre, who made a distinction between different types of “being,” describing the nature of being for objects and subjects as fundamentally different. For scientism, since there is no empirical evidence for these states in a purely objective world, Sartre is simply wrong. He doesn’t “keep up with science,” as Hawking would proudly assert.
How much of that notion is true? Is it a lack of scientific rigor that puts philosophy under the heels of scientism? Or, rather, is it a difference in description? A language game, that is. Scientism’s puerile dismissal of anything remotely “abstract” does an injustice to science itself!
Science is wonderful, but scientism is arrogant and perhaps even dangerous. (Read: technocracy.) Both science and philosophy have long engaged in dialectic and debate, and to simply sweep one or all disciplines from the playing field in order to usher in the dominance of one denies the real multitude of knowledge and truths that we have as a species.