Things I Don’t Believe

Inspired by the wonderful Patrick Dunn over at Postmodern Magic, I’ve been interested in doing a similar post (though not quite a series of posts) on various subjects in spirituality, the occult, and magic that I don’t believe in or have no basis for believing.  I mean, there’s a lot of BS out there, and even though I deal with BS quite seriously on a daily basis, I have to set my BS tolerance threshold somewhere.  To be fair, part of this list might just be due to the fact that I’m still fairly young and may not have as much experience with some of the things below as others may, but those are reasonably few and fair between.  After all, young as I am, I’ve still seen and done a fair amount in my life that a good number of others haven’t.

And with that bit of mysterious nostalgia out of the way, let’s begin:

Some upcoming mass spiritual revolution, dawning of the Age of Aquarius, galactic realignment, whatever.  This ties in right well with any apocalyptic or end-of-the-world theory (hopefully you all haven’t forgotten that 2012 was just last year), none of which I believe in.  Rather, I’m a proponent of the idea that there’s nothing new under the sun.  Consider that humanity has only been around for about 200,000 years as a biologically distinct species, 50,000 years as a culturally self-aware race, and 10,000 years as a race that works with agriculture and cities.  Evolutionarily speaking, this is not a long time (we normally see evolution taking place over the span of millions of years).  To think that we’re due for some new mass spiritual awakening because the biases and structures of the past millennia or two haven’t been too friendly towards a specific generation or countergenerational revolution is folly.  Do I think humanity doesn’t evolve, ever?  No!  We’ve been changing and (I like to think) getting better, inch by inch, mile by mile, man by man, but it’s not going to happen all at once in a year or two.  Maybe over a handful of millennia, if we’re disciplined and adept about it, but I’m not holding my breath.  Much as John Michael Greer has been saying on his blog The Archdruid Report, people want such apocalyptic change not because they’re too lazy to have it done by themselves or to work for it over a span of time.  On the other hand, I’m not saying that there isn’t some kind of storm in the offing metaphysically, but it’s not some kind of 2012-esque mass enlightenment nonsense.

Orgonite.  I’m not talking about orgone energy or technology in general, but specifically orgonite.  Maybe a year or so ago before I started the MaGOS project, I’d’ve dissed and tossed orgone tech from here to Kathmandu, but the tech does generally seem to work, and shares similarities with Franz Bardon’s stuff.  However, that cannot be said for orgonite, which (for those blissfully ignorant) is a congealed mass of resin mixed with metal shavings and, optionally, bits of crystal and decorative material (glitter, dyes, etc.).  Their intended effect is to purify local areas of “deadly orgone” or bad energy into “positive orgone” or good energy, given the basic hypothesis of how orgone energy works (ambient vital essence attracted to organic materials and repelled by inorganic materials).  Still, if the original orgone tech was unable to differentiate between the two, orgonite (a more portable extension of the tech) won’t either.  Add to it the fact that some of the crazier of the hippies out there like to “gift” or throw the chunks (often poured into and hardened in muffin tins or martini glasses for the shape) at cell phone towers, in Indian burial grounds, or in African reservoirs, and you have a recipe for utter stupidity.  Plus, in my experience, it oftentimes comes out looking like jagged congealed robot vomit.

Karma (the popular conception of it, aka The Rule of Three).  I understand karma from a Hindu or Buddhist perspective, with a bias towards the Buddhist interpretation of the idea.  In short, karma is an action arising from an intention of an unenlightened or conditioned being that has an effect.  Once enlightened (or, perhaps in a more Western phrasing, acting in accordance with one’s True Will), one acts without karma.  This is how the thing works, people, not this “rule of three” or “what goes around comes around” nonsense.  The modern use and meaning of karma is just another example of both horrible cultural appropriation and a way to isolate a basic human need to see retribution done on others.  Try as we might to remain altruistic and detached, humanity has an instinctual taste for revenge and justice that likes seeing itself effected, especially on others for whom we may not know the whole story.  On the flip side of this, though?  No matter what religion, philosophy, or path you fall into, if you need the threat of punishment to keep you in line and keep you from harming others, you’re doing it wrong.  Besides, this stolen idea of karma completely throws out the (also Buddhist) notion of expedient means, or the ability to use normally unfruitful or harmful methods to arrive at a better state of the cosmos.  Examples are using white lies to lure distracted children out of a dangerous situation, or killing one person to save a million others.  In other words, the ends justify the means much more than the means do on their own.  For those with a more Hindu bent to their cultural appropriation, you’re also neglecting the fact that karma can often be “atoned” for and, through the proper offerings and rituals, washed away completely, similar to Christian confession and absolution of sins.

Claims of unbroken lineage from time immemorial for modern pagan or magical movements.  Yes, humanity has always had a spiritual bent to it.  Yes, spirits/gods/whatever have always existed.  Yes, magic has always been done in some form or another.  Yes, every generation of humanity has its fair share of witches and magicians.  No, you cannot make claims that your modern reconstructionist orthodox tradition of whatever has been passed down in secret family lines for thousands of years intact, especially if you don’t have the pedigree or diplomas to prove it.  I’ve seen this claim been made of several branches of occult work, and especially those of (Dianic) Wicca and other “families” of witchcraft.  Witchcraft, especially done nowadays, is not a “surviving pre-Christian tradition”.  While some ancient godnames and the like might still be in use in extraordinarily rural areas of the world, if only in utterly derived or devolved forms, a lot of the modern reconstructed stuff you see nowadays is just that: modern (i.e. not of the past) and reconstructed (i.e. built according to assumptions from extant historical sources).  Believe me, if you actually did practice a “pure pre-Christian pagan path”, you’d be using a lot more animal and blood-based sacrifice than you are.  Purity in spirituality is a fairly stupid concept to my eyes (there’s value in learning a complete system as-is, but whole systems often have multiple parents).  On a related note, the belief that the Burning Times was as bad as many people claim it was is also bogus to my eyes and ears. Nine million people killed?  Weren’t there, like, nine million people in Europe to begin with during those times?  C’mon.

There’s no need for animal sacrifices.  I’ve gone over this before after bringing up a ritual from the PGM that involves a donkey’s head and blood, but honestly, this is a simple matter for me.  Life energy is powerful, and when it’s appropriate (and it’s not always appropriate), it’s a good idea to use a sacrifice of life.  Modern traditions, especially those from the African Diaspora, still use them, and every ancient culture practiced them.  Ritualists collectively stopped doing them with the advent of Christianity, which wiped out most forms of animal sacrifice along with most other religious traditions to replace it with the transubstantiation of Communion (which, theologically speaking, is pretty freaky when you think about it and just as awesome).  Not all gods desire blood or life sacrifices, sure, but a lot of them sure do.  While cultural norms may evolve and change over time, the gods don’t have to (being immortal and whatnot); after all, if you’re serious about worshipping your gods, you listen to them and not some fluffy Llewellyn-addicted white-lighter.  If you want to worship the gods, you do what they ask or tell you to, not what others judge you by.

Now, there are a few things out there that I’m inclined against believing outside of dogma and mythology, but I’m open to the idea of it having some chance, and convincable with demonstrative proof of their existence.  So, wanna try fielding something with an example and seeing whether it passes my BS threshold?  Let me know in the comments!

Strict Subsets Misunderstood

I have a love-hate relationship with humanity, really. I love individual persons, or at least, more than I do groups of people. The geomantic figure Populus, for instance, demonstrates my reason fairly well: it represents a mass of people, as well as total passivity. Whatever energy is put into the figure turns the whole mass into that energy; all it requires for action is some stimulus, after which the whole thing follows through. The problem is making sure the stimulus is the correct one, which is always harder than it sounds. Individual people, on the other hand, are better represented by Populus’ inverse, Via: it is a symbol of solitude, but also of complete change. Within one’s self, they have all the energy and direction to accomplish anything. Again, the problem is that they need the right direction, but more often than not, the effects of many people are more strongly felt than one person.

I was reading an article on how fragile the Internet was (a post on that coming soon!), and one of the things listed was how the Internet is quickly becoming a big box store. Take, for example, Facebook. Its Facebook Connect program allows people with a valid Facebook login to use a variety of other services such as AIM, Hulu, Digg, Blogger, Twitter, and so forth. This article talks at length about how this is becoming more and more the case. Essentially, Facebook is following a “one-stop shop” model on the Internet. Convenient? Certainly! Helpful? That remains to be seen.

Something I can always count on in humanity is its collective ignorance; even when some people rightly point out the correct way to do things, or when others do the wrong thing and should be noticed for it, the majority of people ignore the lesson and continue doing something the way they have been. Take, for example, the article posted above. Since its primary topic is on Facebook logins, one may search (on Google or Bing or what have you) “facebook login”. Normally, this query would be reserved to find the actual Facebook login page, which is what many people apparently did. Observing the comments (almost 50 pages), the vast majority of them are people confused about “Facebook’s new layout” and wondering why it won’t let them log in.

Yes, most people mistook that blog site for the Facebook login page because they were looking for “facebook login”. They were so confused that they found the comment box and posted their concerns or anger at not being able to log in. They were so confused that they didn’t read the other comments explaining that this wasn’t, in fact, Facebook, nor did they read the giant warning in bold text at the beginning of the article explaining that this was, nor was it ever, Facebook. Massive groan.

My housemate had a similar story: her mother was trying to login to Facebook, but was at her GMail login screen. My friend was utterly confused at what her mother was trying to do, and her mother explained that Facebook sends her emails. Thus, her email must be Facebook. Or something like this; the apparent logic is lost on me.

I suppose a number people have forgotten that the Internet is more than just the WWW, and that the WWW is more than just Google’s services or Facebook. Or, probably a better rephrasing of this is that most people never understood this in the first place. The Internet is not, at its heart, a profound secret held under pain of death: it is a collection of networks based directly off human systems and previous technological systems that people, by and large, already understand. That so many people continue to be illiterate (metaphorically and literally, judging on people’s grammar and spelling) is shocking, and I wonder sometimes how many places manage to continue running without total collapse.