Tree of Knowledge

What Ezra didn't know.

Last night I had a phone conversation with a friend about some fundamental economic concepts. One of them was interest or, to use an outdated and somewhat pejorative term, "usury". I've suspected, for a while now, that when many classical thinkers condemned "usury" they were reacting not to interest per se, but to the results of a bundle of practices.

Let's imagine a pseudo-medieval world a la D&D, and let's say that, in this world, you enter a port-city with a sack full of gold.... Collapse )
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Creative Agenda

We've all heard the phrase "different strokes for different folks". Not only do people enjoy different activities, they also pursue similar activities for radically different goals.

Back in my early 20s I was still an off and on gamer. My friends and I had graduated from the more "juvenile" (as judged by the gaming zeitgeist) Dungeons and Dragons to the more "adult" World of Darkness (WOD) games published by White Wolf. These games focused on modern urban environments and featured characters like Vampires, Werewolves and other spooks. The TV series True Blood, and the Underworld film franchise, are blatant rip-offs of the WOD, as most fantasy in the 80s was inspired by D&D. Strangely, while the subject matter covered in the game books was far more "adult" in the WOD, the actual games themselves seemed less satisfying than my old high fantasy stomping grounds.

Most of my friends, in the gaming world, were die hard loyalists to one gaming system or another. They knew, at most, one to three games. I, on the other hand, enjoyed playing different games with different people. I found that each game had a unique flavor and some games, which seemed simply and silly, would result in dynamic and interesting gaming experiences, while other games, all gloss and shine, would result in lack-luster stories and frustrating encounters with the social contract as disputes over game rules, "realism" and "fairness" broke out around the gaming table.

I found myself, one day, in the "Last Grenadier" game shop, which used to be located on Reseda Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley. Next door was a sewing machine shop with a black sign styled like an old iron sewing machine. Next to that was a Psychic's office with dusty maroon curtains. It was perpetually closed. The Grenadier itself was a haphazard array of display cases and boxes. In the back of the store was a large war gaming table. There were always guys hanging around the store, and the counter was always manned by that_guy. I liked to browse through the stacks of games from miscellaneous independent publishers, hunting for gems. I found a slim volume called "Swords and Sorcery" by Ron Edwards of Adept Press. This led me to Ron's website and the old rpg Forge site, which was a regular haunt of mine several years ago. Ron was interested in what really went on around the gaming table and, through his articles, I was introduced to "Creative Agenda" (CA) in gaming.

Gamers, and game designers, expect different things out of games. And the games themselves are geared toward facilitating different types of play. Ron outlined three primary CAs: Gamist, Simulationist and Narrativist. None are better or worse in themselves, but often the CA goes unexamined and games which purport to deliver one kind of experience are actually built in such a way to make that delivery impossible (or at least very, very, difficult). The WOD games are a great example. They pretend to be "storytelling" games, more concerned with producing a quality narrative than overcoming difficult challenges or immersing the participants in a dream-world, but the game system is a kind of sim-gamist hybrid so it simply won't do what it promises to do. The only way you can "make it work" (deliver the narrativist goods) is by breaking it, which usually means falling back on the social contract to arbitrate disputes. More often than not, WOD game sessions either fizzle and die as people burn out and move on to greener pastures (the next WOD game product), or morph into bizarre astral fantasy sessions built around the idiosyncratic quirks of the geeks and goths drawn to the gaming table.

If you sit down to play a game, with the assumption that it is going to give you experience A, and it, in fact, gives you experience B, you're not going to be happy. However, you might not realize WHY you're unhappy. You might blame the other people at the table. You might blame yourself, but you're unlikely to blame the rules of the game. Why? Because most gamers have only played a few games - almost all of which were designed by people who grew up playing D&D, which evolved from war-gaming. They assume things MUST be a certain way because that's just "how things are". Here's an example of what I mean:

The bitterest role-player in the world... This person prefers a role-playing game that combines Gamist potential with Simulationist hybrid support, such that a highly Explorative Situation can evolve, in-game and without effort, into a Challenge Situation...

He probably developed his role-playing preferences in highly-Drifted AD&D2 or in an easily-Drifted version of early Champions, both of which he probably describes as playing "correctly" relative to other groups committed to these games.

This man (I've met no women who fit this description) is cursed. He's cursed because the only people who can enjoy playing with him, and vice versa, are those who share precisely his goals, and these goals are very easily upset by just about any others.

His heavy Sim focus keeps away the "lite" Gamists who like Exploration but not Simulationism.
The lack of metagame reward system keeps away most Gamists in general.
Hard Core Gamists will kick him in the nuts every time, just as they do to Simulationist play.
Most Simulationist-oriented players won't Step Up - they get no gleam in their eye when the Challenge hits, and some are even happy just to piddle about and "be."
Just about anyone who's not Gamist-inclined lumps him with "those Gamists" and writes him off.

I've known several of these guys. They are bitter, I say. Imagine years of just knowing that your "perfect game" is possible, seeing it in your mind, knowing that if only a few other people could just play their characters exactly according to the values that you yourself would play, that your GM-preparation would pay off beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Now imagine years of encountering all the bulleted points above, over and over.

At present, I have no suggestions to help them, just as I cannot help those who expect to see "story" consistently emerge from play that does not prioritize it.

- From Here (Bolding mine)

I hope that wasn't too "jargony" for you and I don't want to pick on those who prefer gamist play (I often enjoy it myself). The point I'm trying to make here is that if a game isn't giving you the experience you thought it would, you have to consider the system itself. Sometimes it just won't do what you think it should do. Sometimes it's a hybrid, with a functional core CA, but it's loaded down with a lot of dead weight, imported from other systems, built around other CAs, that the author just assumed would fit. The proof of the gaming is in the playing.
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Science and THE SCIENCE

Magick has often been spoken of as the mother of all sciences and arts. Since it seeks to change and then manifest the highest values of the individual, it follows logically that all social and technological constructions must flow from this place. This is similar to the maxim of "revolution from above". Too often, in the occult community, we see that people approach magick using the tools, techniques and approaches of the dominant culture. This is necessary, to a point. We all have to be able to read the material and put it into practice. We also require a paradigm where this change can come into being. You have to build the foundation before the cap-stone is set into place. However, a pyramid lacking a cap-stone is not a pyramid, and this highest point is what determines how the base is built. This is where initiation comes in. The rituals that we undergo give us the structure necessary to assimilate what we experience in the moment of transcendence.

The magician is always in a state of flux. Crowley tells us that magick is the "art and science of causing change in conformity with will" so the temple is always being destroyed and rebuilt. Each time, however, we should be building it higher and stronger. On a mental level, we can see this in Crowley "The Soldier and the Hunchback", but it has broader implications.

It seems to me that any magical gesture always begins with a question, a need. It is up to us to find that question. Levay pointed out that the ritual chamber was the magician's deepest aesthetic manifestation of himself, or at least it should be. Some of my friends have been turned off by his parlor of manikins, but I think it is helpful to compare this to the Chapel of Abominations at Cefalu. This deepest place, where the question or need is stated, is not usually very pretty. However, it is inside this place that the ? becomes an ! While we can use the tools of the dominant culture to take up our question, and put our answer into practice, it is this confrontation with the demon that marks the lynch pin of magick. As such, it is not directly comparable to any other technology.

I find it difficult to get into discussions about magick with people who don't really practice it, because I know they are missing this crucial experience. We can argue the minutia all day. We can compare and contrast the thoughts of various "experts", on any number of subjects that we feel are relevant, all day long, but without this point of origin, we really aren't talking about the same animal. While many of the operations that the magician engages in may appear "internal" ( divination, contact with higher planes, etc), magick as psychology is a very limiting approach. The scope of magick is much larger and more profound that any kind of "mind science" since it deals with the matter of the deep and essential individual. Psychology attempts to produce "the normal" or "the functional" and, while for some this may be a laudable goal, the magician is playing a very different game.

I think, for many modern people, the idea of placing the higher irrationality of the magician at the apex of the pyramid, and allowing it to inform the whole world with its dominant image, is very scary. We tend to see this as a regression to "primitive" times, because we see that "primitive" cultures practice magick openly, while we do not. However, we miss how our own culture is built up from a dominant image that is just as irrational as the magical image. Evola points out that so called "primitive cultures" are not a kind of base state or original culture, but are rather fallen cultures, who have lost their real image and are fragmented. When we examine the lost and scattered tribes of the 3rd world, we usually see people who are only now united by a herd instinct. We also see this in the inner city. This is not magick, even if they still use tricks of sorcery and the technology that their ancestors handed down to them. The psychological or managerial approach in our culture is similar, in that it tries to substitute the demands of the herd with the highest values of the individual. Just as we can take up the tools or paraphernalia of the "medicine man", we can also take up the tools of the psychologist or the effective manager, but we must place these in their proper role and context. If the daemon is not called up and questioned, if these lesser spirits are not put to its service, than we are not doing magick.
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The Necessities of Political Thelema

A while ago I had dinner with a number OTO brethren. One of them insisted that he was not interested in order politics, but was concerned with "the work". I've found this to be a common attitude among OTO members, who are uncomfortable with the political process and political thought in general. Politics requires that we make divisions, and set up hierarchies. Does Osama bin Laden get to vote on US border policy? I don't think so. What brethren like this are really reacting to, I suspect, is the process of division and hierarchy itself. They often quote passages like "Every man and every woman is a star", from Liber AL, in support of their positions. Through such selective quotation they are attempting to de-couple Crowley the political philosopher, who said things like "I want a Patriarchal-Feudal system run by initiated Kings" (Tunisia, 1923), from Crowley the prophet of Thelema, but is such a division tenable?

About 90 % of Thelema, at a guess, is nothing but self-discipline.
-MWT: Chapter 70

Self discipline impels division and hierarchy. There must be "the part which disciplines" and "the part which is disciplined", and one must be set over the other. If we accept the hermetic maxim, "As below, so above", we are forced to recognize that this internal hierarchy mandates a corresponding external one. The question is never politics or no politics, rather, "Which kind of politics and why?"

Often those who make political decisions we dislike are accused of nepotism: using power to promote their friends and punish their enemies. This ignores the greater question of why certain individuals are friends and others enemies to begin with, or why some friends receive political favors and others do not. When we examine these external realities, we are also examining the internal value systems that give rise to them. Even if we exclude such "superstitions" as causing change in the material world through ceremonial magic, and relegate occultism to the psychological realm, we cannot escape the fact that our value hierarchies and divisions always manifest themselves in some kind of political process.

Every time we give money to someone, communicate with them, live with them, or lust after them we are making some kind of decision based on an internal hierarchy of values. How these decisions get made is a political process, and not a democratic one. Each of our drives does not get "a vote". Would we want to hang out with a person who operated like this? I don't think so. Why then do we assume that a similar level of confusion in our external political process is desirable? Conversely, do we allow one drive to tyrannize all the others? This would be misery. Why then, should blindly following an external authority produce better results? This means we can never abandon the political process. We are, internally, political creatures. Of necessity, we must also be external ones.
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Local Body Closures - Mergers *ahem* " Adjustments"

"He has the morphino-maniac’s feeling of bien-étre [well-being], the delusions of the general paralytic. He loses the power of looking any fact in the face; he feeds himself on his own imagination; he persuades himself of his own attainment."

-Aleister Crowley: On the Dangers of Mysticism

Has anyone noticed that when an unpleasant event occurs, within the OTO, it is immediately recast as a cause for celebration? No matter what happens, no matter how badly it reflects on local or national leadership, immediately members come seething out of the cracks and fissures to cocoon the issue with positive platitudes. This is, of course, when they deign to discuss it AT ALL. Let's remove any higher concerns about whether or not we can get to Valhalla with this kind of attitude. On a much lower level, how are we going to grow and prosper as an organization if we can't honestly examine our problems?

Without the power of looking facts in the face, how will we be able to buy and hold property? How will we attract quality members? How will we keep the books in print, or perform the rituals "with joy and beauty", or practice the difficult and dangerous "theurgy and thaumaturgy" of the higher degrees? If we want this incarnation of the OTO to do anything of value in the world, we NEED to start calling a spade a spade.

No matter how we choose to spin it, the fact that the EC had to close the oldest continually operating local body in the WORLD is NOT a good thing. Perhaps it was moribund. Perhaps it was brain dead. Perhaps it was the best, most humane thing to do under the circumstances, but how did we end up with this set of circumstances? In any other functional, adult, organization this would be a serious wake-up call. In the OTO, it's just more of the same:

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