Category Archives: Philosophy

Savoring the forbidden fruit

“Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.”
W.B. Yeats, The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats

Some think that the forbidden fruit is evil and should not be touched. Some think that one bite will wipe away all your innocence and spoil you forever. Some of us doubt that is true. Some of us enjoyed giving in to temptation. Maybe we are dammed. Maybe we are just liberated… We tasted knowledge of the forbidden and enjoyed it…

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Have we lost our innocence? Perhaps. Are we changed? Certainly.

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But we like the taste of knowledge. We enjoy the pleasures of the senses. So we can either ignore the new world or we can indulge in it. We could try and run from the darkness or we could learn to navigate in it. We can find our own way; our own balance…

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We can ask for more…

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We can open our eyes…

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We can dance with the devil…

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We can acquire new tastes and desires…

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And celebrate life in the forbidden landscapes…

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Inhale… And be one with the music of our soul.

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“In youth, our blood rises and becomes volatile. Desire, worry, and anxiety increase. External circumstances now direct the rise and fall of emotions. Will and intention become constrained by social conventions. Competition, conflict, and scheming are the norm in interactions with people. The approval and disapproval of others become important, and the honest and sincere expression of thoughts and feelings is lost.”
Liezi, Lieh-tzu: A Taoist Guide to Practical Living

Storms Pass

I haven’t had much time to write this week and I still don’t. I have been working in Germany. Next week I’m back in Germany and Austria again for six weeks. This week I’m making the final preparations for the sale of my Mum’s house, my family home. If all goes to plan, this will be the last week I ever spend any time there (even if it is only to gut the place) and I shall be handing over the keys before I leave next weekend.

My emotions are all over the place.

And tonight I am sitting alone in the house awaiting the arrival of the worst storm to hit my part of the world for twenty five years; a potential hurricane no less.

The windows are already rattling or else boarded up. The rain sounds like thunder. The wind is seeping through the cracks and making the floors creek more than ever and the chimney is whistling an eerie tune . Well, it is nearly Halloween…

So I will curl up next to the strongest wall and hope for the best.

And the phrase that comes to mind comes from the very end of one of my favourite films, “Serenity” about which I should write more one day.

Storms pass.

 

ETA 12 Hours later… The St Jude’s storm has indeed passed now and I am safe and well. 🙂

The Path Of Learning (2)

Following on from my previous post in this theme (link) I wanted to give a very quick and rough summery of some of the most important lessons I have learned from the various paths and traditions that have influenced me so far.

It is hard to be objective about Christianity since in the western world it is all around us and tends to be the first thing we rebel against when carving our own spiritual path. It would be fair to say that Christianity confronted me with a lot of issues I disagreed with and made me see that there can be a wide gulf between what most people think of as Christian values and the realities and politics of the Church as an institution. I have since found the same to be true of many religions. More positively Christianity taught me the value of prayer, it highlighted the strength of love and kindness and convinced me that sometimes it really is wiser to turn the other cheek. I think there are many wise things in the New Testament (although many of them are totally trampled over by the Church authorities) and there are some things I admire about the person of Jesus although I have no faith in the various accounts of his existence and so I think of him more as a legend or myth than as a real person. Most of all though Christianity kick started my spiritual growth by making me question things deeply and NOT accept anything based on blind faith or cultural conditioning.

Buddhism gave me a whole new way to look at things in which the emphasis was on personal integrity and progression rather than worshipping a deity. I began to learn how to meditate and the advantages of being able to do so. And while I can’t say Buddhism taught me about Karma and reincarnation it did consolidate things I was starting to believe for myself. Buddhism also started me thinking about the relationship between the mind the soul and the body and the relationship between human beings and everything else in nature.

Taoism gave me a philosophy I could pin my beliefs on. It helped me to value “the moment” and to see myself and other things as they really were and are. Taoism reinforced a growing sense that “harmony” is an important part of the lesson I should learn in this lifetime. Taoism consolidated my Buddhist leanings in a more practical way and helped me to get more in tune with myself and with the whole of the natural world. Actually without Taoism I would have found the journey into Wicca and witchcraft much more difficult.

Paganism took me back to my roots. It allowed me to interpret what I had learned from Buddhism and Taoism from a western point of view; but as if Christianity had never happened.It helped me to fully connect with nature, to work with the natural flow of the seasons and transit of the moon and stars. It helped me to develop my instincts and my psychic abilities. It allowed me to re-connect with deity in a more meaningful polytheistic way.

Wicca taught me practically all I know about witchcraft and thus empowered me greatly. It channelled my growing pagan instincts and opened my mind to all sorts of possibilities. It was through wicca that I first came into contact with my matron deity Hathor who continues to guide and support me.

Satanism has enabled me to explore the darker sides of my persona in order to come closer to real harmony and balance within myself. It has helped me to be more honest. It challenges all my pre-conceived ideas about the nature of everything all the time. It can be difficult but immensely rewarding. In Satan I have found a male aspect of deity I can respect and relate to; although he can be like a strict teacher who keeps saying forget everything you think you know and think it through again. Satanism has kicked me out of complacency and kept my path fresh and meaningful.

And the path continues…

Being Full Of Yourself

Vanity by John Waterhouse

I have sometimes been criticised for being “a bit too full of myself”. By which I suppose people mean that I seem over confident and opinionated. Or perhaps they mean that I am vain and conceited. I will concede that all of those things can be true although I hope I don’t get the balance wrong too often. I suppose I do think that I am important and that my opinions matter; if that were not the case I wouldn’t waste my time sharing my opinions on the internet. Yet there is a pervasive attitude in society which makes us believe it is somehow wrong to place ourselves first and that being too full of ourselves inevitably leads to extreme selfishness and other nasty character traits.

So for me there was always a dilemma. I do genuinely care very much about other people and the good of society as a whole, but I can’t deny that I also care very much about myself. Perhaps that is why I was drawn to a so called Left Hand spiritual path; indeed Satanism may well be the most well known Left Hand Path of all.

I am not going to describe in depth all the differences between left and right hand spiritual paths (a quick google search or visit to my other blog may help clarify if you want further information) but it is fair to say that emphasis on the self is one of the main distinguishing features of the Left Hand Path, whereas the Right Hand Path tends to be more outward looking. I did not choose to follow a Left Hand Path just as an excuse to be selfish however; I chose this path as a way to be better balanced and make “being full of myself” a more positive and productive aspect of my personality.

As time has gone by I have come to believe that the differences between LHP and RHP are not as great as might first appear.

Some of the main criticisms often levelled against followers of the left hand path is that it’s focus on the self can lead to extreme selfishness, narcissism, amoral and anti-social behaviour. All of these things can occur if focus and balance are lost. And it is fair to say that those who have a tendency to anti-social behaviour of various types might be drawn to left hand paths under the mistaken belief that such paths somehow justify their unpleasant characteristics.

On the other hand it could be said that right hand paths don’t emphasise the self enough and can encourage unworldly dreamers who cannot cope with everyday reality into meaningless activities which have no real benefits for themselves or anybody else. In short they can become like opiates which lead to nothing but waste and entropy.

There are dangers in the extremes and misunderstandings of both paths. I think however there is a point of balance where both paths have a lot in common and where genuine progression both for the individual and wider society is possible. For those on the LHP I think that point comes with the realisation that the good of the self depends to a large degree on the nature and health of the wider community. For those on the RHP I think that point comes when you realise the individual is ineffective in helping the wider community unless the individual is strong and balanced in his/herself.

Once that point of balance is realised, both pathways can be equally beneficial both to the individual and to society as a whole. In fact there maybe far more similarities than differences from that point on.

In conclusion, I hope I am full of myself in a positive and balanced way. Of course I am not perfect; there are times when I might well be vain or conceited. Hopefully however it will increasingly mean that I am a “whole” person who is well equipped to be happy and successful in my own life and play a positive and constructive role in the wider community.

Theism V Atheism

Leading a spiritual life can be hard: it prompts you to grapple with the big questions in life such as; Why am I here? What is real? How should I live my life?” And of course, “Is there a God?” We seek to find answers that work for us, perhaps through a specific tradition or a path of our own making. Yet at the same time we are trying to cope with all the other pleasures and pains of life…

For me the thing which is probably the most constant struggle is the seeming dichotomy between rationalism and science on the one hand and faith and instinct on the other.

I have a great regard for science and look for the scientific explanation for everything. Yet I have always had instinctive beliefs and abilities which cannot be accounted for by science. So there has always been a little battle going on in my mind between what I believe by instinct and know to be true by scientific method.

I do believe in science and seek scientific explanations where I can. But I always believed in a divinity of some kind, not the Christian one or any other really, I just have always had the sense that something else is there. I don’t pretend it is rationally explainable; there is absolutely no empirical evidence for the existence of deity that I can think of. Logically atheism makes sense.

It’s just that I do still believe in the existence of deity. I don’t pretend it is rationally explainable; it isn’t. But it is as much a part of my experience of life as my own heartbeat. It is part of me.
In addition I have always had some abilities which could be described as supernatural or psychic and I have learned how to practice magic that works. I can find scientific explanations for some of those things but not all.

While some still believe in a “Sky Daddy,” an ancient and judgmental father figure or something similar; many of us who consider ourselves theists have much more complicated ideas of what deity actually is. In that sense, our deity may equate to those parts of the universe (or multiverse) that are not understood by science at present. So while scientists and atheists may tend to ignore those things because empirical science can’t describe them yet, we see it as the most fascinating aspect of reality.

Some will argue that God or deity is a mental construct we build up inside ourselves to give comfort and to answer the in-explainable questions we all have.  I am sure that is partially true. In fact I am willing to accept that maybe 80% of my ideas about deity and up to 60% of my other spiritual beliefs are internal psychological constructs. That still leaves a significant gap.

I would quite like to be an atheist. Atheism makes logical sense to me. It’s just that I am not. I also know that there is far more to divinity than the archetypes I most closely associate with. There is no historical evidence for the existence of my Goddess Hathor/Het Hert. Even the legends that refer to her in ancient Egyptian texts are confused and sometimes contradictory. But within the legends and myth there lies an entity I think of and communicate with as a friend and mentor. Satan/Lucifer can be glimpsed in pagan, gnostic and Judao-Christian myth. There is no authorized biography, nor any physical evidence for his existence and yet I feel his presence and power in my life. Are these psychological constructs? Maybe… Does it matter? I don’t know. But beyond those personalities that I can relate to, there is something far more. There is something that communicates through nature. There is something that can be glimpsed in the stars. There is something that is beyond words and feelings and I sometimes wonder if atheists are blind to it.

Some of us glimpse God, some of us don’t seem to. Or are we just speaking different languages?

Perspective

Last night I saw a slug crawling up the window of my conservatory. This was not very remarkable as the wet weather we have been having lately has meant we have a deluge of them in the garden. Because it was crawling on glass you could see it from both sides. Even so, it didn’t look very remarkable. It’s foot and mouth is basically just muscle covered in slime and the other side of it’s body is a rather ugly slime covered jelly. Nothing you could compare it or liken it to would be very complimentary. I think it’s little tentacles are quite cute, but that’s just me. Overall slugs are rather boring, slimy and ugly creatures that don’t do much except eat and reproduce and make a sticky mess if you accidentally step on one. It’s best not to walk bare foot in the garden when it’s damp and there are a lot of slugs around. Most gardeners probably wouldn’t care if they disappeared altogether.

And yet… If we found a slug on the surface of Mars or any of the other planets or moons in our solar system it would probably be hailed as the greatest scientific discovery of all time. Untold billions would be spent to send men and machines to observe them and perhaps bring them back to Earth for further study.

I hope and believe we will find life elsewhere in our solar system or further out, but until then our humble little slugs are quite unique in the infinity of the universe!

Innocence

I wonder what we mean when we talk of innocence; and how does it differ from plain ignorance? Is the following artwork a picture of innocence? Why?

I think ignorance is simply a state of not knowing. We are all ignorant about many things due to lack of knowledge or interest in whatever it is. However most of us have the potential to learn and therefore lose our ignorance about things which are important to us. I think simple ignorance is a neutral thing but in my opinion it becomes a very negative thing when it is willful ignorance. There are few things as frustrating as people who refuse to learn or even just refuse to know something because they can’t be bothered or because it challenges their preconceptions. How often have you engaged in conversations with people whose facts are completely wrong but they refuse to change their stance even when confronted with hard evidence? I have to admit I have little time and no respect for willful ignorance.

Innocence on the other hand seems to be a much more positive attribute. Society tends to value and respect it. I respect and value innocence myself although I find it very hard to define and I don’t think it is always a good thing.

Dictionary.com defines the word in the following way.

1,the quality or state of being innocent;  freedom from sin or moral wrong. 2.freedom from legal or specific wrong; guiltlessness:   3.simplicity; absence of guile or cunning. 4.lack of knowledge or understanding.5.harmlessness; innocuousness.

Let’s take point 2 which is the legal opposite of criminal guilt, and point 4 which seems pretty much the same as ignorance, out of the equation and see what we are left with.

So let’s take the first point, the quality or state of being innocent;  freedom from sin or moral wrong. The problem here is it depends who is defining sin or moral wrong. By some Christian standards, everybody is sinful (even children are born with original sin) so nobody can be innocent. Some other religions have similar beliefs. As for me I don’t believe in the concept of sin at all; so does that mean I am completely innocent despite my vices while some Christians never can be? As for moral wrongs, I think it is morally wrong to kill a person unless my life is threatened or to torture or rape people. I suspect many people would agree with me on that. I also think it is morally wrong to ignore the sick and the poor if you are in a position to lessen their suffering. Perhaps a few less people would agree with me on that. I don’t think it is morally* wrong to swear, to smoke. to drink, to take drugs or to have consensual sex with adults of any gender or sexual orientation. I wonder how many would agree with me on that? (*Just because it isn’t morally wrong doesn’t mean it is always a good idea though). The point is, how can innocence have any meaning in this context where most people will have completely different moral boundaries?

Point 3 is simplicity; absence of guile or cunning. There is a certain charm to this kind of innocence, but is it always good? I can think of quite a few negative connotations about being described as simple. Simple can often mean ignorant or even stupid. Now there are some people who have mental handicaps which keep them simple and I think there is often something which is genuinely innocent and beautiful about the way such people see and react to the world. Often there is a wisdom in their kind of honest simplicity that we can learn from. However, for those of us who don’t have a mental handicap simplicity can very often become stupidity or even willful ignorance.  There is however another kind of simplicity, an absence of unnecessary complication, which I think is a good thing and I shall return to later. As for guile and cunning; why are they perceived as being bad? Sure, if you are planning another 9/11 attack there is nothing to be respected in what guile and cunning you employ. But if you are planning a mission to the moon, or a way to survive on a limited budget, what is wrong with employing guile and cunning? These things are tools, it is only how they are used that brings them into the realm of morals.

The fifth point is harmlessness or innocuousness. I am not sure there is anything particularly good about being described as harmless or innocuous. To me it infers lacking the ability to make any significant impact at all. If you have a tumor which turns out to be harmless and innocuous that is great news, but as a person, I would not want to be described in that way.

So by dictionary definitions, I don’t place much value in innocence. I want to know and experience things; including many that are regarded  as sinful by some.

And yet there is a form of innocence which I do value and which I think many of us do; it just isn’t defined very well anywhere. It is the innocence of the child or perhaps of the uncarved block which Taoists refer to. The essence of the Uncarved Block is that things in their original simplicity contain their own natural power, power that is easily spoiled and lost when that simplicity is changed. When you re-discover that simple, childlike, and mysterious secret known to those of the Uncarved Block you find that life is basically fun. The discovery of new things is fun and often fills children with a sense of happiness and awe that we tend to lose as we get older.

I don’t think the simplicity of the Uncarved Block is the same as the simplicity I spoke of before. I think the Uncarved Block represents our basic nature; our true selves. We are intelligent animals who are naturally inclined to be curious and to explore. Satisfying that need can often give us our deepest and purest joy.

To me that type of innocence is only lost when knowledge and experience are forced on a person before they are ready to reach out and discover it for themselves. I still get a child like sense of joy when I discover something I have set out to discover. That may be something simple like the name of a song I heard playing on the radio, it may be something more profound like understanding a mathematical equation, or the meaning of a philosophical text . Or it may even be discovering something new I enjoy between the sheets. There is no black, no white; there is simply the joy of satisfying innate natural curiosity oneself.