I was having a conversation with an old mentor of mine tonight. He’s getting on in years, and he has reached that point in his life where he has forgotten that what is good for him is not necessarily good for others. He is constantly giving me advice to act in a manner that suits him, but that is simply not compatible with my personality, thought processes, or taste, and I’m not going to engage in a major exercise in belief shifting just because he wants me to grow up to be like him.
We especially disagree on magic. He claims to be a Qabalist, although his Qabalah is so infused with other systems that it is virtually unrecognizable. He despises Chaos Magic, despite the fact that he really doesn’t seem to understand what it entails. Our biggest disagreement, however, is on the nature of magic — doing versus being. He takes a mystical approach, stating that magic relates to a state of being, while I take a Chaoist approach, maintaining that being is not static and magic is about doing.
What occurred to me is that his magical beliefs are incompatable with mine because mine are a refinement and extension from his. He and I are having the same problem that Jews and Christians have — one insists his is the best way because that is how it has been revealed, while the other has changed the system based upon new information that the first either does not have or rejects in favor of tradition.
My friend has spend his life immersed in a magical metaparadigm based, for the most part, on the efforts of Alester Crowley. Crowley’s Liber 777 attempted to correlate the symbols of the major religious systems, implying that they are all expressions of the same truth. What he was really doing was extracting similar mystical principles from different religions. Here we have a curious idea — that religion and mysticism are actually separate concepts — which I will hopefully develop later.
At any rate, most early twentieth-century magical orders seemed to do just this — extract mysticism from religion. Churches such as Unity and the Unitarian-Universalist also seem to follow this pattern, reducing down their religious teachings until they become so vague and unstructured that only personal happiness and enlightenment are emphasized (and in a surprisingly undisciplined manner).
So my friend has worked in a meta-system that distrusts religious dogma and moral proscriptions, yet embraces the mystical mindset that permeated those religions. And here I come, good Chaoist that I am, and do to mysticism what he did to religion.
It occurred to me that Chaos Magic seeks to extract magic from mysticism in the manner that my friend sought to extract mysticism from religion. What new paradigms will attempt to distill from the magic I know I cannot imagine, but that seems to be the pattern. The problem is that my friend isn’t equipped to differentiate between what I consider magic and what I consider mysticism — to him they are the same thing, so when I offer separate definitions he resists me. When my techniques work anyway, he gets even more confused.
It is ironic that when he separated what he felt worked from what didn’t, he thought of himself as a pioneer in efficiency, but when I discard things that he uses that I don’t need, he sees me as tempting fate by defying the rules. I can only wonder what my apprentices will think of my antiquitated ways.