Being and Doing

Mystical thought has spend thousands of tons of ink focusing on the issue of “being.”  Magic is seen as a “state of being,” and people are encouraged to focus and center upon this being-ness and live totally in the present, for to concern one’s self with the past or future is to deny the being in the now, or some such nonsense.  Since such shortsightedness and inability to think outside the immediate present is a symptom of damage to the prefrontal lobe, I have tended top shy away from such an emphasis on “being.”

The American obsession with all things oriental has not helped at all, since I am constantly confronted by pseudo-Buddhists that tell me over and over again how reality isn’t real and being is all that matters.  These folks miss the very obvious Buddhist assumption that life is suffering and that focusing on simply being is a Buddhist means of stilling the self into non-existence in order escape the pain of the world.  In short, Buddhism ackowledges that life is a process, and actively seeks to end that process because lack of permamence is assumed to cause suffering.  So, for all you pseudo-Buddhists out there, just remember that Buddhism teaches that life is not about being, life is about doing.  Being is a way to stop the doing, and escape from life.

A while ago it occured to me that Chaos Magic hold the same view of the world that Buddhism does, but with different assumptions about it.  Chaos Magic holds that life — and magic — is a process, and is something you do.  The primary difference is that Chaos Magic holds that the lack of permanence and the constant change of reality is a source of pleasure and wonder, not of suffering, and embraces the process rather than seeking to stop it.  Magic is not a state of being or a state of mind, but something you do, an action you take.  Being is something you do to try to escape reality, while magic is something you do to alter or engage it.  In fact, even “to be” is a verb, making “being” a kind of action or process.

All of this ties in to something a mentor covered a while back.  He posited a threefold process of being, doing, and having.  According to him, Americans belived that you have something, which enables you to do something, which allows you to be something.  For example, I have to have an education, wich allows me to teach, which allows me to be a teacher.  My mentor stated that this process actually works the other way, which is why so many Americans have trouble making their lives work.  He said that first you have to “be” a teacher, and then you will be able to teach, which will allow you to develop an education with which to teach.  That never made much sense to me, as teh act of teaching is so integral to being a teacher that I don’t see how you can call yourself a teacher without teaching.  While my mentor insisted that inner perception defined identity, it was very apparent to me that the action did.  The action is much more real that the inner idea, as it has expression in the world.  This is why mysticism and post-modernism have bothered me so — they assume that inner thought and theory have precedence over reality and experience.  Solopism and mind games do not make for effective magical or life skills.

Lately, however, I’ve been pondering something.  Is this division between being and doing legitimate?  I’m not sure where it started, but I think that it’s related to the division between mind and body (the mind “is,” the body “does”).  Following the Chaosit assumptions, I reject this division (and I’m actually surprised at how many allegedly nature-based religionbs accept this notion unquestioningly — I think it’s a by product of the fact that Gardener built so much of Wicca from the Qabalah).  If the mind/body division is invalid, wouldn’t the be/do division also be invalid?

It seems obvious to me that you cannot be something without doing what that thing is supposed to do.  The action defines the identity.  But are the two so interconnected that ation immediately established identity?  If I teach someone something, I am a teacher.  If I stop, am I no longer a teacher?  Are being and doing the same thing?  And more importantly, if mysticism if to being what doing is to magic, is there really a difference between magic and mysticism?  Does magic have to have a mystical component to it?  I’ve always thought that it doesn’t, but if mysticism is a way of understanding the universe that makes it more malleable to magical effects, then wouldn’t even the quantumn metaphysics of CMT be mystical?  Perhaps the real division between magic and mysticism (and doing and being) is which one you want to reap the benefits of.  In many mystical traditions, magical effects are a by-product of practice.  Is mysticism then a by-product of magical practice as well?  Does practice in one automatically amount to practice in the other, with primacy only developing out of personal preference?

I’d be interested to hear what anyone things about this kind of wandering idea.


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