Another philosophy post. If your interest is the brass tacks of magic, there will be more of those soon-ish because I just got Aaron Leitch’s Enochian Grimoire. However, the philosophy behind magic is what lets us apply the magical force properly, therefor the philosophy is much more important than the magic.
I got talking to one of my buddies about the recent storms which left us a truly ridiculous amount of snow and he had lamented that his neighbor had poorly kept up his property and when the tree eventually landed on his house, his neighbor wasn’t held liable for the insurance because “it was an act of God”. Rather than debating if God really cares where trees land, it became a discussion about social custom. Because the neighbor hadn’t trimmed his tree, of course, the neighbor was responsible for the karmic debt of the tree landing somewhere and would be subject to the rule of three. It goes something like “anything you do will come back threefold”.
I choked back the obvious reply of “Your neighbor isn’t a tree, nor is he a storm god, or even an arborist, so he doesn’t really know when or where that tree is going to fall” but I digress. Trees fall and land places and we carry insurance because where it lands tends to be in the cloud of unknowing until it happens. I don’t personally find the neighbor at fault. I think the tree falling is a lot less important compared to the neighbor not expressing compassion or sympathy and hospitality at the inconvenience caused by having to call out a work crew to get the tree off his house.
But, would the rule of three catch up to him? How does that even work within the hermetic context?
Well for one, I don’t believe in the rule of three. The idea that the universe somehow reacts reflexively to something happening within it seems goofy to me. We don’t turn on a lightswitch and the room suddenly gets three times brighter anymore than we return a $20 to a person and expect to get $60 in reward money. Quite frankly their desperation from losing the $20 is probably a function of the fact that they don’t have $60 more in their wallet. Serial killers don’t somehow die three times after they first kill someone, nor does charity exist in some sort of Fibonacci donation cycle where they give some money to the shelter and get three times more the cash.
But what about the idea that there is a threefold spiritual penalty to a particular action? To assign it a threefold spiritual penalty assumes that there is some punishment (or reward) for “good” or “bad” deeds in the afterlife, which than becomes a ridiculous quagmire of trying to define absolute states of “good” or “bad”. Then suddenly “the greater good” enters the equation and the slippery incline of moral relativism rears its ugly head. Is it “good” that someone “uses” prescription drugs that are stolen? Is it “the greater good” if they’re stolen and they can no longer afford them? Is it “the best sort of good” if they take those drugs to prevent anxiety and keep it together with their spouse and family? Is it still “the greater good” if those drugs were earmarked for an orphan who’s parents died and is in the care of the hospital? Falling Down is one of my favorite movies to illustrate the point and the dangers of moral relativism against moral judgement. But where is God in Falling Down? Does anyone expect to be held to “more perfect” judgement?
Therein lies my comfort in hermetic thought and gnosticism – The godhead is all things, and therefor in all things are divinity. This doesn’t cut Hitler a blank check, but it acknowledges that all things can be used for good, and all things can be used for wickedness. What causes good and causes wickedness? Good is caused by acknowledging the divinity in our fellow men, and wickedness is simply denying the same concept. And, since God does not deny himself, there is a universe. There is no “rule of three” simply because the momentum of the universe does not naturally put things which aren’t divine above the things which are divine. To somehow have a rule of three, then somehow a deeply mechanical (read – impersonal) universe must be The Universe. Also just to clear up a sticky wicket, I say “God” a lot on this blog. When I say “God” I mean “the one thing” or “the first mover”. Maybe I should start saying Monad.
So lets falsify that thought. Lets assume the universe is in fact deeply impersonal. Outside of Monist philosophy, to have a deeply impersonal universe reasonably means that if there is or is not a God, it doesn’t particularly matter. If there is not a God, and we have a mechanical universe, then the simple answer is that we’re all very stupid machines who don’t even understand ourselves, and our universe is equally poorly understood. If we entertain the opposite of that thought, it is perhaps worse, because that means in our well understood, equally mechanical universe, we haven’t done much more in the west than invent better ways of pushing our pleasure buttons. If I entertain the idea that we have a highly mechanical universe, but that the God(s) do exist, then we end up with a watchmakers problem where it doesn’t particularly matter if they do or do not, since the universe is mechanical to the point it runs itself and requires no intervention for karma or judgement. This is the most reasonable worldview of the Asatru or Heathen – and it is one I sympathize with – and it does not require a rule of three. However in all polytheistic mythology, there is almost always the one myth that expresses the idea that the current batch of Gods were not the first, nor are they the last, nor are they the only. Most mythos puts the Gods in a place of fallibility, and makes them human, and so they aren’t really Gods at all. Therefor the universe might be mechanical, it might not be perfect, but it also requires the participating of similar imperfect Gods who try to tune the engine as it runs, so to speak, and thus there is no karmic recoil to the daily actions of Man. This is, however, the only real version of a non-Monist we can come up with which still has spiritual cause and effect.
The problem being – if there is a rule of three – why bother with God at all?
Lets pick the worst examples and work through how they work in a personal, gnostic, monist, hermetic universe: Hitler, rocks, and Professional Wrestlers. It is here I proofread my post, and deeply wish I could write as well as Plotinus, Heraclitus, and Hegal.
Hitler – killed millions of people. No rule of three there, he only died once. If we follow the monist tenant of as above, so below, then Hitler himself is God because he is an element of God just as I am, just as the reader is. However how can anyone say that and still want to be a Hermetic Monist Gnostic? Well, I aspire to be a member of the Golden Dawn! *rimshot* But more seriously, this is the element of Gnosticism which comes into play here. In Gnosticism, there is an idea that because we are a part of God, and because we are on a different plane than God, we cannot either understand the totality of God, and we cannot perceive God as a whole. This is part of the Big Church moral slide here: “Well maybe killing six million people was to learn us not to kill twelve million people!” The “Rule of Three” cop-out is “if you kill six million people, you’ll die, TWELVE MILLION TIMES”. The Hermetic cop-out here is “Well, killing people is just part of the human experience of being killed”. Right. It’s crap. We know it’s crap and this should really shake our foundation and give us all pause. My personal application of the Hermetic/Gnostic/Monist model is that yes, Hitler did kill a whole bunch of people. Is killing people wrong? Yes. Not because I might be judged for it, but because if they are better people than us, we have taken that light out of the world. Similarly if I kill the worst person in the world, I deprive them of their chance to repent and make up for what evils they have done. I have hurt the world in both cases because I have deprived the world of its ability to experience itself. And Hitler did it, over and over and over again. He was duped into believing that somehow if we were to remove these people from the world that the world would improve. Does killing someone also remove their soul? No. Does it remove their life experience? No. If we change our framework to use “Germanic Heathen” sets, all he does is cause conflict in the next life. They will war forever – and that doesn’t solve the problem, that is merely a stalemate. People murder, in a Monist Gnostic Hermetic (or a purely atheistic universe) universe because they understand at some level that physical matter isn’t spiritual matter, so they essentially “get away with it” as rationalization. When the world of physical matter perishes in the reasonable end of the sun exploding and the heat death of the universe where electrons become so cold they spin apart the very nucleus they hold together, our spiritual stuff will still be here, and return fully to the One Thing. Hitler then doesn’t encounter the rule of three, he has to live with the horrible and full empathy of the knowledge that he will be one again with the people he killed. The universe therefor cannot be mechanical and without a Prime Mover.
Rocks – Rocks are a wonderful thing to philosophize about because every philosopher since the beginning of the world has had to deal with rocks. Surely by stubbing their toe, they realized rocks don’t have toes and are not subject to the rule of stubbing their toes three times. But more importantly, we’re talking about the class of thing which exists, but has no soul. People have souls, they have a spiritual component and that spiritual component is an active spiritual component. We think, we feel, we should think about what we feel and the hows and whys of doing. Even the Wright Brothers did service to their spiritual selves by reasoning about what capabilities and new things Man could explore if he had new ways of motion. And, just as cavemen merely existed to exist, the first flights merely happened for the sake of flying. Could they even know about food and medicine being transported to Africa? Would they have even built such a machine had they known about the delivery of the atomic bomb? But, perhaps the more pressing question – would the propeller have propelled if it had known about the vanity of Man? There is a class of matter which is not spiritual (or doesn’t care to act, both of which are indistinguishable until we have such an occasion that the rocks cry out at Jesus on YouTube) but exists merely because in the microscopic, most fine, barely perceptible, hardly knowable state between existing and not existing, something exists. Of course it couldn’t be any other way because outside of the spiritual realm is the physical realm and the physical realm, finding itself infinitesimally small and not filled with spiritual vastness jostling it around at all angles and corners, explodes. The big bang, the first orgasm, whatever we call it, a small spec of I AM expands. Do rocks have souls? No, to do so confuses the created with the creator. Do rocks have some divinity? Yes, because they exist, because we can see they do not Not Exist, they have some place in the world limited by physical forms. And why do we get unhappy when we stub our toe? Because rocks and our bodies are made of the same stuff, so their spiritual connection is reflected in every interaction. This tells us a lot about our emotions and control of our actions. Are rocks subject to the rule of three? Internally, no. Externally we could test this by smashing two of them together. We don’t suddenly have a third less rock, or three times more. The rock simply is and it is subject to the absolute laws of the physical universe the same way our bodies are. Similarly to how we are aware when there is a rock and there is not a rock in the road, we are aware of when we are in the physical world and when we are not. Unlike rocks, information cannot be created or destroyed, and we should be happy we are not on the physical.
Professional Wrestlers – Professional Wrestlers are the intersection of rocks and Hitler. They are people, they are rocks, and one of them is named The Rock. For a small moment we turn on our TV and we see two grown adults engaging in single combat. But, the ring is a lie. The money in the suitcase is a lie. The trophy is scripted. Are they aware of the play? Yes, and to this end, they also create false personas to fake fight over an empty goal for paychecks no more real at the end of their life than the trophy is at the end of their timeslot. They desire to put on a good show, but they understand that this is a show. My kids, however, may or may not realize that this is fake. In this way, the wrestling organization is essentially God, the wrestlers themselves are the archon or ialdabaoth, and the presentation of the wrestling is the physical world. So God one morning comes around to the idea that It is Itself, and the moment it realizes that It is Itself, is realizes that there is a spiritual difference between It, bring Itself, and It, and Something Else. That Something Else, already imbued with the knowledge of spiritual beings, realizes there is a difference between Spiritual Somethingelse and Physical Somethingelse, and so the physical world snaps into being. The things in the spiritual world cannot be separated from the First Mover since they depend on the difference between the First Mover and the Not First Mover to distinguish themselves, but because they are distinguished, they also know the difference between the living spiritual world and the people who ‘live’ through a denial of their partnership with the Monad. Some of them even go so far as to say “Well, we don’t have souls!” If only it were so easy. And so, because there are rocks, because there are wrestling rings, we can be assured that they were made as things for us to ponder as to the mysteries of the differences between the living and the unliving, the live and the dead, and the spiritual and physical realms.
“But Phergoph, you didn’t cover the intellectual realm in the context of Enochian ideas dressed up in the guise of well-built, athletic, oiled men!”
Well that’s how I prefer to think of John Dee anyway. But the intellectual realm isn’t really a realm per se, but rather it is the action of discernment. This is why the air, the intellect, is a sword. We can choose to do something, or we can choose not to. However the situation remains the same. The universe still exists if we choose to eat a cracker or not, but the information of the cracker is still with us either as a cracker or as fat on my hips in a very abstract form. Similarly, if we choose to prune our trees or if we choose to ignore the problem, the information of the tree still exists, but we have set for ourselves a spiritual course where – if we ignore the leaning tree – we have said “we do not value the investments of our fellow men”. The house or the car that the tree falls on represents effort, investment, and reward for whomever the owner of that thing is. And, while I personally don’t feel strongly about a house or a car – being members of the physical world and merely given status by the professional wrestling match which is our careers and daily lives, I would feel strongly if someone were injured in the course of that tree shedding its branches. Moreso I would feel really poorly if the person cursed God for the wind and rain, because these are inanimate and God is removed from the physical world. However herein lies a great secret and fault – because people have spiritual depravity or virtue, they can be influenced by appealing to that depravity or virtue.
When my buddy said “I think the rule of three is going to get him”, I suggested he put on his ceremonial magic hat and use the Lesser Key instead.