“No spiritual development begins without that person having a mystical experience,” claimed my friend Hans in recent conversation. We had been discussing mysticism and he made a few points that made me pause. He continued, “Mystical experience connects a person to the higher states of being. Without this, no one make any serious progress on the spiritual path.” I thought this was a rather provocative statement and asked him to clarify. He said that only once someone has tasted the ultimate can they really begin to direct themselves and their actions towards it. Until then it is like trying to create a trail with no guide or point of reference in sight.
I must admit I was taken aback by such a frank assertion, one he was quite adamant was universal. Additionally, I take seriously Aleister Crowley’s warning about the ways mysticism can delude a person and have thus always been suspicious of it. I pointed out how Crowley noted that mysticism was all subjective and lacked any kind of objectivity. Hans countered that this is wrong and that all true mysticism connects to a universal higher reality to which all humans share access. Humans, he claimed, were “wired” for these mystical states. He then pointed to all the great religions and mystics and said they all went up different paths to the same mountain peak.
I asked then, why did each of these mystics have such different responses to the same experience. Why did Jesus appear as the sole son of God after his time in the desert while the Buddha, Mohammed, Theresa Avilla, and so many others had different responses? Continue reading
I have always liked the motto Aleister Crowley gave to his journal The Equinox: The Method of Science—The Aim of Religion. The first part in particular. Today science is something that many people connect with technology. In some sense, science and technology are inseparable. The beginning of the twentieth century was not without its technologies either. The Equinox began to be published in 1909 and by then, early versions of today’s ubiquitous technologies were emerging. The escalator, air conditioner, neon lights, gas-motor powered airplanes, vacuum diode, sonar, instant coffee, and even the theory of relativity all came to life in the first decade of the twentieth century. But when Crowley stated “The Method of Science…,” he was not talking about any of these technologies, nor ones to come. Instead he was referring to the way science is approached and practiced. Science has a method and at the centre of that method are questions.
When Crowley advanced the method of science it was, more than anything else, an attitude or an approach to reality. It is one of curiosity, open mindedness, and discovery. It was a method that elevates the question and only sees answers as doorways to other questions. Continue reading
My day job allows a certain amount of freedom when it comes to listening to music at work. Most people have headphones, and once upon a time the majority would have been listening to Pandora.com, but it’s been a while since they disallowed Canadian listening due to licensing constraints – a shame, because I found many new bands via their ingenuous Music Genome Project – music I then later bought, as with Napster in the days of yore. But I digress.
Sitting at my cubicle, work is where I listen to podcasts when my mp3 player starts to seem repetitive. Late December and early January I was on vacation, and so, behind. I recently caught up and finally listened to the latest Tarot Connection episodes.
In episode 67, host Leisa ReFalo and guest Roger Tobin tackled the subject of difficult cards from a variety angles, specific tarot cards deemed difficult for the client and for the reader; cards which might seem scary for a client unfamiliar with their meaning (Death, the Devil and the Tower are common examples), and cards which are challenging for the reader to interpret, either because they’re still unclear on the meaning, or even simply because they don’t often turn up during a reading (we all have cards like this). Continue reading
Uncertainty has come to play a huge role in my life as of late. The whole process entered my awareness during the Plutonica book-club reading of Quantum Psychology. Together we explored many of the exercises that Robert Anton Wilson collected to help us think, “Maybe…” My meditations and personal work have revolved around the issue of uncertainty, as well as our personal and collective strategies for dealing with it, ever since.
Honestly, I feel uncertain whether I can communicate any of this effectively. The territory began with magic and t’ai chi, leading into my mystical practice. I came to consider the bridge between individual and history, the symbiotic relationship of humanity and the institutions we have created to mediate uncertainty, as a fundamental issue to address for my own growth. Each encounter seems less discrete the closer I listen, yet the overall theme appears in the negative space between them. Continue reading
I’ve been reading Nietzsche’s The Genealogy of Morals, and a passage in the third essay, “What is the meaning of aesthetic ideals?” intrigued me:
…[I]t is certainly best to separate an artist from his work so completely that he cannot be taken as seriously as his work. He is after all merely the presupposition of his work, the womb, the soil, in certain cases the dung and manure, on which and out of which it grows – and consequently, in most cases, something that must be forgotten if the work is to be enjoyed.
Nietzsche is writing specifically about Wagner here, but the sentiment can be positioned to apply to any artist one finds objectionable whose work one might appreciate were their “character” not at odds with an expected ideal. It strikes me that this approach is often taken in regards to Crowley’s works in particular, especially for those who might otherwise be reluctant to dare engaging in the material. Continue reading