Recently a thread was started in a forum I regularly participate in regarding books and the value of reading. Much to my horrified amazement, the suggestion was made that reading might be “over-rated” with the assumption, it seemed, that what was read would be blindly “absorbed like a sponge,” which, of course, would fundamentally negate the point of it.
Here are a few tips:
Don’t just read occult books, read history, philosophy, biography, science as well as literature and sci-fi – read everything you can get your hands on. Read books on topics you’re interested in, but read outside your favourite genre for a more well-rounded perspective. This broadens your contextual reference points to those outside your personal experience and typical media intake. You’ll notice allusions pop up that previously slid by and you really will have a greater understanding of the world in which you live. 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
There are those – Richard Dawkins among them – who consider certain aspects of human behaviour to be contrary to nature, “unnatural.” Quite frankly, I don’t understand what this means. How could such a thing even be possible? What is there that is beyond nature?
With all this talk of what is “natural” and “unnatural” in recent posts we might do well to look at how these words are defined. The Canadian Oxford English Dictionary lists sixteen distinct definitions of the word “natural” with various sub-definitions employed as well. Foremost amongst these oft conflicting definitions, and most relevant to our topic, “natural” is defined as “existing in or caused by nature; not artificial”. Whereas “unnatural”, which lists only four definitions, is first defined as “contrary to nature or the usual course of nature”.
If humans are to exist at all they must do so “in nature” for we encounter them regularly in the here and now (let’s leave the “mystical planes” out for now). The “artificial” bit might give pause as humans have a penchant for creating machines, which on the surface may seem “unnatural”, but by the same logic we ought to consider the spider’s web an “unnatural” creation along with the beaver’s dam. It’s not terribly meaningful to call these things unnatural, but if you’d like to make a case for it I’d love to hear it. Continue reading
A spiritual path is, among other things, a way of seeing the world. That is to say, a spiritual path is a way of understanding or interpreting our relationships with the many things, events, people, and places in the world. In most cases, the path will be expressed or configured by a logic of correspondences. In accord with this logic, the appearance of a certain animal, or plant, or weather event, or whatever, signifies realities beyond itself. Similarly, every spiritual path will have meditations, rituals, techniques, practices, and so on, designed to help the practitioner recognise those signs and read the messages they convey.
The co-ordinates of the correspondences will vary in accord with language, culture, climate, geography, and other factors. They can grow ever more complicated and intricate, in order to accommodate an ever growing range of things and events in an ever-changing world. The associations of the four classical elements to cardinal directions, colours, ritual objects, seasons of the year, times of day, and so on, are well known examples. Yet the logic of correspondence can appear in things as simple as children’s rhymes. The game of counting crows: “One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy,” and so on, is also a logic of magical correspondences. Continue reading
Dancing with Spirits: The Festivals and Folklore of Japan, by Denny Sargent
Megalithica Press, 9781905713523, 120 pp., 2010
The religions of Japan are among the least understood by members of Western society. This happens for a number of reasons, most prominently because they are so much an organic part of the culture that even many Japanese don’t give them much thought. In fact, one often hears Japanese say that they are not religious, even as they are participating in some festival, or entering/leaving a shrine. The religions are simply a part of daily life, and thus not considered a separate religious aspect.
Generally, religion in Japan breaks down into one of two major types – Shinto or Buddhism – but that is as simplistic as saying religion in the West is either Christian or non-Christian; true to an an extent, but failing to capture the shear breadth of the religious experience. Each of the two groups has unique observances, yet commonalities exist. Continue reading