I’m always coming across
arguments discussions on the internet about which of the ancient pantheon of gods is the ‘most authentic’ or which ones are nothing but the syncretic equivalent of reality TV, empty of any sort of substance. It always kind of bothers me that, for one, those with that opinion think that their experience is the end all be all truth, and secondly that they think that enough to let everyone else know too.
Since one doesn’t come across those sorts of discussions unless one is already on an occult or esoteric forum, or speaking to someone of like mind, you’d think everyone involved would already be pretty open minded. I mean, if you are serious enough to call yourself a magic(k)ian, occultist, or whatever, then you’re not going judge the validity of other people’s experiences, right? But alas, we are all human, there’s something in our psyche that compels us to try to understand and know what’s truth, and to latch on to it when we think we find it. Lets collectively put on our fancy wizard hats (gold embossed stars optional) and see if we can dig into this phenomenon of varied experience a little.
The Older The Better…or not.
There is a prevalent idea that if we could just somehow go further back in time, we could get to a more authentic version of the gods and goddesses, one that wasn’t tainted by human meddling. Somewhere in deep antiquity, people somehow connected with a pure strain of being, something that hadn’t built up the baggage of centuries of preconceived notions and dogma. While this may or may not be true, one has to assume that it’s not specifically true for any one pantheon, basing our knowledge of them from our modern perspective.
The best we can do is just speculate on what happened with some percentage of probability. Sure we have a few documents that can give us a limited window into a specific mode of understanding the cosmos, from a specific point in history, by a limited group of people. To be honest we have a hard time knowing what happened 50 years ago (even with documentation), let alone 5000 years ago. Revisionist history doesn’t help in that department either. We have people today who have a vested interest in writing our understanding of history, and to be sure, this has been the case since writing or history were even a thing. Everything past your direct experience has been muddled beyond any hope of disentangling reality from misinformation (more on this later).
So, while we can attribute a past understanding of the forces of the universe as a more correct belief set, we can’t be sure that’s actually the truth of things, or if there even is ‘a’ truth to be had. I think the danger lies in thinking that it’s a universal given, rather than a personally held belief set, that earlier equals better. The only truth you can ever know is your own truth, and it’s valid for one passenger on this journey through time and space: you. That’s it. For you, or quite possibly for a lot of people, that theory might hold true and work. But then again maybe not. Everyone is different, every man and woman is a star. So while earlier might equal better, the idea that it definitely is better is problematic. It discounts the credibility of direct experience, or even discards it, in favor of dogma.
Disentangling Dogma & Direct Experience
The crazy thing about dogma is that it’s ubiquitous, and it’s not just for Catholics. You might not even know you’re arguing for one view or another from the standpoint of dogma, because the belief might be so deeply ingrained into the collective unconscious that it’s a given.
The magician does not benefit from unknowingly adhering to dogma of any kind.
Notice I said unknowingly. A predefined set of beliefs can be a huge advantage when working certain systems. Chaos magick builds it’s entire practice on freely switching from one dogma to the next. The trick is to be in control of your belief systems, not for them to be in control of you. If you are acting from a point of unquestioned beliefs, then you are acting from a place of ignorance and ego.
Take this excerpt from Liber LXI vel Causae
Should therefore the candidate hear the name of any God, let him not rashly assume that it refers to any known God, save only the God known to himself. Or should the ritual speak in terms (however vague) which seem to imply Egyptian, Taoist, Buddhist, Indian, Persian, Greek, Judaic, Christian, or Moslem philosophy, let him reflect that this is a defect of language; the literary limitation and not the spiritual prejudice of the man P.
This is why it’s so important to make personal connections with any entities, ideas, or beliefs you might encounter. Don’t take someone else’s words as truth, even if those words are thousands of years old.
Direct experience is the only experience we can ever truly have. I can’t know intimately anything about any other person, even when we talk about the same things we can’t know the subtle nuances of meaning that a lifetime of experience has built up. So while Person A says that only the Phoenician Gods are authentic, Person B finds that the thought forms they created one night are more real than any other pantheon they’ve ever worked with. Who is more correct? The answer is, they both are. For both person A and B, their own direct experience is more relevant and valuable to their path than anything else an outside person may claim.
To illustrate this point in a more physical way, the color I see as red might be what you see as blue. While we all agree on what it’s called, we can never know if another person might be seeing it in the exact same way your brain is interpreting that wavelength of light.
Knowing Truth: Framework vs. Dogma
So if everything is a personal experience, what, if any, is the value of sharing your discoveries or writing anything down?
To me, there is a distinct difference between passing on dogma, and passing on a framework of experience in which the aspirant can work within to find their own Truth. The easiest example to make here would be any mainstream religious system in which the followers are told the truth rather than encouraged to seek it out themselves. Obviously a truth had been found in these systems, one that worked for one person, but that person or people mistakenly assumed that their truth was the Truth with a capital T, and built an information dispersal system that has in fact stopped a great many people from ever knowing their own personal Truth. The vast majority of humanity looks for the easy route with most things (except you Capricorns out there), if someone of assumed authority says “this is the way” quite a lot of people will stop searching for anything else and gladly follow that path.
On the other hand, if a framework of experimentation is offered, in which the aspirant is encouraged to practice certain things, guided only vaguely, they are able to come to know their own truth. Great care has to be taken to not steer them in one way or another, lest a truth be misconstrued as the Truth. Once this is thoroughly understood and practiced, the aspirant can find much benefit from comparing notes with others of like mind, reading ancient texts, and experimenting themselves with various modes and methods of experiencing the universe in all it’s glorious weirdness.
So with all that being said, I encourage each and every one of you to look closely at the ideas you hold dear, pick them apart, and understand where each and every one of them came from, and more importantly why you hold them. Assess the value each one holds for you, and don’t fear getting rid of any that don’t further you in some tangible way. It’s fine to have dogmatic beliefs, if you are the one choosing to hold them and you understand your reasons. I’ll close with this quote by Robert Anton Wilson:
All phenomena are real in some sense, unreal in some sense, meaningless in some sense, real and meaningless in some sense, unreal and meaningless in some sense, and real and unreal and meaningless in some sense.
Go forth and find your own Truth and let it be a light unto your path.