| up a level
from the here-come-de-judge dept.
Soul Without Shame
Have you ever noticed how people sometimes seem compelled to criticize circumstances, institutions, or other people? Or felt the temptation within yourself to lash out in criticism even when you suspected it might not be productive? Maybe you've experienced the voice of the inner critic, picking apart everything you do, condemning you at every turn.
These are all manifestations of what Byron Brown, in his ground breaking work, Soul Without Shame, refers to as "the judge". The judge is a pervasive force within ordinary life, but its destructive effects are rarely understood. Soul Without Shame not only provides a detailed analysis of the inner critic, but also offers the possibility of overcoming it through observation and psychological exercises.
Brown's judge is an alternative way of looking at the Freudian superego. As children, we are taught rules and are constantly subjected to the evaluations of our guardians. To some extent, this is a necessary part of growing up, although usually, much of it is excessive. In any event, we are trained to internalize these evaluations and restrictions, and they stay with us for life as the voices that whispers to us what is right and wrong. (Even for the reactive rebel, the voices are there, but compulsively disobeyed rather than compulsively obeyed.)
This also forms the core of our tendency to criticize others. The judge holds court on what is outside us, condemning and praising according to hard-coded values that may have little to do with how we actually feel. And certainly, being judged by another can be one of the fastest ways to bring out the judge in ourselves. Entire relationships are often built purely on the interactions between inner critics, with no contact made by anything more authentic.
One thing stood out for me as I read this amazing book: we have almost no appreciation of this dynamic within Thelema, and we could really use it. The whole history of the Western esoteric tradition could be seen in this light as a stampede of raging superegos. Crowley, in particular, seems to be an outstanding example of an individual who never came to terms with his judge, and we students who work within his tradition often seem more than willing to follow in his example.
It's an idea that I think could easily be worked into the Thelemic framework, however. The Aeon of Osiris was the age of authoritarianism, which we Thelemites work to overturn. What better place to begin than that voice of authority within ourselves, the force of restriction that is experienced internally as shame, and externally as the urge to criticize others?
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