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from the assume-the-perdition dept.
This article appeared originally in The Gnostic Times, the official Journal of the Queen of Heaven Lodge, OTO in Portland Oregon.
It happens every so often. Some neo-goth, death metal, modern primitive wannabe begins to go off on just how he is so gosh darn evil. How quaint -- or it would be, if it weren't so common.
In and of itself, "Evil" is quite the quaint concept. Now I understand that the artificial, and at times arbitrary, division of actions into beneficent and malefic is a perfectly natural and understandable phenomenon. The extrapolation of these divisions onto the social unit is the next logical step, and if they are suitably expansive, they prove beneficial to the furtherance of the human species, or at least that group of humans. Please note that we have not yet encountered "Evil," although we are getting very close. It is only when these socially convenient classifications are ascribed some sort of cosmic mythological authority does "Evil" truly begin to exist.
Let us come back to our little poseur friend. The thing I notice the most about his infliction upon my presence is the copious amount of oxygen that he is wasting by virtue of his lengthy, yet ultimately trite and boring, exposition on just how evil he really is. I am especially fond of the frequent assertions that he liberally interjects into the monologue. "I am so evil," he repeats, as if the reiteration would make it so -- just as it was promised in that book he found in the discounted New Age book bin. Far from convincing, this babbling fool forcibly brings to mind the phrase "He protesteth too much." His self-doubt and uncertainty are shining forth from beneath his bravado, reminiscent of the works of the Marquis de Sade. If the good Marquis truly believed in his inalienable right to engage in acts of sadism, why are we subjected ad nauseam to his endless intellectual justifications over and over? Who is he trying to convince, his reader (of whom he would be unsure even existed) or himself, who -- if not for his novel and titillating predilections -- would have been the only reader of his rather uninteresting prose.
"Evil" (I am going to drop the quotes from this point on) came into being during the prehistory of our species. Back then it was very simple. Those acts that placed into jeopardy the social unit (be it family, tribe, what-have-you) were evil. As the unit took precedence over the individual, evil was dealt with in a very straightforward and pragmatic manner. The offending party was removed, either by ostracization or (considered preferable to the mindset of the time) extinction.
As society developed, its customs and mores became more intricate. As many of these customs were built around sympathetic magical practices designed to promote the welfare of the group, they too assumed the same mantle of prohibition as did direct acts against the welfare of the unit. To offend the spirits being propagated by the custom, or appeased by the more, became synonymous with directly sabotaging the activity governed by that spirit -- i.e., to offend the corn goddess was equated with trampling the fields, and to anger the fire god was equal to burning down the village. As the social unit is formed to protect its members from vagaries and predation, the preservation of the unit is more important than the welfare of one of the members in that unit, so long as the other members are protected or otherwise benefit. Over time, the first priority -- to which all were either in service or a distant second -- became the preservation of the social unit1. To violate the customs or mores of the social unit was rightly perceived as an attack upon the social unit as a whole, and thus "Evil". It is important to note the change from the social unit serving its members into the members existing solely to preserve the social unit2.
So, where does the above model leave us Thelemites, burdened by the dead weight of irrelevant moralisms heralding back to a far different sociopolitical environment, and heroically struggling to erect the framework from which a Thelemicly-oriented Society can develop3? What is Evil, and how does it relate to the Thelemite or to Thelema in general? Since Thelema recognizes the individual as the primary component unit (rather than the Isisian Tribe or Osirian Hierarchy), Evil is not even a relevant term to a Thelemite. In order to be evil, one must work against the Social unit to which one belongs. Until a Thelemite joins a social group, that Thelemite is incapable of committing true evil. Maintenance of this pre-fall consciousness is no more complicated than the total eschewment of any other being & an adamant refusal to interact with society.
Unfortunately, Homo Sapiens Sapiens has evolved from animals which preferred the security of forming packs4. This evolutionary path is a biological component of our genetic makeup, driving us -- except when sublimated -- into forming associations with others of our species for propagation, protection and sustenance. Also, we seem to crave interaction on an intellectual level as well. Being the only species capable of cognition5, we are driven to find and interact with those capable of stimulating our cognitive abilities, a need stimulated perhaps by our affinity for speech. Further, it is most probable that we seek communion with others on a spiritual level, demonstrated by the banding together of people to form spiritual associations such as churches, fellowships, temples, cults, magickal orders and spiritual communes; or forming pseudo-spiritual associations based on things such as Communism, Fascism, or any of the various Philosophies purporting to address the spiritual nature (or lack thereof) of man. With all of these factors, is it any surprise that human beings are fairly driven to form social units, and thus open themselves up to the possibility of evil?
"Not me!" some of you no doubt cry. I empathize, truly I do. Our society is not without its flaws, nor are we ever asked whether we wish to join or not, nor are we provided with any alternatives to the system in which we were born. However, unless one does as Theodore Kaczynski6 one is a member of society. If one is reading this article, it is a safe bet that one is a member of this society, flawed that it is.
"How did this happen?" seems the next logical question to our idealistic non-conformist outsider. There are two types of assent, tacit and implicit. Few of us tacitly chose to enter the society in which we find ourselves immersed for a majority of our existence. We have implicitly assented, as we partake of the benefits which society provides us. Things such as electricity, running water, sewage and trash disposal, clothing and foodstuffs; or the services such as paved roads, healthcare, public transit, haircuts, schools, libraries, the Internet and magazine publishing companies. Once given, it can only be severed via an act of evil. Small evils will result in an ostracization that aids in the maintenance of one's position outside of society7, greater evils result in correspondingly greater punishments8. Now some of us, and I would guess a large percentage of the readers of this magazine, concurrently belong to another social unit, one which they tacitly assented to join, and thus placed themselves under the customs and mores of said unit9. Fortunately, the new crop of organizations available tends to be imbued with the 93 Current, and thus respect the sanctity of the individual.
Once we enter a social group, we become subject, of our own free accord, to its definitions of what comprises "Good" and what constitutes "Evil" preexistent within the social unit. In this instance, and, as best I can tell, only in this instance where a Thelemite enters into social unit, does the concept of evil become relevant. Fortunately, the implicit social order to which we belong is large, slow and unwieldy. They may be everywhere, but they aren't quite sure where that is. Typically, it is too busy keeping itself moving in a semi-viable manner to concern itself with punishing any but the most severe or blatant digressions into those areas considered evil by our implicit social order but are either condoned or dismissed by our chosen social unit (Thelemic or Thelemite Groups). Thus we can work to modify or abolish the implicit unit so that it might be supplanted by the new model10. We can engage in the ultimate good of our chosen and preferred, all the while committing the most heinous acts in the eyes of the old order, eyes which are closed unless some fumble raises it from its stupor. This is what I consider the Ultimate Evil within the Thelemic context, though by Thelemic standards, it is the Ultimate Good. Old Æonic institutions may use the Devil or "lack of patriotism" to explain why they call us evil, but these are mere covers for the real reason. We have the ability to subvert or destroy the social system on which they feel provides for their survival.
"Seek now those motions which sow for humanity the seeds of death as they harvest for you the bounty of life"11
Perhaps it is just me, but in light of all this, our "evil friend" is incredibly boring, verging on insignificance. His assertions of his evil, justified by tales of sexual escapades and drug use, merely serve to strengthen the existing system and its oppressive mores by reinforcing them and granting them validity through their carefully choreographed violation. The Fundie cheating on his tax returns is more evil than he, for the Fundie has harmed the system by withholding funds needed for its functioning. Death poser probably would space on paying taxes if he worked enough to owe any, thus providing the system with his refund to utilize in our oppression. Even if our 'lil evil dude' weren't validating the system through his posturing, I do not find anything intrinsically evil about sexual activity or drug use12. Some aberrations, such as pedophilia, I find repellent. Rather than being evil, these acts are utilized to justify the system, to lend credence to its statements that it must impose its laws and regulations upon us in order to protect us from such dangerous elements. Then again, I do not subscribe to the notion that these entities are purposely engaging in their acts; rather they are like rabid dogs. A rabid dog is not evil, it is sick. For our safety and out of compassion for the diseased animal, it is put down. Here we broach a few common, but nevertheless important ideas on the nature of evil: the subjective nature of evil, and whether someone who is insane can rightly be considered evil.
First, let us tackle the easier of the two. Easier not because of the concepts being addressed are inconsequential, but easier because most have had the pleasure of being introduced to the argument, often many times13. In a nutshell, we have two social groups, the wolves and the sheep. There is also an implicit order imposed by the wolves based upon their predation of the sheep. The argument discusses one act, the killing of a sheep by a wolf that then brings it to his pack. From the wolves' perspective, the wolf is a hero who has provided sustenance for the unit, thus helping to ensure its survival. From the perspective of the sheep, the wolf is a villain striking the poor sheep and carrying him off, thus endangering (to some extent) the survivability of the group. Now if this were two human groups rather than anthropomorphized examples erroneously ascribed the concepts of 'good' or 'evil,' the sheep group would desire to inflict punishment upon the first group for its evil act. Unfortunately, the sheep are on the wrong end of this typical implicit order14, though it would be rather interesting to see a bunch of armed sheep "making those damn wolves pay."
By virtue of repetitious exposure, we have pretty much accepted or rejected this illustration based upon our feelings regarding the existence of "something" which stands as an absolute guide on Good & Evil, our convictions on the nature of the universe vis-à-vis chaos & order, bias due to the misuse common presenters of this example engage, or just a rejection of anthropomorphizing animals to explain difficult and complex human issues. The last one probably carries the most weight, as animals are intrinsically amoral15 and are incapable of evil. If an animal deviates from the good of the group, it is typically due to biological or psychological impairment. This segues nicely into the next topic.
If a person is truly insane they are incapable of being evil, for they are not consciously choosing to engage in evil acts. To their deranged minds, they are acting properly. This is not meant to stand as an excuse or justification for the actions of the dangerously insane. The main priority of any social unit is to protect & preserve its members16. If a being poses a danger to the well being of the unit, in part or whole, then the unit is required to act in such a way as to eliminate the threat17.
No discussion of evil would be complete without touching upon the Thelemic baddies, the Black Brotherhood18. As illustrated above, and based upon Crowley's writings on the subject, the Black Brotherhood is truly evil in a Thelemic context.
A Black Brother starts out as does any other aspirant on the path of knowledge. They seek to gain control of their subtle bodies, and the subtle energies related thereto. They prepare for the confrontation with the guardian of the Abyss, Choronzon, whereby they will cross the Abyss and achieve union with their Holy Guardian Angel. The difference is that a black brother, after facing Choronzon, balks in surrendering their perishable ego as a sacrifice to the Abyss. Rather than accept the new perfect bodies of light19, they reject the eternal embrace of the divine and the fulfillment of their True Will. In essence they reject the very fiber of their being. They "sin" against themselves, against their divine nature20, and thus doom themselves to mortality & death.
Having rejected the resurrection, the new black brother attempts to replace his loss with his old imperfect self. The torment21 of the black brother is rooted in their rejection of the quintessence of their being. Their "sin against the Holy Ghost" has set them against themselves, "And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand."22 To revitalize their decaying selves, and to stave off the inevitable for a few minutes longer, the black brother, devoid of his natural sustenance23, turns to predation. It is at this point that the black brother moves from an object of pity and contempt into a force of evil.
In the shame of their failure, in the pain of their hunger, and in the desolation of their isolation from the divine they prolong their inevitable destruction by rending the fabric of the society they once embraced. Generating pain and failure to cover their own, they select their prey and sabotage the proper working of its mind-body-soul complex so as to ease their predation. In this way too, the Black Brotherhood sets itself doubly against one of the primary principles of Thelema24 "So with thy all; thou hast no right but to do thy will" AL I:42. First by denying their only right: to do their will. Second by actively interfering with another's right to do their will, by doing that which no other shall do, saying "nay". The joke is on them, for in this battle the Thelemites have god on their side. "I am a god of War and of Vengeance. I shall deal hardly with them." AL III:3.
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