A little rant…and a little sense (I hope).
In recent discussions on my Facebook page, in private emails and in a number of group settings I have stumbled once more into the truth recently and eloquently described in Common Cause: The Case for Working with our Cultural Values:
Often, if the facts don’t support a person’s values, the facts bounce off.
As human beings we more often than not reject facts that do not fit with our idea of reality, our self or our preferred behaviours rather than change them.
In a church group setting I can see this process easily when trying to point out to creationists that Biblical myths are not meant to describe how the physical universe came into being; that we can accept scientific evolutionary theory and still know Genesis as mythically true at the same time. Bounce. All the accumulated data, all the common sense, all the objections to trying to make a myth describe the material universe – it all falls off.
In a Neo-Pagan setting I can see this when discussing the origins of Neo-Pagan religion, outlining how it is a modern religious impulse that draws inspiration on the past but has precious little historical connection to traditional pagan religions; that we can have a modern religion that is every bit as valid as ancient religions. Bounce. All the accumulated modern historical, anthropological and literary research, all the common sense, all the unpacking of a need to have an ancient religion over a modern one – it all falls off.
In a political setting I can see this when explaining that even from an economic perspective it makes no sense to lock asylum seekers up in desert detention centres that cost a bomb; that we can redirect money to other social concerns and be compassionate at the same time. Bounce. All the bottom line dollars figures, all the international obligations, all the common sense, all the studies showing the damage detention does to refugees costs more in the long run – it all falls off.
The authors of Common Cause focus on values as the sticking point for acceptance of new facts: if new facts do not conform to our preexisting value set we are likely to bounce them right off us. From an esoteric perspective I think there is a little more to this. The problems lie, I believe in the locus of control over our thoughts being derived from outside the material plane. That’s a pretty opaque sentence, so let me try and be explain.
When dealing with the material world of mundane shared space-time, we really should be making decisions based on evidence from mundane shared-space time, that is physical reality. This is of course the realm of science in its broadest contexts and the western scientific method, despite its flaws, still stands as one of the gems of humanity. Without it I would not be writing and you could not be reading these words.
In the three examples above we see creationists, nostalgic Neo-Pagans and fear-filled covert racists all making decisions from a non-material place within them and then applying them to a material concern. Creationists have an emotional investment in Biblical inerrancy; they allow their emotional self to override and decide what exists on the physical. The ‘emotions’ I am concerned with here are the ‘lower’ more primal emotions bound up with sense of self and safety, tribal belonging and hierarchy-domination. They relate more to Yesod than Netzach on the Tree of Life.
So, from an esoteric perspective there is a confusion of the planes. The creationist confuses their emotional reality with the physical reality. Once confused, once emotional reality has infected the physical there is a problem as the laws that govern the physical reality of shared space-time do not accommodate emotional reality. So various complicated rationalisations are needed to try and bring the two realities into one. These can be seen by visiting any creationist website or speaking to any creationist with half a brain.
The same emotional-physical confusion occurs within the nostalgic Neo-Pagan and the racist.
There are other levels of physical confusion also. We can confuse our mental level patterning with the material mundane universe.. A classic case here is the full blown racist who deeply “believes” her racism, where there is not just an emotional reaction. Her mental constructs are such that any person who has the label “Islamic” is a problem, is bad, is extremist etc. These mental constructs are then placed over the material reality and confused with it.
Confusion of the planes is one of the problems inherent in magic. We see its grossest manifestations in folk acting on inner plane information and wandering off to find the tomb of Christian Rosencrutz. Milder, though still worrying versions occur when people claim the Golden Dawn is X or was descended from Y group based on an inner vision. Or when historical, hard evidence manuscripts are dismissed as being wrong, forgeries, or incomplete as they do not concur with emotionally based or mentally held conceptions.
The only way to avoid these problems is to give due reverence to the sacrament of the real world of sunsets and sonatas, pain and piss that we all live in. Each and every time we make decisions or form opinions we need to ask ourselves to which plane does this refer? If it refers to the physical world, the world of the formation of the universe, finances, physical people doing physical things, we need to let the physical evidence decide. This does not mean the emotional, mental and spiritual worlds are invalid or lesser, only that they cannot be the judge of the material world.
When the Phantom Menace came out some Star Wars fans were dismayed over the explanation that a physical micro-organism, the Midichlorians were responsible for creating a person’s link to the Force. They felt it devalued the spiritual significance of the Force. Personally, however I was very happy as it showed the sacredness of the physical reality and how the physical is involved in all non-physical human matters as well (since incarnation is synonymous with humanity).
We can value the physical fully and judge physical matters from there and still be emotionally and spiritually adept. Genesis can still be true, just not as a description of how space, time, matter, galaxies, planets and life formed. Neo-Paganism can still be valid though only decades old and it is still truly an ancient religion, though not in terms of history. Knowing the broad outline of current scientific cosmology does not detract from believing God created the universe; one type of knowledge tells us how the universe formed and the other tells us about our relationships and place within it.
I would love to see more magicians, Christians and pagans using this approach. I really hate it when I realise I am obviously talking in a different sphere to a person I am debating. Really the subtext of their speech is ‘this is true because I know it to be true emotionally or mentally’ even if they are talking about material concerns. I am only concerned about what we can know, discover, theorise and prove physically. No wonder we don’t get anywhere.
Of course, while it is sometimes easy for me to see this process occurring in others, my task remains to note it in myself. I welcome MOTO readers to point out when I do this. Thanks 🙂