Discrimination – a personal note

Within the Hermetic Qabalah Malkuth, ‘the Kingdom’,  is the basal and most important sphere on the Tree of Life – without it you’re not here at all. 🙂 Malkuth has many functions. On the personal level it points to how the ‘self’ interacts with the external physical world via the senses. This interaction is a two way street – we breath in, and we breath out, we see and are seen. Therefore the most important ‘virtue’ of Malkuth is often described as discrimination – the ability to set boundaries and decide what we take into ourselves and what we reject.

Discrimination functions first at a basic physical level – if we do not discriminate between a cheese toastie and a dishrag we are in big trouble. Less dramatically so but equally true for various foodstuffs on the market today. 🙂 We learn the art of discrimination very early on as nippers – at least for our physical selves.

Since Malkuth is the most important sphere on the Tree, its virtue is arguably the most important too. And certainly we see the need to discriminate beyond the physical. In fact, the esoteric arts require us to hone, refine and transfer this skill into all the spheres on the Tree of Life. So for example, we set boundaries to the forms of energy we are open to in Yesod, the type of reactions we display and are open to. Similarly for mental constructs and communication in Hod – what we accept and what we share etc. So too in all spheres and all aspects of our life; discrimination is required.

In By Names and Images I pass on the insight my dad gave to me when a wee lad:

“Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see”.

As I say in the book it took me a while to realise this wisdom of this saying and more importantly how apt it is in the magical arts and community. I first got a real good sense of it a few years after leaving my first coven and discovering  a fellow Pagan at library school. Nice and friendly she was until she discovered my past associations, whereupon she hesitantly, and with much prompting, relayed a lurid tale not fit for MOTO, asking me how I could be involved in such stuff? Now my former High Priest was a bit…dodgy (as recounted in this post)… but not Sunday Papers dodgy, if you know what I mean. The story was a load of dog muck. I was there at the time. Some bugger simply made it up.

Mr Vonnegut

It would be nice to say such things are rare, but really they are not. Just look at the still existing idea that Nelson Mandela quoted Marianne Williamson’s ‘Return to Love’ at his inauguration speech. He didn’t use this quote at either speech – some bugger simply made it up.   Or look at this speech to high school graduates by the brilliant Kurt Vonnegut – he was never there, never wrote this – some bugger simply made it up.

The problem is that we imperfect human beings are meaning seeking creatures who like a good story. Truth has little to do with it. With the advent of the internet, which was the spawning ground for the two stories above, this problem has got a lot worse. Anyone can say anything about anyone or any event they wish. The buggers can simply make it up. And, unless discrimination is applied, they will be believed. All we need to do is look at a few occult forums and blogs to see what I mean, where if we do not apply discrimination we would be convinced that a lot of GD folk are nasty, conspiratorial, gun-running loonies. When in fact some bugger simply made it up.

A further issue with the internet is the necessity of projected meaning onto any communication we receive or words we read. In normal day-to-day discourse the majority of communication occurs at a non-verbal level – to say nothing of inner interactions of an esoteric nature. So when someone says, for example “I love you” there is a wealth of emotion, power and force connected to and within these words. Now the same words when they appear over a messenger service are…simply words. The receiver, in trying to make sense of them, is very likely to project their own meaning and emotions onto them. In fact they need to project something, give some meaning to the pixels on the screen, otherwise they remain meaningless on-and-off sets of light.

This is why so many people seem to fall in love over the internet – and really feel they do. If someone has a strong desire for love, if they ‘need’ it to be so, they can project that onto whatever non-physical internet interaction they are having. They feel the love when someone  types, “I love you”, but it is actually coming from their own spheres. Naturally of course, if this projection continues, the receiver may come to project enough onto the sender to believe she or he ‘knows them more deeply than anyone else’. This is natural, since they are simply projecting onto the sender all the qualities they are seeking. The antidote of course is discrimination.

With the above in mind we can see how some of the more notorious internet shindigs start and fester. Some person in Useless Loop (a real town) types something, and another in Scunthorpe (equally real) has to make sense of the words. There is no non-verbal and energetic context, just words. Projection is easy and offense, if the receiver is consciously or unconsciously looking for offense, appears to be really there. That is, the offended party may be projecting an awful lot. They may feel really hurt, may actually believe there are attacks on them, and much may be from their own projection alone. The antidote of course is discrimination.

I think it is incumbent on students and teachers of the esoteric to be developing and practising their discrimination on a daily basis. To me, being a virtue of Malkuth, it is like the Lesser Pentagram – a novice level process that needs to be repeated daily because we are all imperfect and interact with the world through a constructed and temporal vehicle – that is, our personality self. This is especially true when interacting with other esoteric folk via the internet.

Finally, some wisdom gained from an old school friend who recently ascended (descended?) into elected public office. Prior to his election he could not understand why some folk would not deny or refute completely baseless and damaging rumours. After trying himself to do so, he realised it is best to say nothing; denials or refutations make people think you have something to hide, that there is some truth to the matter when there is often none. Therefore it is best to say nothing and let those with  discrimination sort it out for themselves. So, when reading about various Orders, teachers and folk on the net who are not refuting vile and vicious rumours, it could be because some bugger simply made them up. Apply discrimination and listen to me ol’ dad 🙂

“Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see”.



  1. Samuel · June 6, 2012

    I have to agree with you Peregrin. Discrimination is one of the most important qualities that any magician must cultivate. I use cultivate deliberately, as developing discrimination is a very deliberate act.

    Along with Discrimination, the would-be magician should also cultivate the virtues and qualities of Integrity, Patience, Diligence, Moderation, Responsibility, Self-Sacrifice, Service-to-Others, and one of the most neglected, Humor.

    Each one of these qualities would make a blog or more alone, but I think that starting with Discrimination is the most important of these traits.

    Thanks again for such a provocative blog.

    In LVX,

  2. Suecae · June 6, 2012

    I’m going to avoid speaking about esoteric order’s and the process of discrimination as it relates to them. But I found an aspect of this article that I wanted to write something about, because this is damned interesting! 🙂 I’ll try to make this response into some preliminary notes as they come to me.

    First of, we now know that the written language as a form of communication is fairly new invention. It is a symbolic way of “transimitting understanding”, but whether we can succed in this is what I want to discuss.

    My main premise, is that while reading a text, whether online or offline, the subject is associating itself in an intersubjective space. We are reflecting ourselves and our own cognitive capacity and personhood into symbolic form of communication which is the written language. The thing I believe is that we are not only talking about projections of ourselves into that which is a communicative otherness – but that we are also really, really engaging in a dialouge with this otherness. But instead of you talking, and I responding, we are following a different form of sequence that still amounts to a similar process.

    In this sense, it isn’t as important whether the author is alive or has passed away, this attempt to transmit meaning and achive understanding is still what the author attempted, and what the reader is trying to achive.

    Another premise I hold is that we need to project in order to understand. It is inevidable, but also a tool in order to reach what we may be after, understanding. We need to engage ourselves in a dialouge, the ‘I’ is as important as the otherness. Sucess may also easier be reached if we are humble enough to also understand the premise and insecurity, that we will never own the fullness of understanding, as in objective understanding, of the dialouge we are partaking in. Eventually we will arrive at a personal truth, which if the person is mature, will be open to changes as your sphere of understanding will expand.

    In this sense, falling in love with someone who you are communicating on the Internet, or gaining a mystical understanding of a religious scripture as you read – is not world’s apart. Of course you cannot articulate the same fullness of emotion unless you are talking to someone physically, as in the ‘natural’ condition, but the popularity of the written world is centred around the optimistic premise that symbols not only can convey meaning, but that they also are possible to understand.

    What I am talking about may be understood as a metaphysical notion of communication. Studying the word of ‘Logos’ and ‘Dia Logos’ (‘two way flow/exchange’) and it’s broad meaning from Herakleitos, writers of the bible to Martin Buber may give an understanding about a history of ideas when it comes to the main idea this response is about; intersubjectivity. This does not rule our discrimination, obviously. Or else we would be extremely vulnerable to being lied to…

    If we are only saying that we are only projecting ourselves into the words we read, then we are possibly engaging in a form of philosophical solipsism – an aloneness or emphasis of the inner world in contrast of the outer. I’ve always objected to this idea, that we can not gain understanding at all, and that we therefore essentially are alone in the universe. I don’t think that this is necessary what you are saying, but anyway… 😉

    When two people are saying ‘I love you’, and both are desiring the outcome of love, whether they have met ot not, I’d say that it is possible due to the fact that the two ‘I’, into their communication, are opening up to dialouge and are trying to form a mutual understanding around this human experience. The otherness of the letter or the e-mail in this context is not a dead object, or alive only due to my own ‘I’ reading it.

    The problem in my opinion, of the Internet as a medium, is generally more due to the fact that it has developed into a space which do not encourage personal responsibility, so saying ‘I love you’ in this space may mean a lot to me, and little to you, or vice versa. This is of course a crux in the entire theory of the possibility of understanding that I am talking about.

    Lastly, if we say that love requires for two people to have actually met and spoken verbally, and while I say this I also want to state that I belive that this arrangement is not optimal or something to strive for, we may also be saying something about the impossibility, or perhaps even wrongness, of love of the Christ, or Buddha as it relates to solitary religous folk…

    I realise that this post has become extremely long, I hope that someone is able to wade through this and perhaps even ‘understand’ what I am trying to say. It may even, dare I say, be possible after all! 😉

  3. Mike · June 6, 2012

    I think in particular when it comes to discrimination we also have to be aware of the good Robert Anton Wilson idea “what the thinker thinks, the prover proves.” That is humans are generally hardwired to find the evidence they want rather than the truth. Occam’s razor often helps in this regard.

    I totally agree with Samuel about humor too. And related to that, not taking yourself too seriously.

  4. Samuel · June 6, 2012


    Absolutely. One cannot take themselves too seriously. We are human after all, no matter how much we strive to be more than human. We make mistakes even when doing SERIOUS Work. We should be able to laugh at ourselves when we make these mistakes and then move on with the work at hand – actually doing the MAGNUM OPUS.

    Too many take themselves too seriously when doing this Work. This leads to some serious ego issues developing rather than something more balanced, which is the goal in the first place.

    We all have met or have seen people in the various esoteric communities that do not know how to laugh at themselves when they make silly mistakes.

  5. Mike · June 6, 2012

    Samuel, completely agree. Last night I read a great quote in this regard in Josephine McCarthy’s Magical Knowledge: Book 1 Foundations: “If we approach the “outer mysteries”, which is the first rung of the ladder, with that openness we begin the focused evolution of the soul, which takes up the rest of our lives. Because the outer court of magic, or the outer/lesser mysteries contain methods of divination, methods of basic ritual, using magical tools, and the study of magical history, there are many who approach the first ladder and get stuck in these outer court skills. They can pull a few “tricks,” impress people with their titles, dress in cool clothes and have strange symbols around their necks: it is a power dead end for the go. Some get stuck there for a time and climb out, and some stay their indefinitely.”

  6. Samuel · June 7, 2012

    What a wonderfully insightful quote. I have not read any of Josephine MaCarthy’s books, but they have been on my wish list for a while. Looks like I should break down and finally get around to reading them.

    In LVX,

  7. Mike · June 7, 2012

    I’m really impressed with this one, it’s unlike what I expected in all the right ways. 🙂

  8. Pingback: Quick ponderings on the use of names and language in modern magical discourse « Magic of the Ordinary
  9. Pingback: Discrimination and teachers in magic « Magic of the Ordinary

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