I've been reading Alan Watts and really enjoying it. We live in a false world of conventional knowledge, i.e., rationalized abstractions we mistake for reality. Conventional knowledge is organized, institutionalized, formalized. Watts compares this world to Confucianism. We could compare it in the West to religious and political indoctrination. Early in life conventional knowledge relates to the child rules and regulations, values, ethics. It is prerequisite for becoming human. Watts tells us that it was typically older people who were retiring from the world that became interested in Taoism, which is concerned with unconventional knowledge. I think here of Jewish men not being allowed to study the Qabalah until the age of 40.
My own mystical experiences have brought me to the place outside of conventional knowledge, together with the realization I've been here all along. It was my Saturn return that wounded me so severely, there was no recovering who I thought I was. All ideals that I thought to be genuinely myself showed themselves devoid of life, and to be, in the words of Goat's koan, lies.
When the mystic speaks of liberation, it is liberation from these abstractions, these lies that we believe give us identity, purpose, and place. Alan Watts denied being a Zenist or Buddhist, saying that it would be as trying to wrap up and label the Sky. The further I go in my practice and experience, the more hesitant I am to call myself anything but Aaron David.
Buddha's enlightenment was liberation. Liberation from desire. You may begin a magical practice because of desire. If you are successful, you will find yourself initiated into a path of liberation. To live in desire is to live in the ignorance generated by abstraction resulting in suffering. The desire referred to here is called Taṇhā and "craving" is a better descriptive. There are 3 types of craving resulting in dukkha, or suffering and samsara (the cycle of death and rebirth with the most mundane and unsatisfactory existences between):
- kama-taṇhā (craving for sensual pleasures)
- bhava-taṇhā (craving for existence)
- vibhava-taṇhā (craving for non-existence)
These 3 types of desire are the 3 foundational pillars of Western Civilization, completely in opposition to three pillars of the Western Esoteric Tradition. These cravings drive the economy, religious institution and political institution. Our own particular path to this place as a collective was from the coldness of Rationalism, to the cruelty of Existentialism and onward towards Nihilism. Our abstractions by reason have been shown to be illusion.
In short, all conventional knowledge has failed us. We are in the era of post-post modernism. What's emerging? It has been called The Dominant of Witchcraft.
I conceive of nothing, in religion, science, or philosophy, that is more than the proper thing to wear, for a while. -Charles Fort, Wild Talents
To the Western mind, Fort's quote sounds like the embracing of relativism, of irrationality. This has been how the West has perceived the Eastern mind - irrational, pluralistic, unable to withstand the critical eye of Reason. We struggle against the consequences of such immensely vague and mysterious notions; we hold all the more desperately to our tiny rationalized abstractions. We can see nothing but oblivion beyond our self-limitations, beyond our beliefs. What could possibly lay beyond our moral and logical order of convention, beyond our self-proclaimed absolute truths?
Call it awakening, illumination, rising on the planes; call it individuation, gnosis, call it the Tao, or whatever you will. To experience it is to come to know that the world of conventional knowledge is a lie. We are not fighting the world of conventional knowledge, as it is where we live. However, neither are we deceived anymore by it.
Stay tuned for Part II of the Dominant of Witchcraft