15 April 2006

Absolute power…

This past week I had a conversation with an acquaintance of mine in Vancouver. We were discussing magic, and his contempt for power. Now, "power" is going to be difficult to define, both its semantics and subjective take on the word (would that be semiotics?). He assured me that absolute power did, in fact, corrupt absolutely. This stirred some thoughts in me…

Whenever someone uses that retort, I squirm in my chair. It's never sat well with me. It implied a lack of power. That the corruptible had achieved such power, in my eyes, implied that if they were not worthy of such power to begin with, then I and everyone else that allow them to hold such power were, in fact, worthy of being enslaved by this person.

In short, I have the power not to succumb.

"Occult power lies in removing the capacity for others to be able to grasp the labels and concepts surrounding you." (From a previous post.)

And I just read this, by William Drenttel, on Design Observer:

Francis Bacon once said that knowledge and human power are synonymous, and it is in this spirit that true power is perhaps ideally achieved: it is power informed by learning, collaborating and considering how the ultimate quality of our lives is made, whether in reference to our health or our schools; our environment or our foreign policy; our aspirations in science or in space; or our humanitarian achievements, as people, in war and in peace.

Is it fair for me to argue that even life itself is a prison, as purported by numerous philosophical doctrines and spiritual analogies such as Gnosticism? If so, then even clinging to the worth of one's life in the face of enslavement is an un-educated and worthless endeavour. This is living solely for living's sake.

And that's not living.

Living requires strife, sacrifice, and the willingness to change, metamorphoses. A power is exacted when a consensus is reached. Consensus poses an interesting dilemma. As William Whyte wrote in his classic The Organizational Man, "It is the price of progress that there never can be complete consensus. All creative advances are essentially a departure from agreed-upon ways of looking at things, and to overemphasize the agreed-upon is to further legitimize the hostility to that creativity upon which we all ultimately depend."

This is also the thesis behind The Lucifer Principle, by Howard Bloom, in which he contends that "evil" is a by-product of nature's strategies for creation and is woven into our most basic biological fabric. This argument echoes a very old one. St Paul proposed it when he put forth the doctrine of original sin. Thomas Hobbes resurrected it when he called the lot of man brutish and nasty. Anthropologist Raymond Dart brought it to the fore again when he interpreted fossil remains in Africa as evidence that man is a killer ape. Old as it is, the concept has often had revolutionary implications. Why? Because it has been the thread on which men like Hobbes and St Paul have hung dramatic new visions of the world.

And as I wrote elsewhere and Kylark was nice enough to emphasize: Power is how one utilises their roster of wisdoms (knowledge + experience = wisdom) to maintain their order and interpretation of reality held over any others.

Thus, if we are knowingly befallen to the power of someone or something else, it is our fault and there is a way out. Too many of us quit because it hurts too much, I suppose. Which reminds me of another quote to end this off with. William James wrote in Varieties of Religious Experience:

Recent psychology … speaks of the threshold of man’s consciousness in general to indicate the amount of noise, pressure, or other outer stimulus which it takes to arouse his attention at all. One with a high threshold will doze through an amount of racket by which one with a low threshold would be immediately waked. … And so we might speak of a ‘pain threshold,’ a ‘fear threshold,’ a ‘misery threshold,’ and find it quickly overpassed by the consciousness of some individuals, but lying too high in others to be often reached by their consciousness. The sanguine and healthy minded habitually live on the sunny side of their misery line; the depressed and melancholy live beyond it, in darkness and apprehension.

Does it not appear as if one who lived habitually on one side of the pain threshold might need a different sort of religion from one who habitually lived on the other?

So as I explore more of myself, I come to see it reflected in my perceptions of the world around me. As above, so below. As a seed, if my power grows, in whatever areas it might be — graphic design, my own ability to organize my life, womanizing, pushing tough love on my friends, encouraging in others, working on bettering my relationship with my mother — every experience I conquer is a demon quelled. I can now apply the abstractions of those experiences to further launch the new knowledge I acquire from around me, and thus grow in power.

In this, there is a system by which one can accrue enough experience to build up their personal character. Like a game, abstractions can be mastered which allow not lead to the growth necessary to tackle new challanges… the prior experiences garnered actually allow you to take notice and see the new worlds awaiting your attention. Like levels in this game, the higher realms are not readily available to the limited perceptions of players not willing to level-up.

And from up here, I see a lot of NPCs that believe otherwise.


channel null said...

Too tired and been drinking and glaring at unspecified members of the literati prove to be, despite their "power" over words, children.; and wondering how the police and fire department shutting down a party in an abandoned neighborhood helps anyone within a few minutes of getting there. so this is not a proper response, but this is an important topic that needs more elucidation and I'd hope to later when I have better resources.

0. This feels very "choronzonic" at first apprehension. that's not to say it's evil, but it seems like the path might be easy to fall from and fall hard.
1. don't confuse "power" with power-madness, power-madness is a real phenomenon, just not encountered all that often to be easily-recognized. Consider how damn near everyone has a book about how, e.g., body language will let you master the world, tone of voice will, personality typing will, to the exclusion of anything else. I have sometimes wondered whether it might be possible to collate all these things into one, although that work would take generations. My cheif hatred for these things is the way they're presented, its always in a very patronizing way that seems indictive of a strong perceptual screen, to me, in a way closing oneself out too much... I am more pro-power than this appears.
2. the difficulty of others: victims, oppresors, saviours, morons, & the too-clueless-to-be-affected. particularly, "removing the capacity for others to be able to grasp the labels and concepts surrounding you" requires certain discrete steps from the become-Outsider b/c only certain actions will be read properly w/ others. Again, decoding others isn't hard, but learning to implement the code could take a long time and much intention.
3. consider alternatives like "force" or "mastery" "effectuality," as this will make multifaceted the largely issue.
4. exoteric universe. there is no karma. is it evil or is it just getting what you want? render unto the flesh what is flesh: this leads to so much alone-in-the-throneroom situations it can be hard to deal with, it's very capricornic/winter-signed, if you will. It's hard to tell whether this outcome is a bardo-realm or not.
5. game vs. non-game (story v. no-story--one is a necessary psychological mechanism, the other is closer to reality) existence. Both are necessary: too much game leads to power-madness and sheer cruelty, constantly residing in "top-space." Also consider, E.g., difference between love-in-action and one partner playing a victim-game to start an argument to assert will. This gets complicated by the "slave morality" that's become oppresion in its own right. If you approach every single human interaction as a 'seduction", you'll likely end up very, very alone as you're figured out. E.g., honest conversation (usually shop-talk or deep philosophical arguements) vs. subtle manipulations. E.g., The "fuck and chuck" approach eventually gets you run out of town, alone. Also e.g., I work with a guy who treats most every conversation with women as some sort of jockeying to the extent that he glares at me, e.g., when I walk past someone's desk and say "have a good evening" to both him and some female conversant of his on my way home, etc., and he's not very likable on account of this. That's "too much game", in my opinon. Too much non-game leaves you a mind-blown wreck burning patchouli.

channel null said...

What happened to my follow-up comment? Did the cyberweb ban me?

Fell said...

Chanell Null's follow-up post that he sent via e-mail instead:

I tried posting this to your website regarding "power", but apparently I've been de-commented by firefox/ blogspot/ wordpress (i got de-commented trying to post a basic NLP tech on someone else' blog, then tried to repost and got a double-post notice) I'm wondering if there's a character limit for these things and meant for it to be go up in public forum and in any case I hope to work on it more.

0. With all things, there's the element of time. While we can alter time subjectively, many skills take time to master--while using effective modelling, multiplicitious use of time, subjective manipulation to increase objective effeciency, there's still that objective clock to overcome. E.g., you may drop 800 microgram of acid and spend the next two days living out a few millenia subjectively--and in that time you may be able to rapidly improve your skills in, e.g., baseball pitching, but you won't make pro without repeated effort.

1. Power madness seems, in my observation, to relate to an interface between a (usually written) persona and the meat-body. Reading anyone's writing about themselves often makes them seem like a very different, far more confident, individual. Reading marketing materials only makes this more apparent.

There's a certain Nietzschean element to this, even in those not following Nietzsche particularly or intentionally, in that the idea behind marketing, magick, and other triumphs of the will is that people can be compelled to act wholly within one's will to the point that using a few techniques copped from scientology, paleopsychology, and neurolinguistic programming can utterly re-wire someone else's mind in moments. But there's a double-think to this that becomes apparent in the "hard-sell." No one likes a hard-sell except salesman. While effective on large purchases like automobiles and houses, on smaller items, hard-selling ultimately will lose customers as they gradually come to associate the the salesman, store, and product with the cognitive dissonance and bullying. If the buyer reflects at all, even in the prescence of a pleasant salesman, the buyer will eventually realize what's going on. That's fine--there's always more marks--but see how that works? Without masses to exploit, it becomes a matter of individual vs. individual.

I suspect this relates to the death drive--it involves forcing others to the point of discarding them outright, and often extols the virtues of pack-hunting murder-apes. While avoiding it outright won't cure anything, inverting the usual relationship will just put you in the opposite hellworld. Regardless, there is a point at which one realizes that many--although I'm not willing to say most--interactions are "transactional." One can try to approach it from a healthy "adult" level, but this requires two adults, not martyr-oppressor-dominator games that can pop up. I mean to explore this more fully, but my ideas on it aren't well formed.

1A. To consider a more pertinent example, consider pursuing a loving relationship as opposed to one based largely on seduction. Love is about sacrifice and understanding and when it declines into control-games--which many "loving" relationships are--it becomes a weird form of Domination/Submission with loving feelings involved to maintain the addiction, and I suspect the reason so many marriages and relationships end is because of this, that they aren't so much "love" as co-dependency. Compound this with the cruelty of youth. On the other hand, consider that seduction requires acting as conscientiously iron-fisted as possible without just outright driving someone away: it's Stockholm syndrome. Both love and victim-seduction demonstrate "mojo" but are not the be-alls of it. There's power in sacrifice and the heart-chakra, but there's also power in the first and second chakras and rank oppression, and I even believe it can be used in positive manner if used properly. Taylor Ellwood and Lupa touch on this in the use of BDSM to develop a healthier relationship, in their Viking Youth interview: maybe by intentionally seeking out shared psychodrama, we eliminate our need to do so unconsciously. Sex surrounds this for two reasons I can understand: first, it is a form of magic and, literally, a short-circuit to the gods (if you let it be), second, it is an adult behaviour.

2. I'm not sure that removing others' capacity to grasp one's self-concept actually generates power so much as a catastrophic break in their mapping. Once can use that break to be powerful, but when one isn't then those confused others are busy gossiping to fill in the blank spaces on the map. Too much regularity will cause them to fix their opinion. Too much conscious psychodrama--on one's own part, not theirs--will likely just generate more confusion, and it has to be maintained at all times, something I don't think anyone save a truely Abyss-crossed and very financially secure individual can pull off. That's not to say it's not going to work, that's just to say, you're either confusing people or you're reaffirming their maps. And consider that most mapping tends to be self-conserving: they will fit square pegs into round holes until it breaks the hole.

Look at Pere Ubu, e.g. According to the liner notes from their compilation album, "They change too fast and too much." Which is true. They've stepped into the center of the cyclone, but this in a way moves one out of the social arena. At the same time, while that might reduce one's social prowess, it seems to free up one's ability to do whatever the hell one wants.

3. Consider exploring the terms "force," "mastery" "effectivity" etc. as ways to see other assets of power besides sheer dominance. Consider, e.g., that just eating a balanced diet of whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and lean meat will give you more energy to stay awake and focused and feel better--Tony Robbins devotes a whole chapter to diet--and that this is a means to acquire power as well, and the issue seems to have many faces.

4. As I touched on a little earlier, there is a degree to which this involves rank exploitation of individuals unable to focus their intention. Ultimately there will be no punishment of final judgment besides the hellworlds ones the magus makes for himself. God does not, e.g., personally intervene to prevent the ritual abuse of children by the power elite so that they maintain their control, although I suspect that many of us would be disgusted by it, possibly even those who practice Satanism. This requries that we examine evil to understand exactly what it is--look at the life of Aliester Crowley, and some of his more extreme writing, and see that he may have accumulated massive power for himself but ultimately surrounded himself with wreck and ruin by making everyone around him wholly his subject. I doubt anyone wants to end life like him, in a boarding house for the old spending the last of the trust fund, doubting everything save perhaps the discovery that entities beyond the human exist, and meditating upon the dozens of lovers and children driven to suicide and insanity. To look at power demands we look at evil, which lies beyond the scope I take here.

5. Speaking of intention, consider how many people lack a subjective intention but have instead latched onto one of the many intentions floating around in what Grant Morrison, not the hippies, calls "the System." In a way, our society has developed a back-up plan to ensure that its wheels move smoothly, and although this plan to some extent has been steered by many forces--capitalists, lucifiereans, scientists, etc.--it provides a safety net, one of pre-packaged dreams and goals, that allow people to develop "power" without really trying, but this unexamined power appears very much a means to keep these individuals passive and vulgar, if you will. All those kids in high school, e.g., who already knew at sixteen they wanted to be doctors or lawyers without knowing anything about what doctors or lawyers did, and without ever considering what it meant to be an adult, to have responsiblities, and to exercise rights--they seem to me to exhibit this tendency in full force. Many of them will enter the "professional" world without having much subjective experience, and although they will display the trappings of power, in fact they have very little and I suspect that they can easily be manipulated. The self-declared, tradeless "professionals" of this latter day are a middle-class phenomenon. The magus--who practices the royal art to learn mastery over his self and his surroundings by exteriorizing his soul (hence the heavy amount of mysticism invovled in magick)--frequently held positions wherein he advised lords and rulers and was often the priest who wrote the holy books which set the course of our shared reality for millenia. To take up the wand is to become an atavism, leaving the well-developed city of bourgeous psyche to head into the ruins of royal control, the dark woods of primal consciousness, and the realms of spirits, entities, and transpersonal space others spend most of their psyche energy avoiding.

5. I believe I've already adequately addressed this point here, but I do mean to re-iterate that accumulation of power and control alone should not be the sole issue, and that we need to have some transpersonal and unitive experiences ("Gnosis" with a capital "g") as a goal, not as an ends in itself, but as an indication of the level of our understanding.

Fell said...

Channel Null,

Like always, you make very good points.

Firstly, I want to just cover a few of things from your replies that stuck with me:

0. I like the observation of time and subjectivity. I'm glad you point out the capability of humans to quicken the learning process in altered states, like through LSD (or salvia, psilocybin, etc), and I've definitely felt the effects of such in the past. Of course, without the afterward enforcements to maintain the changes implemented during the "trip," one soon reverts back to the familiar patterns of their person from before the work done during the altered state. Reducing this to the base concept, the personal knowledge can be accrued and incorporated into a deeper state of self during these altered states, but the experience is still necessary to "make it stick."

1. My post wasn't supposed to be about power madness. What my point was that those that succumb to power madness are corruptible, thus lacking the power over themselves and, in fact, are lacking in power. Or, as you later state, perhaps they are lacking a true mastery of power because it is not truly a spiritual characteristic or disposition they've developed in him- or herself. As the past has shown, those with power or master over themselves generally tend to be peculiar to the West: something I can relate to the likes of Gandhi or the stereotypical samurai as portrayed to the West in something like The Last Samurai. Power has to be both introspective, as well as externalised. In such, one may also remove themselves from the before-and-after of cause and effect, choosing which particular, personal path to walk of their own volition.

1A. We'll have to agree to diverge on this concept as I do not fully understand love. As in any relationship, there is an accepted role. And in close relations, like I have with my closest friends, we just accept the other person as is. There is no hurt feelings, no getting mad, because any such act would be a reflection of myself being angered at only myself. I know the faults and/or weaknesses of my loved ones, as they do me. If it drives me to anger, it is triggering something in myself — cause and effect — which I have no mastery (power) over. I am weak, thus I become angry.

To be enslaved, enamoured, earnest, to swoon, et cetera… to me, I see myself falling into a hole which I must enjoy for what it is. I then proceed to acknowledge what it is I am personally missing which causes me to, say, swoon over a girl.

Why be enamoured? If I had mastery over myself, I could not be enamoured. Except by the Godhead. And in time, as it is the way of the magician rather than the mystic, I will come to inhabit the God, too. Just as the Buddhist comes to slay the Buddha and take its place.

2. It's not about removing others' capacities to grasp these concepts. It's a power to not have others' concepts grasp you. You have firmly established a personal wisdom of what your universe is composed of and how it works — albeit open for metamorphoses and further wisdoms (like killing the Buddha once you find him). If you know such and such, and someone else informs you otherwise, you won't waver. This is a focus of the will, of the intent of the self, a syncretism of strength and power both of the self and of one's world.

3. Perhaps I'll play with the terms, but this whole personal occult etymology of the word started with me pondering the word and meaning of "power," so that's why I continue to use it.

4. I don't need to take a look at Evil. My understanding is my own, so much so that I don't actually believe Evil exists. I believe the weak exist, and they allow what they call "evil" to manifest. But this is more of a misinterpretation of symbols and events leading to the Underworld or the Dark Night of the Soul, change and metamorphoses. People fear change, cling to the ornamentations that make up their lives, and call that which would challenge the existing hemogeny Evil. Like you said, they continue to stuff round pegs into square holes, until they break. Breaking hurts if you resist it. And hurting = evil.

5. Thus, occult power is a power over oneself. One where you realise your own place and affluence within the "System." I know what I am capable of within my community, first through the knowledge I bestow upon myself. Then through the slow and calculating application of such knowledge, which becomes experiences, which lead to personal wisdoms.

These wisdoms establish my power over my world. I don't give a fuck about anyone else's, I do not suffer from power madness as the ultimate goal is the Great Work. It is not rooted in the manifest alone. The manifest is simply a mirror by which I can gauge my own efforts and affects.

I am aware there are methods to completely withdraw from Malkuth and pull a Zen escape act, but it's not currently in my cards. I use them as refernces and inspiration, as true symbols to inspire me, but the way of the magician, according to Julius Evola and Donald Tyson, is to find one's own God and slay it. And since we're all Divine Sparks…

Fell said...

A couple quotes I find relative:

You never change the existing reality by fighting it. Instead, create a new model that makes the old one obsolete.
—R. Buckminster Fuller

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can somehow become great.
—Mark Twain

Humans can only confirm that they are humans by reconstructing themselves into something else.
—Mamoru Oshii