• On being a mad cultist

    by  • August 31, 2011 • Everything Else • 9 Comments

    My Templars of Earth statement seems to have ruffled quite a lot of feathers. These feathers seem to be in three general categories.

    • People who don’t like the militarism.
    • People who think its a secret society
    • People who don’t get the esotericism

    It’s Templar because it deals with life-and-death struggles, albeit not armed ones, and in such terrain you have two choices: doctors and soldiers. Most other professional cultures don’t touch life and death directly. Doctors witness it. Soldiers live in it. Therefore the soldier metaphor is closer to the consciousness of those engaged in the struggles of the world in which they live than the doctor metaphor.

    It’s not a secret society, and even if it was, so what? But I’ll get to that in a minute. Public group, open to all at least for the moment. Nothing up my sleeves.

    Finally, the esotericism. There’s only a couple of ways to put this, so I’m going to use all of them.

    • People openly believe, in large numbers, that a 2000-year-dead dead rabbi is going to return to life to judge the human race, and that’s normal.
    • Most of the people I know who are able to handle the load of being single individual self-started agents of global change meditate. Most of them meditated for years before becoming socially engaged. Some are probably enlightened, whether they know or care varies.
    • I learned damn near everything I know about life from ancient wisdom traditions, some western, some eastern, some public, some secretive, and some simply beyond comprehension. And the dominant culture has tried to kill those sacred threads from time to time for a thousand years or more. Inquisitions, crusades, jihads. Burn the witches, behead the sufis, you know the drill.

    It is not coincidence that so many of the people out here making real change in the world did some kind of heavy inner work first. It’s where we get the fortitude to stand up to the slow sliding of the world off the cliff in a consumerist waking nightmare.

    However, as I’ve noted elsewhere, I don’t teach. My own lineage did not complete the training required for me to teach, and I’m unsuited to it by character. People looking for an actual teacher of this stuff should talk to Alan Chapman who’s excellently positioned to teach, and has been through broadly similar territory to me, in that he’s done both the sitting-on-your-ass thing, and the esoteric tradition thing. Can’t promise you he’ll be the right guy for you, but I trust him enough to tell people to talk to Alan first if they’re serious about Learning This Stuff.

    These are the books that I’d recommend, if you’re a reader.

    That, right there, is the psychological foundation and the modern retellings of the myths and stories of the Heros. I’d note that it’s very, very worthwhile reading The Invisibles and Promethea in the same year; either one alone doesn’t quite capture some essence of the thing. Alan Moore has the God’s Eye View and Grant Morrison was right in the thick of it. They are good compliments.

    In terms of practice manuals, I’m hesitant to recommend, but must.

    What’s missing here is any decent guide to unmodified Western-style bell, book and candle ritual. That’s because, right now, I can’t think of one that I can recommend. That should be interpreted as a warning. Everything that comes off the Golden Dawn line, even orthodox Thelema, seems to be tainted. You also have to watch out for the more totalitarian streams of Buddhism, too. In general, “we have the Only Way” is a symptom of people who have only partial realization. If the truth is embodied in single teachers who are dead you’re looking at a museum, not a path. If, on the other hand, the truth is seen as continually rediscovered by each generation of practitioners then, even if they’re working from ancient discoveries, you’re probably fine. I’ve met realized masters from every path, they’re just further from the center in more dogmatic environments. The Truth will out! Oh, and watch out for drugs: you get about five years of good times, sometimes less, then they become a rut. Start meditating regularly at least a year before you plan to stop taking them, or you may find the world very rigid and static when you stop.

    There are three very simple phases to spiritual development.

    • Slowly realizing that everything is inside your head. Most “objective reality” is mere social convention.
    • Slowly realizing that other people are real. You can’t change the mind of a four year old, never mind a world.
    • Slowly realizing that you are just like them. At the seat of being, we’re all just alike!

    At the end of it, you might know how the world works, you might have seen fundamental truth, you might know yourself to be a reincarnate buddha, a wizard, a god, a dragon or just some guy with a taste for beer and curry. But if you got it right, you’ll also know that you were always that mythic self, even as a child, and everybody is also profoundly great and magnificent at that same level of spiritual truth.

    There are a bunch of identifiable phases, some well documented, some not – pretty much everybody goes through depth psychology, meets archetypal forces. Some go through a phase of extreme synchronicity – Jung himself did, that’s why we have a word for it. If that period coincides with magical practice, one can wind up with very strange ideas about the world indeed. Various occult capacities which normally slumber in the self can surface, but pretty soon you realize that children are doing all that stuff because nobody told them not to, and it’s just normal human capacities that our culture suppresses, just like like our sense of smell. If you’re persistent, you might hit evolutionary forces and start talking about Destiny and the Good of the Human Species, or even All Life. All of that stuff is steps on the way to being ordinary.

    I’m not doing a very good job of being ordinary because the world is a mess and I’ve been called to do something about it by virtue of being in the right place at the right time to help, and no reasonable being can turn their back on those in need.

    But if you want a settled, nice, normal life, you don’t need to touch the spiritual world. Everything which is there, is there now. Things are fine, just as they are. All that you would discover is already true and within you, whether you know it consciously or not.

    If you set your foot on the path at a time like this, you risk being shanghaied into trying to solve the world’s problems, and whatever expanded durability or capability you discover within yourself can be taxed to the full by the challenges we face as a species and as a world.

    The dominant species should not be killing the world it lives on. Something has gone wrong.

    The dividing line is that, regardless of what anybody tells you, that is a temporal problem. It might have mythic or shamanic overtones, but real spirituality is about the discovery of the nature of being, not about worrying too much about the insanity of a particular culture, place and time.

    So, 1400 words into a post I did not have the time to write, let me make the point.

    1. We have a dreadful problem which has clear mythopoetic overtones.
    2. That problem has nothing at all to do with the fundamental spiritual nature of being.

    It is very, very hard as an early-stage practitioner, or as an adult who’s had glimpses, which is most of us, to distinguish between “we seem to be killing the world” and “god or man is inherently evil.” But it’s a distinction you must hold true to, or you’re going to get fifteen feet up the path and wind up as cannon fodder.

    You have the right to come to spiritual understanding without picking up the burdens of the world.

    You have the right to pick up the burdens of the world without without mandatory additional spiritual learning or indoctrination.

    Nobody should be applying any metaphysical technique to try and fix the problems of the world without clear technical guidance from an enlightened (or equivalent) master, or (much better) being enlightened themselves.

    Even in the midst of the darkness, what is fundamentally true and real remains so, regardless of all temporal circumstances.

    This division is an Indian cultural framework, and has ties to things like renunciation and, yes, caste. But I’m stating it as “these are the rules as I understand them.” Other people may have other opinions, but these are mine, and I can explain them in Hindu theological terms if people prefer.

    You can think of these things as human rights. The temptation to mass produce half initiates as cannon fodder in the attempt to square what’s wrong with the world is very real, and any cult with a social change agenda, right down to the Hare Krishnas, does it. But to saddle people with the problems of the world in the process of their spiritual education is wrong, as wrong as government abuse of detainees, a draft, or any other State abuse of humans in their effort to meet the State’s goals. Likewise spiritual indoctrination of those who just want to help, and wind up being pushed into new belief systems by peer pressure in the process.

    I’m writing this today to clear my own position, so that everybody understands where I’m at on Templars of Earth, and also why I do not teach. I’m vastly too encumbered to do it right, and the temptation to hand students slabs of trouble and say “here, you deal with this one” would be extremely strong, particularly in my more overloaded periods.

    If, on the other hand, you’re already in the territory, and encumbered by the problems of the world, feel free to contact me. I don’t teach, that’s not the same thing as saying that I won’t help.

    I’m extremely reluctant to talk metaphysics right now. I’m trying to keep it to the bare minimum which is consistent with honesty. I hope you’ll respect that.


    flattr this!


    Vinay Gupta is a consultant on disaster relief and risk management.


    9 Responses to On being a mad cultist

    1. Daimonos
      August 31, 2011 at 3:01 pm

      Re: bell, book and candle: Book 4 part 2 is probably as sane an intro as you’re going to find. Gems from the Equinox, particularly in conjunction with Condensed Chaos, is also worthwhile.

    2. August 31, 2011 at 3:32 pm

      I’m still heavily unconvinced that QBL outside of a Jewish spiritual context works for people in the manner its supposed to…

    3. Nick
      August 31, 2011 at 4:13 pm

      Vinay, Thank you for writing a bit about the esoteric and some of your views and experiences with it. I have been heavily influenced by many esoteric texts and technologies, but still struggle quite a bit to explain or communicate what I’ve experienced and how it has influenced me. I find it helpful to hear about your experiences and the views you’ve arrived at.

      I’m a bit of the half baked cannon fodder initiate you speak of too. I really wonder what my psychology would look like had I absorbed “you have the right to come to spiritual understanding without picking up the burdens of the world.”

      I do not know exactly what it is that propels me to keep on playing this often dangerous seeking game. It feels though like a wormhole I’ve entered that I can not go back out of. I suppose it is me simply seeking ultimate fulfillment, the allure of complete conscious freedom.

      At any rate I think your decision to not lead people down your spiritual path, without being able to give them 100% of your support is wise and kind.

      I still do not know how I feel about teaching a spiritual path without the assumption of some of the problems of the world. In some ways it just seems to be a natural response as one becomes more awakened. We see acutely and vividly our interconnectedness as people and we do what we can to help. The process though certainly need not be laid with any guilt or obligation.

    4. August 31, 2011 at 4:23 pm

      I feel like we need to think of this stuff as we would harsh use of citizens by a government.

      Is it OK to sacrifice a city to save the world? Yes, without a doubt, in that position most of us would do it.

      Yet the reason the world is in this mess is because governments took that kind of thinking to an extreme when they invented the nuclear bomb, and chemical, bio etc. all spring from that kind of “ends justify the means” thinking.

      So at some point we have to take a position and say “no, individual human rights are the path _out_ of this mess, and we must stop breaking on people as a way to people getting broken.”

      Now I’m, fortunately, not in a position of spiritual authority over anybody. I occasionally teach meditation to a basic level, I’ve had about two people in ten years ask me to teach somewhat deeper stuff, and I’ve made exceptions to my “no teaching” rule having been convinced that they had and maintained a realistic model of my limitations. And both of those were substantially invested multi-year conversations.

      So it’s easy for me to say “do not combine spiritual and temporal matters in the tuition phases” because I’m not in a position where I have that temptation.

      For other people, in the position of having both sets of resources to hand, the temptation to use spiritual students in the same way professors use graduate students must, indeed, be strong.

      But I can’t square it with the basic boundaries, I can’t make it work. Sadhana (spiritual service) cannot be tied to practical political issues this way and remain spiritual service, rather than simple dogsbody labor.

      I need to think about this more carefully, do a bit of reading on the precise definitions of sadhana (I think service _to guru_ or _to god_ may be core parts of it, vs. “having spiritual intent”) so I may be misusing the term slightly. Anyway, you get the idea.

      Can’t be drafting people, and can’t be having people sign contracts they don’t understand. Gotta watch that Boddhisattva vow, Nick, those things are dangerous. :-)

    5. Nick
      August 31, 2011 at 4:57 pm

      “individual human rights are the path out” I couldn’t agree more with that statement.

      I guess its just personal belief that greater knowledge comes greater responsibility. I do hear you on the Bodhisattva vow though. I think initially it was meant to keep people disengaged from worldy affairs to focus on meditation until they were enlightened. Lately it has instead served the opposite role and propelled people into worldy action.

    6. August 31, 2011 at 9:59 pm

      Compare the Temple ov Psychick Youth “die with your boots on” approach – you’re in a fucked world, you’re slaves, and if you get a slight edge from these practices to fight for your freedom, all to the good.

      It’s not wrong, it’s two competing virtues – and that’s the essence of ethics and morality.

      What do you do when there are two (or more) right options, that contradict each-other?

    7. zac
      September 1, 2011 at 5:18 pm

      it’s the old tug of war between freedom and justice, or positive and negative liberty, if you like.

      in the enlightenment game, the usual talk is about ‘free from’- conditioning, ignorance, delusion, etc. but there is also the ‘free for’ – what is the spiritual purpose for which you have attained your freedom? what is it that freedom frees you to do, and why did you engage it to begin with? there is a kind of weird feedback loop as the lower personality motives and ideals of awakening get altered by the actual process until your ‘will’ becomes a manifestation of the will to awakening of reality itself, or the buddha-nature, if you like. while reality is itself unconditional, and requires no action, engaging with the dualistic appearance of the universe to unbind it, is a kind of anti-karma that looks like karma to those still embedded in karma.

    8. September 2, 2011 at 10:06 am

      I set aside a while to respond to your earlier big ‘blog’ (not sure if that was the Templars of the Earth since you seem to have been writing a lot lately.)

      I’ve just written down a quote from Hannah Arendt on Kafka (from a book I’m reviewing: Jewish Memory and the Cosmopolitan Order):

      What he sought was to be a human being, a normal member of human society. It was not his fault that this society had ceased to be human, and that, trapped within its meshes, those of its members who were really men of goodwill were forced to function within it as something exceptional and abnormal, saints or madmen.

    9. Warren Draper
      September 5, 2011 at 9:50 am

      To counter the “we have the Only Way” syndrome it might be prudent to add Robert Anton Wilson’s ‘Quantum Psychology’ to the study list.

      Not only does it introduce group practice (essential) to aid in the percolation of the slow-to-sink-in knowledge contained within ‘Prometheus Rising’, but Wilson also (re)stresses the importance of relativity with regard to ALL psycho-neuro-spiritual investigation.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *