Friday, July 30, 2010

Ethics: Practice

As individuals most Occultists eventually have an experience by which they realize that they are manifestations of the One-Force which we in the West refer to by the unfortunate title "God." Whether or not this has occurred it is very common for magicians to have very highly developed egos which can border on elitist and isolationist. This reaction to the work misses the point of the revelation that "thou art God" by assuming that this somehow applies to us exclusively, even to the exclusion of our fellow workers along the path.

What we should realize is that if we are a manifestation of the Life-Power then so is everyone and everything else. After nearly twenty years as an initiate I have long held the belief that this understanding (intellectual or experiential) should place upon us a great responsibility. We KNOW that we are Divine beings and that others have forgotten, yet are also Divine. As such we are the Priests and Priestesses of the Universe and it is our duty to be the example of ethical behaviour. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard than the rest of humanity and strive to be the tips of the Hermanubis' ears and not the tips of his toes as he rises upon the Wheel in Key 10.

Now I don't mean that we rigidly follow a specific religion, though we might as individuals. Rather we, as knowing manifestations of the Life-Power need to become the best people we can be and try to help others do the same. We have been given a great gift in our opportunity and ability to study the Great Arcana, but it is not free, for in doing so we are given the responsibility to manifest it in the world, and to fail in that is a very bad Karma indeed.

Most people are so bogged down in their day to day lives, their own dramas, stresses and concerns that they stop seeing other people. The dog-eat-dog world has muddled their brains and they don't have the time nor opportunity to find their way out. They don't even notice other people exist let alone acknowledge them as part of themselves or as part of the One-Force. It is interesting to see how people, when reminded of ethical behaviour, will change their own actions to meet the higher ideal. It is human nature to want to be better people. Circumstances make them forget, society and certain religions have created so much fear and shame that they can't act first anymore, if at all.

An example is the crowded bus, an experiment I've undertaken myself a few times. When sitting on a crowded bus and you see someone standing who really should be sitting down (due to age or infirmary or encumbrance) give up your seat to them and then pay careful attention to those around you. My experience has been that people notice that you have extended a kindness to someone and they will emulate the behaviour. They know that this is the right and compassionate thing to do, but nobody has reminded them, nobody has alerted them that now is a good time to act. Nobody has acted first and given them permission to be good people.

As a magician, as a member of a universal Priesthood, it is incumbent upon you to actually BE your brother's keeper. It is up to you to extend kindness and compassion wherever and whenever you can. It is also important to know when such is beyond your abilities or beyond your rights over another personality. Lending a hand with setup/cleanup at an event is excellent and it may encourage others to do the same. But trying to curb the negative or destructive behaviour of others is only going to cause a backlash on some level. You can express your disapproval, but it is ultimately up to them to make the change. Remember that many of our schools do not even allow us to perform healing work without the consent and request of the individual in question. We can suggest, we can live the example, but we cannot coerce, we cannot crusade.

What I'm saying is that we're more like guides than pontiffs. We're not the Bible Thumping Ministers of the Universe, we're It's Priesthood, It's hands and tongue. It is up to us to point the way towards the mountaintop, not to drag the villagers kicking and screaming along the path. It also means that we have to do a lot of work on our own evolution, our own development, and act accordingly.

Some people seem to think this means a lot of social activism. This is acceptable if you honestly take the time to see both perspectives before joining in on a protest. We do not blindly follow the pack, we really are better than that. If people we know are protesting a seal hunt, then we do research and examine WHY the hunt is allowed, who would be affected by changing it and how would it impact their lives. We live in a world of balance, if we change one thing, something else suffers. If we stop a seal hunt the hunters go hungry, the seals overpopulate and wipe out the fish stocks leaving the people who rely on fish hungry as well. That's a lot of human suffering and that's the opposite of our purpose in this world. In this case the higher standard means making informed decisions, educating ourselves and extending our compassion where we feel it is needed.

This is the lesson given to new initiates in the Golden Dawn ceremonies published by Israel Regardie. Excessive Geburah is not strength but cruelty, excessive Chesed is not mercy but weakness which would allow evil to go unchecked. This is also true of the intellectual Hod and the emotional Netzach. There must be balance in all things, we strive to be the Adepti, the Enlightened and Awakened, not a sheep following the latest trends. We must learn to discriminate, to know when one action is required over another. We need to know when we need to be compassionate and when we need to be severe. We need to know when to share feelings and when to share thoughts, when to guide and when we are an imposition.

The Fama Fraternitatis tells us to wear the habit of the country in which we dwell. We're not an oddity, nor an invader, just one who points the way with a gentle hand and shows the way through their own behaviour. We choose our battles intelligently and give compassion where it is needed. We should be the example of spiritual refinement and personal development and not an Ivory Tower denizen who rains down scorn upon all of those with sincere hearts.

Yet I know of nobody who is perfect. We strive to be the ideal, and that's the important part. We may be disgusted by other people's behaviour (my big trigger is substance abuse and intentional ignorance) but then we need to see how we can be an example in those situations (like abstaining from recreational drugs and being the one who can respond when an emergency occurs, or trying to engage people in a literary or educational activity). It is important, though, not to let them rely on you as the "good guy." (For example, abusing substances to a greater extent because if something happens to the kids, someone gets hurt, etc... you're always there to take responsibility.)

I never said anywhere in this article that living as an ethical example was easy. We are not given the powers and perceptions we have for it to be easy. We are chosen to serve, and that carries responsibility. We cannot rend the veil lightly just as no medieval knight took his vows and swore his fealty without serious consideration of his duty to his Lord. We have taken it upon ourselves to become the Ministers of the Universe, to join the Priesthood of Light, and that makes us the Elder Siblings of humanity. It places us as representatives of the One Light amongst the personality manifestations of this world. We should accept this duty with pride, serve with joy and show others the Way by our own example.