How We Became So Self-Obsessed

Some of us might hold that central to the concerns of Thelema are issues of the individual’s self-identity and acting in accordance to Will. A lot of the practical applications are discussed in the Prophet of the Lovely Star’s essay “Duty,” a fairly complex document where many of the inferences that can be made from its statements likely need to be adjusted in light of other statements. To call it a “nuanced view” is an understatement. It concludes:

“It is a violation of the Law of Thelema to abuse the natural qualities of any animal or object by diverting it from its proper function, as determined by consideration of its history and structure. Thus, to train children to perform mental operations, or to practice tasks, for which they are unfitted, is a crime against nature. Similarly, to build houses of rotten material, to adulterate food, to destroy forests, etc., etc., is to offend.

“The Law of Thelema is to be applied unflinchingly to decide every question of conduct. The inherent fitness of any thing for any proposed use should be the sole criterion.

“Apparent, and sometimes even real, conflict between interests will frequently arise. Such cases are to be decided by the general value of the contending parties in the scale of Nature. Thus, a tree has a right to its life; but a man being more than a tree, he may cut it down for fuel or shelter when need arises. Even so, let him remember that the Law never fails to avenge infraction: as when wanton deforestation has ruined a climate or a soil, or as when the importation of rabbits for a cheap supply of food has created a plague.

“Observe that the violation of the Law of Thelema produces cumulative ills. The drain of the agricultural population to big cities, due chiefly to persuading them to abandon their natural ideals, has not only made the country less tolerable to the peasant, but debauched the town. And the error tends to increase in geometrical progression, until a remedy has become almost inconceivable and the whole structure of society is threatened with ruin.

“The wise application based on observation and experience of the Law of Thelema is to work in conscious harmony with Evolution. Experiments in creation, involving variation from existing types, are lawful and necessary. Their value is to be judged by their fertility as bearing witness to their harmony with the course of nature towards perfection.”

Best ya read the whole jawn to appreciate all the nuances:

Meanwhile, earlier this Summer, the New York Times Book Review, ran a review of Will Storr’s Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed And What’s It’s Doing To Us. This, in turn, concludes:

“The ‘lie at the heart of the age of perfectionism,’ according to Storr, is that ‘we can be anything we want to be.’ At the end of his quest, he decides that we should stop trying to change ourselves and focus instead on worthwhile ways to change the world. Nowhere in his account of Western ideas of the self does he mention Rousseau. This is quite an omission, since Rousseau was not only the first thinker to examine self-esteem in depth but also ended up with conclusions that are similar to Storr’s.

“Rousseau distinguished two forms of self-love, amour de soi and amour-propre. The former is a natural desire for self-preservation, and is always wholesome. The latter arises from society, has to do with our relations to others, and comes in both good and bad forms. Like the California task force, Rousseau thought that amour-propre was a necessary ingredient of amity and a fulfilled life, though he was also keenly aware of the destructive vanity to which it could give rise. Vanity gives ‘value to that which is valueless,’ whereas pride, a good form of amour-propre, ‘consists in deriving self-esteem from truly estimable goods.’ In other words: If you want self-esteem, earn it.”

Read the whole thing:

My point? That popular culture already evinces something akin to Thelemic values but primarily of an immature nature, highly unbalanced and incomplete. Perhaps a function of our most Holy Order could be encouraging a maturation of the culture and the achievement of a complete and balanced knowledge and practice of Thelemic principles by all and sundry. Mebbe.


Frater Lux Ad Mundi

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