Switching Prisons

Not too long ago a good friend sent me this article: http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usnj&c=words&id=15275 The author is a Wiccan philosopher. I wanted to respond to it for my friend, and even for myself, as it helps to articulate a position you disagree with. The following is somewhat of a rough sketch, and I’m sure I didn’t get to everything in it. It’s not a response to Wicca per se, but to the philosophical underpinnings highlighted throughout.Here it is:

Alright so here are some of my initial thoughts. The author is clearly using a particular jargon, at times using terms only someone familiar with her belief would recognize and understand. In that sense it was difficult for me at certain points to make out exactly what she was trying to say. I don’t quite know what she means by “magick,” (though she employs Crowley’s definition later on), “Mystical belief,” “spellcraft,” etc. but with some imagination I can get a vague idea of what she’s referring to. At that point some definition of terms would have been helpful, but again, I suspect she’s writing for a familiar audience so I wouldn’t doubt she may have defined those terms elsewhere, and where she uses these terms are only minor points anyhow. She’s a generally clear writer otherwise, and she makes a few good points, though the solution she offers is ultimately inadequate, I’d argue, and in fact destroys all possible knowledge if what she says is true.

She is correct to point out that the terms we use to describe something “limit” and “contain” that thing, in a sense. But ideas without shape are nothing more than unintelligible, unrestrained mush. It’s Limited Order vs. Unlimited Chaos. She implies that there is a reality that exists apart from the mind, meaning reality is what it is, and we’re simply making sense of it in our own minds. She goes a little farther in saying that, since we can come up with different ways to imagine reality (bending our mind around reality), we can therefore manipulate it. But this seems to contradict the idea that reality just *is* what it is. The only thing we’ve truly manipulated, in the end, is our own mind. She uses the Matrix example in saying, “You bend your mind to the reality around the spoon, not the spoon itself,” and then jumps to, “none of the rules are real and can be bent to one’s will.” So which one is being bent, in fact? It’s unclear.

She makes one factual mistake regarding Galileo. He didn’t posit that the world was round, but that the universe revolved around the Sun, rather than the earth (heliocentrism vs. geocentrism). In any case, she’s right that whatever idea prevails in a society, anything contrary is looked down upon. That’s only natural. Of course, she objects to this on the assumption that all points of view are equally valid. While on one hand she holds that all truths are equally valid, in fact what she’s doing is insisting that her own belief be taken as the standard. I don’t mean Wicca here; I mean Relativism. In effect, she’s saying, “Believe what you want, but not too strongly.” Why?

She’s proposing a sort of “neutrality” with regard to truth. As far as any alleged absolute truth is concerned, however, neutrality is impossible. For instance, she asks those with Judeo-Christian backgrounds to relegate the Judeo-Christian ideals and stories to the realm of “mythology” along with all the other “mythologies.” Intuitively, we consider “myth” to be equivalent to “false” and for good reason (if the Bible is the one true origin story, any other origin story is necessarily false). But she’s using the definition which merely means origin story, and I’m ok with that. However, in asking us to hold them all equivalent, she’s asking us to hold a bias against Judeo-Christian ideas. This is because to consider anything as possibly true along with Christianity is to believe something completely contrary to Christianity, and does not entail neutrality, but rather bias against it. So no, Christianity does not play well with other beliefs. It is impossible to hold contradictory ideas to both be true.

If Christianity is true, no other belief can be true, due to what Christianity teaches. To hold another belief to be true anyway is to say that at least one aspect of Christianity is false, and therefore entirely false.

Once again, I can’t comment on “the Craft,” but I will say that according to Christianity it is to be avoided. Witches were put to death in ancient Israel. This should reflect my feelings on the subject itself rather nicely, to a point.

The list she proceeds to give shows precisely what is wrong with her belief, and why ultimately it cannot succeed. According to her standard, in analyzing why I believe what I believe, I can only come up “why” or else “what gave rise to my belief.” I cannot come to any conclusion that the beliefs were either “true” or “false” because I have no way of knowing that on my own. “Know Thyself” results solely in knowledge of self, and nothing else. She has no way to bridge the gap between her mind and the outside world. In escaping from one mind prison, she has confined herself into another – a prison that keeps her from any truth, period.

I hope it’s clear that I’m not against educating oneself. In fact, it could be considered a Christian virtue to understand what it is one disagrees with, so that he can represent it accurately. Incidentally, I have not found this to be the case with many who disagree with Christianity. And, while giving ourselves opportunities for “new experiences” without “thinking you already know the outcome,” would it be appropriate to wonder whether the answer to 1 + 1 should ever be anything other than 2? For some reason I doubt she’d agree. There are very particular things she holds to be non-negotiable, but if her belief is true, she has no basis to.

She asks, “So how does one go about changing preconceived notions about reality and the limits of belief?” And she answers by insisting we conform to her standards, adopting her own preconceived notions, and relinquishing our own, simply because she says so. Not very convincing.


2 Comments

John S

Ok I’m no philosopher, but it seems she is saying that she will decide what reality is by opening her mind to new possibilities. If her mind is constantly open to new possibilities for reality it suggests that reality can never ultimately be apprehended. Which means she/we are constantly living with/in a false reality. So how would you know what is real and what is not since perhaps you haven’t opened your mind to that part yet? You could never build on anything as a truth because, after all, it may be a misperceived reality due to your close mindedness. Reality is like a magick rabbit you have to keep chasing to catch. But is that really the rabbit you saw? How can you be sure?
I wonder how these folks could tell anyone they were wrong. Look, a giant invisible pink hamburger patty is sitting on my roof now. I’m going to go up there and feast on it and my soul will be at peace. Listen ma’am I’ve just opened my mind to a different nook than you have, you need to catch up instead of mocking. I’m the new Galileo!

Matthias McMahon

You’ve echoed many of my own sentiments regarding her philosophy. It’s difficult to imagine in what way this philosophy is an improvement over Christianity as she implies. And yet many people who hold this seem to want to argue against Christianity, saying it’s wrong, as if THAT’s a given. But this simply demonstrates the extent to which one must go when one denies Christianity. By denying Christianity, she has surrendered the only means by which she could possibly form a cogent argument against Christianity.

Thanks for the comment.
Matthias


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