Monday, August 23, 2010

Even More Not All Fun and Games: Danger, Death and Assassination

My earlier post on Gods and their demands has inspired a lot of intelligent commentary and a fair bit of controversy - just what one wants in a blog post. I wanted to follow up on some of the issues raised and see if we can keep this discussion going a big longer.

Jack Faust made this point about my interview with Galina Krasskova: while I can't speak for Galina, I can provide my thoughts:
You've discussed taboos, Godslavery, and ordeals. I'm re-reading these entries now as I watch this...

... I've yet to see you discuss a majorly positive influence that's come out of your godslavery, or your ordeals. You've discussed it all technically, and discussed why people object to it, and I've felt plenty of "modernist" disgust in your words. So, if it's made you better and stronger... why isn't this the last thing you cover every single time you discuss one of the things that will trigger people?
There are many websites which will promise you prosperity, good health, love and all-around bliss if only you buy their spells or sign on to their metaphysical agenda. (The latter is often far more expensive than the former!)  There is far less emphasis on the costs and hazards of spirituality and mysticism. Enlightenment often comes at a very steep price: if you let the Gods into your life, they may well renovate it to suit Their designs. And I think it is important to let aspiring mages and mystics know that up front. If we seem at times to accentuate the negative, it's only because we want to provide a counterweight.

I have known many serious and competent magicians and mystics. Most have felt the knowledge and skills they attained through training were worth all the effort. Those who have actually attained the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel or set foot in Nirvana find that the experience is an ample reward for all their hard work and sacrifice.  But there has always been a price for this knowledge, frequently a heavy one. Tiresias becomes a great diviner and prophet after being blinded: Agave gains ecstatic knowledge of Dionysus - and then rips her son Pentheus to shreds: Aleister Crowley spent his inheritance and died in a shabby boarding house.  Let us not cheapen their, and our, victory by minimizing its costs.

Frater R.O., meanwhile, said:
Hermetic doctrine teaches that we're supposed to get in harmony with our fates and work with the gods to create the world, to manifest the things that begin in the Mind of God (Nous) as Ideas within our spheres of influence.

If the Idea is our death, the Gods are to administer that "fate" and make it happen, and our personal opinions on the matter don't... matter.

But the magician accomplishing the Great Work would be in harmony with the Idea naturally, and would agree with their death, in theory.

They would also see it from the perspective of eternity, a perspective we can share with our god brothers and god sisters. It wouldn't seem like a capricious act by an arrogant slave owner treating us like useless property to be broken and thrown away at whim.
Many people have willingly gone to their deaths for a Cause. The urge to be swallowed up in Something Greater is hard-wired into us: we're descended from a long line of pack animals.  And contemplation of Eternity helps us to avoid thoughts of our own mortality, not to mention that instinct which says "Wait a minute. I could get KILLED doing that..." By passing down our blood or aiding our herd, we hope to cheat the reaper and continue on after the demise of our flesh. This has given the desperate and dying much comfort in their final hours: it has also been used by clever leaders to inspire mighty armies.  

A magician who has accomplished the Great Work, like a magician who has not, will one day confront the mystery of bodily Death.  Both will need to find some sort of meaning to their impending end, and both will learn that which we do not and cannot know.  Presumably both will also seek to give their lives, and the way in which they end their lives, as much meaning as possible. But whether they go gentle or raging into that good night, the dusk will fall on them nonetheless.

And Arxacies noted: 

I think that's the rub. You are assuming that what the Gods are asking you to do is "right". In light of the lore that we have I think that assumption is very much open to question.
What if someone is a devotee of Ares and he wants his devotee to kill a group of anti-war protesters? It could very well really be Ares that is asking for that(he has done far worse, as have almost all of the Gods we know of), but is it right? From what you have said in past posts it could be argued that he is a God and can force the devotee to comply. Would his might make the devotee killing the protesters right?
This brings us to an interesting point. Søren Kierkegaard wrote an excellent book on the ramifications of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac and the "Bog People" found throughout northern Europe suggest a long history of Gods demanding human sacrifice.  And there are plenty of historical and legendary examples of individual and even collective murder for violations of the social and religious order. So what do we do if our Gods decide that some idiot, or some group of idiots, needs to die - and we need to be the agent of their divine will?

While "Thou Shalt Not Kill" is frequently presented as an absolute, in practice it has a footnote saying "This does not apply in the case of military personnel or law enforcement operating in the line of duty.  Nor does it apply in case of executions performed according to laws of the subject jurisdiction.  There is varying case law on questions of abortion and euthanasia: consult your spiritual professional before proceeding further."  And though assassinations and terrorist attacks are distasteful, they can certainly be effective - and may arguably save lives in the long run. (Remember the old saw about "what if you could go back in time and kill Adolf Hitler as a baby?") 

We are in deep waters here. I do not wish to advocate violence. Nor do I minimize the danger of misinterpreting or misrepresenting the will of the Gods.  But still I can't help but wonder: if our Gods might ask us to die for a worthy cause, might they not also ask us to kill for one?