Channel Null’s got a great post up exploring different concepts of enlightenment, and finds them both lacking. Towards the end he begins to explore the politics of enlightenment:
If any agenda comes out of transcendental practice, it feels outright fascistic. … Years sitting on a meditation mat, practicing mantra, making offerings and bargaining with all manner of strange spirit tend to give one a disposition against any manner of whining or weakness. While this may just take the form of tough love, it may also split off into fascistic wonderland.
This is a great point. There seems to be a tendency for people who are too far into their own magical or spiritual kick to begin ignoring the suffering of others and claim that the suffering of the world need to find the utopia in their minds and let go of their materialism, or whatever. “Let them eat enlightenment.”
The full story’s at Dark Science and Infernal Art, and is well worth reading. However, I’m going to go off on a tangent here.
One thing that’s really bothering me about ceremonial magical practice is the “control” mind-set of it. The goal is to take these entitities (be they psychological, or “real”) – angels, demons, and other spirits – and force them to do your bidding, generally by “binding” them in some way. That whole approach seems very flawed to me.
Equally flawed is the other end of the spectrum, worshiping and begging and sacrificing to a god form.
To draw analogies from the material plane: what motivates you to do things for people? Most of us would be happy to lend a neighbor a cup of sugar. But most of us would be happy to give a neighbor we’ve never met a cup of sugar if they asked. But we wouldn’t be happy about someone coming over and forcefully taking a cup of sugar. And we would probably be pretty weirded out if someone showed up and groveling at your feet and begging for sugar. Nor would we be happy with a neighbor who comes over all the time asking for small favors like cups of sugar, but never offeres to return the favor, and doesn’t make any effort to be social with you.
We’d find some way to deal with someone who stole from us on a regular basis (maybe through the police, maybe just getting together a group of friends, or maybe just sneaking into their place and stealing something of greater value. And as for creepy or annoying people who want favors from us, well we’d probabably start to avoid and ignore them. On a long term basis, the only people we’ll really be giving gifts to or doing favors for, are our friends. People we have relationships with.
I don’t know enough about other traditions to know if this is the case elsewhere, but that’s what really bugs me about the “western esoteric tradition.” A lack of emphasis on building relationships with the intelligences we invoke or evoke.