Going against the grain


Golden wheat growing in a farm field, closeup on ears

There are places in the North that have a strong antinomian spirit. The place I find myself in has a history of personal independence and laissez faire. A portion of the population that migrated here did so to avoid the government. Some were tired of so many laws in the south, others came here to hide from those laws. Don’t ask too many questions and leave people alone is still the way to deal with people in the smaller communities.

Under these conditions, relationships develop that are careful, and when trust is given those relationships go much deeper and require more responsibility. Living in a location / place with people who are less likely to put up with any bs has led me to consider antinomian ways in more depth.

I have two working definitions for antinomianism.

1 – Anti – against, and nome – law

2 – Self directed moral law

Number one will lead to the second. The first is the workhorse, the one I use most to break the grip of whatever might be holding me back. The second one cannot be achieved in a healthy way until I know myself to a point where my thinking and acts are my own and not the conditioning of society.

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Misreadings, Unintended Change and Chaos leading to Order.

A while ago I was leafing through a book I meant to begin reading: Getting Things Done, by David Allen. Ironically enough I didn’t get around to reading it yet, so I don’t know what it is like, but when I got it I leafed through it a bit and I saw a sentence stating “If it can be done in less than two minutes, do it now.” Great, I thought. I’ll try that. Then I put it away to finish the books I was currently reading.

I didn’t take the ‘two minutes’ very literally, but started to do small tasks when I saw them, like wash and rinse a left behind pot, put things in the dishwasher, wipe the table, put away that jacket, stuff things in washing machine and put it on while in the bathroom anyway, sweep up stuff from floor.. all the things you see but mean to do something about ‘later’, or when you are already intent on doing housework. This last is important. (I don’t have functional ‘somebody else’ to blame. The dogs will only remove stuff from the floor if it is vaguely edible, to their credit they are very efficient about that part.)

When I come home from work, I usually spend a little while cleaning up or tidying first thing. (Which means I intend to do housework.) A couple of weeks after I began the ‘do everything taking less than two minutes’-experiment, I found myself wandering around a bit aimlessly and wondering what I should do. There was absolutely nothing to tidy up. All the small stuff had added up so much that five minutes of mopping up dog hair was all there was left. The weirdest thing is that I had no impression of doing a lot of extra housework, because I’d do all the ‘two minute’-type tasks while I thought I was doing other stuff.

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The Present

Many contemporary Buddhists teach that the present moment is the only one there is. A wealth of quotes on it are attributed to Buddha, such as, “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

As mindfulness meditation – a pared-back, laboratory testable, non-spiritual well-being technology gleaned from Buddhist spiritual practices – has gained increasing, and well deserved, momentum, the importance of staying in the present moment has become a platitude.

I wrote about the Past in a previous post. But what is the present, and how do we come to inhabit it?
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Habitually Failing Habits

As a follow-up to my post about how to use habits for change, I wanted to write about how to handle the setbacks which usually happen when we work on creating said habits. This too is an important part of learning to change and could be the biggest reason for quitting before we even get started.

The big goals can be easy to see and dream about, but the daily boring grind is often what makes the big goals possible. The change has to be permanent if the end goal is to be permanent, and it makes it even more important to learn to live with the new habits.

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The Past

Because the historical past, unlike the natural past, is a living past, kept alive by the act of historical thinking itself, the historical change from one way of thinking to another is not the death of the first, but its survival integrated in a new context involving the development and criticism of its own ideas.
– R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of History (1927)

We feel a strange attraction to attaching narratives of death and rebirth to our lives. That man is dead. I’m a new person now. In a desire for closure, we seek to make a clean cut with the past when we feel we’re ready to move on.

But the past haunts the present. This is as true for groups of humans (societies, civilizations, nations) as it is for individuals. This is reflected in an insightful passage in Robin G. Collingwood’s posthumously published The Idea of History, written in 1927 and ahead of its time. Because our past is not merely physical, say, the way the past of dinosaurs is, but involves the transmission of our ideas between our conscious minds from one generation to another, it doesn’t go the way of the dinosaurs. It persists. This persistence is evident in the way we can understand the ideas of the past. Pythagorean mathematics, for example, is a thing of the distant past, yet it’s not hard at all for us to learn it and understand it. And despite its marked differences from contemporary mathematics, contemporary mathematics evolved from the Pythagorean; in a sense, Pythagorean mathematics never died but rather, refined and evolved into the mathematical understanding we (well, not me...) have today.

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Habitual Resolution Failing

Since this is the traditional season for failing New Year’s Eve resolutions, I thought I’d write a few words about this. It should be very simple in theory: Don’t do the thing that harms us or gives unwanted results. Or: do the thing that gives us what we want.

Beginning anything at all is easy, keeping at it is the difficult part. No matter whether it is something entirely new or something you have done earlier. That you once were a nonsmoker doesn’t help you stop smoking.

Aiming too high at first can be a problem, but if you don’t it is easy to be disheartened by how low the realistic goal seems. The reason the goals we set often have to be low is that making the change itself is often the most difficult thing at all.

To motivate ourselves to change, we often focus a lot on the end results and the rewards of this, and then make plans about how to reach it. How to follow these plans, we focus on a bit less. And we focus even less on why we might fail to follow through on them. We do the carrot/stick thing to ourselves by thinking in the terms of the failure and success of the end result we want, and while this has effect, we forget the invisible structures that are really what we are aiming to change: Our habits. Continue reading

Xeper = Expansion of consciousness?

In the Temple of Set, we’re guided by the Word of the Aeon of Set: Xeper. Setian Initiation is the pursuit and exploration of Xeper. The hard and rewarding thing about an Aeonic Word is that it is something for which we previously had no words. It can’t easily be unpacked into ordinary language. Nevertheless, we must resort to ordinary language in teaching what the Word means.

So when a smart I° Setian asked me whether the aim of Setian Initiation is the expansion of consciousness, I realized we’re facing the problem of communicating what exactly Xeper means. This post is inspired by our discussion, but also incorporates my other thoughts on the expansion of consciousness, and on the similarities and differences between Setian Work and the psychedelia subculture. Continue reading