maxomai: dog (dog)
I've bookmarked The Ultimate Cheat Sheet For Reinventing Yourself, and I think you should, too. I've had to reinvent myself a couple of times, and it's a lot tougher than it looks, but I succeeded in no small part because I had no other choice.

Just for example:


  • As an undergrad in Math, I was sure that I would go on to a doctoral program and have a career teaching and researching mathematics. Then I saw just how horribly grim the employment picture was for Math PhDs and abandoned that idea. I regretted that decision for years, but in hindsight it was absolutely sound; I would have just had to reinvent myself anyway after a few years of underemployment.

  • After the 2001 dot-bomb and a subsequent period of unemployment and underemployment, I got burned out on software engineering. I then spent a few years trying to figure out what to do next. Once I figured that out, I abandoned software engineering as a career and reinvented myself as a systems administrator, which is my current occupation.

  • My wife was a metals student but got burned out on metal work; five years later, she's a world-class printmaker.



Also, any Thelemite who's serious about their path is eventually going to run into a Crisis of Will, and this commonly (but not always) manifests itself as "I know my Will is X but X looks impossible to do from here." The good news here is that X is possible. The bad news is that you're just going to have to be smart and tough about getting to X. The ugly news is that you're very likely to be ill prepared for the transition to X. Fortunately, this guide covers all that.

I like this guide a lot, but I present it with a few caveats.

  1. The author states in his second paragraph:

    I’ve had to change careers several times. Sometimes because my interests changed. Sometimes because all bridges have been burned beyond recognition, sometimes because I desperately needed money. And sometimes just because I hated everyone in my old career or they hated me.


    This tells me that the author probably had to do this several times because he's an asshole, and also because he was probably incompetent at more than a few of his careers. That doesn't mean his advice is bad - in fact, it speaks to how much experience he's had trying to rebuild. But if you need to get your advice from people who are nice, or people who have never failed, then you should skip this guide. (If you're in this category and a Thelemite, you should sell all your Crowley books, leave whatever Thelemic organizations you've joined, and become a Unitarian. I'm not kidding.)

  2. You may be nothing (see "B"), but your prior experience will also be your mentor (see "D3").


  3. For my money, I would not publicly claim "I do X!" (See I) until you've done X for three years (see F). It just makes you look like Adam in this conversation:

    Beth: So, what do you do?
    Adam: I'm a professional stage actor!
    Beth: Oh. So, what do you do for a living?


  4. As for (K), three years of this kind of dedication won't necessarily put you in the top 200-300 people. For example, if you're talking web application design, multiply those numbers by ten. You'll still make a living at it.


  5. As for (UU), I think that's bad advice. Do this instead: read (A). Then (B). Then (E). Then (N). Then (R). My rule of thumb is that if you're treading water, it's only a matter of time before you drown.


One more bit of advice: it is always possible to re-invent your way back to what you loved before, even if it's not exactly what you did before.

Good luck.
maxomai: dog (dog)
Love is the Law, by Nick Mamatas, 2013 Dark Horse.

Grade: B

I first heard about this project from Mamatas's LJ ([livejournal.com profile] nihilistic_kid) - he presented it as (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Nancy Drew, but she has an orange mohawk, is into Aleister Crowley, and it's set in 1989." A while later [livejournal.com profile] keith418 intimated that this project would be inspired, in part, by his own posts on Thelema, magick, and politics. This, then, presented a unique opportunity to read a contemporary, fictional representation of ceremonial magick that wasn't set in a pure fantasy world and that doesn't just suck. Naturally, I had to snatch it up. This book is captivating, perhaps unsettling, and is bound to make others in the OTO more uncomfortable than it should.

Our protagonist is Dawn, the aforementioned punk rock Nancy Drew, and also the ultimate latchkey kid - her entire family has been consumed, one way or another, by various demons, leaving her basically on her own, save for her Bernstein, her mentor and initiator. The novel opens, however, with Bernstein dead of an apparent suicide that Dawn believes was actually murder. Her magical education and initiation not yet complete, she sets out to discover the identity of Bernstein's assassin. Dawn is a jarring character in many ways. Two come particularly to mind: her casual relationship to sex during the height of AIDS, and her vulnerability when faced with Bernstein's fellow initiates as they act out their designs. IMO she's all the more jarring because, in the final analysis, she's realistic, both as an eighties punk rock girl, and as an exemplar of how a neophyte, with her inner cop kept in check but still unaware of her deeper motives, should act.

The setting is Long Island in 1989, about which I know nothing; but Mamatas makes it disturbing, vibrant, dark, and horrifyingly alive, the way I remember - the way I felt - Chicago in 1989, albeit with less sprawl and more military contractors. East Germany is about to collapse, and with it the Warsaw Pact. Here Mamatas shines, as he captures the zeitgeist of that autumn, the vain hopes of the various socialist groups, and the inevitability of the neoconservative revolution to come. One wonders whether the socialists of that year wouldn't commit suicide if they knew not only of the events to come - that the "liberal hope" Barack Obama would gleefully oversee and defend a military and surveillance regime that Reagan only dreamed about - but of the deeper crisis of the 2010s, wherein the only ideas that truly challenge the Frankenstein's monster of neoliberal economics and neoconservative foreign policy come not from the left, but from the right (2) (3).

I do have some issues with the plot of this novel. It's convoluted, a bit screwy, and in some places just too convenient to be true. I can appreciate that Dawn is acting out of motives that she doesn't necessarily understand - this is a staple thesis of [livejournal.com profile] keith418's critiques of OTO leadership, after all. But often I find myself asking, "yeah, why doesn't she just say 'screw it' and head to Manhattan, or Brooklyn, and get on with her life as a Long Island expat?" Maybe this is the question we're supposed to ask. Maybe the answer is that Dawn is trapped - whether by the spirits of Long Island, or her mentor's spell, or the historical dialectic, or by her True Will to which she must submit - and that she therefore doesn't have free will, let alone free will to run off and live happily ever after.

I would probably loan this book to the smarter class of person who wanted to know "what's this Thelema all about, anyway." I would present it with a couple of caveats. Will as a magical force doesn't work quite the way it's presented here. Initiation, without going into detail, is somewhat more formalized now than it used to be. These caveats aside, it certainly makes a better beginner book than most of what's out there.

(Read other reviews of this book here and here)
maxomai: dog (dog)
maxomai: dog (Default)
We know what Crowley thinks of abortion. Anyone with any doubts about this should go to one of the following:

http://knight-monk.livejournal.com/212472.html
http://omphalos111.livejournal.com/41481.html
http://doveserpent11.livejournal.com/40007.html
http://richard-kaczyn.livejournal.com/146842.html
http://aish-mlchmh.livejournal.com/tag/abortion

That said: how is abortion not a woman's right under Liber OZ?

To me, this seems pretty clear. No matter how much one might recoil in horror, no matter whether this is a sin against the Holy Spirit or not, if motherhood thwarts a woman's rights under OZ, then she has a right to abort. In fact, she has no right but to abort under those circumstances.

To which, of course, one could raise the following objections:

• "What about the right of the fetus to live as it will?" I assert that there is no such right, except insofar as the mother is willing to consent to this, since it is her role in this operation to provide the matter and information with which life is sustained.

• "Doesn't a woman magickally invalidate her own right to life by aborting?" No, for the reason above, and because a fetus is not a full-blown human being as we understand the idea. At most, it is a τεκνον. And in its early stages, it's not even that. As a side note, I wish the pro-life movement would get over their silly and superstitious insistance that life that is genetically derived from humans is "human life." No: it's not, not unless it demonstrates some manner of comprehension.

• "So, you're basically arguing for infanticide?" Not as such. One can at least see in a newborn infant that the neural net is being organized. Then again, societies and animals have abandoned unfit newborns in order to conserve resources, and we have done much crueler things in the name of much loftier and more praiseworthy goals.

• "But the moral argu...." You lose.

Have at!
maxomai: dog (Default)
We know what Crowley thinks of abortion. Anyone with any doubts about this should go to one of the following:

http://knight-monk.livejournal.com/212472.html
http://omphalos111.livejournal.com/41481.html
http://doveserpent11.livejournal.com/40007.html
http://richard-kaczyn.livejournal.com/146842.html
http://aish-mlchmh.livejournal.com/tag/abortion

That said: how is abortion not a woman's right under Liber OZ?

To me, this seems pretty clear. No matter how much one might recoil in horror, no matter whether this is a sin against the Holy Spirit or not, if motherhood thwarts a woman's rights under OZ, then she has a right to abort. In fact, she has no right but to abort under those circumstances.

To which, of course, one could raise the following objections:

• "What about the right of the fetus to live as it will?" I assert that there is no such right, except insofar as the mother is willing to consent to this, since it is her role in this operation to provide the matter and information with which life is sustained.

• "Doesn't a woman magickally invalidate her own right to life by aborting?" No, for the reason above, and because a fetus is not a full-blown human being as we understand the idea. At most, it is a τεκνον. And in its early stages, it's not even that. As a side note, I wish the pro-life movement would get over their silly and superstitious insistance that life that is genetically derived from humans is "human life." No: it's not, not unless it demonstrates some manner of comprehension.

• "So, you're basically arguing for infanticide?" Not as such. One can at least see in a newborn infant that the neural net is being organized. Then again, societies and animals have abandoned unfit newborns in order to conserve resources, and we have done much crueler things in the name of much loftier and more praiseworthy goals.

• "But the moral argu...." You lose.

Have at!
maxomai: dog (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] zoe_trope posted the following quote from "From Black Power to Hip-Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism"

Using a dizzying array of biological and cultural arguments to explain African Americans' group conditions, [Whites] simultaneously fail to apply this same logic to their own situation of privilege. Instead, Whites routinely attribute their own success not to unfair advantage emanating from their group classification as Whites in a racial formation that privileges Whiteness, but to their individual attributes, such as ability, talent, motivation, self-discipline, and hard work. Within this logic of irresponsible individualism, they are not responsible for anyone but themselves. This is not a new argument. The erasure of Black individuality and the creation of Blacks as a racial group originated in the political economy of slavery that legally classified Black people as chattel and property, not as human beings. What is new is the ability of Whiteness to continue to obscure its own workings in the context of the greatly changed social conditions of the new racism.


How much of this argument applies to us as Thelemites? To what degree do we have our own blinders on about our biology, psychology, and social conditions, and how those influence us? And for extra credit, how much are we kidding ourselves about how free we actually are if we *don't* examine these questions?
maxomai: dog (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] zoe_trope posted the following quote from "From Black Power to Hip-Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism"

Using a dizzying array of biological and cultural arguments to explain African Americans' group conditions, [Whites] simultaneously fail to apply this same logic to their own situation of privilege. Instead, Whites routinely attribute their own success not to unfair advantage emanating from their group classification as Whites in a racial formation that privileges Whiteness, but to their individual attributes, such as ability, talent, motivation, self-discipline, and hard work. Within this logic of irresponsible individualism, they are not responsible for anyone but themselves. This is not a new argument. The erasure of Black individuality and the creation of Blacks as a racial group originated in the political economy of slavery that legally classified Black people as chattel and property, not as human beings. What is new is the ability of Whiteness to continue to obscure its own workings in the context of the greatly changed social conditions of the new racism.


How much of this argument applies to us as Thelemites? To what degree do we have our own blinders on about our biology, psychology, and social conditions, and how those influence us? And for extra credit, how much are we kidding ourselves about how free we actually are if we *don't* examine these questions?
maxomai: dog (Default)
Last night Mark Warner held a big party for bloggers and young Democrats at the Stratosphere. Good things happen when political players provide alcohol to the grassroots. What struck me was the beauty of the crowd -- not just physically, but also in terms of their drive, passion, creativity, and basic smarts. Photos to come.

I ran into a guy named Charlie Brown at the party. At first I just thought he name was interesting, but it turns out that this guy is the Dem candidate for CA-4, a retired Lt. Colonel who flew spy planes and is presently working as a police officer. He's running against Doolittle. I like the hell out of this guy, and I'll post more about him later.

This morning was Dean's breakfast keynote. Some points of interest;
  • The "movement" is ultimately about getting back to the values Americans hold without the media spin. More people believe that it's immoral to let children go to bed hungry than it is to let two men marry one another (for example).
  • In a lot of ways, YKos marks the handoff of activism from the baby boomers to the "millenial generation".
  • How can we help the movement? Well:
    1. We can give money via Democracy Bonds
    2. We can talk to our neighbors on the ground (note: one good way to do this is to become a precinct committee person)
    3. We can run for office -- even a small office like library trustee or school board can make a big difference in helping restore progressive values to government policy.

  • The Democratic position is that the only really acceptible system of voting is a marked paper ballot that's tabulated later. (Speaking as a computer scientist, I find this very hard to argue against.)


I got my photo taken by a NYT photographer as I was writing this. Maybe you'll see me in the paper tomorrow.

Dean just ran by with his entourage.
maxomai: dog (Default)
Last night Mark Warner held a big party for bloggers and young Democrats at the Stratosphere. Good things happen when political players provide alcohol to the grassroots. What struck me was the beauty of the crowd -- not just physically, but also in terms of their drive, passion, creativity, and basic smarts. Photos to come.

I ran into a guy named Charlie Brown at the party. At first I just thought he name was interesting, but it turns out that this guy is the Dem candidate for CA-4, a retired Lt. Colonel who flew spy planes and is presently working as a police officer. He's running against Doolittle. I like the hell out of this guy, and I'll post more about him later.

This morning was Dean's breakfast keynote. Some points of interest;
  • The "movement" is ultimately about getting back to the values Americans hold without the media spin. More people believe that it's immoral to let children go to bed hungry than it is to let two men marry one another (for example).
  • In a lot of ways, YKos marks the handoff of activism from the baby boomers to the "millenial generation".
  • How can we help the movement? Well:
    1. We can give money via Democracy Bonds
    2. We can talk to our neighbors on the ground (note: one good way to do this is to become a precinct committee person)
    3. We can run for office -- even a small office like library trustee or school board can make a big difference in helping restore progressive values to government policy.

  • The Democratic position is that the only really acceptible system of voting is a marked paper ballot that's tabulated later. (Speaking as a computer scientist, I find this very hard to argue against.)


I got my photo taken by a NYT photographer as I was writing this. Maybe you'll see me in the paper tomorrow.

Dean just ran by with his entourage.
maxomai: dog (Default)
I'm not going to blog Barbara Boxer's speech; I can't do it justice. CSPAN will have the video. Her speech was brilliant and rousing, and I just wish to God that she would be the anti-Hillary in 2008.

I joined a roundtable on religion that quickly focused on the problem of Christian churches being coopted by the right wing. It's not just a matter of the political influence of the religious right anymore; churches that were for generations just places for the community to come and worship have turned into rabidly political centers of pestilence, almost as a shock to those who grew up there. It's become a real crisis that has a lot of Christians, who don't subscribe to the religious right's agenda, scratching their heads and feeling frustrated.

The question is raised: what can progressive Christians do to reverse this process of, to put it bluntly, American Christianity being corrupted by politics?

I didn't have the heart to tell anyone my personal opinion on the matter: that this process of the corruption of Christianity is inexorable. The Law of Thelema is carried forth on the wings of a God of War. The Christianity that informed the progressive left is dead, and replacing it is something else. Unfortunately, that something else takes on two forms. On the one hand, we have Thelemicized Christianity, as represented by a militant and militaristic anti-humanist version of the old Abrahamic faiths. On the other hand, we have Christianized Thelema, as represented by very humanistic and progressive occult paths such as Wicca and the New Age. Both of these paths are strong now, but it's only a matter of time before they destroy themselves. What will be left over? If it's not Thelema as such, it'll be something that looks an awful lot like it.

But that's just what I think.

Anyway, people are currently breaking out of sessions and trying to figure out dinner plans. I've got one Congressional candidate bothering me for free volunteer labor. A Teamster just handed me a free 64MB flash drive with a lot of pro-union propoganda on it. I'm glad for both the info and the drive.

I'm going to see if anyone else is interested in hanging out and grabbing dinner.
maxomai: dog (Default)
I'm not going to blog Barbara Boxer's speech; I can't do it justice. CSPAN will have the video. Her speech was brilliant and rousing, and I just wish to God that she would be the anti-Hillary in 2008.

I joined a roundtable on religion that quickly focused on the problem of Christian churches being coopted by the right wing. It's not just a matter of the political influence of the religious right anymore; churches that were for generations just places for the community to come and worship have turned into rabidly political centers of pestilence, almost as a shock to those who grew up there. It's become a real crisis that has a lot of Christians, who don't subscribe to the religious right's agenda, scratching their heads and feeling frustrated.

The question is raised: what can progressive Christians do to reverse this process of, to put it bluntly, American Christianity being corrupted by politics?

I didn't have the heart to tell anyone my personal opinion on the matter: that this process of the corruption of Christianity is inexorable. The Law of Thelema is carried forth on the wings of a God of War. The Christianity that informed the progressive left is dead, and replacing it is something else. Unfortunately, that something else takes on two forms. On the one hand, we have Thelemicized Christianity, as represented by a militant and militaristic anti-humanist version of the old Abrahamic faiths. On the other hand, we have Christianized Thelema, as represented by very humanistic and progressive occult paths such as Wicca and the New Age. Both of these paths are strong now, but it's only a matter of time before they destroy themselves. What will be left over? If it's not Thelema as such, it'll be something that looks an awful lot like it.

But that's just what I think.

Anyway, people are currently breaking out of sessions and trying to figure out dinner plans. I've got one Congressional candidate bothering me for free volunteer labor. A Teamster just handed me a free 64MB flash drive with a lot of pro-union propoganda on it. I'm glad for both the info and the drive.

I'm going to see if anyone else is interested in hanging out and grabbing dinner.
maxomai: dog (Default)
(originally posted by me here; copied here for your edification.)

Ask them to state concrete ways in which their new philosophy has improved their life. Don't let them get away with "I feel better" either. If they don't point to verifiable results, or give credible testimony that their relationship with their loved ones has improved, point out that their new philosophy really hasn't produced anything at all. Then mention that it is quite likely just an escape from having to deal with the emptiness that they feel inside.

Or you could just kick them in the nuts.

Addendum )
maxomai: dog (Default)
(originally posted by me here; copied here for your edification.)

Ask them to state concrete ways in which their new philosophy has improved their life. Don't let them get away with "I feel better" either. If they don't point to verifiable results, or give credible testimony that their relationship with their loved ones has improved, point out that their new philosophy really hasn't produced anything at all. Then mention that it is quite likely just an escape from having to deal with the emptiness that they feel inside.

Or you could just kick them in the nuts.

Addendum )
maxomai: dog (Default)
Questions are taken from the OTO FAQ. Answers are mine, and are therefore probably wrong. Comments welcome.

Q: Is Thelema Satanism?

A: If by this, you mean:

"Is Thelema like the Satanism that I read about in David Hunt's/Bob Larson's/Samantha Smith's/(insert author here)'s book, with all the killings of children and the drugs and the animal sacrifices and curses and selling your soul? It it like the kind of Satanism I see in the movies, like The Omen? Are you an evil conspiracy moving to take over the world and enslave Humanity and turn us all away from Christ and God? Are you all devils and demon-worshipers? Are you here to impose a Satanic Communist New World Order with the help of the UN?"


Then the answer is an emphatic no on all points. That kind of Satanism is a fictional invention intended to frighten and entertain. There are people, usually teenagers, who buy into it, but there are also people who think that Star Trek is real. Although many people claim that this kind of Satanism exists and poses an immanent threat to society, the evidence of this is flimsy at best; you may want to read The Satanic Panic for more information.

Thelema does, nonetheless, deal with God and Satan, Evil and Good, in a way that people might find uncomfortable and paradoxical. However, here's a short, somewhat inaccurate summary of the core philosophy:

  • We are commanded by God to carry out our True Wills. Note that Will is not the same as whim or desire. See below for details. To not do one's True Will is to sin against oneself and God.
  • While significant hurdles exist, the greatest hurdles often lie in our own dark sides. It is therefore critical that we take steps to either make our dark sides work in our favor, or to cast certain dark sides away entirely. These can be interpreted as demons, devils, etc.
  • The greatest hurdle is usually not knowing what your True Will is in the first place. However, there exists an entity called a Holy Guardian Angel (HGA) which can assist us, provided that we know how to ask. This HGA can be interpreted as Jesus, or for that matter, one of any number of dieties.


Q: What if it's your will to do [some bad thing]?

A: If it's your Will to do [random bad thing], then you would be remiss to not do that. However, the chances that [random bad thing] is your True Will are exceedingly small. Remember: most people have no idea what their True Will is; and there are a great many who think they know, but who are deeply mistaken. In fact, unless you happen to be an enlightened master or a magician of great experience and wisdom, it's practically given that 99% of your urges, wants, needs, desires, impulses and so on, are actually distractions from your Will, created by the condition of being human. Corolary to this: doing your Will is not always going to be enjoyable (although it's generally accepted that it should be enjoyable most of the time) and almost always involves a great deal of effort, both in doing your Will and in staying focused upon one's Will.

Q: How do I become a Thelemite?

A: The key is to accept the Law of Thelema, and just as importantly, the Book of the Law. Note that becoming a Thelemite in no way ensures that you will do your Will from then on, although this is the implied goal and purpose of every Thelemite.

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