Monday, September 11, 2006

The Necessity of Separation

Past couple of years, I've been fascinated by the comments I've read and heard over at PTG, as well as other places. I read a fellow called Vox Day (who may be a gnostic without being a mystic, which I'm not sure is possible.), and he made a comment that stuck with me:

Except for the last statement, Papapete's logic is spurious and the fact that it requires the same mental and semantic gymnastics used by academics to argue for the whiteness of black and so forth should have given him pause. The Source

The article itself is neither here nor there (I think he's arguing about how the term 'fascism' in 'Islamo-Fascist' is a misnomer as the current global jihad bears no resemblance to Italian fascism, which is itself an academic point). This comment stuck out to me, because it got me to wondering, "WHY THE HECK DO WE SPEND SO MUCH TIME SCREWING WITH THIS TRIVIAL B. S.?"

Ah, but then I read Denning and Philips, and it all became clear:

The object of the earlier operations [in an alchemical process] in the series is simply to separate and purify the component parts of the initial substance. (p. 24)

All of this endless arguing and precision and steps to define and separate and isolate: it's all part of the process. Yes, we're existing in a unity, but we can't perceive that unity until we first separate out the initial substance. Until we know what we have, we can't combine it into an integral unity. And when people do this, they are simply trying to effect this first change in their lives, although they have no blueprint of the map.

The issue I see, is that if we stop at this stage of separation, that's as far as we get. In alchemy, there are other steps you must proceed to. For instance, it's impossible to 'walk a mile in another's shoes', until you have an idea if we're talking about $400 sandals or goodwill tennis shoes with holes in the sole. Unity is impossible without separation.

To expand on this, I do think that once you realize that this needs to be done, it is not necessary to take it to extremes. Monks of old would take vows of poverty, chastity, and what not, because it's EASIER to separate the material world when you have less to separate. It's sort of an elegant short cut: Cut out every part of life, and you only have a few parts left to separate out, and a few to integrate.

The modern magician arrogantly and optimistically assumes he can do it in his apartment with his DVDs and computer around him. And he may be correct in his assumption. The problem he faces is that he can get caught in that separation stage, and never proceed to the unity.

As examples: We've been talking about time on the PTG. Everyone seems to have their own definition. Everyone seems to be willing to argue their point. I even posted a mathematical description.

In the words of Patsy, "It's only a model."

No matter how precise and personally meaningful these descriptions are to us, THEY ARE MODELS. They bear as much resemblance to the reality of time as an inkblot. We can make useful models (A person can be defined in physical coordinates as x + y + z + ti), or personal ones (Time is that boundary between past and future, time is the illusion that there's a past and future when there is only now). Ultimately, the separation of the model is only useful to point us towards the ultimate reality, through that alchemical process of integration. We must adopt the model or not, as it is useful. Gnosticism, and magic, is ultimately about what's pragmatic in attaining the Great Work. Any of the ceremonial options we do (sacraments, magick rituals, etc.) are directed toward that unity with the divine which we seek, that unity with our higher self. All our models are used for this purpose.

Another example has been the Gnostic Animals thread, which gets into soul/spirit/body distinctions as well as the division between animals and humans. WE'RE ALL ONE, GET IT? But we can't get it until we've done our separations into component materials, and then we can begin the work of integration.

Just don't forget: Integration is the end goal, not endless separation.

1 comment:

Dean Wilson said...

Interesting post, Brother.

I agree wholeheartedly in the need for Separation before Union. Firstly, on a purely surface level, we have language. Language, by its very nature, is a tool of separation. We name things. We give them labels. We say "this is this", even when we recognise that the name is not what is named. This is a necessary thing for humanity. We must divide things and break them down into understandable portions in order to understand and communicate what we know. Labels, like all tools, are useful - and this is one use of the aforementioned idea of separation.

Next there is the idea of the Higher Self and Lower Self. While many people like to trumpet the philosophy of “we are all one”, I feel some of them are “knowing it without Knowing it” (i.e. intellectual knowledge as opposed to gnosis). They think they are one, but when they recognize that their ignorance and illusion have made them two (at least superficially), leading to the Higher Self and Lower Self, there is a Separation that is, again, a necessary step before Union. They need to recognize that they are divided within themselves (again, at least superficially, as their real Self is undivided, whole, and truly primal [their divine spark], though this in itself implies a false Self [the ego in its most limited sense], which uphold the notion of a Separation). When they recognize this, they can attain the Union that they already have but are unaware of (i.e. they attain such through remembrance), by shaking off what is not their true self, what they previously thought was their self when they remained the veils of illusion (one could also postulate the notion that people who fail to recognize any “higher” element of their being think they are one, but this is just the ego, so their failing to recognize that they are two means they fail to recognize that they are really one).

To support my rant with the “word of god” (just kidding), here’s Verse 11 from the Gospel of Thomas, one that I have always found beautiful:

11) Jesus said, "This heaven will pass away, and the one above it will pass away. The dead are not alive, and the living will not die. In the days when you consumed what is dead, you made it what is alive. When you come to dwell in the light, what will you do? On the day when you were one you became two. But when you become two, what will you do?"

The first few lines can tie in here in the sense of the passing away of our “false selves”, though there are other more applicable layers of meaning there that I won’t get into (it’s irrelevant to the topic of “separation”). The last two lines relate very directly with my above comments.

There is also a verse from Liber AL Vel Legis (Crowley’s “The Book of the Law”) that I have found beautiful and personally moving (particularly in relation to my adoption of the name “Yechidah” [Hebrew for “Union”], and the various Geminian qualities I possess and that are reflected in my magickal mottos and personal revelations). This verse is:

“For I am divided for love's sake, for the chance of union.”

- Liber AL Vel Legis, 1:29

I’ll end by repeating:

“But when you become two, what will you do?”


[Cross-posted to Johannite list]