The Flying Scrolls of Logos

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.



This blog is intended to represent some of my ideas concerning brotherhood, peace, and proper learning. I invite all who read my posts to respond with their own opinions, including disagreements. It is my hope that others will find my ideas appealing, take up the torch and carry that light in the path of their own glory.


Love is the law, love under will.


Cheers,


Davin Maki

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Step Towards Freedom, as an Escape from Binary Arguments.



Binary Arguments in General




     I shall attempt to be as succinct as possible in my opening statements on binary arguments. I beg your forgiveness, if I seem to trail off from time to time. As I write this essay, more and more connections to the subject matter are being made. So the matter at hand is the binary argument: specifically how it  engenders an enslaving and stupefying paradigm.

      The binary argument is simple to define: It represents any argument where the individual is left fighting for their position as either a or not a. By this I am referring to a single variable, which can have either a positive or negative value, as opposed to a multiple variable system, such as if not a, then b. This is a problem because it can derail our ability to achieve goals, think creatively, and furthermore deprive us of our creative ability. How does it do this, one might ask. I shall give a short anecdote from my own experience.

     While I was attending a course on classical Greek theatre I met a woman, Mrs. Wilkonsen, who was very much of the attitude that she was fighting for her identity. On our way to the Seattle Repertory Theatre to see the play, "The Brothers Size," Mrs. Wilkonsen muttered to herself "fuck you," as we drove by a neon crux ansata sign. This is a sentiment towards Christianity that is very popular, yet it is limiting in many respects. While it is understandable that someone might find many of the tenets of Christianity--or any other religion for that matter--unacceptable, one should wonder how many other possibilities are available besides either being with or against Christianity.
     
      About one week prior to writing this essay I found myself in an argument, with one Mr. Barbrady, concerning the necessity research in occult work. Mr. Barbrady retorted with the assertion that it's better to practice magick than to spend all of your time researching and never doing anything at all. It would have been easy for me to demonstrate how I was on either one side or the other; however, neither would have fully represented the options I had available to me, nor would it have represented the truth of my original goals. For the sake of addressing the issue em masse, I decided to write an essay where I demonstrated that I represent both sides of the problem*. An attempt to prove this individual wrong would have been utterly self-defeating. Not only would I be practicing for the wrong reasons, but I would be running head on into a bunch of muck which would have taken me away from my original goals. Developing my own system of Alchemy and Astrology and integrating them with Freemasonry, Enochiana, and the Theurgia Goetia are still my priorities. To exonerate myself from the pressure of popular opinion would have been a non sequitur in relation to these options.

     There are many other instances where--in the event of a binary argument--other options are available. In many of these arguments, there are two roles that are played, viz. that of the tribunal, and and the one seeking exoneration. More often than not, we have many other options available to us than these, yet many people seem to slip into these roles almost instinctively. In my philosophy, it is often better to ignore an enemy (and perhaps more insulting!) than to engage them. Let me demonstrate yet another kind of binary arrangement. 

        Polarizing arguments are commonly used in political campaigns and in sales pitches. Being that I'm both an environmentalist and a salesman, I am intimately familiar with this process. When you polarize your audience, it gives your audience the illusion that they are involved in the decision making processes, when in reality, the "decision(s)" that the audience would have made would already be known to me before the conversation even began. Polarizing arguments are a classical, and sadly, still an effective way to manipulate people. Let me give a further anecdote. 

       While I was working as a salesman, I effectively used polarization quite frequently. Selling air filters can be quite easy with the right approach. Here is the process:
  • warm up (e.g. "Hey, nice flower garden.") 
  • intro (e.g. "We've sold class 2 medical devices for 35 years")
  • problem (e.g. "According to the EPA, indoor air pollution is n times  that of outdoor pollution.")
  • Solution (e.g. "This is what our air filter does.")
  • Close (i.e. financing, if fail, go back to the problem, build money value of product, then close)
Throughout the entire pitch, I'm using polarizing arguments to make people feel that they're making a positive decision for their home. For example, in the intro phase, I would ask my customer, "We've been an industry leader in the the filter pro business for 35 years. Is that the kind of resilience and experience that you want to invest in your home?"  To which the customer couldn't possibly say no. In the problem section, I would show the customer visible evidence of their dust problem, then ask, "This isn't something that you want to be sleeping in day in and day out, is it?" To which the customer would give an emphatic no.  After an hour long conversation, that goes very much along these lines, the product practically sells itself and the customer doesn't even think twice about the possibility that the product in question isn't superior to the competition. I suppose that you could use your imagination as to how this sort of rhetoric may be used in political settings.

      The implied resolution to my problem seems, at the outset, unacceptable and incomplete. This is because there are common fallacies about what the necessary requirements are for individuation and free thought. Also, issues such as feminism, racial and spiritual persecution, and sexuality become mixed up in what I'm writing about. These issues need to be properly addressed and categorized.

Mental Conflicts Versus Conflicts of Personal Liberty.


     This essay is about overcoming ideological and spiritual conflict, and is not necessarily a defense of passivism. When one's own liberties are seriously at stake, there comes a time when political upheaval or self-defense may be necessary. Let us examine the three categories I have alluded to.
    
     There are times when sociopolitical inequity merits conflict. The Women's rights Movement is one great example of this necessary conflict. This is, however, not the sort of conflict which is strictly  confined to the mind, but (of course) extends to personal liberty. In the case of women's right to vote, the options a and not a were not circumventable, but was the core issue at hand.

    In the second category the options a and not a are instinctively perceived--and in many cases are vestiges of civil liberties arguments from the past, or mere infantilities--and the risk of battling the binary argument outweighs the benefit of it. As I have stated before, the pursuit of the binary argument can often have the effect of distilling the mind down to a fewer variables than it would normally have available.

     During a philosophical dialogue, a dialectical approach may be adopted to test an assertion. The process of elenchus, or Socratic dialogue, is a form of dialectical logic, where the premise of the dialogue is challenged by a(n) interlocutor(s). Weaker hypotheses are discarded in favor of new ones. In this case, the thinker is not trapped by the binary argument, but we have a system of values where "If not a, then perhaps b?" becomes the method of investigation. It is only when the argument slips into tribunalization, or a fight for exoneration, that it become an encumbrance.    

     Conflict is about us constantly and is sometimes absolutely necessary for the preservation of civil liberties. To put it in the words of Margret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Yet there are many conflicts that arise from the perceived need to exonerate oneself and this ineluctably  traps the individual in binary relationships that are limiting to their intellection. Although there are dialectical methods in philosophy, it should be noted that these methods are not a means to serve as a tribunal, in which someone else has to exonerate themselves. 

The Binary Relationship In Particular


     When we are in the face of adversity, more often than not, we trap ourselves in a paradigm where we are either a, or not a. There are a few different ways that an individual may fall into the binary relationship. In one instance, the individual is defending themselves against a tribunal. To engage in battle with another person's taboos about thought is an even greater adversary to personal freedom, for it distills the potentially motley, multifarious qualities of the mind towards a very simple binary relationship. As I have stated above, this sort of conflict may be used to manipulate the individual and the masses alike. Alternately, an individual may espouse the idea that we--as free thinking individuals--are in a binary relationship with an over-mind of socially acceptable norms. Let us examine each in turn.
      For the first example, I will expound upon the anecdote where Mrs. Wilkonsen was cursing at the cross. To be fair, Mrs. Wilkonsen was a part of the LGBTQ community. It would be reasonable to surmise some of the discontent she may have felt towards towards orthodox Catholic views and conservatism in general. I think the mistake that many people make in such a scenario is that they believe that an averse attitude is crucial to self actualization. In this case, it is not. Many people, including myself, have rebelled against Christianity in this very way. The fact of the matter is that Christianity actually needs Satan and sin, just as much as it needed Judas and Pontius Pilot!  I refuse to participate in this formula is sin, hell, and redemption. Such an attitude would reinforce its bondage upon me, not ameliorate it.

     I am not advocating a hate for Christianity, nor any other religion for that matter. All I'm suggesting is that a more true expression freedom is to find your own way. In my philosophy my relationship to Christianity is the a variable. Whereas many people choose to assign either a positive or negative value to the variable, I wonder why it ever became an issue in many circumstances. Regardless of whether you assign a positive or negative value to the Christianity a variable, you are still within the confines of its paradigm.

        There, of course, comes the trappings of civil liberties and how we are to obtain them. We do not accomplish this by dancing in pagan regalia before the "holy mother church," we do it with a concerted and impersonal lobbying campaign and with business way.

The Illusion of the Collective Overmind

     Each mind is individual and unique; each consciousness is the product of its genetic inheritance, along with its collected experiences. There are many generalizations that may be made about  American Culture, but I think that relating a group of people in terms of an over-mind or collective consciousness may be misleading. There are, however, many reasons why we might see overarching trends amidst the communities we interact with. We are by nature communal beings, and as such, we naturally share experiences and beliefs in common. Let me explain.
      Ever since the great recession in the United States in 2007, there has been an ever decreasing trust in the economic oversight of the Federal Government. According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, a mere 25% of United States citizens reported that the effects of the Federal Government had a positive effect on society at large[1]. One could easily surmise that that number has only decreased in more recent times. The reasons for this opinion, which many people share in common, are as varied as the people who espouse it. Some people are upset because they are unable to find work, are underpaid, they are upset about corporate bailouts by the Federal Exchange Bank, tax loopholes, our foreign policy, the loss of habeas corpus, the list goes on. Many of these influences we share as common experiences, but the story of each individual, which lead up to this feeling of mistrust, is as unique as the individuals who espouse it. All one has to do is simply talk to a few people at your local Occupy event to find the truth in that. Humans are colonizing animals; our herding behavior is largely modulated by the experiences and beliefs we share, but the story of each individual within a heard is unique. 

     At the time of this writing, I can easily state that I have never been in a direct confrontation with a collective over-mind in my 30 years of life, although at times I may have foolishly represented my self in such a manner. As I have previously stated, many people share common beliefs and opinions on the surface, but their reasons for espousing those beliefs may be different. 
     
     I share a dissatisfaction with the United States' current economic system with many others. One of my friends, whom I speak with regularly, is more concerned about military spending and corporate bailouts. Another friend of mine is frustrated because, after searching for six months, still cannot find a job he's fully qualified for. As for me, I come from a poor background. I think many of the people who are on board with the Occupy movement make up a very privileged middle class, whose stories really didn't culminate into an Occupy movement until it concerned them in recent times. I am also afraid that the Occupy movement could serve as a pretext for constitutional reforms that might hurt small businesses. I am certainly not the only person who thinks that. Am I against the Occupy movement? How could I be, without contradicting myself. I certainly think that officers of corporations, who commit so-called "white collar crimes," need to be held accountable in criminal courts. I think that failing businesses should be allowed to fail and not receive undue tax breaks or bailouts. It shall suffice to say that the stories of some people are similar to mine, while others' are very much different.  I can be neither with nor against the over-mind of Occupy, however it is no coincidence that some of the stories of its adherents parallel mine.  To view myself in terms of a binary relationship to this movement would deprive me of understanding the humanitarian aspects of the movement, viz. the consequences to the life and struggles of the individual within the context of economic hardship.
   
     I see a motley history, not an universal one. The perception of there being an universal history or mind is largely perpetuated by bogies such as politics, religious dogmas, and commercial enterprise. Many mind-sets, which we call "societal norms," are, furthermore, perpetuated by media outlets, such as magazines, television, the internet, and radio. The problem seems to rest on the fact that many people have stopped listening to the stories of their neighbors and are receiving most of their information from media outlets. What is more tragic is that many people accept what is conveyed by these routs as social norms, even though they might not have been regular practices when the media content was first developed. The confrontation many people face is that they are either ideal a--which is depicted on a television screen, in a magazine, religious document, etc.--or they are not a (not the ideal). In reality, you are merely having a confrontation with a few individuals and not an immutable, intangible over-mind. Furthermore, you don't even need to be in a confrontation with these peoples' depictions of heroes, fashion, gender issues, etc. The thought that you are somehow at odds with a collective over-mind is illusory and deprives you of knowing the people who, for one reason or another, subscribe to the messages they are receiving.

      To recapitulate, being caught in a binary argument may make you more of a slave to the belief system you're trying to liberate yourself from. People are the product of their collective experiences and genetic heritage, and are thus unique. Simply because one person may share a similar experience or belief as another, it does not suggest that their is an over-mind to either be with or against. Media outlets portray an ideal state of man, which many people confuse for a collective consciousness. To react against the media promulgated ideal, as if it were the over-mind, is illusory and a waste of  perfectly good intellectual energy.

Childhood: A Binary Approach to Freedom


    I will  not pretend to know a great deal about child psychology. That notwithstanding, I think there are plenty of examples I can use from my own experience to make my case for what follows. During childhood, the acme of achieving individuation is maintaining an attitude of contrariness to one's primary parental figures.
    When we grow to a certain age, we begin to develop this conception of "I." By extension, we also develop the idea of "not I" early in life. This realization of the boundaries of self is incredibly crucial to a child's development. One of the most remarkable manifestations of this process is the rebellion of the child against its parents. Everything that the parental figure imposes upon the child comes in conflict with this concept of "I," which may only be understood in relation to one's immediate surroundings, viz. the parental figures.
    When I was a foster child growing up, this process repeated itself continually throughout my youth and even into my adolescent and adult life. As I moved from one place to another, the cycle would begin again and I would be faced with this new aspect of "not I." When I grew up, I brought this rebellious attitude with me, imposing it on the world--or so I thought. What I didn't understand was that the world was so much larger and more multifarious than the ideal world I was rebelling against. So I went into adulthood thinking that each confrontation I came upon was in direct conflict with this "I."
    Looking back on this experience, in the light of this essay, I'm beginning to wonder how many other people are carrying this struggle for "I" that I did during my early adulthood. I feel that the acme of adulthood--and furthermore, the higher octave of individuation--would represent a move away from this "I" and "not I" argument entirely. When you come upon a polarized argument, your identity is not at stake, this is not prepubescent  childhood. Grow up! 

Growing Up


      The acme of growing up is to move away from binary arguments where it is functional to do so. There are four essential ways to do so. The synthesis of opposing views is applicable when the two poles of the binary argument are too extreme to either defend, or refute, especially when a more mild argument is more applicable to you. As I have said before, the binary argument is where either a positive or negative value is assigned to a single variable; thus the synthetic approach would look like 1+(-1)=0. The neutral value allows you to escape from a paradigm which would otherwise be enslaving.
    The transcendental approach is more applicable when either side of the argument represents personal bondage to you. The transcendental approach allows for a different variable. For example the variable a, regardless of its positive or negative attribution, is not relevant to my role in x activity.  

     The third method--and this is only when our personal liberties are at stake--is to strike decisively and impersonally, then move on.

    The skeptical approach I espouse is that of the Pyrrhonian skeptics. Odo Marpuard uses a model of skepticism called isosthenes diaphonia, where both a and not a are equally matched in such a way that neither conviction bears much weight. He describes it thus: "This collision causes both convictions to decline so much in power that the individual--divide et fuge! [divide and escape!]--as the laughing or crying third party, gets free of them, gaining distance and his or her own distinct individuality"[2]. This thought is derivative of the Pyrrhonian school of skepticism, as perpetuated by Sextus Emiricus[3]. A careful study of Odo Marpuard, Sextus Empiricus, and Agrippa the Skeptic is highly recommended.

*See my previous essay, "At The Armchair".
Works Sited:
1. "PewResearchCenter." Distrust, Discontent, Anger and Partisan Rancor: The People and Their Government. People-press.org, 2010. Mon. 24 Oct. 2011 <http://www.people-press.org/2010/04/18/distrust-discontent-anger-and-partisan-rancor/>

2. Marquard, Odo. In Defense of the Accidental. Trans. Robert M. Wallace. New York: Oxfrord University Press, 1991. Print.
3. Blank, David L. Sextus Empiricus. books.google.com. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Mon. 24 Oct. 2011