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Friday, May 1, 2015

Hangovers: An Ethical Model

Everyone is hung over. Work party was pretty intense yesterday. But despite headaches and stomach aches and dizziness and exhaustion everyone is here, ready to work. So that's good. While people jokingly asked me if they could call out, no one did, they all recognized that if you go out and party on a weeknight, as we'll be doing on Thursdays now, that you knuckle up and drag your hungover ass into work with the poise and fortitude to get the job done.

That's an issue in our society. We want rights, but people don't want responsibilities. We want freedom, but we don't always want to accept that wielding the two edged sword has consequences. Some times we run into the converse, where people recognize the responsibility of freedom  but don't want the responsibility so they surrender their freedom in various ways.

Liber Tzaddi verse 9 says "All that ye do is right if so be that ye enjoy it"

A pretty permissive morality there. If it feels good, do it. That, however, is not generally the idea of Thelema, or magic in general. On a basic level it is distinguishing the divine initiatory force from the divine law givers of other religions. Push a little deeper, take your thumb and stroke back the outer petals, and you'll note that the larger context is about enjoyment, or the idea of love and joy and pleasure as a means of elevation and transcendence.

So if this is not a statement of ethics, and it does not fit the moral complexion of Thelema or magic,what does, and what's it have to do with hangovers?

Well, the Book Of the Law says that your only right is to do your will. If you just do that no one has the right to say "Hey Dude, quit it" with any real force of authority. Your will is of course a vector, based on nature and the purposes implied by that nature in relation to its context. So it's not simply whatever whim feels good. The Book of The Law also dismisses the waffling equivocation of debating an action by saying "Success is thy proof" suggesting that we judge our actions by their results.

I think if we begin to take these ideas together we come close to a general guideline for the magician. When I was young I watched an interview with a Zen monk. He explained that in his tradition Karma is explained as the eternal energy that exists as a result of our actions. Everything we do continues into eternity through the impacts our actions have on what follows them. With that in mind we can consider his further explanation that right action is based on whether or not the results are good and successful. Actions which are right have amenable results, actions which are wrong either fail or have negative results.

So let's circle back to the various pieces we've touched on. We have enjoyment, will, success, and consequence. These can all tie together fairly well.

In most mystical systems those actions suited to our will are also those actions and lifestyle choices with which we will have the most success. If we are succeeding the consequences should be amenable, and we will therefore enjoy ourselves, right? Maybe, hopefully, simplicity is nice. Tis a gift to be simple.

Let's go back to enjoy as one of our root concepts. Enjoy, while almost always having a connotation of pleasure can to some degree be used to mean something experienced or endured. It can also refer to really dwelling in a sensation to try and explore its best parts. When taken this way enjoy plays pretty deeply into will. Not only does enjoyment imply transcendence through ekstasis but also the exploration of will. If we enjoy our actions and their enduring consequences in that we commit to experiencing them and drawing from them the fullness of sensation (experience) we deepen the exploration of our nature, direction, and context. Consequence becomes important not simply as an expression of how are actions are enduring expressions of ourselves but in that we must experience our interrelation with our environment and therefore know ourselves and our context.

Consequence and success take a clearer relation to the question of moral implication. The relationship to enjoyment is largely one of our own personal development, but we do reside in a context which is at least in part social. Our actions impact others and theirs impact us. Thus that symbiosis of self and context becomes more dynamic due to the ever shifting juxtapositions of our actions with those of others.

Morality typically creates rules which force us to behave amenably and in a socially constructed fashion, but these rules are sometimes arbitrary and even in cases where they make sense, they are not always universally applicable. All in all they are meant to govern the lowest common denominator.

Sometimes we have metaphysical sticks and carrots like Heaven and Hell or the NeoWiccan Threefold law. Other times we get more high minded and talk about virtue. We don't often talk about success and consequence as models of right and wrong in the west, except in an ends/means kind of way, which is a little different though similar.

If successful actions with amenable consequences are right, how do we fit that both to our model of experience and our social model? Amenable consequences are more likely to please those around you and create a more enjoyable world for yourself, both by the direct result being pleasing and by the indirect result, or the actions of others, having a higher probability for being socially adaptive or pleasing. This is the same basic impetus behind our socially driven moral legalism, but we can still engage in actions which are right because they are successful and result in a positive consequence even if they do not fit a proscribed moral code. At times an action may be right in that it is successful and it may be positive in that it has a positive individual consequence but a negative social context or a negative individual context but positive social context initially, but the indirect consequences may be positive and therefore worth the initial discomfort.

Our Hangover example, going out and enjoying life with friends has positive personal and social impacts both immediately and over time. Having a hangover is a negative consequence. Continuing into work has positive consequences, and if the hangover can be overcome through personal fortitude or other reasonable means the negative consequence is mitigated, and perhaps even is experienced such as to express something to make the individual more adaptive in the future.

Conventional wisdom would say going out and getting drunk on a weeknight is bad, but there is no absolute moral bench mark, nor an absolute social imperative, nor shared cultural norm to support this and our success/consequence/enjoyment model proves it a right action.

So let's look back at enjoyment. Mystical fervor is similar to the experience of elation. Therefore the application of visceral joy and pleasure can be useful in mysticism. If life is always in the crapper it's harder to focus on the mystical and it's harder to experience elation let alone commit to experiencing it in its fullest (enjoying it). When we engage in prudent actions, or those which bring greater enjoyment to life and improve social position and socially adaptive behavior it becomes easier to enjoy life. Therefore our criteria of actions based in will, and actions which are enjoyed become easier.

Now this is not to say you should pander to social whims or change yourself to fit in. But it does highlight that a true magician owns his experience. He lives within his decisions and experiences the on set of their eternity. You must not only avoid pandering but you must practice judgment. It is left to you to make your decisions and to deal with the consequences. You need to know yourself and know therefore what consequences will be OK with you and which ones will develop you better, and you must know your world to anticipate how it will respond to your actions.

A large part of the apparently prophetic wisdom of many of our archetypal wizard characters from story and myth is really just the application of this kind of thinking. Understanding yourself, your world, your actions, your fellow man's actions all of these factors go into a magician's analysis. 

So yeah, my team was pretty banged up at work today, but not one issue arose. Let's make our magic just as able to roll with the punches.