Understanding Liberalism and Conservativism

I think it’s important to distinguish between liberal/conservative economics that pertain to how tax, management of property and trade works, then liberal/conservative politics that pertain to civil rights, law and social ideals etc, although the two can interweve with each other.

Case in point – neoliberalism.

Certain conservatives and liberals in the UK and for that matter, republicans and democrats in the USA practice neoliberal economics. Neoliberalism is very similar to classical liberalism, except it accomodates the new financialised world we live in today. Liberalism comes from the political economy philosophers like John Locke, Jean Jaques Roussaeu, David Hume and Adam Smith and it emerged with capitalism, offering a form of economics that could undermine the Feudal structures of the middle ages.

Basic particulars

Classical liberals/neo-liberals enforce negative rights in exchange for lower taxes[1], arguing that trade is not something the state should interfere with too much and that a more social liberal view of ‘high tax and positive rights’ would be too draining on the economy to sustain (known as the slim state[2]). They also advocate protection of private property from the state (one of the only functions of the state it does agree with), which is to be extended to military intervention overseas. The difference between classical and neo-liberalism is financialisation. As taxes are low or they were too high for certain demographics and they are forced or choose to leave the jurisdiction, this forces governments into debt in order to compensate, once the state can no longer acquire taxes from it’s citizens and can not pay back the loans to the banks that lend the money, the state is acquired by private interests.[3]

Debt Markets

Neoliberal economics run states like a firm, instead of based on principles like solidarity (positive rights to vote, education for all, healthcare and pensions), it instead operates to nationalise the debt and for the occupants of the state to repay that debt. It also advocates de-regulation of finance and trade agreements.[4] Debt, unlike taxes, can be sold and traded on the stock market. The private interests usually impose what is called ‘austerity'[5], which involves massive cut backs on funding public services. They open up the market in the state to private interests outside of the border of the state, selling off land and property that is then re-built under the guise of improvement and opportunity, but in reality it’s to boost the value of property in the area that can be sold to foreign interests. The effect of this is that no one on a lower-middle class wage can possibly afford to live in the area, they may be able to rent at best from a landlord with no social housing avaiable.[6]

Left or Right?

There are a number of other problems that I wont go into here, such as the privatisation of health care for the public as well as schools, outsourcing of trade and the crushing of labour unions[7]. The main thing to understand, is that ‘liberalism’ actually seems more like what we conventionally understand to be conservative, this is why Hillary Clinton was no longer trusted in the recent election[8], as she was pretty much in the same ideological view of Reagan. Neo-liberalism in it’s current form started in the 70’s under Thatcher and Reagan (Reaganomics), they were inspired by General Pinochet in Chile who had his ‘Chicago boys’ at his side, who helped him transform the state into a neo-liberal state.[9]


Neo-liberalism boasts at being the cutting edge of progress, declaring an end to prejudice and hardship, claiming that everything is up for grabs, that inequality is a virtue and everyone gets what they deserve. The way they deal with economic problems is through austerity, making it practically impossible for low wage workers to resist their ruthless form of capitalism. It creates foundations for conceptions of inequality.

Social Liberalism, Socialism

Social liberalism seeks to at least offer welfare through higher taxation (high tax/positive rights), but given how many governments have conflicting interests with neo-liberals, I seriously doubt whether anything would change, the same goes for Marxist socialism. Somehow the leaders are supposed to be immune from corruption, but in reality they end up exploiting the masses like the worst of capitalists. Case in point, Lenin and Stalin.

Military Intervention

After all, no one wants to pay high taxes right? This is why military intervention comes into play and why liberals and conservatives don’t seem to differ much when it comes to war overseas. A state can justify a rise in tax for war, but not for social projects like building hospitals, funding pensions etc. The welfare state was created using money from oil in Iran (in Britain anyway) and that money helped to build the National Health Service.[11]

Global Division of Labour

Even though we call a state socialist, it has a combined link with capitalism. Cheap oil is a dream of the past, growth is impossible as China gets more and more powerful and this is why we see the problems we see today since the 2008 crash. It wasn’t just the bankers and speculators that were the problem, it’s about a fundamental shift in power to China and India. They have workers on $1.76 [12] per hour,while workers in Germany with all compensation costs like holiday pay and sickness etc, earn around $40.00 per hour! [13]

Protectionism and Outsourcing

The new forms of conservatism seem to be looking at more protectionist solutions, i.e.high import tarrifs from foriegn trade in order to preserve domestic industry and trade[14]. The problem is that of collective action, if you set your tarrifs high and expect others to let you export free of charge or at low tarrifs, think again! Protectionism didn’t work because everyone will do the same thing. The end result is trade death and the economy stops. Protectionism also has the problem of outsourcing to deal with. Manufacturing in the West has declined, but risen dramatically in the East through outsourcing. The West has a growing market of finance, in 2012, around 7,000,000 people worked in finance in the UK, while another 7,000,000 worked in the services industry, for example, baristas, food, dog-walking, strippers and cleaning. Manufacturing in the Uk was around 4,000,000 in 1997 but is now less than 2,000,000. There is nothing to protect as the wealthy make their fortunes by outsourcing to China and India.[15]

Liberalism and Conservatism in the Social and General Sense

Social issues concerning rights that are labelled as conservative or liberal, are perhaps easier to point out in the general definitions. Conservatives tend to be more about preserving tradtions and liberals tend to advocate equal opportunities for all, regardless of background, creed etc. Pressure politics is all we have left that even closely resembles democracy, but the problem is that while one group pushes and agenda to push through legislation in their favour for one particular cause, they leave other causes out to rot. For example, a pressure group seeking to get more funding for cancer research is more likely to have precendence over say, mental health.[16]

Police State

I personally see a difference between policing and governing – a state that is retrictive tends to be a police state,which we definitely live in today. Where as a government is set up to manage the affairs of millions of people in a variety of forms like democracy. I personally am an anarchist, so I don’t like anything that leads to domination of any kind. The way in which economics and politics overlap is due to the management of property. Civil rights come after the protection of property and capital.

Anyway, I have lots more information on this topic. I thought I would share it here as I was surpised at the actual economic meaning of liberal, which differs vastly from the usual meaning. In this day in age, no one can tell left from right anymore.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_…re_beliefs – paragraph 8 – For society to guarantee positive rights requires taxation over and above the minimum needed to enforce negative rights.
[2] Classical liberals argued for what they called a “slim state”, limited to the following functions:

A Decentralized Federal Government to protect individual rights and to provide services otherwise could not be provided in a free market.
A common National Defense to provide protection against foreign invaders.
A Constitutional Democratic-Republican Government that guarantees and protects every individual’s God-given rights.
Laws to provide protection for citizens from wrongs committed against them by other citizens, which included protection of private property, enforcement of contracts and common law.
Federal public works that included a stable currency, standard weights and measures, and support of roads, canals, harbors, railways, communications and postal.
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of…cal_crisis
[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decline_of…eagall_Act
[5] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10162176
[6] http://england.shelter.org.uk/campaigns_…ing_crisis
[7] http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/priv…iative.asp
[8] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfre…ricas-fate
[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism#Origins During the military rule under Augusto Pinochet (1973–1990) in Chile, opposition scholars took up the expression to describe the economic reforms implemented there and its proponents (the “Chicago Boys”).
[10] http://www.palgraveconnect.com/pc/doifin…95279.0007
[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1953_Irani…’%C3%A9tat
[12] http://www.bls.gov/fls/china.htm
[13] http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ichcc.pdf
[14] http://www.nationalreview.com/article/43…et-economy
[15] http://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/economicou…2015-05-28 Note: the figures I have used come from Graham Turner and the Office for national statistics.
[16] Pressure politics: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/pais/p…ntrush.pdf – see page 3 – it is relatively easy to attract media attention for an emotional campaign demanding that patients suffering from a potentially terminal illness, such as breast cancer, should be given an unproven treatment. Funds then have to be found from elsewhere in the NHS budget, possibly from conditions that attract less sympathy, such as mental health. Moreover, it would appear that campaigns by patient groups can be used by pharmaceutical companies who wish to promote sales of a particular drug.

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Language as Writing | Derrida | Philosophy

Derrida’s deconstruction of Husserl and Phenomenology

Superstructuralism builds on a key field of language theory. Husserl is an ‘I’ philosopher. He’s after an especially ‘true’ level of language from an ‘I’ philosophers point of view, he says it is necessarily and exclusively human and draws an absolute distinction between human signs and natural signs. True language then to Husserl is in terms of expression, where meaning is willed and intended by the utterer.  Derrida, on Husserls behalf says –

Expression…is conscious through and through, and intentional.

Meaning thus understood is not just meaning in the sense that words mean, but in the sense that someone means them to mean. This orientation towards ‘expression’ tilts Husserl’s theory of language inevitably towards the use of Voice. But what could have caused the idea that anyone else has a mind in the first place, if not their words, their signifiers?

It is because of these inter-subjective problems in Husserl, that he relegates person-to-person speech to secondary status and discovers ‘expression’ most purely present in the intra-subjective use of Voice, in interior monologue. When one talks to themselves, they understand perfectly and directly the intention that animates the words.

Derrida explains on Husserl’s behalf:
My words are “alive” because they don’t seem to leave me: not to fall outside me, outside my breath, at a visible distance; not to cease to belong to me, to be at my disposition “without further props”.

The inward voice takes place in time, but does not take place in space.

Husserl even admits that what is required for his conception of interior monologue is that one already knows everything one is going to say to oneself before starting to say it. Language has in effect been reduced to a mere appendage and has no real reason for continuing to exist at all.

Husserl’s insistence on all ‘true’ language is necessarily and exclusively human has enabled him to dissolve the existence of objective verbal signs entirely in favour of subjective human ideas. This is good for an ‘I’ philosopher, but highly unsatisfactory from the viewpoint of anyone who wants to consider language as an important reality in its own right.

Derrida and writing

Derrida wants to do exactly that. For Derrida, ‘true’ language is not language at its most human but language at its most language-y, language at its most self-sufficient – even to the extent of being independent of human beings.

Derrida Wrote:
The structure peculiar to language alone, which allows it to function entirely by itself when its intention is cut off from intuition.

Husserl points to an extreme interior monologue of Voice, Derrida tilts all language towards the opposite extreme of Writing.

Writing is language at its most self-sufficient because it is language at its most spatial, writing exists, not insubstantially in the mind, nor briefly and transparently in sound-waves of the air, but solidly and enduringly in marks upon a page. Such marks do not need to be propped up by the presence of their marker; on the contrary, their marker is always essentially absent, and may even be dead. Writing is orphaned and seperated at birth from the assistance of its father.

Writing represents the passage of thought out of consciousness. Derrida has to turn the common-sense way of looking at the world completely upside-down.

Derrida does not deny that the use of speech comes before the use of language for every human. He denies the assumption that we ordinarily make without even thinking about it: the assumption that the original form of a thing is somehow its ‘truest form’. Thus we tend to assume that we could finally explain language if we could only rediscover its most rudimentary beginnings in primitive communication. This assumption comes very naturally to us.

Derrida proposes a radical seperation of historical and conceptual priority. The fact of writing follows from the fact of speech, but he non the less asserts that the idea of speech depends upon the idea of writing. Or to put it another way – writing is the logically fundamental condition to which language has always aspired.

No doubt this is a difficult position to grasp. Consider this analogy-

A tree rises and flourishes by virtue of some deep and inwardly hidden source of life. We tend to imagine a single essential center which was there from the earliest stages of growth. But a tree lives on the outside, by the circulation which flows through its green bark and sapwood, and its center is mere dead heartwood, endlessly supplanted and left behind.

We could consider the language of mathematics too, that if we trace all later developments back to counting with sticks or stones or beads or whatever, we will arrive at the purest and truest form of mathematics as a language. But these have all been supplanted and left behind in the real world in modern times. The square root of minus one does not exist in real world terms at all. Rules have to be made up in order for that to exist at all. In a sense, mathematics reveals its ‘truest’ form in its ‘unnatural’ and most supplementary developments.

The logic of supplements

This is a new centrifugalist way of looking at the world.

The strange structure of the supplement appears…by delayed reaction, a possibility produces that to which it is said to be added on.

Structuralists vision of superstructures, is that culture has become so fundamental to human existence, that there is no possibility of delving down under it. Culture can predominate over a nature which existed before it.

Derrida goes all the way with the seperation between historical and conceptual priority, he overturns our assumptions about origins and culture no less than our assumptions about origins in nature. The logic of supplements also applies to thinking about language itself, as we shall see shortly, but also applies to our way of thinking about meaning within language.

What is in the writers mind has no special priority over the meaning of his words. The writer discovers the meaning of his words upon writing them. The written sign is not only sent it is also received, even the writer is just another reader. There is a surplus of meaning with written words.

Philosophical zombies

Can a something have two meanings at once that make it contradictory? A philosophical zombie is a term or concept that is both dead and alive, it is an undecidable – the Greek word ‘Pharmakon‘ means both ‘remedy’ and ‘posion’, for example. According to Derrida, the Greek language is saying two quite different things about Plato’s text, two very divergent things about writing, simultaneously and undecidably. He finds many more remote meanings with this word, such as perfume, dye and even a scapegoat for the good of the community! The centrifugal movement of meaning within language could not be more plainly demonstrated.

For Derrida, the centrifugal movement of any single word ultimately spreads out across every other word in the whole language.

Derrida refuses to allow any meanings in any mind at all. He gives a very simple answer to a philosophical problem that goes like this –

When we try to look at the meaning of a word in our minds, we never seem to encounter any decisive mental content or image but only absence and emptiness.

Derrida’s answer is – the signified does not exist.

This is very much like David Hume’s statement –

“For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any thing but the perception…. If any one, upon serious and unprejudic’d reflection thinks he has a different notion of himself, I must confess I can reason no longer with him. All I can allow him is, that he may be in the right as well as I, and that we are essentially different in this particular. He may, perhaps, perceive something simple and continu’d, which he calls himself; tho’ I am certain there is no such principle in me.”

The signified is merely an illusion that human beings have invented because they feared to face up to the consequences of a materialist conception of language.

There is no movement from signifier to signified, but there is movement from signifier to signifier. Signifiying is signifiers in motion. What’s more – the movement is unstoppable. In the ordinary conception of meaning – the signifiers points away from itself but the signified does not, the signfied represents a terminus where meaning grinds to a halt. In Derrida’s conception – one signifier points to another and another and another ad infinitum.


Derrida describes this state of language as dissemination, no rich harvest of meaning, but rather spillage and waste, endless loss. Language manages to avoid social responsibility and individual irresponsibility, it’s anarchic and unpredictable level of functioning subversive of all rigid proper meanings on the ordinarily socially controllled level. This is the Post-Structuralist mode of language – the mode of the Sign’s real being.


Derrida dispenses with a simultaneous totality of a system of language (as if langauge fell from the skies ready-made) by saying words are not self-identical or fixed in the same place. It’s endlessly unbalanced and out of equilibrium. Derrida’s theory of language still works with differentiation – with a difference, or to be more precise – with différance.

On the one hand, différer indicates difference as distinction, inequality, or discernability: on the other, it expresses the interpretation of delay, the interval of a spacing and temporalising that puts off until ‘later’ what is presently denied.

Différer in this sense approximates to the English verb ‘to defer’, and like the English verb, it brings into play the notion of an action in time.

Oppostions of words do not exist by virtue of their opposition, but rather by the virtue of deferring of the meaning. The meaning is put off only for the present, it still impends, still awaits and in time the meaning that defers will have to flow over into it.

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Anti-Natalism | Ethics |

What is Anti-Natalism?

The phrase from the German pessimist, Arthur Shopenhauer best encapsulates what anti-natalism is all about – ‘Better never to have been born’. In more recent times, South African philosopher, David Benetar released a book in 2006 entitled ‘Better Never to have Been : The Harm of Coming into Existence’.

To better explain what these phrases mean, we have to start from an existential position (one that starts from existence and all meaning is a posteriori, existence preceeds essence) that suffering, pain and death are the only qualities of life that any one person, animal, or any form of sentience can be guaranteed to experience during a life time and that given this is true we begin to base our ethics in a negative utilitarian sense.

Unlike positive utilitarianism which holds the maxim, ‘I should act if and only if my actions lead to happiness of others’, negative utilitarianism reverses this and asserts ‘I should act if and only if my actions lead to less harm and suffering.’

We also need another existential premise that only a living being who has been born, any form of sentience that is, is capable of desire and valuing. Needs are created whenever a new sentient being is born, they need to eat, have shelter, clothing, clean water and then they develop desires as they get older and will consume, produce and will eventually grow older and older and experience pain and suffering, as well as satisfaction. Satisfaction always leads to more desire, desire is never fulfilled.

As for other sentient beings that are other than human, mainly insects for example, they often live very short lives that have no purpose other than to reproduce and they die either immediately, through starvation, or worse, they become food for other animals.


Anti-Natalism tackles the problem of over-populating the planet. There are as of 2015, around 7.3 billion human beings on the planet. The principle concern is resources. Poverty and inequality is the highest and most divided in human history, climate change is irreversible and the potential for war, famine, climate refugees, lack of employment and many other long term problems that offer fewer and fewer prospects of progress and improvement are likely to unfold in ways that are beyond our control.

Basic assertion

Given that there are no guarantees that the future will hold positive prospects and that no individual can possibly change the world on their own, survival becomes difficult without passing on our genes. Given that sentience is the only thing that can create value, need and desire, we can’t say that a non-existent being who is not yet concieved through sexual reproduction has any say, that the desire to reproduce is a selfish (or rather autonomous) decision on behalf of the would-be-parent of the one who is yet to be conceived.

The basic principle of Anti-Natalism then, is that it is unethical given the absolute guarantee of suffering and inability to prevent harm, to bring a sentient being into existence.


The argument is best shown using a kind of game theory, it’s called a zero-sum game. It’s very similar to Prisoners Dillemma, so each player has to act rationally.

[Image: benatar-asymmetry15122011eh.png]


Scenario A where x exists shows how the presence of pain is bad and how the presence of pleasure is good. Okay so far, nice and simple.

Scenario B however, where x does not exist reveals how pain is absent and this is a good – obviously as x does not exist and so can’t be harmed in any way. Then we have to consider whether or not the absence of pleasure is good or bad. Well, given that x doesn’t even exist it can’t even experience it.

Before I explain the conclusion, let’s say we have a doughnut that we enjoy and it gives us pleasure and let’s say someone who is torturing us by sticking knives under our toe nails gives us pain. Not hard to see how this gives us good and bad. Now let’s say we didn’t eat a doughnut, we are neither in pleasure but we are not in pain either. Let’s say we are not being tortured any more, or we were never tortured – that’s always a good, or more good than before.

So x not existing to eat the doughnut and not existing to have knives under toe nails gives us an assymmetry. Not having pleasure is niether good nor bad, it’s just not bad.

Usual counter-argument

Absence of pleasure is bad! Is usually the way people repond, but think about it for a moment. Not being in pain is good, obviously, but not eating a doughnut is niether harmful, nor is it pleasureable, it’s just not bad.


The assymmetry looks perplexing at first. The zero-sum game of pleasure being absent as bad, does not contemplate how a non-existent being is incapable of desiring a doughnut in the first place and so creates sentience in the belief that procreation allows others to experience pleasure and this comes purely from a selfish decision to procreate. It does not, cannot, come from the desire of a never existent being.

By not bringing someone into existence, we certainly don’t immediately improve the over all suffering as that is beyond our control in the most general sense. What we can do however, is not add to the problems. This is the basic principles of anti-natalism.

Pleasure outweighs pain!

Another objection is that if we are lucky, we can tally the goods with the bads and a life with more goods was probably worth living. Anti-natalism does not deny the existence of goods, but it can’t guarantee it, it can only guarantee that we will eventually all suffer at some point and die. In developing countries and in more poverty stricken areas of the developed world, pain and suffering are more likely and so pro-creation definitely does more harm than good as parents have to provide, thier life becomes a burden. On the other hand, better off people tend to consume more stuff than a mass of poorer people and this puts a strain on resources for everyone. Rich or poor, no one can avoid climate change, pollution, disease and war if it occurs.

The assymmetry contains the maxim of ‘better never to have been born’ as not harming and not having pleasure are both good and not bad. Existing contains bad and good and so loses the game of rational choice.

Other objections

Traditional thinking within any society is that having children is what we live for and not having them would make life meaningless. This is easily tackled, what I call the Simpsons argument – ‘Wont someone please think of the children?” when we remember that sentience creates value and although the desire to pro-create was around before we ourselves were born, it is only a desire. We can choose to have or not to have children, but if we do it is because of our own selfish choice. A non-existent being does not have choice, it has no say until it is born.

Relative problems need relative solutions

While we could take negative utilitarianism and anti-natalism to the extreme of ending life gracefully, not only not bringing more life into existence, but to end humanity for it’s own good, I want to stress that the problem is only a problem while it is a problem.

If people stopped having more children, then resources would not be as strained as they are and will become. If people stopped producing more children in poor countries, they would not be so easily exploited by global capitalism. If women stopped having children for now, it actually serves as a positive feminist issue in that it eradicates the roles of a woman as a mother through natural obligation. If we stop having children, we can do more with our own lives instead of trying to raise children in an increasingly uncertain economy. If population started to drop, there would be less panic as a whole. If it dropped low enough and there was too few of us and there was enough to go around and the environment was stable, then by all means – have children again, but within the limits of what is possible to sustain.

A here and now solution

Not acting is a form of action. This is a simple solution that anyone can understand and it’s something that can be done by everyone to stop adding to the global problems and to generally improve life for themselves and others.

Hope that was clear enough, I want to remind everyone I am not trying to offend anyone and it really is up to yourselves whether you choose to have or not have children. If you do, make sure it’s for the right reasons.

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Spirits of the Goetia are portions of the human brain | Aleister Crowley |


I have seen this topic come up numerous times on many blogs and  forums. The problem stems from Aleister Crowley in the section of the Goetia ‘The Initiated Interpretation of Ceremonial Magic’.

Page 17 of Goetia – Published by Weiser, Crowley:

The spirits of the Goetia are portions of the human brain.

I am not approaching this quote to say spirits are not real, I am aware that Crowley is not an authority when it comes to evocation. I am aware of the differences between physical and visible evocation and the general mental masturbation. I am not an expert on these matters however and so I am not approaching this quote with the intent of proving/disproving the existence of spirits, nor am I claiming that I know how to evoke spirits.

All I will say in that regard to this quote, is that Crowley argues that illusions appear in experience and are real. An illusion does not qualify as non-existent or not-real, it’s just a different kind of real. Without complicating the main objectives of this thread, I will bring up the realism of John Searle. To Searle, there are four kinds of real – ontologically objective (exists independent of experience), ontologically subjective (exists dependent on experience), epistemically objective (knowledge that is independent of experience) and epistemically subjective (knowledge dependent on experience). I would say that Crowley is arguing a form of ontological subjectivity in his interpretation, that the effects occur through experience. This is why Crowley resists calling the illusion part of realism in my opinion and instead uses Kant’s transcendental idealism to say that the spirits are active components or processes of our perception – things in themselves – that are capable of knowing things prior to experience, or sorting out knowledge. I have left the component of will out for now, more on that after I have deconstructed his interpetations.

An illusion is an effect of a mutiple contingent or necessary phenomena occuring in a constant conjunction that would not occur if the mutiple components were to be observed in isolation. In this regard, self and self-awareness is an illusion. Our bodies are made up of complex components that by themselves, produce no self, but if they are working in constant conjuction they produce the illusion of self, identity and consciousness. When illusions are understood in this way, it is absurd to extract the claim ‘Crowley says spirits are not real’ from this quote. If spirits are not real because they are an illusion, then we are not real.

Anyway, enough of that. Reading through his essay reveals many components that people seem to leave out (conveniently) when discussing this particular quote, it usually appears in isolation, which in my book is cherry picking and quote mining. Taken with the context of the rest of the essay, Crowley is arguing for the validity of illusions as real things.

What is of interest to my inquiry here, are the terms Crowley uses in the same section of the Goetia that reveal possible links to general philosophy not normally considered of use in occult studies or practices. It is my belief that Crowley and a few occultists of Theosophical creed, were using the metaphysics of their time and not from actual manifestations that occur during a ritual. For reasons that will become clearer later on in regards to the influence of German idealism on Crowleys’ explanation, it may be worth pointing out that the word for ‘mind’ in German is the same as ‘spirit’. In Hegel’s ‘The Phenomenology of Spirit’, the title has on occassion been interpreted as ‘The phenomenology of mind’.

So with the foreword serving as a disclaimer of what this inquiry hopes to achieve and what it doesn’t.

Cause and effect

Crowley uses Herbert Spencer to say that if illusions exist, they are evidence at least of some cause. Crowley then asserts that this is a fact. He then uses the term Akasha, from Hinduism – which means something along the lines of ‘essence’ the first material substance which came from an astral world. Not much to go on here, but there’s more later on that gives us a better scope of influences. For now though, we need to understand the foundations of philosophy and how views have changed over time before Crowley.

A very brief history of the foundations in philosophy

Medieval dogma, modern philosophers from Descartes to Locke, all presumed an a priori realm. Much like Plato’s forms. They also assume that the cause is greater than the effect, or that it must contain at least an equal amount of the parts contained in the material object. This dualism was taken down by George Berkeley, who claimed that material substances are dependent on the existence of minds and this led to idealism. These philosophers believed that particulars were transcendent, they came out of something beyond reality. Spinoza and Leibiniz then came along with immanence, or pantheism/panentheism which sees reality as all in God, but God is greater than nature, we and all material things are finite modes of an infinite God. Immanance means there is no beyond, if there is an astral plane for instance, it would still be a part of this universe/reality/existence, but God or the essence would still be greater than all of these modes. Leibniz also believed there is a ‘Monad’ that contains a history and can percieve reality from it’s own perspective, humans were the only material things that are composed of many monads, that could reflect on their content.

Then came along Hume, who said that causes can’t be known. What is here and now is so remote from it’s original source that we only ever see a constant conjunction and that ideas and impressions come from the senses in this world and we were not as Descartes and Locke, Berkeley, Spinoza and Leibniz claimed, that God was percieving through us. He took Lockes tabula rasa (blank blackboard) and explained how we can only ever have matters of fact that others have discovered and which are self defining, or we have relations of ideas.

Immanuel Kant took what Hume said and tried to debunk him. In doing so he discovered an active part of human cognition that was in his terms ‘synthetic a priori’ knowledge that is a thing-in-itself, a ‘transcendental idealism’. This has no connotation of alternative realism in the mystical sense, it is referring to an active component within cognition and perception that can recognise patterns before they are complete, we can know something without having prior experience of it.

Back to Crowley.


Like Berkeley, Crowley explains how Fichte says the ‘phenomenal Universe is the creation of the Ego’ to which Crowley interprets as the means the third eye ‘in the brain’. He says this can be assimilated by Realism but that we ‘have no need to take the trouble’. He says all ‘sense impressions are dependent on changes in the brain’ and that illusions are as real when classed as ‘phenomena dependent on brain-changes’.

This puts him in the same transcendentalism as Berkeley, but as he has referenced Fichte, a German idealist who was after Kant and Hume, he is not strictly speaking an idealist, it’s a much more subtle version of it.

He then includes the application of ‘will’ as well as a combination of objects and practices, including the mind which are required to perform ceremony.

He explains how the perfumes and scriptures produce ‘unusual brain changes’ and the mind ‘projects back into the phenomenal world’.This passage is perhaps the most revealing of Crowley’s metaphysics. Akasha then, it a form of will – the essence is the will.

Fichte claims that ‘the essence of an I lies in the assertion of one’s own self-identity, i.e., that consciousness presupposes self-consciousness. Such immediate self-identity, however, cannot be understood as a psychological fact, nor as an act or accident of some previously existing substance or being.’ Kant, while smashing the rationalists to pieces and following the limitations of Hume’s empriical scepticism, did allow for two worlds to exist. One of experience, phenomena, which is the world we occupy in material existence and another world that was intelligible, beyond our capabilities of understanding – the things in themselves that occupy the noumenal realm, which is our active perception that allows us to experience the material world.

Kant explained that because the ‘thing in itself’ can’t be known by science, we are free to believe in things like religion, the future and other such things, but there was a realm of experience that belonged to science that was empirical and that philosophy should do the same. Crowley read these works and changed a few premises to fit his description as we shall see. A more immediate reference to Kant is ‘philosophy has nothing to say and science can only suspend judgement.’

Crowley uses this split to justify his version of idealism that he believes is proven through illusion and perception, with the will as the active process of percpetion that is capable of manifesting spirits.

With all of this background we can see how Crowley did not arrive to his claim that ‘the spirits of the Goetia are portions of the human brain’ through the methods he describes, but rather he applied transcendental idealism to his explanation. The spirits to Crowley are the ‘things in themselves’ or in Fichtes terms ‘by positing its own limitation, first, as only a feeling, then as a sensation, then as an intuition of a thing, and finally as a summons of another person.’


Crowley’s references to will also bring other Kantian influenced philosophy into the frame. When he explains the ‘destruction of our enemies is to realise the illusion of duality, to excite compassion’, aside from his explanations of how these things-in-themselves, or active transcendental mechanisms which he calls spirits that are summoned through intuition, he seems to be revealing a link to Arthur Shopenhauer and Hegel. This will further elaborate on Akasha as an essence that is more than the finite modes of existents.

Hegel was a revolutionary philosopher who actually tried to describe the experience of the transcendental realm, or the thing in itself. Hegel claims that we are all ultimately one, there is one underlying reality and self-awareness is a necessary illusion that gives us the appearance of seperateness. Shopenhauer takes these metaphysics and declares there is a ‘will’ behind or around all things, an immamance, but it’s not like our individual will however, it is is more like an energy. In humans the will is the ‘will to life’ and it manifests usually as desire for satisfaction in a never ending cycle of suffering. Shopenhauer was a pessimist and concluded that the only basis for morality was compassion, as we are all interconnected as one, one cannot act with out causing action upon other beings around me. Shopenhauer was a notoriously cranky philosopher and despised women, something that Crowley would certainly have found attractive.

So to destroy one’s enemies by realising the illusion of duality follows this same logic.


I have long suspected for many years that Crowley was influenced greatly by German philosophy, all of the philosophers I have talked about lived and died before Crowley was born in 1875, Shopenhauer died only 15 years before Crowley was born.

Crowley percieves spirits in the same sense as Kantian transcendental idealism, with Fichtes’ take on intution and summoning. Crowley sees the spirits as active components of perception and of knowledge that occupy a noumenal world that can’t be known as a cause but can be accessed and retrieved through ceremony and intuition.

I personally see Crowleys’ explanation as unnecessary, as the same conclusions and knowledge can be accessed through the same metaphysics as previous philosphers before him. As I explained when I opened this thread, I am not trying to debunk or find out if spirits are real or not, I am only breaking down the content of what Crowley provides on it’s own terms.

Crowley even admits that ‘these practices are useless;but for the benefit of others less fortunate I give them to the world’. I don’t accept his apology afterwards as I have laid out this article it seems that he was hiding influences on his thought that would probably have been better applied with a different set of questions.

Psychology was just starting to build itself up as a human science and after Shopenhauer, Nietzsche and Freud came along with a powerful materialism that focused on drives, which are possible to explain in terms of Crowley’s ‘spirits’, except they are not transcendental or from a noumenal realm, they are on a plane of immanance in this world.

If taken in regards to physical manifestation

If we are to improve what Crowley says to match the claim that Goetic spirits are ontologically objective, but manifest in this world not as part of the brain but as a seperate entity that can be observed by one or two people, then we can with charity explain it in a dialectical monistic way. Dialectical monism, or dualistic monism is the ontological view that reality is a whole but expressed necessarily in seperate parts. This is more akin to Spinoza’s panentheism – the one and the many, all is in god but god is more than nature and all material substances are finite modes of an infinite being, like God. This allows for spirits to exist as modes, they are less than god and part of nature. They are not beyond nature and don’t come from a transcendental realm, nor are they soley an aspect of a human brain. They can only be experienced through ritual ceremony however, but this does not mean they don’t exist prior to the experience.

Spirits exist with humans, however spirits can exist without them also, this makes humans contingent and not necessary to spirits, but spirits are a necessity of nature for humans. This is a statement that includes a oneness of duality, that reality is not one, or two, it is one and two. When humans call spirits, it is for matters that are necessary to humans, whereas spirits are concerned with necessities outside of human experience. Due to the fact there are limits on this relationship and that humans only have a contingent part to play, it is fair to say that spirits can be related to parts of the human mind in the forms of desires and satisfaction of desires. Thus, instead of ending up with a dualism or a monism, we can say that spirits are one and two things at once. They are ontologically objective because they exist independent of our experience, however they only have relevance when they are evoked through experience and are also ontologically subjective as well. Their effects on human desires are ontologically subjective, the knowledge of the symbols in the Goetia to call them is epistemically objective and the intuition, motives and personal will is epistemically subjective in the magician.

With the transcendental idealist interpretation, there is no ontologically objective form of the spirit, there is an ontologically subjective form from the thing-in-itself in the mind of the one who experiences the spirit, the knowledge of the symbols in the book is epistemically objective and the intuition and summoning, or information aquired by the spirit in the mind is epistemically subjective.

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Abjection | I stray in order to be |

What is abjection?

The general usage of the term ‘abject’ is an adjective for the most depraved, low, disgusting forms of ways of life, or individual and societal acts. We might say ‘the crime in that particular area is abject’; or ‘those people live in abject poverty’. In any case, wherever it is used, it is referring to something outside of a norm of goodness.

In it’s philosophical usage, it denotes a state of ‘being cast off’; or ‘excreted’ and ‘rejected’. Language informs our reality, it represents it and so abjection defines a boundary between two states of being, the pure and the impure, me and not me.


Liminality is a key term when describing the abject. To be liminal is to relate a transitional or initial stage of a process, like a ritual. It also explains an occupied position at, or on both sides of a boundary and a threshold. Liminality is the process of ‘in-between’ moments in space between an inciting incident and a solution. The term is most commonly used in literature, the solution is from a protagonist.

It is often a period of discomfort, of waiting, and of transformation. Your characters’ old habits, beliefs, and even personal identity disintegrates.

The term sub-liminal refers to existing or operating below the threshold of consciousness; being or employing stimuli insufficiently intense to produce a discrete sensation but often being or designed to be intense enough to influence the mental processes or the behavior of the individual: a subliminal stimulus; subliminal advertising.

When we talk about abjection, we are talking about an ordering of boundaries that leads to a transformation of both sides, it operates in-between the boundary and the boundary between self and other, even the boundary of subconsiousness. The abject is something instinctual, primal and prior to language itself. It can be manipulated and reshaped through emotions.


The abject is niether object or subject. It occupies the liminal space between the two. It subverts and perverts boundaries. It is ‘the me that is not me’. We define ourselves and others through the abject, we cast off a part of ourselves in order to redefine the new boundaries and identity of either side.

Abject as a protection

It’s biological expression is one of nausea and disgust, anxiety and spasms. It protects us from what we loathe. We spit ourselves out. Food loathing is perhaps the best example of the abject. Jellied eels are a common delicacy in some London pubs, just watching others scoff and swallow those slimy, gross eels with a pint of lager makes me wretch and purge. When I can’t hide my repulsion from others, they seek to proffer the loathed food and I refuse. ‘I’ do not want to listen.’I’ refuse to assimilate it. ‘I’ expell it.

To each ego it’s object, to each superego, it’s abject.

A corpse is another way of understanding abjection, a corpse shows you the boundary of life itself, what we push aside in order to live.

Formation of individuality

If we think of desire (want) as something prior to signification, preliminary to being and object, we can understand abjection as something intimate and unapproachable. It means that lives are not sustained by desire, but through exclusion. It is how territories are formed. The abject is phobia and the splitting of the ego. We are not subjects, but rather, dejects, we place ourselves, seperate ourselves and situate ourselves and therefore stray.

Strayed to salvation

Whenever we become disgusted with our own actions and thoughts, we begin to deject and stray, we are literally beside ourselves. We refuse to assimilate the part of ourselves that provokes such nausea and phobia, we protect ourselves from ourselves and form the ‘I’.

When we cross the threshold of individual territory into society, we can see the abject forming borders, casting-off that which it does not tolerate and loathes, yet the deject also finds the others in those groups counter to their desires and so excludes themselves in order to grow as an individual.

I stray in order to be. Shakespeare’s famous line from Hamlet best captures the abject – ‘to be or not to be, that is the question’, as Hamlet is cast-off and dejects what he finds repulsive within his family, ‘something is rotten in Denmark’. Thus, Elizabethan England was a time of revolt against old traditions and rebellion, it was the birth of the individual in modern literature.

One could argue that Odysseus was the first individual, as he was cast-off and excluded only to return with a solution to reorder the changes while he was away with violence.

What is abject is in constant battle and revolt with what it excludes and rejects it. It cannot be assimilated, it establishes itself and protects itself from the shameful.

Bodily fluids

The abject is that which is excreted from a body, be it a social body or an individual deject/subject. These excretions are me, yet not me. The HIV/AIDS epidemic is the best example of this rejection of the other that reordered liminal space. The 80’s were a time of hysteria about bodily fluids as they were percieved as diseased and so people who were ill and dying were rejected from society. This extended to anyone who was outside of the territory of norms and customs in general, punks, drug users who shared syringes, black people due to a racist view of the genesis of the virus, homosexuals, queers, transgender and many more out-casts were in constant revolt against the exclusion.

We can think of the abject as a power of horror that works in a ritualistic way, it’s sole desire is to save itself from what it considers intolerable. It reveals a subliminal power in the horror that power is a two way street and the abject produces symbols and actions of defiance, re-turning, detournment and revolution as it subverts these hidden boundaries.

Situationaist International thinker, Guy DeBoor used French Detournment. It gave a name to what youth sub-cultures had always been doing, taking a style, symbol or form of life and hacking it, subverting it, perverting it from it’s intentions. For example, Teddy boys took Edwardian fashion and turned it into working class machismo, while punks and queers took derogatory labels and turned them into symbols of defiance.

His intent on using this ‘re-turning’ was to address the assimilation of capitalism into our thoughts and desires, since advertising took off in the 20th century, it replaced thoughts with a collection of images that enclosed the subject body into a consumer society.

Domination and resistance

Wherever there is domination there will always be a continuing resistance. The abject is the dark revolt of the soul.

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