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How relevant is 'psychotherapy' to magickal/esoteric practice?

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Post  Khephra on Fri Sep 11, 2009 10:28 am

How relevant is 'psychotherapy' to magickal/esoteric practice? Psychotherapy


For the complete article, see here:

Israel Regardie, Initiation, and Psychotherapy
by Cris Monnastre and David Griffin

The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Ordo Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis (R.R. et A.C.) are two divisions of an initiatic and magical Order founded by high-ranking Freemasons in England, respectively in 1888 and 1892. Although the exact origins of the Order remain obscure as well as controversial, its primary historical importance lies in its brilliant synthesis of mythical and magical material, from such varied sources as the Fama Fraternitatis (the first published Rosicrucian document), The Egyptian Book of the Dead, Cornelius Agrippa, Tycho Brahe, and John Dee. Salient aspects of the vast corpus of the Order's initiatic and magical material were first revealed in 1937 by the late Dr. Israel Regardie. This material has subsequently impacted most areas of modern magic, as well as many other arenas of spirituality.

Israel Regardie (1907-1985) stands as an important generational link to the magical rebirth of the late nineteenth century, as well as a pioneer in an early attempt to integrate psychology and magic. Born in 1907, Regardie as a young man knew both Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) and Dion Fortune (1890-1946), two early adepts of the Ordo Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis, each of whom went on to found their own esoteric fraternities. Regardie was also initiated into the Stella Matutina, an early offshoot of the Golden Dawn. Finally, Regardie's work was groundbreaking as an early attempt to integrate psychology and magic.

When Regardie was a young man, he fervently wished to become a magician. He considered Aleister Crowley to be the foremost magician of the period and, having introduced himself to Crowley by means of an admiring letter, began to work as his personal secretary in Paris in 1928. After several years with Crowley, Regardie was forced to leave as the result of a painful rupture with his mentor. The trauma caused by this breach wounded Regardie deeply; he later said it took him nearly seven years to recover from it.

Impoverished and confused, Regardie was taken in as a house guest of Dion Fortune, who was living near Glastonbury in southwest England. Fortune was not only a talented magician but a natural clairvoyant as well. Until he died he never forgot her hospitality and generosity during this difficult period.

Dion Fortune influenced Regardie in a completely unexpected direction. She had been instrumental in bringing Sigmund Freud's ideas to England and had written a collection of short stories called The Secrets of Dr. Taverner. Although she characterized these stories as fiction, she said that Dr. Taverner actually existed and that the stories reflected factual case studies in which psychological and magical processes were linked.

It was at Dion Fortune's dinner table that Regardie was first exposed to the ideas of Freud and C. G. Jung. Shortly thereafter, still struggling with the onslaught of emotions stemming from his breach with Crowley, Regardie entered first into Freudian psychoanalysis and later into Jungian analysis. During this phase Regardie became aware of how great a role his own unresolved emotional conflicts from early childhood had played in his rupture with Crowley. Regardie eventually concluded that it was such unresolved infantility that accounted for most of the chaotic group dynamics of earlier esoteric fraternities. This would lead him to insist on the necessity of psychotherapy for anyone seriously practicing any spiritual discipline.

Regardie later moved to the U.S., where he became familiar with the ideas of Wilhelm Reich and entered into Reichian therapy. He also began to correspond with Reich's daughter Eva, which stimulated him to take a serious interest in the mind-body connection and at length to train as a chiropractor.

Even toward the end of his life, Regardie continued to respect both Freudian psychoanalysis and the ideas of Jung. He eventually came to believe, however, that Jungian analysis as he had experienced it was lacking in effective technique. He ultimately concluded that verbal therapy of any orientation paled in the light of Reich's bodywork, and that the techniques of ceremonial magic would one day become a powerful adjunct to psychotherapy.

As a therapist and a bodyworker, Regardie combined Reich's approach with minor chiropractic adjustments, basic magical techniques, and hatha yoga. In a typical session, Regardie would begin by initiating deep, rhythmic breathing in the client for a considerable period of time. This hyperventilation would create a slightly altered state of consciousness. During this process Regardie would survey various areas of tension on the body and would reduce their tightness with a type of deep and at times painful massage.

Both Regardie and Reich felt that unresolved emotional conflicts were stored in the body as tension. Using a physical approach would release blockages so that life energy, which Reich called "orgone," could pass freely through the entire body. During the course of a session, a great deal of emotion would frequently emerge, which the client was encouraged to express.

Regardie often related Reichian ideas to the magic of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. He was particularly fond of one magical exercise called the Middle Pillar Ritual. In this technique the magician visualizes successive spheres of light at various points above, below, and along the spinal column while vibrating certain words. This generates a certain kind of energy, which, according to Regardie, is identical to Reich's orgone. This energy is then circulated around and through the entire body by means of further visualization.

Legitimate esoteric orders have always been primarily intended to provide a context within which initiation may safely and effectively occur. As will be shown here, there are many parallels between initiation and forms of psychotherapy that take into account the spiritual dimensions of growth. Regardie even advised that the two should be considered as complementary processes, and that initiation should always be accompanied by some form of psychotherapy.

_________________
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Post  neutralrobotboy on Fri Sep 11, 2009 7:44 pm

Regardie talks about this a bit in his "final interview" with Christopher Hyatt. I found it pretty interesting. I think he was on to something, personally. He was saying that people wanting to get into Golden Dawn work should have a mandatory year's worth of therapy, and it didn't matter if it was Freudian or Jungian or Reichian, so long as the idea and process of analysis has been thoroughly introduced and explored.

Both Regardie and Reich felt that unresolved emotional conflicts were stored in the body as tension.

My experience seems to suggest that this is a strange reciprocal process. Getting at the issue cognitively/"magickally" can resolve the muscle tension. Processes which bring the "patient" to a certain state of general awareness and then smash at muscle tension physically can resolve the mental tension. In other words, I've found that whichever way you tackle it, resolving one can resolve the other.

Anyway, it seems to me that magic doesn't necessarily do all that much to cleanse the personality, and in many cases it likely serves to make matters worse. I think this is a gigantic failing, myself. Actually, I think it may have been something that dogged Crowley throughout his life. Even yoga, it seems, doesn't necessarily do the trick. Unfortunately, the same can be said for psychotherapy, but I think it can play a pretty useful role in most cases. If not outright psychotherapy, then at least an introspective study of modern psychology.

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Post  Hadrianswall on Sat Sep 12, 2009 3:06 am

neutralrobotboy wrote:... My experience seems to suggest that this is a strange reciprocal process ...

Yes, it doesn’t matter from which end you unravel it as long as you unravel it. Freud would work with the mind to effect change in the body, Reich ended up working directly on the body to effect change in the mind. Ultimately though there is no body/mind dichotomy so I suppose it’s kind of obvious. I prefer a two pronged approach as both have their weaknesses. Body work can often bring change quickly (mostly it is just temporary relief) but does not necessarily provide insight into root causes, therefore it is very easy to back slip. Working with the mind, apart from often being very slow, can often become just a mental indulgence providing little more than a ‘blame list’.

A common mistake is to assume that, we can be fixed. One does some form of therapy and one is well. Not so. Dr. Glenn Morris said ‘If you were an asshole before activating the kundalini you will be a bigger asshole afterwards’.

I think where therapy serves is in helping us to understand and recognise our character’s tendencies, fixations and passions, and by such, being prepared to handle how these seek to manifest once we are running a greater level of energy. We do not kill the Ego, we do not change our character, but Free Will allows us to consciously choose how our personality manifests through its hard-wiring. Lose awareness (awareness is very much connected to humility IMO) and we revert to type.

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Post  ankh_f_n_khonsu on Sun Sep 13, 2009 11:02 am

To be honest, I'm not sure I've ever met anyone who couldn't benefit from some form of 'psychotherapy'. There's lots of different forms that can take (e.g., reclining on a professional's sofa or sharing pints with an old friend), but I think it's pretty much a crucial component of any integral lifestyle.

One of the many Kabbalistic concepts I've adopted is the position that we're all broken vessels, generally unfit for Divine Light. It takes much effort to repair the vessel, and I don't think most esoteric/magickal systems reliably provide that framework - especially for Westerners. In my experience, many of those who claim the greatest competence within such systems aren't very nice people. Furthermore, I've observed that many who practice esoteric/magickal traditions fall victim to predictable forms of psychopathology - especially megalomania.

However, I've noticed that many who I think could benefit from psychotherapy relentlessly deny the relevance of such effort. It's almost like Robert Anton Wilson's "Cosmic Schmuck Principle", where there's an inverse relationship between the amount of psychotherapy you think you need and the amount you actually need. ... or something. Smile
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Post  The_One_True_Fred on Wed Sep 16, 2009 5:15 am

One point I often come across from the educated is that magickal attainment is ideally a slow and lengthy process. I don't believe marrying this to a practice on a charge-by-the-hour business model makes sense during a recession.

I saw a similar discussion a few weeks ago elsewhere, also about the Golden Dawn, that moaned a bit about the way the system lacked a martial arts component. Opinions varied, but what I really took away from the thread was that a number of respected names in GD circles are devoted martial artists and have already been at work trying to fill this "gap", completely independently of eachother. It made me wonder if it's a natural impulse to try to combine one's interests when they overlap some of the same territory.

But as a devoted cynic I refuse to take someone whose livelihood depended on a certain industry to be a perfectly objective judge of its worth. If I could convince you all that my job was integral to your occult practice, I probably would Twisted Evil .

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Post  neutralrobotboy on Wed Sep 16, 2009 7:17 am

The_One_True_Fred wrote:One point I often come across from the educated is that magickal attainment is ideally a slow and lengthy process. I don't believe marrying this to a practice on a charge-by-the-hour business model makes sense during a recession.

Actually, you know, I've been thinking about it, and my "Essential" vote was probably a bit hasty. My view is more that it's important to be aware of modern psychology and apply some of its lessons to oneself. The actual paying to go see someone? Probably not so important, though in my view it's crucial to have someone who can give you a good honest analysis.

I think I could make a good case for "Totally irrelevant," given that magickal/esoteric practice seems to have gotten along alright (in some ways) without psychotherapy. But it depends how you look at it, really. I could probably also defend "Essential" if I was feeling stubborn enough, given the shithouse results I've perceived (in terms of personality) from quite a lot of people drawn to these kinds of practices.

But as a devoted cynic I refuse to take someone whose livelihood depended on a certain industry to be a perfectly objective judge of its worth. If I could convince you all that my job was integral to your occult practice, I probably would Twisted Evil .

This is a pretty worthwhile thing to remember too. Also, magick/esoteric practice is in some ways diametrically opposed to the tenets many psychotherapists hold dear: The magician seeks personal experiences which are divorced from the common understanding and the common perception. The psychotherapist is dedicated to realigning the patient with the common understanding, etc. Well, can't win 'em all, I guess.

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Post  ankh_f_n_khonsu on Wed Sep 16, 2009 11:31 am

neutralrobotboy wrote:The magician seeks personal experiences which are divorced from the common understanding and the common perception. The psychotherapist is dedicated to realigning the patient with the common understanding, etc.
Doesn't psychology do other things too, though? Is psychology purely conformist?
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Post  neutralrobotboy on Wed Sep 16, 2009 7:18 pm

ankh_f_n_khonsu wrote:
neutralrobotboy wrote:The magician seeks personal experiences which are divorced from the common understanding and the common perception. The psychotherapist is dedicated to realigning the patient with the common understanding, etc.
Doesn't psychology do other things too, though? Is psychology purely conformist?

Well, I think it has some useful stuff to offer, but I do think that's its main role in society these days. But it seems to me that if psychologists generally encouraged people to break away from the common framework of their host societies, it's doubtful that their profession would remain above ground. As I understand it, Leary and Reich both had a bit of a rough time on that score.

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Post  iacchus on Thu Sep 17, 2009 6:56 pm

I think that the answer to this, like many things, boils down to “it depends”.

Psychotherapy covers quite a wide range of styles, many of which are at odds with each other. It depends on the type of psychotherapy being discussed.

Styles of esoteric practices likely differ even more than styles of psychotherapy. My answer would surely depend on the chosen path as well.

For example, if I were to answer the poll with a resounding yes, would I be agreeing that a tantric yogin would surely benefit from behavioral therapy? ( I doubt that they would, really)

The practitioner in question must come into play here too. There are three distinct variables involved, all of which would need pinning down before I would feel comfortable answering. (Unless there is an understood “you” here. Then the answer is clear)

I have to disagree with Ankh on a point here. I do not think that any given person would benefit from psychotherapy (but the definition I hold is much narrower, keeping to the professional versions). It is the goal of the therapist to remove the need for themselves in the life of the client/patient, much like a doctor. When the client feels that they have found or forged the proper tools to work through the problems they face without aid from the therapist, then the job is done. The therapist is only there to help the client in the finding and forging of these tools (and the tool is the process, so the instruction in its use is part of the ordeal).

There are dangers of psychotherapy also, which must be considered. It is not the sort of thing that one enters into without some forethought. Not all psychotherapists are worth a damn. A bad one may cause much harm to those that trust the diploma on the wall more than their own senses.

Even if a decent therapist is found, the client runs the risk of becoming dependent upon the professional opinion of the therapist to make future choices. The danger of this increases in proportion to the skill of the therapist, unless measured steps to avoid this are taken from the very first visit.

Some folk will benefit from psychotherapy, while others should be fine without it.
I think that many people see a therapist just for the joy of having someone listen attentively.

I also echo the sentiment that bringing experiences from one's esoteric practice into the therapist's office is generally a bad idea (unless, of course, your therapist is someone like Regardie, who would not blink an eye at such tales).

Most therapists would immediately start work to make sure their client avoided any future schizophrenic episodes. Either the practice and the therapy should be kept separate, or the therapy avoided altogether. To will, to know, to dare, and last, but not least, to keep silent.

Of course, this is assuming that the practitioner is of sound mind and body to begin with. The occult has a history of devouring the unbalanced, and I would not suggest that someone who needed guided therapy embark upon a path of magick instead.

The main goal of the therapist is to help someone function properly again, within the bounds of society. Self actualization has been left long ago by the three hundred dollar an hour crowd. Those therapists exist, but are like honest mechanics, few and far between.

An argument can be made for the necessity of madness at certain points on the path. Getting beyond the cage of Reason is not a simple thing, and most therapists would impede progress here. Also, what good is a therapist to one who must cross the abyss under their own inertia, casting themselves into the void. Your therapist cannot join you in the city of pyramids.

Many of those who give the path a bad name should have never taken up the life in the first place. Others fall prey to curses of the spheres. I have known many who have likely never seen beyond the yesod of malkuth, but will assure you that they are adepts. It happens. A lot. Many folk die climbing mountains too.

Having said this, I think that many practices common to the great work have been mirrored by professional therapists. Cognitive-behavioral therapy shares much with meta-programming ideas and NLP. (I group NLP in with the esoteric disciplines here because Bandler and his ideas are looked upon less than favorably by most professional psychologists, for right or wrong.)

Crowley's practices of cutting one's forearm with a razor blade every time an unwanted habit shows up is operant conditioning. His suggestion to surround yourself with that which you find foul until it no longer causes you despair is similar to aversion therapy.

A good understanding of the history and methods of psychology and psychotherapy is definitely useful to esoteric practices, but a good understanding of esoteric practices could be equally useful to modern psychology and psychotherapy.

I am not suggesting that they are mutually exclusive, just that I do not feel one cannot make progress on the path without the aid of a psychotherapist.
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Post  Khephra on Sat Sep 19, 2009 11:55 am

iacchus wrote:I think that the answer to this, like many things, boils down to “it depends”.
Wonderful, nuanced reply. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Smile

I have to disagree with Ankh on a point here. I do not think that any given person would benefit from psychotherapy (but the definition I hold is much narrower, keeping to the professional versions). It is the goal of the therapist to remove the need for themselves in the life of the client/patient, much like a doctor. When the client feels that they have found or forged the proper tools to work through the problems they face without aid from the therapist, then the job is done. The therapist is only there to help the client in the finding and forging of these tools (and the tool is the process, so the instruction in its use is part of the ordeal).
This reminds me of Leary's "if the phone rings, pick it up", and it's a far cry from the lifetime of therapy endorsed by many professionals. However, I think it's important to note that humans generally do not come pre-equipped with effective coping strategies, and the prevailing culture actively opposes authentic engagement, intimacy, and humility (just to name a few). From a "family of origin" frame, people typically 'leave' their families with a level of differentiation almost identical to that of their parents. As we mature we pick up all sorts of broken strategies and coping mechanisms from our parents and friends, and I do not think most people have the capacity to begin self-authoring effective strategies without some "psychotherapeutic intervention".

A plumber who watched me trying to fix pipes may not think of me as much of a plumber, but when I wear that hat, I am. Similarly, a psychologist/psychiatrist/therapist who watched me dispensing "therapy" (I'm intentionally keeping that ambiguous...) may not think of me as much of a counsellor, but when I wear that hat, I am.

Even if a decent therapist is found, the client runs the risk of becoming dependent upon the professional opinion of the therapist to make future choices. The danger of this increases in proportion to the skill of the therapist, unless measured steps to avoid this are taken from the very first visit.
YES!

I also echo the sentiment that bringing experiences from one's esoteric practice into the therapist's office is generally a bad idea (unless, of course, your therapist is someone like Regardie, who would not blink an eye at such tales).

Most therapists would immediately start work to make sure their client avoided any future schizophrenic episodes. Either the practice and the therapy should be kept separate, or the therapy avoided altogether. To will, to know, to dare, and last, but not least, to keep silent.
Recalling your precedent, I think this probably depends on several intangibles. If I approached a therapist and admitted actively practicing Enochian or Solomonic magick (assuming they knew what that entailed), I can imagine some difficulties... but if I approached a therapist and admitted actively practicing the Sufi Way or Zen Buddhism, I can imagine quite different responses... As well, the therapist's background would probably factor in a great deal. I can imagine therapists in Arkansas being slightly less... spiritually progressive than those in Southern California, for example.

Of course, this is assuming that the practitioner is of sound mind and body to begin with.
In your estimation, do many people make it to adulthood with "sound mind and body"?

Self actualization has been left long ago by the three hundred dollar an hour crowd. Those therapists exist, but are like honest mechanics, few and far between.
Yes, the "good" ones are definitely in the minority, but I think are plenty of "honest mechanics" left. I think regionality plays a role here, too.

With that said, I'm reminded of the Ken Wilber's Integral Institute - a playground for rich yuppies masquerading as a scientific spiritual path. "Honest mechanics", obviously, are in the eye of the beholder.

An argument can be made for the necessity of madness at certain points on the path. Getting beyond the cage of Reason is not a simple thing, and most therapists would impede progress here. Also, what good is a therapist to one who must cross the abyss under their own inertia, casting themselves into the void. Your therapist cannot join you in the city of pyramids.
The "madness" aspect especially resonates with me. I'm not sure the path to sanity lies in sanity. As Krishnamurti reasoned, "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." However, I see therapists as tools, and not every tool is appropriate for every job. If my therapist is a toothpick, it's not going to do me any good climbing a mountain.

Many of those who give the path a bad name should have never taken up the life in the first place.
Sadly, agreed.

Having said this, I think that many practices common to the great work have been mirrored by professional therapists. Cognitive-behavioral therapy shares much with meta-programming ideas and NLP.
Yes! In addition to NLP, I'd add that I think transpersonal psychology has done a wonderful job of bridging the gap! (Integral psychology, IMO, less so.)

A good understanding of the history and methods of psychology and psychotherapy is definitely useful to esoteric practices, but a good understanding of esoteric practices could be equally useful to modern psychology and psychotherapy.
Agreed!

I am not suggesting that they are mutually exclusive, just that I do not feel one cannot make progress on the path without the aid of a psychotherapist.
If I'm digging to China, I can make progress with a spoon, but wouldn't I do better with a shovel? Imagining a scenario where someone was left to "the path" and lacked access to "psychotherapy" (more intentional ambiguity), what do you think would be the outcome?

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Post  amandachen on Sat Sep 19, 2009 12:38 pm

Khephra wrote:If I'm digging to China, I can make progress with a spoon, but wouldn't I do better with a shovel?

Pardon !?
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Post  iacchus on Sat Sep 19, 2009 4:41 pm

If we open the question by allowing wider definitions of psychotherapy, I have no problem with suggesting that everyone should involve themselves with it in some form. Personally, I feel that the lack of available teachers or mentors for those starting esoteric practice is very sad. Much of the classic initiatory systems rely on this heavily. Systems of self initiation work, but are a much more dificult and dangerous. Alas, many of us are left with self initiation for one reason or another.

If the mentor in an initiate system could be considered a psychotherapist, my reply would change drastically.
I would say the same if one considers a peer on the path a psychotherapist. Long conversations with someone else who shares some understanding of the path one is on can be an absolute lifesaver, and many times has been the only thing that has kept me from madness.

I feel that widening the definition to this extent not only changes the question distinctly, but makes it so open ended that the answer hardly matters.

A psychotherapist, when I use it as a technical term, means someone who is paid to offer treatment to a problem found in the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, whether they be a psychologist or psychiatrist (another important distinction).

I do not feel that therapy metered out by a psychiatrist would be useful. Their therapy is generally pharmacological, while a clinical psychologist would be using talk therapy or other non-pharmaceutical methods. Of course there are exceptions to this,but I feel it holds as a rule of thumb.

I also differentiate between a psychotherapist and a psychoanalyst. This distinction might clear the waters a bit. Freudian or Jungian psychoanalysis would seem to me to be more useful to someone trying to self actualize, or even find their “true will”.
I think psychoanalysis would dovetail more easily with the focus of many esoteric practices. Also psychoanalysis is not bound by the necessity of diagnosing the patient/client with a specific mental disorder so as to move forward with treatment (psychotherapists are in this boat from the first visit, since insurance companies will only cover the treatment of disorders specifically laid out in the DSM IV).

Some might consider psychoanalysis a subset of psychotherapy. There is a distinction made between the two disciplines in many circles, especially among analytical psychologists. When I began studying the history of psychology, the distinction was taught as to separate Freud and his students from the likes of the later behavioralists.

This is my bias shining through, and if psychotherapy is meant to include psychoanalysis, my reply is then changed to reflect those leanings stated above. I still would not consider it a necessity to esoteric practices, but I feel the disadvantages of he pairing would be lessened greatly.

However, I think it's important to note that humans generally do not come pre-equipped with effective coping strategies, and the prevailing culture actively opposes authentic engagement, intimacy, and humility (just to name a few).

As far as humans being pre-equipped with effective coping strategies, I would think that is up for some debate. Many of the coping strategies found in children are not taught, and are seen commonly in children from many different cultures. If we are to allow Freud's view any credence, these defense mechanisms and coping strategies develop over time and become practical and useful by adulthood. I do not see any problem with a child naturally using coping strategies such as denial or distortion at a young age. Granted, if these strategies do not develop, they usually show up as neurosis later in life.

I do not count the neurotic as the norm (though many might disagree). The strategies that do form into neurosis are usually because of some retardation to the normal developmental cycle.
If allowed to develop normally, the adult coping mechanisms that are found include things like altruism, humor, sublimation, and so forth. These are all healthy, mature and positive coping mechanisms that develop from the naturally occurring strategies found in children (or so the theory goes).

I do not think most people have the capacity to begin self-authoring effective strategies without some "psychotherapeutic intervention".

Here I just simply disagree, unless by "psychotherapeutic intervention" you mean the normal, non-professional engagement of one's peers and social group.

Modeling one's self against that which is seen to work for others is a powerful skill, whereby we can pick up much of what we need to function as healthy adults without ever having to be trained in the techniques.
Modeling starts in infancy, as the child models itself on its parent(s) actions. While there are advanced techniques (like those found in Erickson's work or in NLP), most folk have some innate ability.

I just do not agree that most people are incapable of self authoring effective coping strategies. In fact, I think most people self author these strategies pretty well (even if the process is not a deliberate or conscious one). While their strategies might not be the most formidable or groundbreaking, I think they suit the person's environment well enough to allow them to be content in their daily lives.

I think those who have picked up a deeper calling, practicing some form of magick or religious system, often are more suited to build themselves more intricate and useful strategies, relying on the meat of their practice to do so. A buddhist may be more likely to have better coping strategies than your average baptist carpenter, but the buddhist has also been exposed to more tools and material to build those strategies.

Recalling your precedent, I think this probably depends on several intangibles. If I approached a therapist and admitted actively practicing Enochian or Solomonic magick (assuming they knew what that entailed), I can imagine some difficulties... but if I approached a therapist and admitted actively practicing the Sufi Way or Zen Buddhism, I can imagine quite different responses... As well, the therapist's background would probably factor in a great deal. I can imagine therapists in Arkansas being slightly less... spiritually progressive than those in Southern California, for example.

Agreed. Also, if I were to ever find a Reichian therapist who I could afford to see regularly, I would. I doubt I would go very far into my occult practices with them, but I still think the sessions would benefit me. I do not think seeing one is necessary to my path, but I do think I could gain much from the experience and would like the opportunity to try.

In your estimation, do many people make it to adulthood with "sound mind and body"?

Yes, in my estimation they do. I honestly feel that those with a mental disorder profound enough to limit their options for personal growth are the minority.

Yes, the "good" ones are definitely in the minority, but I think are plenty of "honest mechanics" left. I think regionality plays a role here, too.


I agree completely. And there does seem to be a geographical component involved here. As an aside, I know of several good therapists in my area, using several different styles of therapy. I have not found a single psychoanalyst (there must be a few, right?).

However, I see therapists as tools, and not every tool is appropriate for every job. If my therapist is a toothpick, it's not going to do me any good climbing a mountain.

Aye. It is also a situation where some therapists are a hammer, some a spanner, some a knife, etc.

If I'm digging to China, I can make progress with a spoon, but wouldn't I do better with a shovel?

Is your therapist the shovel? Did he give you the shovel? What keeps you from getting the shovel on your own? Why did you only have a spoon in the first place?

It is said that it is best for you to make your own tools when embarking upon a practice of ceremonial magick. Buying a pantacle or robe from Wal-Mart just does not have the same effect. I suppose I feel that this is a similar situation. Rather than buy a shovel from my therapist, I would rather fashion one for myself. It might take longer, and I might go through several before I gain the skills to make a shovel that suits my purpose well, but the shovel I create will likely make the whole endeavor that much more worthwhile. Also, as a bonus, I acquire the skill to make good shovels and save a boatload of cash.

Imagining a scenario where someone was left to "the path" and lacked access to "psychotherapy" (more intentional ambiguity), what do you think would be the outcome?

Here the ambiguity deflates the question. I do not think a professional psychotherapist is necessary for one to walk the path and get the results offered by that path. Much depends on the person walking though. Psychotherapy is a terribly young discipline. What happened to all the poor souls before 1800?
If we allow religion to stand in for the “psychotherapy” variable, many paths provide their own therapist. If we consider the priest of the Eleusian mysteries a psychotherapist, would those walking that path be without? The indistinct language here makes it tough for me to reply succinctly.

Maybe the question is referring only to those involved in systems of self-initiation. If so, again, I do not feel that a professional is a necessity. It might help, or it might not. I tend to consider the individual as a great storehouse of possibility. I worked through many of my own personal issues using meditation, meta-programming, and various occult practices. I do not feel that I am a special case, except maybe for the stroke of luck that allowed me a quiet place for a few years to work on myself undisturbed.
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Post  neutralrobotboy on Sat Sep 19, 2009 6:50 pm

I just do not agree that most people are incapable of self authoring effective coping strategies. In fact, I think most people self author these strategies pretty well (even if the process is not a deliberate or conscious one). While their strategies might not be the most formidable or groundbreaking, I think they suit the person's environment well enough to allow them to be content in their daily lives.

I really disagree with you here. I think most peoples' coping strategies are lousy and wind up leading to trouble in other areas. I don't know that most people specifically fit the definition for "neurotic", but if we can go outside psychology jargon, I'll go out on a limb and say that I think most people are distinctly "fucked up" coming into adulthood.

It's similar to the way musculature works: When one muscle is injured or thrown out-of-whack, usually other muscles will try to compensate, which starts throwing other parts of the musculature out of balance. Your back and shoulders might ache all the time as a result of an ankle injury: You develop an unbalanced walk because of how you have to hold your leg to avoid pain, you take to leaning on one side much more than the other, you lift things with that same side to avoid weight on the ankle, you only cross one leg when sitting... etc. A habit of these things eventually conditions other muscles that at first glance seem unrelated to the ankle.

Also for what it's worth, I doubt very much that most people are content in their daily lives. I would tend to think that the majority (and the great majority at that) are "coping", perhaps, but far from "content". Their strategies are good enough for them to continue, yes, but surely that shouldn't be our standard of wellbeing?

I tend to agree with ankh-f-n-khonsu's view, actually. According to my perception most (all?) people develop strategies that aren't all that great for themselves or others. Whether it's "good enough to keep living" is beside the point. In vast majority of cases, I would say that peoples' coping strategies wind up being significant impediments to their own personal growth. And I'd like to think we should hope for more than just that out of people.

I also differentiate between a psychotherapist and a psychoanalyst. This distinction might clear the waters a bit. Freudian or Jungian psychoanalysis would seem to me to be more useful to someone trying to self actualize, or even find their “true will”.
I think psychoanalysis would dovetail more easily with the focus of many esoteric practices. Also psychoanalysis is not bound by the necessity of diagnosing the patient/client with a specific mental disorder so as to move forward with treatment (psychotherapists are in this boat from the first visit, since insurance companies will only cover the treatment of disorders specifically laid out in the DSM IV).

This actually probably makes some things a lot clearer. I took a pretty liberal view of what was meant by "psychotherapy", myself. If we accept this distinction, it becomes a question of how many esoterically-inclined people have a specific diagnosable disorder that would warrant psychotherapy. I'd be willing to bet that certain disorders tend to cluster around certain practices, but that's just a guess. I'd tend to think that a lot of people who are drawn to occultism are trying to compensate for feelings of powerlessness, for example. Whether this qualifies as a psychiatric disorder in the strictest sense or not, it'd be excellent to have that drawn to the practitioner's attention as something that should be worked through. A decent psychologist would hopefully uncover that issue whether the patient mentioned the occult or not. In any case, the odds of entering into some esoteric/magickal practice WITHOUT some comparable issue are, in my view, pretty much zero.

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Post  iacchus on Sat Sep 19, 2009 7:50 pm

I really disagree with you here. I think most peoples' coping strategies are lousy and wind up leading to trouble in other areas. I don't know that most people specifically fit the definition for "neurotic", but if we can go outside psychology jargon, I'll go out on a limb and say that I think most people are distinctly "fucked up" coming into adulthood.

I think we are disagreeing here over what would be considered "fucked up".
I would consider someone "fucked up" if they cannot function in society. Can't hold a job, violent without provocation, taking cues from the voices in their head, etc.

I do not feel that a normal person should be without a troubled psyche. We all have our crosses to bear. I do not hold the general populace to the mental standards of the adept. They will not be in complete control of their mental state, and thats fine. I do not feel that the species at large has evolved to the point where it is free from all tribulation.

In my view, a sane, content person will still have emotional instability, bouts of depression and all the other storms of the psyche that are hallmarks of the human condition at this point in time. Hell, I consider that healthy. Such mental anguish gives the bearer an obstacle to overcome and can be used as an impetus for further development.

Consider it a bell curve. Those folk a couple of standard deviations from the mean one way are in mental institutions, those a couple of standard deviations from the mean the other way are full blown bodhisattvas. The rest of the folk fall somewhere in the middle. While not perfect, they can still work together in a positive and practical way.

Also for what it's worth, I doubt very much that most people are content in their daily lives. I would tend to think that the majority (and the great majority at that) are "coping", perhaps, but far from "content". Their strategies are good enough for them to continue, yes, but surely that shouldn't be our standard of wellbeing?

We are, as a species, a work in progress. Sure, there is great room for improvement, but we carry on as best we can. Psychotherapy rarely takes a functioning individual and turns them into a laughing buddha. However, it is pretty good at taking the severely broken people and giving them a chance to get back on their feet.
What do you feel our standard of well being should be?

It might just boil down to differing perceptions of the human race as it is now. I think that it is doing okay, by and large, and steadily improving. There are massive problems, yes, but I feel we are better off today than a century ago. This is, of course, my opinion.
I get the feeling you do not think quite as highly of people in general. Thats okay by me. Disagreements can often cause more forward movement than thought in lockstep. This is another quality I admire in our troubled race.
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Post  Khephra on Sat Sep 19, 2009 8:10 pm

You've given me much to consider, Iacchus. This is quickly shaping up to be an especially provocative discussion. Smile

[Ed. While drafting this response, two more replies were made... Yummy! I'll be back for them when I get the opportunity!]



It seems as though some of our points of divergence include: a) the necessity for a rigid dichotomy between "amateur" and "professional" "psychotherapy"; b) the prevalence of effective self-authoring coping skills; c) the frequency of neurosis in the general population; d) the degree to which the solitary practitioner can be relied upon to see through their own reality tunnel.

Since we've already covered the amateur/professional bit, I'd rather focus on the others.

To address point d, in Rational Mysicism the author describes a condition he calls the "crazy wisdom". He trots out several examples of people who were (supposedly) able to glimpse the highest pinnacles of Divine Experience, but were somewhat incapable of smelling their own B.S. ("belief system"). Few would argue that Evola was an armchair occultist, but was he a better person for all his efforts? Gurdjieff, who attracted celebrity followers such as Aldous Huxley, Georgia O'Keefe, and Frank Lloyd Wright was obsessed with the moon. The moon, he proclaimed, was absorbing energy released by the death of living organisms on earth and would eventually turn into a fertile, earth-like planet in its own right. Meher Baba, the "perfect master", built an international following before he died in 1969, even though for more than forty years he had refused to speak and communicated only with a chalkboard. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh attracted tens of thousands of followers while advocating sexual promiscuity and violence as avenues to transcendence. Chögyam Trungpa, who introduced Tibetan Buddhism to the west in the 70's and founded the Naropa Center in Boulder, Colorado, had sex with male and female followers and showed up for lectures hours late and drunk. (For more variations on this theme, see Georg Feuerstein's Holy Madness.)

If allowed to develop normally, the adult coping mechanisms that are found include things like altruism, humor, sublimation, and so forth. These are all healthy, mature and positive coping mechanisms that develop from the naturally occurring strategies found in children (or so the theory goes).
With a standing interest in motivation, I'm fascinated by the growing body of research into altruism. One of the studies I recently read longitudinally tracked the empathy response in children. The basic scenario of the experiment was this: children are confronted - usually during a walk with parents - by someone who has apparently had a bicycle accident. The actor/victim is coached into position, laying crumpled under their bike, with minor cosmetics to support the illusion (but no gushing blood or any of that). They started with 3 year olds, and repeated - with variation - at 5, 7, 9 & 14. The results: 3 year olds have high empathy responses, but there is a precipitous drop concurrent with entry into public schools which never recovers (or, at least not within the bounds of the study). The authors argued that students learned the opposite of empathy and altruism in schools. The study also referenced the decay of "humor" into sadism, and called for additional research into the effects of "comedy that cuts".

This coincides strongly with the position of John Taylor Gatto, who, after being NY's star teacher of the year, quit: "If you hear of a job where I don’t have to hurt kids to make a living, let me know. Come fall I’ll be looking for work." He was one of the "good mechanics". In his Underground History of American Education, he argues that the "failing" school systems are really remarkably successful. Based on the ideologies of the principle architects of compulsory schooling, it's doing exactly what it's intended to do - producing shallow, empty cogs for the Leviathan. (This, obviously, informs my bias.)

I'd also add that mass media has usurped the influence of traditional role models, the research coming out tracking the "millennials" is shocking in it's blatant narcissism, and the deleterious effects of being ceaselessly bombarded with propaganda actively sublimates the development of authentic empathy and altruism - as well as effective self-authoring coping strategies.

I do not count the neurotic as the norm (though many might disagree). The strategies that do form into neurosis are usually because of some retardation to the normal developmental cycle.
Personally, I think the idea of a "normal developmental cycle" is an imaginary social construct - much like genius. Einstein was brilliant, but couldn't tie his shoes. If he'd been born among Eskimos, he might've died before reaching adulthood. There are definitely generalizations we can make about "developmental cycles", but I'm not sure that we have a situation where the prevailing culture provides a "normal developmental cycle" in any legitimate way, for most people.

As for the prevalence of neuroticism, I hold that it's pretty much ubiquitous. I think most people lack the ability to recognize their neuroticisms and even fewer gain effective strategies for integrating neuroticisms from their parents, friends and environment.

I just do not agree that most people are incapable of self authoring effective coping strategies. In fact, I think most people self author these strategies pretty well (even if the process is not a deliberate or conscious one). While their strategies might not be the most formidable or groundbreaking, I think they suit the person's environment well enough to allow them to be content in their daily lives.
I concede that most people's coping strategies are remarkably effective. For example, a child that grows up in an abusive home learns key strategies that minimize abuse. But these same strategies are likely to be ineffective in other domains. Furthermore, coping strategies may be effective in the context in which they are learned or modeled, but that doesn't mean they're healthy. One area where this is especially obvious is in interpersonal relationships - marriages, for instance. When strategies come in conflict, authoring appropriate new strategies is - at some point or another - exceptionally difficult for most couples.

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Post  neutralrobotboy on Mon Sep 21, 2009 5:52 am

I think we are disagreeing here over what would be considered "fucked up".
I would consider someone "fucked up" if they cannot function in society. Can't hold a job, violent without provocation, taking cues from the voices in their head, etc.
Consider it a bell curve. Those folk a couple of standard deviations from the mean one way are in mental institutions, those a couple of standard deviations from the mean the other way are full blown bodhisattvas. The rest of the folk fall somewhere in the middle. While not perfect, they can still work together in a positive and practical way.

It seems we are disagreeing on where a certain line is drawn here, yes. But that's not such a big deal, it's just a matter of words and thresholds, I suppose. I think the last paragraph of Khepra's last reply sums some of my views up reasonably well.

The bell curve idea seems reasonable enough at first, but I'm not sure the real-world distribution of "mental health" (or whatever we'd like to call what we're talking about, if it could be measured) would wind up in a bell-curve as you describe. Maybe I am slightly more cynical than you, or maybe we disagree about what can be considered "good enough" and why.

Here's my line of thought: I would tend to think that a pretty embarrassing percentage of the world's human population, for example, is struggling primarily with matters related to basic survival and physical well-being. What that percentage is, I couldn't really begin to guess, but a simple way to get an estimate might be to look at poverty statistics and try to make intelligent extrapolations from there. Throw in statistics for PTSD, depression, severe anxiety and stress, acts of violence, addiction... And this is before we get to Joe across the street who can't figure out that he's compulsively treating women as vacuous sexual objects (or for that matter why that might not always be a good idea). For my part, I don't think we should have to settle for thinking of any of this stuff as "good enough." I don't mean to be overly down about it. I also don't mean to say we should always be crusading. I just mean that I prefer to hope for more.

I do not feel that a normal person should be without a troubled psyche. We all have our crosses to bear. I do not hold the general populace to the mental standards of the adept. They will not be in complete control of their mental state, and thats fine. I do not feel that the species at large has evolved to the point where it is free from all tribulation.

In my view, a sane, content person will still have emotional instability, bouts of depression and all the other storms of the psyche that are hallmarks of the human condition at this point in time. Hell, I consider that healthy. Such mental anguish gives the bearer an obstacle to overcome and can be used as an impetus for further development.

I actually agree with you here for the most part. It's unreasonable to expect perfection out of anyone. I don't expect it of myself, so it would be pretty lame of me to heap that kind of expectation onto others. For me, though, there's at least one key point of potential disagreement: It can be used as an impetus for further development only if the person undergoing it has the available personal resources to do so. To figure out a little about "personal resources", we might ask: (1)How many "sane, content" people recognize their own dysfunctional tendencies? (2)Of that population, how many have a strong and lasting drive to change? (3)Of that population, how many have the know-how (self-transformational techniques) to succeed? To me, these are important issues to consider.

To relate it back to the poll, I would tend to think that a lot of people drawn toward esoteric/magickal practices could benefit from some kind of psychoanalysis, probably on all three of those considerations. On the other hand, attainment comes in all shapes and sizes and has been going on since well before the advent of modern psychology. Hence, I think any of the poll answers could be pretty well justified.


We are, as a species, a work in progress. Sure, there is great room for improvement, but we carry on as best we can. Psychotherapy rarely takes a functioning individual and turns them into a laughing buddha. However, it is pretty good at taking the severely broken people and giving them a chance to get back on their feet.
What do you feel our standard of well being should be?

Actually, I'll be honest and say I don't know how to answer that question right now. Maybe this undermines everything I've been saying. Hehe, oh well. Maybe I'll give it some more thought...


It might just boil down to differing perceptions of the human race as it is now. I think that it is doing okay, by and large, and steadily improving. There are massive problems, yes, but I feel we are better off today than a century ago. This is, of course, my opinion.
I get the feeling you do not think quite as highly of people in general. Thats okay by me. Disagreements can often cause more forward movement than thought in lockstep. This is another quality I admire in our troubled race.

We might have some differences of opinion there, I suppose. I think our progress has been a trade-off. Some things have gotten better, some stayed more or less the same, some have gotten worse. Are we steadily improving? Are we "on our way"? I don't claim to know one way or another, really. Maybe yes, maybe no. These are complicated questions, I don't know how answerable they are. Optimistic as Robert Anton Wilson always seemed to be about the future, he constantly referred to the human race as being "primitive barbarians". Maybe sometimes it takes an optimist to say such things -- it might be fair to say that we're barbarians only in comparison to what he thinks we're really capable of being.

My feeling is that we probably agree more than it seems, but if not, it makes for interesting discussion anyhow. I've been enjoying this thread, myself!

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Post  ankh_f_n_khonsu on Mon Sep 21, 2009 10:01 am

neutralrobotboy wrote:My feeling is that we probably agree more than it seems, but if not, it makes for interesting discussion anyhow. I've been enjoying this thread, myself!
Me too! Very Happy

One crucial difference seems to be a classic one: Gnostic ("everything is fucked up") vs. Buddhist ("everything is as it should be").

When I get the opportunity, I'll be back to explore this "social bell curve of neurosis" concept. scratch study
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Post  neutralrobotboy on Mon Sep 21, 2009 6:54 pm

One crucial difference seems to be a classic one: Gnostic ("everything is fucked up") vs. Buddhist ("everything is as it should be").

Maybe so. Actually, I agree with both views. Maybe it's more about when to apply which outlook?

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Post  darktcmdoc on Tue Sep 22, 2009 8:48 am

Without going into the details of how Traditional Chinese Medicine and Medical Qigong deal with mental/spiritual "problems", be it with "lay people" or "people on the path", these modalities should usually be done in cooperation with psychotherapy.

At least that's what the lectures and books say.

In practice, I have found it extremely difficult to find a good psychotherapist to refer people to.

This then begs the question; what is a "good psychotherapist" ?

My answer would be as follows;

In these cases there are three aspects to healing;

1. What I can do; balance the energies, clean out the bugs. Identify the spiritual practices that may be causing the disturbances. Take the edge off the "problem" to encourage clear thinking.

2. What the patient can do; self assessment as to the appropriate modifications to lifestyle, thought patterns and spiritual practices.

3. What the psychotherapist can do; identify and diagnose, according to a recognized psychotherapy approach, the discomfort affecting the patient, and treat it to help the patient think clearly.

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Post  Khephra on Tue Sep 22, 2009 12:21 pm

darktcmdoc wrote:This then begs the question; what is a "good psychotherapist" ?
I've been mulling this same question for a few days now... On the one hand I'd like to say a "good psychotherapist" helps "enhance functionality", but I find that a little ambiguous...

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Post  darktcmdoc on Tue Sep 22, 2009 2:01 pm

Khephra wrote:
darktcmdoc wrote:This then begs the question; what is a "good psychotherapist" ?
I've been mulling this same question for a few days now... On the one hand I'd like to say a "good psychotherapist" helps "enhance functionality", but I find that a little ambiguous...

I would define "functionality" as a state where an individual can live without negative interactions with his/her environment while not being haunted by insomnia, bad dreams, anxiety attacks and other manifestations. This would leave the individual free to pursue endavours that lead to development and life enjoyment/enhancement.

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Post  iacchus on Tue Sep 22, 2009 6:16 pm

Well, sorry about not replying for a few days. Had a scare w/ the pregnant wife and spent a day at the goddamn hospital (she's fine) and my work week began. Lets see, where were we?

To address point d, in Rational Mysicism the author describes a condition he calls the "crazy wisdom". He trots out several examples of people who were (supposedly) able to glimpse the highest pinnacles of Divine Experience, but were somewhat incapable of smelling their own B.S. ("belief system").

Osho was a bit of a character wasn't he? Well, what to make of these examples? I suppose one could consider any of their spiritual "insights" as balderdash. I mean, clearly these people were crazy, right? On the other hand, we could ignore their craziness because of the importance of their spiritual "insights". Purposely ignoring the range of options representing a compromise between these two hands, if we choose the latter, we resolve the question in point fairly easily. Apparently psychotherapy was not relevant to the practices of those in the example given, since they seem to have gained great ground in their practice while being wildly unstable.

Then again, it could all be a trick, a ruse for those without the eyes to see past it. Grant talks some about something similar in The Hidden God:

“Crowley sedulously fostered the legends that grew around his name. First a mist, then a fog of vilification, calumny and spite, enveloped him. To anyone familiar with the ways of genius, particularly in occult and religious spheres, the veil of illusion which produced the mirage of "the demon Crowley" could and did have a single aim: that of weeding out the magically competent from the inept. Aspirants to the Order of the Silver Star were (and still are) expected to rely upon their intuitions. Their judgements and evaluations of a person or a system were not to be influenced by the reactions of the misinformed herd. "Spiritual attainment is incompatible with bourgeois morality"; those who
are afraid to admit their deviations from the latter will not possess the courage or the intelligence to aspire to the former. Helena Blavatsky used similar devices to sift the sheep from the goats. Crowley maintained that Blavatsky repelled unsuitable candidates by pretending to be a cheat. In a diary entry dated 6 June 1936, he wrote: "Her tricks and her troopers' oaths were her safeguards against going mad ... as you would do if you had as many followers and disciples as she had."
In a letter to Frater O.P.V. (Norman Mudd), Crowley wrote concerning the Demon Crowley:
Note legend of Beauty and the Beast, Note my title the Beast. The formula is to claim the highest Kingship so that men say "that's what I want", and approach. They must then be disappointed and repelled at every point. If their sense of truth avails they smile and proceed. Instantly, the illusion vanishes and they see that the original claim is just.
Note H.P.B[lavatsky] who persuaded seekers that she was a cheat (having claimed to be sent by the Masters). She did this so well that I have to hang on like a bull-dog to The Voice of the Silence to prevent myself doubting her Adeptship.
This formula is ancient. In Egypt they took the candidate in search of spirituality, purity, etc., to a goat and then said, "This is our God and you have to kiss its arse". on his preparing to comply, lie found the face of a young priestess awaiting his kiss.
Note also the Questing Beast in the Arthurian Cycle and very many similar legends.
And in a postscript to a letter written in 1923 to O.P.V. Crowley continued the theme:
You'll have to make ... people take an absolute stand for or against me. This cowardly compromising with Respectability---they call it Policy-rots the soul. Even when they are honestly working a stratagem at first, events always force them into real treachery. People must burn their boats and defy fate from the start; it's the only way to assure integrity and stay young. “


Personally, I think the idea of a "normal developmental cycle" is an imaginary social construct ...There are definitely generalizations we can make about "developmental cycles", but I'm not sure that we have a situation where the prevailing culture provides a "normal developmental cycle" in any legitimate way, for most people.

I'm not sure what you mean here. Do you mean that a “normal developmental cycle" is an imaginary social construct in the way language is? If so, I certainly agree, but this would cast that shadow over the entire discussion, eh? If you mean that you think a “normal developmental cycle” has no referent, a buzzword without meaning, then I disagree, at least in the sense I was using it. I meant how a human grows and matures as it ages. I would think that there is a very legitimate standard cycle through which a human develops. Rather than a paraphrase, let me quote a relevant passage from Life-Span Human development by Carol K. Sigelman & Elizabeth Rider. Maybe that will make what I mean here more clear.

“...Other changes in the brain also take place between ages 12 and 20. Myelination of certain pathways, including those that allow people to concentrate for lengthy periods, continues during adolescence, which may help explain why infants, toddlers, school-age children, and even young adolescents have shorter attention spans than older adolescents and adults (Tanner, 1990). Further, myelination continues well into adulthood, which may explain why adults are better able than teenagers to integrate thoughts and emotions (Benes, 1998; Nelson,Thomas, & de Haan, 2006). The speed at which the nervous system processes information also continues to increase during adolescence.
Although changes in the brain during adolescence are less dramatic than those earlier in life, it is likely that some of the cognitive growth growth researchers observe during the teenage years becomes possible only because of further brain development. For instance, when coupled with appropriate physical, cognitive, and social experiences, maturation of the brain contributes to the development of scientific reasoning ability. Changes in the brain may also account for some of the risky behaviors associated with this period.”


The retardation of this developmental cycle can happen in a number of ways. Some interesting studies are linked HERE.

Let me make my stance clear. Not only do I feel humans self author coping strategies, but I feel that you must work pretty hard to get them not to. This constant push and pull between the psyche and its external reality is an important part of our personality. Bad coping strategies happen all the time. In a healthy individual, they are replaced with more practical and healthier ones as we age and become more experienced (and in reference to the excerpt above, as our brain matures to the point that it is able to form more complex strategies).

The mature (healthy) coping strategies (suppression, sublimation, altruism, distraction, humor, etc) are directly linked to the emotional maturity of the individual. Thus, one cannot expect an individual to develop healthy and mature coping strategies until adulthood, when their brains have reached a level of development allowing for emotional maturity and introspection.

The longitudinal study mentioned upthread focusing on empathy in school age children is interesting, but I would like to see it carried forth into adulthood before I could say much about it in reference to the topic of this thread. However, it is an interesting study that I have not seen before, and I thank you for posting it.

The question remains, does a significant portion of the adult population form these healthy coping mechanisms without the benefit of professional psychotherapy? I still hold that they do. Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. and Jolyn Wells-Moran, Ph.D., in Coping Strategies and Defense Mechanisms suggest that:

 "Any conscious efforts that a person takes towards making sure their basic needs for food, shelter, safety and belonging are fulfilled can be considered mature coping, for instance, as can any significant self-help effort you decide to take on."


Under this framework, the popularity of self-help books in recent decades point toward the existence of mature, healthy coping strategies. Taking up the great work could also be seen as a mature coping mechanism as well. I do not agree with that wide of a definition, but there is some psychotherapists' opinion on the mater for you. I also would not define it so narrowly as to rule out what many use daily to good results. They do not need to be as complex as biofeedback monitored breathing analysis, but I hardly call getting a burger a healthy coping strategy. I leave it to you to look into this more at your leisure.

It is likely the case that the adults who have developed such on their own could stand to develop more, and still may have some problems putting less mature coping strategies away, but as I have said, I do not feel that one needs the emotional control of an adept or bodhisattva to be considered a mentally healthy adult. I would think that we are a few generations away from the time that we can hope for that. Still, I think it can be reasonably argued that self-authored, healthy coping strategies exist in a statistically significant portion of the adult population.

Here's my line of thought: I would tend to think that a pretty embarrassing percentage of the world's human population, for example, is struggling primarily with matters related to basic survival and physical well-being.

Granted, many adults have not developed such strategies, especially if they are dealing with a shortage of things like clean water, food, shelter, clothing, education and so forth. I agree that this is a shame to the species and effort should be put forth to put an end to those problems. These poor folk need more than psychotherapy to solve their problems though. Also, do you think many of these people really plan to start a practice of ceremonial magick such as Regardie outlines in his treatises on the Golden Dawn?

One crucial difference seems to be a classic one: Gnostic ("everything is fucked up") vs. Buddhist ("everything is as it should be").

I'm not wholly comfortable with the generalization of Buddhism here. This, the philosophy whose first noble truth is: Life is, or ultimately leads to, suffering. I suppose one could argue the case, since the problem is considered an internal rather an external one. Nirvana historically comes upon the aspirant after the cessation of craving and the removal of delusion, conferring a break from samsara (Mahayana does not quite hold true with this, delusion being broken at a later state, but anyway). Still, I would be hard pressed to sum up the Buddhist world view as it is quoted above. Maybe Taoism would be a better philosophy to take up the mantle of "everything is as it should be".

When I get the opportunity, I'll be back to explore this "social bell curve of neurosis" concept.

Honestly, I was just using the bell curve for imagery. I doubt that one could statistically tabulate the amount of neurosis across population n.

Maybe so. Actually, I agree with both views. Maybe it's more about when to apply which outlook?

Agreed. I doubt that the discussion could be boiled down to those two modes of thought, really.

Sorry for the lengthy reply and quotes, but I'm too tired to be trusted to paraphrase all that. It might be a few days before I get back here. It is a good discussion though.
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Post  ezavan on Thu Sep 24, 2009 4:37 pm

i find magic to be an effective tool for leveling out the personality. i have seen examples of magical initiation providing superior help for persistent problems with eating disorders, psychosexual obsessions, self-destructive attitudes, and even deep-seated phobias. i question the wisdom of any magician that feels psychotherapy is necessary as a pre-requisite to magical practice, but feel that it IS important to be keenly aware of internal changes while the process of magical development creates a new being from the constellation of personalities that is Self.

occult martial arts such as qi-gong and tai chi chuan made a huge difference in my life and helped me to confront issues that therapists had failed to adress. i would assert that involving these or similar physical practices can create a potent healing experience (on all levels, including psychologically) when enacted magically.

people in general tend to overstate the value of a socially acceptable ego; although i agree that a balanced psychocosm is easier to understand and that social acceptability brings with it advantages of smoother communication, i deny that these traits are necessary or even relevant to magical power or growth. the psychological self and the psychic Self are not the same. considering the entire trajectory of known human history, the two most popular and practical tools used by our species have been the stone hand-axe and magic. going deep into a cave and aligning the universe for a good hunt is an instinctive gesture that has to do with necessity, not personality. the details have changed, of course, but spiritually the role it plays is the same. is magic psychological? in a world dominated by people and their culture, largely yes (because affecting other people is, in a situation such as modern earth, much more important than, say, convincing deer to come closer to your encampment), but essentially - as in, at its core - no. i would say the biggest benefit psychotherapy has to offer a magician is helping to clarify the "true will" or real desires; desires that benefit the whole being instead of short-sightedly serving choronzon.

i've encountered individuals who started getting interested in magic because of psychotherapy, the techniques for self-management that they learned from therapists opening them up to a more spiritual side of life within which they discovered their magical philosophies. having a basic understanding of psychological concepts can also be extremely beneficial, both for your own practice and for talking about it. when discussing magical philosophy with other people i almost always tend towards the psychological model, considering it's the one least likely to make me seem crazy.

realistically, i think that psychotherapy can be a very helpful and important step towards actualizing the complete Being, the singularity that rests at the heart, but is it essential for magical work? clearly not. each person is their own system of energy, ideas, and possibilities - for some the techniques of psychologists will be helpful and even enlightening, for others the relevance is questionable at best. i personally never reccommend the clinical psychological route to anyone because of the far-reaching influence of pharmaceutical companies and the generally evil presence of psychiatrists.
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Post  neutralrobotboy on Sat Sep 26, 2009 11:12 pm

Crowley sedulously fostered the legends that grew around his name. First a mist, then a fog of vilification, calumny and spite, enveloped him. To anyone familiar with the ways of genius, particularly in occult and religious spheres, the veil of illusion which produced the mirage of "the demon Crowley" could and did have a single aim: that of weeding out the magically competent from the inept.

I've been thinking about this lately. He certainly fostered those things intentionally. His reasons seem unclear to me still, though. To fend off the inept? Maybe. I'm really not sure. I also have the feeling that it might've simply been "what he liked", and it happened to have that effect, which he also liked. In any case, in my earlier reply, I probably judged Crowley's personality too quickly and simplistically.

i find magic to be an effective tool for leveling out the personality. i have seen examples of magical initiation providing superior help for persistent problems with eating disorders, psychosexual obsessions, self-destructive attitudes, and even deep-seated phobias. i question the wisdom of any magician that feels psychotherapy is necessary as a pre-requisite to magical practice, but feel that it IS important to be keenly aware of internal changes while the process of magical development creates a new being from the constellation of personalities that is Self.

Sounds reasonable enough to me. I suppose the "therapy" idea is to ensure that people are already actively looking inward before the magickal processes begin. I would tend to think of it as a "primer" in that way. I've also generally found esoteric therapies much more effective than psychotherapy, but I'm not so sure that means that it is somehow unwise to propose that psychotherapy/psychoanalysis should precede (at least some kinds of) magickal practice. In Regardie's case, he claimed he was trying to address some of the problems that ruined the original Golden Dawn. To me, the psychoanalysis idea seems like a pretty reasonable approach. Unfortunately, it was dropped from the membership requirements, so we can't say whether it "worked" or not. In fact, where have the two disciplines been consistently coupled? It would be interesting to have some real case studies for this...

people in general tend to overstate the value of a socially acceptable ego; although i agree that a balanced psychocosm is easier to understand and that social acceptability brings with it advantages of smoother communication, i deny that these traits are necessary or even relevant to magical power or growth. the psychological self and the psychic Self are not the same.

I guess it becomes relevant to esoteric practice when our personalities are in such conflict that we cannot even work together magickally. I don't actually know how big of an issue this is. Once you're past a certain point, it's probably irrelevant. Until then, though...? Maybe still irrelevant, maybe not. I generally work alone, so I can only really go by reports of others. From what I can glean, though, it seems like it's a pretty serious issue.

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Post  ankh_f_n_khonsu on Sun Sep 27, 2009 9:44 am

neutralrobotboy wrote:I also have the feeling that it might've simply been "what he liked", and it happened to have that effect, which he also liked. In any case, in my earlier reply, I probably judged Crowley's personality too quickly and simplistically.
He died alone, friendless, having never grown out of childish narcissism and rebelliousness. IMO, he may have been an accomplished magus (+etc), but he wasn't a very good man. I'd say he could've greatly benefited from some psychotherapy... someone to call him on his bullshit. Sadly, given his demeanor, he'd probably ignore them and keep doing whatever he wanted...
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