Practical Paganism:
Allister Crowley, Jorges Borges,
& Umberto Eco

As Metaphysicians


by Thom Laaki

Recently a friend of mine admonished me with a quote from Allister Crowley ("release yourself from the passion of results") because of my impatience during a disscussion about a creative project we are working on together. It seemed rather odd to me to hear Crowley quoted in such context. As the infamous magus, scholar, and otherwise, his philosophies were some of the pretexts for movements impatiant with cumbersome morals and social dictates of that era, such as the 'revival' of hedonism in the 1890's and the Neitschesque creed of action ver thought. The friend's simple sentence has been running in my mind over and over the last few weeks, not so much as a reminder to stay calm but to remind me of how the struggle of the sentient mind over the confines of the reality around him has been going on for quite a long time. SMiles Lewis' "Possible Paradigms" concept can cover a vast scope of thought and ideas. Encompassing not only the areas of evidence about psychic abilities and contact with other forms of sentience, but of the constant struggle of humanity to free itself from its own perceptions and limitations. I have assembled an introductory sampling of three different authors whose works deal with perception and searching.  

Magick  by Crowley gave a new and fresh approach to the occultist movement of the late 19th century. With it's reproach on the stiffling restrictions of both Christianity and Satanism, the author tried to dictate the definative means of truly awakening to the potentials of personal power. While this can disolve into a manifesto for pure, unadulterated egoism he also recognized the need for some sort of discipline of one's thoughts in perception and processes. The rote as a symbol, and the symbol as a result in and of itself, to badly paraphrase him.  

The Latin American writer Jorges Borges in his collection The Aleph And Other Stories, writes autobiographical stories, I believe, not only with a smooth and refined quality but with mysticism and supernatural phenomea presented matter of factly in a cosmopolitan fashion. There is a scene, in "The Aleph", where the author describes having the experience of seeing a place from where every point in the universe can be seen at the same time. Following that the writer shows all-to-human pettiness towards the discoverer of the spot. Borges's stories show a person living well beyond the simple perceptions of reality with out the recrimination and self-doubt that so afflicts most people when they feel they have had an "exceptional human experience."

Reality must seem much more fluid to authors and thinkers from Latin cultural influences, because in my infantile readings I have found a vast array of works from Latin writers that deal with perception and reality. The author Umberto Eco is perhaps the best I have found. While he doesn't discuss EHE or other specific experiences, he discusses spiritualism and human endeavor in his book Serendipities: Language and Lunacy. In this collection of essays he discusses concepts that shaped history. It is outside of the economic driven view of history, dealing with the myths and philosophies that lead to the exploring of the New World and the visions of the Utopian writers that shaped the 20th century. If there was ever a writer that examined the paradigms we use to shape reality, here he is.  

I admit to some playfulness in this article's title, neither Borges nor Eco would actually be described as Metaphysicians- at least as far as my own limited reading would suggest. But I find it reassuring that the conitnual quest for the attainment of a higher state of perception and being is so commonplace that even a Nominalist such as myself can find common examples of it everywhere. While constantly shifting the sand of static perception through my screen filter I find common threads of thought that add creditability to concepts normally scoffed at.