Wednesday, February 11, 2009

East vs West: false dichotomy

Ok, so this I think is going to be the blog topic for the week. 

If you wanna get background on all this, see the comments to this post here between Jow, Frater RO and myself. That led to a series of IM's between RO and I which led me to post this. And which in turn led Frater RO to post THIS today. 

Now his post has sparked a series of posts in my mind. 

If you don't want to read all that, than don't bother. I will make the posts as self complete as I can. 

The first topic I want to deal with here is the illusion of Eastern and Western magick. These terms get thrown about a lot in the occult world. I have even been known to throw them about myself for conveniences sake, but at the point where you are matching them up against one another like competing self-contained systems, it is no longer useful. 

So to those that divide the world into eastern and western magick and religion I would simply ask: where is the dividing line? Is Sufism eastern or western? It clearly was deeply effected by eastern religion, yet its also part of the Monotheistic Big Three. So is it eastern or western? 

Just as an aside, the "big three" religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism  arent really. Judaism falls to number 16 just under Sikhism, if we look at numbers of adherants worldwide.

Where does Zoroastarianism lie? East or West? Howabout Sikhism? 

Even if you manage to come up with an eastern western line, what about Africa? Its magickal systems are not really akin to either. What about Native Amercican spirituality? Its firmly in the west, yet bears a close resemblance in many aspects to Tibetan Bon, which is why the Buddhists and the Hopi have these secret pow-wows that get whispered about. 

I would say that there is just as much difference between Hinduism and Zen as there is between Hinduism and Christianity, yet the first two can be lumped together as "eastern". 

Bottom line is this: there is no real East/West division. Just people doing magick and religion in different ways in different places. They all effect one another. Its pretty clear that Buddhism effected many traditions of early Christianity. Its also clear that Pure Land Buddhism and fogures like Matreya were influenced by Christianity and other western Messianic cults. Note that Matreya sits on a chair, not with his legs folded...

Just as the industrial age magicians like Mathers, Crowley, Randolf, and so on threw a lot of babies out with the bathwater when they were putting together their systems of magick, I hope that the current people doing "old system magick" don't throw more babies out by disregarding everything that was done over the last 150 years in favor of some idea of pure Renaissance or Hermetic magick. One of the best things to happen to western magick has been the breaking down of the eastern/western wall, and the inclusion of meditative and spiritual practices from "eastern" traditions that did'nt suffer under quite the same lineage break up and limited practice that "western" traditions did. 

Growing up in central NJ, I collected teachings from a Rosicrucian, an African Root Doctor, a Santera, and a Ngakpa. All before I was 21 years old, and all within 10 miles of my home. Isn't it time we ditched the western vs eastern thing?



Grant said...

I'm glad you put this out. When I teach comparative religion, a lot of my opening lectures are breaking the myth of "east" vs. "west." As I often say, the culture and religion of "Eastern" India is about as similar to that of "Eastern" Korea as it is to "Western" Europe. There are points of continuity, like Buddhism, but the transformations are severe and there are similar movements along the spice route the other direction. The east/west language reflects a colonialist mindset that intellegent magicians should step beyond. It shows how mindset, in some rather disturbing ways, the magickal community often retains a reactionary mindset.

Qabalier said...

Are you familiar with Sri Aurobindo's work?

Jason Miller, said...

I am familiar with who he is and with several quotes, but I havent gotten around to reading him yet.

Qabalier said...

He received an education in England and not only were his writings more understable for me on an intellectual level, but his integral yoga seemed to be
a synthesis of tantra and vedanta incorporating western notions such as evolution that set it appart from what I knew of indian mysticism back in the day.

And yes, he is very quotable... "It is not just a revolt against the British empire that we must wage, but a revolt against the whole universal Nature!"