Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Real Phony's

"Shes a phony, but shes a real phony."

The above quote is from Breakfast at Tiffany's and was made George Peppards character regarding Holly Golightly played by Audrey Hepburn. In it she completely makes up a history and persona. The quote above affirms the way that even the made up history and persona become integral to the real person. The made up history is just as important as the real history.

The sentiment is also captured in a great quote from Neil Gaiman: "Things need not have happened in order to be true."

Last night at my class on energetic healing in New Hope, someone mentioned how much what I was teaching was similar to Reiki, which she surmised would naturally be the case since I had studied Tibetan Buddhism and "Reiki is Tibetan..."

Of course Reiki is NOT Tibetan. When I pointed this out, she kind of looked a little heartbroken. I thought about it for a second though and noted that many, if not most, traditions have fake or at least exaggerated histories. For example:

Wicca is not a lineal survivor of prehistoric practices, or even old English witchcraft dating back a couple hundred years.

The Golden Dawn wasn't really a chartered lodge of an even more secret German group.

Blavatski was not really the agent of a group of Eastern Mahatmas, nor was Hoot Koomi a Tibetan,

Lama Govinda was not a real Lama in the sense that most people understood him to mean.

Dadaji was not ordained as a Kagyu lineage holder.

The Key of Solomon was not written by Solomon nor does it accurately reflect magick that Solomon would have done.

Reiki is not a Tibetan practice. Neither are Tulpas.

Aradia was probably more of a creation of Lealand than an accurate portrayal of Strega.

Zora Neel Hurston likely made up a lot of the "Hoodoo Initiations" that appear in Mules and Men,

Karl Kellner did not get sex magick tech from three eastern adepts

The OTO does not represent a brotherhood that LaoTzu would in any way recognize.

Lets not even get into the Necronomicon(s)...

You get the idea.

There is a lot of BS out there. I myself have pledged to swear off the practice of weaving BS stories behind myself or my system of magick. That however is a personal choice. Its not a condemnation of those that do weave BS into what they do. I have come to understand that BS serves a purpose.

Most of the examples above are things that I consider good. They are useful and I am happy that they are around. Most of them would not have gained the ground that they have without the BS to promote them. Did people profit off the BS? Yes. Did people get duped? Yes. But for the most part it was harmless duping and in the end the good outweighed the bad.

The phony stories ended up being a better reflection of the material than the actual origins. So when it comes to stuff like Reiki being Tibetan, or Wicca being a survival of prehistoric goddess worship, or the OTO being a vehicle for Tantric and Sufi sex magick practices; just remember...

They are phony's, but they are real phony's.


Brother Christopher said...

wow, that's brilliant. I mean, damn. What a wonderfully concise way to express this.

guruji namah!

Frater A.I.T. said...

Well said. There is definitely something to be said for a nicely turned mythology. I'm fairly sure that without Raistlin, Gandalf, or John Constantine I wouldn't have taken an interest in the Art until I was much older.

Those aren't dangerous though, 'cuz they don't pretend to be the literal truth.

It's a delicate business, building up mythologies that are supposed to be literal truth though. Folks may through the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.


Rufus Opus said...

Very interesting. One of my pet peeves is that there's a lot of sifting I have to do in my research to separate truth from truthiness.

We were talking on the Grim. Verum list about a critique of Jake Stratton-Kent's True Grimoire earlier today. Fr. Barrabas expressed his concern that the Goetic system is dangerous, basically trotting out all the Christian propaganda about demons and evil and all that stuff as if it were true. The problem is that the Church had an agenda when it issued its theological decrees about the fall of "demons" from heaven. There's little in the Bible to back up the doctrines. They presented a real phony that people bought and sold, and now those who are restoring Goety to the role it had before it got the reputation for being evil it has now have to face criticism from people who don't do Goety, and yet still feel entitled to their own facts. As the wiki article on truthiness says, it used to be that people had a right to their own opinions, but not to their own facts.

When you look at the facts, you can establish opinions that are in harmony with existence. Weaving truthy stuff into magical systems is an abomination, imo. I fight the urge to do so all the time. There's a constant temptation to embellish the results, or to only mention the things that work, and I strive not to fall into the trap. I believe I owe it to my readers to tell the truth, and only the truth.

There's also the urge to write more into the system than is really there. Theoretical implications abound in this art, and it's easy to wander off into theory-land without mentioning that you've left behind the actual results you've experienced, as an occult author. One of the things I like about Tyson is that there's a clear demarcation between his research and his opinions in his writing. I trust his work's accuracy even though I don't believe what he believes about it.

At the same time, I don't believe in Hermes Trismagistus. I love the Corpus Hermeticum, but it's all allegory. I understand your point in the post, and I agree, the mythical foundations of the systems are more accurate than the factual foundations.

I think back to my years as a "Chaos Magician," where 99% of my practice was based on truthy teachings from people who should have known better. Compared to what I do now with the grimoire magic, I just shake my head at how stupid I was. The power was just missing.

But the stuff I do now was equally truthy when it was written.


WitchDoctorJoe said...

I yusta have a man crush on you, due to your realistic approach to Witchcraft.

But after this post, I know that I love you.

There has always been some need to justify a belief and practice, to the point of B.S.

So many whites attend Native ceremonies, rambling on and on about there Cherokee-Princess-Medicine-Woman-Grandmother to justify their participation.

Our Coven and tradition were officially established as a result of a handfasting ceremony. The product of a divine union, and that's good enough for us.

ChandraNova said...

Sometimes things find a new use, too: afaik from historic reading, the Norse Runes were almost never used in the form for divination, yet they work perfectly well for that purpose.

As a shamanic practitioner, I've had all sorts of online disputes with representatives of the hokey "Cherokee-Princess-Medicine-Woman-Grandmother" (which, nicely put!) crowd in the US, who think that shamanic paths are pretty much their domain: that ALL my practice comes from the local Spirits who are kind enough to guide and mentor me (as well as various ones not tied to location, and my own ancestry) pisses them off, immensely.

You'd think shamanic practitioners would respect someone working with - well, y'know, Spirit - but apparently if Great Granmaw wasn't at Wounded Knee, I'm f*cked - it's all about the ego/name/claims to history that can never be disputed.

It's almost like they WANT the shamanic way to die out, it must flatter them to be last holders of a Sacred Truth - whereas in fact Spirit is always bustin' through and always there for all of us: no matter whether some traditions were eradicated from our nations, we all have ancestral spirits, and guides, etc.

These days I tend to just get on with it, my ancestors were Vikings (for real) and we're not noted for hanging back, or requesting permission from timid title-holders... :o)

Dohmnaill said...

I am paraphrasing here, but I once heard something to the effect of:
"Memories are often revised, not because people want to be untrue - but because the untruth is often more efficient and productive than the reality."

It seems to echo a sentiment that I (hopefully really do) remember reading in a book called The shaman's doorway, The basic concept was Mythic Immersion. It was the the assumption of the "as if" mindset. Truth was unimportant. The complete acceptance of myth as if it is true was the gateway.

To me, much of magick is a juggling act. One part necessary suspension of disbelief, one part willful belief, one part keeping same while doing so…

Jow said...

No one fills out a little black dress quite like A.H.

A mythic history is meant to inspire, to connect you to something greater than yourself and the ordinary time line, it gets you into the headspace of mythic time, and that is nothing to shake a stick at.

Sometimes it's also the spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.

"This thing I do, it WORKS, man! I see the framework of creation and shit!"

"WTF, Ted, stop making things up."

"An.. an Angel showed it to me? From this really old book.. yeah.. owned by this monk that was willed to me by my Grandmother, who had it handed down all the way from her secret sisterhood in Salem.. yeah, THAT Salem."

"Well why didnt you say so, Ted! Lets do this thing that is totally not your made up bullshit!"

"Y-yeah.. let's do that.."

Reiki Guru said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
petoskystone said...

hmm--here i thought that reiki is japanese.....Personally, while i find mythologies amusing, it's the truth of history i find most interesting & helpful.

faoladh said...

petoskystone: history is myth, and like all myth is generally true though not always factual (and when it is most factual it is often not very true).

OwlRose said...

I don't disagree with the notion that people have benefited from mythology or fictional representations. However, Reiki being Tibetan sounds to me that someone can't tell the difference between Tibet and Japan. (Gee, it's all Asian, isn't it?) If they can't keep that straight, what other misinformation are they repeating? There is misinformation out there that is harmful.