Of Knowledge and Power

The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say: Behold here, or behold there. For lo, the kingdom of God is within you – Luke xvii 20-21.

The desire for certainty – and preceding that, knowledge – represents a perennial human need. Our minds seek understanding not only about ourselves as individuals, but also the world and the experiences we collectively inhabit. The accumulation and dispensation of knowledge, be it words written on a page, or represented through the use of mathematical symbols and formulae project an edifice of control over ourselves and the world, subsuming them under a guise of reason, rationality, endowing them with  a relative degree of predictability.

The annals of mans intellectual history bear witness to the relative power of rationality and predictability, where our greatest minds have furnished our libraries with countless tomes on psychology and sociology, with the hope of laying bare the individual and communal soul of Man, and the ongoing speculations and explorations of mathematics and the so-called hard sciences, as they seek to explicate the soul of Nature. But this search for knowledge, and the technological power derived from its pursuit – regardless of the assumed nobility of this endeavour – rests upon the assumption that the truth of Man and Nature can, in the last question, be reduced to the predictability of a theory or formula; and that such an achievement is ultimately possible or even desirable.

The above thesis thus presents a problem for the aspiring Hermeticist. As knowledge of the truth of Man and Nature is precisely that which we seek, a crucial distinction therefore needs to be made regarding the nature, content, and purpose of such knowledge.

Technological Knowledge

Our ordinary logic is a logic of retrospection – Henri Bergson

We make inferences based on concepts and ideas that we have previously encountered, and what our minds have already grasped. Novelty, if we accept the aforementioned as true, does not exist, to our ordinary minds, as that which is truly new; but rather as the product of compounding already existing concepts and ideas. Clarity, as the understanding of a seemingly new idea or concept, is simply an extension of the above logic. It occurs when the novel concept is juxtaposed with elementary ideas already grasped by the intellect. It is the arrangement of pre-existing concepts into seemingly new and increasingly complex orders of meaning. The act of understanding in some way entails a return to, and building upon, already “familiar ground”. Scientific and technological knowledge, therefore, are the children of abstraction and duration – the aggregates of time. Its purpose is to reduce the reality of the world, and living beings, to concepts and ideas.

Hermetic Philosophy

That which is absolutely subjective must objectivise itself in consciousness and be accepted as true, then prove to be certain by its objective fruits… – Unknown Friend

To the Hermeticist, mysticism is the essential source and nature of all knowledge. Contrary to ordinary logic, it is the suspension of all pre-existing inferences, and concepts – not their product – where true knowledge begins. It is the spontaneous apprehension of reality. Gnosis furnishes the intellect with the content of such knowledge by reflecting the spontaneous experience of mysticism. Thus rendering the experience comprehendible – as opposed to the juxtaposition and arrangement of pre-existing concepts. This process could be likened to that of understanding. Where understanding is (and I paraphrase Boris Mouravieff): knowledge plus something imponderable. Magic, therefore, is the child of the Real and the Eternal. Its purpose is to bring that which is truly novel into the sensible world, working with, and in service of, life itself.

May 13, 2014

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