The above image is just another iteration of things of similar expression that I keep seeing on Facebook and in other social media. At first blush, it looks like a very ‘spiritual’ sentiment and sounds like it could be valid when taken from the pseudo-hermetic perspective that is predominant in the pop-culture occultism. (Yeah, that last pairing of terms felt like an oxymoron to me, as well. Consider it something like a two word Zen koan.) It is a statement that I see a lot of people sharing and praising as wisdom.
I have a huge problem with this ‘wisdom.’ The first statements here I am inclined to agree with and would hold them as correct. The Universe is not punishing, blessing, or controlling us. It simply exists. We are part of it and it functions in ways we honestly have no way of fully comprehending. The questions of our relationship to the Universe1 and our role within it are the reason why we have the sciences and philosophy. They’re enormous questions that we have been trying to hammer answers out to for over five millennia and I don’t think we’re going to figure out any hard and fast answers at any point in the next five millennia.
It is the following statements that I take issue with. The premise that our positive and negative experiences within the world are the result of our personal mental/emotional/physical state is one that I reject. This places the onus of one’s experiences upon their own shoulders. It tells the listener that they are morally culpable for all that they have experienced, regardless of the actions of those around them. I’m sorry, but I cannot accept that argument. The wealthy man who lives in luxury did not summon his wealth to him by being of a positive mindset. The poor man who lives in utter squallor did not cause his poverty by being in a poor mindset.
Good and ill happens to humanity in a manner that often seems capricious and uncaring. As much as we want to use trite expression like those in this meme to tell ourselves that we summon our good fortune to us with ‘positive’ thinking, that’s just now how it works. Our positive thinking may encourage us to subconsciously seek out favorable conditions and it may create a small magical ripple in the fabric of reality that encourages those conditions to arise. This, however, is a small thing compared to the prevailing circumstances that we exist in. A person dying of an incurable disease is not killing themselves with ‘negative’ thoughts and they are not going to cure themselves with ‘positive’ thoughts. Those positive thoughts may help them endure their disease and assist them in creating conditions that are conducive for them to live longer with their disease, but they will not make the disease go away.
That negative thinking business, it doesn’t cause our suffering. It may add to it, but it is not the source of it except in specific cases. And in those cases where our negative thought patterns have caused our suffering, it is not because we’ve summoned it out of the Universe. A person who has been the victim of assault did not summon, consent, or encourage their assault to happen just because they happened to be depressed at the time. A person who has suffered tragedy after tragedy did not cause these things to happen to them on the basis of their ‘negative’ thinking. Suffering is an inherent part of existence. We can’t think our way out of it and we sure as hell don’t cause it to happen to us on the basis of the fact that we’re not having the magically correct thoughts.
This pseudo-spiritual garbage is hubris and victim blaming. Each time I see it posted, I see someone who has it good thumping themselves on the chest saying ‘I created my prosperity with out anyone’s help.’ and conveniently failing to acknowledge how many people assist them in reaching that position of accomplishment. Each time I see it posted, I see someone pointing at the person who has been victimized and telling them “You caused your suffering. It is YOUR fault this happened. Suck it up and fix it.” Callous is too kind of a word to describe the person who takes the latter position.
I believe in magic. I practice magic. I am involved in the occult community and I do think that our thoughts have the capacity to shape reality to some extent. This does not mean that I support this nonsense. I recognize there are limits to what we can do via the occult arts. I also recognize that the causality chain that leads to our present situation has far more links in it than our feelings and thoughts, most of them completely unrelated to our present mental state and forged in the past in ways that we are not going to be fully aware of despite all our efforts to consider all the factors.
If you want to say that these sorts of memes are accurate and correct, I highly suggest you stop following this blog. I am going to continue to declaim them as harmful to the mental health of all people and detrimental to actual occult practice. I may become even more sharp in my expression of this sentiment as time goes on. I find that my tolerance for such nonsense grows smaller as time passes. I deal with real magic and real spirituality. This nonsense is neither and should be rejected.
1. I am not 100% sure if they’re including Deity in the term Universe. Some people do. I am using the term in the sense of the whole of reality that we experience and can observe. It is my understanding that Deity is both immanent and immersed in reality. That said, I believe that the whole of reality functions differently than at the will of Deity because there is a plurality of deities and no one deity controls everything. The will of the plurality of deities is going to be complex and contraindicate each other. From this dynamic tension, there are going to arise things in the Universe that make no sense. I’ll detail more about my thoughts on this matter in another post.