January 20, 2013 TOLS

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

An old friend of mine in the US relentlessly quotes the NRA’s talking points on Facebook. I accepted this during the US election, just as I put up with the non-stop “Obama is a war-criminal/lie-beral/Muslim/non-US citizen (add your personal jibe here as long as you don’t mention he’s black)” stuff. But I’m capable of coming to my own conclusions about such issues, and I get bored with reading a dozen versions of the same argument every week on what is supposed to be a social network.

The firearms debate is a fascinatingly American artefact, and no other nation I’m aware of views it, or would view it, as so crucially relevant to the core of authentic living in the same way. Even where I live, in Mexico, a country that’s no stranger to violence, people I know don’t view firearms as a solution, only a problem. I’m biased, having grown up in a society (the UK) where there were scarcely any guns, and since I left, violent crime and gun availability have crept up in tandem. I’m not claiming that guns lead directly to violence, but they do change the scenery.

But there’s a deeper issue for me here, and the fetishising of firearms ownership is its inversion, its mirror-image. True freedom isn’t a matter of legal rights, or the political system under which you live, or getting your shorts in a knot over some purported infringement of your country’s constitution. No amount of guns, or of expressing your anger, or of Thumbs-upping the paranoid speculations that you’ve read about online, relates to your essential freedom except superficially.

A person in touch with his or her vital self, and adhering as closely as possible to its tenets and the code of living those tenets require, is the free one. Freedom, as I just said, isn’t a legal or societal thing, but a spiritual state. Anything else is, ultimately, a game in your own head, or in a group of people’s heads. Freedom can be affirmed, and it can be lived, but when you set out to ‘defend’ it, it’s no longer actually there. You only end up fighting for culturally related symbols, not the lived actuality of it.

The insistence that weaponry and liberty are equated is, to me, disturbingly evasive of authentic living and being. This current bombardment of clichés about the virtues of mass ownership of weaponry that didn’t impress me the first 14 times I read them just ticks me off. It doesn’t acknowledge my own conception of freedom, and insists that I subscribe to one that is deeply alien to me. And in Mexico, where extreme violence is endemic in some areas, and a good argument could be made for me to own at least a pistol.

But I keep coming back to the same place. A person truly identified with his or her essential being and vital truth, this thing we call True Will, lives and moves according to what are often unknown prompts and dictates; but by continuing to do just that, will live and, move, act and speak and love to the full. Preparing myself for the hypothetical day when I’m suddenly caught in the midst of crossfire isn’t going to facilitate that.

Violence – or the perceived need to be ready for it – comes out of veering off course, not because following your true course creates collisions. Your true course avoids collisions. I argue for, and believe in, no ‘God’ as most people comprehend that word. Still, I accept that the Universe is coherent, and that I’m inherently protected if I am in synch with that Will, until such time as I (a) need to undergo a severe ordeal or (b) am issued my exit visa from temporal existence (as in, like, being dead). I can’t explain this, but I’ve experienced levels of it all my adult life, and accept it as a basic principle of life in the Hotel Terra. Tune in, turn on, and you don’t need to drop out.

Jean-Paul Sartre once remarked that he never felt so free as when he was editing a resistance newspaper during the German occupation of France in WW2. He wasn’t safe, by any means – he risked constant arrest and torture. But he was living his Will to the hilt. Twisting things round and arguing that it required armed intervention to end the German occupation misses this key point. The world doesn’t necessarily comply with our desires and hopes, and it’s actually rare, outside of Hollywood movies, for someone to struggle against a tyranny and live to see success. Living well, and if necessary dying well, are the key things. “Die daily,” wrote Aleister Crowley in The Heart of the Master (speaking of the Tarot card, Death), and he wasn’t being flippant.

I’m reminded here of the old saw that we are not human beings having spiritual experiences, but spiritual beings having human ones. If that attitude is shaping my behaviour, experience tells me that I’m safer than I would be having a rifle or pistol in my closet, or my pocket. This is not, I feel, a pacifist argument, merely a practical one. To live expecting conflict and confrontation is to shape my life according to those things. To look always towards what I might accomplish, not what might be done to me, or might be taken from me, is the root of genuine freedom, at least as it’s possible within this physical world.

Love is the law, love under will,

Edward Mason


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