Sunday, October 23, 2011

Occult blinds v occult mistakes

Last night, I was working with *something* and I found myself in the position where I started to debate whether it was an occult blind or simply an occult mistake. Nowadays, the joke is that if you make a mistake duiring the course of writing about the occult, you call it a "blind." This is a modern thing; in the old days, it was different.

In the old days, there was a fine game of concealing important information from the readers of occult books. In theory, you were supposed to learn the basics of the esoteric sciences from a teacher---in other words, you were supposed to serve an apprenticeship. And one of the things, you were supposed to learn was how to spot an blind and how to create one.

Words of warning---under no circumstance are you to believe that I am a member of certain lineages that still practice this style. My lineage (for what it is worth) has NO connection with theirs. The only things we share in common is that masters teach lesser skilled students---nothing more.

For those of you who have never experienced an apprenticeship, it involves washing a lot of glasses, grinding a lot of stuff, harvesting thistles, and generally any other grunt work that your master really does not want to bothered with. It is like being the low man on a construction site and being the go-fer. It also involves a lot of practical and intellectual jokes; it is a great way to become paranoid.

It is in the practical and intellectual jokes that the learning about the occult blinds happen. Think of being an apprentice as being a lab animal of a mad scientist. Or at least, that is the way that my apprenticeship felt. Maybe there are nicer masters out there---if so, I have not encountered them.

Of course, we do not deal with this system today. (I am not sure how I ended up in the system myself; except that was the way they were taught, therefore I was taught the same way. The modern methods of teaching obviously skipped over my masters.)

One of my teachers would allow me to work the rituals exactly how they were written, hence I got to experience first-hand the problems that blinds created. Only later, after many questions about what I thought was wrong, would they explain to me the little secrets that you needed to work the system properly. As I said, it was like being a lab animal to a mad scientist.

I may or may not have picked up this style of teaching---we will see when it comes time for me to teach my god-daughter.

When the secret societies picked up the ball, and the masters were faded out, in theory the secret societies replaced the master-apprentice relationship with a kinder proctor-student relationship. Not necessarily so, as my encounters with Advanced Adept Advisors has indicated.

Unfortunately, one of the problems with the secret societies is the fact that many of the officers can not hex their way out of a wet paper bag, and cannot spot an occult blind if you lit it up with flashing neon lights. And many of them can make it sound like they are experts in their fields, despite the fact that I would not trust them to guess my weight.

Warning---questioning the abilities of the officers of esoteric societies is part of the tactics of the Witch and Golden Dawn Flame Wars. Obviously, I am a bad person who should not be at the head of an esoteric Order.

The reason that many esoteric officers cannot spot an occult blind is that they were sworn to absolute secrecy and are given completely clean and truthful documents. It handicaps them when they encounter materials written in the heyday of blind creation.

Yes, the *something* I was working on last night was the work of someone I know is an officer in one of the esoteric societies. The *something* is a correction of an older text. So is the problem I spotted a blind? or is it a mistake? and does it really matter?

I am not sure about the first two, but I do know the answer to the last one. It does not matter to me. I am going to have to fix it, whether it is blind or mistake, if I intend to use the material. Whether the expert spotted the world of hurt that their version, and the previous versions, would create is unknown to me. I would like to think that if someone spots a really bad blind, and this one will create the exact opposite of what the material is labeled for, that a footnote about possible blinds would be in order.

Of course, that is just my opinion. And you can't trust my opinion. After all, I belong to some bad lineages, been trained by people without authority, and generally hold some opinions that worry those who are superior to me. And I am not above giving a stick of dynamite to someone trying to open a box of corn flakes. I guess it goes without saying that all my writings should be considered blinded.


Scott Stenwick said...

The idea of "blinds" can also hide innovations in systems where it is believed that older techniques are in some mysterious way automatically better. If a master works out a new way to do something, experiments with it, and finds that it represents an improved method, he or she can always explain that of course the ancients intended it to work that way, they just wrote the old inferior method as a blind.

Of course, the actual solution to this problem is just to accept that if you develop a new method and test it experimentally against the traditional one, it's better if the results bear that out. A lot of lineages out there, though, don't seem to be ready for this idea.

Deanna Bonds said...

Great topic. Would it be possible to tell us without a mentor/master teacher how to recognize blinds and maybe give a few examples. Only one of the possible blinds I have spotted was reading "Aesch-Mezareph". In that the author gives metal associations to the tree of life, but they seem to be mixed up. The author then follows with the statement...
"Thus I have delivered to thee the key to unlock many secret gates, and have opened the door to
the inmost adyta of Nature. But if anyone hath placed those things in another order, I shall not
contend with him, inasmuch as all systems tend to the one truth."
Would that be a blind? And do all blinds call themselves out in that nature? Or are some more subtle as in something that is missing you can't figure out without a teacher?

J.C. said...

Ananael, I think you're right that a lot of groups place far too much emphasis on the old way. "That's not how Mather's did it, so it's wrong." If we applied the same rationale to any other field, we'd be met with quite a bit of ridicule. Improvements are made all the time. It is the schools of thought that are allowed to evolve and grow that will survive the test of time. All others will die and rot.

I think, however, that it is also possible to swing too far in the direction - which would create for a very unstable tradition or system of magic. I think it is important to have multiple people find greater success with a method or technique before it replaces an old one.

Scott Stenwick said...

@JC: You're certainly correct that it's possible to overdo anything, which is where the scientific method comes in - at least to the degree that it can be applied to something as slippery as magick.

To validate a new technique you should have solid experimentation such as probability testing with a decent confidence interval, peer review, and some degree of replicability. Magick doesn't necessarily work exactly the same for everyone, but for a new technique to be useful within the tradition it has to work well for at least a reasonable subset of practitioners and not just the person who invented it.