Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Myth of Guilt

There are no innocent bystanders... What the hell were they doing there in the first place?

- William S. Burroughs, The Soft Machine.

To say that guilt is a “myth” seems an outlandish thing, however true it might be to the constituency of modern occultism. Guilt is not, as yet, a myth. However it probably ought to be. Though Crowley wrote the lines years ago, I still reflect on them sporadically: “The only sin is restriction.”

That seems like a dangerous line, at least for many in the Neo-Pagan community. Life without restraints? It could easily lead to the Ghost Busters scenario, right? You know, this scenario:

Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
Mayor: What do you mean, "biblical"?
Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.
Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes...
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!
Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

Okay, probably not. We've had sociopaths living in society for quite a while and they don't seem to have caused dogs and cats to live together, there's been minimal human sacrifice (aside from mankind's perpetual need to wage war, often in the name of a “just” cause that's made unjust by it being a lie) and I've yet to see forty years of darkness. I hold my breathe on the last one: I'd be okay with forty years of darkness. I call lack of a sunburn for forty years a win. Sure, we'd stop being able to grow food, starve, and there'd be rampant depression as melatonin and serotonin levels dropped in the brain. But would I endure it for a few years without a sunburn? You can bet your ass I would. But I digress...

Crowley also said a few handy lines that went something like, “thou hast no right but to do thy will,” and “love is the law.”

Anarchy is averted. Worry not, we aren't here to burn down the church and state. At least not physically.

Guilt is a reaction to perceived wrong actions. It's that thing we call a conscience whispering, “I knew better...”

I'm rarely guilty; even if I feel I did something wrong. There's a reason for that on my end. The first being that if I did something genuinely wrong, I either correct it... Or I face up to the fact I'm likely to do it again and reorient how I view my morals and what's more important. I have a relatively flexible code of ethics that I stick to. “Situational ethics.” I don't lie: unless I have to. I don't steal, because I haven't had to yet.

I will fuck over people that piss me off; because they had to work hard to get me into that state and to be quite honest... If they've worked hard enough to make the short list of enemies I have, then they should see my scathing comments and Machievellian tactics as I try to destroy them (“I may not be able to destroy you, but I will be poking you in the eye... Constantly.”) coming.

When I have felt guilty, in the past, it was because things beyond my control happened. All too often I'd try to shoulder the weight of someone else's fuckup. In “magical” situations, this typically meant over-estimating partners and watching them get swept into the tide of the then-madness we were playing with. In some cases, I felt I hadn't explained that what we were doing was, well, dangerous. And so the guilt lingered.

At least until I got older and watched them do the same shit, and make the same mistakes again and again. Then I didn't feel guilty. I just felt pity towards them.

Guilt holds you back: the free walk openly, casting their eyes where they will. We will make mistakes, magically or otherwise, and there's no helping that. You fall down as you learn to walk. So, again, “the only sin is restriction.”

Restricting one to the past mistakes, and letting the guilt control us. Restricting one's self from growth and refusing to take the next step. Restricting one's self to guilt and not fixing the problem or at least being honest about the fact you'll likely repeat the mistake and ceasing to worry over it.

I may be a Discordian Saint, but I'm surely not a Catholic one. And it bothers me not one bit.

(This post was initially going to be filled with psychological and philosophical thoughts: it was scrapped. I'll save a followup for later. And for the record, I used the Burroughs quote because it once aided a girl I'd ceased to be dating loathe me to the core of her being. It was my response to "I'm sorry." I'd meant it as in, "it had been my choice, too." She took it altogether differently.)

1 comment:

My Gal said...

Ghostbusters? Dude you rock! I love that whole scene. I am definately with you on the lack of sunburn! OUCH!

Yeah I am not big on the whole guilt thing. Must come from all those years of Catholic school!