Frater Novae Res (fraternovaeres) wrote in amst3920,
Frater Novae Res

Science and Power

One of the subjects we covered in my Scientific Thought class last semester was realism vs. antirealism, we we discussed over the course of a couple weeks. In one class, our professor described the epistemological antirealist position on scientific theories. "The antirealist," he said, "will say that these theories are models that may not tell us what the universe really is or how it really works, but that they are nevertheless useful for making predictions." I was reminded of a line from Crowley's Liber O, "It is immaterial whether these exist or not. By doing certain things certain results will follow; students are most earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophic validity to any of them." I raised my hand and asked whether the epistemological antirealist position (which Crowley seems to be taking in Liber O) could be used to justify the study of astrology. I used astrology because it is something this particular professor likes to complain about, and has unfailingly done so in every class I've taken with him. "Wouldn't it be easy to say, 'Astrology is a model that may not tell us what the universe really is or how it really works, but it is nevertheless useful for making predictions'?" He seemed a little surprised, but rolled with the punch and countered, "Sure, the antirealist perspective could be misused that way. The question would then become 'what is useful?' Physics has allowed us to reliably develop amazing technologies. What has astrology done?" I, personally, am not as deeply interested in astrology as some of my friends are, but this exchange stuck with me nevertheless. In what "real world" way is astrology useful in the way modern physics is? What about any occult study or philosophy?

I remembered that class while reading on the train the other day.

"According to this point of view there is no such thing as a relative reality and, beyond it, an absolute, impervious reality, but rather a relative, conditioned method of perceiving the only reality, and an absolute method.

"The immediate connection between this traditional epistemology and the main concerns of Tantrism is rather obvious. In fact, in this order of ideas, the way to any superior knowledge seems to be contingent upon one's self-transformation, an existential and ontological change of level, and therefore, upon action, sadhana. This conception contrasts with the general view offered by the modern world. Modern scientific knowledge, in its technical applications, confers to modern man multiple possibilities with impressive consequences on the practical and material plane, while leaving him, on a concrete plane, at the same level. For instance, if through modern science we happen to learn the approximate processes and constant laws of physical phenomena, our existential situation has still not changed a bit. In the first place, the fundamental elements of physics are nothing but differential functions and integrals, namely, abstract algebraic entities, of which, in a strict sense, we cannot claim to have either an intuitive image or a concept, since they are mere instruments of calculation ('energy,' 'mass,' 'cosmic constant,' 'curved space,' are nothing but verbal symbols). Second, after we have 'known' all this, our real relationship with phenomena still has not changed. The same applies to the scientist who elaborates knowledge of such a kind and even to one who develops innovative technology: fire will still burn him, organic modifications and passions will still trouble his soul, time will still dominate him with its laws, the sight of nature will still not speak to him, but it will mean less to him than it did to primitive man. This is because the scientific formation of modern civilized man entirely desacralizes the world and petrifies it in the ghost of sheer, mute appearances. These appearances, along with knowledge of the kind discussed so far, make room only for the aesthetic and lyrical emotions of poets and artists, which obviously have no scientific or metaphysical value, being merely subjective experiences."

- Evola, The Yoga of Power.

Evola goes on to state that the "prevalent alibi of modern science is the claim to power." This is the argument my professor made. To me, then, it seems the question isn't so much "What is useful?" as it is "What is power?" The power modern science affords us, according to Evola, is relative, external, inorganic, and conditioned. This is contrasted with what he calls true power. True power is that which we acquire when we overcome ourselves and transcend our limitations, because that power belongs to "the Self" and is not, instead, something mechanical and tacked on. It comes out of the "Self."

Nietzsche describes the will to power as constantly having to set itself against an obstacle to be overcome. It is practical to be able to subdue external obstacles (which technology does), and may assist us in acquiring true power (Malkuth is at the bottom for a reason). True power comes when we direct our will to power at ourselves, when we overcome our internal obstacles and transform ourselves into higher beings. Science and technology can help with those external obstacles, but it can do nothing about the internal ones. This is where, I think, occultism comes in. 

"According to the Tantras the difference between Ishvara (God, in theistic Hinduism) or Shiva and the finite living being, jiva, is that despite their being both conjoined to maya and metaphysically the same thing, the former dominates maya, while the latter is dominated by it."

- The Yoga of Power.

Modern science, despite all appearances, keeps us dominated by maya (or, if I may make the comparison, being). By overcoming ourselves, we cease to be dominated and instead subdue being. Occultism can help facilitate that self-transformation. How we define power reveals how we conceptualize the world. If we allow science to become an end rather than a means, we shut ourselves off from the experience of the absolute and "true power." If we, instead, define true power as transformative and as emerging from the Self, don't we at the same time level a severe criticism at the whole of modern science? Hardcore scientists typically have a good amount of scorn for things like astrology. Would a hardcore occultist have a good amount of scorn, then, for physics or no? You can be really into occultism and still respect science. I think it would be pretty hard not to, given the way science and technology have improved our standards of living and even leant themselves to occult study. A study of Crowley's contemporaries shows that you can be really into science and still respect occultism, too. But they have to come to a head eventually, as they can't both maintain opposing definitions of power and not fundamentally contradict the other's ideological world view. How does our definition of power shape our interaction with and perception of the world? What does it open up to us and close us off from? 
Tags: crowley, evola, nietzsche, occultism, power, science, tantrism
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