02 March 2012

A correction (a cat is fine too)

Some readers from the Discordian community have expressed dissatisfaction with certain formulations I've made in the past, and with my vague comments that "I don't necessarily stand by everything I've said here over 5 and a half years". So it gives me pleasure to actually be able to stand up and correct/disavow an incorrect formulation in one of my "primer" texts. I quote from "The One Key and Nine Commitments of CM":

On the micro-level, Chaos Marxism stands for the ruthless "obedience training" of the ego. Imagine that your ego is a badly trained dog - it barks when not necessary, it requires far more attention than it really needs, it humps your leg or otherwise annoys you when you're trying to do something. But you don't need to take it out and shoot it, you just need to teach it that its perceptions are not reality and it should submit to rationality and discipline. You'll all be happier that way.
I retract this metaphor of "ego-as-dog" in favour of a much better one I heard from a Turkish Sufi sheikha the other day: ego-as-cat. A cat has many fine qualities, but it is also utterly and completely selfish and in it for what it can get. Whereas a dog wants to please its human Pack Leader and is willing to submit to discipline if yelled at enough.

The "ego-as-dog" metaphor, I think, came out of my own ego wanting to sound "tough-ass" and perhaps provoke someone into arguing with me. But it would also explain why I put myself through a lot of unnecessary suffering over the last year. I've been trying to obedience-train a cat. You can understand why I might not have been doing myself any good.

So, if your ego is a cat, you can't yell at it or punish it, it will either not get what you're on about or just go and piss on something valuable of yours or otherwise take revenge. In contrast, if "you" feed your ego tasty treats in return for not doing things that annoy "you", it'll be easier for all concerned.

Note that this presumes that you have somewhere to make decisions from other than your ego, which is a big "if". Ideally appealing to the spirit, or God-however-defined, would be called for, but if we could do that we wouldn't be in this mess. Short of that, we have to at least appeal to the ego to make conscious decisions to achieve its goals, rather than going along on blind habit that is ingrained into its chosen Identity.

(I just realised that the sections of the ego we can appeal to to attempt to act consciously are intellect, and will. The parts of the ego that are "cat like", on the other hand are emotion and physicality. So that's the four traditional Hermetic "elements" covered, and you have to balance them before spirit can peep through. You want alchemy? They turn the roses into gold.)

This is probably what the Sufis mean by saying that "the nafs gets stronger in the process of transcending itself" - that you've got to build up the intellect and will parts of the ego so you are capable of actually doing things from intention rather than from bad habit or reptilian/primate urges, before you can even think of "transcending the ego". Even doing bad, antisocial, unpleasant things because you want to is a step up from, for example, having to tell the judge that you don't even know why you raped and murdered that girl in 1990.

And that is probably where I've been going wrong all this time. Thinking I could jump from the thought of "this is what I want to do" to actually doing it. Impatience is a major personal defect of mine.