Monday, March 11, 2013

The Power of Useful Bullshit

NLP is total bullshit. Its methods are bullshit methods, its science is bullshit science, and its anecdotes are bullshit. Just bullshit bullshit, pure and simple, bullshit.

Take a look at the core principles. Let me google that for you, because while there is a ton of overlap, everyone "teaching" NLP has something different to say about it, because it's basically ... bullshit. Not to overuse the word or anything, but there it is again. Take a look at three or four of the results, and scroll down to the principles parts. Read through a sample of it, and get a real good feel for what they're saying. Then do the following fucking fascinating experiment:

  1. Write down what you can remember about the core principles of NLP. Most of the links have a bulleted list, and you'll remember a couple of them, and have a general sense of what you think the principles are; this is what NLP has come to mean to you based on your reading. Hurry along now, don't write a fucking essay, just summarize the top three things you remember. We've got a mission here, don't get bogged down on step one.
  2. Read this article by Witchdoctor Joe.
  3. Re-read what you've personally written down, each principle individually, and answer the next question about each:
  4. Is it Kangaroo Magic? Is there anything in the principles that you've recalled that is absolutely true, something that can be applied across the board?
  5. Now go back and re-read the principles of NLP, keeping in mind that question: Is it Kangaroo Magic?

I did this, and guess what? It's all bullshit. I couldn't believe it. None of the principles are really true at all, I can think of way too many personal experiences that prove that shit doesn't work that way in the real world. Each is also really appealing. It would be really fucking great if there were a simple set of rules that worked all the time that could be used to your advantage the way NLP tells you there are. Especially these principles, each one telling you that the universe is secretly working for your own personal happiness in every situation, if you only can figure out the secret code to take advantage of it... You too can unlock the fullness of existence in terms of sex, money, and immunity to the will and whim of any other human, because they're really little more than objects designed to fulfill your personal happiness, right? Everyone and everything exists to make you happy, if you just got it, got the secret, got... IT.

Do You Get It?*

And whatever the thing they tell you is "IT" is not IT at all. It's obviously not true. You can remember times that shit they say doesn't work. People are not always in a state of hypnosis. What one person can do, not everyone else can do. Confidence won't make you thin or attractive, it will just make you the ugly fat douchebag that nobody likes.


But ... useful bullshit, eh?

Frater Acher recently wrote a book review that was more of a persuasive argument. He strongly recommended this book because it tones down your expectations from magic. It teaches you to settle for non-wonderful results, to not pursue the miracles of living magic. He recommends it to noobs and grimoire magicians especially, because he thinks noobs and grimoire magicians are too focused on the flash and power of immediate results. He thinks you get a more valuable return on your investment if you focus on the inner transformation of the magician.

He's continuing a recent theme. I noticed it when he started the reviews of Emil Stejnar's "Hermetic" magic works. His basic premise is that grimoire magi who focus on desires and results are fuckin' it up and robbing themselves of the true power of the Hermetic system. I'm paraphrasing.

As you can tell, I disagree. We discussed it a bit on FaceBook. I am all about ecstatic pursuit of the exciting and awesome manifestations of god, being gods, working with gods, creating and enjoying our worlds like gods, and earning the wisdom and knowledge of the gods through hands-on experience.

But both approaches, the one that glorifies awesome miraculous results-oriented magic vs. the kind that looks a lot like sitting and reading and thinking about magic more than doing it... both approaches are bullshit. I think his approach is more obviously bullshit than mine, because he himself has had the awesome amazing firework-type results that made him appreciate the long term inner changes within himself. And my approach is bullshit because the whole time you're going after the instant gratification, you're putting yourself through the exact same transformative fires that Acher's approach brings about, only with extra beautiful exciting dramatic beauty. And I like that. Other people ... they like quiet lives.

And that's ok.

In both of our pursuits of the Work, we use our beliefs that are, admittedly, bullshit. We take advantage of the usefulness of pretending like we are right for the moment, and it works for us. The universe really does reward ecstatics. It really does reward ascetics. It really does bring wisdom to philosophers. It rewards us with the same kinds of inner attitudes and insights and appreciations of life. It's useful bullshit. And it has the power to change everything.

But it's still bullshit, because it is not the actual way, the truth, or the life that either of us have. It's just a tool, a set of practices and beliefs and insights that happened to work for us. And we like them better because we came up with them ourselves. The same way you will, by reading our bullshit and using that to grow your own way.

I went through some experiences over the last few months that have changed me a lot. I found out some stuff that was really simple, and it's really good, and it makes everything feel wonderful. I'm going to start talking more about how to do this, how to experience it, and how to make your life as fun as mine has been.

It takes a bit of work, it takes some inner transformations, it takes some discipline, and setting aside your selfish safety to risk being honest with yourself about what you really want. It takes doing magic for instant results. It takes going to the highest heavens and returning in power to create and rule your world as a God-Emperor, a Sorceror-King. It takes going to the cracks of the Earth and finding the black secrets of the Universal Solvent. It takes casting your awareness into the Sun to see how everything is connected and working together in a cosmic orgasm of creation and experience and destruction all at the same time.

And it's a ton of fun, even the sore and achy muscles part.

But as useful as it is, please remember, it's bullshit.

Bullshit that can change your life.

* Oh, and just so you know, I am firmly in the "there is something to get, and I totally get it, but the it that I get is that there is no it to get, and you get to make up your own it as you go" circle, which tends to look a lot like very confused in the center of the graphic.


  1. Question RO: What do you think hypnosis is, and how would you know if you were in it?

  2. I am a professional hypnotherapist, and am fully cognizant of the power of trance and trance states. "Hypnosis" is an insipid (and useful) word game, a manipulation that convinces a person they and others are constantly under hypnosis for their own good.

    It is a dirty trick, as it were. The truth of the lie does not make it any less the lie.

    No one can be hypnotized to do things they are not willing to do, in the same way that no one can be possessed by a spirit and forced to do something against their Will. There is a yielding that is done, a consent offered. There is also an emergency brake that overrides the trance state. A completely induced client will be at full consciousness within seconds of the tornado alarm going off, for example. Saw it happen.

    Point being, there is no point at which a person is at your mercy without their consent, an implication that fuels the opportunistic appeal of the idea that all people are in a hypnogogic state that can be used for your own advantage.

    Even if it works, it's not because of the things to which causality is normally attributed. It just works cause we agree to let it.

  3. And I'm looking forward to the riff that may or may not follow. :)

  4. RO, you're digging around in my head again. I've recently been going through pitching out a lot of bullshit in my practice and trying to find the core that actually really works.

    This is a hypothesis, but I think a large part of what makes bullshit useful is that there's a mental framework inside that supports it. There needs to be some level of faith that whatever bullshit you're using Just Might Actually Work.

    You can mentally reinforce that faith over time by piecing together a philosophical framework that can demonstrate its usefulness.

    You can also throw it into the crucible of activity and see if you can forge something useful from it.

    Right now, I'm cleaning out the tool shed and seeing what's not worth bothering with at all. :P

  5. There will be one. I promise. That said, I think categorising it as purely a wordgame, whatever *it* is is a misnomer, especially since I've seen some epic non-verbal work which achieves massive effects :)

  6. Figured someone such as yourself might appreciate thinking more about "bullshit."

  7. Amongst my reading of the blogs on magic over the last few days I have come to the conclusion that the whole 19th and 20th century should be written off as far as our tradition is concerned including Chaos magic. Its like watching a bunch of people reinvent the wheel whilst I am crusing around in my 3rd century Jaguar XK. Watching Rufus deconstruct his own merkavah makes me despair, but so-be-it, I hope it still works when he puts it back together.

    General note. Journalism, criticism and scholarship are lovely but more peer groups and forums with vigourous debate are needed for genuine advancement. There still needs to be more 401 action in the blogs and less 101 action. This is my opinion based on what I can see.

  8. I don't plan on engaging in vigorous debate on my blog. This is not a 401 discussion group, it's a 101 forum that gets into the higher stuff. Don't mistake this for something it is not. Understand that my blog is a tool of my Will, and that involves teaching the world the secrets to its salvation in language it can process. This is the projection phase, and it will be catered to the target audience. And you are not the target audience.

  9. Hey man it was a general note, not specifically aimed at you. Have fun.

  10. I'd be interested in those 401 level discussions, but have a feeling that view points would diverge so radically as to be nearly impossible to reconcile. We'd have to spend most of our time banging around in 201, and occasionally tripping up in 301 before we could find any common ground about where the useful 401 conversations could be held.

    For instance, I think that Chaos Magic has been a very useful and necessary enema for the backside of occultism. That it seemed to ossify around various ideas in that might not have panned out only puts it on equal footing with Ceremonial Hermeticism.

    So it goes.

    Fu Mang-chu

  11. Hey Fu, I would also be interested in them, have said so repeatedly but no luck thus far. I am heading as quickly as I can to 401 on my blog, it will start getting really weird soon.

    Regarding the Chaos quip forgive me I do want to have the argument, but I want to get it down on paper properly before really going into it. It kind of builds on what Jason Miller said in his post on 'post-chaos'.

  12. I'll have to go read Jason's "post-chaos" post when I have half a minute.

    Part of the problem with doing magic successfully is that you find yourself in situations that you enchanted for that leave little time to discuss magic properly... like grad school.

    Before I started practicing magic seriously I would never have believed that I would be successful at grad school. Now here I am, and the distractions call like hungry ghosts... a little banishment perhaps. Haha. Something something about what Rufus was saying about getting your desires.

    I find myself firmly in the "post-chaos" camp, but very informed by Chaos magic and what I thought was valuable about it.

    Fu Mang-chu

  13. Just a quick note- I actually did the exercise in this post, and was going to post about it before I got distracted here in the comments.

    Can't say as I learned much from it. I've been around NLPoopers for so long that it's hard for me to take any of it seriously. Some times there's a good nugget in there, some times the nuggets are the corn bespeckled kind.

    Bandler does have some good oneliners though, and this one I think applies very well to magick as well as NLPoop: "There's no sense being objective when you're studying subjectivity."

    Good post though R.O. Thanks.

    Fu Mang-chu

  14. I'm also keeping my eyes open for the 401 discussions, but this isn't really the place for it.

    RO, you might want to consider (just consider) that you've possibly lowered the bar for yourself by declaring that the way you can be most helpful to the most people, in a very utilitarian sense, is by mixing platitudes with swearing (gotta stay edgy) to tell everyone how happy you are every few days. That said, it's your blog, and it's not your job to satisfy my intellectual craving for thought-provoking discussion.

  15. Paul, do you consider the last three posts I've written to be platitudes and swearing? This one, the next about getting traction, and RHIP?

    And I cuss a lot. My ex hated that, even though she did it, and part of the swearing now is sort of just being relaxed. I don't do it to keep edgy, that's ridiculous. I don't give a fuck about the edge.

    I post about being happy because for years, and years, and fucking more years I posted about being miserable and hateful.

    When I found myself suddenly happy, I took a look around, and guess what? Most people are miserable and hateful. For the same reasons I was. And for years people were using my public discussions of my work as a model, so I was like, fuck it! Let 'em see how silly and fun it can be too!

    Things are stabilizing in my life now, though. I've got a really good foundation in place, and a vision of where I want to go with blog posts over the next few months/years.

    There will be 401 level material being discussed, I think, but it will still be geared to be readily accessible and implementable. What Blogos considers watered down, I consider attainable. I've been in debates with him where it quickly escalated to a point where he and I were the only ones participating, and no one else was interested or reading. That's not what I want this to turn into, a place where people come to argue over silly crap. I want this to be a place where people can come and learn to do magic and have fun using the principles of magic.

    And sometimes I will just cuss and post platitudes and cliches, because they're all amazingly useful in the hands of an enlightened being.

  16. No, I wouldn't characterize those posts that way. And I'm not attacking you.

    What I'm saying is that what's inspiring to me is seeing what people are doing on the cutting edge, which in your case would mean you posting something you're not 100% comfortable with, and not necessarily something you would lump into the "attainable" category. I totally get your not wanting to have the same debate over and over, which could definitely turn off your readership.

    I'm just not really turned on by hearing how easy it is to live your dreams, because hearing that isn't what gets people from point A to point B. Blogos said a while ago something to the effect that you were starting to sound like a motivational speaker, which you seemed to embrace. The reason "motivational speaker" is not really a flattering title for you is because people don't need pitch men telling them how great their lives can be "if they only decide to make them great." No one can make an immediate jump from living a shit life to living their dreams, because it's not a jump - it's incremental steps that are painful, as you've noted about your own life. Is it good for people to know there is light at the end of the tunnel? Yeah, it's good to hear about every now and then. But I think it's unrealistic to think folks are going to have the ability to make their lives better just because they've been informed that they have the ability.

    But again, I'm just commenting from the peanut gallery, and it's not your job to say the things that I think you should say.

  17. I appreciate your input though, Paul. For everyone who speaks up, there are more who don't.

    I agree there's more to it than just hearing the good news that life doesn't have to suck. I've been talking about the methodology the whole time though. For ... 7 years. When I started one on one sessions with people, I learned something neat. They already know how to do stuff. They know the incremental steps. They need personal encouragement to take advantage of it. They need their hands held while they get started in the path. They need someone telling them every week or two that they are doing a good job while the momentum builds up. I'm really good at that. I like it a lot. That's the kind of motivational speaker I embrace being. Someone who helps other people get what they want for themselves. That is the most incredible feeling of accomplishment I've ever had.

    I was talking about this with blogos the other day. I'm tired of talking about the tool. I'm tired of talking about the tech. Table of practice, lamen, conjure conjure conjure, learn learn, manifest, repeat. It's the same thing it has been for seven years.

    I want to talk now about the fun stuff, the creation process, the projects we work on with the tools. I want to demonstrate that having made the Stone, now what? That's what this has been about the whole time. Notes and observations and thoughts of a magician performing the great work.

    But I'm taking your critique seriously. I've been drunk on more than just booze for the last few months, and your getting tired of hearing from barney fucking Stimson as Jason put it once. I've been drifting away from that for a while now, the last few posts were ones I started a while ago that I am just now finishing up. I won't stop being a motivational speaker, but I won't be the kind you mentioned either.


Thanks for your comments, your opinions are valued, even if I disagree with them. Please feel free to criticize my ideas and arguments, question my observations, and push back if you disagree.