Yes, This Is Happening


Like a lot of people these days, I get most of the influx of world news from my friends. Through social networks, my feed gets peppered with items of note from all over the globe. Many of the postings include some expression of incredulity about what is being passed on. Many of them with lead ins such as, “Is this legal?, “This can’t be happening…”, “I don’t believe we are still this fucked up…”, and so on.

Side-bar here: Recently I started on a piece about Hassan i-Sabbah. You see, I am an avid gamer, as well as being a fan of fringe philosophy, whack-o epistemology, strange ontology, stripped down spirituality, shadow history, and the scientific method, all while working towards immanetizing my personal eschaton.

Recently, I caught quite a fascination about the original order of assassins by playing the “Assassin’s Creed” games (which are awesome, by the way.) In them, part of the credo of the assassins often quoted is the phrase, “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” I had read that phrase before, of course, mostly in the Principia Discordia, and the works of Uncle Bob.

So, being the avid geek I am, I started researching. As I did, my romantic notions about the ideology of freedom that the phrase calls fort, and which the game creators emphasized, bubbled over. The idea of facing reality directly, without holding any one particular reality-tunnel as absolute, allows for a personal unbridled freedom. Our behavior comes under our full ownership and responsibility. We can begin to answer for ourselves to ourselves. For me, this formulation is right up there with, “The map is not the territory”, and “Whatever you say a thing is, it isn’t” from Korzybski, alongside the offerings from Aliester Crowley, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”, and “Will under love.”

Hassan i-Sabbah, was the founder of the original order of assassins, and the apparent coiner of this phrase. Trouble is, no one really knows when he said it, or why. The most compelling version (for me anyways), is as follows: After winning the castle-fortress Alamut in a con-bet that involved the hide of a bull, Hassan took up residence and proceeded to run his group of assassin’s to make targeted eliminations for the purposes of forwarding the agenda of the Muslim world. He recruited soldiers and conditioned them by using drug enabled trips to “heaven”, a walled paradisiacal garden built to evoke the fantasies of what awaits Muslim’s who give their lives over to the service of Allah in the afterlife, complete with virgins to provide physical delights. Hassan employed a wide range of theatrical shows to convince his troops. Once, he had a pit installed in his throne room. He had a follower stand in the pit, then rigged a false floor that made it look like his severed head was sitting on a platter. Calling his troops in, Hassan claimed this was the head of a man who had failed to obey him. He then evoked his “magical powers” and commanded the head to speak, at which point the man in the pit began screaming and detailing the tortures that he was undergoing in Hell.

Once Hassan was installed in Alamut, he never left his chambers (aside from one trip to the roof gardens) for the remaining 35 years of his life. He sank himself into studies of the religion, philosophy, science, and mysticism of his time. Hassan was a deeply respected spiritual authority, and he turned to his studies with an unmatched fervor. On his deathbed he uttered the phrase, “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.”

Now, what did he mean by that? Was this a death bed confession that all he had believed in for his life was false? Or, was this some deep mystical revelation representing the culmination of his studies, and meditations? Or, was it the farewell of a con-man who wanted to assuage his guilt?

Who knows?

In any event, one thing is clear. Hassan was a confidence man of the highest order. He willfully used the fanatic religious conviction of his followers, which he magnified through genius level brainwashing, and spent their lives for his own ends. What he did was amazing, but it’s nothing to get romantic over.

This ended my fascination with Hassan i-Sabbah as a source of mystical insight. My respect for the insight remained, however.

Here ends the side-bar.

All of that was to illustrate the truth behind the term, “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” You see, we all live in reality-tunnels sourced from our individual unique partial views. This reality-tunnel is colored by our physical and psychological structure, as well as the conditioning imprinted on us by our culture and life experiences. We each have a unique “take” on things, and none of them is ultimately true. They (at best) are just how things seem to us. This does not mean they are not real; it’s just that they are only real for us. In this way, “nothing is true.”

Each of us takes our actions guided by our own personal plum-lines. The thing is these conditions of morality, and ethics, and social norms, are installed in us during our upbringing. These rules of conduct dictate our actions to a large degree. If we had a glimpse (or maybe a good long look) at reality free of our conditioning, then we might understand that, “everything is permitted.” Then our actions become fully our own. That does not mean we will necessarily do good things. We can still be bad people. Some will take advantage of such freedom in service of their own needs and desires.

“There are trivial truths, and there are great truths. The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false. The opposite of a great truth is also true.” ~ Niels Bohr

It seems ironic to use that quote as a tool to look at an insight that states that, “Nothing is true…,” but to heck with it. Life is short. Following on with Professor Bohr’s line of reasoning, it seems to me that every deep insight can be implemented in a positive light and in a negative one. I am beginning to suspect that this insight, “Nothing is true, everything is permitted” is floating around out there in the noosphere with a negative inflection. Not in the foreground like the countless LoLCats, and Ikea Monkeys, but just like those memes, it’s being passed around in the background.

Those working with this idea have a free license to do as they please. With no truth holding them back, they permit themselves actions that most of us would balk at.

So, yes, this is happening.

Governments are breaking laws.

People are being locked up for no reason other than convenience.

Teenagers are bashing each other’s brains in, and people are using these tragedies as an excuse to promote racial profiling.

Corporations are poisoning the bio-sphere and exterminating species to increase their bottom line.

All of that is happening. Really. It really is.

As long as we deny it, what’s going to stop it?

This is not a call for some overt action, or screaming in the streets. But, what if we all let in the idea that maybe, just maybe, “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” And, maybe if we did we could slow the tide of license and abuses, and expose them all to the light of our awareness. Not our hatred, or our revenge, but just our knowing. Maybe that light could be shined into the darkest crevices and if they want to take their actions, at least they will do so while we see.

Just a thought.

Laboring Under The Curse of Greyface


“Messes are opportunities for creative expression, for delight and discovery, and for pleasure and celebration. Messes are real. They are how we live. And they can be beautiful.” – Amy George Rush

This distinction comes from the Principia Discordia, the “bible” for what is either a religion disguised as a joke, or a joke disguised as a religion. Depending on your point of view, of course.

The distinction is called the Curse of Greyface, and it goes a little something like this. There are two axis you can measure the rightness of your actions along. (There are many more than two, of course, but these two are what you need to get this distinction.)

One is the axis of order versus disorder.

The other is creativity versus destruction.

At some point in our past, particularly in the West, right around when the Greeks were going strong a cultural axiom was created that declared that the main measure of rightness should be along the order/disorder line. In other words, and action was more righteous if it was based in order, and less righteous, or even evil if it was couched in disorder. This meant that whether an action was creative, or destructive, it was okay as long as it was orderly.

Conquer a neighboring nation while pillaging and destroying their culture, sure as long as you had a legal (ie, ordered) claim to the territory.

Cut down forests with no regard to environmental impact, of course, the wheels of orderly progress must keep turning!

Attempt the total decimation of a people? Well, you can sleep well at night as long as you were “just following orders.”

Our cultural measuring stick for advancement became order over disorder with no attention paid to creation or destruction.

The cure is obvious: Shift your value assessment from the line of order/disorder, to that of creative/destructive. Head for the creative, and have little care about whether your effort creates order or disorder in it’s wake. (Well, maybe have a little care. The cure for a curse is seldom to just flip the seats on the ride.)

Working under a paradigm that measures the rightness of actions based solely on the criteria of whether they are more creative, and less destructive, would be quite a thing indeed, I should think. When I start thinking about it, the lyrics for John Lennon’s “Imagine” start going through my head. I do not think this shift would fix every problem we face instantly. I do think it would deeply effect the flavor of our culture and the moorings of our value systems.

We would stop grading out children based on whether they could memorize facts and figures by rote. Instead we would grade them on the cool shit they came up with.

Laws would no longer be based on, “That’s the way it’s always been done” but would instead be guidelines for fostering, insuring, and propagating creative action and outcomes.

People would not be evaluated on how well they toed the line, but on how much they contributed.

In my personal exploration of switching the lines of evaluation, I have found life to be more inherently beautiful and expressive. By deciding the the value I assign to a thing based on it’s creative value I find that I have a lot more opportunities for joy in my life. I also steer clear of miring myself in tasks, or duties, that drain my creative potential.

For my money that is a much better way to go!

What do you think?

They Do Not Have The Power

power structure

Here’s another fun distinction.

One of the prevalent misconceptions in common discourse is that “they“, those on the top of group power structures, have the real power in the world. When we look at this closely though it seems to be the opposite.

They” have never had the power.They” have authority, not through some special right or capacity. Rather the authority comes from a “mandate from the masses.” In other words, the people below bequeath those above with power.

Consider a modern large corporation. At the top is the CEO. Below them are the other chief officers. Then comes some vice presidents. After that you’ve got the directors, then the managers, and finally workers. If the CEO is removed, the company continues. It may hit a stumbling block, but it will not crumble. The largest companies in our world have proven this again and again. However, remove a chunk of workers and things go bumpy real quick. Remove all the workers, and the company vanishes. Until they replace the work force there will be no work done.

Where is the real power there?

The same is true of any organization, be it a religion, a government, a non-profit, a volunteer relief crew. If those who do the work stop doing the work the organization only exists in name, with no function.

Somehow though, the opposite opinion persists. We have been horns-waggled into giving over our power. We accede to authority for fear of what they will do to us, and forget that it takes us to carry out their sentences on us. All to often we do not hold them to task for the authority we have granted them.

I think this is a good question to keep in our tool box and ready to hand, “Who has the power here?”

The answer can often be surprising.

Taking back the power we have lets us steer our own ships and take part in the decision making process. That’s not an easy thing to do, and I am not suggesting that it’s always an easy thing to do. Still, we can talk about it. If we stand together, those “in power” will have no alternative but to listen to what we want for our lives, in trade for our work.

By remembering that authority is granted, and not pre-existing, we can enter a dialog with those entrusted with authority on an even footing.