In re-evaluating this post, I would add that learning to intuit what is genuine requires a high degree of self insight, the level of which is often very difficult to gauge for yourself. For years, the most common attribute people would use to describe me was “self-aware.” Yet I was full of contradictions and massive cognitive gaps. I had managed to rivet everyone (including myself) to my disavowing fantasies and manipulated Jung’s theories to strengthen these deceptions. There was only one (one!) individual in all my life who was not a trained professional, who was able to see through my ruse. He did so immediately in fact, a Scorpio ASC. More about him later; I once published a fun post on him (when it rains… aspects of a modern Casanova).

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Original Title: separate the subtle from the gross
Original Post Date: September 12, 2006 @ 1:33 pm

People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. They will practice Indian Yoga in all its exercises, observe a strict regimen of diet, learn theosophy by heart, or mechanically repeat mystic texts from the literature of the whole world – all because they cannot get on with themselves and have not the slightest faith that anything useful could ever come out of their own souls.

– Carl Jung quoted by Robert Wang in his introduction the The Qabalistic Tarot

I would add that some modern people will do anything to escape their modernity, to escape the commodification of our labour, our time, our very bodies and to escape the meaninglessness of a culture built upon consumption and fetishes. You know, the psychoanalytic theorists of the 70s may now be pooh-poohed at, but they were hitting upon something very crucial about the modern condition. Modernity functions on the principle of fetishization. The principle of replacing what you really desire with something else because you fear what you really desire. But the fetish never truly satisfies and one must accrue more of the fetish, continually consuming, obscenely consuming, to disavow the Lack. It is wholly possible to cover up the emptiness w/processed spiritual bullshit.

Wang shares a story on the Marcus Aurelius Press forum of when he learned there was bullshit out there to begin with:

When I was about twelve years old, and having been raised with great respect for whatever was printed, I discovered a loosely-bound typewritten book on an outdoor bookstand in Washington, D.C. It explained that the world had been created from a divine spark right here in Washington, perhaps in a field behind what was to become the White House. Until this remarkable find it had never occurred to me that the author of a book might be completely nuts, and the new insight marked a certain loss of innocence.

Often, in dealing with spiritual texts, a clean distinction between madness and genius is not as apparent as we’d like it to be. Content that may be utter nonsense in the context of its origin may come to be clarified many years later. So it’s how you process the info that counts. Do you take it at face value and literalize it? Do you write it off? Do you analyze it from a different context than the one it is presented in?

Initially, it may be difficult to tell the difference b/w what is genuine and what is bullshit but with experience, you will learn to feel it out, and this will become like another sense to you. You will smell god in its various forms and you’ll know which paths will help you and which ones just aren’t on your side. For all the paths that are genuinely numinous in some way, you’ll be able to see which ones are diversions, whirlpools, energy that boomerangs back onto itself – like the fetish which at first, replaces the original, but eventually becomes an idol, an icon, a desire unto itself, “even better than the real thing”.

Wang continues from the above quote with some sound advice:

As far as books are concerned, the best advice is that of the Emerald Tablet. You should “separate the subtle from the gross, gently and with care.” Amplifying this, there is a Hermetic catchphrase which you might like. It says: “Accept nothing, reject nothing, but above all learn from the learner.” Let me to express another opinion here. Be careful of books which claim to offer you a formula that will make you an “initiate.” Not many people fit into this category.