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  1. Jamie O’Hara is quite articulate, which is unusual for most anarchists. Here fusion of mysticism and anarchism is reminiscent of Jürgen Moltmann and other Marxist-Christians who reduce Christian language and concept into signs and symbols for Marxist concepts. O’Hara is doing the same for terms universal to religions, as such, and imbuing them with the conceptual meaning of anarchism. Here hermeticism is essentially fusion of western hermeticism as seen in Hermes Trismegistus; Iamblichus; Proclus; Cabbala; Freemasonry etc and Hinduism, Gnosticism and Mystery Religions of the East. Her view is very much like Manly P. Hall.

    The question one is left with is O’Hara a pantheist, polytheist or an atheist? She embraces monism, but does she accept a spiritual or a physical monism? It seems like she accepts both matter and spirit, but then that is not monism, but dualism. She might claim, as the Gnostic did/do, that matter is the furthest emanation of God (i.e., the further away a being is from God in order of existence the more material or heaver he becomes). Yet given her lack of clarification certain ambiguity remains.

    There are a series of problems in this view though 1) the one and the many, 2) epistemology, 3) dogmatic rejection of dogma


    At times O’Hara states all is one, and at other times she adheres to a radical pluralism. The problem is that radical pluralism of human existence undermines the oneness of God and the oneness of God undermines the pluralism of human existence. She at times indicates, like the Gnostics, that people’s souls are the spark of God or like the Hindus all is one in Brahman. That reality cannot admit of any ‘real’ plurality. Plurality itself is an illusion which needs to be left and the ego returns to God, this is the Hindu concept of Moksha (release or awakening) where one returns to the true essence of reality. A kind of spiritual pluralism would fit with Pandeism as seen in Scott Adam’s God’s Debries. It’s difficult to imagine both views being true at once, but O’Hara seems to imply so.

    The problem is the law of non-contradiction (a ≠ ~a). If all is one then there is only one truth, one law, one reality. In Hinduism all is Brahma, yet if I say Jesus Christ is the Son of God and you say Jesus Christ is not the Son of God we have a logical dispute (a ≠ ~a). While in a logical dispute both interlocutors could be wrong they cannot both be true. Hinduism says that since you and I are both apart of Brahma both statements “say Jesus Christ is the Son of God” and “Jesus Christ is not the Son of God” are both true, because we both represent an aspect of Brahma. Yet this is impossible. It is not false, but incoherent. If, something is false it is factually incorrect. If, something is incoherent it is not even intelligible enough to be true or false. I contend that O’Hara’s monism is incoherent and to use the title of a recent critique of string theory Not Even Wrong.

    The association of pluralism with a sort of Hindu cosmology is strange. The Hindu seeks to escape the ego and become one with Brahma, yet she wants to keep the ego separate. It makes no sense to base your theology on Hindu-Buddhist mysticism, but then chop of the bottom end, Moksha and replace it with dangling egos that do not return to the One. Maybe she does believe that the egos all return into the One, but it is not clear from her work. The blending of spiritual collectivism and individualism is for the aforementioned reasons incoherent.

    When O’Hara speaks of Heresy and Antinomianism and Syncretism she runs into more trouble. Heresy means to chose, to deviate from a standard of orthodoxy. Antinomianism is to reject all law in the name of fideism. Her creative rewriting of antinomianism to reject “unjust” law is unconvincing. Syncretism is the blending of different faith traditions which sufficiently deviates from the foundations of either source to render it heretical. She claims that syncretism could allow groups to work together and mingle. What Heresy, Antinomianism and Syncretism all have in common is man willing to reject the unchanging law of God. If she does not believe in any unchanging law of God, then such terms are neutered in their meaning, if she uses them in their classical sense then that seems hard to square with her monism/pluralism, since there is no such deity to make laws, to be rejected, in her theology. There is at rock bottom no unchanging standard of judgment to which she can appeal to or contrast to. Without such a standard Heresy, Antinomianism and Syncretism are meaningless terms. Also talking of ‘ought’ is also meaningless.

    Anarch’s and Monarch’s are both problematic concepts; these people make their own laws and suffer the consequences of their own actions (very much like Jean Paul Sarte). Yet why is choosing to live a certain way or living out a certain morality of any significance if there is no objective standard of judgment? Furthermore what if like the Assassins I believe God wants me to build a murderers guild? Should I listen to my inner God or whatever is speaking to me?

    She believes that mysticism is anarchic in that, the mystic claims I do not need priests or intermediaries to relate to God, much as the anarchist says I do not need policemen to enforce laws. Yet how does she claim to come by her knowledge of god/reality? If we are all priests then the problem is which priest is right. If priest A says (a) and priest b says (~a) who is right? If I am not mistaken, this quandary can be seen in The Apostle starring Robert Duvall. If I am the final authority, because God speaks to me and you are the final authority because God speaks to you we can never find a solution to the dispute.

    Knowledge of the noumenal realm (as Kant called it) can only be discerned in one of three ways 1) through a priori first principles, 2) direct spiritual revelation and 3) divinely inspired written records. We can see these three methods in 1) Kant’s Categorical Imperative and his Moral Argument for God, 2) God speaking to Abraham, and 3) the Bible. In the Pentateuch God gives very strict warnings about prophets and false prophets, He gives men the ability to test the word of false prophets to see if what they are saying is true or not. O’Hara as far as I know makes no attempt to appeal to (1) of (3) and any appeal to (2) is suspect if it is independent of (1) or (3). Mysticism gives one no assurance of truth, since there is no final court of appeals to adjudicate a contest between two mystic/anarch/priests. Short of any handbook given by God directly to man to adjudicate such disputes they cannot be adjudicated. This problem renders O’Hara’s mysticism incoherent, since there is no way to determine truth and falsity of moral, theological or political truth. The problem of law arises. O’Hara clearly believes in a sort of Non-aggression axiom. Live and let live, do not start force. But what if one of these mystic/anarch/monarchs decides (like Muhammad) that God told him to subjugate the whole world to shariah law? Given that she would lack any recourse in demonstrating to such a prophet that he was mistaken and misunderstood God’s command or was deceived by a demon, she would be unable to criticize his action. But clearly she would oppose such spiritual imperialism.

    She rejects all Dogma, but that produces two problems 1) a consistent rejection of dogma is in fact a dogma and 2) with out a dogma (unchanging standard of truth) nothing intelligible can be said. One might say O’Hara’s dogma is that there is no dogma a certain fallacy arises here. For language and the search for truth to even be intelligible, one must have an unchanging standard of truth. If you claim (a) and I claim (~a) we cannot both be right, but with out a standard of epistemic judgment one is unable to even prove if we are both false. For example if I have a dispute with you over legal title to land, we can appeal to the court which holds the deed and discern who actually owns it. If there were not such deed or if it were lost than we would not, short of force, be able to solve this impass. Her inability to plausibly resolve the problems of religious epistemology severely hamper her position. The only way to adjudicate such a prophetic dispute would be if one could appeal to an authoritative revealed revelation of God, a canon of scripture. Yet such a canon is contradictory to mysticism and hermeticism.

    O’Hara seems to embrace the idea that “all is in flux”. This is countered by “all is static”. This can be seen as embodied in Heraclites for the former and Parmenides for the latter. Plato solves the issue by sating that material objects partook in the unchanging forms. Yet if all is flux then nothing exists. If one is to experience change then there must be an inscrutable you to experience change. If one is only change then one does not exist. Change has bound up within it, for it to be intelligible, the notion of stasis or dogma. Change works on something, not on nothing.

    The main problems of O’Hara’s position is that 1) her cosmology/theology is incoherent, 2) her spiritual epistemology is incoherent and 3) her dogma of no dogma is incoherent.

  2. I think much of your criticism comes from your assumption that I am coming from a theological perspective. Despite my acknowledgement that some of the religious ideas I examine seem contradictory, you are expecting me to reconcile all of them as a description of my personal spiritual beliefs. However, I’m not expressing my personal beliefs in this talk. Rather, I am exploring the potential for anarchist concepts to intersect with or complement religious concepts in diverse traditions, and I readily admit that any such intersection will not be a neat and tidy one.

    I attribute accusations of “incoherence” to the regimented, compartmentalized style of academia, which limits creativity in intellectual discourse. [Compare the style of Peter Lamborn Wilson to that of Hakim Bey.] As an anarchist, I can take “incoherence” as a compliment. Incoherence is a pan-anarchist world: a multifaceted network so decentralized that it deceivingly appears completely unconnected. The human and divine worlds can seem pretty incoherent, their interaction even more so. To me, incoherence in a discussion about the crossroads of anarchy and spirituality is fitting.

    Problems with my epistemological implications (or lack thereof) are similarly fine by me. Epistemology is an authoritarian decree about what is valid, and as an anarchist I buck such rulings. One size does not fit all when it comes to knowledge and wisdom, so I choose not to make logical arguments about “objective” spiritual truth. Although I do believe that universal streams exist within human religiosity, I do not propose a universal standard by which to measure things like heresy or syncretism. (In my opinion, the phrase “objective standard of judgment” is a contradiction.) What I am saying is that *any* instance of heresy or syncretism is a reflection of what I perceive as a natural “anarchist” (or freedom-loving) propensity in human beings.

    When I say that NA is not dogmatic, I am not implying that NAs dogmatically reject all dogma. Actually, when I mention that what appealed to me about NA was the fact that it’s not dogmatic, I am talking about anarchist dogma, not religious dogma. I do not consistently or blindly reject all dogma, but I do question it. From within an anarchist context, I think dogma can do more harm than good, especially because most anarchists feel the need to “preach.” However, when it comes to spirituality, obedience to or rejection of dogma is an individual choice.

    I almost copied and pasted a bunch of your statements and refuted each one individually (and I can still directly address some of your claims if necessary). However, I chose not to take that approach because I realize this is more of a paradigmatic misunderstanding. When I first read your comment, I thought to myself: “that is the response of a person who subscribes to an organized religion.” [I’m not making assumptions about you; I don’t know if that’s true, but I’m being honest about my initial reaction.] I don’t subscribe to any particular religion, and so I look at religious ideas from a different angle. For me, personal growth as an anarchist has heavily influenced my spiritual beliefs, and vice versa. I don’t expect these ideas to resonate with everyone but I do appreciate the discussion.

  3. “As an anarchist, I can take “incoherence” as a compliment. Incoherence is a pan-anarchist world: a multifaceted network so decentralized that it deceivingly appears completely unconnected.”

    I’ve had critics tell me, “Keith, all of these movements and causes you’re promoting or associated with don’t fit together.” I always respond that they’re not supposed to. That’s the point behind a non-univeralist conception of anarchism.

    “I don’t subscribe to any particular religion, and so I look at religious ideas from a different angle. For me, personal growth as an anarchist has heavily influenced my spiritual beliefs, and vice versa.”

    I know I started to find the Bible much more interesting when I started to study it from an academic perspective as an adult atheist. When I was a kid, it was just about reading the Bible selectively to affirm sectarian dogma.


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