I ran across an excellent and thoughtful post by christeos_pir while scrolling isomeme's Friends list. It's here:
This is something I've thought about a lot, too, over many years -- as, among other things, a paralegal in a criminal defense law office (Seventies), the equivalent of Christian clergy (late Seventies, early Eighties), and (for the past decade plus) a Thelemic teacher...and if that career track doesn't give one a sense of moral relativism, I don't know what would. ;)
While moral exclusivists are still plentiful, I think American culture has, on the whole, long since come to recognize how relative morality can be; humans can consider everything from eating meat to drinking alcohol to slow dancing "immoral"...or, come to that, "holy." These days, thankfully, the term "evil" seems to be largely reserved for actions so (nearly) universally condemned that they violate what amount to biological necessities: mass-murder, harming children, and the like. Of course, as soon as war enters into the question, even those "settled" issues run into convenient exceptions. :(
I think Thelema itself does a real service by tying morality to pride, rather than shame, through its notion of "kingliness." Then too, Thelema wonderfully clarifies one's actual "morals": once merely traditional standards are open to question, a person's actual moral compass stands revealed...often with swift and dreadful consequences for those who consider Thelema a license to "do whatever you wanna." For myself, I need no provable external standard to refuse to take cheap advantage of anybody: "relative" or no, I have very strict standards for what I consider "kingly," and wouldn't dream of violating them (yes, even when repeatedly tested on same). And for that matter, by removing the stigma from lots of perfectly normal human behavior (honest sexual relations between consenting adults, e.g.), Thelema helps improve morals: that is, when we no longer lump normal human drives together with psychopathology, calling both "sin," psychopathology becomes less defensible.
All that said, an anomalous observation. Relative as moral standards are, my time in criminal law left me with a vivid sense of "evil" as an actual energy, rarely though one encounters it: e.g. in people who abuse children, kill for fun, and the like, who revel in a sadistic self-worship, in the naked exercise of harm toward those who don't by any stretch of the imagination deserve harm. That I am happy to see people punished for a harm they doubtless considered "doing good" (9/11, for example) doesn't blind me to the fact that some people do harm just because they enjoy it. I am happy to see both sorts of offenders punished -- but am not ready to rule "evil," as a form of psychopathology, totally out of existence just yet. I suspect that Thelema will cut down on instances of such psychopathology (most abusers were abused, for example), but I don't know that anything will utterly get rid of human predation, of abuse for its own ugly sake. "Crime" is (for me) a lot more common than "evil": for most criminals their acts are more or less "just business," and "evil" -- by which I mean the sheer enjoyment of gratuitous harm for its own sake -- strikes me as rather different...much as society needs to punish both, of course, as an act of simple self-defense.
Anyway, thanks, christeos_pir, for prompting this ramble! 'Least you know you were being read. :)
93 93/93 -- AJ