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The Map is NOT the Territory

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on October 3, 2011 | Comments (1)

The expression “the map is not the territory” is a concept found in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). It’s meaning is very similar to the concept of Maya in Tantra.

In ancient Tantric concepts, as in modern Western science, the physical universe is seen as an incredible collection of energy. The stars are energy. The chair you’re sitting in is energy. You are energy. This energy is represented as sound. In order for our consciousnesses to deal with energy the goddess Maya gives us the illusion of solidity. The chair is solid. You are solid. This illusion allows us to interact with each other and with the environment. Some people mistakenly assume that the concept of maya is that the physical plane is an illusion. Nope. It’s very real! It is only our interpretation of the reality—that it is solid rather than energy—and our beliefs that result from that interpretation, that is the illusion.

We each have our own illusion or map of reality. This map allows us to to deal with others and our environment. But the reality or “territory” is not the map. A map can help guide you down the street or around the world, but the map is not the street or the world. The map is not the territory.

Okay. That’s actually kind of obvious. A map guides me down the street so I can get from my house to your house. What’s the big deal?

The problem is that your map—created as a result of your experiences and beliefs—is not the same as my map. The more our maps match each other the better we can communicate. As an aspect of magick, I discuss this idea of improving relationships and communication in the new lesson in Modern Magick. (Now in its second printing! Thanks to all of you who have purchased a copy.) You will also find it described in much greater detail in the works of Patrick Dunn such as Postmodern Magic.

So where am I going with this?

Today, in the U.S. and in many other areas, there is quite a bit of binary thinking. By that I mean either/or, my-way-or-the-highway thinking; I’m right and if you think even slightly differently than me, you’re wrong. We see this in politics from people who talk about liberals or conservatives and how if they’re not part of the speaker’s or writer’s perspective, they’re wrong and “bad.” We see it in religion where people think their’s is the only path, and if you disagree slightly you’re wrong and kicked out of that sect. And if you’re on the path of Thelema, the Golden Dawn, certain Pagan/Wiccan/Witchcraft sects, etc. there is only one true order, one true temple, one true coven, and all the others are false and misleading.

Binary thinking. One way or the other. Our way or you’re wrong and get the hell out of Dodge. You’re either with us or you’re against us.

The Real Universe

Just as the reality of the universe is that it is composed of energy, the universe, in reality, is not binary. Oh, there is condition X and condition Not-X, but those are not the only alternatives. Between X and Not-X there is an enormous range of possibilities, a continuum of potentials. Mental, physical, spiritual and emotional evolution does not happen at the extremes, it happens very close to the first position. If a sea creature’s fin in one generation became a wing with feathers, all of the creatures with that mutation would die out. But if a few scales mutated to look like feathers, that creature would survive, especially if it could figure a way to positively use that adaptation. Sometimes there may be larger jumps that have positive benefits for survival (in physical evolution it’s called “punctuated equilibrium”), but in other situations minor changes lead to evolution. That’s why one of the most important questions we can ever ask begins, “What if…?”

What if I accept the idea that our maps of reality are different and that neither is “pure truth,” they’re just our maps?
What if that other magickal Order that pretends to be my true Order has some valid concepts?
What if the leader of my group doesn’t have all the answers?

Is it possible to adjust our maps, just slightly, to allow for more than two possibilities? Perhaps that other group is mostly wrong, but they have a few great concepts. Should you ignore those concepts or integrate with them?

Can we say that your map is not my map and neither map is the true territory? We’re just using them to better understand reality. If I’m at point X and the anti-Donald is at point Not-X, according to plane geometry the two points can be connected to form a line. Along that line are an infinite number of points, numbering from 1 to ∞. I’m much closer to point 2 than I am to point 3,457,502,693. I am far more likely to agree with the person at point 2 than at more distant points, but point 2 and 1 are still different. We still each have our own maps of reality. The important thing, however, is that we’re all on that line.

Currently, in the blogosphere, there are people arguing over what is real and what is not, which is the real group and which is not. I have had my posts taken out of context to defend one person’s position even though that was the opposite of my words when taken in context. It’s as if they don’t think their own words are enough. They have to rely on outside authorities. But as Dion Fortune wrote, there is no room for authority in occultism.

Using their maps, they are right. Using my map, I am right. We have our maps not because they are the reality, the actual territory, but because our beliefs, goals, and experiences create the maps that let us see reality as we will. Our personal backgrounds filter the way we perceive things. The way we perceive things is projected out and viewed on our maps. If our mindset is that of a hammer, when we look out all of the screws and bolts will look like nails. As we say in NLP, “Perception is Projection.”

But I believe that truth really does set us free. And the truth is that there is no single path for everyone. This means that my map, my path, is different from yours. Our different maps are different from everyone else’s. Some maps will be closer to yours or mine and some are further away. That does not make different maps wrong…just different. If we stop looking in binary terms of right and wrong, and instead look for similarities and differences along a path or continuum, we can all advance together. We don’t have to put others down to build ourselves up.

There is an ancient Hawaiian Huna saying:

A Ohe Pau Ko Ike I Kou Halau

it means: “Think not that all wisdom is in your school.”

That may be a good place to start.

A Website for Hardcore Kabalists

Geoffrey Dennis, a rabbi and author of the incredible book, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism, has one of my favorite blogs. It’s called Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism, and it covers some very esoteric topics in a very down-to-earth fashion. For those of you who have read my Modern Magick, you’ll know that I wrote of the “Wasp Kabalah” (the Hermetic or occult interpretation) and the “Kosher Kabalah” (the traditional Jewish interpretation). Rabbi Dennis comes from that Kosher Kabalah focus and has educated and unique interpretations that he very willingly shares. Recently he’s discussed, the Tarot, The Bahir and the Tree of Life, the “Molten Sea,” the evil eye, the use of spit, and why Thor (of Marvel comics and recent movie) is (almost) a MOT (Member Of the Tribe: Jewish!).

If you haven’t figured it out, Rabbi Dennis is not just educated and erudite, he also has a great sense of humor, something that makes his hardcore writing very accessible and continuously interesting.

A Sad Interpretation of the Law

If you’re not reading my friend Jason Pitzi-Waters’ blog, The Wild Hunt, I can honestly say it’s an absolute must! I consider it to be one of, if not the, most vital commentary on current Pagan and magickal items in the blogosphere. Today he reported the case of a Virginia woman who, by law, is being forced to call herself a fortune-teller and limited to opening a shop in areas that also “includes adult businesses, pawnbrokers, material reclamation yards, and vehicle impoundment lots, and forbids her from the zoning district where her current office is located and where other counselors are permitted…[She] is further subject to an additional occupation tax not required of other counselors.”

Although she considers herself a spiritual counselor, the ruling reject this and “subjects her to numerous restrictions including a background investigation, a criminal record check, review by the chief of police and other requirements related to her ‘character’and ‘demeanor’ that are not required of any other religious or commercial enterprise within the County. These restrictions also do not apply to other religious or secular counselors, or even to persons ‘pretending to act’ as fortune-tellers.”

Now, I don’t have full details of the situation, and this may be due more to errors on the part of working within the legal system rather than just giving Tarot readings. However I wonder if the city is also going to force some Christian churches to the same area since some of them also give counseling advice and predict the future?

What do you think?

This Just In—
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Reader Comments

Written By Heather R Nord
on October 11th, 2011 @ 9:04 am

Donald; to be consise … my term is “experiential dictionary” 1999 c HRN. It amazes me that anyone can actually communicate with another, AT ALL, due to the way each one of us compiles and uses the English language (for example). Each of us through our own experiences developes a “dictionary” and uses language accordingly. I saw this in action in corporate America and am still suffering the effects. I share this with you because I find the “spiritual” community suffers the effects as well. Any thoughts?
Secondly I found your final observation about the application (selective) of regulations and zoning to be similar to what I have seen in the “organic” industry. Organic manufacturing companies are being bought out by non-organic people who are changing the ingredients WITHOUT the organic community awareness. I have found this to be true of a shampoo and an aloe vera product. This not being scientific – wonder if you have heard anything similar ? There seems to be a trend of MIS-INFORMATION ON MANY LEVELS. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. Please email a response at your earliest convenience. Heather

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