Recently I read a very long post entitled “Non-Monogamy: Do Open Relationships Work?” The writer of that post makes what I consider to be numerous false assumption and false definitions to fit her narrow philosophy. Even though she admits that non-exclusive relationships, like exclusive relationships, may be successful or unsuccessful, she comes to the conclusion that non-exclusive relationships are bad.
The purpose of my post today is not to debate the value of exclusive versus non-exclusive relationships other than saying I support the practice of honesty within relationships allowing for different people to have different types of relationships in order to meet their needs. Nor is this post about the topic of sex magick practices. If you’re interested in that, please see my book, Modern Sex Magick.
What I want to look at is some of the blogger’s statements and their false logic. Although her blog enticed me to make this post, I regret to say that I have seen this logical error increasingly in blogs as well as in books and from speakers. In the blog, the author writes,
I just feel–and it’s a gut feeling–that there’s something larger going on beneath the surface. It’s just a hunch, but I really think that it’s not monogamy that people don’t believe in. People who are into open relationships will tell you that they don’t believe in having sex with one person and that same person forever. But I don’t believe it. I think they don’t really believe in love, and I think they force themselves to deal with the thought of the person they love having sex with other people because they think that’s the only way to really hold onto their love.
I think what motivates people is often fear of loss or getting hurt, so they dumb down their relationships in order to protect themselves against pain. But people who do all they can to avoid pain, and I am often guilty of that myself, never truly get all the great feelings because they are constantly worried about the bad feelings. Pain and loss exist to make happiness and love feel even better.
Notice what the writer has done. She begins by saying “I just feel–and it’s a gut feeling…It’s just a hunch, but I really think … I don’t believe it. I think…I think…”
Well, this is fine. She makes wild assumptions without any sort of data to back it up but she says that’s what she believes. She’s entitled to her beliefs, even if they’re based on false assumptions. But let’s move on…
“I think what motivates people is often fear of loss or getting hurt, so they dumb down their relationships in order to protect themselves against pain. But people who do all they can to avoid pain, and I am often guilty of that myself…”
Now we’re getting to the real crux of the matter. This blog was not about what other people are doing. This blog was about the writer’s personal experience and what she can and cannot do. Unfortunately, although she admits to her own limitations, she refuses to see them as her limitations. She has to attach her feelings and beliefs onto others.
She continues, “[But people who do all they can to avoid pain] never truly get all the great feelings because they are constantly worried about the bad feelings. Pain and loss exist to make happiness and love feel even better.”
Her idea that you must experience pain and loss to make happiness and love feel even better is her belief system. She is literally terrified that people can experience transcendent love and spirituality and sexuality while she cannot. Therefore, the thrust of her entire long blog comes down to this: “I can’t do it so you can’t either.”
This is the cry of all people afraid that you might be having more fun than they. But I want to look at the logical inconsistency of this approach and how it applies to magick
The Failed Logic
I studied “formal logic” at UCLA. The basic concept of logic is that you present a series of statements or “premises” and apply rules to them in order to “prove” an “argument.” This type of argument is not one of anger. It can be exciting and intellectually stimulating. To disprove an argument you don’t show rancor. Instead, all you have to do is show that one premise is false or that the rules of logical argument were not properly followed. If a flaw in an argument is found, the argument is considered false. Such a false argument is also called fallacious, and here is a great list of such fallacious arguments: LINK.
The particular fallacious argument I’d like to discuss is what I call, “falsely moving from the specific to the general.” Put in more common terms, it’s “This worked for me so it must work for you.” Unless evidence to support this move is given, there is no reason to assume it’s valid. Unfortunately, many people easily make this leap of false logic.
When it comes to magick, it should be understood that, as Dion Fortune said, there is no room for authority. Each person has to analyze and work out methods for himself or herself. Books and teachers should be thought of as tour guides, not men in robes handing down laws engraved in stone! Authors can share what has worked for them and for others. That’s good. It can save you time and work. But that doesn’t mean everything will work for you. You may have to modify their teaching to fit your needs so you can achieve success.
I’m not suggesting that you should abandon the writings of those who claim that they have discovered the One True Path ®©™, only that you should take their claims with a grain—okay, a mine—of salt. Just because something works for them does not mean that it will work for you completely, or partially, as presented.
Try out what people describe. If it works, use it. If part of it works, use that. If it doesn’t work, abandon it. If someone writes or teaches that “you have to do it this way or it won’t work,” beware. Their words won’t make you a great magician; only your successful practices can make you a great magician. And as it says in The Book of the Law, “Success is thy proof: argue not; convert not; talk not overmuch!” [I’m not that great at the last part.]
A Challenge to Readers
The fallacy of moving from the specific to the general occurs in magick, in science, in politics, and in numerous other areas. The “it worked for me so it must work for everyone else” fallacy causes lots of hardships. In sports, a once-successful coach may stick to demanding of his athletes certain ways of playing sports because it worked for him 20 years ago. He or she assumes that it will necessary work for everyone today. The inability to adapt results in failure.
Take a look for the specific to general fallacy in any area. When you see one, describe it in the comments section here.