The normal didn’t cut it for me. Uncertainty plagued me since my journey as a collegiate rower ended at the Henley Royal Regatta in the summer of 2017. Three years later, I’ve defined my life’s purpose as – “My purpose is to search for a purpose.” Little is certain for me, and I’ve found almost nothing useful in the west’s sterilized developmental aids to help guide my eyes and feet on the journey for purpose.
In all its manifestations, Western culture has generally been stripped of the ritual and initiatory processes that richer cultural traditions are often rife with. All of which are designed to help that culture’s members through the inevitable initiations life presents.
I am focussing on the initiatory process of finding a life-work, which many men never find in the west today. We are blessed with choice in western society and cursed simultaneously with a lack of direction unless our parents force one on us.
Despite the wealth of freedom, the result has been many a recent generation composed of people who float down the river of life in an inner tube with absolutely no awareness of their agency in defining their own path, rather than fashioning their own oar and at least attempting to steer around the larger rocks and rapids.
The typical western developmental aids of journaling, psychology, Meyers-Briggs personality tests, and more recently, meditation, are marginally useful in my experience. And did not provide any great amount of clarity, nor were they helping me move toward a greater understanding of either myself or the reason why I was put on this earth. Only Jordan Peterson’s work has been useful to me, and likely only because his work and conclusions are so Biologically true.
A Step Back To The Primitive
Through a bizarre series of throwbacks and my own search for greater self-actualization tools, I began to move away from Western society’s ‘accepted’ development modalities. I began to look at the lives of people who undeniably actualized themselves and looked at the traditions of ‘primitive’ societies that have been uncorrupted by western influence and instead preserve their own ancestral wisdom of finding purpose.
I’ve all but abandoned the known and quantifiable in favor of the unknowable and the esoteric, and I simply cannot deny its obvious, and often immediate, utility. I feel compelled to help other hyper-rational, hard-charging, developmentally minded men like myself, to write this Defense of the Untrue.
I’ve derived a great deal of wisdom (or at least a usable self-developmental framework; a map of aspects and counter-aspects to be addressed and expanded) from the basest understanding of natal astrology.
A surficial study of primitive shamanistic initiatory processes has yielded valuable initiatory work that I’ve recognized had been unknowingly neglected.
Minimal ‘study’ of some shamanic ‘medicines’ have produced titanic and overwhelmingly positive victories in my battle with myself, including a near-total obliteration of a pornography addiction and easing the formation of new, positive habits.
I use physical talismans to remind myself of the important things to myself, their physical presence representing my desire for a physical manifestation of my dreams and desired realities.
Archetypes And Psychology
I spend an unreasonable amount of thought and energy trying to understand how the archetypes of King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover manifest in my life, as I devour the pages of Robert Moore’s eponymous book.
In more advanced psychology, learning Jungian energetic archetypal symbolism and typology has been useful for understanding my developmental processes and has given myself a vocabulary when discussing the “Quest for Meaning” I find me entrained in.
It’s also been massively helpful for me when attempting to integrate some of the ‘shamanistic medicine’ sessions I’ve engaged in, only magnifying their profound and overwhelmingly positive effects and illuminating even more clearly the parts of my psyche that need tender work first.
Holotropic Breathwork, pioneered by LSD researcher Stanislav Graf after LSD was banned, while therapeutic and illuminating alone, brought me to a study of energy and the Chakras after a session revealed to me an unmistakable and massive physical blockage at exactly the place where my third chakra is (just below the solar plexus, which I didn’t know of at the time), which I learned is the chakra associated with action, ambition, and purpose (shocker, huh?).
Clarity In Knowledge
I learned, rather tellingly, that the body will physically manifest psychological traumas as energetic and mechanical blockages within the body, the release of which can be achieved through a number of alarmingly non-mainstream techniques, and which yield lasting and powerful changes. Western science will deny the existence of these phenomena. I’ll tell you they’re the most real and most acute sensations I’ve ever felt.
I now feel compelled to defend these techniques and practices because it was not that long ago that I was perfectly happy to dismiss anything I had just mentioned as new-age bullshit.
Perhaps I was right to think so in a logical sense, perhaps my mind was not ready to receive the wisdom these practices have offered me yet.
Fundamentally, they have been far too useful to me and my search for clarity for me to box them up as useless mumbo-jumbo hippy garbage, or to regard them as simply untrue.
Truths In The Untrue
I encourage the pursuit of truth in everything, but if something is perhaps untrue or unprovable, but turns out to be extremely useful.
Like a religion,
belief in astrology or fate,
using Tarot cards,
experiencing transpersonal consciousness,
perceiving to have a spirit guide or a totem,
spiritually communing with nature,
consulting your ancestors,
engaging in sacred rituals,
using the law of attraction,
entering altered states of consciousness (either assisted or unassisted),
working with reiki energy,
reading nature’s signs,
or even believing that crystals can affect your mental and energetic state. If they are useful, and make you a better person and better allow you to manifest your gifts to the world, what does it honestly matter if they are true or not?
As long as a practice isn’t damaging yourself or others, is an enabler of bad behavior, or supports misguided delusions, and instead empowers your journey to greater self-actualization and betterment, I see absolutely no reason to reject it simply because you cannot explain it.
I’m not encouraging you to go out and try all these various forms of self-discovery, divination, or occultism, and I doubt very much they will all be useful for everyone who reads this, but I encourage you not to eschew the unexplainable simply because you do not have the rational ability to comprehend it.
As we understand the definition of the word’ work,’ not everything that works will fit neatly into your rational western framework. Acupuncture has thrived for three millennia now, just as useful today as ever, and western science remains as clueless about how it works as it did when Europe met Chinese gunpowder for the first time.
Accepting Without Explanation
Psychologists still have no inkling of a clue about how psychedelics work, and there is no evidence that consciousness necessarily originates from the brain.
Carl Jung and Stanislav Graf both consulted the stars and cared a great deal about astrology when treating patients and making medical decisions.
Michael Jordan wore UNC shorts under his Bulls uniform every game for good luck. Charles Dickens always carried a compass with him, and perpetually slept with his head toward the north to increase his creativity.
John Steinbeck only wrote the first drafts of his books with perfectly sharpened Palomino Blackwing 602 pencils on paper, despite typewriters being available during his entire lifetime.
It would be utterly impossible to prove that any of these eccentricities, esoteric habits, or talismans had any positive effect on their respective believer’s performance, production, or efficacy. To them, though, their utility was obvious despite it being unlikely they could explain that utility to anyone else.
To Push Beyond
My point is; to these extremely high-achieving individuals, their esoteric, unexplainable, and ‘untrue’ practices had an obvious enabling utility that helped them reach the highest levels of their sport or disciplines, produce some of the most incredible works of art in all human history, and push the boundaries of psychology’s understanding of the human mind’s almost limitless plasticity and developmental potential.
We don’t have to understand how everything works to take advantage of it, how many of you know how the internet works anyway? If it satisfies you to seek to understand something, then seek away, but realize that not everything useful is necessarily comprehensible, and I’ve found the incomprehensible things to be more useful than the majority of ration-based practices ‘accepted’ by western society.
Despite being a STEM major from an Ivy League institution, being disillusioned with organized ‘religion,’ and formerly being as disdainful of the ‘primitive’ and ‘superstitious’ as one could be. I am now writing a defense of the very things I cannot understand, simply because they have been so useful to me in guiding and speeding my ongoing actualization process.
Look Into What You Think Is Untrue
Western society has been immensely effective at promoting human material welfare but has failed magnificently at helping people decide a direction, define a purpose, or achieve fulfillment. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” The lucky few stumble into their life’s work, but there is no help for the rest of us but our own will to know our path. Our first quest is to find our quest.
I would encourage you to be open to trusting that which may fall outside of our collective western, single-godded, hyper-rational, science-above-all, European-cultural-superiority mentality and give the more esoteric factions of culture a chance to breathe a bit of variety and a different perspective into your worldview; you may just find it useful.
It may be “exactly” what fills the ache in your limited understanding.
Accepting that not everything that is useful has to be understood and that there may be utility in things that are demonstrably untrue or at least unfounded radically changed my developmental path for the better, and I can only encourage you to shelve your precious, useful, and masculine rationality for a few minutes, pull your astrological natal chart, put your bare feet on the earth, or go to a Holotropic breathwork workshop with an open mind. Cracking the door may just grant your eyes the light they need to discern your path.
Scott Ortlip, the Author, is discovering that it feels good to feel like you have something to say. Perhaps that’s part of his purpose. He’s an accomplished outdoor chef referred to by his more generous friends as the ‘Steak Shaman,’ and runs the meat Instagram @SeartheSteer. On his personal Instagram, @TheScortlip, he can often be found mixing meat and philosophy, the juxtaposition of which he enjoys greatly. Give me a shout if you’re searching for a purpose too, I enjoy nothing more than talking about this most precious of pursuits, there are so few of us who truly chase this treasure.
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