Do you have anything to show for it?


Nich Garza, Staff writer

Something I’ve noticed in a lot of spiritual/self-improvement circles is the lack of any real change in the people who make them up. I’ll see someone who carries the aesthetic of someone becoming a better person, but nothing changes in their day-to-day life. They might carry around talismans or crystals and know prayers and rituals to help with whatever problems they face, but they still have the same problems they always did. They still deal with the same dysfunctions they always had. They’re still the same person they always were. It’s too easy to ignore the real world by getting lost in the aesthetic of someone trying to better themself. Let’s ditch self-improvement. Why should someone else get to tell you how to fix your life anyway?

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” is the central dogma of Thelema, the religion created by Aleister Crowley. Crowley was a genius occultist, a man with ideas far ahead of his own time. At the same time, Crowley was a neglectful husband and father, a drug addict, and worst of all, he ate feces on more than one occasion! All this is to say that Crowley’s philosophy may have a bit to do with the outrageous and vile life he led, so take everything he says with a grain of salt. In Crowley’s world, there was no distinction between man and God. Each individual is literally God, so the needs and desires of the self should always be one’s top priority. For some, following this philosophy will result in losing all their money to gambling and hookers. Others might take to a murderous rampage in the streets, a new way to let Jesus take the wheel. Maybe some will blow up buildings or set cops on fire. For some of us, adopting this philosophy leads to a brief period of excitement as we sink lower and lower into our depravity and dysfunction until the inevitable breaking point where not enough becomes too much. Disgusted by this new low we’ve sunken to, we have no other choice but to get better. By following our desires to their natural conclusion, we burn ourselves out on them to the point that they no longer appeal to us. We have to change because we’ve grown out of our sickness, not by prudence or discipline, but by following our heart in whatever direction it takes us. Nothing is forced because we are still only following our will. It’s the easiest, most painful thing you’ll ever do.

Trying to better ourselves is a stupid game we play that only makes us worse off in the end. Alan Watts, a British Zen philosopher, argues against the idea of self-improvement altogether. He writes: 

“I can only think seriously of trying to live up to an ideal, to improve myself, if I am split in two pieces. There must be a good “I” who is going to improve the bad “me.” “I,” who has the best intentions, will go to work on wayward “me,” and the tussle between the two will very much stress the difference between them. Consequently “I” will feel more separate than ever, and so merely increase the lonely and cut-off feelings which make “me” behave so badly.” 

Would becoming a better person really make you happier? Wouldn’t you rather revel in your sickness until you cough up bile? There’s no such thing as a good you or a bad you; there’s only you. You can’t become the person you were meant to be while denying your own desires. Everything you choose to do is an act of God, so act accordingly.