Astron Argon

On Reason vs. Metaphysic

An investigation into Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason against the Metaphysical Philosophy of Thelema with the critical commentary of The View from Nowhere, by Thomas Nagel

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

AL:I.44 "For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect."
AL:II.32 "Also reason is a lie; for there is a factor infinite & unknown; & all their words are skew-wise."

Probably the ultimate conundrum of Liber AL vel Legis can be found in AL:II.32; proposing that reason is a lie. If this is true in any absolute sense, then we have no means by which we can determine anything in this life. Hence, it is qualified by the second part of the sentence, which seems to assert that there is a metaphysic that may be intuited beyond reason. But as Immanuel Kant correctly asserts in his first preface to the Critique of Pure Reason:

It is, at the same time, a powerful appeal to reason to undertake anew the most difficult of its duties, namely, self-knowledge, and to institute a court of appeal which should protect the just rights of reason, but dismiss all groundless claims, and should do this not by means of irresponsible decrees, but according to the eternal unalterable laws of reason.

Kant seems to prelude Liber AL’s dictum against reason (quoted above) when he writes:

Our reason has this peculiar fate that, with reference to one class of its knowledge, it is always troubled with questions which cannot be ignored, because they spring from the very nature of reason, and which cannot be answered, because they transcend the powers of human reason.

That which transcends he powers of human reason, Kant assigns to metaphysics, which he notes, held a “royal place among all the sciences” though, as he laments, has also fallen out of fashion.

It is, at the same time, a powerful appeal to reason to undertake anew the most difficult of its duties, namely, self-knowledge, and to institute a court of appeal which should protect the just rights of reason, but dismiss all groundless claims, and should do this not by means of irresponsible decrees, but according to the eternal and unalterable laws of reason.

In an ‘Age of Reason’ all that had come before has or had been reduced to mere superstition with the exception of the overriding authority of the Roman Catholic Church; though itself having fallen in disrepute in both Europe and the emerging United States. Ultimately, in the early twentieth century of the Roman church, Crowley would note that the White School was betrayed by science; and it took HPB’s leadership in the Yellow School to restore its lost credulity. However, not all sciences are necessarily guilty of this betrayal; as Kant notes in the preface to the second edition of his tome:

Mathematics and physics are the two theoretical sciences of reason, which have to determine their objects a priori: the former quite purely, the latter partially so, and partially from other sources of knowledge besides reason.

Mathematics, from the earliest times to which the history of human reason can reach, has followed, among the wonderful people of the Greeks, the safe way of a science. But it must not be supposed that it was as easy for mathematics as for logic, in which reason is concerned with itself alone, to find, or rather to make for itself that royal road. I believe, on the contrary, that there was a long period of tentative work (chiefly still among the Egyptians), and that the change is to be ascribed to a revolution, produced by the happy thought of a single man, whose experiment pointed unmistakably to the path that had to be followed, and opened and raced out of the most distant times the safe way of a science.

The man referred to in the above paragraph was Thales (cf. The Greek Qabalah).

It took much longer time before physics entered on the high way of science: for no more than a century and a half has elapsed, since Bacon’s ingenious proposal partly initiated that discovery, partly, as others were already on the right track, gave a new impetus to it,–a discovery which, like the former, can only be explained by a rapid intellectual revolution.

Placing metaphysics on the periphery of reason, Kant requires of Thelema a sound and whole response in the metaphysical expression of our ‘Scientific Illuminism’. Our speculation needs to ultimately become productive; its only possible resultant is in prophecy and new Gnosis. But as products of the intuition, it might be said that then, the end-result of our philosophical system must be ascertained on an a priori basis.

Metaphysic, a completely isolated and speculative science of reason, which declines all teaching of experience, and rests on concepts only (not on their application to intuition, as mathematics), in which reason therefore is meant to be her own pupil, has hitherto not been so fortunate as to enter on the secure path of a science, although it is older than all other sciences, and would remain, even if all the rest were swallowed up in the abyss of an all-destroying barbarism. In metaphysic, reason, even if it tries only to understand a priori (as it pretends to do) those laws which are confirmed by the commonest experience, is constantly brought to a standstill, and we are obliged again and again to retrace our steps, because they do not lead us where we want to go; while as to any unanimity among those who are engaged in the same work, there is so little of it in metaphysic, that it has rather become and arena, specially destined, it would seem, for those who wish to exercise themselves in mock fights, and where no combatant has, as yet, succeeded in gaining an inch of ground that he could call permanently his own. It cannot be denied, therefore, that the method of metaphysic has hitherto consisted in groping only, and, what is the worst, in groping among mere concepts.

AL:III.57 "Despise also all cowards; professional soldiers who dare not fight, but play; all fools despise!"

Kant offers a prelude to the professional soldier in Liber AL. As a “speculative science,” Kant seems to be clearly referencing Masonry and the Rosicrucianism of his day. His note on what he calls “mock fights, and where no combatant has, as yet, succeeded…” refers to the lack of empirical (posteriori) evidence of an apprehensible mode of cognizing; seemingly not considering an a priori, synthetic that operates on an evolutionary scale. Further, Kant argues that we can know nothing of the objects of reason; but only their representation, either a priori or posteriori. This then would seem to be the metaphysic that he refers to and to which we will respond with the assertions of Thomas Nagle. Kant asserts that we can only hold thoughts in limitation to our cognitive function; hence reason only from the point of view of our ability to reason. Nagle takes a completely different track:

All of our thoughts must have a form which makes them accessible from a human perspective. But that doesn’t mean the are ll about our point of view or the world’s relation to it. What they are about depends not on their subjective form but on what has to be referred to in any explanation of what makes them true.

But if primary qualities can equally well be grasped from a point of view that has nothing subjectively in common with ours, then the description of the world in terms of them is not relative our point of view; they are not merely aspects of the phenomenal world but can on the contrary be used, by us or by others, to explain the appearance of that world.

In other words, our point of view may delimit any possibility of knowing the objects of knowledge in and of themselves; but then he asks, what makes our human point of view superior? Indeed the incidental knowledge we may have of the phenomenal world and its objects of knowledge and cognition; including the nature and structure of matter itself does not hold these objects to our reason. There must be a sense beyond reason that we can employ to apprehend these objects.

The first comes from taking too literally the image of the true self trapped in the individual human perspective. This is a compelling image, and many have succumbed to its attractions. If the real me view the world from nowhere, and includes the empirical perspective and particular concerns of [Thomas Nagel] as merely one of myriad sentient flickers in the world so viewed, then it may seem that I should take as little interest in [Thomas Nagel’s] life and perspective as possible, and perhaps even try to insulate myself from it. But the discovery and awakening of the objective self with its universal character doesn’t imply that one is not also a creature with an empirical perspective and individual life. Objective advance produces a split in the self, and as it gradually widens, the problems of integration between the two standpoints become severe, particularly in regard to ethics and personal life. One must arrange somehow to see the world both from nowhere and from here and to live accordingly.

Nagel steps out of the human perspective to attain what Kant can’t conceive; quite like we might assert the Master of the Temple accomplishes in his or her crossing of the Abyss. The star that is said to be cast into the heavens is the Augoeides of which a connection was established with the transformative experience of Tiphareth and the Knowledge & Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. It is this that takes what I have called a Universal in contrast with an individual viewpoint and of which Thomas Nagel refers to as a view from nowhere. The knowledge gained is then beyond reason and what that might give us about the objects of reason. Hence, this is a universal viewpoint beyond the limitation of the viewpoint of the individual ego.

However true this speculation may be, we have yet to take this journey from Kant to Nagel in such a way that we can validate our own assertions in the ATAT ; the most important primarily being the existence of God—a metaphysical concept and one that is attached to the most significant Oath of our Order (the Oath of the Abyss). For this, Kant asserts:

Some kind of metaphysic has always existed, and will always exist, and with it a dialectic of pure reason, as being natural to it. It is therefore the first an d most important t task of philosophy to deprive metaphysic, once for all, of its pernicious influence, by closing up the sources of its errors.


These inevitable problems of pure reason itself are, Gold, Freedom, and Immortality. The science which with all its apparatus is really intended for the solution of these problems, is called Metaphysic. Its procedure is a first dogmatic, i.e. unchecked by a previous examination of what reason can and cannot do, before it engages confidently in so arduous an undertaking.

Kant satisfies himself on the Metaphysic “by judgments a priori that experience itself cannot follow us: as for instance, in the proposition that the world must have a first beginning.” This is of course, the reasonably well-known argument of the causeless cause that generates the beginning of the world. And while declaring Metaphysic as a real science, he consigns it to human reason in what seems to me a derogatory manner.

For human reason, without being moved merely by the conceit of omniscience, advances irresistibly, and urged on by its own need, to questions such as cannot be answered by any empirical employment of reason, or by principles thence derived, so that we may really say, that all men, as soon as their reason became ripe for speculation, have at all times possessed some kind of metaphysic, and will always continue to possess it.

Nagel has us transcending our point of view in a parallel to Kant; except for the fact that instead of finding a transcendent reason based on a synthetic and a priori judgment, one finds an objective point of view that is beyond all subjectivity:

Thus objectivity allows us to transcend our particular viewpoint and develop an expanded consciousness that takes in the world more fully. All this applies to values and attitudes as well as to beliefs and theories.

That the new view and its beliefs and theories is the product of a whole totality we must admit the validity of a metaphysic that not only precedes and follows reason, but in its transcendence of reason can still be conceived in the present; once we include the subjective point of view. All of this must defy what the Qabalah has to teach us directly in that the Qabalah is primarily concerned with an internal state; though we can clearly show the Greek Qabalah to represent a transcendental intuition—as Kant clearly relates:

Geometry is a science which determines the properties of space synthetically and yet a priori. What then must be the representation of space, to render such a knowledge of it possible? It must be originally intuitive; for it is impossible from a mere concept to deduce propositions which go beyond that concept, as we do in geometry. That intuition, however, must be a priori, that is, it must exist within us before any perception of the object, and must therefore be pure, not empirical intuition. For all geometrical propositions are apodictic, that is, connected with the consciousness of their necessity, as for instance the proposition, that space has only three dimension; and such propositions cannot be empirical judgments, nor conclusions from them.

Besides Geometry, which forms the basis of a Pythagorean philosophy and hence the Greek Qabalah without the assertions of the Gnostics, who themselves were derided by the Pythagorean school, we have the modern concepts of space and time in physics and that were not the concern of the ancients. Kant explains this internal Universe eloquently:

Space is nothing but the form of all phenomena of the external senses; it is the subjective condition of our sensibility, without which no external intuition is possible for us. If then we consider that the receptivity of the subject, its capacity of being affected by objects, must necessarily precede all intuition of objects, we shall understand how the form of all phenomena may be given before all real perceptions, may be, in fact, a priori in the soul, ad may, as a pure intuition, by which all objects must be determined, contain, prior to all experience, principles regulating their relations.

Time is nothing but the form of the internal sense, that is, of our intuition of ourselves, and of our internal state. Time cannot be a determination peculiar to external phenomena. It refers neither to their shape, nor their position, etc., it only determines the relation of representations in our internal state.

Time is the formal condition, a prior, of all phenomena whatsoever. Space, as the pure form of all external intuition, is a condition, a priori, of external phenomena only. But, as all representations, whether they have for their objects external things or not, belong by themselves, as determinants of the mind, to our inner state, and as this inner state falls under the formal conditions of internal intuition, and therefore of time, time is a condition, a priori, of all phenomena whatsoever, and is so directly as a condition of internal phenomena (of our mind) and thereby indirectly of external phenomena also. If I am able to say, a priori, that all external phenomena are in space, and are determined, a priori, according to the relations of spaced, I can , according to the principle of the internal sense, make the general assertion that all phenomena, that is, all objects of the senses, are in time, and stand necessarily in relations of time.

Time is therefore simply a subjective condition of our (human) intuition (which is always sensuous, that is so far as we are affected by objects), but by itself, apart form the subject, nothing. Nevertheless, with respect to all phenomena, that is, all things which can come within our experience, time is necessarily objective.

What we insist on therefore is the empirical reality of time, that is, its objective validity, with reference to all objects which can ever come before our sense. And as our intuition must at all times be sensuous, no object can ever fall under our experience that does not come under the conditions of time. What we deny is, that time has any claim on absolute reality, so that, without taking into account the form of our sensuous condition, it should by itself be a condition of ,quality inherent in things; for such qualities which belong to things by themselves can never be given to us through the senses., This is what constitutes the transcendental ideality of time, so that, if we take no account of the subjective conditions of our sensuous intuitions, time is nothing, and cannot be added to the objects by themselves (without their relations to our intuition) whether as subsisting or inherent.

Against the theory which claims empirical, but denies absolute and transcendental reality to time, even intelligent men have protested so unanimously, that I suppose that every reader who is unaccustomed to these considerations may naturally be of the same opinion. What they object to is this: Changes, they say, are real (this is proved by the change of our own representations, even if all external phenomena and their changes be denied). Changes, however, are possible in time only, and therefore time must be something real. The answer is easy enough. I grant the whole argument. Time certainly is something real, namely, the real form of our internal intuition. Time therefore has subjective reality with regard to internal experience: that is, I really have the representation of time and of my determinations in it. Time therefore is to be considered as real, not so far as it is an object, but so far as it is the representation of myself as an object.

There is no time above the Abyss, which is quite significant in that it is in the Supernal realm that we find the objective comprehension of the Universe. Down below, there is only reason, which is not to be trusted as it remains dependent on the subjective point of view. Though time being a “representation of myself as an object” explains why we must evolve; bringing meaning to our lives and evolution is its consequent.

Love is the law, love under will.