[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]

Ad Hominem

Sep 21, 1996 10:19 AM
by RIhle

~Ad hominem~, of course, is a faulty sort of logic where ideas are not judged
for their own merit; rather, personal circumstances or motivations of the
individual are used to determine the worth of the ideas.

Generally, I agree that this is not such a good way to proceed.  However, is
it possible that what might be called "esoteric studies"--and here I am
especially thinking of those subjects like "magic" which have an application
to or association with personal adeptship--may be an exception?

Since we have seen that conventional science is of little help in determining
the worth of "theosophically derived" knowledge, is it really so unreasonable
to want to take a closer-than-usual look at the personal lives of individuals
who espouse such knowledge? In short, shouldn't one be able to see that they
were able to do things, or avoid things, that those without the esoteric
knowledge couldn't?

Here, unfortunately, we run into a "catch-22":  since the life's work of
these people often seems to be ~just to~ promulgate the knowledge that they
have, they often become extraordinarily successful ~merely as~ writers,
speakers, leaders, etc.  In other words, there seems to be a shortage of
well-known role models who took esoteric knowlege and made themselves
healthier, richer, more productive, more harmonious, etc. in other fields or
in more conventional areas by means of it.

I don't know . . . sometimes I look at the large cast of characters not only
in the esoteric studies field but also even in the contemporary meditation
area and often I am hard-put to come up with anybody I would want the
children of my acquaintance to turn out like.

For example, Aleister Crowley.  I remember one phase of my life where I read
quite a bit by and about him.  There were some things which I thought were
valuable.  However, in the back of my mind was always this thought:  "Here is
a man who reputedly knows so much and has all these powers, but his life
story, when all is said and done, is basically that he started off with all
the advantages of an inherited fortune and ended up more-or-less bankrupt and
a drug addict to boot."  [Correct me if I am wrong in this.]  Furthermore, I
gradually got the distinct feeling that he may not have been the most
~wholesome~ guy around.

Thus, would I really be so wrong by including a little ad hominem in my
assessment of old Aleister?  I don't need anyone's permission to do this, of
course.  I do it all the time. If the esoteric figure died a little too
young, seemed a tad unhealthy in mind or body, made too many screw-ups in the
conduct of daily affairs, was wantonly hurtful to others, etc., I regularly
add that right into the mix.

And in the extreme case; for example, when I learn that there is a good
likelihood that somebody may have died of aids as a result of drinking blood
as part of his magical practices?  Hey, all other ad hominems being equal, I
just naturally start reading someone else for tips about handling my own
life--tips which don't involve coagulating. . . .

Might one not agree that at least some small consideration of a person's
apart-from-fame, private life and developed abilities may be helpful when it
comes to judging the validity of his or her esoteric ideas?

As far as I'm concerned, anyway, if a person intimates that they have
preternatural powers, I start the questioning by asking them how much they
can bench press. . . .


Richard Ihle

[Back to Top]

Theosophy World: Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application