Anyone who wants to benefit from the Law of Exception must first achieve a victory over himself, over his own interior world, before he will be able to overcome the ‘World’ and — by doing so — escape from the General Law. ~ Boris Mouravieff
Conception is defined as the “imagination or self-originated concept”. So an error of conception is a false conception of the world or of oneself.
Thomas Hora, the Hungarian psychiatrist and founder of existential metapsychiatry, describes five errors of conception, which he colorfully names the “five gates of hell”.
- Sensualism. This mode of being-in-the-world where the primary preoccupation is with sensory awareness, pleasure, and pain. It judges reality purely by sensory awareness. It is concerned with the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. “Feeling good” is its goal. The sensualist likes or dislikes.
This is Man #1.
- Emotionalism. This mode of being-in-the-world is preoccupied with emotional experiences and seeks to cognize reality on the basis of feelings. Emotionalists try to user their feelings as sources of information concerning what is and what is not real. Feelings provide misinformation yet seem to be very valid. The emotionalist is convinced that things are really the way they feel. He is a reactor, not a responder. He is often a sentimentalist and is on a quest for excitement.
This is Man #2.
- Intellectualism. This mode of being-in-the-world places great importance on being known as knowing. The intellectualist is a living filing cabinet and likes to display its contents. Often, he is dominated by various impossible conspiracy theories. He is often subject to an “idee fixe” that prevents him from escaping his false worldview. He enjoys getting into debates and have become very prominent on the Internet. They use thought as a weapon rather than as a means to reach the truth.
This is Man #3.
- Personism. This mode of being-in-the-world is concerned about “what others are thinking about what we are thinking.” The personist is centered on man rather than God. His activities and opinions are calculated to get others to think highly of him. Hence, he may make public claims about secret knowledge, remarkable abilities, miracles, and so on.
Mouravieff relates this to esoteric work:
If the seeker starts with a negative approach and a feeling of inferiority and dissatisfaction—approaching the esoteric domain driven by the desire to find in it personal and thus impure satisfaction for himself, he will not be able to advance very far along this way. If he persists, he will meet with failure. The error of conception made at the start will imperceptibly lead him towards this mysticism of phenomena.
- Materialism. This mode of being-in-the-world is dominated by the need for material objects and possessions. The materialist will be overly concerned about brand names and will make sure that others know what brands he uses.
Besides these erroneous conceptions of being-in-the-world, there are errors of conception about one’s own self. Mouravieff provides some concrete examples in the Appendix to Volume 1 of Gnosis. For example, there is this story:
Let us suppose that a man has been angered by his wife as he rose from sleep. He avoided any further quarrel, but cut himself badly while shaving, and this infuriates him. As a last straw, he finds a flat tyre on his car. Finding nobody to call, he changes the tyre, soiling his hands before going to his office — and is still boiling with repressed anger and contained violence when he arrives there. Once in his office, he calls his secretary, and is compelled to wait two minutes before she arrives. When she finally enters, it is quite apparent that she was drinking her coffee. Asked for a special file, she answers that it has not yet been completed: that important papers have been given to a co-director. This is enough for him to burst into a fit of uncontrollably violent rage.
He justifies his irrational fit as caused by her alleged insouciance and is unaware of all the preceding factors that created the bad mood in the first place. That is why, in esoteric work, we focus on the expression of negative emotions. In that way, we try to become aware of all the thoughts and events that led up to that expression.
Often a person will try to justify his or her behavior. They will always have an answer to the question, “Why did you do it?” but will eventually reach the point where there is no longer an answer. That is the esoteric meaning behind the notion that man cannot justify himself. Rather it must come from a transcendent source. Mouravieff explains:
Sin is only the expression of an error of conception translated into action, that is to say, of an entirely false attitude to the problems or questions which, in general or in particular, rise before us daily. This is a subject where we often confuse cause and effect. Sin is simply the effect of a causal attitude which necessarily leads to deviation and straying with all their consequences.
Thus the basis of sin is error. That is why sin can and must be redeemed. The way of redemption is simple, but how difficult it is to put into practice! The method is repentance.
To repent is to become conscious of the error which led to the act of sin.
We see that the way to expose the error of conception is to become conscious of it, not by creating an “opposite thought”; in our esoteric work, we can see how that will dissipate the error.
Thomas Hora likewise rejects any attempt at self-justification. Rather, it is necessary to grasp the meaning behind. He suggests asking oneself two “intelligent questions”:
- What is the meaning of what seems to be?
- What is what really is?
By grasping the meaning of a situation, we can understand what is really going on. Meaning is not found by being-in-the-world, but rather by transcending it and relating reality to the Real I. You may recall what Julius Evola wrote in regard to Hermann Keyserling:
[Keyserling] contemplates the point in which the I says to himself: “I understood.” It is essentially a point of spontaneity, freedom, and interiority: there is no way of compelling one to understanding. It on the other hand has a mystico-illuminative character: it seeks to live the moment of “meaning”, not of this or that meaning, but rather of meaning in general, of the pure element of the understanding conditioning every understanding, then one will feel that something ineffable shines in it, something that, even if contending with it and being supported on it, absolutely transcends the whole of the means and forms from which it was propitiated. This mystical moment of pure understanding is the moment of the spirit.
Thomas Hora, Beyond the Dream
Boris Mouravieff, Gnosis