Si Vales, Valeo
Thank you for your question. I have thought about this one a great deal.
Let me first begin by pointing out that happiness may be over-rated. Especially in the US, where we are gripped by some movie-land version of “happily ever after.” What makes us better people is a sort of struggle to improve our situation. That never-ending search for happiness is one of many carrots in the universe’s big bag of tricks to fool us into evolving into stronger, self-reliant people.
That said, there are a lot of experts that study this phenomenon. Mostly, if you asked your typical philosopher or social anthropologist they would point out three main causes: the rejection of human religious impulse, the replacing of human communities with electronic ones, and this is a big one: the lack of purposeful work.
Whether you agree with those three causes or not is irrelevant because we are blessed (some might say cursed) with a brain that is perpetually questioning itself. “Who am I? Where do I come from?” What is my purpose? Does life have meaning? What is the point of existence?”
So, if you are an intelligent and creative person, who thinks they must have an examined life, your genes will probably have endowed you with a predisposition for anxiety and depressions. Whether or not you think it is a fair trade is up to you, and probably at the bottom of whether you are a happy person or sad. There is no question that I look at the state of the world at times and wonder if I was born during the wrong time. And I often envy people who are happy watching Monday night football and medicating themselves with beer, shallow conversation and one-night stands.
That may indeed be some ones True Will. To be completely clueless and unconcerned with the results of their actions. But that is not for me. Nor, do I think it is for you either. You, like me, want to have a fulfilling life. You wish to matter. To make a difference, or at the very least find your place in the cosmos. Welcome to the club. Do you feel lucky yet?
With our magical communities and fraternities, we are told to believe nothing and doubt everything. This is good advice and will save you a lot of heartache, not to mention psychosis. This is where avoiding Lust of Result is so very important. Expect your rituals to work as you have designed them: trust, but verify. If they don’t work, assume you missed a step somewhere, or your postulate is faulty because it does not conform to nature.
It is okay to get excited when something DOES work as you predicted, and it is okay to be discouraged when things don’t go your way. But it is NOT okay to obsess yourself with an emotional attachment to your desired result. Approach our work like a scientist. You have no need for faith. You want Knowledge: Gnosis. That Gnosis will be YOUR Gnosis. Don’t let anyone rob you of your victories no matter how small.
Believe while doubting. And oh, how mistaken you are to think of yourself as powerless. When you came into this world, the universe had to adjust for your existence. You made a huge ripple in the fabric of time and space. The trick is to remember that and use that knowledge to continue making ripples.
So, what about people who believe in nothing but do good work for its own sake? Are they any happier than the religionist, mystic, ritualist or philosopher? I have never met an atheist that wanted to be wrong about the magical/spiritual in their lives. They entertain religious ideas while at the same time doing their best to deny themselves what little joy they may bring. They are secretly afflicted by the demon known as “What If.” Ever seen an atheist on their deathbed? I have.
One of the problems we face today is the lack of ritual. I have said this before and I am sick of trying to help askholes. We need rituals, rites of passage. Every person must go through a journey of self-discovery.
The lack of ritual and ceremony is the reason so many people don’t have a map with which to build a solid foundation for their lives. Ritual and ceremony challenge a person to make small corrections which will serve them to become better people. These lessons help you to give your life experiential meaning. You don’t have to “believe” anything. You know why? Because these rituals, initiations or customs also influence those that think this is nothing more than poppycock. For them, the rebellion and subversion of those ideas creates the benefit for them. In other words, faith is unnecessary. And never forget the universe is a very sneaky thing. It knows every way there is to skin a cat.
What do you rebel against? What IS there to rebel against? Some people will rebel against the status quo. They will decide not to marry, or maybe refuse to have children, or have kids without getting married. Maybe you will marry someone from a different race. You could always get a tattoo and/or a piercing. Big deal. But hear this: without rebellion, you cannot grow as a person. There is great joy in rebellion. Find a subversive group. Or a secret organization, with oaths of secrecy and dire consequences for breaking them. Whatever you decide to fight for, or against: do it until you have accomplished it or died trying.
Let’s talk about community and how that effects happiness. Consider how far we have come, and the price we have paid for the social media phenomena we all seem to enjoy so much. Everything has turned into a big deal. There are billions of causes to take up, how do you choose? Not only must you pick one, but you are not offered a method other than sharing meaning less and ineffective means to do anything abut it. Inside you are yelling “WE MUST DO SOMETHING!” but no one knows what to do.
And you must choose a cause. Because not doing so makes you little more than a tourist in this life, happy to just be there while Rome burns. No one can have an original idea anymore if just ONE person disapproves. We have grown to be such thin-skinned creatures that everything “triggers” us. No longer are we allowed to call people on their crap. We must simply accept them and their ideas as they are, even if those ideas and personality traits affect us. They pick apart your ideas, shame you for being different. They paint you as stupid without offering anything other ideas or making any contribution whatsoever.
And in exchange for this glamorous fad, which takes and gives nothing back, your give it your personal information which includes your fears, hopes and aspirations.
Feeling happy yet? You won’t, until you have made a conscious decision that your Truth is more important than fitting into some pseudo-community of people who are so unhappy they no longer leave their homes.
And we have the audacity to ask ourselves why depression, anxiety, and suicide are rising at such an alarming rate.
As you can see, it isn’t just religion/philosophy/magick that are missing, but our very lives and how we are choosing to live it. You want to rebel against something meaningful? I have just given you a handful of things to rail against which will free you up to the joy of living. Resist and make yourself strong. This is what Nietzsche wrote about. It is better to act than to allow one’s self to be crippled into passivity.
I do not believe that we can be entirely free from existential angst. I believe that it is a part of life we must come to terms with. The best way to live with it is to have a meaningful and fulfilling life despite of it. During trying times, being happy IS an act of rebellion. And if your brain could use a little more serotonin, there is nothing wrong or shameful in asking for a little help from your doctor until you are able to do it on your own. Life is too short.
 An “askhole” is a person that constantly asks for advice but refuses to take any of it.