Open Buddha

Open Source Buddhism, Technology, and Geekery
Bay Area, California

Blank Thesis Syndrome

I’ve been doing preparatory work for much of the last month on my thesis. Technically, I have the next two months to work on it if I wanted to get it done this term. I’m under no innate pressure to get it done that quickly except that I’d have to move my graduation date (paperwork only though…). It isn’t uncommon for people in my program to take six months or a year to do it with a few notable examples taking much longer.

I’m a procrastinator by nature and I’m aware of this. I tend to work much better with a deadline. It is just how I’m wired. This means that I’ve been trying to conceptualize the boundaries of this term as a deadline for the work. Unfortunately, I haven’t really started writing anything yet.

The thesis itself is only required to be 60 double-spaced pages (by the credits that I need) and I’ve been figuring it at about 80 to 100 pages given how I write and the amount of material that I want to touch on. As the outline that I’ve posted before notes, my thesis is on the nature, role, and structure of the soul in the Golden Dawn (please, don’t start with me on your definition of the word “soul” here…I don’t want to get into that…). Because the Golden Dawn had some relatively unique ideas concerning the soul such as how it conceptualized the “Sphere of Sensation” and how it moved the Tree of Life projected onto the human form as a plane into a four columned tree projected onto that sphere, I want to cover lightly the antecedents to the Golden Dawn’s vision.

Effectively, I want to go through the conceptions of the soul in Classical Philosophy, Neoplatonism, Jewish Kabbalah (as known to the Golden Dawn), the Corpus Hermeticum and a few other sources. I will go over these by quotation and try to paint a picture of some of the ideas of the soul that Westcott and Mathers would have been familiar with when they created the Golden Dawn. I’ll then go over how the Golden Dawn, in rituals, lectures, flying rolls, etc. discussed the soul and then point out which features seem to be clearly derived from the early traditions, as syncretized by Mathers and Westcott, and which features seem to be their unique creation, such as the Tree of Life projected onto the Sphere of Sensation and the implications that they give to that. I’ll then have a brief bit on why this is relevant through the Golden Dawn’s massive influence on 20th century occultism and even current movements such as Wicca, Neopaganism in general, Thelema and perhaps even Chaos Magic or the like.

That seems like about 100 pages, doesn’t it?

The problem that I’m running into right now is “Blank Page” syndrome as often discussed by writers. While, technically, I have much of the first two chapters written in the form of both my thesis proposal and the independent studies that I did last year on Western Esotericism, what I really have is a very empty Word file at the moment. I need to start filling it in and I’m finding myself blocked on starting it. On an intellectual level, I know what needs to be done but… I dunno. I feel blocked.

This is something that I need to get over if I’m going to get this thing done, get my Master’s degree, and get on with the rest of my life.