Magick has as one of its results the creation and promulgation of paradigms. For me, Magick represents the free space beloved of lateral thinkers, a playground where we try out ideas without restriction, realising novel words, terms and models of thought & behaviour.
One of the major paradigm shifts (apologies for getting Chaos Magick stereotypical!) I’ve worked on for some years involves nudging the inclusive view that our species can, in fact, identify itself as a type of animal. Man and Nature, indivisible.
We have made great strides towards this perception, however a programme on the telly reminded me the other day we still lack the linguistic habit that allows us to maintain this view on an everyday level. The presenter used the phrase, “people and animals”, when of course he meant “people and other animals” or even, “animals including people”, or, perhaps, “animals”…
I sighed, and turned off.
Apart from those poor benighted souls who have been brought up to disbelieve in evolution, I would hope that most of the readers here would accept some version that origin of our species, indicating our great great great great … great great grandmothers and grandfathers were non-human animals. Hominids, yes, but not like the average man in the street. And their ancestors were yet more different, right back to the monkey squirrel frog fish creatures posited in South Park.
Looking at cell biology, we see identical chemical processes in ourselves and, e.g., trees. I brought up my children to know, really viscerally feel, the relatedness of themselves with all forms of life. Not as an abstract concept, but as a simple fact. For them, our family includes trees. And everything else of course, I picked trees as my flagship because they are very different visually to us, and inspire a certain amount of awe and affection that might prove harder to evoke if I had picked slugs… although maybe not…
This commonality with Life, gives a worldview somewhat at odds with much mainstream culture as it gets portrayed to us through the screens. The dichotomy of Man-made vs Nature, used as a highly emotive divisor of groups, vanishes. I wish, for a wildlife programme that includes people. David Attenborough has come close in some of his series; pictures of ancient rice terraces on The Natural World last night made me marvel at the amazing ways we, as animals, have engineered the world in the same way (though a different scale!) as beavers or termites.
I love, to see youtube videos of human animals leaping, dancing, scaling walls, having control and abilities in their bodies. Human beauty has so much more to it than a static picture. Now we have moved our representative arts technology beyond oil paintings, perhaps our awareness will catch up with this.
Do we realise just how vast a gulf these moving captures of beauty will take us across? Look at the effect of drawings when they first occurred. Whether causal or correlative, the emergence of representative drawing and sculpture tens of thousand years ago marked the shift from living purely physically in the Now, to a way of concretising the Other-times, the then, past & future alike. We could see what others saw, from their eyes, from another time. That provided a huge leap into a type of objective thinking. Now, with this ease of video capture for so many of us, not only in the affluent industrialised parts of the planet but also beyond that, to desert tents, jungle huts, open beaches and peasant markets, we have immense scope for re-visioning how we see the world. Literally and metaphorically speaking.
So far, so philosophical. Where’s the magick in this?
Well, there’s the rub. I can’t tell you about the fantastic rituals and the successful results because, when Magick works well, it’s as if it hasn’t done anything. Of course the idea of us as another species of primate (& therefore more clearly animal) has a growing sense of inevitability. Naturally we accept our place as creatures of the planet, as complex, troubled, and creative as many others. We easily see ourselves as embedded in the world, rather than above it in some mythical realm of Difference. Many animals can do language, forward planning, laughter, tool preparation and usage, farming, enjoy intoxicants, indulge in sex for pleasure (including homosexuality), etc. Further examples appear on facebook regularly, and we rejoice in these findings. How long until we discover animals doing things we can only file under that catchall phrase, ‘ceremonial purposes’?!
Looking to the future, I see that robots/AIs have got a nice start to their own mythic origins as magicians. Hyperritual’s Robomancy project http://robomancy.com/ proposes utilising robots as tools of the magician, no doubt one day they will wave their own wands without our prompting, acting in response to environmental cues or internal algorithmic cues. Once this kind of meme starts to replicate, our own view of Man as separate from Nature crumbles into ash; from which we can perhaps distil salts to use as medicines to heal the hurt that this separatist perspective has caused.
The place of a magician intrinsically arising from the matrix of the natural world does present an issue for those who like the ancient ‘Man as God’ version of how it works… how does one earn the right to command shadowy powers if not by the favour of an Higher power? Do we adopt the hard earned right of the siddhi wielding saddhu, after thousands of hours of meditation, or gain access to the cheat codes of reality via a lineage from other ancient magicians, or does possession of a book/talismanic object confer this mysterious ability?
What will convince us to believe in our identity as magicians in this new 3D video capture realm of global communications? The number of viewers, reblogs, referential links to our viral spells & memes? Has a tv programme aired explaining our New World Vision, have media reports on changes in legislation or public opinion appeared?
Does standing in a chalk circle in a black robe (without a video camera) do it for us in the 21st century; can we maintain that strong belief in our efficacy without an omniscient eye upon us, do we choose to replace the sky god with the watchers of youtube?
As someone who works in groups often, I find enough reflection in the eyes in of my colleagues to allow me to hold the belief for long enough to make magick that works. I carry that belief via props to the times when no-one else accompanies me. By bearing witness, gods/other magicians/spirits shore up our actions, validating their efficacy. I would suggest that as we move into a ever more material world view, the technologically created gaze of the interweb plays that role, as indicated by the immense coverage of celebrity personas. (No I didn’t notice any occult imagery in Madonna’s SuperBowl show, but, one could argue that she does indeed have ‘magical’ influence on the world.)
Wait though, have I discovered the quality unique to the human animal, namely doing this bizarre seemingly purposeless thing we describe as magick, bending reality to our whim; does this mark out our special status as god (or the current vogue, prehistoric alien) appointed stewards/exploiters of the planet? For me, this need to feel special finds greater fulfillment in recognising how special Life itself is, as a phenomenon, and taking our place as one amongst many versions of its manifestation.
Only time will tell. Watching the ‘for ceremonial purposes’ antics of other animals in our millions will increase their influence on our shared world. We already like animals playing at other anthropogenic behaviours (sneezing, skateboarding, getting tickled). I await mongoose rain dances, elephant mourning rituals, and chimpanzee invocatory videos with eager anticipation. Please send me links of these so I can share them on Facebook 🙂