338. The taming power of the small (VIII)
What is magic, anyway? I mean magic magic, not stage illusions and the like. Since about the 1970s it has been fairly common to encounter people who will tell you that magic is a metaphor for advertisement and propaganda, for means to corral consciousness. These people always disappoint, since they come on as if they are wizards of various sorts but the ultimate message they deliver is along the lines: “Magic is a metaphor for effective propaganda and advertisement. A good advertisement for Coca-Cola is magic. When you have an idea and it influences millions of people, it’s magic. When a leader has charisma, it’s magic.” Now, I have no real interest in magic but this disappoints me. When you say “magic” to me I want action at a distance and telepathy and soothsaying, not for someone to come to me an say: “Action at a distance is a metaphor for technology. Computers are the real magic, man.”
When people of this sort speak about magic they are modern preachers and what they preach about is science and technology. They have found an attractive metaphor for science and technology and then present magic as the lower iteration of the same (insert Arthur C. Clarke quote). Yet if you say charisma is magic and that a charismatic leader is magical then such people always relate it back to a personality type and other inherited characteristics and again we are outside magic. Similarly, they will say magic, following Jung, is a means to connect you with your unconscious mind and so open up new possibilities and ways of seeing—perhaps knowledge you have carried with you but do not know, the revelation of which seems uncanny.
This is all tied up with art—PR and advertising, for the perverted—in that the artist seeks a new way of seeing; and, indeed, there are those who say that magic is about very close observation, or rather it is a scalpel to remove the psychic cataract that accumulates over the years and so see the world afresh. Yes, okay, perhaps magic is all of the above, but for me there is nothing here that could not be described as psychology, technology, and meditative techniques. When do we get to the bit where I write on a piece of paper and my enemy falls down dead or a building falls down? You know, real acausal action at a distance that defies the scientific laws of cause and effect.
Primitive peoples who really believe in magic, not magic as a metaphor, think that everything happens for a reason—just like the Canadian girl from sales I used to work with. So for them everything is connected and when Uncle Nunca falls down dead it is no accident, it is a curse from a rival tribe. This is real magical thought; and to think in this way in modern societies looks a bit like paranoid schizophrenia—everything is connected, everything means something; it is the shaman’s view. Few magic-as-metaphor people think this way, at least not fully. They always return to the view that magic is a metaphor for science and technology.
I think acausal magic does work and it works as so: consciousness is non-material and yet it must, at some level, interface with the material world it subsists upon; magic represents the manipulation of symbols injected with meaning by consciousness—e.g. through word play, said to lead to the Holy Grail—in such a way as one may influence material reality insofar as it interfaces with consciousness, an interface that may not be total; a fact that explains the limitations of magic.
In this way, it is possible to use symbolic representation to alter reality at a distance and all the other powers usually associated with magic. Further, the gods are real; rather as the Hindoos have it, they represent energy forces; each demon or angel or god is a symbolic representation for physical forces insofar as they interact with consciousness.