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361. The darkening of the light (VI)

Traditionally, wordplay was considered a means to attain the Holy Grail; there is a humorous—a trickster—element to this quest that involves puns and unusual metaphors. Hence the Grail quest is linked to the troubadour tradition; and even humorous and *non-sacred* takes on the Grail quest, such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail, contain a genuine Grail element. The explanation for why wordplay and even word rearrangement works—various hocus-pocus methods—is somewhat disputed.

The more scientifically inclined—the more straightforward materialists, such as the chaos magicians—would say that it has to do with a way to access the power that is latent in the unconscious. We mix up our words to access the underworld realm and its powers. A less materialist explanation, along Traditionalist lines, would say that this is all about bringing ourselves into tune with a higher level of consciousness; we use rhythms within language in a certain way to bring ourselves into line with a wider harmonic order that has been forgotten.

Both explanations can be reconciled if you accept that we are in a period of dissolution, the Kali-Yuga. The desire to drive down to the unconscious found in Jung, Freud, and Chaos Magic represents dissolution; it goes to the root network, Hell itself. Jung, for example, wished to add Lucifer to the Christian trinity to make a quaternary; the idea being to reconcile dark and light sides in a non-dualist way.

The strict Traditionalist would be suspicious as regards this desire to go to the depths and make friends with the devil; they would say that we should be looking for a higher realm. From the Jungian perspective, Traditionalists look at consciousness alone and reject the scientific explanation; whereas for Traditionalists the desire to get a materialist explanation for spiritual events, as Jung did, represents a disintegrative process itself. Although not a Traditionalist, the artist Austin Osman Spare rejected Freud and Jung—whom he called “Fraud” and “Junk”—and I think he probably did so because they sought to rationalise processes that Spare saw as pure magic; and he was, unlike Jung and Freud, a considerable magical operator himself.

At a tangent, all this intersects with art and with semiotics. When the French intellectual Barthes observed that wrestling, in the manner of Hulk Hogan, is not about who wins or loses—everyone knows it is arranged beforehand—but is rather a symbol for a metaphysical struggle between good and evil he was in the magical realm. Indeed, the blond Hulk Hogan—who rather playfully signs himself “HH” on Twitter, what does he mean by that?—is obviously an avatar for the forces of light. At a more directly magical level, Barthes was keen to point out how a band might call itself “The Running Tap” and then be represented by a tap with legs fleeing in a cartoonish way, with little dust puffs behind it. These visual puns, extended metaphors, and examples of synecdoche and metonymy are all magical in their way—although not treated as such by Barthes.

Sanskrit represents the ultimate language for wordplay—or “worldplay” as I frequently write by accident—because it is a language that allows you to stack metaphors upon metaphors upon metaphors within a single word. A joke within a joke within a joke—wordplay upon wordplay. This means it can be used to create recursive jokes and metaphors—eternal golden braids, per Gödel, Escher, Bach. Sanskrit is the most magical language; and it is related to the language of the primordial Golden Age when the word was law. The gods who could change reality with their words could do so because they spoke a language similar to Sanskrit that allowed dense wordplay and recursive self-reference and so could access the interface between consciousness and materiality at a profound level. The Buddhists, for example, hold that an enlightened man needs no magic; his word is law—and this is to say he has attained the language of the Golden Age.


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