Anyone who hangs around here for any length of time will probably quickly get the impression that I’m talking about something called ‘magick’ or variously, alchemy, hermeticism, yoga, or any number of other things. It’s sitting prominently in my sidebar, I refer to it in almost all of my podcasts, and the vast majority of links in my sidebar are either by magicians or have clear magickal sympathies or interests.
This label is problematic in a number of ways, which is part of the reason why I and so many others, use so many different words for our ‘field’ and constantly grapple with a satisfactory definition ( you may currently see the baptists doing just this perennial problem further justice ) .
For starters, it’s vauge. What’s magick? It’s what magicians do. And what is it magicians do? Magick, you dumbass. And this is about as good as it gets in many quarters and even for those of us who do ‘it’, this situation is frequently infuriating and counterproductive.
Further, even if you accept that it’s ‘what magicians do’, what those magicians are actually doing is never quite the same, from person to person sometimes even in the most fundamental ways. This is further aggravating to newcomers and makes conversation within the community almost pointless at times, because there are precisely zero shared assumptions or foundational premises. If not in truth, then at least in practice these foundational premises or practices, if they exist, can almost never be agreed upon.
On top of all that, often people who could and should rightly be interested in the body of knowledge and skill that the field traditionally known as magick has to offer, cannot see past the semantically loaded labels and cultural baggage around the words we use. If you start talking about sorcery, demons, invocation, or similar terms from the middle ages or earlier, which carry connotations of rudderless superstition, sloppy thinking, and unprovable metaphysics, they will frequently assume that you are soft in the fucking head, quite frankly, and in many cases these days, rightly so.
All this, to further compound the dillema, almost pro forma puts you at odds with any or all of the established knowledge fields or skill sets in existence today, let alone anything discussed by serious scholars, academia or the professional realms. Not that anyone should necessarily be overly concerned by that, but to have that door simply closed from the outset is little more than an intellectual, philosophical, and spiritual ( not to mention financial) ghetto.
Many people forget that in the renaissance it was practically required to have a magus on hand, and that characters such as john dee were massively influential in all kinds of areas ( mind you the local peasantry branded him a demonologist and burned his house down, with all his books in it, but you can’t please all the people all the time ).
And even given all that, and I doubt many will seriously dispute what I’m saying, most practitioners of the magical arts don’t care, or at least pretend not to care, and satisfy themselves with their marginal status, while they strive for acceptance and recognition in more socially palatable areas. This is a very old scheme, and historically a fairly successful one. Often the magus these days is a successful or aspiring writer, artist, scientist, codemonkey, or professional of some stripe, who happens to have recourse to certain alternative methods of pursuing their goals in private.
Thus the knowledge base that magick represents seeps into the mainstream in various forms, but the thing itself remains hidden, marginal…indeed, occult. It is the dirty secret of human history. Scrape the surface of almost anything you take for granted, and there you will find a shaman, there you will find a sorceror, there you will find an alchemist. It’s almost comical in it’s ubiquity.
And yet, every time someone wants to reapproach the wellspring of human endevour, where do they find themselves? Inevitably, they find themselves back in the ghetto.
I’ve been grappling with this problem for some time now, and I do believe I’ve found a way out.
…more to come.