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Fossil Angels - Part 2

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Oct. 20th, 2010 | 10:09 pm

Continued from here

Quite apart from all this, there are other sound, compelling reasons why it limits us to think of magic as a science. Firstly and most glaringly, it isn’t. Magic, after it relinquished any and all practical or worldly application following the twilight of the alchemists, can no more be considered as a true science than can, say, psychoanalysis. However much Freud might have wished it otherwise, however he deplored Jung dragging his purported scientific method down into the black and squirming mud of occultism, magic and psychoanalysis cannot, by definition, ever be allowed a place amongst the sciences. Both deal almost entirely with phenomena of consciousness, phenomena that cannot be repeated in laboratory conditions and which thus exist outside the reach of science, concerned only with things that may be measured and observed, proven empirically. Since consciousness itself cannot be shown to provably exist in scientific terms, then our assertions that said consciousness is plagued either by penis envy or by demons of the Qlippoth must remain forever past the boundary limits of what may be ascertained by rational scrutiny. Frankly, it must be said that magic, when considered as a science, rates somewhere just above that of selecting numbers for the lottery by using loved ones’ birthdays.

This would seem to be the crux: magic, if it is a science, clearly isn’t a particularly well-developed one. Where, for example, are the magical equivalents of Einstein’s General or even Special theories of Relativity, let alone that of Bohr’s Copenhagen Interpretation? Come to that, where are our analogues for laws of gravity, thermodynamics and the rest? Eratosthenes once measured the circumference of the Earth using geometry and shadows. When did we last manage anything as useful or as neat as that? Has there been anything even resembling a general theory since the Emerald Tablet? Once again, perhaps magic’s preoccupation with cause and effect has played a part in this. Our axioms seem mostly on the level of “if we do A then B will happen”. If we say these words or call these names then certain visions will appear to us. As to how they do so, well, who cares? As long as we get a result, the thinking seems to run, why does it matter how this outcome was obtained? If we bang these two flints together for a while they’ll make a spark and set all that dry grass on fire. And have you ever noticed how if you make sure to sacrifice a pig during eclipses, then the sun always returns? Magic is, at best, Palaeolithic science. It really had best put aside that Nobel Prize acceptance speech until it’s shaved its forehead.

Where exactly, one might reasonably enquire, does all this leave us? Having recklessly discarded our time-honoured orders or traditions and torn up our statement of intent; having said that magic should not be Religion and can not be Science, have we taken this Year-Zero Khmer Rouge approach too far, cut our own jugulars with Occam’s razor? Now we’ve pulled down the landmarks and reduced our territory to an undifferentiated wilderness, was this the best time to suggest we also throw away our compass? Now, as night falls on the jungle, we’ve decided we are neither missionaries nor botanists, but what, then, are we? Prey? Brief squeals in pitch dark? If the aims and methods of science or religion are inevitably futile, ultimately mere dead ends, what other role for magic could conceivably exist? And please don’t say it’s anything too difficult, because for all the black robes and the spooky oaths, we tend to frighten easily.

If what we do cannot be properly considered as science or religion, would it be provocative to tender the suggestion that we think of magic as an art? Or even The Art, if you like? It’s not as if the notion were entirely without precedent. It might even be seen as a return to our shamanic origins, when magic was expressed in masques and mimes and marks on walls, the pictograms that gave us written language so that language could in turn allow us consciousness. Music, performance, painting, song, dance, poetry and pantomime could all be easily imagined as having originated in the shaman’s repertoire of mind-transforming magic tricks. Sculpture evolving out of fetish dolls, Willendorf Venus morphing into Henry Moore. Costume design and catwalk fashion, Erte and Yves St. Laurent, arising out of firelit stomps in furs and beads and antlers, throwing shapes designed to startle and arouse. Baroness Thatcher, in her baby-eating prime, suggested that society once more embrace “Victorian values”, an idea that certainly would seem to have caught on within the magical fraternity. This clearly goes nowhere near far enough, however. Let us call instead for a return towards Cro-Magnon values: more creative and robust, with better hair.

Of course, we need not journey so far back into admittedly speculative antiquity for evidence of the uniquely close relationship enjoyed by art and magic. From the cave-wall paintings at Lascaux, on through Greek statuary and friezes to the Flemish masters, on to William Blake, to the Pre-Raphaelites, the Symbolists and the Surrealists, it is only with increasing rarity that we encounter artists of real stature, be they painter, writer or musician, who have not at some point had recourse to occult thinking, whether that be through the agency of their alleged involvement with some occult or Masonic order, as with Mozart, or through some personally cultivated vision, as with Elgar. Opera has its origins, apparently, in alchemy, originated by its early pioneers like Monteverdi as an art-form that included all the other arts within it (music, words, performance, costumes, painted sets) with the intent of passing on alchemical ideas in their most comprehensively artistic and thus most celestial form. Likewise, with the visual arts we need not invoke obvious examples of an occult influence such as Duchamp, Max Ernst or Dali, when there are more surprising names such as Picasso (with his youth spent saturated in hashish and mysticism, with his later work preoccupied with then-occult ideas pertaining to the fourth dimension), or the measured squares and rectangles of Mondrian, created to express the notions woken in him by his study of Theosophy. In fact, the greater part of abstract painting can be traced to famed Blavatsky-booster Annie Besant, and the publication of her theory that the rarefied essential energies of Theosophy’s rays and currents and vibrations could be represented by intuited and formless swirls of colour, an idea that many artists of a fashionably mystic inclination seized on eagerly.

Literature, meanwhile, is so intrinsically involved with magic’s very substance that the two may be effectively considered as the same thing. Spells and spelling, Bardic incantations, grimoires, grammars, magic a “disease of language” as Aleister Crowley so insightfully described it. Odin, Thoth and Hermes, magic-gods and scribe-gods. Magic’s terminology, its symbolism, conjuring and evocation, near-identical to that of poetry. In the beginning was the Word. With magic almost wholly a linguistic construct, it would seem unnecessary to recite a role-call of the occult’s many literary practitioners. In writing, as in painting or in music, an intense and intimate connection to the world of magic is both evident and obvious, appears entirely natural. Certainly, the arts have always treated magic with more sympathy and more respect than science (which, historically, has always sought to prove that occultists are fraudulent or else deluded) and religion (which, historically, has always sought to prove that occultists are flammable). While it shares the social standing and widespread respect afforded to the church or the laboratory, art as a field does not seek to exclude, nor is it governed by a doctrine that’s inimical to magic, such as might be said of its two fellow indicators of humanity’s cultural progress. After all, while magic has, in relatively recent times, produced few mighty theologians of much note and even fewer scientists, it has produced a wealth of inspired and inspiring painters, poets and musicians. Maybe we should stick with what we know we’re good at?

The advantages of treating magic as an art seem at first glance to be considerable. For one thing, there are no entrenched and vested interests capable of mounting an objection to magic’s inclusion in the canon, even if they entertained objections in the first place, which is hardly likely. This is patently far from the case with either science or religion, which are by their very natures almost honour-bound to see that magic is reviled and ridiculed, marginalized and left to rust there on history’s scrap-heap with the Flat Earth, water-memory and phlogiston. Art, as a category, represents a fertile and hospitable environment where magic’s energy could be directed to its growth and progress as a field, rather than channelled into futile struggles for acceptance, or burned uselessly away by marking time to the repeated rituals of a previous century. Another benefit, of course, lies in art’s numinosity, its very lack of hard-edged definition and therefore its flexibility. The questions “what exactly are we doing and why are doing it”, questions of ‘method’ and of ‘aim’, take on a different light when asked in terms of art. Art’s only aim can be to lucidly express the human mind and heart and soul in all their countless variations, thus to further human culture’s artful understanding of the universe and of itself, its growth towards the light. Art’s method is whatever can be even distantly imagined. These parameters of purpose and procedure are sufficiently elastic, surely, to allow inclusion of magic’s most radical or most conservative agendas? Vital and progressive occultism, beautifully expressed, that has no obligation to explain or justify itself. Each thought, each line, each image made exquisite for no other purpose than that they be offerings worthy of the gods, of art, of magic itself. The Art for The Art’s sake.

Paradoxically, even those occultists enamoured of a scientific view of magic would have cause for celebration at this shift in emphasis. As argued above, magic can never be a science as science is currently defined, which is to say as being wholly based upon repeatable results within the measurable and material world. However, by confining its pursuits entirely to the world of the material, science automatically disqualifies itself from speaking of the inner, immaterial world that is in fact the greater part of our human experience. Science is perhaps the most effective tool that human consciousness has yet developed with which to explore the outer universe, and yet this polished and sophisticated instrument of scrutiny is hindered by one glaring blind-spot in that it cannot examine consciousness itself. Since the late 1990s the most rapidly expanding field of scientific interest is apparently consciousness studies, with two major schools of thought-on-thought thus far emerging, each contending with the other. One maintains that consciousness is an illusion of biology, mere automatic and behaviourist cerebral processes that are dependent on the squirt of glands, the seep of enzymes. While this does not seem an adequate description of the many wonders to be found within the human mind, its advocates are almost certainly backing a winner, having realised that their blunt, materialistic theory is the only one that stands a chance of proving itself in the terms of blunt material science. In the other camp, described as more transpersonal in their approach, the current reigning theorem is that consciousness is some peculiar ‘stuff’ pervading the known universe, of which each sentient being is a tiny, temporary reservoir. This viewpoint, while it probably elicits greater sympathy from those of occult inclinations, is quite clearly doomed in terms of garnering eventual scientific credibility. Science cannot even properly discuss the personal, so the transpersonal has no chance. These are matters of the inner world, and science cannot go there. This is why it wisely leaves the exploration of mankind’s interior to a sophisticated tool that is specifically developed for that usage, namely art.

If magic were regarded as an art it would have culturally valid access to the infrascape, the endless immaterial territories that are ignored by and invisible to Science, that are to scientific reason inaccessible, and thus comprise magic’s most natural terrain. Turning its efforts to creative exploration of humanity’s interior space might also be of massive human use, might possibly restore to magic all the relevance and purpose, the demonstrable utility that it has lacked so woefully, and for so long. Seen as an art, the field could still produce the reams of speculative theory that it is so fond of (after all, philosophy and rhetoric may be as easily considered arts as sciences), just so long as it were written beautifully or interestingly. While, for example, The Book of the Law may be debatable in value when considered purely as prophetic text describing actual occurrences or states of mind to come, it cannot be denied that it’s a shit-hot piece of writing, which deserves to be revered as such. The point is that if magic were to drop its unfulfilable pretensions as a science and come out of the closet as an art, it would ironically enough obtain the freedom to pursue its scientific aspirations, maybe even sneak up on some unified field theorem of the supernatural, all in terms acceptable to modern culture. Marcel Duchamp’s magnum opus, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, is more likely to be thought of seriously as genuine alchemy than is the work of whichever poor bastard last suggested that there might be something to cold fusion. Art is clearly a more comfortable environment for magic thinking than is science, with a more relaxing decor, and much better-looking furniture.

Even those damaged souls so institutionalised by membership of magic orders that they can’t imagine any kind of lifestyle that does not involve belonging to some secretive, elite cabal need not despair at finding themselves homeless and alone in our proposed new wilderness. Art has no orders, but it does have movements, schools and cliques with all the furtiveness, the snottyness and the elitism that anyone could wish for. Better yet, since differing schools of art are not so energetically competing with each other for the same ground as are magic orders (how can William Holman Hunt, for instance, be said to compete with Miro, or Vermeer?), this should obviate the need for differing schools of occult thought to feud, or snipe, or generally go on like a bunch of sorry Criswell-out-of-Plan 9-looking bitches.

Just as there is no need to entirely do without fraternities, then similarly there is no necessity for those who’ve grown attached to such things to discard their ritual trappings or, indeed, their rituals. The sole requirement is that they approach these matters with a greater creativity, and with a more discerning eye and ear for that which is profound; that which is beautiful, original or powerful. Make wands and seals and lamens fit to stand in exhibitions of outsider art (How hard can that be? Even mental patients qualify), make every ritual a piece of stunning and intense theatre. Whether one considers magic to be art or not, these things should surely scarcely need be said. Who are our private rituals and adornments meant to please, if not the gods? When did they ever give us the impression they’d be pleased by that which was not suitably exquisite or original? Gods, if they’re anything at all, are known to be notoriously partial to creation, and may therefore be presumed to be appreciative of human creativity, the closest thing that we’ve developed to a god-game and our most sublime achievement. To be once more thought of as an art would allow magic to retain all that is best about the field it was, while at the same time offering the opportunity for it to flourish and progress into a future where it might accomplish so much more.

How would this mooted change of premise impact, then, upon our methodology? What shifts of emphasis might be entailed, and could such changes be to the advantage of both magic as a field and us as individuals? If we seriously mean to reinvent the occult as The Art, one basic alteration to our working methods that might yield considerable benefit would be if we resolved to crystallise whatever insights, truths or visions our magical sorties had afforded us into some artefact, something that everybody else could see as well, just for a change. The nature of the artefact, be it a film, a haiku, an expressive pencil-drawing or a lush theatrical extravaganza, is completely unimportant. All that matters is that it be art, and that it remain true to its inspiration. Were it adopted, at a stroke, a relatively minor tweak of process such as this might utterly transform the world of magic. Rather than be personally-motivated, crudely causal workings of both dubious intent and doubtful outcome, hand-job magic ended usually in scant gratification, our transactions with the hidden world would be made procreative, generating issue in the form of tangible results that everyone might judge the worth of for themselves. In purely evangelic terms, as propaganda for a more enlightened magic worldview, art must surely represent our most compelling ‘evidence’ of other states and planes of being. While the thoughts of Austin Spare are undeniably of interest when expressed in written form as theory, it is without doubt his talents as an artist that provide the sense of entities and other worlds actually witnessed and recorded, the immediate authenticity which has bestowed on Spare much of his reputation as a great magician. More importantly, work such as Spare’s provides a window on the occult world, allowing those outside a clearer and perhaps more eloquent expression of what magic is about than any arcane tract, offering them a worthwhile reason to approach the occult in the first place.

In our wilderness scenario for magic, with the fierce and fair Darwinian competition between ideas that’s implied, treating the occult as an art would also lend a means of dealing with (or carrying out) any disputes that might arise. Art has a way of sorting out such squabbles for itself, inarguably, without resorting to lame processes like, for example, violent conflict resolution, litigation, or, much worse, girly democracy. With art, the strongest vision will prevail, even if it takes decades, centuries to do so, as with William Blake. There is no need to even take a vote upon which is the strongest vision: that would be the one just sitting quietly in its undisputed corner of our culture, nonchalantly picking its teeth with the sternums of its rivals. Mozart brings down Salieri, sleeps for two days after feasting, during which time the savannah can relax. Lunging out suddenly from tower-block shadows, J.G. Ballard takes out Kingsley Amis, while Jean Cocteau be all over D.W. Griffiths’ scrawny Imperial Cyclops ass like a motherfucker. An artistic natural selection, bloody-minded but balanced, seems a far more even-handed way of settling affairs than arbitrary and unanswerable rulings handed down by heads of orders, such as Moina Mathers telling Violet Firth her aura lacked the proper symbols.

Also, if the vicious struggle for survival is enacted purely in the terms of whose idea is the most potent and most beautiful in its expression, then bystanders at the cockfight are more likely to end up spattered with gorgeous metaphors than with dripping, still-warm innards. Even our most pointless and incestuous feuds might thereby have a product that enriched the world in some small measure, rather than no outcome save that magic seem still more a bickering and inane children’s playground than everyone thought it was already. Judged on its merits, such a jungle-logic attitude to magic, with its predatory aesthetics and ideas competing in a wilderness that’s fertilised by their exquisite cultural droppings, would appear to offer the occult a win-win situation. How could anyone object, except for those whose ideas might be seen as plump, slow-moving, flightless and a handy source of protein; those well-qualified as primary prey who are perhaps beginning to suspect that this is all a tiger’s argument for open-plan safari parks?

Upon consideration, these last-mentioned doubts and fears, while surely trivial within a context of magic’s well-being as a field, are likely to be the most serious obstacles to any wide acceptance of a primal swampland ethic such as is proposed. However, if we accept that the sole alternatives to jungle are a circus or a zoo, the notion is perhaps more thinkable. And if our precious ideas should be clawed to pieces when they’re scarcely out the nest, then while this is of course distressing, it’s no more of an ordeal than that endured by any spotty schoolboy poet or Sunday painter who exposes their perhaps ungainly effort to another’s scrutiny. Why should fear of ridicule or criticism, fear that the most lowly karaoke drunk is seemingly quite capable of overcoming, trouble occultists who’ve vowed to stand unflinching at the gates of Hell itself? In fact, shouldn’t the overcoming of such simple phobias be a prerequisite for anyone who wants to style his or her self as a magician? If we regarded magic as an art and art as magic, if like ancient shamans we perceived a gift for poetry as magic power, magically bestowed, wouldn’t we finally have some comeback when the ordinary person in the street asked us, quite reasonably, to demonstrate some magic, then, if we think we’re so thaumaturgical?

How empowering it would be for occultists to steadily accumulate, through sheer hard work, genuine magical abilities that can be provably displayed. Talents the ordinarily intelligent and rational person can quite readily accept as being truly magical in origin; readily engage with in a way that current occultism, with its often wilful and unnecessary obscurantism, cannot manage. Urgently expressed and heartfelt though most modern grimoires most assuredly may be, a skim through Borges’ Fictions or a glimpse of Escher or a side or two of Captain Beefheart would be much more likely to persuade the ordinary reader to a magically receptive point of view. If consciousness itself, with its existence in the natural world being beyond the power of science to confirm, is therefore super-natural and occult, surely art is one of the most obvious and spectacular means by which that supernatural realm of mind and soul reveals itself, makes itself manifest upon a gross material plane.

Art’s power is immediate and irrefutable, immense. It shifts the consciousness, noticeably, of both the artist and her audience. It can change men’s lives and thence change history, society itself. It can inspire us unto wonders or else horrors. It can offer supple, young, expanding minds new spaces to inhabit or can offer comfort to the dying. It can make you fall in love, or cut some idol’s reputation into ribbons at a glance and leave them maimed before their worshippers, dead to posterity. It conjures Goya devils and Rosetti angels into visible appearance. It is both the bane and most beloved tool of tyrants. It transforms the world which we inhabit, changes how we see the universe, or those about us, or ourselves. What has been claimed of sorcery that art has not already undeniably achieved? It’s led a billion into light and slain a billion more. If the accretion of occult ability and power is our objective, we could have no more productive, potent means or medium than art whereby this is to be accomplished. Art may not make that whisk-broom come to life and multiply and strut round cleaning up your crib...but nor does magic, for that matter...yet simply dreaming up the image must have surely earned Walt Disney enough money so he could pay somebody to come by and take care of that stuff for him. And still have enough change to get his head put in this massive hieroglyphic-chiselled ice cube somewhere underneath the Magic Kingdom. There, surely to God, is all of the implacable Satanic influence that anybody, sane or otherwise, could ever ask for.

In reclaiming magic as The Art, amok and naked in a Rousseau wilderness devoid of lodges, it is probable that those made most uneasy by the proposition would be those who felt themselves unprivileged by such a move, those who suspected that they had no art to offer which might be sufficient to its task. Such trepidations, while they may be understandable, surely cannot sit well with the heroic, fearless image one imagines many occultists to have confected for themselves; seem somehow craven. Is there truly nothing, neither craft nor art, which they can fashion to an implement of magic? Do they have no talent that may be employed creatively and magically, be it for mathematics, dancing, dreaming, drumming, stand-up comedy, striptease, graffiti, handling snakes, scientific demonstration, cutting perfectly good cows in half or sculpting scarily realistic busts of European monarchy from their own faeces? Or, like, anything? Even if such abilities are not at present plentiful or evident, cannot these timorous souls imagine that by application and some honest labour talents may be first acquired then honed down to a useful edge? Hard work should not be a completely foreign concept to the Magus. This is not even The Great Work that we’re necessarily discussing here, it’s just the Good-But-Not-Great Work. Much more achievable. If that still sounds too difficult and time-consuming, you could always make the acquisition of profound artistic talent and success your heart’s desire and simply spadge over a sigil. Never fails, apparently. So what excuse could anybody have for not embracing art as magic, magic as The Art? If you are truly, for whatever reason, now and for all time incapable of any creativity, then are you sure that magic is the field to which you are most eminently suited? After all, the fast-food chains are always hiring. Ten years and you could be a branch manager.

By understanding art as magic, by conceiving pen or brush as wand, we thus return to the magician his or her original shamanic powers and social import, give back to the occult both a product and a purpose. Who knows? It might turn out that by implementing such a shift we have removed the need for all our personally-motivated causal charms and curses, our hedge-magic. If we were accomplished and prolific in our art, perhaps the gods might be prepared to send substantial weekly postal orders, all without us even asking. In the sex and romance stakes, as artists we’d all make out like Picasso. Women, men and animals would offer themselves naked at our feet, even in Woolworth’s. As for the destruction of our enemies, we simply wouldn’t bother to invite them to our launch-parties and openings, and they’d just die.

This re-imagining of magic as The Art could clearly benefit the occult world in general and the individual magician in particular, but let’s not overlook the fact that it might also benefit the arts. It must be said that modern mainstream culture, for the greater part and from most civilised perspectives, is a Tupperware container full of sick. The artists of the age (admittedly, with a few notable exceptions) seem intent upon reflecting the balloon-like hollowness and consequent obsession with mere surface that we find amongst our era’s governments and leaders. Just a year or two ago, the old Tate Gallery’s Blake retrospective drew from critics sharp comparisons with the Brit-artists currently inhabiting Blake’s Soho stamping ground, observing that the modern crop of tunnel-visionaries pale when held up to Blake’s Lambeth light. The studied and self-conscious ‘craziness’ of Tracey Emin is made tame beside his holy tyger madness, all accomplished within howling-range of Bedlam. Damien Hirst is shocking in a superficial manner, but not shocking to the point where he has loyalty oaths, vigilante lynch-mobs and sedition trials to deal with. Jake and Dinos Chapman’s contributions to Apocalypse (the exhibition, not the situation with Iraq) are not in any sense a revelation. William Blake could pull a far superior apocalypse from The Red Dragon’s sculpted crimson butt without a second thought. The modern art world deals now in high-concept items, much like the related (through Charles Saatchi) field of advertising. It appears to be bereft of vision, or indeed of the capacity for such, and offers little in the way of nourishment to its surrounding culture, which could use a decent and sustaining meal right about now. Couldn’t a reaffirmation of the magical as art provide the inspiration, lend the vision and the substance that are all so manifestly lacking in the world of art today? Wouldn’t such a soul-infusion allow art to live up to its purpose, to its mission, to insist that the interior and subjective human voice be heard in culture, heard in government, heard on the stained Grand Guignol stages of the world? Or should we just sit back and wait for praeter-human intellects from Sirius or Disney’s walking whisk-brooms or the Aeon of Horus to arrive and sort this mess out for us?

A productive union, a synthesis of art and magic propagated in a culture, an environment, a magic landscape lacking temple walls and heirloom furnishings that everyone tripped over anyway. Staged amidst the gemming ferns and purpled steam-heat of a re-established occult biosphere, this passionate conjunction of two human faculties would surely constitute a Chemic Wedding which, if we were lucky and things got completely out of hand at the Chemic Reception, might precipitate a Chemic Orgy, an indecent, riotous explosion of suppressed creative urges, astral couplings of ideas resulting in multiple births of chimerae and radiant monsters. Fierce conceptual centaurs with their legs of perfume and their heads of music. Mermaid notions, flickering silent movies that are architecture from the waist down. Genre sphinxes and style manticores. Unheard of and undreamed mutations, novel art-forms breeding and adapting fast enough to keep up with the world and its momentum, acting more like life-forms, more like fauna, more like flora to proliferate in our projected magic wilderness. The possible release of fusion energy made suddenly available when these two heavy cultural elements, magic and art, are brought into dynamic close proximity might fairy-light our jungle, might even help to illuminate the mainstream social mulch that it, and we, are rooted in.

Nothing prevents us throwing off the callipers and the restraints, the training wheels that have retarded magic’s forward progress for so long that moss obliterates its railway tracks and branch-line sidings both. Nothing can stop us, if we have the will, from redefining magic as an art, as something vital and progressive. Something which in its ability to deal with the interior human world has a demonstrable utility, can be of actual use to ordinary people, with their inner worlds increasingly encroached upon by a tyrannical, colonialist exterior that’s intent on strip-mining them of any dreams or joy or self-determination. If we so resolved we could restore to magic a potential and a potency, a purpose it has barely caught a glimpse of in the last four hundred years. Were we prepared to take on the responsibility for this endeavour then the world might see again the grand and terrible magicians that, outside of bland and inoffensive children’s books or big-screen and obscenely-budgeted extravagances, it has all but managed to forget. It might be argued that at this nerve-wracking juncture of our human situation, magical perspectives are not merely relevant but are an indispensable necessity if we are to survive with minds and personalities intact. By redefining the term magic we could once again confront the world’s iniquities and murk in our preferred, time-honoured method: with a word.

Make the word magic mean something again, something worthy of the name, something which, as a definition of the magical, would have delighted you when you were six; when you were seventy. If we accomplish this, if we can reinvent our scary, wild and fabulous art for these scary, wild and fabulous new times that we are moving through, then we could offer the occult a future far more glorious and brimming with adventure than we ever thought or wished its fabled past had been. Humanity, locked in this penitentiary of a material world that we have been constructing for ourselves for centuries now, has perhaps never needed more the key, the cake-with-file-in, the last-minute pardon from the governor that magic represents. With its nonce-case religions and their jaw-droppingly demented fundamentalists, with its bedroom-farce royalties, and with its demagogues more casually shameless in their vile ambitions than they’ve been in living memory, society at present, whether in the east or west, would seem to lack a spiritual and moral centre, would indeed appear to lack even the flimsiest pretence at such a thing. The science which sustains society, increasingly, at its most far-flung quantum edges finds it must resort to terminology from the kabbala or from Sufi literature to adequately state what it now knows about our cosmic origins. In all its many areas and compartments, all its scattered fields, the world would seem to be practically crying out for the numinous to come and rescue it from this berserk material culture that has all but eaten it entire and shat it through a colander. And where is magic, while all this is going on?

It’s trying to force our boyfriend to come back to us. It’s scraping cash together to fend off the black hole in our plastic, trying to give that prick that our ex-wife ran off with something terminal. It’s making sure that Teen Witch slumber parties go successfully. It’s putting wispy New Age people into contact with their wispy New Age angels, and they’re all, like, “No way”, and the angels are all, like, “Whatever”. It’s attending all of our repeated rituals with the enthusiasm of a patron come to see The Mouse Trap for the seven hundredth time. It spends its weekends trying to read our crappy sigils under their obscuring glaze of jiz, and in retaliation only puts us into contact with outpatient entities, community-care Elohim that rant like wino scientologists and never make a lick of sense. It’s at the trademarks office, registering magic seals. It’s handling an introductions agency that represents our only chance of ever meeting any strange Goth pussy. It’s off getting us a better deal on that new Renault, helping to prolong the wretched life of our incontinent and blind pet spaniel Gandalf, networking like crazy to secure those Harry Potter Hogwart’s Tarot rights. It’s still attempting to sort out the traffic jam resulting from the Aeon of Horus having jack-knifed through the central reservation and into the southbound carriageway, hit head-on by the Aeon of Maat, which spilled its cargo of black feathers onto the hard shoulder. It’s not sure the ketamine was such a good idea. It’s sitting looking nervous on a thousand bookshelves between lifestyle interviews with necrophiles and fashion retrospectives on the Manson family. It’s hanging out at neo-nazi jamborees near Dusseldorf. It’s wondering if it should introduce a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding the 11th Degree. It’s advising Cherie Blair on acupuncture studs, the whole of Islington upon Feng Sui. It’s pierced its cock in an attempt to shock its middle-class Home Counties parents, who’ve been dead for ten years, anyway. It wishes it were David Blaine. It wishes it were Buffy. Or, quite frankly, anyone.

We could, if we desired it, have things otherwise. Rather than magic that’s in thrall to a fondly imagined golden past, or else to some luridly-fantasized Elder God theme-park affair of a future, we could try instead a magic adequate and relevant to its own extraordinary times. We could, were we to so decide, ensure that current occultism be remembered in the history of magic as a fanfare peak rather than as a fading sigh; as an embarrassed, dying mumble; not even a whimper. We could make this parched terrain a teeming paradise, a tropic where each thought might blossom into art. Under the altar lies the studio, the beach. We could insist upon it, were we truly what we say we are. We could achieve it not by scrawling sigils but by crafting stories, paintings, symphonies. We could allow our art to spread its holy psychedelic scarab wings across society once more, perhaps in doing so allow some light or grace to fall upon that pained, benighted organism. We could be made afresh in our fresh undergrowth, stand reinvented at a true dawn of our Craft within a morning world, our paint still wet, just-hatched and gummy-eyed in Eden. Newborn in Creation.

Alan Moore
Northampton
31st December, 2002.

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Comments {28}

Cat Vincent

(no subject)

from: catvincent
date: Oct. 20th, 2010 11:03 pm (UTC)
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Stirring stuff. Just the sort of piece I'd hoped he'd spring on The 'Amazing' Meeting...
Thanks for letting this get out here, and thank Alan of course.

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Teikasaurus Howl

(no subject)

from: saikoutron
date: Oct. 21st, 2010 02:48 am (UTC)
Link

Off to put the kettle on, will probably take a while to get through this.

And thank you *so* much for putting this up.

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whoa

from: ext_293361
date: Oct. 21st, 2010 11:59 am (UTC)
Link

rousing stuff,almost a choose life choose magic vibe..i especially like the "islington apon feng sui" cheers.

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pingback_bot

No title

from: pingback_bot
date: Oct. 21st, 2010 06:46 pm (UTC)
Link

User endis_ni referenced to your post from No title saying: [...] parts [...]

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Gordon White

Splendid

from: gordon_white
date: Oct. 21st, 2010 09:14 pm (UTC)
Link

Thanks so much for posting this. It's spectacular.

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pingback_bot

What Is Magic For?

from: pingback_bot
date: Oct. 22nd, 2010 10:59 am (UTC)
Link

User heron61 referenced to your post from What Is Magic For? saying: [...] (which is in two parts, part 2 is here [...]

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Prof. Jeremy M. R. F. Chesterfield-Pickles III

(no subject)

from: alfrecht
date: Oct. 23rd, 2010 11:33 am (UTC)
Link

You must be cross-eyed after typing that up...

But, as usual, Moore to the core, good stuff! Thanks for your ongoing work on this!

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glycon

(no subject)

from: glycon
date: Oct. 24th, 2010 10:54 am (UTC)
Link

Thanks. I didn't have to type it all up, though, as Alan gave me the scripts and things on a memory stick. At most, all I had to do was put in a little coding wherever he had italics, for instance.

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Prof. Jeremy M. R. F. Chesterfield-Pickles III

(no subject)

from: alfrecht
date: Oct. 24th, 2010 11:37 am (UTC)
Link

Even better, then!

Again, many thanks for your continued excellent work on archiving the opera of the Bearded Prophet of Northampton! ;)

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Panninggazz

(no subject)

from: tinkergazz
date: Jul. 1st, 2011 06:56 am (UTC)
Link

I second that! what a much needed shot in the arm for me....thank you for posting.

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(no subject)

from: anonymous
date: Oct. 24th, 2010 12:42 am (UTC)
Link

Wonderful, thought-provoking essay. Many thanks to both glycon and Alan Moore for sharing. Its a right bitch-slap to the head for folks caught up in pomp-and-circumstance and myopic applications of The Art of Magic. Alotta folks are invested in the idea that Magic is Magic and Art is Art, etc. True Magic lies at the borderlands. So does True Art... or True Religion... or True Science. Methinks Moore makes a finely phrased and stridently clever poke intended to prime the pump and cause the wheel of cyclic change to turn, perhaps a smidge faster than some folks are comfortable (but as fast as these exhilaratingly dangerous times require). I'm reminded of Ramsey Dukes 'essay on magic,' SSOTBME (Sex Secrets of the Black Magicians Exposed). Its an oldie (first published in '74) but a damn goodie and should be required reading for folks that find themselves either inspired (to get busy or get mad... or both) by Moore's Fossil Angels. Art > Religion > Science > Magic > Art >... and so the wheel turns. If the wheel stops - on Art, or any of 'em - then hoo-boy!!! THAT's when things 'll be well and truly f*cked! Keep it turning, THAT'S where the True Magic will be found...

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Wowee

from: anonymous
date: Oct. 25th, 2010 08:04 pm (UTC)
Link

That's what I've been waiting for... for a long time now, too, I now see. Thanks very much indeed.

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battymcdougall

(no subject)

from: battymcdougall
date: Oct. 26th, 2010 07:14 pm (UTC)
Link

Awesome.
And Have a splendid birthday today.
Keep up the grand work.

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Thanks

from: ext_303874
date: Oct. 30th, 2010 07:39 pm (UTC)
Link

Thanks for posting this. Thank you, Mr. Moore for letting it out. The essay's deep criticism of magic is needed and captures how magic will redeem itself.

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Blargh

(no subject)

from: primaldog
date: Nov. 6th, 2010 09:10 pm (UTC)
Link

Damn, powerful. Good stuff.

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gwydion_writes

(no subject)

from: gwydion_writes
date: Feb. 16th, 2011 10:39 pm (UTC)
Link

Not to diss livejournal, but this essay really needs wider publication. It's awesome that it's become available in this way, but it needs to be read alongside things like the new "Disease of Language" release book. Not only for its magical content but for its artistic value in writing (as the essay would support). But just to talk about the ideas. What's surprising is that it's so obvious to link art and magic and yet so hard to relinquish fully magic to the heading "art". I think this is because for soooo long, it's been against the wall defending itself against science and religion that stepping away from the war of attrition and reframing the whole situation (there is no war unless people agree to fight) becomes mind-blowing. But it's time. Magic was deprived of its status as an art partly through the stratification brought on by science, leaving magic in a no-man's land and magicians seemingly doing what they could to take down the bastards who caused such discomfiture. Without a home category left, they tried to revert (impossible)rather than react thoughtfully. Someone finally did. Thanks, Alan. The Arts lost out big time in this scuffle and, despite the occasional luminary, its been at least 400 years since we have seen what the combination is really capable of.

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Pádraig Ó Méalóid

(no subject)

from: slovobooks
date: Feb. 17th, 2011 05:47 pm (UTC)
Link

There were a few attempts to get this published, firstly in KAOS #15, then in some other publication. Alan had given me a copy a few years back, so I'd asked if I could publish it here if nobody else got it done. The other magazine fell through as well, so I asked him again, and he assented to let me put it here, so that it would have some sort of public availability. I know what you're saying about LiveJournal, but on the internet all distances are the same: all links are equal, sort of.

And, yes, it's an important piece of work, and I'm honoured and delighted to have been able to make it public. Thanks for the feedback.

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gwydion_writes

(no subject)

from: gwydion_writes
date: Feb. 17th, 2011 11:44 pm (UTC)
Link

Thanks for the reply! I didn't mean this wasn't a great opportunity- sharing it like this. I really appreciate it. Last year, I was publishing an article about Alan's Promethea, and the editors wanted to know more about Alan's magical belief system, and I was able to find some great interviews on Youtube from the latest Magus conference that helped, but this would have been the real pay-dirt to help explain. This year, I'm in a panel discussion about Alan's work and I'd like to bring up Fossil Angels and direct people here for a look. If I end up citing it in publication, I'll cite this location.
Shame it didn't appear in magazines but thankfully we've been able to read it anyway, and that's awesome. I have recently read "Snakes and Ladders" and "The Birth Caul" and this really goes well with them to explain Alan's way of thinking.

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Pádraig Ó Méalóid

(no subject)

from: slovobooks
date: Feb. 17th, 2011 05:50 pm (UTC)
Link

Forgot to change identities! I'm also glycon.

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pingback_bot

Moore, Fertile Ground/Deep Green, Weather Wars

from: pingback_bot
date: May. 1st, 2011 04:51 pm (UTC)
Link

User hengruh referenced to your post from Moore, Fertile Ground/Deep Green, Weather Wars saying: [...] Part 2 - http://glycon.livejournal.com/14307.html [...]

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Panninggazz

wow

from: tinkergazz
date: Jul. 1st, 2011 06:30 am (UTC)
Link

amazing essay.


Rt!

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Julian Vayne

from: anonymous
date: Jul. 20th, 2011 03:44 pm (UTC)
Link

an interesting essay but, though written with some delightful turns of phrase, in many places wrong. Within the style of magick that I (mostly) inhabit there are certainly attempts at creating a more fully developed science of magic (see Pete Carroll's Octavo) and has Alan forgotten about the vast amount of parapsychological research that's been happening since the Victorian period? Meanwhile the fact that our simian clanning instinct means that members of the same group tend to dress in a similar fashion, while an easy target, doesn't really tell us if Mr Moore actually knows any of these groups from the inside (and therefore what they *really* get up to). Sure people can look pretty weird if one is outside the group, I suspect that a comic convention could be caricatured in just the same kind of way... Then there is the general point about the relationship of art and magic. Of course there is an overlap between these things but they are not equivalent. One might, for instance, consider the placebo effect (as a simple example of everyday magical process) as a 'healing art' but I'm not sure that gets us anywhere useful. Meanwhile we could consider the neurological effects of trance lighting in terms of 'op art' but again by narrowing our definition of magic we are missing out on other aspects of what's going on. Methinks that Alan, as an artist/magician assumes that his view of this many faceted aspect of human experience is *the* correct one, a virologist/magician, nanotechnologist/magician or teacher/magician would have different views. And I should know I do group magic with such people. Art can be magical, but magic isn't just art. Personally I think a large part of magic is in our reaction to it, wonder, facination, fear, awe - successful evocation of these feelings make us think that art is 'magical' but these emotions can arise from other experiences too.

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There's probably a lot of baggage to consider

(no subject)

from: eianorange
date: Mar. 26th, 2013 12:25 pm (UTC)
Link

This is a fantastic essay. It reads so smoothly as if Alan is talking directly to you. I was wondering if it would be all right if I put a link to this article up on our group's wordpress blog. Would that be okay with you?

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glycon

(no subject)

from: glycon
date: Mar. 26th, 2013 02:40 pm (UTC)
Link

Sure, I see no problem with that. What group is it, anyway?

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There's probably a lot of baggage to consider

(no subject)

from: eianorange
date: Mar. 26th, 2013 03:25 pm (UTC)
Link

Thanks. We're the zenseiderz, but our blog is at http://knewzlog.zenseiderz.org/ we're a dark ambient slash experi-Metal band with the added benefit of being a semi-productive magickal disorder. It's all in the spirit of fun.

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glycon

(no subject)

from: glycon
date: Mar. 26th, 2013 03:39 pm (UTC)
Link

Ta. I'll go have a listen on your Soundcloud page, so.

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There's probably a lot of baggage to consider

(no subject)

from: eianorange
date: Mar. 26th, 2013 03:28 pm (UTC)
Link

How did I get marked spam? I must've gotten the captcha wrong. Can you see my reply?

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glycon

(no subject)

from: glycon
date: Mar. 26th, 2013 03:35 pm (UTC)
Link

I'm trying to find out how to fix that, as I got an email notification, and I'm seeing it in the inbox here, but it's marked as a 'suspicious comment' - OK, now fixed.

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