When I noticed at the beginning of the month that September had five Wednesdays, and I didn’t have anything in mind to post here for the fifth of them, I asked my readers for their suggestions, following an old custom here that I’ve recently revived. As usual, the resulting discussion was lively and quite a few topics were tossed out for discussion; those that got a significant number of votes will get posts of their own in due time. By a substantial factor, though, the majority wanted me to follow up on a comment I’d made some time ago.
In that earlier discussion, I’d commenrted on Max Weber’s claim that “the disenchantment of the world” was a distinctive feature of modernity That claim had come in for a challenge in the months beforehand, courtesy of a recent book, The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity, and the Birth of the Human Sciences by Jason Josephson-Storm. Josephson-Storm’s basic argument is that Weber was quite simply wrong—that he and all the people who have repeated his claim ever since have blithely ignored the fact that magic, divination, and other occult practices are still thriving in the modern industrial world, and that the very people who coined the modern insistence that we all live in a post-magical world had their own significant contacts with the very world of occult practices that they claimed had vanished forever.
Reflecting on this, I wondered aloud about what malign enchantment had been laid on modern people to convince so many of them that magic had somehow faded into the past, when magical practices were in regular use all around them, right in the middle of today’s high-tech cities and internet-connected lifestyles. That was the thing my readers wanted to hear about: where that malign enchantment came from, who or what cast it, how it has affected all our lives, and—of course—what are the prospects for breaking the spell.
It’s an intricate set of questions, and not one to which I can offer simple answers, but we can start working our way through the labyrinth with the aid of some history.
In 1904, pioneering sociologist Max Weber published an influential book entitled The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. In it he traced the origins of modern capitalistm to the Protestant Reformation, and specifically to the Calvinist end of the Reformation. That was the faction inspired by Swiss theologian John Calvin, who rejected nearly all of the traditions of historic Christianity in favor of a stark religious vision that placed the individual at the mercy of a God who had predestined a few souls for salvation and consigned the vast majority to eternal damnation for his greater glory, irrespective of their actions on Earth.
To the hardcore Calvinist, prosperity was one of the signs of divine favor, and so Calvinists reliably beavered away at their professions so that they might be considered members of the elect. Weber pointed out that this and other aspects of Calvinist belief formed the template on which the later capitalist work ethic was constructed. It ended up turning into the Victorian capitalist mindset later rehashed by Ayn Rand, in which the rich by definition deserved their wealth and the poor their poverty, since each was being rewarded according to his deserts by the almighty market, the capitalist substitute for God.
The disenchantment of the world, to Weber, was another way in which Calvinism prefigured capitalism. The Renaissance Catholic worldview against which Calvin rebelled was one in which the material and spiritual worlds constantly interpenetrated. In that worldview, saints and angels helped span the distance between God and man, sacraments and holy objects brought spiritual forces to bear on earthly problems, and the planets themselves were mighty intelligent beings singing the praises of the Trinity as they circled through the heavens. (You can learn all about this worldview from C.S. Lewis’ fine book The Discarded Image, or in a richer sense from his novels Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength, which translated the same worldview intact into the language of early twentieth century science fiction.)
All this was anathema to Calvin, for whom there was only God enthroned in his terrible isolation and weak and sinful man cringing in devout terror before him. From there to the worldview of modern rationalist materialism takes only a single modest step: replace Calvin’s God with some equally indifferent abstraction, such as evolution or the free market, and there you are. In Weber’s formulation, the dismissal of saints and sacraments by Calvin prefigured and led directly to the wider dismissal of everything spiritual by Calvin’s materialist heirs. It’s a potent narrative, and it explains certain things about the modern world very clearly.
That said, treating the modern world as “disenchanted” runs afoul of plenty of inconvenient facts. It’s all very well to insist that modern people live in a disenchanted world, that we don’t believe in spirits and magic (or for that matter saints and sacraments), and that very insistence has played a major role in the rhetoric of modernity for well over a century now. The one little difficulty with this, as Jason Josephson-Storm pointed out, is that it doesn’t happen to be true.
Survey after survey has shown that very large numbers of well-educated people in industrial countries believe in the existence of ghosts, the reality of ESP, the validity of astrology, and so on. In today’s America, it bears remembering, the number of people who are employed full time as astrologers exceeds the number employed full time as astronomers by a considerable margin. Go on the internet, that cutting-edge venue for the latest cultural notions, and you can find large and lively communities earnestly discussing the practice of ceremonial magic. For that matter, old-fashioned sacramental churches of the Catholic and Orthodox denominations are still to be found here in great numbers, along with more recently imported religions with comparable faith in exactly those connections between spirit and matter that Calvin and modern materialists alike tried to cut forever.
Josephson-Storm built on this mismatch by showing that the modern thinkers who constructed the narrative of disenchantment—Max Weber himself, and even more significantly, the Marxist intellectuals of the Frankfurt School after him, the very people whose ideas are the foundation of modern Critical Race Theory and several other currently popular academic ideologies—were themselves influenced by contemporary German occultistm. Early twentieth century Germany, where the Frankfurt School was born, was a bubbling cauldron of occultism; the Thule-Gesellschaft or Thule Society, the occult lodge that created the Nazi Party as its political action wing, is perhaps the most well-known nowadays of the occult organizations of the time.
Another, considerably more influential until 1933, was a group called the Kosmikerkreise or Cosmic Circle, a collection of poets, occultists, and Neopagans based in Munich. (For those who don’t know their way around Germany’s cultural geography, Munich is the German equivalent of San Francisco, except that its streets are a lot cleaner.) Max Weber ran with several members of the Cosmic Circle, and so did leading members of the Frankfurt School. The very people who promoted the idea that the disenchantment of the world and the collapse of belief in magic and spirits were central to modernity, that is to say, were in close contact with occultists whose magical workings and hobnobbing with spirits were anything but secret.
In other words, the disenchantment of the world that Weber and the Frankfurt School discussed at such length was not what it appeared to be. They presented it as a description of modernity, but it was in fact prescriptive in nature, not descriptive—in less gnomic language, what they wanted the modern industrial world to be, not what that world actually is.
The role of disenchantment as prescription rather than description was made impressively clear, in a fine bit of historical irony, by the reaction to Josephson-Storm’s book. Too many reviewers skated right past the central point made by the book—that it’s absurd to talk about the world being disenchanted when it’s still well stocked with practicing occultists—and found ways to quibble with almost every other dimension of his study, rather than taking it seriously. As a public practitioner of ceremonial magic, astrology, and other modes of enchantment, I’ve faced the same reaction; it’s astonishing how many people can look a practicing occultist in the face and claim that nobody really believes in magic or spirits any more.
That oddity of behavior has plenty of bedfellows, of course. Consider the way that media pundits so often say that this or that country, upon being pressured into adopting some gobbet of overpriced technology or neoliberal policy, “has entered the twenty-first century.” For that matter, consider the much-mocked response by Justin Trudeau when he was asked why he’d fixated so obesssively on gender and ethnic balance in assembling his first cabinet: “Because it’s 2015.” In both cases a mere date has become a stalking horse for a political or economic agenda. Like all such agendas, this one benefits certain people at the expense of others, and like most such agendas, it conceals the straighforward calculus of who benefits and who pays the bills under a smoke screen of mystification: it’s not this set of corporate interests or that set of politicians who are robbing Peter to pay Paul, oh, no, it’s old Father Time himself!
I’ve discussed here and in one of my books how belief in progress has become a religion in our time, with progress as the supposedly almighty abstraction that fills the role of divinity in the imaginations of the faithful. The prescriptive insistence on the disenchantment of the world is an important aspect of the dogma of progress-worship in our time, which is why it remains bolted in place in the mainstream of contemporary thought even though five minutes of clear thinking will prove Josephson-Storm’s point. There’s good reason why so few five-minute periods get devoted to such reflections, though, because once you see past the mask of disenchantment, it’s impossible to miss one of the most important dimensions of the entire religion of progress.
Frank Herbert, in his famous science fiction novel Dune, caught that dimension with his usual acuity. “Once,” a Bene Gesserit witch explains to the protagonist Paul Atreides, “men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.” That principle isn’t limited to computers. Look around you at the technologies that shape your life. Notice how few of them actually allow you to do something you couldn’t do with much simpler tools, and how many of them are set up to push you ever deeper into dependence on technology.
That’s the hidden agenda of the myth of progress: every step “forward” in the direction that’s been labeled “progressive” subjects you more completely to technologies over which you have increasingly little control….and thus, inevitably, to those who own and manage and market those technologies to you. It didn’t require any kind of conscious conspiracy to product that outcome, by the way, simply a lot of individual choices on the part of the people in charge of technological systems to encourage dependence in order to boost quarterly profits. Any time you have a power differential in society, that differential will tend to increase unless deliberate steps are taken to stop that from happening; the transformation of modern technologies from free choices to instruments of social control is among other things a fine demonstration of that rule.
It’s probably necessary to stop here and counter two of the rhetorical gimmicks usually deployed to squelch reflections such as these. First of all, we are not talking about “technology” in the abstract, but the specific suite of technologies that are marketed as the essential elements of a modern lifestyle today. There are plenty of technologies that don’t push you into a state of dependence, but you’ll find precious few of them for sale at Mall*Wart and its upscale rivals. Second, despite endless handwaving on this point, technologies are not value-free. Any given technology can do certain things well, other things poorly, and still other things not at all, and the decision to make and market a technology with these built-in biases is a value judgment that is inherently expressed in the technology itself.
All this, in turn, is why magic has been taboo in our culture since the dawning of the industrial revolution—even more so than all the other ways of doing things for yourself that have been similarly proscribed. Unlike modern corporate technology, magic is irreducibly personal. If you want to work magic on a group of people who aren’t willing participants in the working, you’re going to be limited to the frankly feeble symbolic gimmickries brandished around by the advertising industry these days. It takes very little magical study and practice to be able to laugh in the face of such flimsy sorceries, and plenty of people can do that even without a scrap of magical knowledge: thus the frequency with which heavily funded ad campaigns flop dismally.
Learn something about the art and science of causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will—occultist Dion Fortune’s classic definition of magic—and you can go much further. Gather even a modestly sized group of people who are interested in learning magic, and get them working together, and the sky’s the limit. That’s why magic is taboo in today’s industrial world: it provides individuals and small groups with the opportunity to work toward goals that the owners and managers and marketers of technology don’t choose for them, using means that the owners and managers and marketers of technology don’t control. To the believers and, more importantly, to the beneficiaries of the religion of progress, those are existential threats.
Cui bono?—who benefits? That fine old Latin question is always a useful tool when you want to make sense of an apparently irrational feature of modern life. Yet there’s more going on here than ordinary exploitation. Intriging scraps of evidence suggest that something really has happened in recent centuries to make magic weaker than it once was: not wholly ineffective by any means, but incapable of feats that were once apparently commonplace.
One useful collection of testimony here is a book by Native American scholar and activist Vine Deloria Jr, The World We Used To Live In, which was published a year after his death in 2005. Deloria was an iconoclastic thinker more than willing to take on the conventional wisdom of his time, and his last book shows it. What he did was assemble as many testimonies as possible to the powers of Native American medicine people before and during the European conquest of the Americas. It’s fascinating reading from any number of angles, but two things stood out for me when I studied it. The first was that Deloria noted that medicine people more recently don’t appear to be able to do the things their ancestors did. The second was that I and the other ceremonial magicians I’ve worked with can’t equal the feats Deloria records either.
The specific limitation on medicine people and ceremonial magicians alike is easy enough to describe: the material world does not respond directly to magical action. As a ceremonial magician, I’ve learned that if I want to make things happen in the material world I need to focus my workings on conscious beings who can make those things happen. Do I want a fallen boulder moved out of the road? I can try to get it to levitate with zero effect, but workings intended to get the highway department to do its job and move the rock can be quite effective.
If Deloria’s right—and he’s far from the only one to make this same point—this limitation did not exist some centuries ago, and appears to have come into force a little at a time over an extended period. As late as the 17th century, for example, competent metallurgists swore in courts of law that they had witnessed alchemists turn other metals into gold, assayed the gold by way of cuppelation and other effective tests, and found it good. By contrast, if Archibald Cockren and the mysterious Fulcanelli succeeded in the Great Work in the early 20th century, as some students of alchemy believe, they were among the very, very few.
I would like to suggest that these changes may not simply be the waning of empty superstitions in an age of enlightenment, as Max Weber believed, or of a modern myth of disenchantment rooted in claims to enlightenment, as Jason Josephson-Storm seems to believe. It seems worth considering the possibility that they reflect real, objective changes in the conditions of human existence unfolding over historic time: that the world was actually different in the past, in ways that permitted certain things that modern science insists can never have been possible.
A fascinating if problematic book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes, pointed out that a great many testimonies support the idea that human beings in earlier times actually did hear the voices of disembodied beings, and traced—in the Old Testament and elsewhere—the process by which that experience faded out. The same process can be traced just as precisely in ancient Greek literature, as it moves from the robust experience of divine presence in early poets such as Hesiod to the urbane sophistication of Plutarch, most of a millennium later, writing an essay On the Silence of the Oracles to explain why the gods no longer gave intelligible messages to human beings.
Jaynes tried to explain this with a postulated one-way shift in the way human brains worked, basing his theory on ideas about the function of the cerebral hemispheres that have since been largely discredited. What he did not discuss was that half a millennium after Plutarch, the voices of the gods were back, along with the whole world of miracles and magic that had trickled away as the ancient world rose to its zenith. As high cultures collapsed across Eurasia, from Han-dynasty China in the far east to Rome in the far west, religious visionaries once more spoke with gods and angels, mages wielded potent spells, and the Unseen again became a constant presence in the lives of most people. Centuries passed, and once again the presence of the spiritual realm began to fade: Chaucer’s narrative of the Wife of Bath is one of many late medieval tales that take it for granted that wonders possible in earlier times had faded out.
Behind the mask of disenchantment, in other words, is a complex phenomenon with at least three levels. The first level is the erasure of occultism in the moderrn Western world—an erasure that I’ve been confronting in my posts on the magical history of the United States. The second is the cluster of political and economic motives behind that erasure—the attempt to convince as many people as possible to accept a condition of dependence on technologies owned, managed, and marketed by existing centers of power and wealth. The third is an apparent increase and decline in the efficacy of magical practices that seems to correlate to certain historical cycles.
And behind that? I haven’t gotten that far yet. The quest is still in its early stages, and if the Grail can be found and the Waste Land of our contemporary consciousness healed, it’s going to take a lot of hard riding through strange territories. I’ll keep you posted on what I find.
In unrelated news, my story “The Next Ten Billion Years” — one of the most popular posts on my former blog The Archdruid Report — has been turned into a graphic novel by Marcu Knoesen and Darryl Knickrehm. The graphic version is frankly better than my original — a crisp, vivid and potent retelling. It’s published on Lulu and so available everywhere in the world; if you’re interested, you can order a copy here.
Hi: I just finished reading your really interesting essay. I also just finished “reading” (I have to say that I did skim through parts of it that I didn’t have knowledge of, e.g. architecture.) Oswald Spengler’s two volumes of The Decline of the West. It feels like there is a real connection with his idea of the decline of one civilization and the rise of another that is more closely related to its indigenous “soil.” What do you think?
If I may:
I live apparently in a different world then in which the gods and spirits have direct interactions, the Unseen enters into my life robustly, and miracles of all sorts occur regularly. I write this to simply note that much of the old robustness of faith still exists, at least in my experience of the world. Granted, I’m not claiming that I live in something akin to the world of the ancient times in which dramatic miracles were more common, but still I feel that I have some sort of understanding as to what might be going on “behind the scenes.”
As I understand it, there are mysteries of mind and there are mysteries of blood. The sorts of ancient miracles are mysteries of the blood rather than the mysteries of the mind. I think that the blood of people during different historical time has differing amount of cosmic substance, and this cosmic substance allows for the direct transmission of miracles to occur within the ambit of human consciousness.
And so there’s a tension between the mind and the blood: when the cosmic substance tends towards the mind then the blood becomes the weaker, and the full miracles no longer can occur in the old sense. The mind, though, becomes stronger by dint of its contact with this cosmic substance and can withstand more exalted abstraction.
Perhaps the same way that the sap of trees rises and falls with the seasons so does the cosmic substance that humans have to work with, and the location of the cosmic substance, more in the mind or more in the blood.
This gets hard to explain: I can feel the differing levels of participation in the world of forms. There’s an abstract, mindful way and there’s a literal, bloody way, and they feel very different. I can focus on a symbol with my mind, or I can focus on a symbol with my blood, and thus direct the results accordingly. Of course, to use the blood implicates the blood and the very life in a profound way, but the same holds true for the mind.
The location of the spirit in the body, in the mind or in the blood, strikes me as profound shift in popular consciousness: the barbarism of reflection and the barbarism of sensation. My understanding is that these represent literally different potential worlds that exist, and different people can live in literally different worlds in terms of what sort of realities they experience and _how_ enchantment inheres in their lives.
When more people have relatively more cosmic substance pouring through their minds then the world may have less miracles in human affairs but more miracles on the level of abstraction. When their is more cosmic substance pouring through the blood, the blood draws forth the miracles into the realm of everyday life.
Maybe the ebbing and flowing of magical energy is simply tidal, like so much in magic. So that as well as lunar and solar cycles there are even longer cycles. From this, the causality of the disenchantment is the other way around, so that Plutarch’s cynicism and the disenchanters’ rhetoric were merely taking advantage of an ebb tide within a natural cycle.
This tidal bottom might also correlate with Fortune’s concept of the Initiation of the Nadir, i.e. that swarms of souls go through this experience periodically, and the rhythnic recession of magic helps to enable this to happen. This cycle could also correlate with the rise and fall of civilisations, so that the culturewinter, the ebb tide of magic and the Initiation of the Nadir all happen at around the same time.
Following from progress being a religion, modernist architecture and design seems to function as puritanism, iconoclasm, a bonfire of the vanities, and a hair shirt. The grand, beautiful, and ornamental architecture was was associated with corrupt elites. Both the old autocrats and continued by the capitalists into the Belle Epoch. Modernism was meant to be the counter to it. That’s the claim of all writing about modernism, but the reality becomes brutally clear in Victor Buchli’s An Archeology of Socialism. Among the avant garde of pre-revolutionary Russia, comfy sofas, thick curtains, even owning a cat were considered irredeemably bourgeois. Stripped down modernism was considered both physically and morally more hygenic. This was made symbolically and physically real in the new housing – the comfy old furniture didn’t even fit in the new buildings.
Silicon Valley is certainly not value-free:
I have become disenchanted with the Silicon Age into which I was born (in 1995).
Easy access to information is good for nerds like me but when it becomes dominant, it is good for neither material social prosperity or culture:
Not a fully formed thought yet, but what comes to mind is that the more god-like humans try to become or the more control we seek to exert, the less we can communicate with actual gods. We band together in bigger and bigger groups, build feats of architecture, shape the natural environment; and the more successful in those efforts, the less successful we are at connecting with the Unseen. The Tower of Babel is an image that jumps to mind.
Poul Anderson wrote several stories based on the idea that cold iron suppressed magic, so as iron became ever more common, magic went away, until the effect was understood and worked around.
Larry Niven wrote stories where magic was powered by mana, a non-renewable resource. The ultimate anti-magic weapon was a disk with two opposing spells, one to hold it together and one to spin it ever faster. It would spin until all mana in the area was gone, then disintegrate.
And Tolkien had the same notion. Whether elves, dwarves, or men, each succeeding age had fewer wonders that the last. Gondor could build no tower to match Orthanc.
JMG: “It didn’t require any kind of conscious conspiracy to product that outcome, by the way, simply a lot of individual choices on the part of the people in charge of technological systems to encourage dependence in order to boost quarterly profits.”
Couple that with how we each engage with tech and the world – we are a part of our own enchantment – adding ever more devices that act as interfaces between us and the world – then those interfaces get to decide how and what we see of the world and the more that happens the thicker the fog gets.
The first smart phone was around 2007? A lot has happened in the last thirteen years.
Of course, while the hoi polloi are busy on their devices, there is this from J P Morgan (?):
“Millionaires don’t use Astrology, billionaires do.”
The shift you describe here sounds very much like your narrative of the binding of the world by the Radiance. I’m assuming then, that this thesis of yours is not a new one.
The possibility makes me both sad and hopeful: sad that we’ve lost that richness; hopeful that, at some point anyway, it might be regained.
You don’t mention it here, but the apparent correlation between the efficacy of magic and the era a civilization is passing through brought to mind for me the schema of the ages of the Unicorn, Phoenix, and Dragon that you described in a post on The Well of Galabes. Is it possible that something about a civilization’s Dragon Age suppresses the effectiveness of magic in that civilization?
Re. “Because it’s 2015.”…the absurdity of this has been mocked for well over a century:
“An imbecile habit has arisen in modern controversy of saying
that such and such a creed can be held in one age but cannot
be held in another. Some dogma, we are told, was credible in the
twelfth century, but is not credible in the twentieth.
You might as well say that a certain philosophy can be believed on Mondays,
but cannot be believed on Tuesdays. You might as well say of
a view of the cosmos that it was suitable to half-past three,
but not suitable to half-past four. What a man can believe depends
upon his philosophy, not upon the clock or the century.” -G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy-
Regarding your larger theme, it seems there’s something inherent in civilization itself which causes the spirits to withdraw. Maybe it smells bad?
Some of the kids books authors are beginning to take note that progress ain’t all its cracked up to be, as in this story: Rabbit & Bear: A Bite in the Night by Julian Gough.
“When Castor, a beaver, uses Rabbit and Bear’s favorite trees to build a dam that will flood their valley, they help him see that there is more to life than progress.”
Lots to meditate on in your current article. Thanks for clearing some more brush from the path so that we may talk about this subject.
Now this is very interesting. An ex-friend of mine (Thelemic mage and Hindu shaivite both) spent a lot of time on the question of why magic can do things in some places and times and not in others. We came to a set of tentative conclusions which I won’t put here, but one thing is that what’s possible depends a lot on where you are. North America is particular rigid, as it happens. Even to this day things still happen in India and Africa that don’t seem possible to do in America and Europe. In fact, if you try to do them (and sometimes partially succeed) you often get walloped upside the head, hard. There seems to be something active preventing and even punishing the more “materialist reality” breaking magics.
That said, even with those limits, stuff that won’t work in a secular setting often will work in a setting where you make sure only people who believe are there. I’ve heard credible accounts of actual shapeshifting, for example. And even if you’re a skeptic, if you’re surrounded by non skeptics, well, your skepticism may take a hit as some of the more rigid laws loosen.
There does seem to have been some extra mojo behind the secular metaphysic, however, and what that is is an interesting question. Part of it probably, simply is that the people who created materialism, science and the British Empire and America were, in fact, very powerful magicians themselves, whose rituals worked. They wanted a new type of magic, a reliable technology and science, one which would also enable empires. They got it. A lot of people paid the price for that and I’m personally not sure it was worth it, much as I love much modern technology.
(Shorter version: I suspect the Boxers magic worked against bullets in their tests, then failed when they tried it in open rebellion. Oops.)
I find this all quite fascinating! It makes a lot of sense. I appreciate introducing me to Deloria’s works. I have heard stories/read somewhere but can’t remember where about Haitians being able to cause bullets to bounce off of their bodies during their fighting for independence against the French. I’ve been fascinated by the idea of that but haven’t had the time to have been able to track any sources down. Instinctively I do believe we have more power than we can imagine, and of course the rulers would not want us knowing about them as they would certainly be a threat to their rule.
The Gospel of Consumption
Business leaders were less than enthusiastic about the prospect of a society no longer centered on the production of goods. For them, the new “labor-saving” machinery presented not a vision of liberation but a threat to their position at the center of power. John E. Edgerton, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, typified their response when he declared: “I am for everything that will make work happier but against everything that will further subordinate its importance. The emphasis should be put on work — more work and better work.” “Nothing,” he claimed, “breeds radicalism more than unhappiness unless it is leisure.”
Back in the 80’s when I was still a student in engineering I read Morris Berman’s Book the “Reenchantment of the World.” It effected my engineering thinking greatly at the time, but it was a long time ago and I don’t remember it very well. If you know the book , does it bring much to the discussion of this topic?
This post is motivating me to study magic more than almost anything else you posted. The idea of losing something we once had I find so sad. What’s stopped me before is being seen as weird ….. ok, weird-er ….. and getting swept up in something that I don’t know the full consequences of.
Years ago I went to a presentation by the head of the PA German Society who had translated an original pow-wow manuscript. While what he shared was interesting, what was amazing was the audience of 65 year old plus people sharing stories of practices their grandparents did. I wish I had an audio recording of it. It was clear that their ancestors who lived in the mid-1800’s were more in-tune with the world than I was and am. The John George Hohman book published in 1813 points to a lot of healing miracles.
I’m assuming from this post too that practicing magic isn’t about “getting something for myself.” I know a lot of people who do various forms of meditation and it just sounds so prescriptive – do X minutes, get Y result. Feels like stereotypical Catholic confession – say 5 Hail Mary’s you’re good to go!
What else can someone expect when practicing? I’m curious what is motivating others, or what people find in the process.
I am struck, forcefully, by a notion that I need to reread Frank Herbert’s *The Dosadi Experiment*, where the creators of an artificial and brutal world ruled with algorithms are put on trial under the law code of their species, whose central tenet is all Life is change and so the law must constantly change too. Coincidentally, the law givers and the creators of the world of Dosadi are Gowachin, essentially anthropomorphic frogs.
As talismanic magic based on the Picatrix and Agrippa (among other texts) is resurrected, it will be interesting to see what happens in terms of lived experiences and observed effects. As a translator of the Picatrix, you know of the miracles described therein. A lot of people in the last decade or so have been experimenting with astrological talismans and seeing consistent results.
Your essay reminds me of the common put down for this or that political/economic/social plan as “magical thinking”.
If the efficacy of magic can increase or decrease with historical cycles, can it be that the iteration of complex civilization, the particular cultural forms, ideas, lifeways, and overall identity of each individual culture throughout history, is in itself a specific magical working that has among its participants the vast majority of the population, even if they themselves are not aware of it? If so, this would take up a massive amount of magical energy and focus in just one specific magical working, and therefore other magical practice would not have as much efficacy, even if it complements the workings of the civilization in which it is based. As a civilization declines, this magical energy would dissipate and would thus allow other workings to regain more efficacy, because individuals are no longer wrapped up in magical working of the declining civilization.
I am probably way in left field with this one but it was the immediate thought I had to the waxing and waning of magic.
Hearing about Max Weber’s view that the ideology of disenchantment that dominates the world right now grew out of Calvinism reminds me of Mencius Moldbug’s work, where he insists that all religious/political views should be classified phylogenetically – i.e. based on what they evolved out of and not whether some features have disappeared over the centuries.
That’s how he came to his conclusion that the religion that most of the PMC belongs to is a “non-theistic sect,” specifically an “ultra-Calvinist” one, which later inspired his musings about “the Cathedral.”
IIRC, the Druid Revival in 18th century Britain drew a lot more people from the Anglican side of things than the Puritan/Calvinist side, which in Moldbug’s classification would make Druidry into a polytheistic Anglo-Catholic sect. And then are this blog’s denunciations of the PMC just a continuation of the old struggle between the Cavaliers and the Roundheads?
That may be stretching it a bit too much, but I do think Weber was onto something important. For a while I have been suspicious that the Magian worldview reaches its natural conclusion in atheism; this is because trying to jam the true complexity of human religious experience into the mold of the One True God providing his chosen people with some source of infallible authority – be it a book, a tradition, a man, a group of men, or whatever – produces expectations that are so incongruent with the reality that, in the end, lots and lots of people just give up on religion entirely.
Protestantism started out as an attempt to reform a religious tradition whose overconfidence in human authorities was causing trouble – “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul into heaven springs!” and all that. Then, like rationalistic reforms generally do, it ended up running into its own problems – if the Bible has replaced church tradition as the infallible authority source, then your movement will inevitably do things like
1) Endure endless fractile divisions when people disagree about what the Bible really means and
2) Lose its brightest and most inquiring young minds by forcing them to choose between religion and science.
Anyhow, that’s probably enough for one comment. I am finding your talk about “Uranian Religions” more and more appealing!
The vigorous discussions over at Magic Monday show how hungry people are
for something that will explain various strange events they’ve experienced, or
just simply add luminosity to their ordinary lives. The waning and waxing of
enchantment in the world you mention may simply be the result of natural
(is that the right word?) cycles much like the precession of earth’s rotational axis
or the far less understood solar cycles such as the coming and goings of
On a related note, the appeal of Steam Punk taps into the desire to pull our much vaunted
technology back to a more human level. The sight of a clock-work automaton
going through its motions, gears spinning is infinitely more magical than any lap-top
with all of its flickering icons or a ‘smart-phone’ with all of its allegedly helpful
apps all which any of us could do if we just made the effort to train our brains a little.
Yup, I’ve got an app for that. It’s stored between my ears along with all the others.
Something else that came to me as I was reflecting on your essay was the shift from worshipping and engaging in a relationship with deities (conscious beings) to the worship of abstractions, the latter of which present an irresistible invitation to manipulate the masses. He who controls the definition of the abstraction controls the people who worship that abstraction. The worship of actual gods presents no such opportunity…
It’s interesting to note that the eras of less magic seem to reliably correlate with rationalisms; while the eras of more magic seem to be the intervals between. I wonder if this is because the physical plane itself has an oscillating rhythm to it: sometimes rising to higher planes, and sometimes descending away from them. If so, then it would drag every human being down with it, which would seem to fit.
Maybe some of the answers can be found in this article which coincidentially (yes, I know, there is no such thing) appeared just a few days ago.
Stimulating essay, thank you.
Violet writes about the ‘cosmic sap’ which we have to work with, rising or falling at different seasons: this is parelleled among Sufis, who refer to the necessity of ‘waiting for the invisible wave of possibility to break upon the Unseen shore.’ No wave breaking, nothing doing…..
As for the Protestant work ethic, I have known very Orthodox Jews who would say of someone; ‘He is rich, his business prospers, so God loves him.’
I recall one businessman, who later screwed up in a very big way, who every year had to buy his wife a fine jewel, which she would then show to her parents -in Switzerland – as proof of his piety and business acumen.
Perhaps much of this “esoteric communication” is simply being shouted out by modern tech. Consider the sheer amount of screen time commanding your attention on an hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute basis. Maybe the ancient’s enhanced communication with alternate realms had something to do with boredom or lack of distraction??
Such a perceptive post, as always. Funny I happened to listen to an audio version of Dune last week. Got me thinking how creations like Dune affect the zeitgeist – there is so much recognizable material about our times in Dune – the endless feint within a feint within a feint, for example.
I tend to think we humans try to make for ourselves bubbles of predictability in the midst of the unfathomable mystery that is not conceivable with the hardware we come installed with. We filter off any signs of the big unknown as well as we can. And when we are succesful, magic wanes, synchronicity goes useless. But bubbles have their life-cycles, and when predictability wanes, we need different skills and tools. But our current culture is especially ill equipped to reorientation, as we seem to have decided there is nothing outside the pancake of our own world-view. So it is a form of current disenchantment magic that we have to play our games inside the boundaries of the pancake – that way all will be safe and predictable. Playing as if the greater did not exist is one of the hard and fast rules our culture has enforced, and maybe this is one of the keys of its success. Maybe it will also be the key to its failure.
Having a bigger frame of reference like Native Americans had, and an entire culture to uphold it – that would be a resilient vehicle for consciousness in the turns of the time-currents. But a frisbee-pancake of our culture cut right through it. Crippled the magic and scattered the culture. But now the wheels of time are turning again and our pancake culture is sinking. And we scramble to get ahold of any fragments that can help us to keep afloat. Great time for re-enchantment.
Meditates (offlist), if you’ll read the text above the reply window, it begins: “Courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the current post are welcome…” (Emphasis added.) If you want to make an off topic comment please save it for the next open post! It takes a certain amount of forbearance on everyone’s part to keep this from degenerating into a venue for casual chitchat; thank you for helping with that.
Katherine, it’s one of the possibilities worth exploring.
Violet, you and Katherine must have been comparing notes; that sounds like something straight out of Spengler, with some Steiner thrown in for seasoning. Mind you, it’s an interesting hypothesis.
Phil K, that’s certainly one of the possibilities I’m looking into.
Yorkshire, yep. Marxism is very much an offshoot of Calvinism, culturally and esthetically speaking.
Another idea for why magic today seems not to be anymore what it once was is, that, maybe, cultures and civilizations have egregores, and some of them are conducive to magic, and some of them are antagonistic for magic. But even in regions of the Earth where tribal cultures live, magic isn’t omnipotent, as the fact shows, that the cargo cults in Melanesia didn’t achieve what their believers hoped for.
Well, that’s a lot of complex thoughts packed into one essay! I mean that as a compliment, in case it wasn’t clear.
Years ago we discussed on this blog the claims by many Christians in Africa and South America to have worked or witnessed miracles, and the much rarer claims in industrialized countries. Maybe there is a connection there, too, in which case the decline would be spatially inhomogeneous.
The religion of progress is as unsatisfying as magic proved to be in its heyday – only because homo sapiens sapiens‘ brain is an yin-yang dynamo or, in more common terms, a permanent discontent generator.
Everything will come to pass
Magic will return
and then subside
Oh, and another obvious criticism of Max Weber’s model, at least if one interprets Calvinism as a necessary condition for capitalism: the worldwide Lebanese and Chinese diaspora seem to be at least as hardworking as any Briton or Yankee.
This may tie in with the distinction between market economy and capitalism: China around the Yangtse delta, and Gujarat in India, had more efficient markets than Great Britain around 1800, but didn’t become industrialized, capitalist, imperialist economies because the gains were spread around widely instead of accumulating in the hands of monopolists.
Fascinating essay, fascinating subject.
I notice you don’ reference Charles Taylor on secularism: are you familiar with his work?
I read reviews of Josephson-Storm’s book, and it’s on my “to-buy” list, though not yet purchased, so apologies if I haven’t fully understood his argument. But it seems to me there’s a difference between a society which is structured around the idea of enchantment, according to ways that everyone accepts, and a society in which individuals seek the idea of enchantment personally or in small groups, and in a disconnected and even conflictual fashion. Weber was interested in social structures and processes, and I have always seen his argument as one about the change in the base assumptions and organising systems of society. And I think (and I read more about Calvinism when I was younger than I now care to remember) that he’s observably right that the move from a mediated world of saints, fairies, shape-shifting humans, witches etc. to one which didn’t just disapprove of such ideas (as the Catholic Church had done) but actively scorned them, was quite fundamental.
What we lack today is a common language of enchantment, and those languages that we do have divide us rather than bring us together. Between your militant paganism, my tepid interest in the I Ching and his or her watered-down New Age yoga, there’s very little that we share. As Chesterton said, the people stop believing in religion they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in anything.
In England a hundred and fifty years ago, people in Britain, and especially in the remote areas, sang songs and told stories about animals that spoke and prophesied fates, humans who changed into wolves, hares and birds, and old women who could cast love-spell, among many others.Whether these things were “believed” and in what sense, it’s hard to say, but to some extent, they were, and they made up a consistent world view. Fifty years ago, when I sang and played traditional music, I even then had to explain to audiences what these old traditions were, and how to understand the songs. That’s the sense in which the world has been disenchanted
I’d have to check, but it seems like the major flowering of rationalisms tends to correspond to the changing of astrological ages: certainly that was true of Roman rationalism around the start of the Age of Pisces, and modern rationalism around the beginning of the Age of Aquarius. (Similarly, Egypt seemed to have had a Golden Age during the Fourth Dynasty, a couple of centuries before the beginning of the Age of Aries; if that corresponds to the Renaissance, then a rationalist period may have followed in the following centuries; seems worth looking into).
So maybe the astral light reaches a zenith during the middle of an age, and a nadir at the end? Perhaps human consciousness turns increasingly to material concerns in response.
I think there really is a disenchantment at work. Some of the historical forces sketched out here, in regards to Calvinism, and the broader Protestant milieu, make me wonder, if some form of magic got out of hand during the reformation. Some magic aimed at the Catholic Church may have backfired on the Protestants. Because while I do know there are some potent religious elements in Protestantism -in different strains anyway that came out of the break from Catholicism- in many ways as the various flavors of that movement continued to be watered down, it came to be, what in my mind is just moralism, without much religious experience.
The basic protestant church service of just some hymns -and now some very bad hymns, complete with casio pop keyboard arrangement in the style of Britney Spears- lacks a punch. There is the music, and there is the teaching of some moralisms with a book to back them up, chapter and verse. Without the liturgy what is there left? Hence kind of empty (to me) if you can figure out how to not be a jerk without their help.
But some of the broadly Protestant movements do have some punch if they kept any kind of their spiritual practices: Quakers sitting in fellowship in silence, for instance. The Moravian ministers of yore with their Rosicrucian members, still had some magic in it. But I do wonder if there was any magic aimed at the Catholic church in time of the reformation, and the backwash left a lot of protestant denominations void of anything after a time. I know other historical forces were also at work and I’m painting this with a broad stroke.
Then once some of those denominations reach American soil, you get fun sects that do have some magic creeping in, various Baptist groups who are handling snakes and speaking in tongues. The wild genius loci of the mountains slipping in like a serpent among the congregation. Pow wow and the Rosicrucian groups still have echoes with the old barn hexes in PA, etc. The Independent Sacramental Movement, etc. Wandering Bishops descended from exiled Jacobites. Gnostic Christians living the Gnosis, communion with Sophia, doing lectio divina with the Gospel of Mary Magdalene.
But the more that some of the protestant denominations want to mimic the culture at large the more of the power of what spiritual connections they had is lost. Then you have to go and look for those groups that are somewhere in the gaps of American life. & perhaps this is why I see, at least, the home church movement to be where some of the real spirit of Christianity is left in this country. The big box churches serve a prepackaged religion of convenience. Some of the people in a home church group in my neighborhood are really grappling with the idea of living apart as Christians from the dominant culture, while living in community. An experience that is not about convenience at all.
Just some afternoon tea thoughts.
I really enjoyed this. I normally do enjoy your entries but some matter more than others. I have read that Calvinism also spawned positivity. Calvin’s children were constantly to search themselves for any signs of sin in the same way that positivity demands we search into ourselves for any signs of negativity.
Clay Dennis, I thought I had your book – Re-enchantment of the world – but mine is – The re-enchantment of everyday life – which I have been thinking of reading again anyway.
Stimulating post JMG!
I find myself partial to the ideas thrown out by Violet and your excellent subscribers of there seeming to be a natural ebb and flow of the real and magical world, like two poles of a magnet, and how that ties in with the malign enchantment we face today.
It seems like there’s this conversion of magical possibility to physical world completion, like the out breath of air down from kether to malkuth followed by the retraction/dissolution in breath back up. You’ve mentioned in the discussion on the cosmic doctrine, where the Solar Logos sends out waves of spirit atoms which then journey back. Is it possible that both the Astrological Age and the life cycle of the great civilizations of each era are microcosms of that greater macrocosmic cycle?
What also comes to mind is how your analysis of peak oil carries over to here. At the beginning of any development, resources (or in this case the spiritual energy of an age) is unformed but easily tapped into by entities with their ears to the ground. Over the age, this energy is converted into religions, miracles, spiritual encounters, civilizations, the changes in the natural world etc and becomes ossified, not to mention the externalities created by all that movement! As a result the energy gets depleted and concretized into different structures, thus making it harder for humans to link to the lesser available flows which comes out as the decline in spirituality, art and civilization much as Spengler points out.
“Some of the kids books authors are beginning to take note that progress ain’t all its cracked up to be, as in this story: Rabbit & Bear: A Bite in the Night by Julian Gough.
“When Castor, a beaver, uses Rabbit and Bear’s favorite trees to build a dam that will flood their valley, they help him see that there is more to life than progress.”
I’m really sorry it took this form though. Kids will think beavers are destructive when in fact they are a keynote species, creating more life not less. They create meadows, not destroy them, and the deeper water they create along with the meadows give rise to rest for migrating large birds, berries, foxes, ducks, bigger and more fish, and many other animals and plants.
To speak to Ian’s point above, albeit from a very different religious and cultural background: I grew up at the intersection of the Charismatic and Pentecostal branches of Christianity, and it was common knowledge in those circles that miracles, prophecies, and others of the more dramatic manifestations of the Holy Spirit were simply stronger and more frequent outside of the West. If you wanted to see a real miracle, on the order of a major healing or a dead person being raised to life, say, then you had to go to Africa, Asia, or Latin America. The Holy Spirit hadn’t abandoned North America, Europe, and Australia, agreed the Christian leaders of my youth, but He was restricted to more humble workings by a lack of faith and radical devotion on the part of comfortable, polite Western followers of Jesus. When I spent some time in the Roman Catholic Church in my twenties, I noticed that a similar belief prevailed there: if you wanted to see the Virgin Mary or have the Eucharist bleed in your hand, you usually had to get outside of the Western world. I’m not sure what to make of all that, but I wanted to offer it as another data point in support of the direction that Ian’s thoughts were heading. I wonder if the waxing and waning of Magic is less temporal and more civilization-dependent?
I wonder if the loss of enchantment and accompanying limited magical ability has to do with critical mass. I might even call it the Tinkerbell theory. If enough believe that magic works, their minds are open to it, then magic works and can be powerful. If, however, enough people are far enough down the road of mechanistic materialism, then it no longer does or at least is much less effective. Requiring far greater effort on the part of the mage.
A second reason might be one you have pointed to on many occasions over on the other blog – that magic isn’t whatever you want it to be. So if, for example, you’re hexing some orange dude and he routinely fails to fall over, then you might well get dispirited (appropriate word, wouldn‘t you say?) and start to lose faith in magic altogether, and if that starts to happen to enough people then we’re back to The Tinkerbell theory.
@Onething: Good point. I hear you! One of my most memorable wilderness experiences was hiking in Lake Superior Provincial Park with my boyscout troop on a backpacking trip and we had to make a huge detour around an area of the trail flooded by dams. I hadn’t thought of this book that way, … just that it was denouncing “progress”. I enjoyed the detour. It really showed me that sometimes in life you have to make a detour, go around something, get there another way.
Anyway, I hope you are having a good day.
The idea that magic comes and goes is rejected by our current “common sense” but it remains hidden in a lot of narratives really popular like The Lord of the Rings (where magic is fading) or Game of Thrones (where magic is returning). And how many thousands of tales began with a main character (usually young) bored of its normal and “approved” way of life discovering that magic really exists… Maybe our engrained “narratives” could be a clue in you research.
Aidan, no center of political, economic, or cultural power is ever value-free; it always values the maintenance and increase of its own power above all else.
Ip, hmm! That’s a very good point.
Pvguy, indeed they did. Tolkien’s point was a little different from Anderson’s and Niven’s, though. They had specific mechanisms; he was riffing off the classic Indo-European vision of history as a process of decline, in which all the greatest things are done in the earliest ages.
Woods, of course. Yes, that was J.P. Morgan himself — he consulted with Evangeline Adams, one of the great astrologers of her time, and credited her advice for much of his success.
David BTL, the Radiance and the desecration of the seven temples was a very deliberate way to talk about this, using the language of fantasy fiction. I do that kind of thing a lot. 😉
Roy, we’ll be talking about that as the discussion proceeds. Yes, that taxonomy is also involved here.
RPC, excellent! Yes, among other proofs of Chesterton’s claim, blind faith in progress was just as silly in his time as it is in ours. (And yes, civilization smells bad, though I’m not sure that’s the issue.)
Justin, fair enough, but what is poor Castor going to eat?
Ian, all these are important points. Apparently, though, if Vine Deloria is right, medicine people even in private events surrounded by believers can’t do some of the things they did in precontact times. So we’re talking about regional and group effects that modify a broader trend. As for the mages that created the modern world, that could be a very important issue.
Ifateyo, fascinating. If you can trace down those Haitian accounts, please do post a link here! That would be a very useful set of data points.
Woods, fascinating. Thanks for this.
Clay, I hated that book — and that’s not something I say of many things. Berman spent chapters building up a strong case for the importance of magic, and then crumpled in the last chapter, insisting that well, of course we can’t actually believe in magic and spirits and gods, after all, and here’s a bunch of lame partial substitutes dragged up from the avant-garde thought of the time that we should do instead, so we can still be properly modern and up-to-date and fashionable. I have rarely seen a more abject display of sheer intellectual cowardice. I’ll give it credit for one thing — that was the book that convinced me to go whole hog into the study of good honest old-fashioned occultism, and to blazes with all modern and up-to-date and fashionable drivel.
Denis, good. If you’ve already realized that magic is not about gimme-gimme-gimme, you’re doing well. What you can expect when practicing magic is, first, a passport into a much larger and more richly inhabited world, and the capacity to participate in the flows of living power in and through the larger world. You can also expect a whale of a lot of hard work, and some degree of loneliness as you realize that most of the people around you couldn’t care less about the great adventure of your life. It’s a long strange trip, and it becomes more and more splendid the further you go.
Buzzy, so now we know Pepe’s species!
Jeffrey, I know. I’ve used Picatrix methods myself, of course, and they work very well. I’ll be interesting to see what comes of it all.
Raymond, oh, I know — and the irony is that most of what passes for rational thinking among those who use that phrase would be rejected as obvious nonsense by any reasonably well trained mage…
Dan, I don’t think you’re in left field at all.
Wesley, Moldbug’s notion has its limitations but it points up some useful things. The Druid Revival took part of its lineage from Broad Church Anglicanism and part of its lineage from the more individualistic end of the Protestant Reformation — Iolo Morganwg was the author of something like half the hymns in the hymnal that Welsh Unitarians still use, for example. As for Weber, of course he was on to something, but I think he misunderstood its nature.
Jeanne, two solid points!
David, oh, the worship of actual gods can also be manipulated, once you figure out how to convince people that they have to listen to a hierarchy to find out what the gods want. Personal contact with the gods is another matter, of course!
Kevin, I tend to think that rationalisms spring up when magic declines, because it then becomes possible for people to fool themselves into thinking that the universe makes rational sense!
MichaelR, thanks for this. Please don’t show that article to Bill Gates; he doesn’t need the encouragement!
Xabier, the fact that the Protestant work ethic came from Calvinism in no way prohibits other work ethics from coming from other sources…
Leondarrell, fair enough. How would you account for the fact that people in the late Middle Ages, who had a little difficulty accessing the internet, reported the decline of magic already? I don’t mean this as a rhetorical question, btw.
Octopus, maybe that’s the nature of it.
A phenomenal and thought-provoking post indeed – thank you 🙂
The internet has produced some prime platforms for the further proliferation of so much spoon-fed “information” (read: cr*p), that people just don’t take the time to think about what they’ve read, and the legitimacy of the source; as well as being drawn in to the drama of the story.
Oh wait a minute… perhaps they haven’t actually taken time to read anything at all, and after two or more hours, they’ve just been paying attention to “5 Steps to…” and “8 Things you should know about…” and blah blah… or they’ve just been exercising their thumbs by scrolling!
I’m seeing that dependence on technology, and specifically virtual “reality”, as an agenda for further “dumbing” down, and hence astral and mental control, of those who partake / subscribe.
This would exactly explain the type of thoughts, and thought patterns produced, and what you’ve suggested.
Mindfulness, meditation, reflection and critical thinking is just not encouraged, so people have stopped “thinking”, and even creatively problem-solving, in the way that we know these actions to be.
Another correlation is the habitual and addictive factor. What will someone post / have to do next to up the ante and get more “likes”, views, comments etc; which, with specific advertising and marketing algorithms, requires greater “virtual presence” / time spent on the platform.
This is of course further encouraging and creating greater identification with the conditioned, ego-self.
Regarding your second last paragraph, and in light of the above, I wouldn’t say that there is an “erasure of occultism” (or shall I say, I refuse to entertain that thought!)… more like a shift of focus.
Humans have merely forgotten and have become lazy… their “minds” are becoming atrophied simply via lack of knowing how to make full use of their (higher) faculties, and what that actually entails.
They’ve forgotten how to (and/or don’t make time to, and due to the techno “advancements” you’ve suggested) “properly” think; daydream, imagine and visualize; grasp those best thoughts, ideas and visions presented, and bring them to life (manifest / create). “Advancement” / progression… the irony indeed.
Perhaps this presents an opportunity for us.
Whilst those specific “powers that be” / parties / groups etc, with their agendas, are intent on distracting the masses, there is a chance for us to focus unimpeded and produce even greater “work” behind the scenes 😉 (for the moment at least).
To use our lovely and wise Dion Fortune’s term, “tracks in space and time”… perhaps new ones are being created right this moment for the Great Mystery to unfold in even greater and unknown ways.
Waves of sparkly stars and love ~ •
I should start an academic discipline inspired by your ideas called Critical Technology Studies!
I’ve long thought that Calvinism is what you get when you take the belief in an omniscient, omnipotent God to its logical conclusion. I mean that in the same way that Auschwitz is what you get when you take industrialism to its logical conclusion. In other words, it’s not a compliment.
I’m not sure what to make of the suggestion that magic has become less powerful than it used to be. Maybe people were indeed better at “causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will,” but I simply don’t buy that once upon a time, mages could cast a spell and make pigs fly. (Okay, I know you didn’t say anything about flying pigs, but you get what I mean.) I wonder if literacy plays a role. Have you read _Orality and Literacy_ by Walter Ong? He argues that in oral cultures, if you want something (anything) to be remembered, you have to make it, well, memorable (and hence formulaic and somewhat spectacular). Once you have literacy (and no longer need to rely on human memory to the same extent), you can, for example, write novels about fairly ordinary people, their psychology, etc. My point is that perhaps in times of low literacy, people would just exaggerate accomplishments of mages in order to make them more memorable. And then once you have widespread literacy, you can describe in detail what actually happened (to the best of your understanding), taking care not to exaggerate anything. And then people would read your non-exaggerated description, compare it to earlier (exaggerated) descriptions, and conclude that there’s been a decline. (Yes, of course, those earlier descriptions were also made by literate people, but those people lived in an essentially oral culture, and they played by its rules.)
Reading this led to an unusual thought – the medicalisation of childbirth. There has been a backlash against this (and a medical backlash against the backlash in my country).
For some odd reason there was a childhood memory. I met the doctor who claimed to have delivered me (as he did almost all the babies in my locality). I saw my mother bristle at his words. Once we were out the door she said “Doctors don’t deliver babies, women do. And he didn’t even turn up until two hours after you were born.”
Apologies if this tangent has no bearing on the subject matter.
> It didn’t require any kind of conscious conspiracy to product that outcome.
I’m assuming you meant ‘produce’ here, but given how much modern tech is entirely devoted with selling the consumer as the product (to other companies), that has got to be one of the best Freudian slips I’ve ever read.
And if it is deliberate, well done sir!
Thank you for your encouragement. I’m off to pick up my copy of The Discarded Image now. Need to order your other books mentioned last week in response to another commenter.
If there was anything I wanted to get out of magical practice is some clarity and peace. The racial and social upheaval isn’t going to just fade away like its done in the past if I’m to believe social media. People keep repeating to “stay angry,” “never lose the capacity for outrage,” “demand justice,” and then told to “say their names.” It’s spread among middle class middle age women now. I just shake my head wondering at how fast this snapped into place in the culture.
I know a fair number of people who will admit, in proper company, to hearing their god. To admit to this in front of the improper company, however, in the USA, will get one labeled schizophrenic, drugged, one’s children taken by the state, etc.
For a great many, then, the only wise response is to be silent, until you know for sure and certain you are in the proper company. Or until you have reached the point you have nothing to lose.
Meanwhile other folks beg for a word and get no response.
Perhaps part of the dearth of miracles is the danger of them. Do you dare ask for a miracle if it will cost you all you care about if you get it? Really ask? Maybe that’s why healings of children are what I hear of most in the miraculous vein these days. And then society says ‘well obviously, what the doctors did, worked.’
Another version of this, I think is dispensationalism – I associate that with Baptists but my memory may be off. At its core an explanation for why the old testament had so many instances of interactions with the deity in time, but not ant longer.
You’ve certainly hit the nail on the head in relation to technology and power. I could give you numerous examples from IT but one will suffice.
I was working for a consultancy at the time. We were called in to a large corporate to do some work. Problem was, nobody really knew what we were supposed to do because the clients didn’t know themselves. By coincidence, a bloke I knew from the industry was already there. He was a smart pragmatist who had told them they didn’t need a complex system and that a handful of simple off-the-shelf tools would give them 95% of the functionality they required. He was right but he was shoved aside and a team of consultants (us) was brought in to build…something. The manager in charge of the project still stands out in my mind as one of the dumbest people I have ever met, but she spoke with great confidence and authority (she was like a female version of Charlie Chaplin’s Hitler in The Great Dictator).
Anyway, long story short, we built the something: an absurdly complex piece of software was of very little value but whose complexity impressed the higher-ups in the organisation so much that they gave the manager in question a promotion. I believe she is now one of the top managers in that corporation.
Not really about disenchantment, but:
Here’s a (Jung’s theory of?) synchronicity story you may enjoy, maybe akin to the one about the Zener cards.
C. 50 years ago, each year a carnival would be held near my home, at which there would be a Cigarette Game, in which the brass would roll an eight-sided die, each side with a different color.
The booth would have many circles, each with one of the eight colors, such that, if you put a pack of cigs on, say, the Blue circle, and if the roll of the die produced a result of Blue, you won a carton.
Somehow, I got into the habit of only placing a bet (on Blue), after the *prior* die roll had produced a Blue.
To my recollection, *every* time I deployed that “system”, I won a carton.
So, every time I went to that carnival, I came home with an armful of cartons of cigs.
Since that experience, I’ve never seriously considered quitting cigs, tho for decades I’ve been consuming Nat Sherman Naturals, which (you guessed it) have always come in *blue* boxes.
The point is, not to tout cigs with blue boxes, but to wager that there’s some sort of charm (for me, anyway) about Blue.
(Tho, I’m almost certain, I’ve never owned a Blue auto.
The “irrational” side of me suspects, that if I ever get a blue auto, the karma of me and Blue will either make my *very good* life even better, or lead to my demise.)
ha-ha I opened up my copy of The Discarded Image and out comes an index card on which I wrote this quote “The mass media which have in our time created a popular scientism, a caricature of the true sciences, did not exist then (the Middle Ages). The ignorant were more aware of their ignorance then than now.” Very prescient!
Have you heard the Trump administration has begun to subject diversity training and CRT to the Eye of Sauron?
I have mixed feelings about the idea. As the past two decades of conflict in the Greater Middle East show, fundamentalist ideologies are inflamed not diminished when put under direct persecution by the state.
On the other hand, I am rather fond of the idea of an American-style Gang of Four trial!
We’ll have to see if Trump is re-elected and hope a critical mass of non or anti-woke moderates/liberals/leftists speak out in the next four years (Hopefully the economy improves as well.).
A few not too related points but relating to the overall narrative here and in no particular order.
The Victorian era has always seemed to me to be the least Christian time in English history since the first missionaries arrived there. I believe IP is on to something with his/her observations.
I had never heard of the Protestant work ethic till I was about 27 and studying Australian History. For years I could make no sense of it till I read that all should work as hard as they can while they can, so that the needs of everyone can be met. That sounds reasonable to me.
I think Pvguy commented on decline. In archaeological digs the best pottery etc tends to be on the lowest levels. Interestingly enough my first dishwasher and microwave were the best I ever had. The more things change the more they stay the same.
John and fellow Ecosophians,
After reading through the comments in detail, I am struck with two thoughts.
The first is in regard to the discussion about the cyclical nature of the degree of connectedness/disconnectedness encountered in the world from things magical/spiritual. The Hindu concept of the Kalpas and the teachings about all of it’s various sub-cycles came to mind.
The second was a memory about a conversation with both of my grandmothers back in the 1970’s. My grandmother was a medicine elder in the Seneca Nation. I had asked her why things weren’t working the way they used to and why the outcomes of the ceremonies and traditional medicine ways weren’t helping any more. Her reply – the people have lost their hearts to the new ways and can’t see beyond what they’re being taught to believe. That the old traditional ways have been replaced with a watered down version of ‘white man’s religion’ which teaches them that the old ways were evil witchcraft. You can read what she was talking about by doing an online search for “The Code of Handsome Lake.”
My other grandmother was born in Ireland and raised in the ‘Old Ways of the Land.’ She said that basically the same pattern was repeated there.
Another thing about “irrational” aspects of modern life, this regarding the
“Lincoln–Kennedy coincidences urban legend” (as Wikipedia puts it).
The fact, that not *all* of those purported Lincoln–Kennedy coincidences turn out to survive real scrutiny, does not, in my judgement, justify the sneers that are hurled at those who are struck by the number of sharp coincidences.
Just for starters, the fact that the only two Johnsons to live in the White House, both got that privilege via murder of their predecessors (one entering 1861, the other 1961) is enough for me to hope, that those who get major party PoTUS nominations in 2060, don’t even consider naming any Johnson as a running mate!
Booklover, one potentially useful hypothesis and one important data point. Thank you.
Matthias, several people have mentioned that, and I think it’s an important point. Here’s the question: what might lead to such spatial variations?
A Kullervo, that’s one possibility, yes.
Matthias, as far as I know Weber didn’t consider Calvinism a necessary condition for every kind of economic activity that could be labeled “capitalism.” It occurs to me, though, that it might have been one of the necessary conditions for industrial capitalism.
1Wanderer, I’ve dipped into Taylor here and there but never really given him the kind of intensive reading that would be necessary to make sense of him. With regard to Weber’s argument, there’s a sense in which he’s correct, of course, but — as Josephson-Storm suggests — he, and more importantly the writers of the Frankfurt School who built on his ideas, overstated their case and concealed a prescriptive claim in descriptive language. As for the folk songs, to what extent was that just a replacement of one set of magical beliefs with another? There are plenty of places in the modern world where you could sing folk songs about UFOs and tarot cards, and everybody in the audience would know exactly what you meant…
Slithy Toves, hmm! That’s an intriguing possibility.
Justin, that’s another intriguing possibility.
JillN, that seems extremely likely, not least because the New Thought gospel (the source of those positive-thinking tropes) got started in New England, the region of the US most heavily influenced by Calvinism back in the day.
Andrew, hmm again! So, peak miracle — leading people to seek material ways to achieve their goals. That then leads to peak oil (or other material resources), leading people to seek spiritual ways to achieve their goals…
Ryan, many thanks for this. That’s an intriguing set of data points.
Reloaded15, I’m far from convinced that the Tinkerbell Theory works — a lot of people believed devoutly that something special was going to happen on December 21, 2012, as you may recall.
Esteban, a good point! Thank you.
Tanya, I think that’s part of it, but it’s not all of it. As Deloria’s book and various other items of evidence suggest, there really does seem to be a change in what magic can accomplish. It may not just be that people aren’t paying attention — it’s that there’s less of whatever-it-is. The points I’ve raised in the post suggest that this is a cyclic thing, and what decreased will increase again — but those variations strike me as very important.
Aidan, oog. Not if it has anything at all in common with critical theory! That is the most festering mass of shale yet inflicted by ideologists on the academy…
Irena, that’s the conventional wisdom on the subject. I want to explore the possibility that something else is going on.
SarahJ, it has everything to do with the theme of this post. Again, it’s the supposed “expert” trying to insert himself into an interaction, so as to control it and profit off it. Thank you for the example.
Daniel, Freud has a fine new slip to show off. 😉
Denis, the mere fact that they’re constantly telling each other to “stay angry” tells me that it’s starting to trickle away. This could get decorative…
BoysMom, thanks for this. That has to do with the second level of what I’m discussing — the suppression of magic and miracle. “We prefer to medicate,” et al.
Socal Rhino, interesting. Yes, that’s another example.
Simon, thank you for this. You’ve just explained, better than I ever could, why we’re on our way to a new dark age.
Mouse, funny. Yes, sometimes things work like that.
Denis, the book has spoken!
Aidan, all the Trump administration has to do is get the Federal government out of the student loan guarantee business, so that people who want a student loan have to prove to a bank that they’ve got some prospect of a job. Critical race theory will have vanished within a year.
JillN, historians have noticed that in Victorian times the poor and working classes were far worse off than they were under the Tudors or the Georges. As for the decline in quality, why, yes — the crapification of products is part of the stealth inflation that pervades today’s economy.
MichaelR, interesting. Many thanks for both of these.
Data on US Paranormal Beliefs, from 2018:
A really big factor I see in the waxing and waning of magic is the consolidations and dispersal of political power–how many tiers are there in the hierarchy?
People who confidently rely on magic or their personal relationship to divinity tend not to fit well into human hierarchies.
Hello Mr. Greer,
I have noticed that a similar theme seems to always pop up in literature. In Lord of the Rings the rings of power were made in ancient times, whereas in the present the magical elven beings are leaving and the age of man is dawning. Likewise, in a Song of Ice and Fire magic is in such decline that at the story’s beginning the intellectual class mostly rejects the existence of contemporary magic. In Harry Potter the founders of Hogwarts and Merlin are supposed to be categorically more powerful than any present wizards. H.P. Love Craft is another obvious example. Likewise, whenever giants are depicted in literature they are usually described as an ancient race that is now dying and inbred. Do you feel like the presentation of magic in literature describes the same kind of pattern that you are describing in history? One where the ancients had more powerful magic than the present?
The first was that Deloria noted that medicine people more recently don’t appear to be able to do the things their ancestors did. The second was that I and the other ceremonial magicians I’ve worked with can’t equal the feats Deloria records either.
The third is an apparent increase and decline in the efficacy of magical practices that seems to correlate to certain historical cycles.
I wanted to share some of my musings on what may be contributing to such declines as you mentioned in today’s essay.
I’ve come to the conclusion the kind of old-timey “magic” rituals working or any other kind of magic don’t have the power they did of old because 1. the internal geometry of most of the 7 billion people on this planet is no longer conducive easily for such results. 2. I’m going to give some background info that seems to digress from today’s topic but hoping to demonstrate why I think it fits today’s essay and some of the things you’ve got me pondering.
As an example of “old school powers” Sadhguru talked about Bruce Lee recently as an illustration. It seems Bruce Lee did a demonstration with a reporter back in the day of his martial arts skills. He kept his closed fist 3 inches from the reporter then all of a sudden – WHAM – the reporter was sent flying 9 feet backward and toppled into a swimming pool from Lee’s fist.
Lee himself apparently sucked at trying to explain what he was doing to produce such a result. Sadhguru said he could do this because he was deliberately using one of the powers of the Manipurika chakra. The thing is – yogis know that if you use this particular power in this way from the Manipurika you must stay seated. You can not move from your seat if you are using it this way or you will die fairly soon.
Sadhguru said there are a bunch of old-school Chinese movies that actually show it being used correctly by someone who wants to stay alive in their current body. Some old Daoist Master will be meditating, sitting on a rock in the mountains and a group of thugs shows up and starts harassing him and all the Master does is just look at them and they suddenly go flying backward as if a mighty invisible fist punched them up in the air and backward (like Lee’s demonstration). Such a power can be developed to an even greater degree than Lee demonstrated.
Now it was a fluke Lee died the way he did but Sadhguru said if it had not been that way (bee sting?) he would have died while still young anyway because there are consequences to using that Manipurika power while staying a normal, mobile person. I suppose it’s proof Lee didn’t really understand or know what kind of power he’d seemingly accidentally unlocked within himself and was drawing upon. Would he have continued to use that power if he’d known it was rapidly shortening his life? I guess we’ll never know.
Which gets me to why today’s essay made me think of it. Sadhguru says one of the hallmarks of these days is that on a planet of 7+ billion people there are exceedingly few people who will go the extraordinary distance without questioning their guru to do what is required for old-school miraculous things to happen. Constantly wanting to know the costs and benefits of a practice immediately closes them off from being a Kriya Yogi as an example because that branch requires enormous amounts of trust in what your guru is telling you to do without question. “If I tell you to sleep with both legs sticking up in the air all night don’t ask for an explanation as to why.” If you can’t do that and must have explanations first then your internal geometry is not going to be a good fit for Kriya and will cause a lot of problems down the road. That’s why gurus will often make a potential Kriya candidate wait a decade or more doing whatever the guru asks on a whim to see if he or she has what it takes to do something as directed without question.
One example was of the guru making a Kriya candidate be an ashram janitor who gets to see all the non-Kriya accolytes learning and doing awesome stuff – all while his guru keeps him stuck on doing janitor detail and nothing else for a decade or more with no teachings and no training. He’s testing to see if this candidate has what it takes to do what no one else will without questioning things. In today’s world that’s generally seen as a bad, gullable thing but he says for Kriya Yoga it’s essential. If you have to have something explained before doing it then being a Kriya Yogi or Yogini is not for you.
But to me it’s a path of the Magic-engineer as one way to put it. The one who wants to get their “hands dirty” and really learn at a level most don’t want or need. The constant desire for wanting things explained before doing a practice opens up some possibilities while shutting down others. I am guessing that may be part of what is contributing to the decline of seemingly greater accomplishments in magic. Sadhguru says of the 7+ billion people on this planet very, very few these days are cut out for old-school style Kriya Yoga. The things valued by today’s world economy and upper class societies isn’t conducive to the kinds of traits that are needed to be successful with it.
Also, I have considered that it also might just be a case that the bulk of the 7+ billion on this planet are quite young in terms of spiritual development and ripening toward such magic possibilities opening up again may still be many centuries away.
These quotes may well not be the non-sequitor that they may first appear to be in the context of the topic of this week’s essay:
“People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.”
― Edmund Burke
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
― George Santayana
“A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground. Then its finished; no matter how brave its warriors or how strong their weapons.”
― Cheyenne Proverb
I am agreed with you about there being big limitations to Moldbug’s worldview. (To begin with, he is an atheist/materialist, so it’s much drearier than yours). So while he casts a lot of aspersion on Calvinists and their spiritual descendants, he doesn’t lament the disenchantment of the world, he’s just irked at what irascible moral busybodies they are. Still, there is a place in my heart for anyone who can write things like: “You have been taught, from an early age, to hate democracy; but you have been to hate it under a different name. The name under which you have been taught to hate democracy is politics.”
As for whether the world genuinely had more magic (and religious experiences) in it a few centuries or millennia ago, I have to admit that is something I have wondered about too. I have, for example, read firsthand accounts of European explorers who met American Indians and described the things that their mages could do by the power of the Devil. And they weren’t exactly devilish things – the medicine men seemed to have real power over illnesses, and they led their tribes with fairness and magnanimity. The religious beliefs of the Europeans required them to give the credit to the Devil anyway, though it’s hard to think why they would have done so if they hadn’t seen things that were genuinely inexplicable through more ordinary means.
As Stalin once said, “How many divisions have they got?”.
Given your belief that the age of higher ed and Silicon Valley is finite, where do you think those people will find jobs in the coming decades?
Thank you for this timely post!
I have a few rambling thoughts in response.
I am in something of a dilemma at the moment. I run a business working in people’s gardens, and doing eco restoration work and the like. I am getting the strong sense that I need to buy a ‘smart’ phone in order to be able to expand my business (In particular I want one with a good camera, So I can show people what restored landscapes look like before and after, plus there are a few apps I feel will be very useful too). I have manged to get by with a ‘dumb’ phone till now. Though of course I’m very very very weary of how those things are used by the big tech corporations…
I have been reading some of the findhorn literature on nature spirits that you recommend, as well as Maggie Hamiltons’s ‘Inside the Secret life of Fairies’. It was so nice to be able to make sense of experiences I’ve had for so long (of nature spirits) but was unable to precisely describe.
I guess I have a sense I can wield the technology to heal the world, like how your work is disseminated via the internet!
When you talked about the magic appearing and coming back, I thought of that ‘Well of Galabes’ post you did on Vico. The Age of the Unicorn, the Phoenix and the Dragon, then the Unicorn again (certainly Dragons appear quite a bit in pop culture, much less so Phoenixes and Unicorns)…
To expand on the idea I proposed:
JMG, in the past you’ve mentioned the idea that the astral plane, especially in our civilization, is currently… I forget the exact wording you used, but “polluted” captures the idea.
It occurs to me that if you think of Earth as a lake in the flow of the astral light then your comments about the state of the astral plane and my idea of high and low flow periods of the astral light can be connected: we increase our rate of astral pollution at exactly the point where the flow is least able to wash it away.
As the water turns toxic, more and more people begin to see water as death rather than life, starting with those with the weakest constitutions but eventually becoming a society-wide taboo. Hydration is achieved through food instead of water, and some people even start disbelieving in a need for hydration and don’t realize they are getting it at all.
(That last part is actually the least strained part of the analogy: see this article about a raw vegan who thinks water is toxic and hydration is a myth.)
Eventually, the river’s flow returns and washes away the accumulated waste, and water returns to its revered status.
(This would also explain why banishings are so important right now: those who want to drink from the lake had better boil it first.)
I cannot source this, but I’ve heard reports that Western/Allopathic medicine ceases to work in places like Africa when Westerners leave. Many indigenous people have learned quite well how to use our medical methods, but apparently the methods need agents of the belief system/metaphysics that supports them to function.
If the suppression of magic is indeed a magical effect in itself, we should consider that we are surrounded by objects and systems that are products of a mechanical view of the universe. Most of our technology and social systems are built on the assumption that the universe and human life are purely physical and mechanical, regardless of what individual people might say the believe. Our roads are grids without a thought to the land, there are very few or no shrines to local spirits in our woods, and we treat illness like fixing a machine. Regardless of what I or anyone else believes, there is near constant reinforcement through daily life that magic and spirits are not immediate and practical realities of human life. Instead, they are something you tell people you trust about behind closed doors.
In terms of “representation” the products of mechanistic materialism far exceed magical aspects in most modern lives. I’ve heard deep back country hikers and hunts have stories of strong effects galore.
I like the idea of asking cui bono? There are winners and losers to this set up.
Kyriacos C. Markides has written three books on contemporary Athonite monks. There are stories in there of time dilation, talking with the recently dead on the telephone, and other things as well. I’m not certain that the distribution has so much to do with space (or time) as with which communities preserve traditional practices without a lot of interference from “the modern world”, as intimated by some above. The last Karmapa was reputed to have what one might call magical abilities. This brings to mind the distinction that has been discussed earlier with respect to the magical, religious and mystical paths. Athonite monks and the Karmapa would belong to the mystical and religious traditions. Their “magic” would seem to be a by-product of the mystical religious traditions, so also with Theresa of Ávila, the “Blue Nun”, St. Francis, not to mention some of the stories in Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, and so on. In other words, they weren’t going after the magic, but something else. The magic followed from that (though the last Karmapa seems to have been born with certain talents). If one makes the magical path central, then I don’t know what to say.
When I think of the enchantment of the world, I don’t think about magic. I think about gods, elementals, brownies, tree spirits, and so on. I think it preposterous that stories of such beings should have been told world-wide without basis in fact. But that today (most) children don’t think them real because to them real means material is what I mean by disenchantment. I think we have “involuted” to a point where it’s time to round the buoy and start going back the other way, regaining, I hope, knowledge of these aspects of our world as we go along.
(I hope this makes some sense). These days I think ‘glamour’ is a big part of contemporary anti-magic is going on (recalling the MM experiment sharp iron/steel object under the TV (and other devices) to disrupt its spell of glamour). This glamour interferes with connecting with the natural world and leads to the quagmire of despair disguised as bright shiny whiz-bang techno-progress in a materialistic ‘culture’. It brings to mind the magical Turkish Delight that the Queen of Narnia (the White Witch, Jadis) with which she enchanted Edmund (in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis); this enchanted Turkish Delight, while seductively sweet, never satisfies.
RE: diminishing magical power. Loss of knowledge has a role to play. In traditional cultures (Native American and others) the transfer of the knowledge of the old ways was forcefully interfered with by the powers-that-be. For those interested, the following books give a good idea about how this has played out among the Navajo over several decades: 1) A Navajo Legacy: The Life and Teachings of John Holiday by John Holiday (Author), Robert S. McPherson (Author), 2) Left Handed, son of Old Man Hat
a Navajo autobiography, and 3) Wolfkiller: Wisdom From a Nineteenth-Century Navajo Shepherd by Harvey Leake (Compiler), Louisa Wade Wetherill (Compiler).
One other thing – not related but related in a way – any suggestions on good books to learn speed-reading (and comprehending what is read)? I’m struggling to keep up here!
JMG – fascinating essay – thank you!
Anonymous, thanks for this! I’m impressed that all the beliefs they surveyed increased in popularity over a two-year-period — in the case of ancient civilizations, a more than 17% increase. I’d like to see variations in beliefs over a longer time frame, though.
KKA, the interesting thing there is that magic tends to flourish toward the bottom of the ladder when the hierarchy becomes too overbearing — for example, hoodoo’s two great golden ages in the South were during the eras of slavery and Jim Crow, when that was one of the few toolkits black people had for bettering their lot. Higher up the ladder, though, you’re quite right.
Stephen, yes, it’s extremely common in imaginative literature — and it’s worth exploring why that is.
Panda, thanks for this. One of the reasons you don’t get that kind of blind trust in gurus among Americans, of course, is that it’s been abused so badly so very many times.
MichaelR, are you suggesting these as themes for meditation? 😉
Wesley, that’s the kind of think I’m thinking of.
Aidan, good question. There may be a shortage of burger-flipping positions for them.
BB, a friend of mine has a smartphone that’s not connected to the internet. It will send and receive calls and texts, and takes quite decent photos; when she wants to do something with one of the photos, there’s a USB cable to link it to her computer. That might be an option to consider.
Slithy Toves, a very interesting hypothesis indeed.
Lee, thanks for the story about allopathy in Africa! I’ll see what I can find. Your other points are of course quite relevant.
Someone, that would certainly fit Dion Fortune’s model; having finished the descent into matter, we now face the long slow process of reascending from it.
PatriciaT, glamour may be a huge part of it. It’s been a long time since I last read Alice Bailey’s book on the subject. As for speed reading, I’m sorry to say I can’t help you — I learned to read at 2 1/2 and naturally read very, very quickly.
One observation and its possible meaning…
As a practitioner of Alt-Medicine, I find myself much more competent a healer using acupuncture than homeopathy. Acupuncture, when used by me, produce much faster and stronger reactions than homeopathy; even my blunders have been more frightening when needles were involved.
My observations are: 1) That I have been so very charmed by martial arts since I was a child. 2) That I happen to know what the number of Avogadro is, and why is it relevant to the claims of Homeopathic Doctrine.
So, on reflection, it occurs to me that Qi manipulation with steel needles comes to me naturally because my will and my mind are aligned with it. Acupuncture does not conform to the standard medical world-view, but it does not challenge it directly either. It is mysterious, but may ultimately work by purely material mechanisms. This vision, by the way, was achieved during the Maoist transformation of the discipline; where traditional practitioners were hunted down or ostracized while those willing to conform with the Marxist/Materialist doctrine of their betters were publicly dotted.
On the other hand, Samuel Hahnemann was as quarrelsome as it gets, and his habits of emotion have permeated the collective egregore of all homeopaths worldwide. We do not miss a chance to pick fights with the medical establishment (even in the case of vaccines, which ought to be the vindicators of homeopathy, if anything) and it forces its practitioners to take a side. So, even if I have trained, even if I have seen first hand that it works, even if I understand that it is just a different tool to manipulate the very Qi that I feel comfortable working with in other ways… my will is divided. I am not perfect but I try to not lie to myself very overtly, and to claim that the medical sciences are not merely incomplete but actively and willingly harmful… it is too much for my suspension of disbelief to stomach.
Now, I recall the worldview of a man is made of 3 parts: the deeper patterns common to every homo sapiens, the culture that man was raised at, and the individuality. If someone is raised in a magical society, plus the inherent magical qualities of human kind, they will experience an enchanted world even if they do not put too much effort in their spiritual life. The same individual raised in an anti-magic society will need to put some actual effort into mystic or occult practices to get to see any enchantment at all. And a mage raised in a magical society will be able to achieve further feats given the same talent and effort.
Regarding the malign enchantment, I’m curious if any sacramental Christians, such as Catholics or others, have noted any diminishment in effectiveness or power of sacraments, such as consecrations of the Eucharist.
“Meanwhile other folks beg for a word and get no response.”
Hence the reliance on technology, technique and science. Reproducible results for everyone compared to magic.
The rule of Rationalist Materialism in the West is why there is currently a contest even on the levels of abstraction in Philosophy. Quantum Mechanics one of the latest avenues of attack undermining materialism itself.
And then there is the increasingly desperate attempts by materialists trying to keep their worldview going trying to reduce the Soul to just molecule interactions. Despite our Brains being increasingly proven through Quantum Biology to be actually be Quantum Computers that allows Spirits to interface with matter.
Much like how we drive vehicles.
Often by Christian Apologists as far as I know. Maybe there are others in the field finding other ways.
This makes me think that perhaps the pattern of civilizational rise and fall exists precisely to provide the “initiation of the nadir” you’ve discussed in the CosDoc posts. It almost feels like an ebb and flow of humanity out of the realms of spirit, into the realm of matter where we find out how much we can hack it on our own, we flounder about for a bit, and then we get pulled back.
There certainly seems to be a current of glee or frenzy in our culture, regarding the disenchantment of the world. You writing that this is a prescriptive idea, rather than a descriptive one, clarified a lot for me. I’ve met people and read authors who hold that stripping the world of spirits and defining humanity as meaningless puppets is good and right. Not for purposes of power and profit, but in and of itself.
I don’t understand the impetus, even though I remember feeling it or something like it. Why was Calvin so keen on such a wretched worldview? Why does PZ Meyers start snarling and spitting every time someone mentions the soul? Why does Thomas Ligotti jeer about dead gods in his philosophy book?
Is there some instinct in us, that drives us towards attempting this divorce from the higher realms? Is it due to external influences, maybe some echo of the Fall?
Thinking back towards the nadir of my life, I feel like I had some urge towards purity and finality. Maybe it could be phrased as, “Let’s get to the end of history, already.” But I don’t know the source of this feeling. (Good fodder for meditation, I suppose!)
Also (and hopefully this is closely enough related to the topic) do you have any thoughts about U.G. Krishnamurti?
Sorry to impose a video on you as to why. Christians have to believe that all powers not from God is demonic:
Unless said Spirit is a broker for Divine Power. For this reason they are not to be trusted. They are Angelic beings who have historically rebelled.
Sorry for getting a bit off track there.
Also, while I’ve been working to help my parents build their house, I’ve learned that there are specific, ritualistic steps to the pouring of concrete. Levelling and tamping the ground, laying rebar, mixing the concrete, pouring it, finishing it, curing it. The process seems to be as much art as science – there are too many mutually interacting factors to allow it to be a purely rational process.
So I began wondering, is one of the effects of this (unintentional?) ritual to drive the living dimensions out of the surrounding landscape? I believe you’ve mentioned that concrete acts as a magical insulator, or something of the sort, and you’re not sure why.
Similarly, perhaps the ritualistic actions of science, fixing and reducing the observed object, to report a highly defined range of outcomes, drives the elements of the world of our experience into a compressed or depressed state, in which subtle energies flow sluggishly if at all.
JMG wrote: “MichaelR, are you suggesting these as themes for meditation? ;-)”
Indeed! For me, the insights were ‘fascinating’ and helped me to truly understand what my grandmothers had been actually trying to convey. In particular, how promulgating the first two as social imperatives will inevitably lead to the third along with its final, usually desired, result. In effect, destroy the role and function of the Sacred Feminine in a culture or society and all else collapses. At least those were my results. May vary for others.
Well, as far as technology and our dependence on it goes, I have to admit I would be kind of resistant to the idea of doing without refrigerators/freezers, clothes washers and dryers, and modern ovens. Maybe that means I’m every bit as soft and spoiled as most modern urban Americans, but there it is. I also appreciate radio technology for how it enables the news of the world to travel and spread faster. There are others I could name, but they are all things that are readily possible with the technological level of 1921. So I agree with your point about technology when it comes to pretty much anything post-1920. It really seems like after that point, technology existed to “gizmofy” everything to create dysfunctional dependence rather than to make everyday life easier for people.
I think people used to be able to see an entire bestiary of beings we now consider purely mythical: dragons, chimeras, Nessie, et al. Maybe they existed on the material plane and maybe they didn’t. Back then, they didn’t have to.
From what I’ve been told, the sacramentals do not work as well in their Vatican II versions as they did before. I have seen several interviews with exorcists who’ve gone back to the old rite because the new one just didn’t do the job. (Pope JP II was known to have failed at an exorcism in the ‘70’s or ‘80’s, but I don’t know if he used the old rite or the new one.). If your priest blesses something for you, he will probably use the new rite, as the ones who knew the old rite are dead or retired, and if he’s an eddicated American he won’t believe in old-fashioned stuff like sacramentals anyway, so even if you track down the old rite he probably won’t humor you by using it. But note that you don’t have to believe in a rite for it to work, any more than you have to believe in electricity to make the room brighter when you flip the switch. If he blesses your item, that blessing will impart sacramental power to your item—but maybe not as much as the old blessing would have.
Laymen can perform some rites and sacraments in an emergency, e.g. a dying baby who’s baptized by the doctor or midwife because the priest may arrive too late. So if you could track down the old blessing, I suppose you would have at least theoretical justification to try it yourself. Although just yelling “Help, Saint Michael!” would be easier and more certain.
Weber’s theory explains our plague of entitlement quite concisely — capitalism was constructed upon the exceptionally entitled and self-justifying foundations of Calvinism. It’s actually hard to imagine capitalism ever succeeding in concentrating capital at the disposal of a few preferred capitalists without a justifying myth of their original entitlement so to do. Hmm, original entitlement?
Did Calvin merely replace Catholicism’s universal original sin with a polarity of original sin for most and original sinlessness for a select few? What horror did capitalism’s secular variant on Calvinism inflict on mankind that almost everyone now seems to believe they are entitled to claim that perfected sinless status? The Progressive utopian ideal of everyone eventually getting the excessive entitlements once reserved only for rich capitalists destroys the supporting foundational Calvanist/capitalist belief in predestined selectivity. This will all end so very badly! Plus it is so pathetically desperate — oh, Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV.
Rigid feudal hierarchy looks to be the simplest antidote to all this unfettered and unrealistic entitlement. Given the equality™ riots being given free reign and the color revolutions for equality™ destabilizing our world, I imagine people will eventually cheer the clear and simple limits imposed by severe class immobility. Were we able to stop obsessing about signaling high social status, wealth, and entitlement so as to join the elect few, maybe more of us would have the time and energy to pay attention to the mysteries and enchantment of the world. Karening and cancelling may turn out to be a sadly necessary (and hopefully short-lived) stage in our re-enchantment with the world around us.
Do you think Weber and Adorno et al. were aware “disenchantment” is relative, partial, and non-linear? You seem to indicate (probably) yes, but it’s not clear.
I know other contemporaries of Weber saw him as describing a contraction of the sacred and an expansion of the secular, which obviously worked and continues to work differently in different places, even in the west. Each Christian sect and residual heretic groups, those persecuted as “witches,” and so on all had and continue to have rival rites but common beliefs in their efficacy, the reality of spirits, and what have you. It would be impossible not to notice this and have any direct contact or historical study of religious communities.
As for the Frankfurt folks, they absolutely got it. Max Lowenthal coined the phrase usually attributed to Adorno: “fascism is psychoanalysis in reverse.” This riffs on Adorno and Horkheimer’s thesis for « Dialectic of Enlightenment » — enlightenment leads not simply to the negation of the mythic substrate, the Jungian sub-basement, but to its retention and return in modernity — especially where it is most repressed.
The “secular” space where only the magic of enlightenment rationality works or is licit seems generally understood (by serious people who have reflected on it) as a kind of magical arms control convention to stop the proliferation of sect and rituals for the sake of peace, unity, and efficiency — or a more general efficacy. Critiques from the left and right long ago decided this was a non-neutral sham and a crypto-religious magic designed to oust all rivals.
The idea of for-profit religion bothered me so much that I became atheist in reaction to my disgust to it for many years. Of course like Hesse’s Emil Sinclair in the novel Demian, I could not have articulated my thoughts in such a concise fashion at the time I was thinking them.
Recently I wrote an essay after seeing this meme:
The leftist witches of Instagram conflate their intellectually lazy, Maoist instincts with re-enchanting the world — they think re-enchantment comes via glorious socialist revolution and that they can defeat one form of Calvinism (white sinners cowering before an angry God) with another (white sinners cowering before angry brown distant descendants of cotton slaves).
They seek to make their religion for-profit, whether it is the roundabout way of becoming social media propaganda fountains or the direct way of charging $350 in tuition for a two day shamanic retreat. As for the latter, Googling “two day shaman course” results in endless lists of non-Native Americans who don’t seem to know what shamanism entails. You have to wonder what kind of karma this sort of hubris brings down the pipe? I have apologized to Jesus for all of the sacrilege I used to casually engage in against Him when I was an atheist… at least I didn’t try to make a buck off of his gullible followers though! I shudder to imagine what horrors await non-Native Americans who have the nerve to co-opt and exploit a diaspora of deities who have zero interest in being approached by the descendants of Conquistadores.
Here’s the essay. https://kimberlysteele.dreamwidth.org/12549.html
After reading through the essay the first time, and leaving the ideas to simmer, I stumbled across a Jordan Peterson video in which he was discussing myths with Sam Harris, who strongly argues against myths through the lens of science. It really pressed upon me the idea how much we try to make everything in life fit the lens du jour, and ultimately, as with all religions, we try to fit our meaning into perspective.
I’m also thinking of the recent post on your Dreamwidth page about training will. The majority of us have trained to fit in with the current narrative of life. Ultimately, that leaves us training tools that only serve a purpose within the context of our current religion of progress. We’re left with a very narrow scope. And sometimes, as a society/civilization that is a great thing. Like a plant, we flower and develop a fruit for that perspective, and if we are lucky, it is worthwhile enough to pass on. At the same time, having such a narrow focus strips away other potentials. One of those is without a doubt our magical abilities.
As the decline accelerates, more and more lose faith in the current god, or gods, and the creative ability becomes more necessary once again for survival. As more and more tap into their creativity, the distance between magic and spirit becomes less. The tools are practiced, and honed. Magic once again becomes more common, until the next system of faith is developed, recognized by the abundance and ease it brings to existing.
Excellent work. Really interesting. It reminded me of a book called The Alphabet and the Goddess by Leonard Schlain. I wonder if you know of it or have read it? His point is that patriarchy was a result of the linear thinking required by written language. He tracks the growth of patriarchy with the growth of literacy. During the dark ages and plague in Europe he tracks an increase in female leadership parallel with a decrease in literacy.
Curious about your thoughts on this.
Thank you again.
“The very people who promoted the idea…. were in close contact with occultists whose magical workings and hobnobbing with spirits were anything but secret.
…They presented it as a description of modernity, but it was in fact prescriptive in nature, not descriptive—in less gnomic language, what they wanted the modern industrial world to be, not what that world actually is.
I realize you already mentioned CS Lewis in the article, but That Hideous Strength really comes to mind, again. Except the seeming disenchantment promoters in that book were little satans, abusively and deceptively performing their own kind of enchantment, instead some guys dealing in not so great ideas with a dash of wishful thinking.
Though I’ve yet to read all of the comments, I’d like to remark on the main post. Apologies if other commentators have already gotten here.
I’m thinking about your reflections on Vine Deloria’s book, that “the material world does not respond directly to magical action,” together with Dion Fortune’s definition of magic as “the art and science of causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will.”
You’ve remarked elsewhere, JMG, on the great difference between the traditional religious person or ceremonial magician, who is well-disposed to believe that he may actually encounter intelligent, independent discarnate beings, and the chaos magician, who reduces all such (apparent) encounters to figments of his own imagination. In the former case, the beings in question may teach us things we don’t already know, while in the latter case, the likelihood of that is far too small to worry about. To generalize the lesson: treat conscious beings like conscious beings, and they’ll be more likely to act like conscious beings toware us. Treat them as if they are not conscious beings, and we should give up any expectation of being consciously helped or acknowledged by them.
I’d like to suggest that the same principle applies more generally. Treat the other animals, the plants, the rivers, the mountains, the boulder in the middle of the highway, as living, conscious beings, and they’re much more likely to respond in kind, and to engage with us in powerful, reciprocal ways.
Now extend this to the practice of magic, as defined by Dion Fortune. If we truly, in our own deepest places, believe that these other beings have (a) consciousness to influence, then we might be able to exert such influence by magical means. But if we ourselves believe that there is no such consciousness, then there’s nothing for the magical art to work upon and influence.
(Even better: rather than simply “believing” it, do we know it in our bones, the kind of knowing that precludes even raising the question of belief?)
Even those who are trying to recover a kind of animism in the modern world are swimming upstream against a forceful current. At best, many contemporary animists are in the position of the FBI agent on the cult classic TV program: “I want to believe.” Yet that belief doesn’t go deep enough, their animism remains a game of “let’s pretend,” and so their magic is similarly limited.
To be sure, this is almost certainly not the only factor. But it does suggest one clear and direct causal link from the enlightment ideologies/propaganda of disenchantment, to the failure of magicians and medicine people to accomplish the material results that their predecessors once could. Today, even those of us who “want to believe” face an inner conflict, arising from our social and cultural conditioning, that limits how completely we can know the material world to be conscious, which in turn puts sharp limits on how much we can cause changes in that consciousness in accordance with our will.
I do hope to read more of what you find as you do, this is a very important question.
Perhaps it would serve you, if finances allow, to spend a couple years outside the West, too, and see what is possible. And by serve you, I mean not just in this quest, but in your Work.
To your question about the Christian sacraments: Centuries ago, it was somewhat common to hear about miraculous Masses, where at the moment that the priest broke the host in half, blood would pour out from it onto the altar. When’s the last time such a thing was in the news?
The tendancy of the rate of magic to fall. 🙂
That popped into my head as a joke reference to Marx’s theory of the tendancy of the rate of profit to fall, but now I’m wondering if there are commonalities between the two.
Also, how is ‘Thule’ pronounced?
this essay hints at a connection of several points that started forming into a larger complex for me, namely the in-built mechanisms for self-dismantling that every civilisation has, and that come to bear as a result of it being sufficiently far on its life-arc. You’re familiar with most of the examples I’m thinking of, I’m sure. The shrinking time-horizon, the tyranny of abstraction, the problem you hinted at in that ADR essay on civilisation vs barbarism.
My theory for now is, that the journey down that road, into the age of great and not-so-great human achievements, the accompanying hubris and subsequent downfall (with the rich reward of carmic XP that entails) can only really begin once the connection to the Greater world is severed, and that that severing is a normal occurrence once a people embarks on the high civ quest. You are either part of the Greater world and reap its benefits, or you go on a quest to plumb the depths of human potential and gain some experience, like a teenager trying his hand at being an adult – but that means the Great Old Ones leave you alone for a while.
Data points to support this hypothesis would be
a) the plentiful accounts of the “Auszug der Zwerge” (departure of the gnomes) in German folklore, recounting how the gnomes, up to that point in lively contact with the miners, explained they couldn’t or wouldn’t stay around if people kept mechanizing mining, und thus left for less noisy places. That allegedly happened in the early 1700s in all German mountain ranges.
b) an episode in “Don’t Sleep, There are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle” where author Daniel Everett recounts all the Piraha (an amazingly uncivilized Amazonian tribe) around him suddenly fell silent and watched a point on the other side of the river, and telling him, when he asked what was going on, “can’t you see the spirit over there?” – which, of course, he couldn’t.
The Amazonian forest tribes are, as we now know, not some remnant of pre-civilisational “original man”, but rather the descendants of a high civilisation that fell around 1500, and for now I assume that their hunter-gatherer lifestyle is the “factory setting”, so to say, that people generally return to once their civ game is over, until its lessons are sufficiently digested and the environment is done re-stocking its pantry, so to say.
During that time – the night of contemplation that follows the day of exploration, if you will – the connection with the spirit world is re-established, while the people remember their place in the world, lick their wounds, and get back on their feet. Once that’s done, someone will have some Great Original Ideas again and the loop starts anew.
There are certainly smaller rhythms aswell, and other effects overlaying this, but overall I find this idea quite plausible: In order to learn about his being in the world of matter, man has to become materialist for a while, and the Gods facilitate that.
I am offering this thought quite hesitantly because it seems such a heresy, especially in this community of well-educated readers and writers, but I wonder if the disenchantment of the world has something to do with the acquisition of literacy? The Greeks promoted it, the Romans relied on it, the Dark Ages lost it, the late Middle Ages restored it, courtesy of the Church, and the Renaissance saw the beginning of widespread literacy which the Industrial Age completed. Colonisation of traditional societies brought ‘civilisation’ – the Church and education. In all of these cases, the illiterate peasant part of the population retained their magical belief systems right up until the point that universal education destroyed them. Was it Western civilisation, as such, or the act of literacy that disenchanted the land these people had lived on for thousands of years in magical union?
I mention this particularly because I noticed a marked difference in the consciousness of my children after they learned to read. I homeschooled them, so it wasn’t the school influence but the act of learning to read and write which seemed to bring them out of a kind of wild and dreamy otherworld into a much more focussed, ‘modern’ kind of consciousness. And it wasn’t an age correlation either – one learned to read at 7, one at 4, the others in between. By the time the fourth child was ready to read I was quite reluctant to teach her because of this effect I’d seen with the others. It really affected their ability to effortlessly memorise as well. I’d be interested to know if anyone else here has noticed this with their children.
I do know that in my own spiritual/magical practice the most frequent advice I hear is to put down my book and go outside, you know, where the actual magic is.
When you think about it, literacy is a very powerful magic – the ability to interpret symbols which have the potential to change our thinking and our actions. Maybe its very existence displaces, or interferes with the powerful magical forces of the natural world?
So. I woke up on Sunday morning from a dream I was on Wheel of Fortune, and the letters that were being turned over spelled “Time, the” and the clue was “It’s __ __”. I thought what’s the time? So I had checked my calendar, and now your essay, and it seems both agree, it indeed is.
On that note, I believe it is on topic, I should report back further on the tridimensional mops and buckets I described last Cos Doc discussion.
We at the school did not, as it had seemed, get everything we wanted (tell God your plans…) It turns out one of the young women had made some cumulative choices in her life that have all suddenly come home to roost last weekend all at once, heck of a thing; and is having a really really dark night of the soul. She claims the doctors told her it’s a PTSD flare up causing heart stress, but I know a nervous breakdown when I see one. She said she was starting to think maybe god or the gods hate her, except she’s an angry atheist like so many millennials, so not really…
I said I didn’t think the gods hated her at all. I asked if she knew the story of Job, which did not really help – that’s a hard one for people in this culture to get, for the reasons described in this essay. So I asked her if she knew Psyche and Eros instead, it’s a Greek version of the same concept, I think. I don’t think she got that either. If anyone else has spare prayers, she could use them.
There was of course also still a larger Adversary left at the school: to quote my daughter’s favourite trickster, Maui, from Moana, “Who’s got two thumbs and holds up the sky? You’re looking at [her] yo!”.
They had offered to hire me to do administration, rather than as a volunteer, so that the legal and ethical violations made while I was gone from site last week will not happen again. Because supposedly no one else can figure out how laws and other admin tasks or frankly, common sense, work unless I tell them. This is odd, since the school has been in place under a volunteer board for fifty years. Daily practice is documented in the patchy way volunteer groups do but the last board members and employees figured it out, even before I was there! Groups of adults were able to do this. So, if it is true that no one else on the Board, or any member in the full co-op, can do this anymore, that the world has moved on…
Each year has gotten harder, it’s true. Lots of people had more kids than they intended, so their budgets and plans got turfed to accomodate. People’s jobs got more demanding. Others have so many other sports and activities to do, they just don’t have time. And I am the only Board member or employee without ADD, I’m told, so the only one who can remember the regular scheduled meetings or bills without me calling or texting each individual with multiple reminders, process the written instructions in my job description or contract without it being read aloud to me, or remember verbal instructions for any length of time due to short term memory problems. It’s all in the adaptation support requests I have to follow. And there are no other members who can step up to the Board, because Life Reasons.
But it turns out, I’m not a Calvinist.
And I don’t have an identified disability, so do have all the documentation. I have submitted my formal request for legal advice on my next right move, based on the history of how each infraction came to be, and all the email chains, and the work plans I’ve implemented to fix it.
So if it’s true, and the chemikills, or teevee rays, or capitalist machine or bad publick skool or what have you, have legitimately rendered every adult unwilling or honestly unable in any respect, to collectively run this organization without hiring one stupid woman who waited too long to say no, it’s time it folds. On the other hand, if suddenly in the cold light of day, once the rug got lifted, people were suddenly to find they could develop their own support and accommodation plans, perhaps it won’t. Perhaps my work plans will be deemed just enough to squeak by disaster.
If I botched this dismount, I’m in for a world of Kerri Strugg-level pain and infamy. Let’s find out! Until next time, same bat time, same bat channel…
This general idea was discussed by some Gelug monks that were teaching at my church. They said they thought the decreased amount of paranormal effects, spirit activity and so forth was caused by electric technology and it scaled with sophistication. Area with simple generators a light light bulb allowed more magic than telephones and radios. Computers and cell phones still less. If they model hold I wonder if 5G might be even more effective at banishing magical effects.
Reading other comments reminded me of this – John Taylor Gatto, may he RIP, lectured about the influence of Calvin on the institution of public school from its very foundation. The idea that the unwashed masses needed a place to be corralled together and marked for life so all would know they are one of the damned. Plus the last thing anyone would want is for one to interact with the saved and cause them to dirty themselves with those condemned by the Almighty.
We made the language more neutral these days talking about the elite and the working class. But really when public schools were created it was with this fervor and certainty in the work to be done. Plus school was a compassionate option because otherwise it was off to hard labor in a mine, factory, or household.
Its hard to find people who truly break free of the public school mindset. The habit training, and limits of thinking it imposes are real barriers passed down four generations now.
Aidan Barrett: “Given your belief that the age of higher ed and Silicon Valley is finite, where do you think those people will find jobs in the coming decades?”
JMG: “Aidan, good question. There may be a shortage of burger-flipping positions for them.”
I understand your distaste for academia and tech in their current form, but when you suddenly impoverish large numbers of highly educated people (a non-trivial number of whom have the ability to recruit and organize followers), well, it doesn’t look good. Elite overproduction, popular immiseration, Peter Turchin, and all that.
I’m wondering if the ebb and flow of magic might be, at least in part, a matter of orbital mechanics.
As we orbit, we (possibly the whole solar system) might “drift” closer to the spiritual world, orbit around some unseen focus at “peri-magion”, and then head out again. It wouldn’t be a regular cycle, because the other planets get involved, as would the stars, and possibly entities that might exist only on the upper planes.
A few weeks ago in the comments to one of your other posts, Aidan recommended the book Small Men on the Wrong Side of History by a British conservative journalist, Ed West. Some of it is more personal and anecdotal than a commentary on politics, but there are some useful ideas there.
West uses the concept of “prestige beliefs” to discuss the process by which conservatism has steadily fallen out of favour in academia and other parts of what you call the PMC, and become increasingly associated with the working class. (This may be analogous to the theory that a field of work often becomes lower-paid and less prestigious as more women enter it.) So far as I’ve read, West is referring to “wokeness” – but “prestige beliefs” could equally be applied to rationalist atheism and agnosticism.
These days the atheists aren’t quite as loud about their atheism as they used to be. As Slate Star Codex observed, the energy of the atheist movement went into the social justice movement. But there continues to be a sense on the mainstream left, perhaps the established PMC rather than their countercultural young Millenial and Gen Z kids who are experimenting with “baneful magic”, that rationality is the only correct way, though exceptions may be made to some extent for POC practising their heritage religion, as long as they are moderate about it.
Astrology and ghosts are quite common beliefs, but they are certainly not prestige beliefs. At the average middle-aged PMC dinner party, a person would be laughed at for taking astrology seriously. It is considered rational and sensible to be disenchanted, and to get any sense of enchantment from art. or from contemplation of nature in its material form as Richard Dawkins suggested.
I would like to make a somewhat strange observation from a composition of several disassociated sources.
– On the one hand this topic reminded me of comment in a game I encountered a couple of years ago. High medieval fantasy RPG with a “magic inquisition”. A templar knight and a mage discuss the abilities of the knight and the mage says that the knights abilities “reinforce reality so it is less mutable”. (quality source that one, but it go me thinking)
– Secondly I remembered a video of an occultist, whose name and channel I forgot, who explained why he does not do Lottery workings. He said, that every person buying a ticket unknowingly does a miniature working/prayer when buying his ticket, then tucks it in his pocket. His working would be stronger as such, but against hundreds of thousands, it is a drop in an ocean.
– Thirdly I refer to an image you painted in Septembers post on synchronicity. The threads of synchronicity run between the threads of ’cause and effect’ and form/weave with them a kind of tapestry.
So my idea is, that in an age like this, where we have an overabundance of human minds, a lot of them who are focused on the material. They imagine the world as Newtonian, firm, immutable and in so doing reinforce. Maybe they themselves even need it to be so. The whole mass of minds thinking like this then reinforces the ‘threads of cause and effect’ and makes them less mutable. Since even unaware, every one of us is a mage.
Maybe the mass of attitude alone is enough to do it. Or they may be feeding some entity who is doing this for them, like an materialist egregor. Or maybe they are feeding earth elementals to make the world more solid. It may be, that something is actually doing a service to them, since they might need to live in a more solid world. A mage would therefore find it much harder to move the ‘threads’ and the effects would be contained to planes easier to access, or less affected.
On the other hand, in an age where everyone at least passively accepts enchantment, the “threads” are not “tightened”, or they might even be “loosened” by the opposite thinking.
Please file this under ravings of a novice.
I believe that the increase in belief about ancient civilizations, as reported by the Chapman University survey, may be linked to a loss in the “progress now is forever” thinking. Everyone knows about the Medieval Period, but now people are more open to the idea that progress, in the terms it is defined today, is fragile.
Older data sets exist (I remember particularly Greeley’s The Sociology of the Paranormal, on your Monsters bibliography. But the methodology was possibly different.
I need to dig a bit more to get the raw 2018 survey data. A comment on the 2018 survey states something interesting; I will quote it here.
Richard Garber • 2 years ago
The most common paranormal belief (57.9%) actually is that ‘I have been protected by a guardian angel.’
Another omitted belief (35.8%) is that ‘Satan causes most evil in the world.’ Both beliefs were also asked about in the 2016 survey.
@Irena, with regard to logical conclusions: Our host has often affirmed the logical impossibility for God to be omniscient, omnipotent and “omnibenevolent” all at the same time. To me, that always seemed directed at something else than at the faith I know. First of all, I have never heard that word “omnibenevolent”. It might have been coined by theologists but is not commonly used. Second, the other two don’t occur in the Bible either. Hebrew equivalents don’t even exist – it is hard to be so abstract in Classical Hebrew. The nearest thing in New Testament Greek is “pantokrator”, better translated as “all-ruler”.
Instead, what you actually find in the Bible, except maybe for some of the epistles, are always similes and metaphors. Jesus explicitly stated he would only speak in images to the people.
So I think you are quite right. If you take a lot of stories and metaphors, each one based (as I believe) on a personal experience with God, and try to cast all of them into a set of abstract truth statements, you are bound to come up with something that is either incoherent (since our minds are not equipped to deal with this) or morally unacceptable.
To make the connection with the OP: trying to build a logical framework is probably not the best way towards imitating what the founders did.
Thanks for this fascinating read. I have never heard of anyone advance the theory that life a few hundred years back could be inherently more magical than life today, and it’s really opened my eyes.
I think it’s because all humans are magical, inherently. We’re magical creatures, and our collective magic works as limiters on all of us. It feels like a corollary to the law of limitations, that, just as there are limits as to what we do on this plane that descend from higher planes, there are limits as to what we can achieve with what based on…I’m not sure what exactly, the collective belief system of all human beings? It’s like when you try to cast two contradictory spells. They cancel each other out. It’s like trying to influence the outcome of an election. That tends to get canceled out by the strong wishes of the other side, reducing the outcome to a contest on the material plane. While some bring up the example of the Kek Wars as an example of collective magic working, I think your essay was inherently correct in suggesting that a higher power was activated, putting the country under the spell it’s under today.
I think that what happens today is that, through education, people are hardwired into believing what is possible and what is not possible. It takes a very long time to unlearn these things, and once you do, that’s when you start seeing lots of synchronicity, but, notice that, in my experience, it always appears to work according to material laws. Medicine is an exception, perhaps because of the ridiculous belief in the placebo effect. It’s a scientific name for a magical process and allows it to get through the net. People’s collective minds therefore act as the limiter, and it gets reinforced the fewer and fewer actual miracles happen until you have the situation of today, where our magic is more or less boxed in to synchronicity to achieve what we want and, to a lesser degree, the ability to heal the sick.
I often wonder how much of the technologies we have today work simply because people believe they work.
I just read a book called Divine Healing Made Simple by Praying Medic. I have watched a couple of his political commentary videos. He claims to be able to do some rather impressive healings, and discusses that there are places where you are expected to raise a dead person as part of your training. I do believe it was Africa. So I now think that healing is a lot more doable than I had thought. I suspect faith and the lack thereof is a major part of the picture.
Then too, there are my forays into Saturn Sun theory, for which there is tremendous evidence. The idea is that Saturn was a brown dwarf star and that Venus, Earth and Mars were aligned beneath its southern pole. When we were brought into our current solar system, there were huge electric perturbations that caused an era of catastrophism. Homer, for example, called Mars the destroyer of cities. Under Saturn, we lived within its plasma sheath. And were much closer than we are to our current sun. Things might have been very different in ways that could have affected our spiritual and metaphysical perceptions.
At any rate, I partially disagree with the idea that the occult has not gone away. To be sure, that is the case, but if you look at the whole thrust of modernity, it consists in denial of all subtle realities. Yes, many people continue to adhere to them, but the acceptable and respectable discourse is a whole other matter.
But this isn’t the discussion I thought we were going to have! I thought it was going to be about how in our current political situation there seems to be a mass of enchantment, in a negative way.
You have previously recounted reasons to believe the “Gold” that European alchemists were after may not have ultimately been the material substance (Au), but rather something else, so I must confess the anecdote you’ve conjured forth about gold here is a bit of a head scratcher.
@MichaelR, JMG & commentariat: I was thinking of the Yuga’s this morning, and the teaching from Hinduism that we are living in the Kali Yuga. I’m really not versed enough in the teaching to hold forth on it at all, but the basic idea that we are living in a spiritually degenerate time, according to that teaching comes to mind.
Looking into it a bit I just learned that Joscelyn Godwin wrote a book called Atlantic and the Cycles of Time. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by the guy, so that’s added to my reading list now.
So, various teachings on aeons, ages, cycles of time, etc. might be worth looking at in regards to this disenchantment.
Re: Code of Handsome Lake. I encountered this in the book Teachings from the Long House by Chief Jacob Thomas. A very important book to me personally. It was one of those readings where I looked at it, and realized I’d have to give up alcohol. It took a number of years after I read it for me to accomplish this, but I’ve been sober five years now. I know many people who have no problem with the stuff, they can take it or leave it. But I’m one of those who has the “allergy” and since I’ve left it behind my life and relationships have significantly improved. There is much else in the code worthy of study besides the prohibition of alcohol.
All the best!
This is immensely complicated, but I feel that the business Calvinism which through prosperity spread and replaced a lot of nations, comes from the objective and distant view of Calvinism, as opposed to the human and personable Catholicism. Because of distance and objectivity, the Protestants applied the law before God equally to all – or at least noticeably moreso. That made property, ownership, safe for people, as opposed to any invention, any wealth, any license or favor needing to be defended against a capricious overlord who would instantly find some reason, exception, and loophole to steal it. Looking at people trying to build dams and windmills in 1600s and being violently stopped or robbed by the old system is a good example. If you fear God and hold these people back: saying the Duke of Burgundy is also small before God and has to follow God’s same law other men follow makes property safe, and therefore makes it safe to WORK. That’s a protection for you and me. We still see this approach in Italy, where things are expected to be corrupt, people to take advantage, and therefore live “La bella vita”, working Que sera vs England and Holland where you don’t just LET things happen because it’s pointless to try to change: you as a man go MAKE things with your hard work. Why? Because it won’t be stolen. Or pivotally less so.
Over time, this additional work leads to additional prosperity, which is the best advertisement for other nations to imitate you. Right now, we are reversing all this, as the law is now based on men and power, property is no longer safe, and therefore work is no longer safe, and so people stop working again, float, complain, and do the minimum to afford Netflix on the Smartphone. Thus our prosperity collapses — and obviously, as half the population doesn’t work. Just like Rome, when they went broke and then started to confiscate property, making up random rules, or The Depression, when the government was doing the same. No one knew what the rules were anymore. The rules, property, your work, therefore the very hours of your LIFE, your very dreams for yourself were not safe and could be stolen. Best to just clamp down and weather, which as in Rome, they did for 1,000 years until law, and property, and work were safe and fair again. For whatever reason, under hard Protestantism.
You could look at the other side, where under this Protestantism men’s WORK becomes how all things are made and done, as opposed to living merely by appealing to the more powerful: Barons and Spirits alike. But that becomes man-centered, ME-centered; not world-centered, God-centered, where man is insignificant. Once you’re Man-centered, you’re physical-centered, and the spirits unintentionally drift away. Of course if MEN are primary, then the MAGIC of Catholicism vanishes, and your Protestantism dies for lack of magic too. Followed by Catholicism imitating Protestantism, disbelieving their own magic, and erasing the old ritual spells under Vatican II.
As we once again become powerless under a system that robs men and protects only itself, we again drift to getting power FROM, instead of US creating and aggregating power within ourselves. Which is what JMG said about slaves and the desperate classes.
If you go the other way, once MEN are powerful, men are what we focus on and how we do work, any sense of larger powers or appeals is a threat to knocking MAN off his pedestal. It’s an ego-attack, and those who internalized primacy of themselves — narcissists in a controlling, narcissistic culture — feel small and powerless, which they resist. You can go further and say if MAN is powerful and central, then any other form or consideration, even Nature, naturally becomes a subservient, and all the trouble that dissociation and mis-attribution of relative size may create.
If as Fortune describes, the world begins with consciousness and over time habit works the energy into form, then our planet or area in space may be similarly fractal: The world was once lighter, yes even physically, and more aligned to consciousness and less to matter. Far distant ages like Lemuria are described as “misty”. Recorded art may suggest the same thing. This hardening and solidification would especially be true if, as magic demands, our own consciousness affects it. Now there are 8 billion humans the planet is not run by the consciousness of trees and beetles, but our collective human consciousness now determines the “laws” of the place. And yes, that formerly the laws were less strict, or even different. (Note problems here with a science which pathologically adheres to “Uniformitarianism” and bases all conclusions, climate and otherwise on it.)
As per last week, this world-wide human magic, set by our world-wide human belief, is that it is now an exclusively physical, clockwork world, and therefore MAKES it so. An Industrial Revolution world that exists in the physical only, where we = our meat brains and nothing else. Thus single incidents of magic are allowed, or in your private life, but if they threaten the mass-belief, the magic stops. Because the rules say it must adhere to the mass-consciousness. In locations on earth where the clockwork belief is less, like Africa, the magic is greater. This can be reversed if we wish, but you need the influence of all 8 billion to do it, which is why advertisers, politicians, and the wealthy are desperate to control advertising and “The Narrative.” The Narrative is our master! The Narrative chooses who will go and who will stay! “The Narrative” sets the laws of reality in a world run by consciousness, and Edward Bernays’ advertising sets “The Narrative.”
“Who controls the past now controls the future who controls the present now controls the past” – Orwell.
Neither is a secret. You can read the extensive writings of such men, who are mostly recorded as being in and using the occult and know exactly what they’re doing magically. Most actively admit this, but no one believes them. Kesha for example. “[I sought out and had supernatural sex with] a ghost. I’m very open to it.” Or Beyonce. Or Jack Parsons. Or Von Braun. Or J.P Morgan, “Millionaires don’t use astrologers; billionaires do.” All you have to do is believe that they believe exactly what they said, and don’t deny or make excuses for what they so clearly told you. When someone tells me directly what they believe and what their goals are, followed by a widely-published book of their methods, why wouldn’t I believe them?
So the magic spell of “anti-magic” cast on us is from Bernays, from Science, and from the top. The top that openly admits magic works and that they use it successfully. But you shouldn’t do what they do. That would be superstitious and silly. How does it work? They encourage, order, or inspire you to think their thoughts and not your own. And their first thought is: they have the power and you don’t.
“a lot of people believed devoutly that something special was going to happen on December 21, 2012, as you may recall.”
I’m not entirely sure they were wrong, just wrong in the expectations of how it would manifest. Some people are calling our current time a “great awakening.” So maybe there was a sea change, but in the tangible world, sudden and overwhelming change is usually either impossible or catastrophic.
I also find it difficult lately not to think in terms of the Biblical harvest. The polarization going on seems to have the double down faction, to whom outside information is quite unwelcome and seem locked into strong negativity and in fact hate any good news! All the while more and more secrets are being revealed.
The idea that there are cycles of more and less loosh being available is intriguing. Nature does have cycles for everything. As a monist, I tend not to divide the world into the physical and spiritual. I think its a continuum, with those things we call spiritual or even nonmaterial having very subtle substance. Just as we need light to see, what if we need, say astral or other spiritual light to see the subtle realms? What if there is a nighttime and a daytime?
Maybe it is just like that:
Magic develops when people interact with nature and get used to the nature around them for several generations.
When cultures arise the connection get lost. People live in artificial environments and thus the connection to nature is broken.
Maybe magic needs strong connection to the same part of nature for a longer time to develop.
Just a thought ….
Interesting as always. I wasn’t expecting the twist of historical changes in magical interactions in our world. It is a very interesting idea. Its main drawback is it is ad hoc: it wasn’t expected by the main actors in the time when magic was more easily manifested, and it is a convenient cover to avoid falsification of magical beliefs. But it has major advantages in taking the reports of others from earlier times seriously rather than allowing chronological snobbery (in CS Lewis’ language) to allow us to dismiss them.
You might be overstating the degree to which modern suppression of magical beliefs is driven by selfish desire for control. A lot of it is driven by observation of many superstitions that fail badly. Whether it is belief magical protection from bullets (Zulus and native Americans) or belief in protection from COVID without masks, poorly tested magical beliefs have caused a lot of harm. It is precisely the weak effectiveness in changing physical features of reality in our era that has caused people to try to suppress magical belief among the masses. I am not defending suppression. I am observing that the motivation is closer to the motivation for suppressing anti-vaccination beliefs. People actually believe that it is better for society.
After Rhyd W. wrote a series of commentaries denouncing modern capitalist pagans, I pondered this to a great deal.
Here is some of what I wrote:
Max Weber, German sociologist, introduced the concept, “disenchantment of the world” to explain the malaise found in modern society. Weber explained that when the revealed religions became dominant, they sought to explain the unknown. The Christian “Myth of the Redeemer” depended on a meaningful cosmos. Therefore, Christianity developed a systematic rationalization of problems and their solutions. Revenants (The Active Dead) became the wandering souls of Purgatory.
After the Protestant Reformation, religion, as a whole, gradually lost its authority over creating meaning for the world. The Enlightenment brought forth secular disciplines such as science and history to provide new definitions. These emerging authorities took over explaining the unknown. Ghosts, once the wandering souls of Christianity, became only figments of people’s imaginations.
Meanwhile, modern people have tried to bring the mystical back into their world, but The Filter prevents them. One popular method is using Carl Jung’s theories of the Collective Unconscious. By employing archetypes, people can allow the ancient myths to regain their power. However, Jung’s theories is a retelling of the “Myth of the Redeemer.” The objective is for people to unite with their Higher Selves (i.e. the God Archetype), and become whole.
Another method often tried is Marxism. According to Marx and Engels, Capitalism has objectified and commodified the world. Therefore, its victims should band together, pool their resources, and defeat this evil. Under Communism, the new religion of humanity, people will work for the common good. Since the basis of Marxism is people’s feelings of instability and pessimism, it fails. These emotions are rooted in the disenchanted world.
Dintino, Theresa, “Notes from a Diviner in the Postmodern World.” Self-published. 2016.
“Divining America: Religion in American History,” National Humanities Center Teacher Server. 2010. Web: http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/divam.htm
Felluga, Dino, “General Introduction to Postmodernism,” Introductory Guide to Critical Theory. 2015. Web: http://www.purdue.edu/guidetotheory/postmodernism/modules/introduction.html
Filan, Kenaz and Raven Kaldera, “Drawing Down the Spirits.” Rochester (VT): Destiny Books. 2009.
“Talking to the Spirits.” Rochester (VT): Destiny Books. 2013.
Hansen, George P., “Max Weber and the Charisma of Disenchantment,” The Trickster and the Paranormal, 2001. Web: http://www.tricksterbook.com/ArticlesOnline/Chapter8-MaxWeberCharismaDisenchantment.pdf
Romanian Association for Psychoanalysis Promotion (AROPA), “Resources for Carl Jung.” 2017. Web: http://carl-jung.net/index.html
Walter, Philippe, “Christianity, the Origins of a Pagan Religion,” trans. Jon E. Graham. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions. 2003.
Walton, Chris, “Philocrites: Religion, Liberalism, and Culture.” 2009. Web: http://philocrites.com/index.html
This is something else I wrote where Christianity flattened the Polytheistic view and sought rationality and control. I do believe that the war on multiple souls and the Dead by the early Church Fathers helped to jump start the disenchantment.
Polytheism differs from Christianity in that instead of one soul, a person has multiple souls. The Romans have the genius, renamed by Christians as the Guardian Angel. Meanwhile, the animus, which is the dynamic force of personality, can exist outside of the body. One soul dies with the body, while another one survives to form its own body. When a person dies, one soul will merge with the ancestral soul, and another soul will go to the underworld. The physical (body) soul that lives on after death is called a revenant.
This is a difficult concept for many people to grasp. Western culture sees a person’s soul as a singularity. Moreover, the revenant is no longer believed to be real. Since the Dead have been relegated to being phantoms. Modern science has reinforced the idea that ghosts are figments of a confused mind.
The Christian Church deliberately redefined the concept of “soul,” thereby merging all the souls into one entity. Now, when the body dies, the soul merges with God. The Church dismissed the existence of revenants. Tertullian, St. Augustine, and Gregory the Great developed and promoted the concept of the soul being a singularity. Their aim was to eliminate the Pagan veneration of the Dead.
Tertullian claimed that Plato had asserted that the soul remains in the body after death. However Plato said that after death, a soul does continue to exist. Moreover, he divided the soul into three parts – logos (mind), thymos (emotion) and eros (desire).
In Polytheist theology, it is important to note multiple souls are the norm. For example, the Egyptians believed that everyone had nine souls. They are: kha: the body, ka: the living life force, ba: the personality, sekhem: the transfigured life force, khaibit: the shadow, akh: the transfigured soul, sahu: the spiritual body, ib: the heart and ren: the true name of the person.
In Norse Polytheism, the litr is the body’s vital force. The hame, the “astral body,” works with the lich, the physical body. The flygja is similar to the Roman genius. The kinfylgja is the ancestral soul.
It is important to note that the texts written by the ancients are often interpreted by people who are steeped in the monotheistic culture. Therefore, references to multiple souls may be thought of as aspects of a single soul. However, the idea of multiple souls still manifests itself in modern thought. I consider Freud’s theory of the ego, id, and super-ego to be one example.
Since you’ve mentioned astrology here, I’d like to ask you as to the anti-materialist arguments in favour of astrology (I’m not myself a materialist). I’ve seen quite a lot of materialists dismiss it as superstition, and unlike ESP, I haven’t seen much scientific evidence supporting astrology. Could you help me out here?
The question that got my friend going, many years ago, was “why did the magic fail the Tibetans when the Chinese invaded?” It’s a serious question, because they had very powerful magic and when they needed it, it didn’t work, but it had worked before. He was disgusted and angry that the first thing the Tibetans didn’t do after fleeing was figure out why it didn’t work.
Another data point, I once read, though I don’t recall the source, that when the Europeans first came over and there were mass plagues in the Americans, both sides saw it as a matter of the Christian God being stronger than the native gods. (I’m not saying he was or wasn’t, I’m saying they regarded the physical as representing a spiritual struggle the natives were losing.)
Bacon: mage. John Dee (invented the British Empire, one can argue): mage. Newton: mage. Though there’s less evidence of it, I consider the circumstantial evidence that Descartes was a serious mystic, at the least, extremely strong (long periods without moving, his insistence on the third eye region as the medium between the spirit and the body, etc…) Pascal was very spiritual, etc, etc, etc.
I suspect the people responsible for the decline of magic’s potency were mostly… mages.
The etheric power of berserkers as JMG pointed out in Monsters, is something we can’t do today, and on and on. I really want to figure this out, and look forward to reading more from JMG.
This is my writing on the monotheistic filter which pervades modern thinking and promotes disenchantment:
In her blog, “Gangleri’s Grove,” (Note 1) Galina Krasskova explains that people are shaped and informed by nearly 2000 years of Monotheism. She calls this shaping, the Monotheistic Filter. In her opinion, The Filter is a sentient being that feeds off humanity. According to Krasskova, The Filter works tirelessly against the Gods, to retain Its hold on people.
Easy to describe, The Filter is hard to define. I have experienced It as an aspect of the Monotheistic Gods (God). (Note 2) In trying keep his power, He uses the Filter to disable and dissuade people from challenging Him. He needs people to continue to believe in redemption and salvation, which makes them dependent on Him.
Religion can be divided into “revealed” and “natural.” In revealed religions, God transmits his knowledge and expectations through prophets. Holy texts such as “The Bible” are the official record of these revelations. Meanwhile, God is transcendent and beyond all physical laws. To interact with Him, a person has to give up the world and seek salvation. Religious doctrine and dogma are interpretations of this God’s requirements and desires.
In contrast, natural religions like Polytheism arise from people’s interactions with the world. The Gods and other Spirits are immanent and live in this world. They are accessible to people through divination and offerings. The relationship between humans and the Holy Powers is one of reciprocity and mutual respect.
Before modern people can develop a Polytheistic mindset, they need to know the workings of The Filter. It spreads through groupthink (Note 3), which colors what people think and believe to be true. The prism that truth is determined by is filtered through others and the culture they live in. The group teaches people to how to cherry pick for “truth.” By collecting certain stories and discarding others, people form their belief systems in accordance to groupthink. This is how The Filter burrows into people’s thought processes.
Note 1. Galina Krasskova, “Radical Polytheists or Happy **** New Year to You Too.”“Radical Polytheists or Happy **** New Year to You Too.” Gangelri’s Grove. 5 January 2015.
Note 2. Monotheism has multiple Gods, all male, and all specific to each Monotheistic religion (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam). The Filter is an aspect of all these Gods united.
My experience with the Filter has been one of pain. I was thrown out of bed when I started this essay. As I continued, I suffered from strained calves. The Filter is nasty to those who defy It.
Note 3. Groupthink occurs when a group reaches a consensus by minimizing conflict. Outside or alternative viewpoints are not allowed for the sake of group harmony.
My last writing on the Dead and Disenchantment.
In the Polytheist world, the Dead are not ectoplasms or phantoms. They have form and substance and physically interact with the living. People make sacrifices to the Dead for protection, guidance, and favors. As Ancestors, They stay and guide the family. They can also become Spirits of Place, Home, the Unquiet Dead or the Harmful Dead. Since the Dead link the living with the Gods, They are feared, honored and placated.
The Christian Church actively made war on the Polytheistic veneration of the Dead. Moreover, the Church redefined who the Dead were and the relationship of the living to Them. In the dichotomy set up by Christianity, the Dead who were saved went to Heaven, those who were not went to Hell. To explain Revenants, the Church invented Purgatory. Instead of Heaven or Hell, some Dead ended up in limbo, which is Purgatory.
Under Christianity, the Dead became souls undergoing punishment for their sins. They were now dependent on the living, who said Masses for them, gave alms in their name, and prayed for Them. The relationship between the living and the Dead was now reversed.
In its war, the Church successfully desacralized the Dead. Attacking Polytheistic beliefs, Augustine and Gregory the Great said that the Dead were only dreams. Other theologians reasoned that They were animated by angels or demons. Lacking substance, The Dead turned into ghosts, which only exist in people’s minds.
Furthermore, the Church redefined the concept of “soul.” In Polytheism, people have multiple souls. One soul dies with the body, and another one survives to form its own body. The Romans have the genius, renamed by Christians as the Guardian Angel. Meanwhile, the animus, which is the dynamic force of personality, exists outside of the body. Merging all the souls into one entity, Christianity said when the body dies, the soul merges with God, thereby dismissing the existence of Revenants.
Adkins, Lesley and Roy Adkins, “Dictionary of Roman Religion.” New York: Oxford University Press. 1996.
Black, Jeremy and Anthony Green, “Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia.” Austin: University of Texas Press. 2014.
Filan, Kenaz and Raven Kaldera, “Drawing Down the Spirits.” Rochester (VT): Destiny Books. 2009.
“Talking to the Spirits.” Rochester (VT): Destiny Books. 2013.
Jones, Prudence and Nigel Pennick, “A History of Pagan Europe.” NY: Routledge. 1995.
Kaldera, Raven, “Dealing with Deities.” Hubbardston (MA): Asphodel Press. 2012.
“Wyrdwalkers.” Hubbardston (MA): Asphodel Press.2007
Krasskova, Galina, “Devotional Polytheism.” Sanngetall Press. 2014.
“Honoring the Ancestors.” Sanngetall Press. 2014.
Lecouteux, Claude, “Demons and Spirits of the Land,” translated by Jon Graham. Inner Traditions: Rochester (VT). 2015.
“The Return of the Dead,” translated by Jon Graham. Inner Traditions: Rochester (VT). 2009.
“The Tradition of Household Spirits,” translated by Jon Graham. Inner Traditions: Rochester (VT).2013.
Paper, Jordan, “The Deities Are Many.” Albany NY: State University of New York Press. 2005.
West, Philip, “The Old Ones in the Old Book.” Washington (US): Moon Books. 2011.
I want to see if I can summarize your points here, to make sure I understand.
1. The power of magic to affect the material world, and the openness of the link between the spirtiual and material sides of reality, seems to wax and wane with the historical cycle. We can see examples of this in the writings of Plutarch and Geoffrey Chaucer. Now, Plutarch was writing around the year 100, and Chaucer around 1400. In Spengler’s terms– writing this with the foldout chart from Decline of the West in front of me– they aren’t contemporaries. Rather, Plutarch is writing near the end of the Classical cycle (in “Winter”), while Chaucer is far closer to the beginning of the Western historical cycle– but, perhaps crucially, in the “Summer” rather than “Springtime” period.
2. The claim that the “modern world” is “disenchanted” because magic has “gone away” or “We don’t believe in that anymore” or whathaveyou is a prescription, not a description. Magic and occult practices of a thousand varieties, from tarot readers to Catholic sacraments, have continued all through the modern period. Moreover, that the theory of disenchantment was not a true description of the world was well known to those who formulated it, since they were, tehmselves, in contact with the occult culture of their time.
3. Finally, while the power of magic does indeed wax and wane with the historical cycle, it may be the case that it has been diminished in a deliberate way and to an unusual degree in our current civilization. The “disenchantment of the world” as prescription turns out to be, itself, a kind of malign enchantment.
And so we have three separate but related phenomena– The natural waning of magic with the cycle of history, the ongoing presence of magic even into the modern era, and the unusual diminishment of magic in our present civilization. Magic never left, magic always leaves, magic has been deliberately silenced.
Is that correct?
If so, the following thoughts occur to me on each point:
1. One of the things that always strikes me when reading older literature is the way that things that we would see as fantastical are simply taken for granted. In the Physica of Hildegard of Bingen, for example, entries on dragons and basilisks appear alongside entries on frogs and snakes, under the heading “Reptiles.” I have often wondered if they were, indeed, simply describing the world as they saw it. But that raises the obvious question– Okay, then where did the dragons go?
Part of the answer to that, in turn, is nowhere. As you pointed out in Monsters, sea monsters like those in Loch Ness and Lake Champlaigne have all the characteristics of dragons. But of course, they do not, and cannot, exist in the physical world, as animals with material bodies, participating in the physical ecosystem. To put it in terms familiar to readers of this blog, they exist on the astral, but not material, planes. But the older writers make no such distinction; to St. Hildegard, one is as likely to find a dragon as a toad in any given forest, and the blood of a dragon, taken over the course of 9 days, may be used to cure gall stones. Just take care to dilute the dragon’s blood in water, otherwise it will be poisonous.
I wonder if what happens is that, as a civilization enters the middle phase of its historical cycle, a separation appears between the physical and astral planes, and those astral forms which cannot manifest according to the laws of physics that that civilization will discover retreat to the astral, as the dragons have.
But does the magic return during the late period of the historical cycle? Iamblichus has nothing to say about the silence of the oracles, and instead devotes the long third book of On the Mysteries to discussing them.
2. At least in our civilization, the totally disenchanted world seems to be confined to the ruling class and its sycophants. I’ve lived in many parts of the country and worked in a number of very different settings, and I’ve noticed that outside of what we’re now calling the Professional-Managerial Class, “paranormal” beliefs and experiences are common and openly discussed. Even among the PMC, unapproved beliefs are increasingly common– and I wonder if that relates to the ongoing unraveling of that class as a ruling elite.
3. Finally, regarding the malign enchantment, two anecdotes, which may or may not relate.
A. A few years back I happened to be studying Catholic theology and Chinese Taoist philosophy at the same time. As part of the latter, I began teaching myself to write and read Chinese characters. I soon learned that, as many here already know, there are, in fact, two systems of Chinese characters– the traditional characters, and a simplified version created by the Chinese Communist Party in the ’60s. The traditional characters are complex, interesting, beautiful, and directly connected with Chinese magical systems. The simplified versions, on the other hand, are boring and often ugly, much of the magic and meaning stripped from them in order to make them easier for the masses to learn.
Meanwhile, of course, the traditional Catholic mass, which was also complex, interesting, beautiful, and directly connected with traditional Western magic, also underwent a mass simplification and uglification in the 1960s under the same impulse and for the exact same purpose.
B. Since I began praciticing magic I have repeatedly had the experience of trying a magical technique, getting far better results than I could have expected, and then the effect falling off dramatically over subsequent attempts.
To be clear, I am not talking about ritual magic, here. As far as I know, a banishing ritual is a banishing ritual is a banishing ritual; the result of repeated practice over time is that it becomes more effective, not less. What I’m talking about are attempts at practical telepathy and the like. For example: I once lost my friends in a large crowd. I decided that I would visualize my aura expanding outward in every direction until it contacted them. I did so, and found my friends exactly where I expected to find them. The technique worked again a second time, but after that, I started getting false positives; now it works sometimes, but not others. It seems almost as if the first attempt at something like that gets past the Censors, but that after that, it becomes harder. Again, though, ritual magic works as intended every time, in the same way that a song is a song, every time you play it.
Of course, this may be the same phenomenon that you described in the post on Jung. But I wonder.
One last comment: about the current generation devolving and not being able to do magic….
Is not that the underlying theme of various religions and their Ages. People have regressed from the previous age.
I study the history of the U.S. “Mafia” and noted a similar decline. Once the group moved away from their original roots in Sicily and later Italy, they seem to loose their grounding. It would seem that other crime groups go through a similar pattern of moving beyond their roots and becoming yet another crime gang, they decline. I wonder if that is underlying modern disenchantment, of people moving beyond their roots and merging with the rest becoming uniform.
In “History of Western Philosophy” (1967) Bertrand Russell discusses how in early biblical times, Prophets were readily accepted, but as traditions hardened into identities separating one group from another, new revelations were no longer seen as useful, and all great miracles had to be set in the past:
“Alexandrian Jews … adhered with extraordinary tenacity to the Law, especially circumcision, observance of the Sabbath, and abstinence of pork and other unclean meats… They no longer tolerated prophets who had anything new to say. Those among them who felt impelled to write in the stye of prophets pretended that they had discovered an old book, by Daniel or Solomon or some other ancient of impeccable respectability… Prophetic fervor was by no means dead, though it had to adopt the device of pseudonymity, in order to obtain a hearing.”
It reminds me of how Joseph Smith of the Mormons discovered “ancient tablets” to buttress his claims of prophesy.
Building off Eike’s story about the Gnomes, it seems like many aspects of modern civilization are very uncomfortable for many types of spirits.
For example, the Ayahuasca diet has many restrictions that make no sense in terms of chemical safety for would be travelers. People are told to avoid toothpaste, shampoo, and even deodorant for a long period of time before partaking. The reasoning given by the native/mestizo people is that these things make it harder for the spirits to work with someone.
Additionally, in the Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, fae contact is said to occur most often in the west of Ireland when someone has been separated from civilization for a while.
Finally, there are many stories the world over of spirits disliking salt and iron in particular, major components of our diets and modern tech. Can you imagine the effects of salting city roads in winter in an animistic universe?
I could imagine how uncomfortable our cities might be for certain beings. Unknown chemicals and scents, constant noise, toxic humans (both physical and spiritually). Our civilization has a near-complete ignorance of the spirit ecology impact of our actions.
The scarier question is what kind of beings does this stuff attract?
JMG and Commentariate
As to why we can no longer levitate rocks and the like.
I wonder if the skill building related to this phenomenon becomes lost as civilization developed its layers of stubborn ideological junk. How many phases of disenchantment is a child pulled through in our current civilization for example. The process generally begins with elders instructing children on what exists and what doesn’t, what is really alive and what isn’t, what is possible and what’s not and so on and so forth. Eventually you are introduced to processed foods as well. Following this school takes over and unless you are lucky you are further subjected to a powerful does of disenchanting influences, most obvioisly indoor classes that teach set curriculum based on idealogies and sciences that deny the existence of magic as an initiatory requirement. Generally students continue eating processed foods and developed their body in relation to this diet.
Following this if the mind,spirit,and body isn’t thoroughly disenchanted then you can do another 4 to 8 years on a campus to disconnect even more, start the mind numbing 9-5er, or fall into a diagnosis of your choice and go for supports depending on your style,will,pathway.
What kind of human would develope if a community made coordinated efforts to do the exact opposite; raise children from birth on wild foods, belief in magic and other planes of existences. Perhaps also including an expectation to accomplish things like levitating rocks as per the local magnetic underground current that is worshipped and recognized. What would happen? Is that the kind of community that developes in a dark age type scenario?
I assume of all examples Deloria would have had a point of view example of community closer to this type to reference. However I wonder at the muting power of entrenched civilization, I wonder if it grows and infects the land and life force around us at some level. To add to that, what does the worldwide ingestion of microplastics do to our magical abilities….
Weber observed while “many old gods ascend from their graves,” they are quickly “disenchanted,” taking “the form of impersonal forces.”
Perhaps we haven’t disenchanted the Earth, but rather enchanted it with the anti-gods of atheism.
By giving creation to the spiritual realm , in ritual, it is given back to us enchanted, charged with value and meaning.
Today’s economy functions as an anti-ritual…
@ Joshua Rout and others, regarding the eucharist and other sacraments, 3 anecdotes:
1. After the Novus Ordo mass was introduced in the 1960s, the Liberal Catholic Church sent clairvoyants “undercover” to observe the new mass and see whether the presence of Christ could still be detected in the eucharist. They unanimously reported that it could not; the “glow of devotion” was still present, but the Christ-force itself? No.
2. Several years ago I was working a Sunday shift at a spa in California, and I felt a sudden urge to attend mass. The closest Catholic church, about a half mile down the road, was a typically bleak suburban affair; white walls, no incense, no shrines or side-altars. Though not of the very worst sort, I had always avoided it. That day there was a visiting priest, a very old Irishman. When he consecrated the sacrament, I felt a great column of power descend into the church. It landed on my crown center with so much force it nearly knocked me over. I have never felt anything like it before or since.
3. Here: http://www.miracolieucaristici.org/en/Liste/list.html is a website compilation of eucharistic miracles from around the world. While many first-world countries are represented, the USA is notably absent. These were all compiled by a teenaged Italian Catholic who died of leukemia in 2006 and is scheduled to be beatified next week.
I’ve noticed the malign enchantment on people who purportedly believe in non material aspects of life, specifically Catholics who believe in a supreme diety. The cognitive dissonance astounds me. They deny and make fun of things like energy/qi and astrology all while asserting the existence of heaven and God. How could heaven or God’s will on earth work without energy to conduct prayers to god, or to pass subtle bodies on to heaven? If God is present in all things wouldn’t energy from the planets be a mechanism of his influence? I hope I did a decent enough job of explaining this thought.
CR, interesting. It may be the fact that I’ve made myself wholly comfortable in a magical world view that makes biochemic cell salts, a branch of homeopathy, work extremely well for me. (Although they don’t fall afoul of Avogadro’s number — the standard dilution used with cell salts is 6x, one part per million, which includes a chemically measurable quantity of the original substance!)
Info, rationalism always ends up refuting itself. That’s why Ages of Reason always end after a few centuries.
Cliff, I’ve noticed the same glee. It has a straightforward source: if there are no gods and no spirits, if we are lumps of meat and when we die we rot and that’s it, then we can do whatever we want and it doesn’t matter. You’re three years old again and you can run around shrieking and break things and eat the whole carton of ice cream, because there’s nobody to tell you to stop. With regard to U.G., his teachings never interested me at all, so I don’t have a lot to say. As for the rituals of construction and science, that’s a fascinating hypothesis — can you think of a way to test it?
Mr. Nobody, no argument there. Refrigeration technology and good laundry facilities aren’t merely useful, they’re very good for health; the capacity to communicate over very long distances instantly has a galaxy of positive features; there are other bits of 1920s technology that are well worth having…but since then, the rate of actual improvements has dropped very sharply. Among other things, we could be having this conversation just as effectively in the letters column of Green Wizardry Magazine…
Kimberly, that’s another crucial point. People seem to have encountered a lot of beings that aren’t seen so much any more — or not as openly.
Christophe, the secret of Calvinism is that the Calvinist always thinks, “I’m among the elect, but those other people over there aren’t.” It’s the same mentality under capitalism; everybody believes that they’re entitled to all the goodies but there’s someone else who isn’t. The Equality™ riots aren’t about equality for everyone — it’s equality for the Good People™ and endless punishment for the Bad People™, just as in Calvinism. The one difference, to borrow Eric Voegelin’s catchphrase, is that capitalism immanentizes the Calvinist eschaton, replacing the Last Judgment with an endless stream of self-righteous judgments here and now.
Zaubergeist, I’m quite sure that Weber was aware of it. If I’m correct, the Frankfurt school were using the whole rhetoric of disenchantment for a prescriptive rather than a descriptive purpose — it was something they wanted to achieve, not something that they thought actually existed in more than a very slight and restricted sense. I interpret Dialectic of Enlightenment as an admission of defeat: a recognition (unfortunately, only a partial recognition!) that the Enlightenment was not a disenchantment at all but the replacement of one enchantment by another, less stable and successful enchantment, which was highly beneficial to certain sectors of society but harmful to most.
Kimberly, thanks for this!
Prizm, that may also be a large part of the riddle.
Hi JMG, many thanks for the post
When so many people asked you to write a post about “malign enchantment” my view was that this perception was not related to the belief of a world “disenchanted”, to the contrary, it was because people think we are in fact in a world too “malignly enchanted”, and I interpreted this as a more individual than collective sensation/intuition, but at the end a sum of individuals constitutes something collective.
I cannot talk about magic, I have not investigate enough (for the moment) and it is a very strange world for me, even if I do not support the pure materialistic faith so prevalent in the mainstream culture, but my conclusion for the big demand of a post about “malign enchantment” was that it was due to the increasing discontent in our society (“Unbehagen in Der Kultur”).
May be this huge discontent perceived as a “curse” or a “spell” by an increasing number of people in the turmoil of the decadent phase of civilizations drives to arrival of the Second Religiosity.
Yes may be the effectiveness of magic is increasing again in our (decadent) times, for example the medical researchers are quite confused by the increase of the placebo effect in all the fields of medicine:
Even in surgery, in 2002 a study finds common knee surgery no better than placebo surgery:
But the trend is universal, may be again the modern allopathic medicine is in retreat and the “magic healing” is on the rise again as civilization decay:
It seems the materialistic medicine is losing his magic.
The last thing I would like to say in this comment is that I understand the term “disenchanted world” said by Max Weber as also the other meaning of “disenchanted” which is related to “sadness” or “deep loss of something important”, and I think Weber was very sensible also to this part of the issue.
Another thought: What if the bottom of the nadir cycle corresponds to the phase just before the new religiosity in Spenglers terms? Then before/as new forms of religion develop, as the cycle starts to climb, the grasp for whatever religions are around?
Hi JMG and everyone, I’m thinking Muninn may be right about cities being a detriment to magical or spiritual experiences. Most humans live in urban areas now, at least in the developed west. Personally, I love living in the boonies, I find cities ill-inducing, and avoid them as much as possible. How can you talk to a racoon, or a tree when there is all that noise and activity? The urban built environment is for humans, and is meant to keep out anything of nature.
I do not question the validity of homeopathy… just state that for *me* it is harder to use to its full potential. If mages find themselves reared during one of the Ages or Reason, they may develop mental roadblocks that make it harder to practice occult disciplines, but some would be affected more than others, depending on how central those roadblocks are to the discipline itself.
One set of evidence to support that theory is to find practitioners of two or more disciplines, and to ask them if they have one practice that seems to flow easier than the others, and look for correlation. A different set of evidence would be to find if the highest exponents of the occult during Ages of Reason happen to have grown up in unusual environments, or if they were imports from neighboring cultures that are yet to go through their civilization phase. (This last thought came to me after reading comments about the clash between European world-view vs Native American world-view in the 16th century; so thanks to @Ian and @Kimberly for that)
p.d. I will try Schuessler’s salts, though. I am already into Leon Vannier’s work, so maybe I will have an easier time using tiny material doses instead of the usual 30c/200c.
@Munnin & commentariat: building off Munnin, building off Eike…
I think you hit upon something good there Munnin. And I think it in part relates to biophobia. The spirits may be biophiliacs, but how can we relate to them if we are biophobic? I was reminded in your mentioning of ayahuasca prohibitions against toothpaste, deoderant and the like, of something magician Josephine McCarthy wrote (I don’t remember if it was in a book or personal communication), but it has to do with scent.
She inveighed that spirits like the smell of smoke, the smell of real cooked food, real human smells and scents in other words. I went to my uncles 80th birthday party at my cousins house this past Saturday. It was fun. But using the restroom I was sickened by the smell of the de rigeur nasty chemical deoderizers trendy these days. And I hate the smell of heavily scented foam soaps. My wife and I are averse to these kind of things and don’t use them in our home. We like nice (natural) incense and real smells. Natural soaps.
Smell has deep connections to magic and if a human like me doesn’t like weird chemical smelling crud, than, probably neither do spirits. I would never exchange incense at the altar for one of those chemical deoderizers. Perhaps our biophobic habits in modern times, have driven off some of the spirits who would normally be hanging around us, and without those spirits chilling with us, we have less power to enchant or be enchanted.
& of course salt is a major cleanser of magical energies, so yeah, salting the roads might be like bleaching them on an etheric level -plus the pavement disconnect between the earth itself. It seems like their are a whole suite of habits we do that has offended a lot of the other denizens round these parts.
Kimberly Steele’s mentioning of beings which aren’t seen anymore isn’t unique to the western world. In a village in Papua New Guinea, Gapun, oldr people have had the same experience encountering their equivalent of brownies in childhood, but not anymore nowadays. This was recounted by Don Kulick in his book “A Death in the Rainforest”.
oooh. Green Wizardry magazine. My spidey senses are now on high alert. I always thought a magazine modeled on Analog: Science Fiction, Science Fact would be cool. But it would be deindustrial fiction pared with green wizardry articles.
I’ll try to calm down now, but this post, and other things have me amped. And this is a place where a lot of cool conversations happen, so can’t help it, if I want to hang out in this rad coffee house.
“Did Calvin merely replace Catholicism’s universal original sin with a polarity of original sin for most and original sinlessness for a select few?” No, original sin is still universal, the “depravity of man.” Calvin took the idea of the omnipotence of God to its logical conclusion: if God has all the power, we have none. Therefore we cannot save ourselves; God and God alone determines who will be saved. The problem from a societal standpoint is: who is saved? The decision was made at some point that those who are successful are blessed by God and must be the Elect. This is where I see Calvinism leaving Christianity, as Jesus of Nazareth was pretty explicit that “prostitutes and tax collectors” were getting into the Kingdom of Heaven while the rich and powerful were not.
Ian, regarding your musings on how society messes with its inmates:
I’ve met a young woman once, daughter of German parents, who was raised home-schooled as a single child on a remote farm in Norway. When she turned 18 she said she wanted Abitur (the German high school diploma), just in case. So she asked around if any school would agree to test her. One school was willing to try the experiment, provided she took the last school year, and lo and behold! she finished best of class.
After that she had no problem at all establishing a pretty comfortable self-employed position in life that leaves her ample spare time to care for the garden and animals which feed her family completely (she’s a raw vegan, eggs and milk are for the family), her farm is off-grid, she drinks only pure water from her own source, and she gave birth to her kids by herself in the garden. She doesn’t consider it helpful to involve medical personnel in matters of child-bearing.
She told me that she had ordered her goats to not procreate while it was her turn being pregnant, and (of course) it worked. She claimed she had that kind of power over most animals.
She said she spends only a few weeks at a time in the city (where I met her), but that her defenses were good enough to make all the human crud and noise just bounce off her. I didn’t doubt that for a second.
I can imagine how her story sounds a bit strange, written down like that, but I can assure you that I’ve never met anyone who was so strong-willed and competent at being a person. It was as if everyone else I’ve ever met, including me for sure, was a sorry pile of shards compared to how much that lady had herself together.
I wondered a lot about how that came to be, and of course it’s because of her upbringing. I can imagine that a large helping of magical training can get you to similar results, but in most people, the lion’s share of that would have to be directed at reconstruction, before one would even arrive at the level one might have started at, were it not for the blessings of the modern world.
I think there’s an inverse proportionality between the level of development of the artificial environment and that of the people raised in it. Every invention weakens the ability it’s supposed to strengthen, and given the number of inventions all around us, we’re all disabled six ways from sunday.
Did John Calvin hate people with all their messy, unique, idiosyncratic varieties? I always get the impression he was trying to control out everything he didn’t like or disapproved of.
I also always wondered what he would have done if he’d actually met Jesus.
Tanya wrote, “They’ve forgotten how to (and/or don’t make time to, and due to the techno ‘advancements’ you’ve suggested) ‘properly’ think; daydream, imagine and visualize; grasp those best thoughts, ideas and visions presented, and bring them to life (manifest / create).” and “Perhaps this presents an opportunity for us. Whilst those specific ‘powers that be’ / parties / groups etc, with their agendas, are intent on distracting the masses, there is a chance for us to focus unimpeded and produce even greater ‘work’ behind the scenes”
Yes, the possibilities are abundant just now, aren’t they! With the Western world lost in its own navel contemplation, we live in a time of extraordinary opportunity for thoughtful people to model more effective practices. As long as the status quo remains obsessed with signaling its moral purity to distract from its failing rear-guard actions, the playing field is left wide open for the adventurous to practice on.
The biggest threat we face right now is losing track of our playing by getting distracted being spectators of our own game. Whatever you do, do not try to storm the bleachers — the elite will fight to the death to hold those slightly elevated positions and box seats from which they judge and cheer. Let the twitter and youtube influencers aspire to those lofty heights with their exaggerated emotional repressions and perfectly manicured opinions.
As no-holds-barred death matches break out in the stands amidst the shrieking tribes of purity cultists, we will be completely overlooked on the field as we play at games they daren’t even imagine in their compulsively scrubbed minds. Eventually, the last of the purists will burn down their beloved stands to protect them from our defilement. And we will go on playing amidst those ruins…
We live in a time for laying foundations upon which great ideas will one day get built. We will only see the beginnings of the those foundations in our lifetimes, but to climb out of this sucking swamp of decaying ideals, to stand upon stable ground before we die, imagining what will one day grow from it — that is a noble goal. That is a game I want to play.
Thank you very much for Wednesday’s very interesting and very well written post. It provides a lot of food for thought.
I hope this post will not be considered off-topic.
The post explicitly mentions Dion Fortune’s definition of magic “the art and science of causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will.”
When I was thinking about her definition, the phenomenon of hypnosis immediately came to mind. Specifically, the question “what is the relationship between the two”?
Could we not define the process of hypnosis in just the same words — “the art and science of causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will.?” And if so, is there a difference between hypnosis and magic?
Is hypnosis a subset of magic? Or visa versa? Or are they synonyms? Or perhaps both are intersecting subsets of something larger than either?
Hypnosis is a still puzzling phenomenon that even materialist skeptics acknowledge is real. It can be fairly reliably induced (though not in everyone). It has variable but often quite dramatic effects, e.g., surgery using hypnosis as the sole anesthetic has been performed (hypnotic anesthesia won’t work for everyone, but it can — as has — for some). So if hypnosis is synonymous with magic, materialist skeptics, would have to acknowledge that magic exists.
Trying to keep my inquiry on-topic — is Dion Fortune’s definition, another way of saying “magic is the art and science of manipulating attention”?
And if this is correct, could the lessening efficacy of magic, commented on in JMG’s post, be just another manifestation of our age’s ever-weakening powers of attention and shortening attention span?
Could the perceived loss or weakening commented on result from a progression in something I do not quite know how to label. It relates to sentience, consciousness, purpose, will (as I think you use the word)…. May I cheat and use the placeholder, ‘X’?
– Panpsychism: X is every where in observed world.
– Animism,Polytheism: X condensed into individual spirits: the Elementals, or Greek gods and godesses
– Monotheism: all X condensed into one individual, the (singular) “Will of God”
– Evolution: “purpose” no longer necessary to explain observed structure/order in Nature.
Perhaps humans have simply modelled X out of existence?
Just wanted to say that I am finding this week’s discussions terribly fascinating, though I feel far, far out of my depth.
Magic not being quite so magic – are we in a period where we have entered a ‘connection shadow’? – noticed one or two others here saying similar and also suggesting it not to be an absolute universal collective change globally, but maybe has a pattern linked to how ‘developed’ a society is. One book by an author my mother loved certainly supports this, if even half the stuff in it were true goings on. ‘Gifts of Unknown Things’ by Lyall Watson – 1970s mystical happenings in Indonesia that fit ‘old’ magic yearnings – and not that long ago. Going with this, something must have increased interference in us more ‘modern’ types. I’m going to be bold and asert that another couple of authors maybe help point towards what that might be, and the first also suggests it is a stage we just have to go through:
“When man invented language, he invented a system of labelling and classifying the world. During this process, he developed an internal representation of his own mental states, largely as a result of writing. From this came the modern dilemma, a verbal ego-self that acts as a barrier to, not a vehicle of, consciousness.
The verbal, ego phase of evolution was probably inevitable…However, ego-self consciousness (which he later describes as fragmented or like being in a prison) is, by it’s very nature, a passing phase ” (my addition)
D. Reanney, ‘The Death of Forever’.
The other lists four barriers to ‘Recognition’, the first shared already, and more modern times have arguably made these harder to overcome, at least for now:
“1. Egoism. 2. Somnambulistic consciousness 3. Sensual desire. 4. False predication.” (‘From Experience and Philosophy’, Franklin Merrell-Wolff)
If this line of reasoning has any credence then it’d have to stand for even accomplished mages of recent times. Hard to break through an epoch that resists it. What d’ya think?
(Really interesting post, thank you.)
In effect, destroy the role and function of the Sacred Feminine in a culture or society and all else collapses.
That’s interesting, because it is one of my themes that the true source of feminist dissatisfaction is precisely that. I call myself an antifeminist, but in a way I am the ultimate feminist. I just happen to believe that the sexes are very different and that is a good and beautiful thing. However, there must be a feminine representation in the divine or women are indeed inferior. Christianity has taken that away by naming all three persons as ‘he.’ And then the Protestants have it in for Mother Mary, so the coup is complete.
I think that on a subconscious and archetypal level, western women feel deeply negated, and this results in a confusion as to their worth. Since men seem to have all the worth, they want to make feminism about being able to act like a man in the world.
On your example of the ayahuasca dietary restrictions:
I traveled to the Peruvian Amazon with a small group of American ayahuasca tourists about 12 years ago. We were prescribed a very specific purifying diet to prepare for the experience: no salt, no sugar, no animal products for a week prior to departure. Upon arriving in the remote jungle camp: no toothpaste, soap, shampoo, or perfumes of any kind. We ate only fish caught in the river that flowed past the camp, plaintains, and plain white rice. The cooking was done by a Shipibo curandera.
My current understanding is that these physical-plane restrictions would have helped make us more sensitive to higher-plane influences, perhaps another way of saying it made it easier for the spirits to work with us.
Returning to the modern world a few weeks later, one of my strongest impressions was noticing how pungent other people (not counting the members of our group) smelled! The modern diet of processed food and artificial scents emanated from every pore…probably another aspect of the malign enchantment.
This is just personal opinion and experience, but I think what you’re describing has something to do with urbanism. I was once a strict rationalist in my teenage and early 20s but since returning to my family farm 4 years ago I became more and more aware that the world is enchanted, and hilariously so. The early medieval period and dark ages was a time of depopulation of the cities and a return to the land, so perhaps this has something to do with it. I think you have talked on this blog about how not dealing with living things disconnects people from reality.
Although slightly peeved not to find your astrological “take” of the equinox, I forgive you because your exposé is truly enlightening and inspiring. IF indeed magic experiences fluxes through time in its potency of manifestation in the human world … well I’m certain we’re on the verge of a major uptick. Subjective as this data undoubtably is … I have experienced a remarkable intensification of perception, connectedness, and guidance – stuff I’ve barely dared to dream of ever feeling … since childhood. There again … I could be simply ageing with grace. Thank you!
This post was very helpful for me. I struggle often with fears about a universe within which all the spiritual ideas are fiddle faddle and we are just a collection of cells and chemicals that ends in ultimate oblivion. It keeps me up at nights.
The post also reminded me of this passage from Joseph Campbell a friend recently shared:
“Quixote was the last hero of the Middle Ages. He rode out to encounter giants, but instead of giants, his environment produced windmills. Ortega points out that this story takes place about the time that a mechanistic interpretation of the world came in, so that the environment was no longer spiritually responsive to the hero. The hero is today running up against a hard world that is in no way responsive to his spiritual need.”
And I will just add that even though I sort of shook my head at the idea of magic influencing the real world…. I am an avid Tarot reader and when I shuffle the cards to arrive at a series of seven in a row that will answer my question I suppose I sort of am imagining I control the physical world. Or at least that I can communicate with something that does.
Thank you for this post.
Isn’t it in the Mahabharat that Krishan talks about something similar? A cyclical nature of our contact with Spirit, just like the cycles of the Earth around the Sun. They talk about it very colorfully but they do mention that when we are closer to the super sun they mention, lets call it a Mahaperihelion, spiritual contact is very easy and such things as telepathy and Magic are easier than during the Mahaphelion.
@ SteveT: But Chaucer’s world *was* near the end of the Medieval Era/Civilization/Megacycle/whatever you want to call it. The Middle Ages. Religion: Roman Catholic. (Official outcasts – Jews.) Center: Europe. The frontiers: The Mediterranean and Atlantic Oceans and the North Sea; and Russia/Greece/Constantinople to the east. Lingua franca: Latin. i.e. an extremely well-defined time.
Spengler is looking at Faustian Civilization per se: i.e. the *seedtime* of Western Civilization (Renaissance-~1960): Religion: many flavors of Christianity. Center: the Atlantic Ocean. Frontier: the Pacific Ocean. Lingua Franca: English. Official outcasts: “natives.”
Another question regarding the malign enchantment occurred to me – I’ve looked into a few of the twentieth century channeled texts, and found almost nothing of value; but have there been times or places where channeling messages or texts yielded better results? I similarly found the Qur’an as a channeled text to be of little value, but some of the older apocalypses and Hebrew prophetic texts appear to be valuable sources of ‘images designed to train the mind, not to inform it.’
@Lady Cutekitten, barefootwisdom, Steve T
Thank you for your responses!
Part of the reason I asked is that I observed a Novus Ordo mass just a couple of weeks ago, and was concerned because I could sense or detect nothing. I had also heard recently that the new Roman Catholic rite for holy water doesn’t include exorcism of the salt and water, or the mixing of the salt into the water.
I would be interested to know (not that it’s possible to know this, just that it would be useful) if native North Americans had any pre-conquest experience of medicine/magic waning. If it was unheard of, that might indicate that the problem of mal-enchantment came with the Europeans. Deloria’s point is that modern medicine-holders experienced a decline relative to previous generations. Cultural “taint,” maybe – a kind of spiritual influenza for having been exposed to settler-miasma?
Though of course, many traditions (from all over the world) hearken back to a “world before this one” or a time “when men understood animals’ speech” or when people were “closer to the gods” – perhaps this is to be taken less literally and more as a sign of periods of cultural renewal, balance, stagnation?
Just thinking it through…
In the mystical qabalah by D. Fortune she mentioned cycles or rythyms of chokmah-binah & chesed-geburah being a essential part of existence, and what you are talking about reminds me of this.
I’d say that in times of miracles the human mind possesses some kind of energetic outpouring and loosened limits, but in more materialistic times the mind is less energetic and is bound by some stable structure that makes miracles difficult.
I’m very fascinated by the deep and not so deep past. Uniformitarianism is a 19th century copout. I’ve read that our current gravity and atmosphere would not support some of the creatures that used to live here, due to their great size and also that the flying ones could not fly in our current low density atmosphere and high gravity.
I have followed your writings online since I returned from a long period abroad, most significantly in Indonesia where I came upon a meditation center in the Buddhist Mahayana tradition, also steeped in Hinduism and indigenous Javanese practices and beliefs. Shanti Loka (the center’s name) afforded me
experiences of “the magical” which opened me to esoteric traditions, and the occult aspects of spirituality. Finding myself, temperamentally perhaps, leaning more towards the mystical path, than the magical, I nonetheless find your treatment and insights concerning “magical practice” sane, sensible, and inspired. I first read Dion Fortune in Indonesia—her book on psychic defense which at times I found most practical. The character of mind most evident for me in your writings is the freedom from New Age cant and the bromides of “strip mall” spirituality.
A meditation based on the movements of the cosmic doc.
If magic fades during the age of reason, at least to the degree that some of the greater feats become largely impossible, it could be because the magic exists for some purpose other than the performance of those individual feats.
Each civilization/group swarm is born during an age of powerful magical forces. This can be seen as Acending Arc. The powers that allow great feats exists and is used by mages for both individual and collective works, but these works start to level off as the Arc reaches it’s nadier. Why?
Well, hypothetically, because the group swarm as a whole has brought into incarnation the thing that it needed to bring. For example Roman Jurisprudence, or the Nation-State. Each of these concepts come into incarnation during a particular phase, and they must play out upon the material plane to the completion of their cycle. Now it wouldn’t do for other incarnations to come into existence in a way that could interrupt the evolutionary direction a particular civilization was taking. So, during the period where that particular incarnation is occuring, it is wholly possible that the tides of mana level off. A rest period if you will after a work is completed…
I’ve often thought that self-described Bible believing Calvinists have a huge tension between the miracles in the Bible and the miracles they pray for and the strong remnants of enlightenment anti-super naturalism. It’s what Heinlein called unintegrated values.
It just so happens I recently started reading The Discarded Image and have been rereading Lewis’s Space Trilogy. I find the medieval worldview as described by him to be much more congenial than the Calvanist worldview or its materialist derivatives.
Building off Muninn and Danaone, I think it’s interesting that monasteries are so often built in the middle of nowhere, well away from any human cities; and that as time passes, the monasteries become the centre of the society, and so people build cities near them; and then the magic goes away. I now wonder if this is a case of cause and effect: the monasteries are built where they are because that’s where the spiritual is closest; as people build cities near the monasteries, access to the spiritual at the monastery becomes harder, and the tracks in space the religion built fades away.
Well now, I am a monotheist, and far from thinking that X is only in one isolated being, I think that God’s uncreated energies permeate the universe and fill it, so that X resides in the spaces between the atoms in your cells, your blood, the electrons and particles.
David, I haven’t read it. I’ll put it on the look-at list.
Lain, Lewis knew and contended with the British equivalents of the Frankfurt School, and deliberately satirized them in The Hideous Strength, so you’re not wrong in seeing similarities!
Barefootwisdom, that’s a very good point. One of the reasons I found Druidry so satisfying as a framework for my magic as well as my spirituality is that it enthusiastically embraces the idea that life and consciousness are present in all phenomena.
Iwelsh2016, thank you. At least for the time being, though, my Work is here in North America, and there’s a lot of heavy lifting still to be done.
Yorkshire, I like that! As for “Thule,” it’s a German word, so it’s more or less TOO-lay.
Eike, thanks for this! The Auszug der Zwerge is fascinating, in that I know of accounts of exactly the same thing from Scotland and Cornwall. I’ll have to look for some English translations of German accounts — my German is still somewhat shaky.
Blueday Jo, hmm! Fascinating. Thank you for this.
Pixelated, thanks for the update. A slice of life in the midst of the decline and fall…
Brachyrynchos, interesting. The one difficulty I note with this is that there were no electrical machines in common use in Roman times, and yet Plutarch chronicled the same process at work.
Denis, true enough.
Irena, we had the same thing happen here in the wake of the 1960s, when mass overproduction of liberal arts graduates was followed by economic contraction. The result was a flurry of ineffectual radical terrorist groups such as the Symbionese Liberation Army, followed by the complete collapse of the New Left. I’m not greatly concerned.
Brendhelm, that very concept shows up in weird-tale literature from a century ago, so you’re at least in good company.
Aethon, there’s a fine article on exactly that subject on Quillette just now — the idea is that we now have luxury beliefs as a form of status signaling, corresponding to the conspicuous consumption of luxury products in earlier ages.
Marko, it may be strange but it’s in parallel with suggestions that quite a number of others have made here, and by no means necessarily invalid.
Anonymous, when I made the comment I did in the post, I was thinking about the various surveys I cited in Monsters; I may have to go back and dig those up.
Dennis, and of course that question of yours is one of the big ones. To what extent is the modern industrial worldview a magic spell that works only because people keep reinforcing it with their ceremonial actions?
Onething, I started from that idea, but then — as I usually do — went in different directions.
Erik, good. The answer, of course, is that alchemy is more than one thing and produces more than one result. Yet those sworn statements do in fact exist…
Justin, those cycles are of major interest to me just now, not least because I’ve been doing so much with astrological cycles. I’ll check out Godwin’s book — he’s reliably readable.
Jasper, a fine meditation! But the Bernays-sorcery is cracking around us, you know.
Onething, compare the rate of change before 2012, during 2012, and after 2012. As far as I can tell, there’s zero difference.
B3rnhard, you and a bunch of other people here seem to be tuning into the same set of concepts. Interesting.
Ganv, fair enough. Motives are always mixed, after all.
Neptunesdolphins, thanks for all of this.
Viduraawkened, I’ve never taken the time to look up such arguments. I investigated astrology, found that it works, and blithely ignored the materialists who insist that it can’t work. If they want to neglect a source of information that I find of great practical use, that’s no disadvantage to me…
Ian, those are all excellent points.
Steve, yes, that’s basically what I’m saying. In regard to the Spenglerian cycle, I thought I had a handle on it — and then I remembered that the greatest Japanese mages, people like En-no-Gyoja and Kobo Daishi, thrived during the peak of the Heian period of Japanese culture, the zenith of its “classical” cycle, not during the dark ages to either side — but exactly contemporary to great mages elsewhere in the world. So it may not be linked to civilizational cycles at all. As for your observations, yes, those are also highly relevant.
NMG, the mystical tractates of the Corpus Hermeticum, written in Greek by Hellenized Egyptians, followed exactly the same rule: credit it to someone else in order to get a hearing.
Muninn, hmm! Those are excellent points.
Ian, it’s been tried — look into the history of Theosophical communes in the early 20th century. There seems to be something deeper at work than education and diet.
Spiltteeth, a case could be made!
Steve, my wife, who has clairvoyant gifts, was raised Catholic. She also noticed the sudden change when the Novus Ordo mass was instituted at her church; her description was that a golden light which was there previously went out, cold, as though someone had thrown a switch. The feeling of the presence of God that had been there before was gone, too.
Luke, I know. I have no idea how someone can claim to be a Christian and not believe in angels and a spiritual world — yet apparently plenty of people manage this feat.
A discussion of new vs. old holy water:
The Vatican II fans are not making a very good case for their position. If all Father is doing is expressing his hope that God will bless the water, why waste his time and mine? I can just as well stay home and hope by myself that God will bless the water. The reason a priest exists is that God via Christ via Saint Peter has delegated to him certain responsibilities and certain abilities. (Or at least, that’s why Christian priests exist; somebody up there mentioned a religion where the clergy are mainly masters of ceremony.)
“Onething, compare the rate of change before 2012, during 2012, and after 2012. As far as I can tell, there’s zero difference.”
Mmm, we’ll see. My point was that it may take several years to become visible. I spend a lot of time these days in Q world, and these people, and there are many millions as well as around the world, feel that things are moving and coming to light. But it may be a big false hope.
DFC, I’d heard about the increase in the power of the placebo effect, but not given it its proper importance — thank you for this! As for the multiple meanings of “disenchanted,” it’s interesting to me that so many intellectuals of Weber’s generation put so much effort into making the world as miserable as possible. I think of Bertrand Russell’s famous edict:
“That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the débris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”
Justin, it’s worth investigating.
Danaone, so noted! Me, I’m a city kid — I love visiting the woods, but I also love big libraries and the other resources one finds in or near a city. Still, the country mouse and the city mouse have ever had their separate opinions…
CR, no, I got that. I was simply noting, with interest, that I didn’t seem to have that problem, probably because of going whole hog with magic. As for cell salts, give ’em a try — I’ve lost track of how many cases of influenza I’ve stopped dead in their tracks with a couple of doses of Ferrum phos. 6x and Nat. sulph. 6x.
Justin, if somebody wants to make that happen I’ll commit to a quarterly essay.
Teresa, I don’t know what Calvin would have done, but Jesus made it very clear what he would have said: “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
Walter, hypnosis is one narrow subset of magic: a method of causing specific changes in consciousness. There are magical traditions where you take an oath never to allow yourself to be hypnotized, because those particular changes in consciousness conflict with those the mage seeks…
Bfp, I don’t think it’s just the model. The medicine people Deloria talked about were using the same model, but not getting the same results.
Jay, and yet we use the same word for a magical working that we use for setting the letters of a word in the proper order: “spell.” That’s not accidental!
PumpkinScone, many thanks for the data point!
Brazzart, the spring equinox reading remains in effect for the entire year due to the sign that was rising; we’ll discuss astrology again in March! As for the possibility that magic is on its way back, the rising strength of the placebo effect that DFC cited earlier is evidence that you may be right.
Charlie, that vision of the world has been pushed at you relentlessly by those who profit from it. Keep that in mind and it’s easier to shake it off.
Augusto, that would seem to be the case!
Joshua, channeled texts generally are pretty dubious. I think people turn to that when more useful means of communication with the spiritual world close down.
Temporaryreality, that’s an excellent question, concerning which I know nothing. Anyone else?
J.L.Mc12, that would follow, wouldn’t it?
Mark, thank you! That’s high praise.
Varun, fascinating. I could see that. Or perhaps the creation of a great culture is itself the greatest and most exhausting of all human magical workings…
Bradley, true enough!
Galen, it’s a much saner and more interesting world.
Onething, well, we’ll see!
So interesting about the idea of smells. I’m really taken with the idea because it makes so much sense and if these beings are actually, well, on a continuum, they would have some sensation of our world. I recall how with daughter in Sweden we went over and visited a really beautiful historic old Russian church in Copenhagen and how she almost cried with nostalgia because of the wonderful aroma that permeates Orthodox churches.
The other daughter worked for a time in the administration of a large and wealthy Protestant Presbyterian church. She had decided it would be good for her two small boys to get some exposure. She also thought it would be good for her job to come to the church sometimes. At the same time she wanted to get the youngest baptized and also began to take them to an Orthodox church in Philadelphia. So one morning the family goes into the car to go to church and the little one asks which church are they going to? And my daughter answers with the name of the Protestant church. And he said, “Oh, the one without God.”
Wow, Russel’s famous edict just didn’t quite make sense to me. On a foundation of unyielding despair? I really can’t tell what his point is!
I’ve always had the same feeling in Protestant churches. This is not to criticize the churches, their leaders, or their laity. There are plenty of saintly Protestants. But in their churches…there’s something missing. And nowadays in MY churches, there’s something missing.
Wouldn’t you say that hypnosis and trance are very similar?
“Any time you have a power differential in society, that differential will tend to increase unless deliberate steps are taken to stop that from happening”
From your endorsing of Chesterton’s distributivism, i had you tentatively pinned as an anarcho-socialist, but now i rejoice in the strong suspicion that your analytic method is quite close to the infallible truth of marxism (insert long screedcscreeched) maybe with the Hegel tempered by some (a lot of) Spengler.
It should say ( insert long screed here*)
Dear Mr. Greer (et all) – Not on topic, but, I’ll hope you’ll allow me to slip in a recent book, on a topic that is often touched on, here.
“Break It Up: Succession, Division and the Secret History of America’s Imperfect Union.” (Kreitner).
Haven’t seen it yet. On my library hold list. Lew
One of the problems in my own church has turned out to be what one might call ethnic Christians, as ethnic Jews versus religious Jews, for lack of a better comparison. These ethnic Christians don’t actually believe in God, or Christ, and certainly not the Holy Spirit. Jesus might have existed and been a good man, but certainly not God incarnate. I can’t call them cultural Christians for they lack the culture of Christianity as well as the beliefs.
But they’re members, they attend religiously, they were raised in the church, and they have a heavy influence on the direction of the church. I suspect they are across the mainline protestant churches, it would go quite far to explain why the attendence of my generation is largely lacking from the mainline pews, as these folks are the generation of our parents. They’re generally nice people, pleasant and sociable, quick to make excuses for why someone may have behaved badly and even deny that certain behaviors are bad, and happy to forgive on another’s behalf without repentance on the part of the offender.
They will certainly vote for Mr. Biden, and are quick to let everyone know that no real Christian could vote for Mr. Trump as he is far too rude. (If you point out that calling someone a whitewashed sepulchre is rude, they don’t recollect Christ saying that, or excuse it as being addressed towards bad religious authorities and therefore different, or we have no reason to believe He actually said that.)
And thus they claim to be Christians as they are members of their church, but since they don’t believe in God, why would they believe in angels?
Fascinating post John. A few thoughts: Weber was describing a paradigm shift (he lamented) that resulted in the invalidation of religion and magic. He didn’t proscribe this; indeed, at its end point, Weber thought modernity was a soulless “iron cage”. Rational efficiency produced wealth, but it stripped us of meaning. My reading of Weber is he was acutely aware of the loss involved. Moreover he doesn’t invalidate the myriad underlying practices of religion, spirituality and magic, rather he describes the process of their invalidation as *legitimate* sources of knowledge. They were demoted to “superstitions” in the new scientific paradigm, and enfeebled by technology, which appeared to perform far superior miracles (eventually including things like driving, flying, curing disease etc.) At any rate, it seems to me Weber echoed Neitzsche that the “death of god” or “disenchantment of the world” was a double-edged sword; the loss was as great as the gain. What do you think?
I am fascinated by your point regarding ‘the decline of magic’ (also a book by Thomas Keith). My close friend is an anthropologist and she told me that in West Papua (around 20 years ago now) almost everyone believed in ‘sorcery’ and had rich stories to tell about it. One man spoke comfortably about his relationship with mermaids, which nobody questioned, and he spent many hours in the water, including seemingly impossible lengths of time underwater.
Finally, I am reminded of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Mr Wednesday, who is really Odin, is trying to revive the old gods whose power has waned because nobody believes in them anymore. Interesting overlaps with your thesis!
@Blueday Jo… what an interesting hypothesis. One of the BIG issues I’m having at the preschool hell, is that no written records had been kept for ages, and so when someone left without bothering to pass on their oral knowledge, their replacement was SOL, and had to relearn everything from scratch. I came on after the employee left about a hair shy of a nervous breakdown, and so had to figure everything out from scratch. On my volunteer time. And then train HER new replacement at the job I’d never done, but could, with some trial and error and her patience, back engineer.
But now *I’m* the one with all the knowledge, that I earned by very hard labour and trial and error, and putting in a lot of time getting to know not just the regulations, the rental agreement, etc etc., but the individual people and their strengths and weaknesses and frustrations and personalities who administered them.
And I thought, hey, maybe I should write it all down as explicitly as I can, so that no one else has to put in so much work next time! I really would have appreciated that, it would have saved me a lot of stress!
And so I did, and asked other people to update their job descriptions with what they’d learned that year, too. But sometimes other people don’t write clear instructions. Or (this year, most) they didn’t actually bother to update the previous person’s instructions, and they’re ten years out of date and totally wrong. But someone has now been handed the instructions, and so, because it is written on paper (or worse, a google doc), they follow the barking mad instructions to utter nonsense results, but a quick check in with their own common sense would have prevented the problem. Or, because it wasn’t explicitly written down, the need to do the thing is assumed to not exist, even as it stares them in the face that that step needs to be done first. Open door, then walk through… Or, when they weren’t certain about their own sense, asking around with a *sense of curiosity instead of righteous indignation* – am I doing this right? is my assumption correct? why is it done like that? do you know? who might? Rather than “I wasn’t told exactly how to do this and so it’s your fault I didn’t do it right.”
But I’ve always been a reader, and part of being able to figure out all the stuff was that I pored through all the archived material on site, and the regulations, and got a sense of the history… that was critical, in fact. So it’s not just the writing it down…
Blueday Jo wrote, “By the time the fourth child was ready to read I was quite reluctant to teach her because of this effect I’d seen with the others. It really affected their ability to effortlessly memorise as well. I’d be interested to know if anyone else here has noticed this with their children.”
Though I have not raised children myself, as a teacher I have witnessed the mixed blessing that learning to read has on students. It certainly limits their ability to memorize speech and often diminishes their prior awareness of mood, intonation, and expression. Everything that writing does not capture of spoken language begins to fade in importance to readers, while writing’s unique ways of expressing mood and tone grow and develop in their speaking voices.
As a music teacher I have seen the same mixed blessing come from learning to read musical notation. Memorization goes right out the window along with subtleties of expression that lack any symbols in the notation. Meanwhile a growing awareness of dynamics, pitch, precise timing, and other ideas easily represented by our notation take their place. Whatever the notation prioritizes tends to isolate away other musical possibilities from the children’s creative impulses. Indian systems notate quarter tones that European notation cannot, allowing for ornate trills around the scale pitches. Percussion notations prioritize rhythm over pitch allowing for complex interlocking polyrhythms to be seen at a glance. Whatever we learn to read eventually shapes what we are able to hear.
Lastly, I was shocked by my own memorization incompetency when studying music and dance in Indonesia. The only way I could learn was by breaking beautiful phrases down into discrete building blocks like the letters and words of writing, and then reassembling them into sentences. Playing Balinese gamelan always felt like trying to jumprope double dutch without ever having learned to jump a single rope. I had to “understand” the rules of the art before I could let it flow. Without being able to latch onto some plié, relevé, and tendu for Javanese dance, I was completely lost — it was kind of funny, kind of tragic, and truly embarrassing.
Indonesian artists memorize half-hour suites as single entities through repeated practice, and twenty years later they can play or dance them flawlessly. I can’t remember three-minute pieces I performed professionally for a decade, because I only ever learned their building blocks, or how to read them. The Western practice of deconstructing things to analyze their parts is a powerful tool, a restrictive straight jacket, and a mixed blessing indeed.
JMG, have you not already laid the groundwork here: https://www.ecosophia.net/death-god-speculation/
I am assuming that the true magical abilities of a mage or shaman are those intimately connected with an alive and active god.
From your post linked above: “Valerie Flint, in her brilliant book The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe, has documented that a core reason Christianity was able to spread so rapidly across Europe, winning support from local warlords and kings, was that Christian monastics and clergy earned a reputation for being better at magic than their Pagan rivals: better, that is, at delivering the goods that religion is supposed to deliver.”
If it is as above as it is so below, then the death of a god 2000 years ago here on lowly Earth would also correspond to carnage in the heavens. Was monotheism a natural albeit temporary stop gap to a scarcity of gods during an emptying out of the heavens? Nature abhors a vacuum down here; does that also ring true up there? Did you not mention somewhere that the stars suggest the birth of a major religious figure later this year corresponding to a certain conjunction?
after posting my last comment regarding technological crutches that debilitate human abilities, I thought “damn, literacy must be a whale in that respect!” – so I was happy to see your detailed comment on the topic. I wasn’t so familiar with literacy projects in older cultures. Fascinating!
And I think it makes a ton of sense. Written language is like a web of canals on which to ride your imagination: Faster and more comfortable than navigating the wild wetlands, yet at the same time it imposes strict limits. It really domesticates the mind in a deep and powerful way, and on top of that, by opening the readers’ minds to things happening elsewhere, by necessity by necessity it closes them to things that go on right here.
and since Scottish and German miners in 1712 would probably not have attended annual international mining conferences, their similar accounts point to a common source. Fascinating indeed!
One more general point about the week’s topic: In a good RPG, a character may be a strong swordsman and marksman, but probably not an equally strong healer or persuader at the same time. A limited amount of skill points has to be distributed among different fields. Similarly, characters in fighting games are either fast and weak or slow and strong, but never fast and strong.
The fact that these mechanics are regarded as good by players suggests they’re modeled on reality. What if magic and certain aspects of civilization just share the same skill point pool? Miracles or airplanes, pick your game.
I must say that this week’s comment section is so excitingly lively with great ideas, I find it positively exhilerating 😀
It reminds me of a concert by the french experimental Band Igorrr that overran the audience with such a torrent of inspiration and new perspectives on music that the otherwise cool and reserved Hamburg crowd stuck around for an hour after the show, animatedly discussing music, until the staff basically had to sweep the last fans out of the room.
In other words, you struck a nerve here, Mr. Greer!
I wonder how much of it has to do with the land and what its carrying allows and how much unformed creative energy it has. I find I automatically adapt to where I am and who I am with and each community behaves differently, I find the places I go carry boundaries and doors that are opened and closed by other peoples subconsciousness, it’s very hard to behave outside of somebody elses expectations, and if you fight a communitys subconscious the kick backs can really be quite large.
I am usually very uncomfortable outside my own space but my natural home and space behaves quite magically but I’m situated somewhere which is only barely and very recently been inhabited by people, ever.. and frankly its disconcerting how much creative force is coming up. Maybe it has to do with the population load on the earth currents, I visited america once and found it didn’t have much deep earth energy pulsing up although I’m sure it varies in places (If I’m honest it felt more like it was at an end of life cycle, but that was just my intuition at that time) so perhaps it is a cycle and the civilisation inhabiting the land follows that cycle seeing as land and conciousness are linked. And when the cycle is young and new there is a lot more excess energy for raw formation but at the end the energy is tired and is drawing in again rather than out.
This is how I view God. People get exercised about calling God he and not she but pronouns indicate “over there somewhere” and that is not where God is. Hard to express really, which is reasonable.
JMG: “Irena, we had the same thing happen here in the wake of the 1960s, when mass overproduction of liberal arts graduates was followed by economic contraction. The result was a flurry of ineffectual radical terrorist groups such as the Symbionese Liberation Army, followed by the complete collapse of the New Left. I’m not greatly concerned.”
We’ll see. The problem is that it’s not just universities and tech. I think you’ll agree that the same goes for just about any sector (health care, finance, advertising…) that employs a fair number of middle and upper middle class people. Sure, those sectors do actually produce *some* value, but they gobble up a whole lot more wealth than they produce. And as for the working class, well, it’s mostly employed either in sorting and transporting products produced in China (think Amazon warehouses), or in providing luxury services for the well off. The whole thing is completely unsustainable, of course, but I doubt it’ll collapse without some sort of bang. (And I rather doubt the United States will still be in existence by the time things finally calm down.)
What you write (about taking things to their logical conclusions) makes a great deal of sense. You start with some hodge-podge system that mostly works, you try to make it neat and tidy, and you get a fine mess as a result. Calvinism (as streamed out Catholicism) is a particularly ghastly example, but the same could be said about, for example, Ptolemaic astronomy: if your goal is to navigate by the stars, then it works pretty well, but push things beyond that, and your results are likely to be suboptimal.
It occurs to me: isn’t the above the whole point of Burkean conservatism? You have a hodge-podge that mostly works, but you don’t know exactly why it works. So, if you try to streamline it in some radical fashion, there’s an excellent chance you’ll accidentally throw out the elements that make it work, while turning the system’s bugs into superbugs (all with the best of intentions, of course).
a lot of Catholic magic (errr, rites) gets potency by calling on aid. Various beings swear to respond to certain phrases. If you change the phrases, they may not respond. (This is one of the reasons why one should be careful with both prayer and mantra. They aren’t “just words” or always just magic that only involves you.
If the older rite of exorcism is more potent, this may have something to do with it.
If they can’t believe in Angels or the Spirit world. Or the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They are not Christian. No matter how much they swear they are.
As an engineer I love to test things. I stated something in your blog and now I want to find out more.
I am a dowser and so somewhat sensitive to my environment.
How does it feel in different environments for me, how well do I connect to the environment.
1. Walk through the forest near my house yesterday. It was raining, nobody visible. There is a new part of the forest and a very old one which was never cleared in known times.
In the new part I relaxed and connected somewhat with the nature, but the old part felt just great. Only rain and the sound and the thick, wet smell of the forest. It felt being surrounded by life, bathing in it.
2. Walk back through the village, still rain, but the strong was connection gone.
3. Walk through the forest same way today. Bright sunlight, sounds of the forest mixed with the sounds of the busy village nearby. Some people walking their dogs. It was not the same as yesterday. There was not such a close connection to the forest possible.
There is a gradual difference as to how the environment feels for me. The best connection for me is possible when nature is mainly undisturbed by artificial noise and people.
So from that experience I stand by my hypothesis that magic (whatever that is and however it functions) might work better in an environment that is surrounded by undisturbed pure life.
Take a longer timeframe into consideration and such an environment might transform you.
@Jasper – Your observations on the Narrative and the Orwell quote are playing out right now amongst archivists. There is talk again of them going in and changing the language in archival materials. I shudder to think how they will actually change 1700’s diaries and letters. The archives around me are changing the finding aids to hide problematic materials. Of course they are all closed to the public right now so they have plenty of time to focus 100% on this effort.
@Christophe Your distinction of the court and the stands is a good one. I’ve just phrased it as a question and posted it at my desk. “Am I playing on the court or sitting in the stands right now?” And given today’s latest news on Trump the stands are about to become incredibly loud.
@Eike Most homeschoolers who avoid the standardized school curriculum and environment are similar to the woman you describe. They can navigate the world unaffected by peer pressure and social expectations. In the world, but not of it.
@MichaelR A huge yes of agreement here to your assertion of the destruction of the sacred feminine as having an impact. Modern women are a hot mess of conflict these days.
A few questions I’ve been thinking about for a while if you don’t mind:
If the world is inhabited by a plethora of deities and all the gods are true in some sense, then why do the
monotheistic deities claim to be the only ones? I can’t say for sure about the Bible but the Qur’an is clear
that there are meant to be no gods except Allah. Do you believe that Allah is the same as Yahweh or are
they different? Because Allah claims to be the same as the God of Abraham. The pagan Arabs before Islam still worshipped Allah but not exclusively; they even claimed that he had 3 daughter goddesses. According to you, does that mean that Allah was one of many deities in the Arabian pantheon who just wanted more power and worship for Himself? If this is true does that mean He in some sense would have had to lie? Is lying immoral for deities as it is for us?
As far as I know, neither the Bible nor the Qur’an even hint at the idea of reincarnation. But you have made convincing arguments in this blog for the truth of the phenomenon. If reincarnation is true, then how come neither Allah or Yahweh informed their followers and prophets, instead making it sound like this life is the one shot we have for any sort of spiritual progress?
Again, my Biblical knowledge is weak, but in the Qur’an Allah claims to have created the Heavens and Earth, the Sun, Moon, Stars, Mankind etc.
What might this claim mean if we are not meant to take it literally? How can Allah claim to be the perfect supreme master of the universe if He has to share his power with millions of other gods unless He is lying.
Finally, linking more closely to the topic being discussed this week, Allah claims in the Qur’an that the various idols made of physical matter being worshipped by people are not gods and have no power to help anyone, so it is foolish to worship them. Would you say that these idols were once inhabited by real gods and had the power to perform magic but had gradually lost it over time?
@JMG what is your personal line or standards of technology you use? You’ve mentioned an older computer and basic software. When you take notes of your readings do you put it in a software program or are all your notes handwritten? I keep going back and forth between typing and handwriting notes. Typing is way faster, but I don’t want my life only in 1’s and 0’s.
On another note, I wrote an article for my blog on the anarchist bombings that occurred from Dec 2018 through Oct 2019 during the 1918 Flu pandemic. The anarchists leadership published in their newspaper that this country was illegitimate and the leaders in government, finance, business, and Catholic priests, needed to be eliminated. The bombings didn’t kill anyone until the one on Wall Street during the day. It’s in the newspapers of the time and the FBI wrote about it in great detail on their old website https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/philadelphia/about-us/history/famous-cases/famous-cases-1919-bombings There were more in Philadelphia earlier than this article too which the FBI didn’t investigate.
When I shared it with a liberal historian, he just ignored it. Totally changed the subject. I guess it was too confronting to realize that in times of chaos, like a pandemic and WW1, there was an effort to take over the US government and that it lines up to what is going on now. I guess it’s the old “this time is different” you’ve mentioned.
The effect the anarchists had was to slam shut all immigration in 1920 plus massive deportations. We didn’t open the doors again until 1965.
Sorry one more thing:
The Bible makes little mention of Hell, but in the Qur’an it’s a pretty important theme.
What sense would it therefore make for Allah to claim that He has the power to send anyone to Heaven and Hell? Or should it be interpreted as only those who follow Him? Like if you’ve been a bad Muslim then Allah has the power to put you in Hell for a while. But if reincarnation is true then what do Heaven and Hell even mean in that context?
Apologies for taking up so many words!
@Varun Your comment had me think of this example by Matt Ridley “…roughly ten million people will eat lunch in London today. Working out exactly what they will decide to eat, where, and in what quantities, is a vastly complicated exercise. Fortunately, we do not entrust the problem to a very well-paid and highly qualified London Lunch Commissioner, but to something called the market, which uses millions of signals of supply and demand to “crowd-source” the answer. And it works remarkably well every single day.”
In an interview he went on to say that if we put a government office in change of London lunch, people would all end up with a bowl of gruel because no person(s) even with the technology we have today could take individual orders, distribute them, order the food, cook it and have it ready on time in the right place. No economist has come up with a model or way to explain how London or any city manages to feed millions each day in such a wide variety of cuisine.
It really blew my mind when I thought about it. Here’s a blog post where he talks about it. http://www.rationaloptimist.com/blog/wisdom-of-crowds/
I’ve read most, but not all the comments, and this has been touched on, but not I think directly addressed.
This waxing and waning of the power and accessibility of magic could, as some have suggested, be a function of the cycles of human societies and their associated egregores (Unicorn, Phoenix, Dragon, Unicorn,….), but it’s also been theorized to be some sort of astrological or cosmic climate cycle. Are the Ring-Cosmos/Ring-Chaos alignment cycles too long for this?
Of course it is difficult to assign cause and effect: maybe human social evolution causes changes in magical efficacy, or maybe cyclic changes in magical efficacy drive human social evolution!
Trump seems to have his October Surprise:
On the other hand, if he recovers by election day, he could receive a boost by popular empathy the same way Boris Johnson did.
I’d like to push back just a bit on your characterisation of the precepts of Progress. You seem to be conflating the foundational beliefs of the Church of Progress with the role it has taken on in its function as state religion. An examination of post-Nicea Christianity might similarly conclude it is a belief system crafted to perpetuate the power of Rome, while nothing in the founding documents or the metahuman encounters really gives that impression.
Similarly, I don’t think anything about the belief in Progress necessitates or is even particularly compatible with the kind of social engineering we are currently immersed in. When I open myself to the universe in order to solve a very difficult technical problem, my ability to control others with the result is very far from my mind. If anything, making it easier for others to create novelty of their own is most compatible with true belief, if a bit irrelevant to the thrill of discovery itself.
And this incompatibility does not seem to me a lost cause or romantic notion – the difficulty of places like the NSA or Gnoorgle retaining their best staff is a quietly recurring feature of our times. People who have Seen It tend to develop an instinct for attempts to confine the human spirit, and those don’t sit well with Progress’s actual founding myth.
Dear JMG and commentariat:
It seems to me that the question of historical cycles and Spiritual potency has all of the landmarks of a polyvalent and multifactorial problem, in which what we might term Spirit — to include all of the disparate phenomenon discussed as being more present in the past — varies through the ages based on many variables.
There may be relatively more presence of Spirit in the lives of people during times of dark ages versus the times of civilization: Dark Ages > Civilization.
There may be relatively more presence of Spirit in the lives of people during times when iron gets used by more people as a tool: Iron free technologies > Iron age technologies.
There may be relatively more presence of Spirit in the lives of people with different planetary and astrological configurations. Certain Astrological Conditions > Other Astrological Conditions.
There may be relatively more presence of Spirit in the lives of people, when more people live on the same land as their ancestors are buried on: Stability > Mobility.
There may be relatively more presence of Spirit in the lives of people when there exists greater continuity of living traditions both in terms of religious institutions and lifeways: Continuity > Discontinuity.
Point being, part of the difficulty in defining the exact parameters of cause and effect along the lines of any one variable is that this may be a situation in which various different variables interact to create different levels of potency. The problem with this model is that it makes thinking about the whole issue more complex. The benefit of this model is that it allows for one to note whatever variables are present in times of relatively high Spiritual potency and then control for times of relatively low Spiritually potency. Each variable can be tested individually against the record, and one might see clearly if there is a clear positive correlation between any one of the variables. If a bunch of positively correlated variables could be defined — say in the presence of any one of these variables there is always a greater relative spiritual potency recorded in the lives of humans — than I think it would be possible to meditate on the various variables that do indeed have the positive correlation to see if there may or may not be something discernible operating as a unifying principle between the variables.
Sorry for the data dump of writings. I have been pondering this for years. I could see dragons sunning themselves in mountain tops and sense shy ones hiding behind bushes. Then I got entangled with the local Neo-pagan scene, and got entangled with all of the personal drama that ensued. I lost the vision to see anything but trees and bushes.
Now, I wonder if the Neo-Pagans had anything to do with the disenchantment I felt. Recently, I have been writing a lot about the local puddletwits and their stupid sigils. At the same time, I started deep devotions to the God Apollo. I do a lot of divination, and dedicate the divining to Him. I had a horrible dream last night about said puddletwits.
I woke up this morning to the news that President Trump and his wife had the virus. I felt bad for them as I do for all people who are ill. Meanwhile, the puddletwits went into full force of cursing him, dancing with the delight, spreading stickers of sigils on benches in a form of righteous vandalism, and over all glee over his impending doom. I saw their sigils, and vomited. After that,I felt a release, and proceeded to cut off all contact with the lot of them. I imagine that it was Apollo’s doing to clear up the misasma that the puddletwits had in spades. After that, I saw a shy dragon hiding in the bushes near the dumpster. The same one that was there before all of this.
I believe I had the strong reaction since I had a person like Trump in my life. Went through the same emotions, and then eventually forgot about him. Then came news that he was in the Second World Trade Tower on 9/11. I worried that he wouldn’t make it out safely. I was relieved when he did. Then I realized that my emotions and feelings about him had changed to caring. It was a freeing moment. This cutting of contact with the puddletwits was another freeing moment.
Perhaps, there is something within the Neo-Pagans that cut them off from the world. They secretly lead lives of disenchantment while pretending otherwise. Or is that they are seeking enchantment, but in the wrong way.
Hi JMG & all–
VERY interesting topic!
I wonder if the ebb and flow in the effectiveness of magic is partly due to larger external forces. I read somewhere that our solar system completes an orbit around the core of the Milky Way Galaxy about every 22,000 years. Could be that the solar system has wandered into a region of space that’s unfavorable to magical workings.
There’s some evidence of this sort of effect in the world of Remote Viewing; The psychic functioning that allows it works about 3 times better when one’s area of the planet is on the other side of the earth’s magnetic core from the center of the Milky Way galaxy;
Astronomers have divided the sky into 24 hourly time zones, known as ‘Sidereal Time,’ as an aid to mapping the apparent location of stars. I think these are defined by the location of the stars from earth at the Greenwich meridian at the moment of the Fall Equinox. Anyway, the core of the Milky Way Galaxy is about at 00:30 Sidereal Time. Each day, as the Earth rotates, each part of its surface passes through a zone with a width of about one hour that centers around 13:30 Sidereal Time. When your local sidereal time is 12:30 to 14:30, your remote viewing skills will be much better. I suspect this is because you are in the shadow of the Earth’s magnetic field that somehow protects you from whatever is coming out of the core of the Milky Way Galaxy.
So maybe there is a similar effect of our current region of space that suppresses the functions of magic–
I wonder if the literature of magic documents eras of higher and lower magical functioning? Is there a pattern to it? It would be interesting if it turns out that every Age of [Fill in the Blank], magic works really well, then its crappy for the next 221 years, then it comes back again.
Thinking about this gap between the apparent feats of the ancients and what seems to work in these times, and I apologize that this comment is straining the definition of concise. I am reminded of the Kogi people, in Colombia. Their people resisted contact for a long time but their lands being encroached by drug cartels and other disturbances, they contacted the BBC to make a documentary for them asking the rest of us to change our ways. The Kogi finished the movie with shutting the gate up the mountain — they asked that the viewers stay away and let them continue their work, and learn in our own ways to find what is needed.
One of the important features of their world view and practice was that every endeavour of human making had to be fully integrated. Thus for instance to get fibres from plants or animals, not only divine blessings, but also an arrangement must be negotiated with the spiritual powers governing the plant or animal; and sung into fibre by the maker at the same time as being worked into fibre, so that the material object knows in itself what it is, and again whilst being woven, the material substance of fibre must be sung into cloth. This reminds me of what you wrote about alchemy in a post not long ago.
I learned from people who had lived with the Kogi during the making of the movie that when for instance an aeroplane flew across the sky, for them it was a scream of craziness that intruded into their world much more than an materialist would expect because of the way the disharmony of the artefact blasted at them. How different to live amongst an entire society holding to the Kogi’s kind of practice. Their cultural technology was, at least then, a fabric of society in which all the parts of human life were a perhaps a collaboration involving many levels of a human’s energy, with divine blessing sought, and the negotiated support of the spiritual powers of the world of nature. Perhaps many of the indigenous cultures were and are operating at this kind of high level of integration.
We moderns might manage just a flavour of it with homegrown food or something like that. It is rare for us to have even what the Kogi would see as the most basic the artefacts of life, say a bag, a table, a cutting tool, which have been consciously created with that what I now see as a sophisticated web of alchemical intention and spiritual power. How different the activities of human life when the surrounding society is within a web of intentional action right across the planes. I would think that gives a whole different background for spiritual experiences than the way people in the industrialized world live, where we are surrounded by artefacts in which the planes of energy are not harmonized at all — perhaps one element contributing to the unease of many in the industrial world feel, as well as the apparent lesser strength of our intentional endeavours? Perhaps this systematic disharmony works against the human soul and spirit.
I do think certain populace capabilities with regards to magic or higher spiritual accomplishments waxes and wanes according to more cosmic cycles. Heck I posted a few weeks ago over on Magic Monday a hypothesis about the Age of the Dinosaurs that the percentage of Udana Vayu on the entire planet has significantly reduced world-wide and geologically-timewise such that giant-anything-living is just not being selected for by Mother Nature and hasn’t been for a very long time. So I suspect it has much greater implications than just for humans.
Udana Vayu is the prana that gives living bodies a certain amount of buoyancy. The English language recognizes this by using the phrase “dead weight” when moving a dead body vs. someone still alive but unconscious.
There are also certain other things that could be affecting it that are typically not considered. For example, the way one exits their prior body has a very strong affect on what kind of magic or unusual capabilities can manifest in the next lifetime. I recently learned, it is generally not a good thing to exit the dying body from the Muladhara but it can happen. There are some people though who have practiced certain spiritual or occult disciplines while alive such that their vasanas may have them exit that way. For such a person – when they take rebirth they can come back with “enormous Occult capabilities and powers” (Sadhguru’s words). Before people get excited, that does not mean the next life’s Occult capabilities will be good ones or desired ones. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Generally though my understanding is that exiting from the Muladhara means the next life is going to be one of un-auspiciousness to put it mildly.
Sadhguru says that where ever there is a lot of fear, depression and anxiety among a populace each person who is struggling with these things – whether they are struggling publicly or privately – leaves “puddles” (his exact words) of karmic memory in the places they inhabit and frequent. He compared it to how a bloodhound can still catch a person’s scent even days or weeks after that person has moved on. The bloodhound is smelling a trace puddle left behind. As an example, he says the trenches of WW1 to this day are still having a detrimental effect on the well-being of the descendant populations living in those areas. That doesn’t count all the other places in Europe that are still having ill effects from all the other wars, etc that continent has had. He says of all the places he’s visited on the planet no place has had the amount of puddles of terror and fear karmic memory as is in Europe (east and west). It would take quite a lot ill-fortune before North America could equal Europe’s “puddles”.
To get back to the original point. The stronger these things are experienced by a populace the stronger the effect it has on the environs and those environs inhabitants. It will have all kinds of unforeseen knock-on effects – including I suspect one of reduced magic possibilities.
Here is a data point for you regarding your statement that “scraps of evidence suggest that something really has happened in recent centuries to make magic weaker than it once was….”
In the early 2000s, I was making steady advancement in my esoteric studies. I had always had a degree of pre-cognition and other psychic capabilities, and my magical capabilities were coming along nicely. Then, I had some health issues. My doctor suggested that I start a hobby that would get me outdoors more. So, I decided to take back up geology and paleontology, a hobby I had pursued as a teenager. I spent much time outdoors, but (unlike my teen years) I also spent much time reading and studying scientific papers on the topics that interested me. Later, when I returned to my esoteric studies, I found that all my capabilities had plummeted. I had expected my ability to work magic to decline (lack of practice and all), but I found that my pre-cognitive abilities, my abilities to sense spirits, and all of those capabilities that I’ve had since childhood and have never needed to practice were almost entirely gone. Twelve to fifteen years later and I have not gotten them entirely back.
The hypothesis I have developed over the intervening years is that the ability to perceive the psychic world, to work magic, etc., has a lot to do with the patterning of the brain (i.e., the way the brain wires itself opens one up to the world of magic, spirit, and psychic phenomena). The patterns that develop during the study of science at a deep level (intense reading and studying scientific papers) on the other hand, may be wholly or partially antithetical to the patterns that permit things like psychic abilities and magic.
I know that there are many scientists who practice magic, so “antithetical” may be too strong a word, but I wonder if the scientific patterning may “dim” the magical one. Would those scientist-mages be better at magic if they were not scientists, or am I completely off the mark here?
None-the-less, I can’t help but feel that magic has a lot to do with how the brain is wired. Another example of note on this topic, I have read that people who know music are more likely to have psychic abilities than those who do not. Again, something involving brain patterns.
Anyway, I would like to get your thoughts on this. Thanks much!
Hello first post here may the universe bless you all .
My money is on the strong egregor of scientism bulling the relatively weak egregors of ceremonial magick to not give results that would weaken scientism.
How to test this : Ask privately magicians that work directly with the five elements ( franz bardon , evolved ministry , magus of strovolus if they can have results in the physical world.
I believe they still can .
I love Genji Monogatari, but I wonder if Heian Japan can really be considered a civilization of its own. The court adopted Chinese culture as best they could, while the countryside probably didn’t. Would it be more of a pseudomorphosis? I once read somebody comparing the Heian capital to a Disneyworld copy of the Tang capital.
In that case the Japanese mages you mention would be at a similar point as Johnny Appleseed.
My experience is that the Novus Ordo generally doesn’t do very much. I strongly suspect that the old Irish priest I mentioned had some kind of outside training in calling down spiritual force, either via the charismatic movement or some more esoteric source. It’s interesting to me that the Western and Eastern churches were both suppressed during the modern period– the Eastern from without, by the Communists; the Western from within, by their own Modernist faction. In the long run, it looks like Modernism in the West may have done more damage. And the fact that the Catholics have now painted themselves into a corner by declaring themselves infallible and then proceeding to make a whole series of mistakes which they’ve forbidden themselves from correcting doesn’t exactly help matters.
I’ve made use of holy water blessed according to the New Rite. I’ve found that it isn’t useless, but its energy is milky, pale and somehow transparent. Certainly I wouldn’t use it for any very serious purpose.
The good news is, the power to bless sacramentals doesn’t actually derive from ordination to the priesthood, but from baptism. Thus, any baptized Christian can make their own holy water according to the Traditional Rite, which can be found here: http://www.traditionalcatholicpriest.com/2013/04/25/traditional-holy-water/
Incense is also traditionally exorcised and blessed. I’ve made use of a blessing specifically for incense, but can’t find it now; there is the blessing of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrhh on Epiphany: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/prayers/view.cfm?id=1335
I’ve found the following functions quite effectively as a Christian banishing ritual, and use it whenever I work with saints:
Have a candle, blessed incense and holy water prepared.
1. Sign of the Cross. I have it on good authority that evil spirits do not like it; I therefore chant the sign of the cross in church Latin.
2. “Cleanse me with hyssop oh Lord, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall become whiter than snow.” Flick holy water around the room in a clockwise circle, or to the four quarters.
3. “The voice of the Lord is powerful, the voice of the Lord is full of majesty, the voice of the Lord divideth the flames of the fire.” Cense the room in a circle, or to the four quarters.
4. Lord’s prayer, 3 hail marys, glory be.
5. (Specific magical working, invocation of a saint, novena, discursive meditation, rosary, whathaveyou).
6. Repeat 2 and 3.
7. I usually close with “Come, Holy Spirit.”
@Ian said “I suspect the people responsible for the decline of magic’s potency were mostly… mages.”
Yesterday, I had been given my tree spirit tarot card Coconut to meditation on. It corresponds to the 8 of Cups, and the keyword is “Journey”. Because of the way coconuts reproduce, and the way their wood is used to make boats.
And so compared it to the coconuts in the Moana movie my daughter is obsessed with, and how they show up, and what they represent. While the coconut is the ‘tree of life’ for the polynesian culture, the pirate-beings Maui and Moana fight are coconut people (Kakamora), who sail on ships made of coconut trees, filled with coconuts they’ve found floating on the seas and turned into themselves.
Coconuts good…but coconuts that think they’re people not so good…people good…people made of coconut not so good…
Onething, you have a smart grandson. As for Russell, he was engaging in typical atheist machismo — “I can imagine a universe more bleak and meaningless than you can!” Lovecraft got into that, too, which is one of the reasons I had so much fun messing with his ideas. As for hypnosis and trance, hypnosis is one way to enter one kind of trance. There are many other kinds of trance, and many kinds of magic that have nothing to do with trance.
Carlos, I see you’re new here. No, I’m a moderate Burkean conservative, as I’ve stated quite often; here’s a discussion if you’re not familiar with that viewpoint. I agree with Schopenhauer that Hegel was a poseur rather than a philosopher — how anyone can read the word salad of The Phenomenology of Spirit and come to any other conclusion is beyond me — and Marx is perhaps the most extreme example of the ironclad rule that every attempt to apply Hegelian “thought” to the real world results in abject failure and a high body count.
Lew, interesting. Thanks for the heads up.
In the protestant milieu I grew up in, it was widely acknowledged that miracles just weren’t a thing anymore, at least in America. Most Calvinists I knew were deists in all but name: God has given us all the tools we need, and stepped back to a less active role. But people coming back from mission trips to Africa, Asia, and sometimes Latin America, would often have wild tales to tell of the things they’d witnessed there– many of which could not be explained in terms of modern psychology. Either they teach confabulation in missionary schools, or there really are things going on in the third world, that don’t happen much in the WEIRD regions.
Becoming Orthodox was a major cultural shift in this respect. In my protestant church, the missionaries’ wonder-tales are eyed with suspicion by the adults, and re-told in hushed tones like campfire stories by the kids. In my Orthodox church… angels, spirits, visitations by saints, supernatural maladies, divine healings, and outright miracles are completely taken for granted. People still tell these stories, but in a completely different tone, like “Oh yeah, that’s a thing that happens sometimes.” It’s normal. It’s expected.
When an icon in someone’s living room starts dripping myrrh… there’s a protocol for that. You take it to the church. If it keeps oozing myrrh, you send it around to visit other churches. People come see it, and the myrrh is collected for anointing people. As it’s usually icons of the Theotokos, people will bring other icons of the Theotokos to “visit” the streaming icon, and sometimes these icons will themselves stream myrrh for a little while. We have one such at our church, that still beads up now and then. Nobody makes a big deal out of it. It’s just a thing that happens. There seem to be two reasons for this: It is 100% accepted that these things happen. That they are miracles. But it is also 100% accepted that sometimes, people lie and perpetuate hoaxes. Nobody wants to be a dupe. So it’s kind of like “this happened. We will file this incident away in case it turns out to be real. Who knows?” The official line is that someone who happens to witness a miracle is blessed to have seen it. But to go looking for such an experience deliberately is a sure way to be led astray, either by malign spirits, or by an enterprising abbot doing some fundraising for his monastery.
What is funny, is that sometimes people visit a miraculous icon, receive miraculous healing, and then the miraculous icon later turns out to have been a hoax. Ultimately, it’s not the icon: It’s God’s grace and your faith.
Any saint with the title “wonderworker” attached, will have a roster of well-attested miracles . St. John Maximovitch of San Francisco died in 1966, and has many (some quite astonishing) miraculous healings attributed to him, as well as raising at least one man from the dead, many incidents of clairvoyance (he could recognize in person people whom he’d never met, but who had written to him, among other things). He had so far removed himself from ego, that when he prayed he became a conduit of God’s grace.
Tales like these from Mount Athos or the Kiev Caves could fill volumes, but it is true that miracles seem less common and less *large* in the modern industrial West. I’ve heard it said that this is not because such things are less possible, but because they’re less needed, less fervently wished for. How often do we get invaded by the Ottomans these days, or face mass starvation after a bad harvest? In historic terms, we live very cozy and self-confident lives. And from the other side… for Orthodox, at least, ascesis is closely associated with miracles. And Americans are really, really bad at ascesis. Even when we are fasting from meat, it’s so easy to stuff ourselves with vegan junk-food instead! But the stories of Father Arseny collected as Samizdat from Soviet Russia have many miracles– and never was there a more atheist regime! More emerge all the time from the Coptic community in Egypt. A skeptic would say these are the sort of stories a persecuted community needs to tell itself to keep up morale. But you could as easily say that these are the mercies God grants to his faithful to bolster them through hard times.
Maybe it’s not so much a natural waxing and waning, but that relative safety, material abundance, and risk-aversion make it harder for us to connect with the non-material planes?
Re: the lost magic of churches. I’m not Christian, and was raised what I will call “guiltily agnostic” in that my parents (all four, my parents divorced and remarried others when I was a toddler) had stories of spiritual encounters, they knew there was a Something. But they couldn’t fit it into a narrative – we are uncomfortable with the dominant Christian narrative – and so just lamely said other people believe in things, we don’t have a belief, and we know we’re not supposed to believe in things we’ve seen, but we’ve seen them.
So with that background, once, when I was doing some work at the preschool after hours, I decided I should go into the chapel. The preschool shares the social/gathering room, and the yard at the back. We also sometimes use the bible study and sunday school rooms. So I had been in every room in the church but that one, and I had found it a friendly, warm place. Maybe, I thought, I should see for myself what this Christian god was like. Many of my people had been deeply, historically important church people, maybe I should give a nod. (It’s a United Church).
I couldn’t make it over the threshold. I began to sweat with the most horrible fear. Like a nightmare, when you suddenly realise there’s a monster behind you, and you freeze because you know if you move that’s when it will pounce. I understood suddenly why my gggggrandfather, who wrote the Dakota Odowan and the Dakota Wowapi Wakan was said to have spent his last days in a feverish terror on his deathbed. It’s not that there was no god there. It’s that it was a terrible god he had brought to his people.
Back in the other rooms: friendly. I think there may be at least two gods sometimes even in one church.
Too many talk about the waning of magic like it’s a bad thing.
Consider this analogy: My children are growing. What we notice is this: The get pudgy, then taller. Then after awhile it happens again, they get pudgy for a bit, then taller.
It is important not be too thin or too short.
Perhaps this back and forth between magical times and technological times is a natural rhythm in human evolution.
I am also drawn back to something JMG has said before… that gods are born and die. We just have a dearth of adult gods right now? So all this is the fault of the divine not procreating enough… LOL
FWIW I’ve always been struck, in the Star Wars movies, about the juxtaposition of modern technological advanced space faring civilization with the idea of “the force”.
I’ve always thought Calvinism is Christian fundamentalism for intellectuals.
Just riffing off of Dishwasher’s mention of integration, I wonder…given modern industrialism and scientific materialism’s tendency toward atomization and isolation (you are this class of cog and go here), that we as a species have simple become less integrated (within ourselves, each other, the world around us, the planes) as that mindset has pressed itself upon us, weakening our ability (collectively) to channel the power necessary for the kind of magic once performed regularly.
This discussion about change and underlying movements brought to mind a Young Adult series (of all things).
It’s the Bartimaeus Sequence by Jonathan Stroud.
It is astonishingly complex and nuanced for YA. The upshot for this discussion is that the elite use magic to rule and conquer while oppressed commoners cannot use magic at all. But over time, through vast historic cycles, commoners begin to be >resistant< to magic! They are able to resist their elite! They fight back in ways the elite cannot control or understand or even see.
The lead, Nathaniel, becomes a major elite magician, becomes corrupt, but at the end, sacrifices himself to save everyone else. In typical YA, your hero always wins but not like this.
The weird habit of vacations, where our elite travel to another continent to do what they could do just as well at home, makes sense now: this is an elaborate ritual in order to justify why you can disconnect from the technologies you hate. But the idea of doing without them in your day to day life is unthinkable; thus the frankly frantic need so many people in the upper classes have for vacations.
I now wonder if the virus restrictions serve the necessary psychological function of providing the elite with an excuse as to why they can’t disconnect from all this technological shale which they hate: “It’s too dangerous to go to a park! I need my phone to know if someone I’ve come in contact with is sick! We can’t met in person; it’s too dangerous!”
@JMG: “I agree with Schopenhauer that Hegel was a poseur rather than a philosopher — how anyone can read the word salad of The Phenomenology of Spirit and come to any other conclusion is beyond me — and Marx is perhaps the most extreme example of the ironclad rule that every attempt to apply Hegelian “thought” to the real world results in abject failure and a high body count.”
I wouldn’t say every attempt: Fukuyama’s “End of History” was inspired in part by Hegelian thought, rejecting the left-Hegelianism of Marx as well as the right-Hegelianism of Evola in favor of a centrist liberal interpretation of Hegel’s theories. And whether you agree with his conclusions or not, he managed to influence real-world policy without leaving a pile of skulls in his wake like the fascists and communists did.
…and yet we use the same word for a magical working that we use for setting the letters of a word in the proper order: “spell.” That’s not accidental!
Have been reading the post reactions with interest and Blueday Joe’s stuck out for me. There’s a price to pay when you use symbolic equivalents for the external world (and they gather together, especially in the written form). They can start to cast a collective ‘spell’, or enchantment, of their own that then dovetails with urban living to become very hard to break. So I would also agree with those here who have touched on the idea of a collective bewitchment that takes quite a lot of power to maintain, even if it’s not fully consciously. Do we need to make a spell or break a spell or…?
On from the two definitions of “spell” you offered, maybe these two are also worth noting:
* A bewitched state or trance.
* A short, indefinite period of time.
They’re probably not accidental either. 🙂
The latest from James Howard Kunstler, who writes
Of all the things that have made Americans anxious and hysterical this year, this horror of middle-class financial ruin has not quite expressed itself overtly in the public arena — at least, not in the streets. For sure, the Antifas and BLM mobs have been active looting, burning, and smashing things up, but many of these are unemployables, and the ones burdened with college debt may be counting on Democratic Party promises of a jubilee on that.
The foundering middle-class may be people most sympathetic to Trump and Trumpism. You can’t sell them on the identity politics nonsense that has become the Dems’ stock-in-trade. Laid-off airline pilots, hair stylists, and insurance adjusters are probably not interested in critical race theory, gender dysphoria, re-imagining law enforcement, able-ism, and the travails of the “neuro-diverse” (the latest term-of-art for the mentally ill). They may also catch a whiff of yet deeper economic calamity in the Democrats’ relish for more lockdowns, and even in the promised “universal basic income” schemes that would pay the able-bodied to not work. The question for this large group is how many will swap their liberty for the very sketchy and conditional security of a Woke nanny state that requires strict obedience to whatever crazy crusade it thinks up next?
The rest can be read here.
Another possible factor to cause changes in the effectiveness of magic, a temporal rather than a spatial factor, may be an eclipsing of the Solar Logos by a Great Entity on a different cosmic plane creating discordant stresses and positive evil corresponding to which plane the Great Entity is on. Maybe a Great Entity on the sixth (astral) or fifth (mental) plane eclipsing the Solar Logos causes disruptions in the ability to create a form on the astral plane and/or to call down a force from the mental plane to fill the form and allow the union to precipitate into the physical plane. When this disruption is in effect it’s harder to do magic and its effects are more limited. When the eclipse ends it’s easier to do magic and more powerful magic can be done. If so, such an eclipse may be occurring now. Or maybe this is another effect of the possible eclipse by a Great Entity on the plane of the divine spirit that we discussed in the comments to the July 2019 post on the Cos. Doc.
Sister BoysMom, those are a constant occupational hazard of religious organizations; you may well be right that that’s where we get the notional Christians who don’t actually believe in Christian teachings.
Petra, and yet Weber knew perfectly well, as Josephson-Storm points out, that there were plenty of people still practicing magic right in the midst of industrial society. That’s why I say his “disenchantment of the world” was prescriptive, not descriptive — how else do you explain the fact that he was insisting magic was gone when that was (and is) simply not true? He was proclaiming the triumph of a scientific paradigm that has never convinced more than a minority of people. It’s as though vegans were to claim that nobody eats meat any more, and simply ignored the continuing existence of butcher shops, barbecues, and cattle ranches.
Thecrowandsheep, not necessarily — not all magic comes directly from relationships with gods. Still, the aging of the Judeo-Christian god is a data point that has to be taken into account. As for the birth of a prophet, that should happen this December under the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, yes.
Eike, I’ve been just as impressed by the explosion of good ideas. As I’ve noted more than once before, I have the best commentariat on the internet.
Rose, fascinating. Where are you located?
Irena, over the last four years the supply of manufacturing jobs, and working class jobs generally, has increased sharply over here. If that continues — and if this November’s election goes the way I expect, it will — the working class will be fine, and the younger and more flexible members of the middle classes will adapt to working class jobs (I know some who’ve already done it) or compete for the dwindling supply of managerial positions. It should be colorful, but it needn’t involve fireworks. As for Burkean conservatism, sure — but it’s worth seeing if you can figure out why it works, if only so you can keep proposed changes from messing with the more important elements.
B3rnhard, fascinating! Yes, that may be an important part of it.
Mansoor, we don’t know how much of the claim of uniqueness came from the deities themselves, and how much of it came from their human worshipers. The various scriptures were all written down by human beings, after all, and so everything they say has been filtered through a human mind. Since I haven’t had the opportunity to sit down with Jehovah, or Allah, or any of the other One True Gods proclaimed by monotheists and ask their opinion about the views of their followers, I leave all such questions as unanswerable. As for the waning of gods and idols, though, that’s an important point, because such things do have limited lifespans.
Denis, I take notes on readings longhand, in spiral notebooks with a fountain pen. I also take notes from books that way. I type my manuscripts, because it’s so much easier to edit. As for the anarchist bombings, of course the liberal historian changed the subject; it’s unthinkable to people on that side of the political spectrum that they can fail.
Mansoor, heaven and hell exist in reincarnation. That’s more or less where you spend time between lives. Depending on your level of consciousness during life, you can rise to the upper astral, which is pretty pleasant, or descend into the lower astral, which is quite the opposite. The one difference, of course, is that you don’t stay there.
SteveinNC, that’s exactly the problem. We have a mess of correlations, but no sure way yet to figure out which way the arrows of causation point!
Aidan, watch him turn it to his advantage by doing a series of fireside chats!
Cleric, the religion of progress is a complex phenomenon, of course. My comments in the post weren’t intended to define it in absolute terms, simply to indicate how it generally works in today’s life.
Violet, exactly. It’s a vast tangled mess from which extracting clear understandings is not easy!
Neptunesdolphins, that’s fascinating, that contact with Neopagans shut down your clairvoyant senses. I wonder whether it’s just that they’re irritating — a state of annoyance and depression will reliably interfere with psychism! — or if something deeper is doing on.
E. Goldstein, good heavens. That’s fascinating. Can you point me to some sources on the effects of earth’s rotation on remote viewing?
Dishwasher, fascinating. Thank you for this.
Panda, the ancient Greeks used to call those “puddles” miasma, and in Japanese Shinto it’s called kegare. It’s a reality, and yes, the bloodsoaked lands of Europe are full of it.
Chronojourner, thank you for this — that’s really interesting.
Chris, I’ve only seen very, very minor manipulations of the physical elements via magic, and I’ve been running with mages for quite a few years now.
Matthias, it wasn’t an independent civilization in Spengler’s sense, but during the Heian period Japan was in no sense in a dark age!
Steve T, many thanks for this. Have you tried reading the versicles in Latin? “Asperge me, Domine, hyssopo, et mundabor” to my senses just has more clout than “Cleanse me with hyssop oh Lord, and I shall be clean.”
Methylethyl, many thanks for this. It doesn’t surprise me at all that churches that have abandoned sacramental rituals get no miracles, while those that have kept the old strong rituals intact and use them frequently have the opposite effect. You may be right, though, that we’re simply too comfortable to tap into the Unseen!
Pixelated, interesting. I haven’t had that reaction, but I’ve felt some very unsavory energies in some churches.
DT, maybe it’s just a phase, but it’s still worth exploring and understanding.
David BTL, maybe!
Teresa, hmm! Most fascinating.
Kevin, I always assumed that it’s just a way of conspicuous consumption — “I can afford to go live part of my life on a different continent.”
Ashara, tell that to the people of Iraq, who got the crap bombed out of them in defense of a New World Order for which Fukuyama was one of the chief apologists.
Jay, not accidental at all.
Galen, classic Kunstler!
SLClaire, another excellent point.
@JMG Well, I suspect there may be some different history there. I wonder what would happen if I tried it again.
It seems to me that there’s one more axis to consider here, along the lines that many commentators have already brought up: a difference between the spatial and temporal (which, at least in my own meditations, I understand as being closely related to the telluric vs. solar currents of the Dolmen Arch/DMH system). Specifically, it’s my experience that the telluric energies of different physical locations can be quite different, such that the same telluric working can have very different effects depending on where it is performed. In much the same way that at least some solar-current workings need to be performed at the appropriate time, at least some telluric magic and ritual seems to have an element that depends on physical locality.
In the history of European magic and religion, we see a shift from the more local (and telluric) to approaches that are more focused on time but independent of place (and so, more solar). The missionary religions of Christianity and Islam always had an important strain of something that was solar, temporal (the events of the cycle of redemption, etc.), and independent of place, but this was not always an exclusivepattern. In the Middle Ages, when very concrete miracles abounded, a great deal of popular piety/devotion surrounded the cults of local saints and local shrines, to an extent that modern people who have not studied the history often find incredible. And JMG has noted elsewhere the way the the Grail legends speak to some robust telluric workings in the older forms of Christianity.
Then there’s the related issue, that not all telluric practices “travel” well. Insofar as they deal with the specific energies of this place, they work here, but potentially not there. To be sure, it’s possible to tap into the telluric flows of a place where one’s physical body is not currently located—I’ve done it, and I’ve heard credible accounts of Tibetan Buddhist monks doing likewise—but (a) this is tricky, and (b) at least in my limited experience, it seems to work best with a place that you have at some time been physically present, and ideally a place where you have spent a great deal of time and/or had some powerful encounter, such that you know the place especially well.
I don’t know any Native American traditions well enough to even begin to theorize, but I wonder if this is a factor for the decline of some of the medicine practices, as Vine Deloria discusses. That is, would the dispossession of these communities from their ancestral lands lead to a deminishment in the efficacy of rituals-of-place? I could see this happening in stages, where at first medicine people who had once lived in the old lands could still connect to the energies there, though perhaps with increased difficulty. At a subsequent stage, however, even those connections might start disappearing, due to the death of the older generation who had actually lived in the old lands and their replacement by a young group who grew up, as it were, in exile, and thus had a weaker connection to the old places, or who lacked that connection altogether.
This is all, of course, highly speculative, and I’d welcome whatever data others might bring to bear on it, whether supportive or disconfirming. One of the things which this account does not provide is a reason why magic and miracles would decline over the entire world in lockstep, if in fact they so did. But as Violet and others have noted above, there are almost certainly multiple discrete factors at work here.
On the subject of the modern “blessing” of holy water and such things: Years ago, I knew a Benedictine priest who insisted that the post-Vatican II “Book of Blessings” really ought to be called the “Book of Wishes.” Needless to say, he made sure to exorcise the salt and the water in the old way.
This actually speaks to the point I raised in my earlier comment about “change in consciousness.” The modern priest, with his wishes, is only trying (at most) to change the consciousness of his fellow congregants, and the text of the prayers reflects this. The traditional priest, however, is trying to change the water itself, and in so doing, he addresses the salt and the water directly, as conscious beings who can hear and respond to his words: “I exorcise thee, O creature of salt…”, etc.
To me, it seems rather unlikely that the migration of jobs back to the US will be able to offset the impoverishment of the country (working class included) caused by the drying up of the imperial wealth pump. So, I suspect there will be fireworks. But we’ll see.
Also, you wrote: “As for Burkean conservatism, sure — but it’s worth seeing if you can figure out why it works, if only so you can keep proposed changes from messing with the more important elements.”
Right. That makes sense. But as always, one must be careful not to be overconfident. I’m sure Mr. Calvin was quite confident he’d figured out exactly what made Christianity work (bleh).
@ JMG and Ashara:
After the Marxists, the neocons were the first to come to mind when it comes to historical examples of Hegelianism in action and the blood-soaked results that tend to occur.
According to one widely cited estimate, 2.4 million Iraqis died died as a result of the neoconservative policies that people like Francis Fukuyama, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith were pushing. That’s pretty horrific by any set of historical standards. The neocons might not have racked up quite as high a death toll as the Stalinists, the Maoists or the Nazis did, but it was in the same ballpark.
And lets face it, the liberal elites (neocon and otherwise) have caused a tremendous amount of devastation and suffering around the world outside of Iraq, and not just due to regime change wars, color revolutions and all the rest. Look at what their policies have done to groups ranging from the American working class to Mexican family farmers to Chinese sweatshop workers. These people have a LOT to answer for.
From the posts in this thread so far, the one reliable correlate to those who still find plenty of enchantment in the present-day world is with those who spend a fair amount of time outdoors.
But, I can’t help thinking that the notion that the world of long ago and/or far away is greatly more enchanted could be a perceptual illusion, like tricks of perspective applied to time. When you focus your attention on the rising moon (or photograph it with a telephoto lens), it looms enormous over distant trees, city skylines, or even mountains. But if you think that means if you go stand in those trees, buildings, or mountains the moon will appear to fill half the sky from there, you might end up disappointed. One can think of all kinds of plausible reasons to explain just why the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Or was greener on this side, way back when.
That said, here’s another plausible avenue to consider: the explosion of the number of “observers,” in the quantum mechanics sense, in the modern world. You’ve written recently about the possible connections between synchronicity, conscious experience, and the as yet unexplained quirks of quantum mechanics. A change over recent centuries could relate not only to the rise in the human population, but also the relatively much steeper rise in avenues of communication with other people, which for all practical purposes skyrockets the number of relevant observers. “Wigner’s friend” might now have a thousand other friends also watching him.
Violet you wrote “There may be relatively more presence of Spirit in the lives of people during times when iron gets used by more people as a tool: Iron free technologies > Iron age technologies.”
Holy cow you just unlocked something for me. In early PA history 1700-1840-ish there were small scale iron furnaces all over the state. Hundreds of them. They really took off during the Revolutionary War and into the War of 1812. From 1785 – 1830 there were at least a dozen new Christian-ish religions started here – a couple Brethren variations, Moravians, Swedenborgians, Joseph Smith of the Mormons had some visions here, and the Methodists which were very evangelical at the time and anti-Calvinist, took off in huge numbers then. Obviously there were many more new faiths that only existed as singular congregations and sometimes didn’t even have formal names.
I’ve been scratching my head to figure out why the heck here? No other state had such a flurry of new religions. Working with the iron everywhere would explain it. Thank you!
Here’s an interesting retrospective on critical legal studies, the parent discipline of CRT, during its heyday in the late 1980s and early 1990s at Harvard. Critical legal studies is actually relatively obscure in the academy now.
I had a thought once, that literacy, rationality, and rejection of the Divine Feminine were to the collective, as adolescence is to the growing boy: reject the Mother, butt heads with the Father, and proudly declare independence from all those old fogies.
I say “Boy” because a whole ‘nuther dynamic is at work with girls. Several more, in fact.
I am surprised to hear you say that magic is not as powerful as it used to be.
This year saw one of the most widespread and fundamental changes in consciousness in history. Would that not be an awesome manifestation of magic on an unprecedented scale?
JMG, Trump is pretty sick, supposedly with Covid, and in the hospital. Did your 6-month prediction include anything to the effect of this?
It’s also possible Trump was poisoned. To my mind it’s rather odd that he scampers about maskless, for months, with no ill effects, and then the minute he gets near Democrats, bang, he’s deathly ill. (In “poisoning “ I include the possibility that the Trump-deranged deliberately brought in someone who has it, to infect him.). Or he could have just up and caught it legitimately. What say the stars?
Have you considered the possibility that your line of thought might be begging the question that perhaps the liberal international order that people like Fukuyama have praised just as much a totalitarian ideology as communism or fascism?
After some time I read Monsters, I thought how the possibility of several miracles and other phenomena happening was eliminated by modern treatment of corpses.
It would be much harder to reanimate a dead that was embalmed and had organs removed. On top of that, in reach countries are buried in coffins sealed with metal. A strange thought came to me, these practices are so effective to prevent resurrection that they might have been purposefully designed this way, by someone who knew very well what was being done. Embalming and autopsy assure the dead will remain so, and metal coffins also help to avoid wandering revenants, designed or spontaneous.
Extending a bit this thought, modern everything is thoroughly killed, not a very proper medium for miracles to manifest. Many things are dehydrated with fire to be built and to be lasting. I think modern civilization (to a lesser extent, older ones too) has a fire elemental imbalance. I do not know enough about elements to tell if this makes sense or not (does modern civilization show a “too much fire” behavior?).
There is also the problem of crude oil, and what it is — a kind of concentrated death, cooked with heat in the depths of the earth. We use this death stuff everywhere, in a way ancient people could describe as a sophisticated form of necromancy. It is interesting that the phenomenon of disenchantment seems to be fading out after conventional oil extraction (I decided to not call it production, because this word is misleading) peaked.
And finally, miracles became unfashionable in the modern world. Part of the problem could be just a reporting bias. But you told that, in your personal experience, manipulation of physical matter is seldom seen. That points to something deeper going on. What if, just if, as a part of conquering nature there really is something like the Radiance from you Weird of Hali books, actively working to hide magic, but knowing very well what is being done?
What I wrote is not very dissertative, it looks more like a list of bullet points. There is not a conclusion here; this reads like a rant. I guess my point is that the disenchantment may be a bit more conscious than it looks on the surface. A part of a project, designed to conquer Nature.
My suspicion (and that’s all it is) is that monotheism was an experiment of sorts. Now the results are in and it’s time to try something else.
That wealthy Presbyterian Church didn’t have true believers perhaps. Only there for the respectability and social status.
I remember going to my local protestant gathering in high school in a industrial arts classroom repurposed for that gathering.
And the presence of God I felt there despite the lack of any ritualistic objects and other things in an orthodox and traditional Catholic setting.
The next mullings stirred up these half-formed thoughts on some correlates between characteristics of un-enchanted human existence (I’ve not thought them through enough to be able to say anything’s causative or more than just correlated, and none of this factors in that there might be vast cosmic cycles of more/less magical-ness):
1. There may be some play of “ruts” in ways of thinking/tracks in space (as Dan Mollo suggested with energy invested in maintaining [the glamour of?] civilization and asChronojourner mentioned with training to read papers and places and energies through the scientific mindset causing a decrease in some spiritual/magical skills) and the (a la CosDoc) atoms on a given plane making the tracks/ruts stronger for their fellows so that patterns become enmeshed and develop a kind of pull of their own – so this being the “cultural taint” I mentioned – when mechanistic thinking catches on at all, it drives big grooves into the mental and astral (?) planes that humans access that then suck things down to the same level. I see that this also relates to the Galina Krasskova quote/thought put forward by neptunesdolphins ;
[1.5. @Denis – this is kind of what drives me – that I can only guess how many lives dedicated to “groove x” I’ve lived while all I know now is that in this life, I have a chance to work on “groove y” and make tracks in space that’ll be of some benefit further down the line. Also, the only long-lasting way to be of benefit to myself and others is to actually improve myself (toward wholeness and, you know, higher things) and do what I can to make my life a link between this very challenging plane and cosmic good/gods/spiritual values/higher planes[;
2. the ability to recognize and also to create beauty seems to decrease when an individual or people is un-enchanted – as though part of the recognition of Mystery has been lost (hence, we think the world has lost its enchantment when actually it’s the perspective-holder who has);
3. efficiency vs. beauty (or joy) seems to be involved? And maybe the cult of prosperity/ownership?
4. connected to what barefootwisdom said, an “untainted” perspective would allow for non-human consciousnessess to respond to human awareness in ways we might today consider “magical” – but once the “un-enchanted egregor” touches said humans’ faculties of relationship, it changes how other beings respond? You know, kind of like the whole sciency-knicker-twister of “OMG the particles are aware of us!” No duh, and if we’ve got the wrong kind of awareness, they’re not going to have very involved conversations with us.
Good stuff to chew on, thanks for this post.
After catching up on comments – two concepts caught my attention and inspired me to further add to this discussion.
The first was in regards to the natural connections that at least some of the remaining indigenous peoples still hold in such high regard and so continue to live in accordance with their ‘ancient’ traditional ways. Specifically, the observation that such peoples continue to enjoy a deep and abiding connection with the higher spiritual beings, the natural spirits of the land and their ancestors. One of the most frequently repeated teachings by my grandparents and the other medicine elders during my training back in the 1960’s and 70’s was never, ever replace your natural connections to the spirit realm with any mind altering substances. That that was the fastest way to ensure that true connections will be lost, only to be replaced with attachments to false spirits from what they referred to as the demon worlds. There were many, many examples given of the dire, negative consequences that would ultimately result.
Another of the teachings I received was that, the day would come when I would become a teacher and guide for others. I was admonished to never, ever write down any of the teachings. That those who came to me must learn it as I had – memorizing the oral traditions and embedding the teachings into the heart. I am quite sure that John and several others on here will recognize and understand that teaching and the reasons for it. Walk into any bookstore or puruse the internet and one will rapidly see just how much this particular teaching has been lost on most of the world.
The other concept was in regards to the higher powers and energies being blocked from Earth by some outside force or ‘obstacle.’ I immediately thought of the teachings of Steiner about Ahriman, in general, and the “Eighth Sphere,” in specific.
Mayhap the above are among the causes of and contribute to much that now afflicts the world.
That would make sense. All those paths and currents coming together to form a cohesive whole. You know if that were the case, then it would hold to reason that all those places that are either on the ascending or descending arc would witness great feats of magic. Since our history is resplendent with regions that were on one or the other, while other regions were simultaneously at the nadir, it should be viable to actually test the theory.
It also makes sense that all that raw energy, once it’s actually woven into something, would be less available for other works. Like habits of Will. Once the Will is flowing in a certain direction, it takes a tremendous amount of emotional energy to get it to change course.
exactly! human civilization is a tremendously complicated system, one that takes a tremendous amount of faith, belief, and power to run.
To paraphrase the Archdruid. Prana is a finite, but renewable, resource.
Just wanted to say that I too noticed this with my children (also homeschooled). I watched literacy change their relationship to the world. It was very subtle, but I noticed it, perhaps because I am a writer and I thought I would be excited for them to be able to write, but in the end, I sort of wasn’t. That sounds terrible maybe, but it seemed real obvious that, while I still can’t say precisely what it was that changed, something definitely changed and that it was not what I would call for the better? Or maybe the better way to put it is that they clearly lost something to gain literacy, by which I surmise we all lost something there.
Ian (and JMG),
“I suspect the people responsible for the decline of magic’s potency were mostly… mages.”
I’m reminded of the animated film The Flight of Dragons, which apparently was loosely based on Gordon Dickinson’s The Dragon and the George.
The Wikipedia page summarizes the plot, but two of the key ideas are:
(1) Magic was too dangerous for this world
(2) Magic and science are ultimately incompatible, and science is superior
The film’s villain is defeated by a scientist who, despite seeing magic flying left and right and being merged with a dragon, suddenly realizes that magic isn’t logical, so it can’t work. He explains science and logic to the evil wizard, depriving him of his power. The good wizard then seals the remaining magic away in its own realm to protect both it and humanity.
JMG, you would probably hate the film. But I can’t help but wonder if perhaps this film stumbled onto the motives and means of Weber and co.
@Pixelated, @Christophe, @Eike, @jay pine,
Exactly, and thank you for all those additions to the ideas on which I am currently meditating.
Written language is to some extent like a fly trapped in amber – it makes for a useful way to study a fly because it’s difficult to really examine a fly in motion, but at the same time you lose the essence of a fly, which is that it flies!
I very much like Eike’s metaphor of wetlands and canals – yes, canals are more efficient, like literacy, but you lose the wild complexity of the wetland. In that sense I am thinking of how ideas are transmitted via oral tradition as opposed to written – they are transmitted AND transmuted. The flow, or in druid terms, the awen of ideas is continually refined and transformed, and has the opportunity of being influenced by the spiritual realm itself. Once something is written, that flow stops, and not only is it stopped, it is one more step removed, via a symbol, as jay pine noted, from what it IS.
It is interesting, isn’t it, that the monotheistic religions are all the religions of The Book. Essentially, the revelations from God were stopped at a particular moment in time by being written down, and after that, no more correspondence has been allowed to be entered into, effectively preventing any further revelations. In one sense, it can be seen as an attempt to control God and the entire messy exuberance of the spiritual world. And that could very much be part of the link between literacy and malign enchantment.
Pixelated, I’d be more interested in hearing what happened if you tried visiting a different church.
Barefootwisdom, that’s a very important point. The solar current varies with time but the telluric current varies with place, and you’re right that changing places without appropriate adjustments could make some telluric workings much less effective.
Irena, but the working class hasn’t gotten any benefit from the imperial wealth pump for decades. That’s just it — it’s all been siphoned off by the comfortable classes, to keep them comfortable. That’s why so many of the working class couldn’t care less about the continuation of US overseas hegemony, while the comfortable classes are frantic to see it maintained.
Walt, maybe so — and of course the conventional wisdom assumes that it’s all a matter of distant events being puffed up, and so on. I want to explore the possibility that something else is going on.
Aidan, now tell me what this has to do with the subject of the current post.
Patricia M, hmm! A point could be made.
DropBear, remember that I have Aspergers syndrome. I have no idea what you’re hinting at. Perhaps you can do me the favor of explaining what you mean.
Your Kittenship, nope. According to every indication in the chart; he’ll be fine.
Anonymous, it’s an interesting hypothesis. How would you test it?
Temporaryreality, I’m just going to sit back at this point and watch the conversation flow.
MichaelR, thanks for these data points!
Slithy Toves, you’re right, I’d hate it. Any story that is about how the world became more boring is going to raise my hackles.
Blueday Jo, my sense is that it’s not a problem with writing as such — it’s a problem with canonization. In a lot of lively magical traditions — esoteric Buddhism, Hindu tantra, Western occultism — you have a constant production of new written works, each one claiming some connection to the Unseen, and the steady flow of new works allows the tradition to flow with changes in cosmos and consciousness. It’s when you have one and only one book as The Truth For All Time that the problems really come in.
It seems to me that testing the effects of concrete on the local spiritual scene might be easier. Something along the lines of, get several people who are sensitive to such matters, ask them to report what they perceive before, during and after the concrete pour. Maybe have several different techniques – laying down an adobe surface, or a stone surface, or do a less thorough job of prepping the site for the concrete. Maybe have the sensitives report on the site(s) over the course of several years, and on how it feels after the poured surface is broken apart.
I’m not sure how to test the hypothesis regarding the scientific method, since the hypothesis is that the scientific method itself may have this reducing effect. But if there’s anything to my cockamamie idea, then I wonder if it has anything to do with the trend (I forget what it’s called) for things like antidepressants and rigorously observed paranormal effects to become less powerful over time. I also wonder if it’s related to the variability of allopathic medicine in Africa that Lee brought up.
So he will TRUMP the dreaded virus? 😄. Well, good for him. Is the magical AWFL cohort taking credit for this? (Me, before I took credit I’d wait and see if he won the election, but that’s just me.)
What I’m wondering is if these ebbs in magic map onto the changing of the astrological ages: in exactly the same way that moving will tend to make telluric magic more difficult by shifting the conditions, wouldn’t the changing of the astrological ages, by changing the fundamentals of the solar current, make working with the solar current more difficult?
As for vacations, I thought that it was conspicuous consumption as well, until I realized several people I know went on vacations a long ways from home, and never mentioned where; If it really was conspicuous consumption, that wouldn’t happen: they’d be all over how they were off to Hawaii, or Beijing, or wherever. So for at least them, it wasn’t functioning as conspicuous consumption.
I am continually amazed at your level of scholarship. Thank you for this excellent post.
The book I’m working on, Sacred Homemaking, is intended to be a book of DIY enchantments based on the experiences I have had since emerging from extreme financial difficulty to my current status of owning a fixer-upper in a lower-middle class neighborhood. When my husband and I moved here a little more than four years ago, the yard had not been gardened in the last 50+ years and the house, well, let’s just say my it’s fortunate my husband is good at construction. I’ll cut to the chase — my home has become a place where it is easy to talk to any number of spirits, fairies, elementals, ghosts, and other non-embodied beings. This is especially true of the back garden, which is in the form of a cross.
I am convinced the cross focuses healing chi, nwfyre, energy, prana, or whatever you’d like to call it. The feral cats often roll around in the center of the cross. When they do that, I call it “break dancing”. I think anyone who is psychically sensitive can feel the intensity of the cross area. It’s also strong at each one of the corners. One of the elderly feral cats used to shelter in the cross among the herbs before he died. For a few weeks after his death before his spirit passed on, I could feel him, just like he was in life, hanging out by the mint. He loved it there.
I think all people have sensitivity to ghosts, spirits, and even gods (though that is the god’s choice to get involved) but most of us have been so well-trained to look for the wrong signs, it’s difficult to tell whether you’ve heard a spirit voice or have a burgeoning schizophrenia problem. I am now convinced I’ve been extraordinarily psychic all along and talked to spirits since before I knew right from left, however it all got bungled in wanting to be magical and powerful in an obvious, impressive way. Then, as an adult, it became easy to wade into atheism and a dismissal of “occult nonsense” for society-approved materialism.
Also, Andrew, if you are reading this, thank you for the box of books! Sending you a thank you note soon. It’s going to be a great library!
In my own (necessarily limited) experience of doing magic, the mana (the “force,” loosely) that makesw magic possible seems to be sentient itself, and to have a will of its own. The successful magician has to court it continually, much as one might court one’s beloved spouse. If one has a good marriage, that courtship continues, and even intensifies more and more, throughout all the decades after the marriage has been solemnized. Such marriages live and grow in wisdom and delight.
On the other hand, there are people who enter into marriage for the sake not of delighting in the other person as a person, but for the contributions the spouse can make to one’s own life-style. Their relationship with one another is almost an “I — it” relationship, not an “I — thou” one. If (as our host has said) a marriage is always a conspiracy, these people are not conspiring with one another, but using one another to conspire with the world at large. What inner life such marriages may have had at the beginning soon withers and dies. Whereas, in a good marriage (as our host has said) the couple conspires together against the outside world.
And so, it seems to me, it is with magic. If one courts the sentient and willful immaterial being that is called mana, and enters into a lasting “I — thou” marriage with it, one can do mighty things. (Yet one should not do them very often, since much of the wisdom a competent magician needs comes down to sufficient wisdom to know when not to do magic. There is a similar need for restraint, too, in a good marriage.)
And of course there have long been developments in Western society that work powerfully against people establishing “I — thou” relationships with other people, let alone with sentient, willful creatures and beings who are not people. By now we’ve gone so far in that direction that employees have become mere “human resources” in a company’s operation.
But a lot of other, older trends have been pushing Western civilization in that direction for nearly a millenium now. Among the older trends are the establishment of complex hierarchies and bureaucracies of state and church, industrialization, centralized mass production of goods, standardized systems of education, treating nature as an insensate “thing” to be exploited, highly mobile populations, what Christophe (IIRC) called “the Western practice of deconstructing things to analyze their parts,” and surely many other developments that I can’t call to mind right now. More recently, of course, the rise of the world-wide “consumer society” has had utterly ghastly consequences for all forms of life in general. So, to my way of thinking, it’s no wonder that magic has been in decline in the Western world ever since about 1000 CE, and elsewhere wherever indigenous worlds have been compelled to interact massively with the Western world.
Reference(s) on the effects of Earth’s Rotation on Remote Viewing:
James S, Spottiswoode P. Apparent association between effect size in free response anomalous cognition experiments and local sidereal time. Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol II, No. 2, 1997.
It may be very difficult to find this scientific journal and article. However, it is reprinted in full, here:
Appendix B, pages 223 to 242 in: McMoneagle J. Remote Viewing Secrets; A Handbook. Charlottesville, VA; Hampton Roads Publishing, 2000.
Also Appendix C in the same book:
James S, Spottiswoode P. Geomagnetic fluctuations and free response anomalous cognition: A new understanding. Journal of Parapsychology 1998, published in Appendix C, pages 243-254 of: McMoneagle J. Remote Viewing Secrets; A Handbook. Charlottesville, VA; Hampton Roads Publishing, 2000.
From the Abstract:
“…a large increase in the magnitude of the correlation was found at approximately 13 hours Local Sidereal Time (LST)….This sharp increase of correlation may be connected with an earlier result: that the AC-effect size increases by 380% within [plus or minus] one hour of 13.5 LST.”
I was referring to our collective response to corona.
but I guess since you had to ask the question you will disagree. So never mind.
“If the world is inhabited by a plethora of deities and all the gods are true in some sense, then why do the
monotheistic deities claim to be the only ones?”
I think that also stems from a difference in the definition of Deity. The Monotheistic conception involves Infinity yet that Infinity is summed up in Simplicity.
The Divine Revelation to Moses for example. This God says “I Am that I am” say to the Israelites “I Am has sent you”.
This simple phrase sums up the nature of the Monotheistic Deity.
“Yahweh” is derived from the hebrew for ” I am that I am”.
Another way of saying “The EXISTENCE”. This therefore puts all other Deities that other cultures hold in esteem in an inferior position or rank compared to the Monotheistic deity as a lesser Angelic creation.
At best subordinate or at worst rebels.
Years ago, I got to hear a few stories from a native american sacred man. He was born in the 30’s and raised in a secluded part of the reservation, never speaking English until his 20’s. Being around him was a tiny glimpse for me into a different time. He spoke of how learning to be a sacred person involved spending several years studying roots, followed by several years with the stones, and then years studying the birds and so on. Your article makes me wonder if this level of deep and profound connection to natural forces contributed greatly to the powers of the sacred people of old, and the widespread lack of this connection in much of the population now contributes to the lessening of this power currently.
Emmanuel Goldsteins comment about the rotation of Earth in relation to the Milky Way is interesting, because the center of the Milky Way contains the big black hole Sagittarius A. Might the diminishing in power of remote viewing be a hint that black holes are indeed malefic from an astrological standpoint, as I have suspected for some time?
I am on the Westcoast of the South Island of New Zealand, on a particular spot that I was extremely drawn to that has a few unique characteristics. I was trying to come home after an unstable upbringing and grounded in here. But I am a little intimidated by how things behave here just because of the force of manifestation, and amount of elemental influences that I am often not seeking. I imagine its a little similar to being above some of those underground water caves in the amazon, but magic is definitely not dead here and I was just trying to start a garden and do some embroidery quietly but everything here has other ideas lol.
@JMG, @Galen, @Ethan: The War in Iraq was a disaster and I agree that it should be condemned, along with most of America’s other interventions in developing nations. At the end of the day, I don’t think it’s right to force other nations to adopt liberal democratic capitalism. But it’s worth noting that plenty of American and European politicians opposed those wars; not all globalists are imperialistic expansionists seeking totalitarian control of the world. And the very root of international liberalism is the idea that trade is better than war, and peace can be achieved by building mutually beneficial relationships between nation-states that leave everyone better off, rather than trapped in zero-sum conflicts. Surely that’s a goal worth pursuing?
@sng: “They clearly lost something to gain literacy.”
Yes, that’s it exactly, and we do count literacy as a gain – we wouldn’t wish illiteracy on any child in our society. And all of us here can no doubt point to the joy and wonder we garner in our reading and writing lives.. and yet.. and yet.. it does seem to replace something else, doesn’t it?
JMG: “Irena, but the working class hasn’t gotten any benefit from the imperial wealth pump for decades. That’s just it — it’s all been siphoned off by the comfortable classes, to keep them comfortable. That’s why so many of the working class couldn’t care less about the continuation of US overseas hegemony, while the comfortable classes are frantic to see it maintained.”
The American working class got screwed when manufacturing moved to China, no doubt about it. The imperial wealth pump has primarily benefitted the very rich, though it’s boosted the middle class’s standard of living in quite a significant way, too, and as for the working class – it got the crumbs (all the cheap stuff produced in China). Here’s the thing though: even though the American working class is quite a bit worse off than it was half a century ago, it is still quite a bit better off than the working class in most of the world (I’m not talking about Germany, obviously), despite the fact that very little is produced in the US of A. How come? Imperial wealth pump crumbs, that’s how. Those crumbs are quite a lot by Bangladeshi (and even Eastern European) standards. So, you say the manufacturing jobs are coming back. Maybe. Are they coming back fast enough, and in large enough numbers to offset the disappearance of those crumbs? I rather doubt it, but we’ll just have to see.
thanks for the bit about musical notation! Given that all reality, for incarnate beings, is ultimately mind, it can be no wonder that writing, notation, and other such profound domestications of the mind transform reality. Being raised in and surrounded by a world shaped by this effect, it doesn’t easily spring to mind, but now that this conversation has made me aware of it, I can’t unsee it. Truly fascinating. And one doesn’t have to see it in a negative light only!
your comment on literate culture and boys’ puberty reminded me of something very interesting the Native American mayor of some small town said about the destructive ways of modern society in a documentary I saw a few years ago.
I must paraphrase, but it was essentially “The white man is our younger brother, and he is now in a place we ourselves were before him. Once he outgrows that phase and looks back on the mess he made, it is our responsibility to give him solace and provide him with a shoulder to cry on.”
I found that pretty moving, and it also rang very true: Archeological evidence indicates that much of the loss of megafauna (several species of elephant, camel, and horse), as well as much of the then-current ecological makeup of North America fell victim to excessive fire-based human hunting techniques. Similar things may have happened in Australia in the past as well. In both cases, centuries of plenty had resulted in a destabilized, impoverished land that forced its inhabitants to adapt to drastic limitations and possibly ponder their role in that.
My hypothesis is that whenever humans find themselves in a new world – be that geographically or due to shifts in awareness, they risk falling into the trap of overlooking the consequences of their actions, thus feeling all-powerful and getting out of touch with the higher order, until the world reins the back in. In your metaphor, thatn reining back in would correspond to the end of puberty and the acceptance of adult responsibilities.
A crypto-currency-minded friend recently introduced me to the saying “Everyone’s a genius in a bull market”, which I find hilariously applicable to all sorts of situations. Oftentimes, we make our bull markets by squandering the family jewels, but we still feel super smart about the decisions we make afterwards 😀
But do you think it’s plausible that a group of mages came to the decision that the world would be better off without magic, or at least if fewer people practiced it, and so set out on a campaign to promote the materialistic worldview?
I hope you don’t mind my intruding on your conversation with JMG. It occurred to me that you might get a lot out of John Michael’s book “A World Full of Gods”. For anyone who has only been exposed to monotheist theology, it presents a convincing set of arguments to wrestle with as to why polytheism is also theologically rational and defensible. I found the arguments impressive at any rate.
I wanted to respond because the questions you ask are familiar to me. I was raised Catholic, and in reading A World Full of Gods I was confused and at times worried about the implications for everything else I’d been told about theology. Additionally, I had taken an interest in Islam at various points of my life, including a period attending a Sufi meditation group, so although “AWFOG” mostly concentrates on countering Judeo-Christian “One True God” arguments, I found myself thinking about Allah in that context also.
It is important to note that these arguments for polytheism don’t try to negate the reality of the deity in monotheistic faith, nor of the validity of worshipping in those traditions, but as you’ve noticed there’s no avoiding the clash between a literal acceptance of monotheist claims to exclusive universal reality, and an openness to polytheist traditions. On the other hand, in relation to the Abrahamic traditions, it is interesting to consider the case of “Henotheism” in early Judaism as an intermediate position that Christianity, Islam and later Judaism obviously reject:
These are complex and pretty enormous issues of course.
Perhaps we just have to see Weber as yet another egocentric academic (far from uncommon!) who wanted, above all, the triumph of his main thesis and so wilfully ignored contemporary reality. Rather comic from some angles.
Vegans do in fact try to give the impression that ‘everyone’s a Vegan now’: regular articles in the liberal press proclaiming fantastic % increases in the number of pure Vegans (from a tiny base) and – rather more pathetically – the great increase in people ‘eating Vegan’ for one or more meals per week.
The idea of new written materials for, and responding to, new times is certainly found in classical Sufism; the ‘doctrine of the supercession of ephemeral materials.’
One particular school active these days produces esoteric material in the guise of travel books and other popular genres.
In the case of at least one of the great poet-teachers, a prohibition was placed on writing down his poems for several centuries: they had to be memorised.
Hi John Michael,
Dunno what it means but when I saw the image of Max Weber, I thought to myself that this here is a man angry with the world. Stuffed if I know what he is angry about, but he most certainly is. And interestingly the Calvinists sound a lot like another current bunch who dare not be named, which is active right now. Oh yeah, they stink of that particular creed. What a fine joke it is and they know it not. Or maybe they do, but particular mob seem a little tetchy so let’s not name them out out aloud. 🙂
Hey, well if you put your faith in technology and progress, what space would you then have?
In regards to multiple Monotheistic Gods. I did like Mr. Greer’s answer.
As a Polytheist, I have always viewed the Monotheistic Gods as a multiple group of Gods. They are each their own entities with their own followers. As an outsider, I don’t have any answers to their followers as these Gods have said They are the only ones.
Jupiter and Odin have many attributes, but most Polytheists regard Them as each a single God with multiple attributes. However, with Monotheistic Gods, They are so distinct that They are separate much like Jupiter and Odin are separate entities. That is my point of view.
JMG: Neptunesdolphins, that’s fascinating, that contact with Neopagans shut down your clairvoyant senses. I wonder whether it’s just that they’re irritating — a state of annoyance and depression will reliably interfere with psychism! — or if something deeper is doing on.
I have reflected on this. I had a conversation with the only Neopagan I still talk too. He too was horrified by the reaction to Trump’s illness. He observed as I have that the people we thought we knew and trusted turned out to be something we never imagined. Where did we go wrong in our choosing? He lamented that he did ritual with them for many years, and energy workings. He was as shocked by their lack of ethics as I was.
That clued me in. I do believe that many have done magic that they have no idea of how to do. Some have gone into dark magic before they made their way out. A lot of what they do is do-it-yourself, on the seat of your pants as far as magic and rituals are concerned. The magic seems to have tainted their auras. My son sees auras and noted black and grey ones around them.
Our energies combined in our rituals and it reflected in closing me down. The Neopagans are underdeveloped humans or humans who have split off their shadows. I think there was a lot of miasma from being around them that clouded my vision. Since then, I have been doing cleansings and have noted how brighter the world is and how magic is it.
You said hypothesis. I wrote about several things in my post. The initial intention was to present several items that may be contributing to disenchantment. If you are asking about the medical profession or a vague general conspiracy to hinder magic, these points would be approached better as criminal cases than as falsifiable hypotheses.
For medicine, the prime motive would be to get the competition out of the way. The way modern funeral practices work, in a magical level–based on what I read in your Monstersbook–, makes one suspicious of design instead of accident. For the broader case of an intentional disenchantment, history or philosophy would be better. You mentioned Weber. From my atheist years, I say I wanted nothing with the God described in the Bible. Parting from the possibility that the story is real, reminds me about another story I read: a native (choose your country) went to a Christian priest, because his brother committed suicide, some time after being introduced to Christianity by the same priest. The native asked the priest if God would punish someone that didn’t know God’s law. “No, of course not, that would be unfair.” “Then, priest, why did you told him about the law?”
That story had a huge impact on me. I was a Christian, and my anger about Hell forever was growing. I have to say after this I saw preaching the gospel an act of cowardice, being done to escape Hell in exchange for other victims, sacrificed to an evil God. I considered how eliminating the Christian religion would be good for everyone–it would save humanity from Hell; everyone would be saved for not knowing. As it is written in Ecclesiastes, “there is nothing new under the sun.” I cannot be the first person to have had this idea. A softer form of it is the Liberation theology, of building paradise here. History demonstrates that Earth paradise ends in a sea of blood, but the same is also true of religion. Sacrifices made by old American religions and the sanctioned murdering by the Inquisition in Europe show that religion can go septic. It is interesting how both systems crashed a bit after being ramped up, and because of plagues, respectively brought by the Europeans and rodents–the favored modern theory, instead of Asian invasions. About the latter, Wikipedia’s article on Black Death–bad source, I know; this can be verified–provides an interesting trigger: “The most authoritative contemporary account is found in a report from the medical faculty in Paris to Philip VI of France. It blamed the heavens, in the form of a conjunction of three planets in 1345 that caused a ‘great pestilence in the air’ (miasma theory).” (source is provided on the article).
Digressing a bit (more), I thought of the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction, the recent consciousness shift and the birth of an influential prophet you mentioned. This reminded be of the Theosophic claim about the emergence of the sixth subrace of the Aryan root race, to start in Australia and the USA during the 21ˢᵗ century. These may be related to the original topic of the post, a possible reason for disenchantment to be fading now.
Back to the topic of my post, I can comment on other parts of it, but be warned that my credentials are high school diploma and interest on magic with a pinch of ritual practice (a couple of years, in and out–it’s strange I keep coming back to something in my life without dropping it entirely, this never happened before). I’m afraid that for magic subjects my expertise and opinions are the magic equivalent of a “crank” or “crackpot.” What is a crackpot magic theorist called? Dabbler is not a good fitting, maybe there is a better word.
Here is a suggestion for people worried about writing restraining thought: learning other languages is a great way to remove some roadblocks. Old myths and stories are also helpful, with an added entertainment bonus.
The Chapman University Survey shows belief in fortune tellers and psychics to foresee the future as the least credible among the paranormal beliefs. That is not surprising since there are many charlatans afoot in that area and their predictions are usually proven false within a reasonable timeframe.
One person I occasionally check on is the Swiss seer Martin Zoller (https://www.martinzoller.com/). His predictions have been on the mark repeatedly. Some time after the inauguration I heard him predict Trump’s “demise” towards the end of his term. We should know soon how that plays out.
Hi JMG and fellow commenters,
I think this is on topic. I read awhile ago that some variation of Qabalists believe that the divine light from Kether becomes more prominent on Saturdays/the Sabbath. From about Jan. 2020 – March 2020 I had meaningful magical experiences each Saturday. This would either take the form of energetic events in my body, recollection of childhood memories, or synchronicities. Sometimes all of the above. This happened until my actions strayed from my higher self for a few months (I’m back on the right track now). The experience we talked about in the last Open post that JMG/you said was related to a collective shift in consciousness happened, you might guess this, on a Saturday. So assuming the collective shift is positive in terms of how much magic we notice in the world, could the shift/benign re-enchantment be occurring in weekly Saturday “downloads”? After some discursive meditation I have other compatible theories. Not sure how much our gracious host can say about them 🙂 One is that the Grand Mutation might play a role. Could be more granular on that one but I’ll leave it at that.
Though trade may be better than war, perhaps no-trade plus no-war is better that either of the choices you mention. If is very far from obvious that “building mutually beneficial relationships between nation-states” actually is the best way to leave everyone better off. There are more alternatives to that than just zero-sum conflicts. One of them is to have neither relationships nor conflicts at all.
My life-long unhappiness with what you call “international liberalism” comes precisely from its thinking big, from its focus on the entire world world of human beings. I find that “living small” is more beautiful, on the whole, and far more satisflying than “living big.”
re the rejection of sacred feminine:
It’s worth pointing out that in the wasteland of the modern world, the sacred masculine is also in great need of healing.
In certain Grail stories, the Grail is attended by feminine priestesses who dwell in the castle of the wounded Grail King.
@JMG. Hmm. By the time my dad was born his parents were, improbably, Catholic, and he had been an altar boy. But no one still goes, and my Grandma ended up into Eckankar by the time I was born. That church in town still requires reservations and masks, delivers communion from behind Plexiglas, and doesn’t allow singing anymore.
The other preschool in town is in a Lutheran church, which I know nothing about; but I thought that seemed promising. From their website I see they don’t need reservations, still do choir, Matins and Vespers, regular communion and their Mary-Martha ladies group is still doing the soup kitchen. So perhaps that seems the place to run an experiment.
Any Lutherans around here?
@ Comrade Goldstein and Booklover, about galactic rotation:
The solar system seems to take a bit longer than 22,000 years to go around the Core – about 225 million years, only four orders of magnitude longer. Some astronomical events perceptible on the material plane could well have something to do with a cycle of magical power, but not that one! Some SF people have speculated that there might be a jet of intense radiation in one particular direction, possibly from the central black hole, which has a good deal to do with at least some mass extinction events on Earth, but they have to plug the holes in any cyclical chronology with “Well, I guess sometimes it misses us!”
@Irena, off topic, on US industrial production:
US industrial output, measured in physical units rather than in dollars, has doubled in forty years. Before the Kung Flu Crash, it was close to an all-time high. What faded, in a Long Descent-like punctuated downslope, was manufacturing employment and relative wages. Plants were relocated from high-wage states with strong unions to low-wage states where union organizers were culturally uncongenial “outside agitators.” Then automation speeded up, and much of the relocation became offshoring. Then married women poured into the workforce, supplemented by mass immigration (sometimes fully legal, often based on improperly issued visas or other dodges, sometimes just sneaking in with fake paper that the factory HR department could accept only with a strong will to believe.) Now many hourly wage jobs, with layoffs in slow times, have been replaced with contractor positions, with no benefits and no firm expectation of employment beyond this Friday. All this makes for a docile little labor force! Two people can be expected to do what used to be five jobs, and leave if they can’t stand the pace. It’s still better than in China; an American factory supervisor who slaps or kicks the help can expect trouble, and typical wages would be closer to $2000 per month than the $800 which is still pretty good money in China.
Some of the offshored plants will be coming back, but the Wall Street gossip about how this will be done involves intense automation with the latest and greatest gosh-wow high tech. If a function could be covered by 20 well-trained workers with inexpensive tools, for a cost of $1.5 million a year, ;tis a far far better thing to spend $3 million a year to do it with robots and machine learning and the Internet Of Things. At least that will enable the firm to sell more stock at high prices, which is the End of Man! So not much employment will trickle back.
I am looking to newly established small factories, especially people rethinking their challenges and opportunities in a Retrotopian way, to create new jobs, to produce goods of higher quality than the big guys can manage nowadays, and to raise US industrial exports (currently heavy on machinery, vehicles, and equipment, but sometimes coming from relatively small outfits.) There are many pettifogging Federal regulations which exempt small business, saying that these requirements apply only to firms employing more than 10, or 15, or 20, or 30, or 50 full-time-equivalent employees. If Trump after the election wishes to swing a meat ax rather than a scalpel at annoying regulation, I think he could issue an executive order changing every limit like that in the entire Code of Federal Relations to something like 400 employees. That would cause a run on Help Wanted signs!
Re: Sidereal Time and Remote viewing;
Here’s another very readable link about the same study by Spottiswoode–
The rotation period of the Sun around Milky Way’s core is about 250 million years (searching for this on the Web will yield several sources).
The precession of the equinoxes is about 26,000 years, and perhaps a good fitting to your range. But in this case, the influence would be astrological.
@temporaryreality said “the only long-lasting way to be of benefit to myself and others is to actually improve myself” – agree x10. Every time some one gives me a way to improve schools, I rebut with the best thing we could do is improve the lives of the adults (parents) by giving them money and time for education of any kind they wish to take. Homeschooling did more for me than it ever did for my kids. Shhh- don’t tell anyone though.
@ Blueday Jo Re and Commentariat:
Re: decline of magic, monotheism and religions of the book: it’s no coincidence that these things go together. It’s not a bug—it’s a feature.
The religious authorities among the Hebrews ran a concerted pogrom and practiced infanticide to eliminate people who had communicated with spirits—people who had ‘an ob’– before the Bible had taken anything like the written form we have. My take on it is that by that time, the priesthoods were claiming authority that was incompatible with the dissensus that results from people having their own individual connections to the theosphere.
By the early centuries AD the Romans were insisting that religions should portray the theosphere and the Cosmos as organized on the same principle as the Roman Imperium: with one “Cosmocrator” at the top of a hierarchy. The Gnostics could not resist taking pot-shots at the Cosmocrator, and they paid the price.
The Romans were slaughtering whole populations—the Samaritans were one of many, along with the Egyptians–who insisted on keeping to their old religions and old scriptures: the Romans required all the religions to record their beliefs in books so that they could be inspected for compatibility with Imperial rule, and re-editions of these scriptures were enforced whenever necessary. This also made it easy to trump up charges of “heresy” against anyone who disturbed the authorities. Stuff like this may be partly why the Druids and the Native Americans avoid recording their spiritual knowledge.
I read a whole bookshelf of scholarly literature 7 or 8 years ago, searching into these things, and cannot name sources off the top of my head, but it’s all in black and white, until the next round of book-burning.
More lately I’ve been researching into the religions practiced around the Mediterranean before the Axial Age with its revealed religions based on scriptures. These tended to be associated with features derived from matrilineal social orders—which is a taboo subject that modern scholarship has worked very hard to bury in oblivion, because it impinges on PROPERTY. But what I can gather indicates the truth of what MichaelIR says about the role and function of the sacred feminine, and the consequences of destroying it.
The symbolism for the Women’s March in two weeks are the strangest thing. The mask looks like someone shoving a fist up a person’s nose. Many of the slogans have foul language. https://womensmarch.com They are so deep in their bubble they don’t realize they look like loons.
@Blueday Jo, SNG
I’m homeschooling, teaching 2nd of 3 to read, and I am noticing the same thing. I can see it in retrospect in my eldest, who is a really classic aspie with temporary, but intense, technical interests… there was something more joyful, and less pedantic, about his pre-literacy interests, compared to his post-literacy interests. He was really into suspension bridges before, and it was delightful. He wanted to know everything there was to know about them, of course, but also speculated about them freely, with some fairly wild flights of fancy about what might be possible. Now, at 8, he’s into airplanes, and the nature of that interest is so different! The names and numbers and tiny exact details are more important, and there’s less of the “Oh, I want to build one with SIX wings!” and more of the “no, that’s silly or there’d be lots of them already…” It makes me a little sad to see, really– it’s like literacy has pared down the world’s possibilities for him. Waited considerably longer to teach #2 kid to read, and we are still in the thick of it, but yeah… I’m just not that excited about it. He’s such a natural, spontaneous, joyful little kid and I don’t want to take any of that away! With #3 I’m already certain that I won’t push reading before 7, unless he WANTS to before then. I wanted to wait a bit longer with #2 kid because he didn’t seem ready, but Dad was anxious to keep up with the school crowd.
After reading all this discussion, I think I will back off a bit on teaching them to read music notation, and focus first on memorizing and playing it instead. Thanks all who contributed.
On the interaction of iron and the potency of magic: when Europeans first established themselves in what is now New England, the local indigenous peoples eagerly traded for European goods, such as steel axes, hoes, guns and knives, and cast iron cookware. Could this have been one of the factors cutting them from their past?
@Chronojourner: On the patterning of the brain: I grew up speaking two languages, since my parents spoke Dutch in the home. I married an Italian woman, and a coupel years after we wed, I spent a summer living with her family. I learned to speak Italian easily in those 12 weeks. I am convinced that the new language came quickly to me from my early wiring of the brain in two parallel languages. Since my mother passed away over twenty years ago, my Dutch has slowly slipped away, and I find myself using Italian words when I do try to speak Dutch, as the Dutch wiring has slowly deteriorated while the Italian has strengthened. I also know that things expressed by a single word in one language need long phrases in the other.
In the same way, perhaps your esoteric abilities have rusted while you strengthened the other habits of mind. We have collectively lost esoteric abilities while our societies have sought other habits of mind.
@ Ashara: The people in the bloodsoaked lands of the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, (to name just a few), would take exception to your example of Fukiyama as a philosopher with clean hands.
@JMG (& many others) on the rise of the Book as the root of monotheism: I just had a thought that explains the plethora of Bibles. We have 5 different ones in our home alone (2 in Dutch, one Jewish Bible in English, 1 Oxford NSRV, 1 KJV). Can the many different Bibles (over 150 at the online Bible Gateway alone) be a reflection of the struggle of many different revelations from different G*ds?
Cliff, interesting. If anyone happens to be looking for an idea for an experiment, the concrete test might be worth trying.
Your Kittenship, of course they are. They’ve got to do something to keep up morale at this point!
Kevin, another worthwhile hypothesis!
Phil, you’re most welcome.
Kimberly, it’s a standard bit of occult philosophy that everyone is born with functioning psychic senses, but in our society, they get squelched in various ways. What magical training does is (a) help you unsquelch them, and (b) teach you how to use them. So you’re in line with the tradition!
Robert, that makes a great deal of sense. My question at this point is whether the changes you’ve outlined caused the decline in the effectiveness of magic, whether they were responses to the decline in the effectiveness of magic, or — more likely — if all these phenomena are caught in one of those tangled webs of mutual causation and reinforcement.
Emmanuel, many thanks for this! That’s exactly what I wanted.
DropBear, one of the lifelong frustrations people with Aspergers syndrome have with neurotypical people is that the latter keep reading things into our words that we didn’t put there. No, I don’t disagree, nor do I agree — I’m genuinely curious why you see the response to the coronavirus outbreak as evidence that magic hasn’t decreased in effectiveness.
Noah, that’s a direction worth exploring.
Rose, fascinating! Thank you for this.
Ashara, yes, I thought you’d change the subject. We were talking about whether the version of Hegelian philosophy marketed by Francis Fukuyama, and put into action by the Bush I administration, had produced a typical Hegelian body count. You said it hadn’t; I and several other people pointed out (cough, cough, Iraq war, cough, cough) that it had. If your only response is to veer off into platitudes about international liberalism, the only conclusions that I can draw are that (a) you know you were wrong but (b) you’re not willing to ‘fess up to that. As for those “mutually beneficial relationships,” if you were referring to trade treaties, no, they don’t leave everyone better off; the reason working class people in America today can’t earn a living wage is that trade treaties allowed big corporations to offshore so many jobs to Third World sweatshops, so that supply and demand (too few jobs for the number of workers) would drive wages in the US down to starvation levels. Look up the rate of suicide among working class Americans sometime; that’s another fine body count…
Blueday Jo, of course. The human brain is finite, and if it develops one capacity, it generally has to neglect another.
Irena, since the crumb supply was very scant by local standards, the jobs seem to be doing quite a good job at supplanting it.
Slithy Toves, I don’t know. I’d want to see some evidence that somebody was thinking in those terms.
Xabier, it may have been that.
Chris, oh, the woke are Calvinists to the core. It’s not at all accidental that American leftism had its start historically in the parts of New England where Calvinism put down its deepest roots! And yes, it’s rooted in anger — blind rage that the universe, other people, et al. just won’t behave the way they think they’re supposed to.
Neptunesdolphins, interesting. So in their case it may just be the normal blowback from practicing evil magic. Gotcha.
Anonymous, hypotheses in the plural, then! The idea of approaching the whole matter as a criminal case is intriguing, not least because I’m reading a lot of Raymond Chandler these days! As for your possible status as a crackpot, don’t worry about it — my theories are at least as strange as yours.
Uwelo, that’s how I read that too — even people who recognize that psychic powers exist very often know perfectly well that psychics-for-hire are usually faking it.
Luke, interesting. Saturn, the planet who rules Saturday, is the lord of time and its cycles, and also the ruler of philosophy and the higher capacities of the mind generally, so that makes a good deal of astrological sense.
Goldenhawk, that’s an excellent point.
Pixelated, the Lutheran church sounds like a good one to try. I gather it’s one of the more traditional branches of that denomination!
Emmanuel, many thanks for this.
Denis, yes, the mask does look rather unnervingly like a sign saying “punch here.” I hope they don’t get their wish.
Peter, you know, that works!
Morfran, Mansoor, et al,
as you’ve noticed there’s no avoiding the clash between a literal acceptance of monotheist claims to exclusive universal reality, and an openness to polytheist traditions.
I see a confusion between monotheism and the Abrahamic religions, the most well known variety. These religions rely on prophetic revelation. Yet I consider the Hindu religion to espouse monotheism most clearly, in advaita. Yes, they are widely considered to have way too many gods, but they understand that there is an underlying principle of divinity and that there is nothing outside of it. There is nothing but God. That is real monotheism.
I have seen the Arabic saying la alh ‘iilaa allah as having two possible interpretations, one of them being “There is nothing but God.”
The Hebrew god claims to be the one creator of the local cosmos, but that is belied by many other scriptures that show he is not that, but a more local god. Yes, the Hebrews were henotheists. Christianity and Islam have developed the idea quite a bit and have a more abstract understanding of God. But they are muddled about thinking there can be anything that is not of the One Source.
This is a point of logic. Why there should exist anything at all is probably the fundamental philosophical mystery. It is the mystery of God and cannot be comprehended. That there can be more than one source of anything does not make sense. This is the reason to know that we do not live in a material universe. It isn’t possible. But this does not say anything about how this God functions or whether it is even personal.
About the various gods we also seem to know little. This is what shies me away from practicing paganism. I have no idea who these gods might be and they might be several different types of beings. How they come into existence is also not known. This does not stop me from believing in guardian angels or spirit guides because so many people have seen or felt them, and they seem to be entirely on our side.
There is no real clash here. Some Christians seem to prefer a rather dead universe in which all the planets are uninhabited and there are some angels and demons hovering around earth, plus us, and the animals have no souls.
Other than Yahweh’s jealousy, I can only assume, since I live in a rather florid cosmos which I think is sufficiently borne out by looking at the hilarious explosion of life here and extrapolating that this is how God likes it, that there are myriad beings in the cosmos. Personally, I believe God delegates, perhaps even the terraforming of planets and designing of life forms.
As to Yahweh’s jealousy, if one actually reads the Old Testament there are numerous spots in which it seems obvious that even Yahweh himself does not consider himself to be the only one.
He simply wants the loyalty of his people.
Yes, many Christians have been taught to think that other than Christian angels, all such beings are demons, but that may be a prejudice or an ignorance or a misunderstanding.
Fascinating ponderings on the subject, JMG. Certainly, Max Weber’s statement of the disenchantment of the world is prescriptive, but I do think that looking at the way Western culture has effectively brainwashed children to disregard their naturally ‘magical’ view of the world and then has used the rationalist authorities and media in a feed-back loop of materialistic philosophy to keep the adults entranced has come a long way to creating this disenchantment in the majority of the population. As a person who took every possible undergrad university course on Renaissance humanities and literature available (fortunately there were a lot of them) and then spent decades of reading Hindu literature written millennia ago, I am convinced that the way that peoples of other times experienced the world was radically different from ours.
Like Roy Smith, I am drawn towards your descriptions of the ages of the Unicorn, Phoenix, and Dragon in trying to comprehend the ebb and flow of magical power in societies (Western and others). While Jung seemed to view the collective unconscious as being relatively static, I see it as being in flux and highly influenced by egregors. And once a critical proportion of the general population adheres to a particular egregor it “infects” – at least to some degree – the population as a whole. Kind of like the ethnic real estate situation: urban geographers decades ago saw that if a neighbourhood has more than 30% of a particular ethnic group, that group tends to increase in proportion for decades, until another ethnic group achieves that “magic” proportion of 30% and the next major shift in ethnic representation occurs. I’m not sure what is the percentage in the “egregor market” to create a shift, but I suspect that there is one and that the egregor of “rationalist materialism” has been on the ascendant, globally, for the past three centuries or so. How long before the second religiosity bumps rationalist materialism off its pedestal? Nobody can say for sure, but in my view, not soon enough!
Some societies still exist where the disenchantment has not penetrated into the soul of the nation. I can speak through abundant personal experience that India is still one such place. Not the Westernized, commercialized, industrialized money-grubbing cities, but in the one million villages in which the majority of the country’s population still dwells. These villages are the soul of the country. And miracles and “unexplained phenomena” are still commonplace there. One example will suffice: one of my close friends belongs to a very orthodox Brahmin family. One of the traditional rituals which his family performs is an annual feeding of the gods worshipped in their home (in their ancestral village). After performing the ritual, the floor is lightly coated with rice flour and the windows and doors are locked so that the gods can eat in privacy. After a few hours, the door is opened and the floor is inspected. If the ritual has been performed correctly, footprints are clearly visible from the worshipped icons to the food. There are no footprints leading to any door or window. My friend swears that he has witnessed this miracle nearly every year throughout his life. This form of worship has been passed down through the family for countless generations.
As for the prospects for society breaking the evil spell en masse, how I wish that can be mandated. No doubt it will happen only when the time is ripe and through individuals and methods that will only be realized as the catalyst decades or centuries later. But if there is a way that the “enchantment of the world” egregor can be strengthened (beyond the efforts of individual occultists, artists and other non-conformists), count me in!
@JMG: “Irena, since the crumb supply was very scant by local standards, the jobs seem to be doing quite a good job at supplanting it.”
I don’t know. The working class is not a monolith, and some parts of it get more crumbs than others. You open a factory in some impoverished town somewhere (preferably one with few imperial wealth pump crumbs in circulation), and suddenly, it’s boom times again. In that one town, that is. How many towns can expect to luck out in that way? And what are the odds of anyone opening a large manufacturing plant (or a large number of small ones) in, say, Brooklyn? What are all those beauticians, midnight pizza delivery people, dog walkers, etc. going to do once their customers suddenly no longer have any cash (crumbs) to spend on their services? But then, didn’t you say you expected NYC and a number of other “hot” cities to turn into 21st century Detroits?
But anyway, this is waaay off topic (though I will point out that I merely joined the conversation that you and Aidan started 😉 ), so let me stop here. Possibly to be continued come next Open Post.
Your story of this deeply connected girl is powerful and heartening! Thank you for sharing it. I hope she continues to live this story and impress people around her with her gifts. It is though you describe a living example of a person that never donned the veil of enchantment that we are all encouraged to accept. And therefore, she has created her own enchanted life on a remote farm as you say. This is romantic to some degree I’m sure, however there is a usefulness in romanticizing people when their lives are inspiring.
I think I could name a hundred instances of loss that occur when a person in love with the country forces themselves to live forever in an urban environment. And in that loss is incredible disability I do believe. Perhaps magical training is part of the cure for that sickness and disability, or inverse proportionality that occurs. The most difficult part of leaving environments where you beloved friends and family live however, in favor of casting out and starting anew in a pastoral realm, like the girl from your story, is that you have to leave. Most of us do not want to see the enchantment for what it is, talk about it seriously, or disengage from its sickly-sweet comforts. And so of course, friends and family will not cultivate a yearning to change and travel to a new land. Most refuse to trade in what they see as the good life out culture defines for us. Such is the way of following an alternative path to its eventually destination… However, in the spirit of the healing power of Gorse, as defined in its the Bach flower remedy form, there is always ways to heal and return to magic despite this the zombification of your surroundings and yourself….thankfully!
I read three article concerning these communes today and unfortunately have not landed on any information describing the education of children in relation to stronger magical abilities. The ones I read on were west coast situations, Point Loma in San Diego, Krotona near Hollywood that moved apparently to Ojai. As I’m sure you know the Ojai community is still around and apparently functioning at https://ojai.theosophical.org/.
In Point Loma the children were only allowed to see their parents on Sunday which is difficult to understand. Do you have knowledge of any communes outside of these three that were not located on the West Coast?
I’m off to re build my garden bed the old fashioned way. Carrying the rocks I quarried to the backyard. Seems to be the right time now, the hour of Venus I think, planet of the fourth Cantref, and I’d like them to help grow the vegetables if possible.
This was an extra good essay and has had an especially good comment section. I have been thinking about this question for a long time. I remember a conversation I had with my Dad maybe twenty years ago just about this. We were discussing what actually were the demons that Christ interacted with in the New Testament. I was just starting to take a few small steps out of materialism. Then we turned to American Indians. My Dad knows quit a bit about them. He told me that they could do Magic. Then the white men showed up and they lost their ability to do magic. That conversation has sat with me for a long time.
JMG Why do you think Calvin revolted against the Renessiance Catholic world view? Also why do you think so many joined into that revolt? I have for a long time being fascinated by Calvinism. So strange and harsh yet producing some very good things, universal education, etc.
@Pixelated I was raised Lutheran and would still be there if it hadn’t been for a beautiful Mexican woman. Alas Carmen is worth a Mass. I think for your purposes that church will work. Lutheranism seems to have more of the good things of Christianity and fewer of the bas things
Extracting meaning where in principle there is none could be described as a form of meditation by neurotypical people. People let stuff slip through all the time; depending on what they are expecting, fireworks explosion might result.
You must think ten times over how a metaphor can be stretched out. As a self-diagnosed turboautist (thanks 4chan), I made my language used in speech with other people “dry”–here is a word I avoid to use this way in normal conversation. The less information you convey, the less misreadings will occur. But this will be taken as coldness (here we go, again). I tend to overexplain as well, to avoid problems.
What else could I say… autism helps a lot to drive people away; it might be an reincarnational hazard for people on the Path. I’m not saying everyone with autism is a mage; but possibly there are points in your development where you need to stay alone. Autism might be a way to live alone with ease.
@ Ashara, Ethan and JMG:
William S Lind, a highly respected military theoretician, one of the leading lights of the military reform movement of the 1970’s and 80’s and the man who has generally been credited with coining the term “Fourth Generation Warfare”, wrote a book review of Thomas P.M. Barnett’s works in one of his “On War” columns. Among other things, Lind critiqued the ideology of liberal internationalism and pointed out that there are some very disturbing resemblances between the world that the liberal internationalists have tried their hardest to create (the New World Order, as some have called it) and the futuristic dystopia portrayed in Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World. Lind writes
This brings us to the third problem with Barnett: what his books advocate does represent Hell, or at least Hell’s first cousin, Brave New World. He would create an inescapable new world order that bears a remarkable resemblance to the one Aldous Huxley described in his short novel Brave New World, published in the 1930s — a “soft totalitarianism” where the first rule is, “you must be happy.” Happiness, in turn, is a product of endless materialism, consumerism, sensual pleasure and psychological conditioning. If that sounds like a good description of American popular culture, it is exactly that culture Barnett proposes to force down the throat of every person on earth, with the U.S. military serving as the instrument of coercion.
It’s worth noting that Barnett, like Francis Fukuyama and Thomas Friedman, was a leading apologist and propagandist for the neocons and liberal internationalism.
JMG– I’ve never recited the versicles in Latin, but only because I don’t know the second one, and my Latin isn’t good enough to handle translating it by myself! So I just went ahead and looked it up in the Vulgate, and it looks like it would go:
Vox Domine in fortitudine, Vox Domine in decore, Vox Domine dividens flammas ignis. Which also sounds much cooler than the English version.
Regarding the topic at hand, 3 things–
1. First, I think I understand what the Amazonian shamans are getting at re. smells and spirits. Some while back, I shared on Magic Monday an account of attempting a spiritual practice after having cleaned the floor with Clorox wipes. As it happens, the practice as an invocation of a saint, following the banishing I posted above. Every time I started to feel the shift in the energies indicating the saint’s presence, the chemical reek of the Clorox would break in and shatter my concentration. Of course I no longer use such things to clean my home, and especially not any room in which I’m going to practice magic!
I think the topics of Memory and Belief are worth discussing also.
2. Regarding belief: I don’t think it is at all as simple as “People stopped believing in magic,” or what you’ve called the “Tinkerbell theory.” But the other day I was perusing my magical journal, and I came across my notes on Picatrix. I wrote the following: “Picatrix tells us to join our will and our certitude to magical operations…. On Certitude: that is, belief, I think that this is about years of study and practice to align yourself wwth the powers and system of magic, rather than bombastic professions of “I BELIEVE!”
In other words, it’s not the Tinkerbell Theory, because you only have to insist “I do believe in fairies! I do! I do!” if you actually don’t. I’ve never once claimed to believe in cats; instead, I claim that I’m annoyed that I have to clean their litterboxes. A major point of daily magical practice, it seems to me, is to spend time interacting with magical energies and spiritual beings on a regular basis, so that you don’t have to “believe in” them in this way. Because I’ve spent years interacting with them, I don’t spend time “believing in” God, Gods, angels, saints, spirits, ghosts, or elementals. On the other hand, if I had never spent any time engaged in any practices in which such beings might show up, I would either disbelieve in them actively or else I’d have to force myself to believe in them in the sense that I’ve been discussing, which is what much of modern religion seems to consist of.
3. And on memory. It was a cliche of ’90s urban fantasy that certain people would encounter magical beings but, being unable to believe in them, would lose all memory of their experience. I don’t think things are that simple, but I wonder if things like that happen, because I’ve seen magic affect the memory in strange ways. For example, a few years back I got my wife a deck of tarot cards and a nice satchel to keep them in for Christmas. It took me about a half hour to pick out the deck, and then, after getting 20 minutes down the road, I decided I’d gotten the wrong one; I took the deck back to the store, returned it, and bought another. The bag came from a different store altogether. Christmas morning came, and when she picked up the package that held the deck of tarot cards I told her honestly that I had no idea what was in it, and I had no memory of buying the cards until she unwrapped them. Then she held up another present and said “I bet this one is a magical gift, too.” I said that I had no idea what it was, but that it certainly wasn’t a magical gift. Of course, it was the bag for the tarot cards.
I don’t think this was an isolated incident, either. In The End of Materialism, the parapsychologist Charles Tart described an incident in which an experimental subject flippe a coin and had it land on heads every single time. According to Tart, he wrote up the results for the experiment, but only when he checked his notes did he remember that particular subject; it was as though his memory had refused to believe it and so edited it out. I wonder if in at least some cases, experiences which run counter to consensus reality are deleted from the memory.
JMG: “I agree with Schopenhauer that Hegel was a poseur rather than a philosopher”
Okay, I have a vested interest in agreeing with that. I had to read a bit of _The Phenomenology of Spirit_ (the master/slave dialectic) in a sociology class once, and I couldn’t make head or tail of it. So, if you want to tell me that was because the book is nonsense, and not because I wasn’t deep enough to understand it, I’m not gonna argue…
Actually, the whole class was about the professor. Reading assignments were half his autobiographic writings, and half classical texts (such as Hegel). Apparently, Hegel changed his (the professor’s) life. I don’t remember the deep intellectual details, but supposedly, he met a girl while he was carrying Hegel around, she was impressed (she’d never read Hegel, but she’d heard the name, and she was impressed that the young man was reading the stuff), and they ended up happily married (five kids, if memory serves me), and no-one was murdered in the process. Hey! So Hegel is good for something after all! 😉
I’m curious, is anyone aware of evidence for cycles of waning or waxing of magical power in Ancient Egypt or Ancient Mesopotamia?
There seem to be cycles of deities – for example, the rise of Re in Old Kingdom Egypt, his decline followed by the rise of Amun, then the syncretic Amun-Re, and so on, or Marduk replacing Enlil among the Babylonians.
It seems that for both the Egyptians and Mesopotamians, the temple, the cult image, the purifications of the priesthood, and the apparatus of ritual, all were carefully designed as a sort of divine enchantment to entice and maintain an easily lost divine presence – almost as if a divine absence were more the ordinary state of affairs, while a divine presence was exceptional and required skill and effort to maintain. In Mesopotamia, there is evidence the temple itself and its parts were treated as living beings and addressed as such, as collaborators in this relationship, and I’ve certainly found it helpful to treat my working spaces as alive and as worthy of talking and listening to.
Perhaps in the case of Egypt, we can see the type of magic represented in the Greek Magical Papyri continuing some older Egyptian traditions, and enduring and thriving, while the old temple magic focused on divine enchantment or attracting the presence of the divine waned and atrophied.
But could the destruction of those traditions have involved a comparable malign enchantment?
Thank you for your comments about the temporal variability of the solar current and the spatial variability of the telluric current, and about addressing the elements of holy water as living beings. I’d suspected some of that about the variability of magical systems and their currents, but hadn’t seen that addressed anywhere and haven’t yet had enough experience working with various systems in various locations to determine it for myself.
I also believe it’s important to address elements in workings such as consecrations as living substances.
Hmm. Having posted that, I just realized that “certitude” in the sense Picatrix is using it almost certaily refers to confidence in the success of one’s work, rather than belief in magical powers or beings. I think the point stands though.
Regarding the notes around prescriptive vs descriptive language, from my experience much of communication nowadays (and possibly a majority) is presumed to be prescriptive. Of the if one states, or even just knows, a fact then you obviously one must want it too be true variety.
Whilst this obviously generates a lot of division and miscommunication, it is also a significant step away from experiencing the world as it is (in a mundane sense, ignoring unconscious re-projection). Thus, ignoring the extraordinary, even if it is occurring, would be another effect of having such a strongly preconceived view about reality.
@Goldenhawk: You’re absolutely right. The ideal for men and ambitious women isn’t the male per se, but the robot. The Japanese salaryman. Of course, robots, like tweens (in most s/f stories I’ve read about them, default to “he”, “him”, and “his” unless they’re sexbots or helperbots with pretty voices. (One of my daughters had a talking car guidance system who sounded like a stereotype of a kindergarten teacher, with all the exaggerated patience that implies. I couldn’t stand to listen to it. She finally got rid of it.)
Here is a Lapham’s Quarterly podcast with the author of – Break It Up: Secession, Division, and the Secret History of America’s Imperfect Union – that you might like while you wait for the book.
Sorry- forgot the link:
@Temporaryreality & JMG – re: any record of a mal-enchantment from the Europeans as perceived by Indigenous peoples, it just so happens that a few weeks ago I finished reading a book “Dangerous Spirits: Windigo in Myth and History” by Shawn C. Smallman, and it has something to say on the matter. The book looks at the history of recorded Windigo cases, reports or fears in Canada from 1636 to well into the 20th century. Man, did I hit the motherload! The author seemed to find various periods in Windigo phenomena, how Indigenous peoples conceived of it, and how the Europeans (primarily Christian missionaries and employees of the Hudson Bay Company and its rival the North West Company) described it. The point of interest here is that during the initial decades after contact, many Indigenous peoples saw the missionaries as Windigos and blamed them for members of their community who were feared to be transforming into Windigos.
In a somewhat related way, I believe that I remember reading Black Elk’s lament that when the Oglala Sioux abandoned their teepees and arranging their settlements in circles, and instead lived in the angular houses, the power of the circle had been broken and with it the power of their ceremonies. Black Elk seems to have lived a life in which the power of his peoples’ magic diminished enormously.
I believe Lutherans are like a soft form of Catholicism. You might like it.
No singing and communion behind plexiglass. I actually laughed when I read that. Oh my.
Regarding your reply, “Chris, oh, the woke are Calvinists to the core. It’s not at all accidental that American leftism had its start historically in the parts of New England where Calvinism put down its deepest roots! And yes, it’s rooted in anger — blind rage that the universe, other people, et al. just won’t behave the way they think they’re supposed to.”
Given how New England is your place of residence, may I ask if you personally had any encounters with the woke? If so, how did they go?
@ Pixelated – Which Lutherans? American Lutherans? Missouri Synod? Apostolic? I think there’s a few more. Yup. They’re almost as fragmented as the Baptists. Lew
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aubrey_de_Grey Very off topic. You both are bearded men. So funny.
And about the same age. What a coincidence.
Sci-fi author Neal Stephenson had an interesting explanation for the disappearance of magic – in one of his works, magic involved the conscious manipulation of things in superposition, i.e. things that were not being observed, to make things turn out this or that way from the undifferentiated potential. But when the photograph was invented much of the past, which used to be quite unobserved and indeterminate, had a lot of its probability waves collapsed, and consequently it became much harder to find places where magic could ‘work’. In that story, magic started to seep back in with the invention of Photoshop. Fun premise – and it makes me think that if there’s something to it, books would play a less extreme but similar role to photographs. And weren’t the Greeks, around the time of the oracles falling silent, also becoming more literate?
Along less fantastical lines, Marshall Mcluhan in The Gutenberg Galaxy argued that cultures tend to have audial or visual means of communication, and that biases for heard or seen means of communication have strong effects on what the people in these cultures perceive. If that’s the case, perhaps it’s not so much that gods and animals stop talking to us as that we’re collectively paying more attention to what we’re seeing, so we miss these subtleties. That would also tie in to the study @Chronojourner mentioned – perhaps being musically inclined doesn’t so much make one better at clairvoyance as that it predisposes one to pay more attention to those aspects of reality where it happens.
It’s a magician’s world, and nothing isn’t anymore. You are absolutely timely here, as usual.
“Then we turned to American Indians. My Dad knows quit a bit about them. He told me that they could do Magic. Then the white men showed up and they lost their ability to do magic. That conversation has sat with me for a long time.”
The Christian religion has been anti-magic outside of the sacraments and miraculous wonders for its entire existence.
I think one of the stories in the Book of Acts is that the embrace of the religion entailed the destruction of all the old magic scrolls among former Greek Magicians.
I believe that in my previous comment in the open post. I cannot confirm personally but I have read stories that the Crucifixes in particular have a nullifying effect on magic.
Magicians and Shamans find their spells disrupted and unable to accomplish their tasks.
Even the name of Jesus is pretty powerful in that department.
So the White Man coming to America would certainly have that impact
My apologies for jumping to conclusions. Written communication certainly has it’s pitfalls. I personally miss the nonverbal cues.
This is where I stand:
I am not much into magic. What I know about it is from your blogs. I approach magic like many people approach for instance martial arts. I do not doubt the efficacy of it and find it mildly intriguing, but have no interest in practising it.
My line of thought is as follows:
Magic is “causing a change in consciousness in accordance with will”.
I would say 2020 has seen this on a rather impressive scale.
Australia has changed beyond recognition. While we never have been the easygoing freedom-loving larrikins that we like to see ourselves as, I would not have thought that we could slide into a police state and loving every minute of it. A majority of us anyway. This is a rather radical change in consciousness.
I can only speak for australia and the few european nations I have connections to, but it seems that it is not a local phenomenon.
I noticed changes in myself too. Unreasonable fear has never been one of my sins, but lately I find myself uncommonly timid and unable to make decisions. I certainly don’t like that new me very much, but that is a bit beside the point.
I hope this clarifies my statement.
Thinking back to what you said to me about the reason to study magic…..what about the concept of “deserve” per mutating our culture? We all know it is woven through out marketing, but think about how often it comes up in thoughts or what we say to others –
I deserve to get more sleep.
I deserve to some peace and quiet.
She doesn’t deserve to be treated like that.
He deserves a raise.
Never mind all the products we think we deserve to buy.
So I thought, when has it incurred in presidential speeches? Specifically the inauguration where the President invokes God. I did a search for the word ‘deserve’ and for the word ‘right’ (as in have the right to), from FDR’s four speeches to Trump and It first shows up in Bill Clinton’s 1st inauguration “Americans deserve better”. Then Bush juniors 1st, “everyone deserves a chance.” Obama’s 1st has “deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness,” and the 2nd has “every citizen deserves a basic measure o security and dignity.” Trump has zero mentions of the concept.
So from 1993 to 2016 our presidents consistently invoked for what people deserve. Deserve is such a dangerous concept for a society to follow. Can that be messing with the magic? I know when I use the concept of deserve with myself it sends me into a spiral of unproductive thoughts and behaviors.
And just to clarify Lincoln used the word deserve but in the concept of justice after an action, not the upfront kind where nothing is done. (“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.”)
The concept of deserve as I used it dovetails with SteveT’s concept of belief in #2. There’s something about the expectation of what happens with the word deserve, or belief sometimes, that puts something onto the world, rather than observes it as it is.
Here is a link with a long-winded explanation on how filtering can affect perception of reality. The article is not exactly about that, it is about an experience labeled as Dweller of the Threshold. Supernatural experiences are terrifying for people not used to them. The normal reaction is to run away forever when meeting the supernatural, if you ever bother to look for it.
The Dweller (also known as Watcher, Guardian, and perhaps other names) of the Threshold maybe an important factor on modern disenchantment. Raised in a culture which actively ignores the supernatural only strengthens the Dweller.
Daniel wrote, “Thus, ignoring the extraordinary, even if it is occurring, would be another effect of having such a strongly preconceived view about reality.
In Huxley’s utopian (?) novel Island, the parrots are always squawking “Attention! Attention!” reminding people to “pay attention TO attention.”
There is a famous psychology experiment in which students were were instructed to keep track of how many points various players were scoring during a basketball game. For 30 seconds during the game, a man in a gorilla suit ran out into the court and then ran back off court. Most of the students who were assiduously counting points never even noticed the “gorilla.” When, after the game, when asked questions about their reaction to the ‘ape,’ they expressed complete disbelief that the gorilla incursion ever occurred. This disbelief persisted until they were shown a film clip of the game.
Where our attention is focused, and how narrowly, controls — in a big way — what our (subjective) take on ‘reality’ is. And most of the time, most people don’t even think that it is a personal take on reality.
To those homeschoolers who commented about the effects on their children of acquiring literacy, I wonder what would have happened if memory training or oral story telling was also apart of their lessons and might that have been of help to preserve what you saw as being lost in your children?
I think you are right that to gain literacy, we give up other things, but maybe we don’t have to if we include them with literacy training. Maybe my idea here is too simplistic and what your children surrendered to literacy can’t be defined so simply. I certainly mean no criticism of your homeschooling efforts.
dropBear on covid representing a “change of consciousness in accordance with will”:
Yes, but whose will?
Anonymous on the “Dweller on the Threshold”:
Van Morrison wrote a song with that title. Morrison was familiar with the writing of Alice Bailey on the subject of glamour: “mental illusions that create a fog that veils the spiritual wanderer from seeing the world as it truly is.” (Wikipedia)
Seeking inclusion in a social group and conforming to its standards of behavior and belief seem to be pretty robust drives among most people. I find myself simply not bringing up things of an occult, magical, or spiritual nature in most normal social situations, as if those were some adult topics forbidden to be mentioned around ‘the little ears,’ and some of my friends and fellow students go even further by maintaining their anonymity in public and ensuring that very few know of their magical or occult practices. But I wonder if there are perhaps many people who go so far in maintaining group-acceptable beliefs as to suppress magic in their lives, letting their consciousness do the work for them. This aspect of reality is not socially acceptable, can’t exist, and must not be allowed to exist, so even when it does slip through it must be explained away or forgotten.
Evidence seems to indicate that at least some aspects of magic can be amplified or diminished by belief.
Dean Radin in his book Real Magic discusses several types of experiments to test that notion, including ‘sheep-goat’ experiments – sheep being believers in psi, and goats the non-believers. In one experiment, ‘participants fell into four groups: believers who received a pro-psi fact sheet, believers who received an anti-psi sheet, skeptics who received a pro-psi sheet, and skeptics who received an anti-psi sheet… The sheep who read the pro-psi fact sheet obtained a significantly positive hit rate; the sheep who read the anti-psi fact sheet performed positively, but not to a statistically significant degree; the goats who read the pro-psi fact sheet performed as well as sheep who read the anti-psi sheet; and the goats who read the anti-psi fact sheet performed at chance. The authors concluded that “innate psi ability alone cannot explain why some subjects perform better. Belief in psi is required.”‘
Conceivably, this Goat Effect can itself be used magically as a means of disenchantment. As we participate in the Great Global Goat egregore, engage our lives with it, and nourish it with our energies, could its smothering effects be intensified, and could this be part of the malign enchantment?
Hello JMG and the commentariat!
I think some of the factors that cause the worldwide decline in the efficacy of magic are directly related to consumerism and overly hedonistic lifestyle that are promoted by capitalism and its pop-culture. These two factors have gradually been causing bluntness (in the majority of humans) of two inner qualities that are crucial for magic: the will and imagination. Minds of the majority of people around the world are subtly programmed and re-programmed by the dominant culture industry (with minor local variations in different societies) to spend their free time* for only consuming stuff and not for creative activities. Even though most of the people are not involved in magical works (consciously), the overall mental quality of humans contributes (either positively or negatively) to the quality of the “World Mind”.
* That “free time” is also too limited for working class people to use for creative activities outside of their daily jobs.
Dear Joshua Rout,
You’re most welcome! I’m glad it was helpful.
Re Theomagica: web sites with light gray print on a white background should be illegal!
When I was a small boy (a little younger than 10), my mother taught me and my younger brother how to make up stories to amuse ourselves. Her technique was simplicity itself. She would ask us if we wanted a new “Big Brother andf Little Brother” story. Then she would tell one thing that happened at the start of the story. Next whe would ask us what happened next in the story. We would tell her, and she would say that back to us in her own words. Then she would ask us again, “What happened after that?” And so on, until we had finished making up an entire story. After some hours or days (depending on circumstances), she would repeat the whole process. It was a great way to develop both the ability to tell stories and to imagine things beyond the here-and-now.
I did this with my children, and it worked well with them, too. They, of course, grew up in the age of role-playing games (table-tops at first), and the story-telling training served them well there, too. (I’ll say again what I’ve said her5e before: I think the invention of role-playing games, and now also live-action ones, is one of the two or three all-time greatest inventions of the 20th century, right up there with electronic computers in its impact on our future.)
Ron, I ain’t arguing. Weber was far from alone in his prescriptive argument — it’s been made in one way or another by a vast number of authority figures in the Western world from the mid-17th century to the present — and a lot of people have believed what they were told. Still, that doesn’t seem to be the only thing at work here; the idea of the waning of magic was around long before the scientific revolution, and Plutarch and other testimonies of his culture show that it happened before, and then reversed. As for what might reverse it this time, or at least help give the reversal a good hard push, that’s the big question, and as yet I have no answers.
Irena, I’ll simply respond to one detail. People are moving out of New York City at an unprecedented pace right now — so many of them that if you want to leave NYC now you have to book a moving truck months in advance. The manufacturing jobs are appearing elsewhere, where real estate is cheap and local government isn’t as wildly corrupt and inefficient as in NYC, and so that’s where people are moving, in the grand old American tradition. 😉 The same thing is happening to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc. Yes, they’ll look like Detroit in another few decades, while other cities thrive.
Ian, it’s been a while since I looked into it, but my recollection is that a lot of Theosophical groups put a lot of energy into raising their children to be aware of nonphysical realities. I understand that the Anthroposophists do the same thing. Enjoy your gardening!
Will O, I’ve never spent the time researching Calvin that I would need to hazard a guess about his motivations. I have a visceral dislike for the man and his doctrines, quite possibly inherited via my Scots ancestors!
Anonymous, thanks for this; I hadn’t encountered the term “turboautist” before. One of the reasons I like to do a lot of my social interaction via typed words is that it decreases the potential range of miscommunication — and certainly for me, Aspergers is one of the things that makes lots of solitude both necessary and comfortable.
Galen, many thanks for the link! What a cogent takedown of the mentality of privileged progressivism — but then I’d expect nothing less from Lind.
Steve, that’s the one. Always use the Vulgate text — that’s the one that has centuries of repetition to build its egregor. As for the rest — most interesting.
Irena, I understand that books by Hegel also make good doorstops. 😉
Joshua, Egypt had its age of reason in the early New Kingdom, culminating in Akhenaten’s disastrous religious experiment. After his death and a couple of short and unsuccessful reigns, Horemheb restored the old temple cults, and Egypt promptly returned to relative prosperity and peace. So the old cult methods do seem to have worked, as a way to hold onto the divine presence. (If the thesis of my book The Secret of the Temple is correct, there was also an archaic folk technology worked by the old temples that increased agricultural productivity, which also seems to have helped.)
Daniel, that’s a good point. I’ve long since lost track of the number of times I’ve said “Industrial civilization is declining” and had people react as though they think I said I want it to decline.
Ron, many thanks for both of these.
Aidan, I tend to be very evasive around wokesters when I encounter them in person — I say little and make myself scarce, because I dislike personal confrontations.
Sim, he’s got a better beard than I do. He’s also delusional, but no doubt he’d say the same thing about me.
Cleric, that sounds like Stephenson!
Coboarts, half of magic is knowing when to show up.
DropBear, fascinating. That hasn’t happened here in the US; the privileged classes are in a swivet about the coronavirus, but they’re always in a swivet about something — it was plastic straws not that long ago. Most people roll their eyes, put on cheap paper masks when they have to, and otherwise go on with their lives. I have two questions for you; first, if magic is the art and science of causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will, whose will is involved? Second, why is it beside the point that you don’t like “that new me”? You can change that state in accordance with will, you know…
Denis, excellent! You’ve put your finger on one of the core delusions of our time. Any time somebody says “You deserve” something, what you’re seeing is an attempt to manipulate you by dangling bait in front of you that will promptly be plucked away. Any time somebody says “I deserve” something, as you’ve noticed, they’re setting themselves up for failure and misery. How much it contributes to the twilight of magic is a good question, but it’s a massive issue, and one I’ll be discussing in the series of Dreamwidth posts on will.
Anonymous, hmm! That’s a valid point.
Walter, that’s a crucial point. There’s one layer of self-censoring that affects awareness, and another that affects what you communicate to others — and both are implicated here.
Joshua, the experiment Radin cites missed an effect that others have found. Disbelievers in psi quite often show results that are less than chance, suggesting that they’re perceiving something psychically but subconsciously suppressing the perception!
Minervaphilos, the apparent decline in magic began long before consumer culture, and there was no such thing in Plutarch’s time. Thus I’m skeptical.
@JMG, you said “As for what might reverse it this time, or at least help give the reversal a good hard push, that’s the big question, and as yet I have no answers.”
Surely the land teaches us this? I live near some flak towers that were built in the war, but the park around them seems to clearly relish the seasons and the joy of humans playing and relaxing there. I think we are feeding it in a good way. Maybe the living nature of the park is healing the land even though the flak towers will stay.
“Irena, I’ll simply respond to one detail. People are moving out of New York City at an unprecedented pace right now — so many of them that if you want to leave NYC now you have to book a moving truck months in advance. The manufacturing jobs are appearing elsewhere, where real estate is cheap and local government isn’t as wildly corrupt and inefficient as in NYC, and so that’s where people are moving, in the grand old American tradition. 😉 The same thing is happening to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc. Yes, they’ll look like Detroit in another few decades, while other cities thrive.”
Yeah, de-urbanization is one thing that seems to be happening around the world. I even saw an interview with a Davos-type economist who noted this.
It will be an interesting turnaround over the trends of the last few decades where “global cities” (first coined by Saskia Sassen in 1990) were seen as the future, the beneficiaries, enablers, and norm-enforcers of the trends of globalization. In the aftermath of the 1987 Recession, at the time the biggest since the Great Depression, hinterlands were generally the first to recover at a time when big cities were seen as corrupt, crime-ridden hellholes. It would be nice to see the tables turned again by the 2040s or so and I would be curious to see where the new economic centres will be.
Have you ever heard of Mike Rowe and his promotion of blue-collar “Dirty Jobs”?
You may be one of the few intellectuals who thinks his demographic is on the right side of history as we shift away from what you call a “proscetic society”.
Dear JMG and commentariat,
Here’s another thought if I may:
Another variable here may be the presence or absence of “contact highs.” Let’s imagine a priestess of Hera in ancient Greece who observes a bunch of taboos, dietary restrictions, who lives at the temple, who is an initiate to mysteries of Hera, who let’s Hera ride her in ritual. Okay, this person will, as they walk down the street radiate the energy of Hera, and people will feel the presence of Hera when Her priestess comes near.
How much more likely do you think that Hera would intervene directly in the lives of human beings if She were to have more priestesses who devoted themselves to carry Hera’s divine energy? I imagine that one would see many more miraculous occurrences the larger the fraction of the population that was directly involved in divine rites.
Now if we were to think of early Christianity, we can think of the many mystics who gave themselves willingly to Christ and how many miracles that He and the Theotokos and the Saints performed. If every third son were to be a monk and be in direct participation with the divine mysteries of Christianity, one would likely see many more people get a “contact high” and profess to miraculous occurrences.
That is to say, I think that a major variable in level of spirit present in human affairs could perhaps be described as fashion. Religions often are extremely fashionable, and when sincere and extreme devotion accompanies that miracles become more commonplace. Granted, this is a chicken and egg problem, but one I think is at least worthy to consider. Perhaps more miracles occur when waves of enthusiasm wash over people and they give themselves in mystic service to deities creating an atmosphere in which many people can catch the spirit and the spirit is more accessible to human consciousness.
To reverse the loss of spirit in everyday life one could then perhaps work to make sincere devotional practices to personal deities more fashionable.
Of course this is only one variable out of innumerable ones but it seems worthy of mention and consideration and so I share it!
you’re most welcome
John Michael Greer says: I’ve never taken the time to look up such arguments. I investigated astrology, found that it works, and blithely ignored the materialists who insist that it can’t work.
So yet another example of TSW! Yet so many unbelievers…
As for what might reverse it this time, or at least help give the reversal a good hard push, that’s the big question, and as yet I have no answers.
Well, maybe one answer is for lots of people to practice magic!
Also petition the gods, build sites that draw together the life-force etc. If Robert Mathiesen is correct that the magical life-force is alive, then how do we encourage the proliferation of other living things such as plants and animals? We do it by providing them with suitable environments. Maybe the same ecological approach is equally appropriate for the life force. It needs to have places where it is comfortable and can prosper, and I suspect these were already on the wane before the scientific revolution (e.g. the more dour spiritual environment fostered by protestantsm, especially puritanism).
JMG, Ian’s earlier comment quotes someone asking “why did the magic fail the Tibetans when the Chinese invaded?” If Marxism is not just a political ideology but functions as a religious belief system (as has been discussed on this forum), do you think that the Chinese Marxist magic was stronger than the Tibetan magic? Did something weaken the Tibetan magic before the invasion? I don’t know enough about Tibet or what was going on there in the 20th century to say whether they were being weakened in some way, or not.
What made me think of this is that in one of your Magic Mondays, a poster asked if the SOP, along with his/her Tai Chi and Qigong practice, not only provided protection but also a connection to the earth and the universe. You replied: Of course! Connection is protection — if you’re fully integrated with the universe, nobody can harm you because they’d have to overcome the inertia of the whole universe to do so. That’s the basis of self-defense in tai chi as well.
The Chinese people have been practicing Tai Chi and Qigong for centuries, yet they have faced invasion and revolution like every other country. Yes, they still exist, and perhaps the protection from these practices has enabled them to escape the total control of colonialism many other Asian nations have suffered. Yet I wonder if the casting off of the Qing dynasty and the establishment of the Republic in 1912 caused a weakening of this protection, paving the way for the establishment of the Communist state? I’ve been reading “Travels in Mystic China” by John Blofield, who traveled in the Chinese Republic and he stated that since the Republic was formed, many looked down on the old ways and strove to become more scientific and western in outlook. I had always thought it was Mao who initially tried to destroy the old religions (out with the old, in with the new), but Blofield’s observations makes it sound like there was a head start on disestablishing the old ways. So what weakened the traditional Chinese magic, which made way for the Science and Western materialist magic of the Republic, which made way for the Marxist magic? Steve T posted earlier that the Maoist government simplified the Chinese characters from the traditional characters that were directly connected with Chinese magical systems. More Marxist magic at work? But Mao wouldn’t recognize today’s China, which is communist in name when it comes to controlling the people, but capitalist when it comes to the economy. A national state Communist/Capitalist hybrid system of magic?
If this is true, then are we faced with not a disenchantment of life, but a shifting enchantment, even if said enchantment is not looked at as a magical system or religion, but a political system or ideological philosophy instead?
You are probably right that I should have emphasised Abrahamic religion in my comment (that’s what I was thinking of when I mentioned exclusivity). But I’m unsure of the exact sense in which you say there is no real clash. There may be none from the perspective of what you’ve described as real monotheism, in which case fair enough, but I reckon the vast majority of those in Abrahamic faiths would not go there with you. Admittedly it could be pointed out, I think (though I’m in no position to discuss this knowledgeably!), that comparisons have been made between spiritual states such as the “annihilation in God” described by some Sufis and liberation / moksha in Hinduism…?However I should clarify I was describing a clash more in basic religious praxis i.e. that in Abrahamic religions one must only worship the One True God, even if other powerful beings are acknowledged as existing and not necessarily “demonic”, as opposed to polytheism in the sense of many distinct deities which may be freely worshipped despite their different natures.
As for the following “That there can be more than one source of anything does not make sense.”; could this not be begging the question? Everything we encounter, including ourselves, has more than one source. Can we really talk meaningfully or with any authority of the source of existence itself? “It is the mystery of God and cannot be comprehended” – if it can’t be comprehended how do we know it is the mystery of a one and only one God?
Perhaps we should here distinguish questions of “sources” from questions of an overarching “unity of all”. I understand that many traditions – Neoplatonism, Hinduism, mystical forms of Christianity & Islam, talk in various ways about a mystical (and logical) unity of all. But the idea of “source of all” is not the same concept as “unity of all”. However far back in the infinite regress we go with the argument of an original source or sources, I suppose the Advaita-like concept of “background unity” can always be pointed to, but then I feel the concept of the One Creator God who is at the same time the personal God of particular religions starts to get stretched and stretched and stretched by that same regress….
If you’re interested, I spent some time researching the beginnings of the corona event which I outlined here – http://simonsheridan.me/covid-19/the-coronapocalypse-part-5-cargo-cult-science/
I can assure you there was no magic involved. Just a whole of lot of bureaucratic bungling, sloppy science and hyper-complexity.
As for Australia, I agree the things that have happened here are deeply strange and seem completely out of character. It would be nice to think of it as ‘magic’ because then we can blame the magician for making us do these things. But maybe it’s revealing what we really are.
I was not aware that the situation is that different in the US.
The enthusiasm for giving up freedom here scares me in a way I have not been scared before. I have lost respect for most of my fellow countrymen. Although it is possibly too early to pass judgment.. . I hope.
To answer your questions:
1) i omitted the “will” part of the equation on purpose. Does it need to be a person or even an entity or can it be something like Schopenhauers urwille? As the whole mess was in my opinion purely media driven, maybe it was the will of the collective unconscious? If this even makes sense.
Your guess is as good as mine. Probably better.
Short version: I have no clue.
2) this is highly relevant to me and i certainly fight back. I just thought it not relevant to the initial point I was arguing.
@JMG Made it over er the threshold. It was a very good sermon, they have a good… Pastor? Ah, I didn’t even catch that part. Anyway, the sermon was expounding on Phillipians 3:3-11, and how it relates to how the congregation should deal in the time of COVID. And at the end, though this is a very liberal area, he ensured he prayed for Trump and his family. No idea whether the communion was powerful or not, but it was the first I’d seen.
Still not a Christian though; no offense to Lady Cutekitten et al., but I have trouble understanding how those metaphors are supposed to train my mind vs inform it. Good to know there’s not actually any enmity with that God, at least.
Unfortunately I learned from a man named Simon that there was a fish kill in the stream of that church’s neighbourhood. The signs point to sewage release, but they can’t figure out the source. They’re pumping oxygen into the system to help the fish until they can. They need to do it quickly, since it’s an important stream for salmon; it’s a transitional stream with tidal influence. The adults use it to get used to fresh water slowly as they make their way back up to the spawning grounds, and the smolts slowly get used to the salt as they go back out to sea.
Cleric – some interesting thoughts and I have to agree re. photoshop, special effects and the like. When you can no longer believe your ears and eyes when dealing with things from afar, what and who are you going to trust? I also think the same goes for the written word, and that is more because of its accelerated devaluation by social and online media than anything. Twitter seems to be a spoken word/passing thought capturing device! Its all a kind of magic in itself – it’s never happened before and probably won’t carry on like this for a huge amount of time moving onwards, though more importantly, as the next Cos.Doc. post of JMG’s will discuss, (hopefully) ‘upwards’ too.
Can I also be one to congratulate all commenting this week – plenty of grist for the mill.
Methylethyl wrote, “After reading all this discussion, I think I will back off a bit on teaching them to read music notation, and focus first on memorizing and playing it instead.”
Hopefully you mean playing as in having a rollicking good time with music. Given how many people music education has frightened away from ever making music, I now view becoming a musical person as an essential requisite before being subjected to music studies. There is so much to explore, invent, tweak, and celebrate before learning the “right way” to make music.
Listen, dance, clap, sing, and play along on whatever is at hand to as many different types of music from as many times and places as you possibly can. Your kids can even join in the fun you’re having, if they want to! The growls of Joiking, the nasality of Griot singing, the squeaks of Baroque violin, and the off-pitch pulsing of Gamelan tuning are but a few of the riches that most music teaching labels “bad” technique. As any millionaire Metal guitarist can vouch, the only “bad” technique is the one we were taught to be too afraid to try.
So hum, moan, raspberry, holler “alright”s and “hey”s, whistle, squawk, and click with abandon — they form a strong basis for developing skills in accompaniment, improvisation, and composing variations. I wonder if baby Mozart started out by driving his parents crazy with the pots and pans?
QUESTIONS ABOUT WILL
I mentioned what I regard as a general weakening of people’s ability to ‘pay attention,’ i.e., to direct and sustain attention on a particular object for a prolonged period.
I also mentioned awareness. I think of ‘attention’ as focused awareness, and ‘awareness’ (when distinguished from attention) to mean diffuse, unfocused awareness of whatever is happening within and around oneself.
One’s life experiences, both in general and as a result of specific training, determine not only what one intentionally pays attention to but what one unintentionally does. Having gone through many years of schooling, I automatically read words written as English language text. No effort or act of will is required. It happens within a fraction of a second. Doing so is now automatic and effortless. I am sure that most here have the same experience.
But what of ‘will’? It seems different from both attention and unfocused awareness. To Dion Fortune ‘Will’ is essential to magic. This is clear in her definition of magic.
But I think I have overlooked something very important — WILL.
In addition trying to understand the reasons for what looks like a general weakening of people’s powers of ‘attention’ and ‘awareness,’ I think we should think about what is happening now (and recently) to the strength of ‘will,’ or at least to people’s ability to utilize it.
I’d be interested in JMG’s (and the commentariat’s) conception of just what ‘will’ is, and what changes it has undergone through time. And, if it is weakening, then why?
And whether ‘will’ and ‘intent’ are the same or are different phenomena.
Thanks Robert for sharing that story. That would be a really fun game for children (probably adults too) to develop story telling technique and imagination.
Dan (offlist), I’m not giving you a riddle. I’m writing my fingers off, trying to get a book project in before deadline, and one consequence is that my posts get fewer edits before they go up and thus have more typos.
CS2, that’s one source of lessons, though I’m not sure it’s enough — at least if one is in a hurry.
Aidan, no, but he’s got the right idea. One of the great tasks we face in the decades ahead is that of pruning back a vastly overgrown professional/managerial class and getting more people into jobs that actually produce useful goods and services for people.
Violet, thanks for this. Yes, that may well be a part of it.
Joy Marie, true enough. My test of any system of divination is whether it works in practice. There are some — for example, numerology — that I’ve tried and set aside because the results they produce are indistinguishable from random noise. There are others — for example, astrology — that reliably work. For example, I got two unexpected contract offers on Friday; they arrived during the day and hour of Venus, when Venus was applying to a favorable aspect with my natal midheaven. TSW!
Phil K, that’s a hypothesis I’ve been testing for some time now, which is one of the reasons why I’ll be fielding questions on magical practice in just under two hours…
Joy Marie, what happened in Tibet is a question that would require a great deal of research to settle, and it’s not research I’ve done. Yet the fact that the magic crumpled when it was most needed suggests to me that, as already noted, something other than what humans did or didn’t do may be involved.
DropBear, fair enough. For something to be magic, though, will has to be involved — otherwise it belongs to one of the other categories of human experience — say, “extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds,” to borrow a famous title. If it’s magic, somebody chose to make it happen.
Pixelated, thanks for this. So the issue may have been the specific church whose threshold you couldn’t cross — and the gods know that happens sometimes: something gets ahold of a church or a community, and if it’s something malign, nasty things follow.
Walter, I’ll be discussing that at quite some length in a sequence of posts on my Dreamwidth account, which started last Tuesday.
I dreamed I got some good advice from (of all people) General Nuisance. Melania Trump, who was also there for some reason, agreed it was good advice. How’s that for a weird one? 😳
Considering what happened to Tibet a magical failure makes a couple of assumptions that I consider questionable a) that Tibet could be saved, but more importantly b) saving Tibet was in the best interests of beings.
For (a) Tibet was historically both a truly amazing holder of the highest of the Buddha’s teachings, and a thoroughly corrupt feudal society with a fondness for fighting and war. Their fall as a country is perhaps not so surprising if larger karmic forces were driving the changes. Amusingly, the fact that both of these features can be true _at the same time_ seems to be inconceivable to many, where Tibet is automatically assumed to have been a perfect Shangri-la.
As to (b), only the omniscient Buddhas can know the truth of this, but given the highest practitioners of magic in Tibet were holders of the Bodhisattva vow, it must be considered. On a purely mundane level two highly significant events have resulted from the invasion of Tibet that will have a huge impact on this worlds near future:
1) Tibetan flavoured Buddhism has spread throughout the world, planting seeds at a scale and speed that is truly difficult to imagine happening had Tibet remained intact. And it is still far to early to tell what form these seeds will take.
2) The CCP is finding itself with a very very thorny problem of Buddhism rapidly spreading eastward back out of the occupied lands, where it is being thoroughly embraced by Han Chinese. In recent years this seems to have accelerated, and the CCP has resorted to desperately promoting ‘traditional values’ (Confucianism) in an attempt to stem the tide. It is not working. Future China could quite conceivably be (once again) a Buddhist empire.
I’ve seen, and experienced, a very similar effect of mundane acceptance of extraordinary events in my Buddhist lineage. It is wonderful to hear that such things happen elsewhere as well!
I have often thought that the lack of magic in today’s world is not the loss of something special, but a loss of the ordinary. Our english description describes it perfectly, for such events are truly extraordinary. Most just miss that, go charging into the forest, and run smack into a tree they insist isn’t there. Ouch.
“I’m not giving you a riddle. I’m writing my fingers off, trying to get a book project in before deadline,”
JMG, I am just glad that you even have time for this Blog at all. I have no idea how you keep at it considering that the word count on the comments each week can exceed some of your books! I am very grateful that you manage to do it.
The cosmos left no room for the mask of disenchantment to hit me. Will have to send prayers of thanks and gratitude.
I finished Berman’s “The Re-enchantment of the World” yesterday.
My husband read the book before I picked it up (he is not an occult student), and was really enraptured by the text. Inspired to bring some participation into his life.
As a practicing occultist, Berman was bringing me up to a climax, with the discussion of fallacies of science and the “mystical enchantment” of alchemy. And just as I finished, he just left me there with no release.
Was very disappointed in the book. But thanks to you JMG, I have been able to find the release 😉
@JMG @Joy Marie
I really felt like replying to you both, since the topic of discussion was Tibet. While there may have possibly been a non-material reason for Tibet’s collapse in the face of Mao’s invasion, one more reason, and a material one, too, is: India’s non-interference.
Few Indians and fewer Westerners still know that independent India inherited certain privileges from the British Raj era as regards Tibet. Indians and Tibetans could cross the border without a visa, for example, and visit each other’s countries. However, Nehru, our first Prime Minister was fond of communism and genuinely believed in the slogan of ‘Hindi-Chini-bhai-bhai’ (which basically translates to ‘Indians and Chinese are brothers’). In spite of knowing full well Mao’s evil plans for Tibet, Nehru chose to stay silent. At that time, China was embroiled in the Korean War, and the West was encouraging India to use this opportunity to militarily interfere and keep China out of Tibet, which was something that could have been done. Instead of acting on the advice of well-intentioned political leaders and military/intelligence reports alike, Nehru chose to let Tibet suffer.
Nehru’s inaction has resulted in a longstanding border dispute with China, which does not seem to be the kind which can be resolved by any other means save war, given the nature of the CCP.
French-born researcher Claude Arpi has studied this matter in detail and is, IMO, the most erudite scholar on this topic (he is a practitioner of the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and lives in India). You can check out his writings on his blog (claudearpi.blogspot.com).
Regarding Tibetan magic and the Chinese invasion:
IIRC, the biography of Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, a prominent lama from East Tibet who lived during that time, lamas from East Tibet, who were far closer to China, had been giving prophecies of the Chinese invasion for decades before the actual invasion.
Some prophecies included instructions to build special statues of Padmasambhava and stupas to protect Tibet. The dominant Gelug school in Central Tibet was sceptical of the prophecies; they did build a statue of Padmasambhava but not smaller, and in his peaceful aspect rather than the wrathful one as stated in the prophecy.
Apparently, Khyentse Chokyi Lodro said that it meant that the Dalai Lama would be protected but the country as a whole wouldn’t.
He himself, following the prophecies, had left Tibet for Sikkim quite a few years before the invasion.
In reference to @JoyMarie’s comment on communism and magic, I took note that about two months ago one of the most outspoken New Right people Jack Posobiec on Twitter started encouraging Catholics to pray the Mysteries of the Rosaries every day. He also occasionally posts a prayer in Latin. Jack spent a few years in China and comments on the Maoist influences he sees and I think the prayer is to combat it. What else can be done since there is no reasoning or discussion anymore? We are expected to repeated the chants and slogans told to us on demand by those who see themselves as our betters.
Leaving this tidbit late in the comment cycle to give you a laugh. Philadelphia *just now* in this 2020 election has mandated secrecy envelopes for absentee and mail in ballots. So no longer can the Philadelphia election board view and dispose of votes they don’t like. The sealed ballots go to the precincts to be counted on election night (or at least that’s how it works in every other county in PA previously). I just appreciate in the comedic sense that the fraud is all out in the open and still couldn’t be fixed.
Regarding your reply, “Aidan, no, but he’s got the right idea. One of the great tasks we face in the decades ahead is that of pruning back a vastly overgrown professional/managerial class and getting more people into jobs that actually produce useful goods and services for people.”
The bigger issue regarding much of American (and developed world more broadly) politics is the “Big Sort”, which is described by Ed West: “The growing political divide, at least in the US, is coinciding with physical segregation, with people geographically sorting by politics and personality ‘into communities of psychologically/ideologically similar people,’ according to Will Wilkinson of the Niskanen Center think-tank. Wilkinson says America ‘may be dividing into two increasingly polarized cultures: an increasingly secular-rational and self-expression oriented ‘post-materialist’ culture concentrated in big cities and the academic archipelago, and a largely rural and exurban culture that has been tilting in the opposite direction, toward zero-sum survival values, while trying to hold the line on traditional values” (p. 295-296).
At the same time, “In American politics the biggest gulf is the extreme chasm in voting between college-educated women, who have drastically moved Left, and non-graduate men, who have gone to the Right.” (p. 254)
A major source of much of the weirdness in today’s culture and politics comes from the fact that these trends have gone hand-in-hand with the drastic technological changes over the past generation. Above all, they reflect how the societies created by what Samuel Francis called the “knowledge elite” in 1996 , on the one hand, create really crappy conditions for subaltern ethnic/racial groups but most of those who lead them (in Silicon Valley and in universities) are strongly culturally progressive .
Perhaps the poster child for how these ideological shifts in demographics co-incided with technological shifts is Arianna Huffington (nee Stassinopoulos). As a Greek immigrant in the US, Huffington first became a recognizable public figure in the 1990s and her ideological journey over the past generation perfectly reflect the broader shifts that West discusses (especially in California).
Arianna Stassinopoulos received her current name by marrying Michael Huffington, a GOP congressman in what had largely been the rock-solid Republican state of California. She epitomized the coy yet elegant socialite in the Zsa Zsa Gabor mold that reflected the upper to upper-middle class ideal of cultural conservatives. One New Yorker profile from 1998 described her as, ” as a kind of Republican Spice Girl – an endearingly ditzy right wing gal-about-town who is a guilty pleasure for people who know better”. She appeared on a episode of William F. Buckley’s “Firing Line” in 1995 on immigration and was on the same side of the bench as…Peter Brimelow!!! When Bill Clinton’s impeachment came around in 1998, Huffington’s website Resignation.com was a major rallying point for conservatives in favour of the impeachment (she was basically on the same side as Ann Coulter!).
This began to change as the Silicon Age advanced and Huffington’s journey from elegant conservative Republican to patron of woke progressivism was underway and reflective of broader trends in the US (and especially in California). Her politics began to shift in the early 2000s and by 2004, she was an independent candidate for governor of California (she lost to another immigrant celebrity Arnold Schwarzenegger). After the 2004 election, she became a solid Democrat and in 2006, she founded the HuffingtonPost. HuffPost, along with its spin-off Buzzfeed, became pioneers of “clickbait” journalism that reflected the emerging technological mediums. Both sites have naturally become arbiters of the woke progressivism enhanced by clickbait media.
I’d be curious to see how these shifts can be mitigated.
 – https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2020/05/neo-feudalism-in-california/
 – The iconic paleoconservative author of the immigration restrictionist book “Alien Nation” (1995)
@Christophe and Methylethyl: Musical education is a sore point with me, because my comment that I thought every child should learn to make music has been translated into “… compete for a place in the Youth Symphony…” by my children, for whom professionalism in the sine qua non. Well, it;s too late now.
@Pixielated; On hearing Trump and his wife had the virus, I sat down at my altar and asked the One Above All to bless them both. To my surprise, that opened the door in a later meditation to a gut-deep understanding of the “impossible” message of the Gospels! Though I am not a Christian (could never give up the Great Mother or the lesser gods.)
@Daniel – there’s an s/f/fantasy noel called Neon Lotus, by Marc Laidlaw, which makes exactly that point about the invasion of Tibet. And it even has an adversary quite reminiscent of The Radiance!
@Teaweaver – have been thinking about getting Berman’s Reenchantment of the world for soem time,but the price put me off. However, if he leaves you high and dry like that – I’ve had enough of being left high and dry in a much more earthy context and want no more of that sensation.
Thanks for pointing me toward your posts on WILL at the dream width site. I’ll be following them with interest.
I promised I wouldn’t continue the off-topic discussion, so no answer to your last response to me. 😛
Anyway! On topic. First of all, let me start by saying that I haven’t read any of the Harry Potter books, not have I seen any of the movies, and I have no immediate plans to change that. That said, I do remember you made some dismissive comments about those books, saying that what’s portrayed in them (I believe there’s some broom flying involved) was simply not something that magic could do. Are you having second thoughts about that? Or am I missing something?
To everyone who commented on literacy:
I do recommend _Orality and Literacy_ by Walter Ong. The most interesting (to me) was the part where he discusses the work of the late Soviet psychologist Alexander Luria. Luria studied the differences between literate (including minimally literate) and illiterate people, and some of the differences were pretty astonishing. For instance, the illiterate would simply refuse to entertain hypothetical statements. He’d ask a question such as this: “Beyond the polar circle, all bears are white. Region such-and-such is beyond the polar circle. What color are bears in this region?” The illiterate would give answers such as “All the bears I’ve ever seen were brown.” However, the minimally literate might give answers such as: “Well, according to what you said, they should be white.” (So, there is some unease about playing this sort of game, but still, they do play along.) Even just basic literacy greatly increases the amount of abstraction people are willing to work with.
Another interesting point from the book: oral poetry. Apparently, almost all the bards (and pretty much all the top-notch ones) are illiterate. Somehow, literacy messes with one’s ability to improvise in that way. And it actually is improvisation: it’s never quite the same, even though the performers say it is. That is to say: if you recorded and made a transcript of one performance, and then did the same with the next one, the transcripts would be different, even if the story is essentially the same.
Maybe 2020 is just the strawberry jam hitting the fan…
@Peter Van Erp
The proliferation of bible versions is mainly about $$$. Consider how many bible versions we have in English compared to other languages. Bibles in every version for every audience: women, men, teens, kids, students, environmentalists, etc.
To a lesser extent, the proliferation of bible versions is about denominational differences. You’ll see fundies gravitating around the KJV. A little leftward they start picking up the NASB and NKJV. A little more leftward and you’ve got the HCSB and ESV. A little more leftward and you’ve got the NIV and NLT. Left of that you’ve got The Message, and the NRSV.
Catholics will use the Catholic-produced New American Bible (Revised Edition) or the Catholic edition of the NRSV or even the Catholic edition of the RSV.
Religion is cultural. Christianity was a main power center of American culture for a long, long time. It is losing cultural power, now. With the effect that it is getting caught out in low tide with its pants off. The spiritual core of American Christianity is so hollowed out by years of cultural dominance and cultural warfare it has little else to offer. Of course the fundamentalists have always begged to differ on this score, at least as far as they are concerned. But their demise is clear, and the inverse of evangelicalism’s demise – with little cultural relations, fundamentalism has literally become a relic that is no better than hollow evangelicalism. Meanwhile progressive Christianity is chasing the left wing cultural revolutionaries off a cliff.
Keep in mind that the center of evangelicalism in the US has actually shifted right-ward with the ongoing demise of fundamentalism, which has shifted leftward. If either party were still a viable entity they might have a shot, but they are not, so the result is a combination of both sides’ worst “will to power” impulses. Their respective spiritualities have long since evolved from a devotion to Christ to a veiled power grab, whether that is hyper-local in how they run their churches, or whether that is national in how they fight on the national stage. If you know how they run their churches, you won’t buy into the idea they are truly fighting the good fight on a national level.
American Christianity needs to “leave their gift at the altar” and get their house in order. Also pigs need to fly.
Yeah I know I went on a tangent!
DropBear and JMG about societal changes due to Covid scare:
I am a bit surprised that JMG takes this so lightly. I agree with DropBear that most people have given up all civil liberties without any questions.
I think USA has lost a lot of freedoms this year – probably more than after 2001 terror scare. The fact that supposedly religious people accepted sever restrictions on going to church (while many politicians support protesting and other large gatherings if they are for the “right” purpose) is a big change in my mind.
There are many states where people are arrested for opening businesses – while other businesses are allowed. The mayors or governors can blithely pick winners and losers and apparently that’s fine.
I predict that most of the freedoms will never come back – why would they when people don’t fight for them?
JMG, do you think that California politicians for example, will relinquish their newly acquired dictatorial powers?
Let’s say I wake up after a big party and find my old mate Bazza floating face down in my pool.
Did he just fall in and drown? Possible. He certainly was drunk enough.
Did he pick fight and someone threw him in in a fit of rage? Possible. He certainly was drunk enough.
Did he have an enemy who planned this. Get him blind drunk and dispose of him in the pool. Possible. He certainly was drunk enough.
And Bazza never needed much encouragement to get plied.
What I am trying to say is, that the facts as they present themselves are not enough to say what went on.
We’ll have to open up old Bazza, god bless him, to get more facts and then sew him up again and have an investigation. Do all sorts of sophisticated copper things.
I think we should approach the case of corona floating facedown in our collective pool just the same way.
No question what we see here is a case of the madness of crowds. That is the effect. Just like good old Bazza being off his head. Happens all the time. Nothing to write home about. Requires no explanation.
However this time, since the outcome was a bit more serious we need to look closer at the cause which could involve various levels of agency.
As far as I know there are several investigations in a number of countries going on at the moment to determine just that.
I certainly would not be confident to say at this point in time it was all just stupidity and incompetence. Neither would I be confident to say there is a mastermind behind it. At the moment we simply dont know and agency is not an all or nothing thing. And the situation is rather complex, so it might take a while before we have any degree of certainty.
However there is some evidence pointing to foul play at various stages of the game.
And if it turns out there was a certain amount of agency, it will require a conspiracy theory to explain. Unfashionable as they are, when it comes to investigating a crime, they are rather useful.
So again to the question of whose will?
Too early to tell, but we’re working on it. Well somebody is anyway.
I hope I’m the only one who thought of this when I saw the logo on the women’s march face mask.
Not sure if it’s a swear word or not…
But I’m unsure of the exact sense in which you say there is no real clash.
I realize that the Abrahamic religions get most of the attention when it comes to monotheism, but they are not the only ones. There are many ways in which its adherents would not go with me nor I with them, although I agree in part.
comparisons have been made between spiritual states such as the “annihilation in God” described by some Sufis and liberation / moksha in Hinduism…
This is mysticism, which in my opinion is largely the goal. Mystics are ones who get the esoteric benefits of the religion and tend to speak the same language even if they are of different faiths. That is because the ineffable does not fit into dogma too well, but once experienced leads to similar outlook with other experiencers. There are Christian mystics too.
Yes, if you adhere to monotheism, you would tend to worship only the one God.
That there can be more than one source of anything does not make sense.”; could this not be begging the question? Everything we encounter, including ourselves, has more than one source.
I don’t think my skills are good enough here. The definition of God is that it has no source and did not arise in any kind of time. It has self existence and it is not explicable. What you speak of is called dependent causation or origination. That is the way of all things, but God is not a thing. It is difficult to explain and once seen, cannot be unseen. I respect these gods that you speak of and I have no idea who or what they are, but they are not what I consider the root of all existence. This requires that there be something that exists in a fundamentally different way than all else. And it also requires that all else has actually arisen out of this being. And this is the reason we are all unified, connected.
It is fine to worship a caused being. There can be, as JMG says, beings of so high an order that we can barely fathom it. And the uncaused principle of existence – what is it? Can it be related to at all? I don’t even know! And yet I am bewitched by this mystery and pursue it like the sufi I am. Even Orthodox and Catholics pray to many beings that we consider to reside in heaven and to have achieved a fairly high level – but they are only a little higher than ourselves and we seek help from them. It makes a lot of sense to have a relationship with other than human beings. You don’t send a 5 year old to the physics professor when he is learning to count to 10.
Can we really talk meaningfully or with any authority of the source of existence itself? “It is the mystery of God and cannot be comprehended” – if it can’t be comprehended how do we know it is the mystery of a one and only one God?
You have not comprehended that existence itself is the unexplained and poignant mystery, so it might be premature to say that there can be multiple causes to existence itself. I see the dilemma, even though I cannot fathom its solution.
But the idea of “source of all” is not the same concept as “unity of all”.
Actually, it is.
However far back in the infinite regress we go with the argument of an original source or sources,
But that’s just it. It cannot be turtles all the way down. There cannot be an infinite regress.
I feel the concept of the One Creator God who is at the same time the personal God of particular religions starts to get stretched and stretched and stretched by that same regress….
But you do not need to accept that if you don’t want to. I doubt that the God I refer to is the intelligent designer. I suspect it is personal in some way, but not quite as we normally think. I don’t find the character in the Old Testament believable as even the creator of mankind on earth. He ignores most of mankind and behaves exactly as if he were serious when he said Israel is his people. It might be a good idea if such concepts interest you to ponder them in and of themselves, without dogma and other people’s beliefs.
Thank you for an interesting response! This was fun.
” For something to be magic, though, will has to be involved — otherwise it belongs to one of the other categories of human experience — say, “extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds,” to borrow a famous title. If it’s magic, somebody chose to make it happen.”
I believe they did so choose, albeit the world is a big place and it has not played out like clockwork.
Perhaps it isn’t ONLY a prescription but a mantra meant to have a magical effect of disenchantment?
The mantra of modernity, IF magic is actually real, would have had a dampening effect on all magic given how prolific is is.
I believe magic is quite real so am quite convinced that the mantra and intention of Disenchantment, repeated continuously by several people could have the effect of disenchantment and a diminished power of magic in general.
“But that’s just it. It cannot be turtles all the way down. There cannot be an infinite regress.”
Why not? Why can’t there be an infinite regress?
For that matter, why can’t there be a cyclical regress? A creates B, who creates C, who creates D, who in turn creates A in the past? Because it would violate causality? Why is causality sacred? Because it would create a logical paradox? Why is logic sacred?
Your Kittenship, that’s good and weird.
Michael, thank you. I make time for the blog and the commentariat because they’re at least as important as the books.
Teaweaver, it hadn’t occurred to me to think of Berman’s book as magicus interruptus, but it’s not a bad metaphor at all! 😉
Viduraawakened, thanks for the background. That’s doubtless why the Chinese thought they could push India around in the face-off in Ladakh, too.
Alvin, thanks for this as well. That makes a lot of sense.
Denis, fascinating. I’m glad to hear it; while the Novus Ordo mass remains in place, the Rosary is the greatest source of power the Catholic church has left.
Aidan, yes, I’m aware of that. You don’t need to write a detailed press backgrounder on Arianna Huffington for this blog, you know.
Walter, you’re welcome. The next post has just gone up.
Irena, it’s always the blogger’s privilege to have the last word! As for Harry Potter and flying brooms, at present, under current magical circumstances, that’s clearly not an option. Might it have been an option in the past, and might it become an option in the future? That’s the hypothesis I’m exploring.
NomadicBeer, as I see it, the Democrats in California have handed the GOP a weapon they will use ruthlessly. The whole point of current GOP policy for the last year or so has been a matter of giving the Democrats ample rope with which they can hang themselves — in less metaphoric terms, to encourage the Democrats to embrace one policy after another that’s repugnant to the vast majority of voters, in order to benefit from the backlash. That’s a viable plan in California; if you recall the property tax revolt of 1978 or the two-thirds vote that swept ultraliberal Chief Justice Rose Bird out of office in 1986, you know that California voters can lash back hard once they’ve had enough. My take is that the GOP has set its sights high, and hopes to break the Democratic deathgrip on California’s politics — and I think the Covidiocy currently on display may be one of the levers that will enable them to do that.
DropBear, fair enough. I’m open to the possibility that there are covert agendas at work in this, of course.
Onething, so noted! In the real world, that’s usually how things work out (or fail to do so).
Shawn, that’s also certainly a possibility. A magical analysis of Marxism might open up some unexpected doors.
Riffing off Shawn’s comment, a magic of the intellectuals would surely have the intention of discrediting all the activity of the mind that is non-intellectual, no?
Professionalisation and accreditation is a significant component of this magic, I think.
Regarding the diminishing power of magic, allow me to share something that I’ve seen with my own two eyes.
Some 30 years ago, I was picking up the subway train in Lisbon, Portugal. Most of the subway stations there have two entries, that sometimes lead to different streets. I entered the station and there was a man, all the looks of beggar, a homeless person. And when I passed by him he clapped his hands twice and extended his open right hand. It wasn’t a gesture of a beggar asking for a few coins, it was a gesture of a high ranking something DEMANDING money. I was flabbergasted and for a few seconds thought that I hadn’t seen well. He repeated his movements. Clapped his hands twice, looking at me straight in the eye and extended his hand again in that demanding gesture. I ignored him and went to the other side of the station, close to the other exit. The train arrived and I boarded. Sat down for about 10 minutes and when the train approached my destination I got up and went to the door. And as soon as the doors opened, sitting there in the station was the very same man, that looked me straight in the eye, clapped his hands twice and extended his hand in a demanding gesture.
There was no rational way for him to get there before me. Even if he had picked up a taxi (and what taxi would pick up such a dirty, unkempt man?) it wouldn’t be possible to get there before the subway train.
Regarding civil liberties, the backlash against the Spanish Flu restrictions helped reinvigorate civil liberties politics a century ago. The same may happen this time:
New York City is another place that could see a massive backlash against ultraliberal politics.
De Blasio is an eerie echo of the liberal Republican social justice warrior John Lindsay from two generations ago (https://observer.com/2015/01/too-tall-to-be-mayor-a-long-shadow-of-john-lindsay-bill-de-blasio-wont-acknowledge/). After just two terms of Lindsay, NYC went from the set of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” to the set of “Taxi Driver” and nearly and bankrupt in 1975!
This certainly didn’t help liberal progressive politicians in NYC over the next generation!
Here’s another article on Spanish Flu-era controversies on civil liberties:
I just hope that COVID-19 ends soon and is followed by Jazz Age 2.0 in the same way!
Regarding Tibet, magic and the invasion by Chinese forces… I think that they were scared by what they could do and the karmic consequences of that.
Let me give an example
On the 8th of September 1976 the Dalai Lama claimed that he could no longer stand the oppression of his people and locked himself in a room without any food or water, to do ritual.
On the 9th of September Mao Zedong died.
To me, and may I be forgiven by those that know more, that is the root cause why the Dalai Lama was so adamant in dropping the Dorje Shugden teachings, because he couldn’t risk that somebody would do the same and don’t stop.
JMG, that one was weird indeed! But everyone was happy. I was happy because it was good advice. Melania was happy because neither Nuisance nor I was poised to attack any little thing she said or did. And Nuisance was happy because someone actually took his advice—his kids never do. (No, I don’t know why he thinks his kids should be any different than anyone else’s kids.). 😄
Except for the horrible-house dream, I hardly ever dreamed. Now that I’m old, I’n dreaming like crazy. Is that true for the rest of you geezers and geezerettes?
Denis wrote, “Philadelphia *just now* in this 2020 election has mandated secrecy envelopes for absentee and mail in ballots. So no longer can the Philadelphia election board view and dispose of votes they don’t like.”
Actually, The secrecy envelopes appear to be for the entire state of Pennsylvania — my partner just received his PA mail-in ballot containing one this past Thursday here in Pittsburgh. Similarly, he was mailed a mail-in ballot here for the Democratic primaries several months ago. This would not be a particularly remarkable fact were we not both still registered voters in the state of New York!
We both continue to receive all the usual mailings in New York City, such as our voter ID cards, directions for when and where to vote, and NY mail-in ballots. Neither of us has changed our official residence, mistakenly paid our state taxes to the wrong state, or ever requested a PA ballot.
Apparently this year Pennsylvania has devised a new way to stuff the ballot box by sending mail-in ballots to out-of-state Democrats who happen to own a house in PA. I have always been registered as an Independent myself, so have been wondering, since his primary ballot showed up, whether I, as a PA homeowner, would likewise receive an illegal PA mail-in ballot for the November elections. So far, the score here is one illegal ballot for Democrats, zero for Independents!
What is that I see lurking behind all their shrill polling confidence — could it be sheer desperation and cowardice?
I’m not sure if this is relevant, but I recall reading about the itinerant story-tellers of India. They used to go from village to village, reciting the myths and legends of India purely from memory. Interestingly, they were often illiterate. What would happen is a humble young person of little education like a shepherd boy would hear a story-teller, and become so entranced he would run away and apprentice himself to the story-teller and master the stories himself.
Then the government of India, fearful that the stories might be lost forever, started recording them for posterity. And the story-telling art died out. It was as if there was no need for story-tellers any more.
And thanks too for the fine ripostes. As we’ve established, your monotheism clearly has little to fear from the arguments in AWFOG that I was recommending to Mansoor.
Some quick thoughts:
“I respect these gods that you speak of and I have no idea who or what they are, but they are not what I consider the root of all existence.”
Well no, they aren’t necessarily (not that I know much about them at all, I’m still feeling my way slowly with spiritual practices). But as you’ve acknowledged a person can still worship something that is vastly more powerful than them even though it’s not the “ultimate root”. I suppose, because of my Catholic training, the arguments in AWFOG struck me hard in this area i.e. poking a hole in the idea (most keenly developed in Christianity and Islam, I think) that one must only worship the ultimate, the biggest, the sourceless, the uncreated. When of course the “default setting” for much of the world’s non-monotheistic religious experience is to worship things that are considered holy but closer to us.
“-But the idea of “source of all” is not the same concept as “unity of all”.
-Actually, it is.”
You might have me there (I probably need to go and meditate on it…); I suppose what I meant was I can more easily conceive of unity-of-all than I can source-of-all, in part because of that stack of flying turtles. Are you sure we can close the door on them just like that?
In my defence I did preface the above comment with the more tentative “Perhaps we should here distinguish questions of “sources” from questions of an overarching “unity of all”
By the way have you read Schopenhauer? Offhand I can’t cite the exact chapters, but there are some brilliant dissections of the more naive presentations of first-cause arguments and the like, in his Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (First Object for the Subject chapter), and in parts of The World as Will and Representation, Vol 1. He much preferred the ideas in the Upanishads of course.
Yesterday on Magic Monday (Dreamwidth), an Anonymous querent asked about the value of carrying stones. Since Magic Monday is closed, I am posting this here because it also dovetails nicely with this topic.
Vine Deloria’s The World We Used to Live In contains this beautiful story from Lone Man, a Teton Sioux Elder:
“When I was a young man I went to a medicine man for advice concerning my future. The medicine man said:
‘I have not much to tell you except to help you understand this earth on which you live. If a man is to succeed on the hunt or the warpath, he must not be governed by his inclination, but by an understanding of the ways of animals and of his natural surroundings, gained through close observation. The earth is large, and on it live many animals.
‘This earth is under the protection of something which at times becomes visible to the eye. One would think this would be at the center of the earth, but its representations appear everywhere, in large and small forms—they are the sacred stones. The presence of a sacred stone will protect you from misfortune.’
“He then gave me a sacred stone which he himself had worn. I kept it with me wherever I went and was helped by it. He also told me where I might find one for myself. Wakan tanka tells the sacred stones many things which may happen to people. The medicine man told me to observe my natural surroundings, and after my talk with him I observed them closely. I watched the changes of the weather, the habits of animals, and all things by which I might be guided in the future, and I stored this knowledge in my mind.”
thanks for your reply. I learned to trust your predictions despite myself.
In this case I hope you are right because what I see on the internet and around me suggests that people have readily accepted the brave new world where no reasons are required for drastic restrictions on our lives. A bit of half-hearted scaremongering in the media and a threat from some official it’s enough to convince people to give up most of their rights.
I am thinking of all the working class parents that have lost the right to have their kids in school. Even if they weren’t learning much, at least it was daycare. Now they keep paying their taxes but they have to do teachers’ work too.
The same with access to healthcare – yes it was expensive and crappy but now it’s even less available for most people.
I see no reason for politicians to relinquish these powers. Even if the republicans take control (in California or at the federal level), they could still maintain the same behavior. After all there is no real pushback, right? I don’t think we can vote ourselves the lost freedoms back.
JMG, in hindsight the way I asked that was rather rude; sorry. Thank you for answering, and good luck on the new book!
On orality and literacy, I just thought of something–Could literacy in a logographic writing system have fewer side effects than alphabetic literacy? Premodern Chinese logicians had a strong preference for concrete examples over abstract deductions, while their alphabetized Greek, Indian, and Tibetan counterparts were just the opposite.
Why can’t there be an infinite regress?
For that matter, why can’t there be a cyclical regress? A creates B, who creates C, who creates D, who in turn creates A in the past? Because it would violate causality? Why is causality sacred? Because it would create a logical paradox? Why is logic sacred?
Firstly, the tale that ends in “It’s turtles all the way down!” is meant to make you laugh in recognition that its absurd.
A cyclical regress is the same as an infinite one. It requires explanation, and the explanation must be fundamentally different than some causal chain.
Causality is sacred because we have never seen an exception and it is how our reality works, yet there must be something outside of it, and because we never see anything that contradicts it we appear to be wired to see reality that way and yet we also see that there must be something outside of it or existence is impossible.
There may be things outside of or beyond logic, but within its necessary sphere, logic is sacred.
If we doubt logic and causality then we may as well give up and live in a kaleidoscope. Except kaleidoscopes are logical and regular. Perhaps an endless dream.
@JMG, @Galen: “If your only response is to veer off into platitudes about international liberalism, the only conclusions that I can draw are that (a) you know you were wrong but (b) you’re not willing to ‘fess up to that.”
Guilty as charged, I suppose. I’ve tried to distinguish between the beneficial aspects of neoliberalism and the unjustifiable mass violence inflicted by Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Bolton, and the like (and their Democratic counterparts in the Obama administration), but the line is hazy at best and I’m increasingly unsure that they can be easily separated. Which is depressing, because neoliberalism really has improved the lives of a great many people, but I don’t know if it’s possible to have the good without the bad. It’s also depressing because most of the alternatives to neoliberalism (fascism, communism, primitivism, etc.) are utterly terrifying. At the end of the day, I often find myself wondering if we’re actually moving any closer to world peace, or if history will look back on modern America as yet another expansionist imperial hegemon that used “peace” as a flimsy pretext for committing a great deal of wholly unnecessary violence.
@Robert Mathiesen: Another question I’ve often wondered is how you can make a society of 7.5 billion people (or even 330 million people, as with the modern U.S.) function well, while still ensuring that individuals still feel as though they have agency and their choices matter. It’s an extraordinarily difficult problem to solve, but I don’t think returning to isolationist nationalism is the right solution either, given that doing so would enable no shortage of intra-national cruelties and tyrannies.
JMG quoted Bertrand Russell: “That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the débris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”
Sound about right to me. I’m delighted to inhabit, for a brief span, a universe constructed thus. Humbling and awe-inspiring.
@Christophe The other 66 counties in Pennsylvania did use secrecy envelopes my whole adult life. It was Philadelphia who did not and now must. Plus somehow the standard was set across the state (finally) that if a ballot came back without being in the secrecy envelope and signed by the voter, it does not get counted.
Interesting that they are mailing ballots out of state. That would allow them to skirt the law on a person can legally only be registered to vote in one place. Voter ID numbers aren’t shared across state lines. Makes me wonder are counties re-adding voters to the precinct books? I would suspect Florida has a way to handle this since so many of their residents spend half the year in NY and half in FL.
@Nomadicbeer In terms of school is worse that just the loss of the daycare – the schools are actually charging parents up to $375 a week to have their children come to the building and do the online classes there. Yes, they are charging parents for school on top of the taxes and parents are paying for it because they have no other option.
So our government closed schools, then opened them as online only. Parents complained they needed daycare so schools are charging for daycare now. Its quite the scam.
@Aidan Several other national events occurred simultaneous to the 1918 Flu that get completely ignored:
1) Our first national draft – yes, the Union and Confederate armies each drafted but these were managed locally on the state level. The Selective Service Act on May 18, 1917 required men between 18 and 45 to registered and made it a federal offense not to. People did not like this. Remember – no state had uniform birth certificate who would identify who qualified for this draft so people were expected to register on their own.
2) In March 1917 the American Protective League formed which was a private organization (supposedly) but worked closely with the Department of Justice to root out those they thought were enemy aliens, disloyal citizens, women who married new immigrants, labor union organizers, and of course draft evaders. At the height of its power, late 1918, the APL had 250,000 members. It was huge and no one talks about them now. Papers are in the National Archive (unindexed and so hard to access of course). The DOJ took over their functions essentially in 1919.
3) Active anarchist groups held meetings and published weekly newspapers. They called for through protests and actual bombings of homes, the removal of business men, government officials, and priests. They felt the country was beyond redemption and we needed a clean sweep of leadership. After the Wall Street bombing in 1919 that killed 39, the leaders were jailed or expelled from the country. Most were immigrants without citizenship. The U.S. closed its borders in 1920 until 1965.
I wish history books included all these other things while telling the story of 1918 but they do not. It was as complex time in terms of social movements and groups as now for sure.
Sorry for the Infodump:
This helps explains Christian Cosmology. How the various Gods are perceived by said worldview and what the ultimate purpose of Life is.
@Aiden Plus- just prior to 1918 public schools were mandated state-by-state forcing parents to put their children into specific schools based on address. Many newspaper articles were published saying how great the schools were despite the complaints of parents. The parents had no idea what they were talking about because the experts knew that the Dutch (we call them Germans now) had a superior system. Students went on strike to protest the schools and they were called racist that they didn’t want to go to school with black kids. Was that the real reason? Don’t know. But this woman Winfred Black knew what was up – she wrote about how public school was really disguised as eugenics in 1912 in Pittsburgh, PA https://www.newspapers.com/image/85935992
Lady Cutekitten – I’m certainly having a lot of dreams these days. Old age? Or the tense atmosphere of these days?
Even isolationist nationalism is far too big a “think” for my tastes, unless we are talking about some of the smallest, most helpless nations (e.g. Andora, Monaco, just possibly even Switzerland).
I don’t think it’s remotely possible to make a society as large (even) as the city of Boston “function well, while still ensuring that individuals still feel as though they have agency and their choices matter.”
Bullying, violence, war, hatred, and all-around bloodthirsty cruelty are simply baked in the genetic cake of human nature, and even that of the nature of chimpanzees, who are our closest relatives among the other animals. (Young males from a tribe of chimpanzees band together and go out hunting for young male chimpanzees from other tribes. When they catch one, they torture him to death, as slowly as they can manage. This seems to happen everywhere that chimpanzees can be found.)
And this propensity for dominance and cruelty, of course, leads in very many cases to the creation of larger societies, which then cannot possibly be made to function well.
If something is not possible, then there’s no point trying to do it. Fighting human nature cannot be done collectively. Individual humans, a very few of them, have what it takes to fight it in themselves, but there can never be enough of these people to make a difference.
The best we can ever hope to do, as a species, is somehow muddle through from one day to the next, wading up to our boot-tops in the gore that swamps a world full of cruelty and hatred … forever and ever, world without end, Amen.
This discussion reminds me of Mage: The Ascension (M:TA), a tabletop role playing game first published 30 years ago by White Wolf Publishing as part of their World of Darkness constellation of Gothic-punk urban fantasy IPs. In M:TA, spiritually “Awakened” individuals called mages could manipulate the “Tapestry”, a cosmological substrate composed of a fundamental substance called quintessence, by focusing the will using various techniques specific to a particular paradigm (i.e., belief system). Mages could theoretically alter reality in whatever way their paradigm would allow, but were practically limited by the “Consensus”, which was the default cosmology imposed by the aggregate beliefs of all humans, everywhere. Working against the Consensus provoked “Paradox”, a kind of self-correction mechanism by which the universe sought to reconcile conflicting paradigms and restore — with bizarre and often violent consequences — the Consensus to an equilibrial state. In premodern times, the fragmentary nature of the human cultural landscape meant that the Consensus was weak and malleable, and mages could perform spectacular feats of magic with hardly any risk of Paradox. This began to change circa the 15th century AD, however, when a cabal of European mages called the Order of Reason initiated a campaign of social engineering in order to rationalize the Consensus and thus make it more orderly and predictable. This had the twofold effect of rendering the Order’s proto-scientific magic easier to perform, while making the magic of other contemporary paradigms more difficult. Success fed upon success, and five hundred years later, the Order’s successor, the Technocracy, had so thoroughly commandeered the Consensus as to drive the other paradigms underground and banish almost all non-scientific wonderworking from the public eye. Traditional magic continued to be performed, albeit at a much reduced scale, in basements and back alleys, by rogue mages in defiance of the Technocracy and its ruthless Men In Black enforcers, and this ongoing resistance constituted the central conflict of the game.
As an explanation for both the efforts of the scientistic establishment to systematically demystify the world, and the apparent diminution of magical prowess in traditional practitioners over time, it certainly sounds plausible. Thoughts?
True enough, sadly. And also, humanity does have its moments of greatness where we seem to lift ourselves out of the muck and collectively create something magnificent and enduring. As Yeats wrote, “Gaze no more in the bitter glass…” The gods who would know themselves in us call us forth. I believe there are always enough of us.
do you have a blog? Or would you be willing to offer another way to contact you? What you shared here now and on previous occasion has struck a chord. A large percentage of my ancestors came from Co. Mayo. Am very much interested in learning from/about contemporary practitioners of the christian druid wing.
Neal Stephenson’s Fall contains the most compelling vision of this phenomenon, of how in reality things are cohered from chaos, of how they return to chaos once again.
I would posit that certain structures, certain patterns of movements in space, fix the lower wavelengths in place, and provide dissonant interference with certain powerful ways of being, of organizing self and beyond self.
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