Back in the autumn of 2020, as the Covid virus and the US presidential election monopolized headlines across the corporate media, I made a post here talking about Max Weber’s famous claim that “the disenchantment of the world” was among the core features of modernity, and the then-recent challenge leveled against that claim by Jason Josephson-Storm in his book The Myth of Disenchantment. That post and the theme it began to explore opened quite a rabbit hole into the deep places of culture and the human psyche, and I didn’t pretend to be able to wrap things up in a single essay of modest length. I finished up the post, in fact, by noting that my work on the theme was still in its early stages, and promised to post more when I’d gone further.
Two years later—why, here we are.
For the benefit of those readers who weren’t following this blog two years ago, and who don’t have the spare time right now to go back and read the earlier post, the basic issue can be summed up readily enough. In his 1904 book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Weber argued that the disenchantment of the world—that is, a change in attitudes toward the world that stripped it of its spiritual and magical dimensions—was central to the rise of modern capitalist society, and was prefigured by certain important trends in Protestant Christianity. The idea of disenchantment as a basic theme of modernity became very popular in Weber’s time and remains popular today, because it reflects one of the common prejudices of our time: people in the past ignorantly believed in magic and religion, the claim goes, but we’re enlightened nowadays and know better.
What Josephson-Storm pointed out is that Weber’s claim only works out literally if you ignore the fact that a very large percentage of people in today’s industrial nations still believe in gods, practice magic, consult horoscopes, and engage in all those other supposedly outworn practices of the allegedly superstitious past. For a disenchanted world, there sure is a lot of enchantment going on! What’s more, as Josephson-Storm also pointed out, Weber himself knew better; while he was writing his vivid discussion of the disenchantment of the world in 1904, quite a few of his friends and associates were practicing magic, consulting horoscopes, and so on. When he claimed that the modern world was disenchanted, in other words, Weber was in a very real sense talking about how he thought things ought to be, not discussing how things actually are.
It’s an intriguing situation. What’s even more intriguing is the way that Weber’s claim, and the basic popular attitude behind it, remains riveted in place in flat contradiction to the facts. It happens to be the case, for example, that in the United States today, the number of people who make their living from astronomy is a small fraction of the number who make their living from astrology. Compare any other measure of activity—the number of books and periodicals being published in the two fields, the number of attendees at major conferences, or what have you—and the result comes out the same. A good case can be made, in fact, that it’s astrology that plays a significant role in the modern, up-to-date, cutting-edge life of the American people, while astronomy is a fringe activity pursued by an eccentric minority.
Most people in today’s America, of course, perceive things the other way around—and that’s exactly the point that needs to be explored here. Interestingly, that view of things is just as common among people in the busy, bustling, innovative, and prosperous astrological sector of the economy as it is in that small, esoteric, and rather spooky subculture where astronomers practice their ancient craft. If current trends continue, and magic and traditional religion keep gaining converts while scientific research suffers the death of a thousand budget cuts, it’s not at all hard to imagine a future in which everybody in the United States worships gods, practices magic, or both, and scientific progress has ground to a halt, yet everyone in this future America still reflexively thinks of science as a central concern of the mainstream culture while religion and magic are still seen as the purview of embattled subcultures on the fringe.
So there’s a point to Weber’s claim about disenchantment. Even though people in the modern industrial world haven’t given up religion, magic, and other practices and beliefs supposedly ruled out by modernity, it is nonetheless true that most people in the modern industrial world believe that this is the case, and act accordingly. That vast and echoing chasm between observable facts and popular beliefs deserves more attention than it’s been given.
To begin making sense of it, however, it’s necessary to deal with some basic questions that neither Weber nor Josephson-Storm really confronted in adequate depth. When we talk about enchantment, what exactly do we mean by that term?
You can very often learn a great deal about a term by looking at the way it’s been misunderstood. With that in mind, it’s worth taking a look at an anonymous comment on last week’s open post. It so happens that I mentioned the imminence of this sequence of posts in a discussion on my Dreamwidth journal a little before then, and the author of the comment in question decided to beat the rush by telling me, in an open post here, all about what I should talk about. The result was a somewhat lengthy lecture on parapsychology, focusing on the work of one particular researcher in that field. My response was to point out that what the commenter had posted had nothing to do with the themes I was going to discuss. That was a little more curt than it should have been. It’s true that parapsychology is not enchantment in the sense I have in mind, but the contrast between the two subjects is stark enough that it may help cast light on what will inevitably be a challenging topic for many people.
Parapsychology, for those readers who don’t keep up with scientific controversies, is a branch of scientific research that studies psychic phenomena. It came into being in the early twentieth century, when practitioners of the older field of psychical research decided that their studies were best pursued in the laboratory, rather than in seance rooms or haunted houses. From the 1920s until the early 1980s, it was considered a legitimate field of research, but the hardening of the orthodoxies that gripped the sciences thereafter saw it driven to the fringes. James McClenon’s incisive sociological study Deviant Science: The Case of Parapsychology and Robert Anton Wilson’s bitterly funny essay “The Persecution and Assassination of the Parapsychologists as Performed by the Inmates of the American Association for the Advancement of Science under the Direction of the Amazing Randi” are worth reading in this context.
Parapsychology is an experimental science. It uses the same tools of controlled and double-blind experiments and statistical analyses that other sciences use, and it routinely gets results that would be accepted automatically if they occurred in any more acceptable field of science. The reason its findings aren’t accepted as science is that other scientists insist, without evidence, that the parapsychologists have to be wrong. (If you ever want a cure for blind faith in scientific objectivity, compare the careful experimental designs and strict statistical tests that are standard in parapsychology with the sloppy designs and rigged statistics that have been standard in pharmaceutical research for decades now, and then reflect on the fact that parapsychology is considered pseudoscience and pharmaceutical research is not.)
As an experimental science, however, parapsychology is worlds apart from enchantment. It deals with replicable, quantitative, statistically significant events, and it relates these events to the same disenchanted world of dead matter and empty space that the other sciences study. When it postulates forces or information transfers not yet discovered by other sciences, it’s doing nothing more exotic than physicists do when they predict the existence of a previously unknown subatomic particle. If parapsychology were to be accepted as scientifically valid, the result wouldn’t be an enchanted world: it would simply be a slightly more complex disenchanted world in which, let’s say, certain quantum effects can have interesting but intermittent entanglements with human nervous systems.
What, then, is an enchanted world? If you want a glimpse into that, pick up a good collection of fairy tales, medieval legends, or ancient myths. Read them, and imagine yourself living in a world where these stories seem as obviously true as the comparable stories of scientific materialism seems to us. Imagine watching the sun rise in the morning, knowing—in the same casual way that you now know the sun is a ball of incandescent hydrogen millions of miles away in the hard vacuum of deep space—that the sun is a person who gazes down on the world as he or she travels from east to west through the sky. Imagine looking out at the forest and knowing that the trees have a guardian spirit who must be placated if you want to harvest some wood. Imagine standing on a riverbank and knowing—again, casually, without putting any particular stress on the fact—that the flowing water in front of you is quite literally the physical body of a goddess or a god.
Enchantment goes further than that. Imagine knowing, in the same well-of-course fashion just discussed, that how well you can complete some task—plowing a field, nursing a child, forging iron into a tool, healing an illness, building a structure, and the list goes on—doesn’t depend on the kind of objective measures of efficiency we’re used to using. Imagine that your success depends instead on whether you can, in the process of doing that task, identify yourself with the god or spirit or culture hero that first did the same task back in the beginning of time, and make your act one with that original deed.
How do you do that? Maybe you sing a magic song while you do the task, the way folk healers do in so many cultures, so that the herbs you use are still in some enchanted sense resting in the hands of the legendary being who first used them. Maybe you take part in a magic dance before you start, the way people in the north of England used to celebrate the beginning of plowing with sword dances in which a central figure suffers a mock-beheading and is then brought back to life—it requires no particular background in comparative religion to recognize in these proceedings an enchanted vision of the life cycle of grain, which is decapitated at harvest and rises again with the green shoots of spring.
On the other hand, if you practice some especially magical craft in an enchanted society, you can expect to pass through a long process of training, followed by an initiation ceremony that takes you back to the primal example of the craft. I wonder how many Freemasons realize that their initiation ceremonies have exactly that function. You can’t build a church, in the enchanted mindset of the medieval master builder, unless you personally labored on the construction of King Solomon’s temple, the archetype of every Christian holy place. Thus medieval masons, in the course of their journey from apprentice to fellow of the craft to master stonemason, did exactly that in the lodge ceremonies that advanced them from stage to stage of their career.
Nowadays we like to use words like “symbolically” and “ritually” for such acts of identification. That helps us make sense of the process from within the disenchanted modern mindset, but it’s not the way people see things in the very different mindset of an enchanted age. As any good collection of fairy tales will demonstrate readily enough, space and time are irrelevant to a proper enchantment. Today’s Freemasons, gamely repeating archaic rituals because that’s what you do if you’re a Mason, think of themselves as symbolically and ritually laboring on King Solomon’s temple; medieval masons didn’t. The power of enchantment swept aside the miles and the years and placed them right there on the threshing floor King David bought from Ornan the Jebusite, hauling blocks of stone to build a temple to the God of Israel.
In an age of enchantment, what we call the “symbolic” is as real as a rock. That’s a lesson that most people in today’s disenchanted societies have a very hard time grasping. More generally, it seems to be very hard these days for most of us to grasp that people in different ages and cultures really did experience the world in a radically different way. They weren’t simply playing make-believe. They really did look east toward the rising sun and see a vast, golden, radiant person gazing back at them. They really did feel the hands of a saint, a spirit, or a god guiding their own hands as they recited a charm over the herbs they were brewing into a healing potion.
The reason I can say this so confidently, of course, is that that same state of mind and that same kind of experience are essential elements of the practice of the kind of old-fashioned occultism that I do. To practice classic occult disciplines is to enter into an enchanted world, even if that world is only as large as the space traced out by a ritual circle and its entire existence unfolds in however much time elapses from the beginning of a ceremony to its end. Within those limits of space and time, stars and planets become persons, times and places far distant from the ritual and from one another fuse into a single moment, angels and spirits take on a body made of incense smoke and speak to the mage. Disenchantment dissolves like mist and the old enchantments surge back to fill their accustomed place. That’s the point of magic.
(Well, to be fair, that’s the point of traditional magic. Every generation or so since Eliphas Lévi launched the modern magical revival, there’s been a movement to scrap all that fusty, illogical, impossible stuff and come up with a magical system that’s modern, relevant, and stripped of outdated notions—that is to say, a disenchanted form of enchantment. Every one of those methods, since it catered to the conventional wisdom of our time, was wildly popular for a few decades and then quietly fizzled and dropped out of common use. Mumble mumble internal contradictions mumble mumble, and if that makes me sound too much like an old-fashioned Marxist, them’s the breaks.)
Getting to that state of consciousness in the modern disenchanted world is not easy. You can’t simply recite a magic song, watch a traditional dance, or take part in a ritual of initiation; you have to learn, in Dion Fortune’s phrase, how to cause changes in consciousness in accordance with will. Then you have to make the relevant changes in your own consciousness. Some changes are only necessary when you’re actually doing a working. Other changes require you to shift the state of consciousness you experience in every waking minute. One way or another, it’s a lot of work. That’s one way we can measure the difference between our present disenchanted world and the enchanted world that most human beings, through most of history, have inhabited.
So what happened? What was it that broke the enchantments that made the world what it was to our ancestors, and brought in the very different consciousness that most people nowadays think of as normal and natural? That’s going to be a central theme of the posts to come.
Of course the conventional wisdom of our time has a pat answer to that question. That answer, baldly put, is that the modern disenchanted state of consciousness is right and the enchanted state of consciousness is wrong. Central to the entire worldview of modern industrial culture is the belief that “we” (meaning here the minority of human beings during the last four centuries or so who have embraced the disenchanted state as truth, and believed devoutly in the ideology of scientific materialism) are the only human beings in all of history who have ever understood the world accurately, and everyone else down through the ages was just plain wrong. If that answer sounds arrogant to you, dear reader, let’s just say you’re not alone.
Yet there are other problems with the easy modern assumption that true believers in the modern ideologies of disenchantment are right and everyone else who ever lived was too stupid to notice how wrong they were. One of those problems is the simple fact that the entire edifice of modern materialist science rests on assumptions about the nature of human knowledge that were disproved once and for all more than two hundred years ago. Another is the equally simple but far more brutal fact that the disenchanted world praised by today’s pundits in such triumphant terms has turned out to be unfit for human habitation. If we’re so much smarter than our ancestors, and thus presumably so much better at understanding and meeting human needs with our omniscient science and almighty technology, how come so many of us are blowing our brains out or drinking and drugging ourselves to death because of the sheer misery of life in the world that reason has made?
With those points among others in mind, it’s worth going deeper into the origins of today’s disenchanted world and the attitudes that shape it, the nature of the enchanted world and the experiences that define it, and the process—a historical process, as we’ll see—by which these two replace one another over time. We’ll proceed with that exploration in a couple of weeks.
Very excited for this. Wish this was a book so I could buy it immediately 🙂
This is what I have recently gathered I have been internally fighting for, in this life, unconsciously previously and now consciously.
Case in point, which I hope is relevant: even some present-day Reform Jews of my acquaintance, thoroughly educated in modernity as they understand it, are taught that during Passover seders, they are to understand that they are present RIGHT THERE at the events depicted. And not “symbolically” there.
The only rabbi I know at all well (a Reform Jew) readily accepts that there are several different kinds of time: cyclical time (e.g., recurring seasons – small and large), linear time (modern and some Biblical history with one damn thing after the other in sequence), and CHIRONIC time, as in the aforementioned Passover instruction. Which holds, by the way, for the other festivals celebrated.
Chironic time meaning times of mythic power and meaning that transcend both cyclical and linear time. Or as near as I understand it. So, enchantment, however watered down by rationalistic claptrap seems alive and well even among some Reform Jews. Just sayin’. Yet those same Jews would no more eschew the materialistic rationalism of the present day, otherwise, than anyone else. People are not structured to be logically consistent. Thank goodness.
Having been effectively raised with a medieval/Renaissance worldview from my two differing lineages, I find no problem with enchantment. The question I have: What is the nature of disenchantment? From a magical standpoint, “cui bono” when the vast majority of people disbelieve in the gods? For surely there is some individual (or individuals) who benefit, and I doubt they reside specifically on the sublunar plane…
Everything is, after all, full of gods.
One interpretation is that while people think and say they’ve disenchanted the world, at a subconscious level they know exactly what the score is. So often in mythology, legend and folktale, the mountain, forest, and river are actively hostile. Not just that they’re objectively dangerous, but they, or their residents, are out to get us. Throughout history humanity cowered before the power of nature and the spirit world. Then we invented chainsaws and bulldozers, drills and explosives. Suddenly human psychology turns into the Eminem song ‘Brain Damage’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifi6mPWoXxY. I’m getting you back, bully. Now, once and for good.
‘The power of enchantment swept aside the miles and the years and placed [medieval masons] right there on the threshing floor King David bought from Ornan the Jebusite, hauling blocks of stone to build a temple to the God of Israel.’
This makes me think of traditional Roman Catholic sacramental theology regarding the sacrifice of the Mass. Most people who have read a bit on the topic realise that the Catholics officially teach that a validly consecrated host has become, via transubstantiation, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. What is less commonly known, but which the old theologians all taught, is that the Eucharist is all of those things, but specifically as they existed in ancient Roman Palestine during the crucifixion. What this means is that, according to this strain of theology, all of the faithful in attendance at a Mass are mystically present at Calvary, participating in the sacrifice in a very real way. They are not merely witnessing a ritualising of that event, they are magically time-travelling to it and are just as present there as they hold that Jesus was himself.
And of course, as the world becomes less and less enchanted, the average Catholic, whether a half-hearted member of the laity or even someone sitting on a cathedra admiring his diocese’s outreach to the poor, has absolutely no concept of the magical understanding Catholics used to have of the Mass.
This reminds me of something a bit odd that happened to me at an SCA event over twenty years ago:
It was sunday morning, and I was at an SCA camping event. I noticed that there was a tiny chapel located on a ridge above the site, and feeling the lack of church, I decided to go on an impromptu pilgrimage. So I walked up the ridge. It was hot, and the sun was beating down and I got thirsty even though I was carrying water with me. I let my imagination loose a little, thinking of all the people in the Middle Ages who put their lives on hold to go on long-distance pilgrimages in search of God. And I focused on God and the act of going in search of Him.
The chapel was nothing special when I got there. Very small and cute, but not really anything to write home about. But the journey… it took only about an hour round trip, but I did this over twenty years ago and I’ve never forgotten it. An emotional impact completely out of proportion to the time involved.
I came away from it with a much better appreciation of what people sought and found in pilgrimage, and the power that can come from making a journey to seek out God. It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what I experienced, but it’s very real and it’s powerful.
I sense a tree limb bending under pressure…
Good Post: I went back and read the 9/30/20 post for a little background.
You mentioned a discussion in a discussion in the comments of a post prior to this where the string of posts started (the 9/30/20 post). Would you be so kind as to give us the date of that discussion? I’d like to read the discussion where it all got started.
BTW: I took your advice and paid my dues to the BOTA. I just printed out my Associate Builders Initiation and will start work on that soon. Thanks for the advice.
I remember as a young engineering student stumbling across a newly published copy of Morris Berman’s ” The Re-Enchantment of the World”, which is something of a late 1970’s take on Webers thesis. I read it at a very formative time in my intellectual life and it kept me from being and thinking like an ordinary modern engineer.
Your discussion of performance (in contrast to modern metrics of efficiency) brought to mind an issue with which I’ve been struggling for some time: defining (or redefining in contrast to worldly measures) what “success” means in my life. That voice–conditioning or programming, one might say–arguing that the world’s metrics are the only ones permissible can be a difficult thing to battle. (Of course, when our cultural system is set up to reinforce those metrics with suitable rewards and punishments, it becomes all the more challenging.)
Another interesting post, and plenty to ponder over now the Long Descent is picking up speed. There will no doubt be a backlash against the “scientific”, materialist and secular culture we’ve created, but how that all pans out is difficult for me to predict.
What I do know, is that over the course of my life I’ve changed my views and values around the topics you’ve written on JMG, and feel significantly cheated in some ways. Cheated in the sense the values, choices and paths supported by the “cronies”, for lack of a better term, are simply for their own superficial, short term gains – and not for the betterment of society as a whole. I’m disenfranchised by the disenchancement, though much of the blame is also my own fault….
About twenty years ago when I was a physics student at university, I attended a lecture with James Randi. After a particularly hostile exchange during Q and A with a vocal Christian, there was a pause and I raised my hand
“Mr Randi” I said, “why is it in spite of all your work to debunk and discredit nonrational thinking, that such belief *persists*?”.
He paused, commented it was the best question of the night, and responded with “Wish fulfillment”. This gave me pause, not just because it seemed glib, but also it seemed to belie more.
I think that those like Randi want a disenchanted world because they get to be arbiters of the real. They get to dictate what shall be accepted Belief, and cast all competition out of consideration.
I am a kind of Christian animist, A tree to me is a being, sentient, conscious, aware, that I may have a relationship with and in fact do whether I cultivate it or not. A tree isn’t a human being, but a tree being a different type of being. What I don’t do is overlay a dryad or nymph or god or spirit on top of or with a tree. A tree is simply alive on multiple levels and related to directly.. The same thing for the collective being of say a forest or a river or a mountain or the earth. One of the titles for my God is the Living God and all aspects of creation have livingness and types of being as a result reflecting and expressing His nature. An expression of this understanding is Hildegard of Bingen viriditas or greening running through the created order. I have run across this approach in Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. I have a quote somewhere from a Rupert Sheldrake showing how this view was part of European thought as late as the 1500’s and yes even among protestant christians.
The way I see it, Oswald Spengler was right; every high culture goes through a period in which atheistic rationalism is the predominant ideology, at least among the intelligentsia and other members of the “educated” elite and it’s hangers-on. As Spengler points out, such periods always come to an end after a few centuries and are displaced by what he calls “the Second Religiousness” as the shortcomings of atheistic rationalism become too difficult to ignore. What Weber and his epigones called the “disenchantment of the world” is simply the Faustian manifestation of that phenomenon.
To those who are interested, here are all of the requests for prayer that have recently appeared across the Ecosophia community. Please feel free to add any or all of them to your prayers. https://tunesmyth.dreamwidth.org/tag/prayer+list
Also, if I missed anybody, or if you would like to add a prayer request for yourself or anyone who has given you consent (or for whom you hold power of consent) to the list, please feel free to leave a comment below and/or at the prayer list page. I should add that recently I have received several prayer requests directly to my page; this is gratifying, of course, but I also don’t want to discourage anyone from continuing to post their requests for prayer in the normal places they would have before!
Finally, if there are any among you who might wish to join me in a bit of astrological timing, I pray each week for the health of all those with health problems on the list on the astrological Hour of the Sun on Sundays, bearing in mind the Sun’s rulerships of heart, brain, and vital energies. (Explanation here: https://tunesmyth.dreamwidth.org/1986.html) If this appeals to you, I invite you to join me.
What a confortable thought that our current Thought created to make us feel good: “We are smarter than our ancestors”!
Those acts made by so many modern moron slaves are a direct result of the inability of their Thought to not follow the instructions loaded since kindergarten.
People in Iceland are widely ridiculed (outside of Iceland) for their belief in “elves” or “hidden folk.” A recent poll of people in Iceland found a minority who actively disbelieved, a minority who actively believed and a vast majority who were not firmly in either camp but were willing to believe that they could be real, that they couldn’t completely discount them.
This in a country where the course of a major road was changed because roadbuilding through a particular area was meeting with a statistically-significant number of unexpected problems and an “elf expert” claimed that the planned road was going through an elf village (not that anyone saw anything which would look like a village, elfin or otherwise). They changed the course of the road, the problems abated and life moved on.
There’s also a neighborhood where one of the lots was left undeveloped because, according to someone, elves lived there and we should respect their residence if we want them to respect our residences.
This is also a country where the most populous city (Reykjavík) is near a major (if slumbering) volcano which could, under certain circumstances, wipe out said city in a single day. And where they routinely see the Northern Lights dancing overhead.
They have found crystalline stones, originally from Iceland, which would allow you to determine where the sun is on an overcast or foggy day, such that you can navigate by
the sun even when you can’t actually see the sun.
Are these things “mystical?”
Icelandic people have a slightly different outlook on life, due in no small part to these and the underlying factors behind them all. When you look up at the night sky and see dancing colors … or realize that the Earth could lay your entire city low and wipe out most of the population in a single day … that colors your perceptions. It tends to breed a certain kind of humility in the face of nature.
Yes, we can scientifically explain the Aurora Borealis. We can see it from the ISS. We can see something similar on other planets in our solar system. And yet, scientific explanation pales when you actually see these things for yourself. Yes, we do understand HOW they work but we’re lousy at predicting them and their behavior. Too much about them is either not-completely-understood or chaotic (ie based in feedback loops reacting to tiny, hard-to-quantify variations).
Too much of modern science is mankind attempting to bend nature to our will. Mysticism is recognizing that nature has will and that our attempts to bend it to our will … will run into some limits. Instead of attempting to dominate it and bend it to our will, we should be seeking ways to work in harmony with same. Understand it, sure, by all means, but acknowledge that we are not omniscient, that there are variables we have NOT quantified and those will keep things … mysterious … to some degree.
Not for nothing that the highest-grossing movie of all time (Avatar) is about a world and a race of beings where said beings can interface with the collective spirit of the world (Eywa) and other living creatures for harmony (riding various running / flying / swimming critters) or for destruction. One could argue that a great many human beings long for something of that nature (pardon the pun).
…and then there’s the observation that the overwhelming majority of people belive in scientific materialism the same way as any other enchantment: they take it on faith. I believe that millions of neutrinos are passing through my body as I write this. Where’s the evidence? Can I duplicate the experiments that indicate neutrinos exist? Yet neutrinos are “real” and wood spirits a superstition.
Can you explain what you are referring to here?
“One of those problems is the simple fact that the entire edifice of modern materialist science rests on assumptions about the nature of human knowledge that were disproved once and for all more than two hundred years ago.”
Having embarked on my own enchantment journey, it is certainly very difficult, I am finding a way to think of the things around me which makes sense to me and hope to over time see more of the forms I am envisioning in nature around me.
I’ve tried to imagine that there are layers above what I can see which manifest as streams of various form. So when I think of a forest I imagine that it is alive as an entity through these interconnected material and immaterial streams, there is of course what my senses see, but then there is what I sense from my past experiences, from historical, cultural, social, etc reference and each of these feed in to create that entity.
I’m not sure if this is right but I find I can apply this to anything material along with thoughts, ideas, and beliefs especially ones that have become collectively active and take on a life of their own all around us. Same with this disenchantment, which maybe is the stream of progress or however works best to view that energy, how that energy shifts, oscillates, and swings in response to attention etc.
Would be curious to know how others have found success viewing the world and peeling back the layers to more enchantment. I hope I am on a somewhat right path as it has been easier over time though admittedly it has not been very long.
Perhaps OT, or perhaps not, what do you make of the arguments in the recent American Conservative article Against Fertile Remains? I think that they are showing their Christian roots a little too strongly.
I’ve been waiting for this topic to come up here. This post is right on target for me as I am slowly making my way through Gebser’s “The Ever-Present Origin” and his model of the stages of the evolution of human consciousness. This also dovetails nicely with the High Magic tarot study and meditations arising from that.
I’m in, and thank you!
Oh! I get it I think. It’s the difference between the (low) Protestant view of communion as a meal of rememberance, symbolising our salvation; and the Catholic view of the Eucharist as being the real presence with real spiritual effects.
“Today’s Freemasons, gamely repeating archaic rituals because that’s what you do if you’re a Mason, think of themselves as symbolically and ritually laboring on King Solomon’s temple; medieval masons didn’t. The power of enchantment swept aside the miles and the years and placed them right there on the threshing floor King David bought from Ornan the Jebusite, hauling blocks of stone to build a temple to the God of Israel.”
Greetings all! JMG wrote: One of those problems is the simple fact that the entire edifice of modern materialist science rests on assumptions about the nature of human knowledge that were disproved once and for all more than two hundred years ago.
Can we have a quick recap of what you mean by the above? I think it will clear up much confusion. Thanks!
I sang about 5 of the Orphic Hymns I have adapted at an Open Mic last night. For those not in the know, they are ancient poems/musical prayers dedicated to the Greek gods that I have set to my own folk ditties, you can get lots of them for free at http://queeniemusic.bandcamp.com and they are now on Spotify. They went over surprisingly well. People actually started dancing to Apollo. Makes me think I will have to come up with longer versions with room for instrumental solos in the middle.
I was concerned they would be way too geeky for people. I was delighted to be proven wrong, at least for one night.
Yes! More George MacDonald, Catholic Church Eucharist, and less chronological snobbery. The more enchanting the better. In many ways I see Trump as the first ogre of the past to come crashing through the facade of the modern mindset. A sort of John Belushi (blutarski) in “Animal House” cutting up our modern conventions.
@Darkest Yorkshire: It’s always good to listen to one of the great bards of our age. And a proto-bard to the future epics to come. I’d say Eminem and a lot of rappers understand the function of satire to trash others reputations, boasts (his song Rapgod) and all of that.
Eminem really hit a nerve and has a lot to share. What a talent.
Listening to brain damage again, the underbeat / melody even has a little medieval vibe.
Speaking of Eminem… he really internalized the experience of rust belt deindustrializing America… his song Rock Bottom…
“But I work a sweat for this worthless check
Bout to burst this tech, at somebody to reverse this debt
Minimum wage got my adrenaline caged
Full of venom and rage
Especially when I’m engaged
And my daughter’s down to her last diaper…
My life is full of empty promises and broken dreams
I’m hoping things will look up
But there ain’t no job openings
I feel discouraged hungry and malnourished
Living in this house with no furnace, unfurnished
And I’m sick of working dead end jobs with lame pay
And I’m tired of being hired and fired the same day”
Well if the people are disenchanted, it’s their own damn fault!
Hello Mr. Greer, now that is interesting. Please let me explain.
I got attracted to magic just some months ago. Total newbie. Within the last few weeks I started guessing: “Ok, so maybe magic is the key to return meaning to the world and the things in it…? Could that be?”
I remember clearly that in my youth (I’m 56 now) everyday life was full of meaning and I felt enchantment outdoors or when listening to music. But over the years, those colours disappeared from my perception more and more. Bleak society probably took its toll.
People around me seem to be indifferent about a world being stripped of its meaning, but I’m not.
To me, your post is basically confirmation I’m on the right track. Thank you!
I had an idea that enchantment means to hear the song: en chantement. Like songlines in Australia, maybe. The singing of a living universe.
Then, dis- en chantement is to silence the singers. How dreary. No wonder people are so unhappy.
I think Iceland has it right (but a typo almost put it as Ickeland. Say no more).
I wonder about the role plastic and petroleum play in this.
IIRC, on a comment you noted that plastics were a ‘dead’ energy. Since then, I have been trying to de-plastic my life. Not that I was a fan before but it’s hard to avoid unless you make an effort sometimes.
Perhaps people and places with less plastic are more inclined to believe in things beyond the material world because on a certain level the energy they encounter is more alive than dead? Of course, if there are more astrologers than astronomers my theory doesn’t hold! But I know I feel more energy in less modern places and wondered if that scales up.
Parker, there’ll be a book, but I have to write it first. What you and my other readers will be getting here are the first drafts.
Clarke, I’m delighted to hear this. The whole point of rituals like the Passover seder is that yes, you are there in an utterly real sense, participating in the events crucial to your faith.
Fra’ Lupo, we’ll be getting to that.
Yorkshire, good! Yes, and we’ll be getting to that, too.
Liam, yes, exactly! The Mass telescopes time and space so that everyone is present and participating in the life of Christ. That’s something that all historically based religions do; ahistoric religions — the ones that don’t claim to derive from events that happened in historic time — reach not across the centuries but into the timeless, but the principle is the same. It’s all part of the consciousness of enchantment.
Pygmycory, thanks for this. That’s a lovely story.
Karalan, good. Will it break, or shake off the pressure and snap back?
Degringolade, hmm. Was it the comment thread on this post?
Delighted to hear that you’re giving BOTA a try. There’s a lot of good material in that tradition.
Clay, I’m glad it had that effect on you. I’m sorry to say it didn’t have that effect on me, and it may be worth talking about why.
David BTL, that’s an excellent point. It used to be quite common to talk about the way that so many people in the comfortable classes looked at their lives and thought, “I’ve done everything and achieved everything that’s supposed to count as success, so why does my life feel so empty?” The answers to that question turned out to be unacceptable to the status quo, and so such questions are strongly discouraged these days — but they’re still well worth asking.
Drhooves, I know. It’s very dispiriting. The only answer I ever found was to pick myself up and start heading for something better.
Edward, that’s typical James Randi, and yes, the frantic desire to make the world subject to the human will — and more specifically, to the will of the Smart People — is a core element of it.
Moose, until 1800 or so most Christians were Christian animists, so you’re in good company.
Waiting, yes, but it has wrinkles Spengler didn’t catch onto. We’ll be talking about that at length as we proceed.
Quin, many thanks for this.
Voza0db, I don’t see any point in insults such as “moron slaves” — humans gonna human, and the hard fact we all try not to deal with is that as a species, we’re not as bright as we like to think. But yes, a lot of what’s involved here is programming from schooling and the media.
Meower68, I have profound respect for the people of Iceland because they have the guts to ignore the catcalls of those who don’t know any better, and keep dealing in a courteous way with the nonhuman population of their island. I bet they come through the twilight of the modern age in much better shape than most other places. Your distinction between science and mysticism touches on a crucial point which we’ll be discussing in more detail as this series of posts proceeds.
Roldy, excellent! Yes, exactly.
Ynu8ipbnxu, of course. The entire system of modern science relies on the belief that it’s possible for the human mind to have direct objective access to the world via the senses, and that consciousness has only a purely passive role in the process of observation. Both those claims were disproved completely by Western epistemology beginning in the late 17th century and finally tossed into the trash basket by Kant, who showed that even so basic elements of the world we experience as space and time are conditions of consciousness rather than objective qualities “out there.” Nobody’s ever disproved Kant, or the epistemologists on which he based his arguments; the usual response instead has been to bluster “Well, I just don’t believe that!” and go on pretending that the world we experience through the senses is an objective reality — rather than a set of representations co-created by the observing mind in conjunction with a “reality as such” to which we have no unmediated access at all, and about which we can know very little for certain. But we’ll be talking about this in much more detail later in this sequence of posts.
John, yes, they’re showing their Christian biases, and — in a way embarrassingly familiar to those of us who’ve watched Christian media from outside — misreading their targets to make the kind of sense of them that furthers their argument. Maybe I’m sheltered, but I’ve never seen anyone talking about human composting primarily as a way of fertilizing plants; every discussion I’ve seen has talked, in language that seems very religious to me, of returning the body to Nature. They might as well claim that “Dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return” as a slogan circulated by vacuum salesmen.
Goldenhawk, I see you’re ahead of the game. I’ll be talking about Gebser shortly, though of course I’m going to be challenging what he has to say.
Alice, yes, very much so.
Karim, see my response to Ynu8ipbnxu just above.
Kimberly, hmm! I’m surprised, and delighted to hear this.
Dave, you know, the thought of describing Donald Trump as the Bluto of American politics really does work! Funny you’d mention “chronological snobbery” — I’ll be discussing that as we proceed.
Wqjcv, no, I’d like to suggest that it’s much more complex than that.
Michael, welcome to the journey. It’s a long road, but worth it.
Benn, good. Hold onto that thought.
PrayerGardens, that’s another factor, and an important one. Notice how the further something is taken from its natural form, the less life and enchantment you can feel it. There’s a general principle at work, which again, I’ll be discussing as we proceed.
I have no trouble believing that that more people are employed as astrologists than as astronomers, and I wanted to know the numbers. The obvious place to get the data is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://bls.gov. A Google search for “astrologer” site:bls.gov returns no pages (the quotes are needed to prevent Google converting astrologer to astronomer). A search on the bls website returns a few pages relating to job classification.
In the UK the Office of National Statistics, https;//ons.gov.uk, has Astrologer and Astronomer in successive rows (2175/2176) of the job classification spreadsheet (but still not found any employment numbers)
Is there an official government employment term for astrologers, which will return employment numbers?
The answer to this FOI request allows us to put an upper bound on the size of the astrology market
1997: I’m on a ship leaving Tokyo harbor bound for Auckland, NZ. Standing next to me is an aboriginal Australian whom I have just met a few days prior. As we pass under the Rainbow Bridge, which represents the end of the harbor and the entrance to the open sea, I reach in my pocket and toss a coin into the sea. The Aboriginal woman follows closely behind and tosses a coin also. Then she asks me why I tossed a coin. I explain that I believe it is good luck to do so and an offering, so to speak, to the ocean to offer us safe passage.
She says that makes sense because she tossed a coin for basically the same reason. She explains that in her culture they believe that each river is the embodiment of a snake. And it is common courtesy to let the snake know that you are there. So every time you approach a river they throw a stone into the river to let the snake know you are there.
I continue this practice to this day.
Haven’t filled up any rivers or lakes yet!
Thanks for the shout out last week. I’m on holidays at the moment and so have been busy, then relaxed, then busy again. There’s a lot to be done around here.
Zero chance. Sorry mate. By way of explanation, my grandmother took me to see the film Airport 77 when I was very young. As a brief synopsis of the film: Aircraft in the air. Aircraft in the water. Aircraft underwater. Aircraft re-floated. Lot’s of drama in between. That about sums it up, but as a consequence I hate air travel with a passion. That’s what early programming does to you. 🙂 I rarely travel more than an hours drive from here these days, but despite that, there’s plenty to see and do around these parts.
However, I’d be delighted to drop by and say hello to the group over the interweb thing and could even do a talk or a random question session. Such things are possible. 😉
I’ve always believed that Weber and his detractors are really talking about two different things. What really distinguishes an “enchanted” society from a “disenchanted” one is not practices by individuals, but the world-view in which those practices reside. People read their star forecasts, or even consult professional astrologers, go to church, believe in ghosts or whatever, but these are only isolated practices. The average person who experiments with Tarot cards doesn’t do so while seeing them as a manifestation of a much greater scheme of things.
If you read Dante, for example, there is a total world view, worked out in some detail, in which the Earth is at the centre of the universe, and all of human existence since the Creation is an enormous supernatural drama. Heaven, Hell and Purgatory are real physical places, and you can go there (indeed, you will.) If you read CS Lewis or EMW Tillyard they explain the world-view behind this far better than I can, but the essence is that a holistic world view (Shakespeare’s casual assumption that the health of the King and the health of the nation were basically indistinguishable, for example) has been replaced with effectively … well, nothing. The mechanistic Newtonian world view you describe, which science itself started to abandon a century ago, had a certain through-going bleakness that appealed to some, but the problem was that the world it described didn’t *mean* anything. And in the end, an enchanted world has meaning, whereas a disenchanted one, however full of individual beliefs and practices, does not.
„Imagine watching the sun rise in the morning, knowing, that the sun is a person who gazes down on the world as he or she travels from east to west through the sky.“
I took up planetary prayers last year, so… What do you mean by imagine?
But more to the point. In my environment it would be very awkward to come out as an !occultist! who not only !!believes!! in gods, but !!,talks to them!!!
Miso not know, here in my part of the good old Europe it is perhaps, in certain very select places, to express one’s acceptance of life energy. But beings! It gets awkward.
Yes, yes, yes! As a teen I had a Thomas the Rhymer moment–I felt as though I was looking at the thorny, cruel path of evangelical Christianity on one hand and the broad, dreary road of atheistic materialism on the other…and chose the winding, forested path of Enchantment (which I identified with Poetry, as well as with Magic and the reality of the Gods). It’s not easy to develop an enchanted eye in this culture, but I have been working on it ever since I made that choice. I am looking forward to the rest of these essays!
There’s a reason, I suspect, that some magical texts warn about sharing with those who a priori disbelieve in magic—perhaps it is as if this very unbelief is a “working” of dis-enchantment.
Should make for interesting reading…
For me there is a difference between enchantment in the “world full of gods” sense and enchantment in the “rituals are the real thing” sense.
I believe in nature spirits, ghosts, and other beings in the everyday world. I greet them, sometimes they greet me. My mother experiences them directly. To me, they are very real and they “enchant” my world significantly. I also believe that memory, trauma, emotion, and story lives on in places, and can be experienced directly by those who visit later. This is adds to my perception of an enchanted world.
However, I do not in any sense believe that a communion wafer is the *real* body of Christ or that Masonic initiation transports novices to the *real* Temple of Solomon. I believe that these rituals are symbolically meaningful, even symbolically enchanting, but I can’t make the leap of affording them the same level of reality as ghosts and nature spirits.
Hi John Michael,
An intriguing essay and theme. The current belief system requires its cohorts to err, believe. This is something of a problem, because it is my experience that the will can also be used to unveil. And it’s an ugly view.
Tell ya a funny story along those lines. I mentioned last week about battery problems. Well, the terminals on the battery have been running hot. Most true believers in technology will look at such a device and with great reverence say ‘ooo, battery’ as if that is enough. Well it ain’t. Being the crafty and resourceful person that I am, I pulled the battery casing open and discerned the problem. The copper wires from the battery brain were soldered to the battery terminal. Most people might think to themselves, so what? Well, the wires are copper. The solder used to join them to the terminal are tin and lead. The terminal itself is aluminium. The bolt which screws into the terminal is stainless steel. And the wires and lugs from there are copper. Now each of those metals conduct electricity differently so little wonder that electricity is being converted into heat. I do have a plan to fix all that, but I shouldn’t have to do this work.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that most people have faith in ‘battery’. I don’t share that faith. The technology just isn’t all that great. But the faith is there in the wider population. They’re wrong but do they want to unveil?
I think I came pretty close to enchantment as a child when I read the book, Watership Down, by Richard Adams. I so wanted to talk to the rabbits in ‘their language’ after that. I contrast that with another book I read, The Lord of the Flies. The boys turned a dead pilot into a monster that had to be placated with sacrifices. Without getting into all the allegory of the tale, the not so subtle take away to my 12 year old self was that enchantment was ‘bad’ in contrast to having a rational and material view of the world. Now that I think about it, I would be willing to bet you could make quite an interesting blog post about Golding’s book.
Hello JMG! So glad to have discovered your latest work through a friend. I certainly enjoyed and have used the information I learned from you in long ago Seattle. I look forward to reading your blog and posts in echosphia! And special greetings to S as well!
Great article JMG. I have looked in depth at our evolution away from enchantment, and that is also a fascinating journey, albeit one with a dead end. The age of reason and the enlightenment, Shakespeare helping to move us away from our spiritaul immersion, ‘all the worlds a stage’. The Pre Raphaelite perspectivism that was a definite alienating step that gave rise to the vampire and gothic tales as our spirits became more agitated and disenfranschised.
The horrific wars culminating in the technological great leap forward, the apotheoisis being the first images of the earth from outside. Kubrick took this a step further with the star child in 2001. Crowley and his acolytes like David Bowie kelt pushing this as far and as hard as they could, by the way. Various scientist mutations like Parsons and scientology. Then we have the UFO cult and the ALIEN movies as old stone castles dont cut it any more. Terminator and the rise of the machines, SKYNET ARPA NET DARPANET and the genesis of the totalitarian surveillance state, more war. Endless war. With social media our alienation is near total and complete, the exasperated Gods having to resort to more and more desperate means to gain our attention. The twisted elites who control the system their most ardent dark acolytes.
Wrong way, Go Back ! Thanks please take us deeper into the verdant woods with their cool pools and forested glades, back towards the center. Thankyou.
I am wondering about enchanted and disenchanted modes of reading, especially of texts that are supposed to speak to something higher than just the rational mind – holy books, some branches of philosophy (such as Plato’s), myths, fairy tales …
The following assumptions seem plausible to me:
1) When we read such texts, or listen to them being spoken, then, provided we take the right attitude to them, they do much more to us than convey the information we consciously take in.
2) This “more”, whatever it is, works better when we are in the direct presence of the person who has it living inside themselves. That is, actually listening to Christ relating one of his parables in the 1st century AD has a much more powerful effect than reading the very same text in a 21st century AD seminar room, and so on.
From this point of view, an enchanted mode of reading, where we are really in some sense in the personal presence of Plato or Christ or Lao Tsu, in their own times and places, could do other things than a disenchanted mode, where we think: “Everything we have is this text as it is presented to us now, and this is what we need to make sense of.”
Does that sound reasonable? Is there maybe something like this in occult theory or practice?
@Mark L (#36), as JMG indicates, the reason for this is our understanding of what is “real.” For the materialists, only matter is real, with our ideas and attendant language “emerging” from that. For enchantment, however, the opposite is true: it is the ideas and the hidden forces that are real, with matter emanating from their interplay. The physical a shadow of the ideal…this is something our age struggles mightily with.
As a recovering materialist, I am thrilled that you are coming back to this thread and look forward to seeing more on the Unicorn, the Phoenix, and the Dragon.
Thanks very much for posting!
P.S. I am experimenting with a formatting tag for wordpress comments here, apologies if it causes any problems.
So after we arrive in Auckland, safely, although we did hit 30 foot waves on the edge of a typhoon… After spending two weeks hanging out on board with some Tongans, Fijians, Aussies, Kiwis and Muari, I end up on a sightseeing trip to One Tree Hill. One Tree Hill is a park on the south of Auckland with,as the name implies, ONE tree on it. Looking down from the hill I notice lots of stone writings like “I love you” written by piling stones like an SOS message on the beach. About 6 ft big letters. I go down the hill and make a peace sign. Then wander around the area. I have “visions”, for lack of a better word, of Red Coats and Mauris fighting each other. Including, and I am picturing him in my mind right now, a Mauri Chief twirling poi around his head to throw at a British Soldier. (Poi were outlawed by the British for men to use after the wars were over. Which is why women usually still use them today for ceremony etc. I only learned this later though.) It felt like I was LITERALLY in the middle of a battle. Redcoated soldiers in the trenches. Mauri soldiers all around them.
It was weird for sure. Especially as an avowed Atheist at the time.
So that night we go back to the ship for a big fancy cocktail party. (This was a Ship for World Youth cruise ship for international exchange, hence the different nationalities represented.) Because this is an Official Japanese government program there were many dignitaries there. Embassadors, the Mayor of Auckland, Minister of Foreign Affairs for NZ, etc. (No USA embassy representative though, which was pretty sad…) So I am with my Mauri friend Brian, we had been spending nights on the ship playing guitar together and other stuff(drinking…) And he introduced me to this old Mauri and his daughter. He calls her a princess and him a Chief(Elder?). The elder doesn’t speak English so the Princess is translating, so everything that happens next has pauses for translation and lots of looks in between translations. We talk for a bit and I mention that I had been at One Tree Hill that day and that I had this vision today. Everyone in our group gets very quiet and they are all looking at me. The “Chief” takes my hand and asks me where I’m from. I explain I’m American. He says how do you know of this. I explain that the best I can say is that it was a vision… I really don’t know New Zealand/Mauri history… He says that One Tree Hill is a sacred place of the Mauri and a battle against the British happened there. We talked for more after that but that is the important part.
I learned that One Tree Hill had a “British” tree, which was spiked heavily, and that the Mauri had been trying to cut it down with chainsaws. They wanted to replace it with a native tree.
This was back in 1997. Looking up the history of one tree hill (yes, the U2 song is after this hill). I see it has been given back to the Mauri people. Someone was successful in cutting down the tree and now the native tree is growing again.
Can’t find the battle that happened there though, but I can still catch glimpses of the event in my head….
Derek, a great many people who make their living in the occult field do so “under the radar” and go out of their way not to be noticed by authorities; there are still jurisdictions, or so I’m told, where 20th century laws making astrology illegal (as a form of fraud or confidence game) are still on the books, and even where they’re not, bad memories last long. (Many of us know that those laws could come back at the drop of a hat.) So I’m not sure how accurate your figures will be.
Orion, thanks for this! One of the things that’s always interested me is the extent to which drastically different cultures have such similar magical practices.
Aurelien, good. What happens, though, when you have a significant number of people in a disenchanted society who nonetheless have a fully enchanted worldview — people who do read tarot cards as a manifestation of the greater scheme of things, and so on? That’s the situation we’re in, as I see it; the mere fact that the worldview splashed across the corporate media is disenchanted doesn’t make that worldview universal…
Marko, oh, granted. That’s the fascinating thing about people’s reaction to occultism. Many people are okay with it as long as it’s just impersonal forces, but if there are persons involved, they shriek and run away.
Sister Crow, that’s a fine bit of symbolism.
Fra’ Lupo, hmm! That’s a good point.
Mark L, interesting. Is the difference between the spirits you encounter and, say, the divine presence in a communion wafer a function of time, then? Too many years since Calvary? Or what?
Chris, ha! Excellent. No, and there’s very good reason they don’t want to unveil.
Keno, Golding’s book is about as far over on the disenchantment side of things as you can get. As it happens, I loathe it.
Diane, good heavens — long time no (electronic equivalent of) see. I trust all’s well with you and yours, and I’ll certainly pass on your greetings.
The Matter, wasn’t it Heraclitus who said that the road up and the road down are the same? Stay tuned; it’s going to ge a long strange trip.
Robert K, there’s something like that as close as any child who’s ever gotten lost in a story — or any adult, for that matter. I’ll consider a post on this, because it makes a great example.
Jeff, so far it comes through very clear.
Orion, thanks for this. A very good example of enchantment bridging time!
I’m a physics teacher. A few weeks ago I overheard two older students discussing their experience with another teacher who asked them to “write down what they believe”. They were very reluctant to fulfill the request, as I heard. One said to the other: “What should I write? I believe in biology and in physics and … in principle science can explain everything, except what happened very early on.” The two are attending my physics class and are possibly among the smartest heads attending our school. It’s fun to teach them but it also makes me a little bid sad sometimes.
A few days later I read the headline of some science article where some scientist told us that it just might be possible to solve “the last mysteries” and even if there are singularities this must not mean that it is impossible to find equations AAAND (drum-roll): If we have an equation we finally have understood it. No more mystery, yay!
The scientist and the students both share the same mindset. The vast majority of “rational people” does. I did, some time ago, at least superficially. I had a key moment when another student showed me a masters thesis of a friend who studied computer sciences. He was able to create an algorithm that could calculate how a pool of water looks like when light shines through the cringed surface in much less time than it’s preceding algorithm. With limited resolution, of course. Well, nature does this for every tiny drop of water in any place everywhere in the universe in everyy direction with unlimited resolution (at least from a human point of view) in real time at every moment. How’s that?
We have equations, yes, but we don’t have natural laws. Nobody has ever seen a natural law. Every tiny part of space has the potentiality to become anything*. The “natural laws”, all of them, whatever they may be, are all present in every cubic inch of the cosmos at any time. We’re talking of the laws of nature as if it was possible to grasp them if we only found the right equation. Even if we have an equation, we can do next to nothing with it, as the pool of water algorithm shows.
From my point of view, there’s no disenchantment. Not even in the material world. The material world is an absolutely mysterious and unimaginable place full of wonders that is also perfectly capable of providing form and substance to the wonders that lie beyond for us to perceive. But many of us who inhabit it have our eyes closed and are afraid to open them. And if you have lived in the dark for such a long time, it hurts to open your eyes and you are afraid. And you are afraid that the omniscience you saw right before you will turn out to be the mirage that it is and that you are alone in the desert and don’t know where to go.
How did so many of us get into this godforsaken state? That I don’t know, but I am looking forward for what you are going to write on this matter.
*Ok, I might be wrong with that one, but at least it looks like… 😉
Ah and a small tale of an enchanted place: Some time ago I visited the ruin of a large castle in Germany. I walked through what was a door into a larger chamber of the castle. In the moment I passed the hole in the wall, I had the feeling that the space around me was different and powerful. A few moments later I realized that I was standing in what was the castle’s chapel. It was almost as if I could see the chapel with its roof and windows intact around me. The altar was gone but you could still feel where it was. It was a beautiful experience, but strange. I don’t know what they did there or how they did it, but they seem to have been very capable. Of note might also be that this castle was very important for the wider region and – unlike so many other castles – came under siege several times and always prevailed until very late in the 30years war, when it was finally destroyed.
I’m an actor, among other things, and quite a few years ago I had my first movie role, playing a medieval peasant in a small independent film. We were shooting on a farm deep in rural South Carolina. During a break I wandered off the set and found myself separated from everyone by small stand of trees. I was on the edge of a long very rough mown meadow with woods along each side and a dirt tractor trail running through it. I was dressed in a very authentic ragged version of medieval peasant clothes, my hands and face daubed with “dirt.” Aside from having showered that morning, I *was* as much a man of the time as I could be and I had spent a long morning trying as hard as I could to become him. I had been a Neo Pagan for several decades and was no stranger to enchantment but that really played no conscious part in my suddenly realizing how perfect the moment was and looking down at the grass and thinking, “What was it like to not know why the grass grows… or the sun shines… or why the sky is blue? And not needing to know.”
Suddenly, I was there. For around five minutes, I was that peasant. My 20th century “self” became the dream and the young medieval farmhand was real. What made it so memorable that it still moves me today was the fact that I didn’t feel as oppressed as I think I would have assumed I would be, if I had thought of it beforehand. Ignorance was not a sinking down. It was an opening up. Suddenly the world came alive and …enchanted. The fatigue of a long day on set lifted and I felt alive and free in a way I rarely ever have. The grass shimmered in the sun. The trees danced in the breeze. I was one with a glorious world. After a few minutes, I looked up and saw an airliner high in the sky and the 20th century fell down on me like a 50 pound weight on my shoulders. I don’t think modernity and enchantment can every fully coexist but remembering how to be enchanted will be our only salvation when modernity inevitably fails us.
“Is the difference between the spirits you encounter and, say, the divine presence in a communion wafer a function of time, then?”
That’s an interesting question. For me there are two separate phenomena here.
The first is enchantment allowing awareness of a larger reality than the physical, material world, but that exists in the same time and space. That is the world of ghosts and nature spirits and the unexplained-by-science forces that guide astrology and divination and energy healing. This all feels real to me.
The second, following on Orion’s story and your response, is enchantment bridging across space and time. Thinking about the way I experience the world, for me it is possible to bridge space OR time but not both at once. Which is to say that I could much more readily believe that the communion wafer is the body of Christ if I were at the physical location of the Last Supper. I certainly won’t claim that bridging time and space at once is impossible; to me opening that possibility makes the world too chaotic and formless – “anything anywhere any time” in a sense – so that is probably a limitation I have chosen to impose on the world through my own filters.
IIRC correctly the French word enchanter refers to a kind of magical singing?
All this makes me think of the ongoing Flat Earth revival. Many “flerfers” say that the secret purpose of the globe earth model (and “space program”) is to blind us to the existence of God and/or other lands, hiding just over the Antarctic ice wall. Many also believe in the Tartarian mud floods, that mountains are really the corpses of giant beasts, etc.YouTube demonetized and stopped promoting such videos a few years ago, probably out of concern for “conspiracy theories” (FE implies a cover-up), and a number of anti-FE channels have appeared (indeed thrived): SciManDan, ConspiracyCats, etc. (which is what YouTube will show you if you search for FE). Normies, it seems, love to make fun of this stuff.
Do you think there will ever come a time when both the worlds of magick and science can come together? Or is the rift already too great to ever fully recover from?
Re “So what happened? What was it that broke the enchantments that made the world what it was to our ancestors, and brought in the very different consciousness that most people nowadays think of as normal and natural?”
Wonderful essay in so many ways JMG. Thanks so much.
First thing I do these days in response to such questions is to check out the etymology of words so I can better know what I am saying. I tend to associate “enchantment” with “miracles”, which for me are those tiny, wonderful, daily events that enable life to exist.
Note how “enchantment” arises (from PIE root *en “in”) + cantare “to sing” (from PIE root *kan- “to sing”). Figurative sense of “allurement” is from 1670s. . Figurative sense of “allurement” is from 1670s. Compare Old English galdor “song,” also “spell, enchantment,” from galan “to sing,” which also is the source of the second element in nightingale.
Note how miracle arises from mirus “wonderful, astonishing, amazing,” earlier *smeiros, from PIE *smei- “to smile, laugh” (source also of Sanskrit smerah “smiling,” Greek meidan “to smile,” Old Church Slavonic smejo “to laugh;” see smile (v.))
The child of five, which exists within each of us, embraces this reality in compassionate way. So what happens to us as we become adults? Perhaps it is helpful to understand the physics of our psyche? All things exist as finite balances of complementary forces, including our psyche. In any moment of our self-awareness there can be seen to arise two complementary forces: an exclusive, alienating, acquisitive force (the ego, “I”) and an inclusive, connective, generous force (compassion). We exist according to the relative balance of these two forces.
Information being physical, it is subject to the principles of physics and so we are our language.
We can see this truth manifest in the radical change in the English language occurring simultaneously with the advent of the English Combustion Revolution i.e the radical belief all the biomass of the planet exists to be burned for the benefit of The Crown, which is the merchant-bankers of the City of London.
Such lethal delusions prevail when we lack sufficient compassion and the ego can easily dictate our lives.
This imbalance of the English psyche is reflected in the Crown dialect of English, in which a multitude of wonderful words have been stripped of compassionate meaning.
“Energy”, the universal potential, all of which is active, is redefined in exclusive way as “fossil fuel” and conflated with “power”.
“Warming”, the continuous, life-enabling thermal process that balances the continuous cooling process of anything, is both defined as a malignant process and conflated with “warming-up”, thereby denying the essential change of state when temperatures change. See my essay at https://tinyurl.com/59vfvzx6
“Carbon”, a basic building block of life, is demonized and we are exhorted to live a “Zero Carbon” existence and work for a “Post Carbon” future.
“”Conspiracy”, the wonderful, profound sharing of the breath, is redefined in exclusive way as “malicious theory”.
In brief, lacking sufficient compassion, we of the Anglosphere now speak a language of self-hatred invoking misery and dystopia. That which once filled us with a sense of joyous song, laughter and so much wonder now invokes sensations of unrequitable desire and eternal alienation.
PS The word “miracle” took me to Old English “wundortacen”, “wundorweor”, which in turn took me to “wonder worker”, which in turn took me to this quote:
“Mao’s words from the 1961 poem Reply to Comrade Kuo Mo-Jo “Today, a miasmal mist once more rising, we hail Sun Wu-kung, the wonder-worker”, which in turn introduced me to the fascinating world of the legendary Sun Wukong https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monkey_King
You are probably familiar with this great myth JMG.
Oh this is good stuff! I could read a whole book about this. You express it so clearly and elegantly. I must admit I live in the enchanted world you are discussing, or something very like it, a great deal of the time these days. I find myself increasingly ill-at-ease with many “normal” assumptions and standard ideas of modern society and the sciences. I talk with trees, I ask the spirits of the land and various gods/goddesses for help (and have truly felt their help), and I even thank my appliances, machines, and vehicles for their hard work. I know there’s almost nowhere I can discuss these things without being labelled mentally ill. But I’ve gotten more help from the subjective and enchanted world of nature and spiritual dimensions than I have from the disenchanted science-y world with their drugs and poisons and pat answers that didn’t help me. Please don’t think I’m claiming to understand it all, or to have a complete worldview to expound. I’ve simply spent the last few years experiencing some of the enchantment that you’ve mentioned. I don’t really follow a specific magical path and haven’t chosen a clear direction there. I’ve been trying to learn more about the Red Road and shamanic belief systems, as that seems closest to where I’m heading. We’ll see.
I feel like the timing of your initial dive was right when germ theory was giving way to terrain theory
Buidling on Orion’s comment re the Mauri (sic), a friend recently started learning Maori (the language) as it is an official language in New Zealand alongside English and Sign. He commented that unlike all the other languages he’d learned and studied, the starting vocabulary was not about physical objects, place and directions but rather about people, identity and connections. Words like ‘turangawaewae’ which is a noun meaning a sense of identity and independence associated with having a particular home base. As the Maori languages weaves its way further into NZ’s Paheka (non-Maori) culture I fell the country is regaining some of its enchanted past.
Speaking of the Eucharist or communion. Years ago I had an encounter during an Episcopal or Anglican service. It was was Transfiguration Sunday where Christ’s light filled Transfiguration is remembered. After the reading from a gospel of the account of the event I said to myself, “I wonder what that light was like?” As part of the preparation for communion the version of the rite used that day had the congregation say the prayer, “Risen Lord be known to me in the breaking of the bread” As I said the prayer it was accompanied in me by that lively touch of the Holy Spirit found with prayer that will be answered. Later the priest held up the large round loaf of bread and as he broke it in half, from the v shaped space between the two halves, invisible but felt and present, liquid and weighty light poured out, time stopped, intense holiness and purity. I dropped my eyes in respect and knew from then on that Christ was present with the bread and wine
The death of pop science occurred the day President Biden held a press conference praising the latest deep-space photos from NASA. Contrary to Biden’s glowing optimism (reported diligently by mass media), the photos added nothing to the knowledge of outer space. If anything, they only proved that the universe is unfathomably large.
As I posted a few weeks ago, I feel that I am a new prophet of Transcendentalism 😁… And yes, my ego is involved in that statement! Lol
That said, I found these two sermons by the Unitarian Transcendental minister Theodore Parker which, while long, I think are worth the read. (Except for some of his thoughts on “progress”…)
Would love to hear your thoughts on his ideas JMG!
John, I cannot say how excited about this series I am. Enough for me to come out of the woodwork I suppose. So many lose their sense of wonder as children. Sad really. I wasn’t one of them, but I did have to go underground, keeping my thoughts and experiences about the world as I saw it to myself.
Keno #42 Oh my goodness! Watership Down gave me nightmares as a child. I don’t know if anyone else had the same experience.
Neutrinos vs wood sprites, now there is a notion.
Physicists went looking for neutrinos because they were sure they had to exist from a mathematical perspective. And they found them. Then neutrinos turned out to be more complicated than expected and the arguing is still going on.
To prove out wood sprites you need a reason they have to exist, then use that trap them, or at lest get clear evidence they are there. Something has to either happen or not happen due to wood sprites. An interesting thought experiment in itself, but an actual measurable effect is needed.
As for the ascendance of scientific materialism, it’s not hard to explain. It was better than magic/enchantment/religion at keeping bellies full and kids alive. The Church never recovered from the Black Death, the more devout the priest the more likely he was to die tending the sick. The cardinals who walled themselves up and offered no help to the commoners had a better chance of living. This is the opposite of what scripture promised.
Praying didn’t work, astrology failed, alchemy failed, the wood sprites failed, so people went looking for something that worked better.
Reads first paragraph then goes back and re-reads the linked post…
After reading the linked post goes back and re-reads the post on the next 10 Billion years…
Ok – back to the current post 🙂
Part of the problem for the average ‘modern’ is that we expect to be able to stand aside from the world and have it comport to our desires independent of our personal participation … that we are effectively the fulcrum upon which all that is relevant in the universe turns (while ignoring their own internal sence of displacement, powerlessness, and helplessness) To engage in a work where you not only have to dedicate yourself but where *you* are one of the things that is changed and where you have to choose beforehand to accept those changes without knowing what they will precisely be and where you have to accept that there are elements out there that are beyond and/or superior to you … well that is a kind of an adjustment!
VERY much looking forward to where this arc of posts will head btw 🙂
I am a catechumen at my local orthodox church, several years ago i was “caught” by Jesus Christ and searched for the church that was in my way of thinking the most authentic, the most organic, and orthodox Christianity was the only choice.
I realize now that what made it so authentic to me was that it was the most enchanted expression of Christianity that I could have chosen. – an embodied form of Christianity that is mystical at its core. During the Divine Liturgy i am in the presence of the holy and i am in the presence of truth and beauty in a culture that is permeated with lies and ugliness.
I am attempting as much as possible to leave behind the “flat secular materialism” that I was raised in (I was an atheist most of my life) and embrace and recognize the spiritual reality that is all around me, it appears to me that real Christianity is very weird and i find this to be very wonderful- what passes for normal in this culture is toxic.
As this evil culture devolves all around me, I find this becomes paradoxically- easier, it is just so blatant, the fruit of the post enlightenment rational mind so bitter.
I affirm the truth claims of my religion, but i believe that any religion or belief system that says “no” to the lie of this culture, the scientism, the materialism, is telling a truth and all truth is of God. may we all see an end to the disenchanted and evil world system.
may all of you be well. You have my respect Mr. Greer- please keep doing what you are doing.
Although I studied and worked in a explicitly materialist profession, I am a geologist, my experience and Christian faith tell me that we are spiritual creatures. God, or the gods, will graciously allow foolish humans to turn their backs on the spiritual realm. Then, when things don’t work out so well, the spiritual realm will ask us: How’s that working out for you, buddy.
I believe that this is where we’re at in Western Civ. We are now having to face the consequences of adopting a materialistic view of the world, and as you point out, those consequences – rising rates of suicide and substance abuse – are not pleasant to behold.
I look forward to upcoming post on enchantment/ disenchantment. Thanks John
I have a small piece of Iceland crystal and I find it to be magical. A candle flame creates colored lights inside the stone, like a little aurora borealis.
Your post reminds me of Arthur Koestler’s ‘Roots of Coincidence’ with his similar analysis of parapsychology and strange coincidences/premonitions. I may have a scientific answer to such seemingly magical behavior and it has to do with the Many Worlds theory of Hugh Everett (III). If the world exists as a multiverse with a forth spacial dimension as a probability space caused by quantum splitting, then people’s consciousness could (on occasion) move between the various layers and allow for the coincidences and strange behavior that would be very improbable if there was only one universe. It would also allow for premonitions to occur (occasionally) as Everett’s model could also allow for time travel.
Aurelian #36 – The bit that struck me about your comment was the reference to the Newtonian worldview as a source of disenchantment. This reminds me of Uwe TellKamp’s Der Turm (2006?, translated as The Tower, I think) which tells the story of an East German family just before the fall of the wall. My interpretation of it is that the occupations of the males of the family are the key. The grandfather was a clockmaker (ie Newtonian worldview) who saw Communism as a task of tinkering with society and getting the mechanics right. The father was a surgeon (a pathological? worldview), who saw Communism as a body that needed keeping alive and the odd unhealthy bit excised. The uncle was a writer who saw the problem with Communism as being all about finding the right words. And the son finds himself blocked from his chosen career path and ending up getting courtmartialed during his compulsory service and imprisoned (ie. Communism for him was about doing as you’re told, however crazy, else loss of freedom).
“Keno, Golding’s book is about as far over on the disenchantment side of things as you can get. As it happens, I loathe it.”
Which is why the plot of the novel in question might make a good ‘example’ when you examine “the origins of today’s disenchanted world and the attitudes that shape it.” Nevertheless, I am very much looking forward to your further posts on this topic and am grateful in advance for them!
Crazy to think that Robert Anton Wilson’s essay was published in 1980 – 40 years ago and feels like it could have been written yesterday
A Calvinist pastor that I know says that quite a lot of people come to him with tales of their experiences of ghosts, miracles, vivid voices and/or visions, and so on (i.e. religious/supernatural/paranormal) phenomena, but the same folks don’t discuss these things in polite company so that people won’t think of them as being crazy.
Personally, as a practicing Roman Catholic, I experience prayers getting answered all the time in small but in often rather uncannily precise ways that a “rationalist skeptic” might call a “coincidence”. I have *never* experienced any kind of spectacular phenomenon like those, but I believe them from the sheer amount of second-hand testimony.
For example, I know of a certain place that’s allegedly haunted, that I *believe* to be haunted even though I’ve never seen/experienced any such phenomena. The reason is very simple. Several people have told me, who a) were complete strangers to the place, b) have testimonies that are more or less consistent with each other, c) have not spoken with any of the other people who allegedly saw the phenomenon (e.g. they don’t know the other “seers” and be visiting some time apart, often years, from each other), and d) have no reason for me to believe that they are lying or even just embellishing.
“Eyewitness testimony…”, “the plural of anecdote…”, “extraordinary claims…”, blah blah blah the “skeptics” would say. A sane person would call that, whatever else that thing is, a ghost!
Siliconguy #66 wrote:
“To prove out wood sprites you need a reason they have to exist, then use that trap them, or at lest get clear evidence they are there. Something has to either happen or not happen due to wood sprites. An interesting thought experiment in itself, but an actual measurable effect is needed.”
Well the ancients practiced things like making offerings to land, singing to springs, and the like. They found the land was more fertile when they did so. But thinking that you have to capture or force creatures or beings to do things through experiments instead of cooperation seems like the precisely wrong attitude to take towards proving these sorts of thing.
I would suggest the talk “Enchanting the Fertile Landscape” by Patrick MacManaway if you would like to hear about this sort of cooperative relationship being employed / tested effectively in the more modern world. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZR6FxBh-Paw&ab_channel=GatekeeperTrust
Perhaps there are some parts of nature (visible or invisible) that can be forced to human will (though with consequences, sometimes quite bad ones), and some more animated parts of the natural world that cannot or will not. Like the age old argument that dogs are better than cats because they can be forced to obey, while cats will only engage in reciprocal relationships. (I don’t believe this argument, personally.) Perhaps a better analogy is that humans have found a way to cut down forests and change entire ecosystems, but have not found a way to make the weather obey their whims. (This doesn’t feel quite right either. Analogies are rarely perfect!)
I noticed that take on the world when I moved to a little town in the mountains of Japan. Back in the US, I thought of nature as a lot of things: majestic, beautiful, vast, mysterious, perhaps in need of protection. Here, though, nature is frightening; if you turn your back on it it’ll get you. It’s all humans can do to hold nature at bay where we carve out a little space for our towns. And the woods are full of magical creatures that love to play tricks on us.
Your mention of parapsychology reminded me of reading Upton Sinclair (beyond just The Jungle, of course). In his sprawling Lanny Budd series (of over 3 million words), he interacts with former characters, who are often historical, through a medium.
Though this is mostly just an interesting way to move the plot, he diverts into endless speculation of whether or not what is happening is “real” or if it can be “explained” by other, unknown phenomena. When he does, he constantly references the kind of parapsychological studies you mention.
One day, I’ll have to (first find, and then) wade into his book Mental Radio, just to get an at least second-hand introduction to these studies.
Thanks for the reminder!
Nacht: A guy I know is in AA. For all here who don’t know AA, the key to the program is to have a spiritual awakening. So this guy had to find God in order to stop drinking.
So he’s a math professor at a small college. He has spent the last 25 years attempting to prove that God exists using math.
I honestly have to say, “Respect!”
And, to be clear this bit of “magic” works for him and he has stayed sober as a result.
But really highlights what you are talking about.
I was always really good at figuring out what the teachers and the world wanted as answers. It wasn’t what I really thought.
That’s what the system demands. Really those two students were being completely rational to realize that that question about what they believe was really probably the biggest test in that class they faced. They were just trying to fit in and actually have a chance with a career.
If they said that they believed that they could use math to prove the existence of god where do you think they would be?
JMG – I was sort of curious about the evidence for the number of astronomers and astrologers, so I asked Google: “find an astrologer near me”. And, sure enough, there were plenty of links, even a “top 10 astrologers in the Washington DC area”. Then, I tried “find an astronomer near me”, and I found links to amateur astronomy clubs, the US Naval Observatory, and the U of MD Astronomy Department, but these “professional astronomer” links don’t scale across the country, do they?
Some years ago, I went to a public lecture about the hazards of near-Earth asteroids, and the speaker asserted that if you took all of the people on Earth engaged in the search for near-Earth asteroids, they wouldn’t be enough to staff a single McDonald’s restaurant. And if one points out that McDonald’s is a more clear and present danger to the population than some distant ball of rock, so of course more people would be involved, I’ll remind you that workers at McDonald’s increase the risk.
Paul R. – Not only is the universe unfathomably large, since it takes so very many years for light to cross it, but it’s unfathomably empty, since very little disturbs such light on its millions of years of travel. Look across a landscape, and you may see green hills a mile away, and blue mountains ten miles away, but already that light from the mountains is being scattered and absorbed. Just the way light from a distant galaxy doesn’t!
Liam and JMG
This is very interesting re the Mass … one of the typical Protestant objections to the Mass is that it is a re-sacrificing of the Christ each time and Heb 10:12, 7:27 indicates that the sacrifice was made once and for all time and therefore the Roman Catholics were being anti-biblical and therefore wrong. If the Mass is instead a portal to an indeed one time sacrifice that is re-visited each time then that objection loses much of its power.
Any of your readers who are interested in the ideas in this post will probably find it well worth their time to read/listen to/watch some of Jonathan Pageau’s work. His website can be found at https://thesymbolicworld.com/, and he is a prolific youtuber and podcaster and has a presence on a bunch of other social media as well.
Nachtgurke, no one person can replicate every experiment on which the modern scientific worldview is based, and the foundations of that worldview — for example, the conviction that nature obeys invariant laws — can’t be proved by any logic or evidence whatever. (Equally, of course, they’re just as resistant to disproof.) So belief is not merely reasonable, it’s inescapable. As for why so many of us believe what we believe, why, that’s something I plan on discussing at quite some length as we proceed.
Btidwell, fascinating. I’ll have a story about that in a later post.
Mark L, fair enough. I propose to talk at some length about the way that the conception, and perception, of a physical universe fixed in linear time and rectilinear space has been constructed over historical time; I’ll be interested to see how you respond to that.
Njura, it does indeed; it’s cognate to the English word “chant.” Enchantment is literally putting a song into something.
Bei, yes, I caught onto some of that while I was researching the Tartarian Empire for a post a while back. The rise of the “flerfers” is a sign I’ve been watching carefully. Normies can make fun of this stuff all they like; I’ll quote myself, from that post: “the future is always born on the irrational fringes of society, bursting forth among outcasts, dreamers, saints, and fools. It then sweeps inward from there, brushing aside the daydreams of those who thought they could make the world do as they pleased.”
Michael, it’s much more complex than a simple interaction between those two. The very short form — we’ll get to the longer form in due time — is that yes, they’ll find common ground, but it won’t be quite the same science, or quite the same magic.
Dave, er, who is it that belongs to this “we” whose speech you define in such sweeping terms? Hint: all linguistic meaning is always contested…
A, it’s precisely because you don’t try to understand it all that you’re able to enter into it. One way further in is simply to let it guide you — as you seem to be doing.
Jonathan, good. Yes, that’s a nice synchronicity.
MrPlod, fascinating. I don’t know the first thing about any of the Polynesian languages, and may see if I can change that someday.
Moose, thanks for this. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I’ve encountered a great many stories along these lines, from just about every religious and magical tradition I know of.
Paul R., oh, I hope so. Pop science is so dreary.
Orion, thanks for this, but it may be a while before I have time to give them a read. I’m up to my eyeballs in books on the philosophy of history right now!
Aubrey, a lot of people take their experiences underground like that; I certainly did. One of the things I like about occultism is that it creates a space where one can talk about such things.
Siliconguy, yes, that’s the common modern mythology on the subject. Do you happen to know how many centuries elapsed between the Black Death and the scientific revolution, and what happened to religious faith and magic during those centuries? I encourage you to do some research; the results might just shake your faith in the current mythos…
Dreamer, ding! We have a winner. Exactly; the great transformation in worldviews that ended the Renaissance and brought the modern world into being can be neatly described as the decapitation of the cosmos: nothing greater than human beings was allowed to exist — well, except for the Christian god, and he was locked up in the attic and only allowed to shout moral preachments down the stairs on Sundays. We’ll talk about this in a later post.
Stephen, I’m delighted to hear this. Yes, real Christianity is surpassingly weird, and that’s its great strength. Un-weird Christianity is a parody of a faith.
Raymond, exactly. It’s a process that recurs at regular intervals in history, as I hinted in the post, and quite a bit can be learned by watching that process in other examples.
Bob, that is to say, you have a mental model into which you can fit experiences that many scientific theories can’t cope with. That can be useful, but it’s also crucial to remember that every model is just a model, and the model is not the reality it seeks to describe — the map is not the territory.
Keno, I’ll keep that in mind, but I’d have to read the thing again and that’s not a prospect I welcome!
Kerry, one of the most fascinating things about modern intellectual life is how little it’s changed in the last half century or so. Modern thought has stagnated, and there’s good reason for that — like every other ideology, rationalist materialism has filled up its notional space and run out of new things to say.
Carlos, trust me, archdruids also get plenty of people eager to talk to somebody about such experiences! The common rationalist shibboleth that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, by the way, is a logical fallacy so old it has a name in Latin. I discussed that getting on for nine years ago here:
Jim, Mental Radio is worth your while; Sinclair was fascinated by psychical research and his study of telepathy is still very much worth reading.
Lathechuck, I don’t make that comment about astrologers and astronomers in any spirit of boasting. Astronomy is really cool, and I wish more astrologers would do what Johannes Kepler did and take up astronomy as well!
Dreamer, and the Catholics have actually been saying that all along.
Roy, thanks for this.
JMG, I think our differences in perspective and experience at the time we read it would explain our differences in opinion on ” The Re-Enchantment of the World. I would guess that when you first read it, you had already begun your journey in to Magic, and the Occult and believed these to be the bedrock of human rediscovery of enchantment. As I remember ( I read it over 40 years ago ) Berman was very dismissive of Spiritual and Occult practices as ways to achieve Re-Enchantment and thus poisoned the well for you. But I read it as a 20 year old mechanical engineering student in a university founded on the principle of rejecting religion in higher education, who had just taken astronomy 101 from Carl Sagan. So just the basic idea of seeing the world in another way was quite a revelation to me, however flawed the authors complete thesis might have been.
I was skeptical of your claim that “a very large percentage of people in today’s industrial nations still believe in gods, practice magic, consult horoscopes, and engage in all those other supposedly outworn practices of the allegedly superstitious past.”
Then, without seeking them out, I came across these two statistics today in The How of Happiness, by Sonja Lyubomirsky:
Almost 7/10 Americans report praying every day and 95% of Americans believe in God.
I am shocked! I would’ve guessed those numbers were about 15% praying every day and 50% believing in God. Kind of helps prove your point about most people believing that disenchantment is the majority view.
Thank you for this essay. I’m very excited for more of this series!
I wasn’t able to access either of these references, but these are the two that were listed for those stats:
Dana Blanton, “FOX Poll: Courts Driving Religion Out of Public Life; Christianity Under Attack,” Fox News, December 1, 2005
Hoge, D. R. (1996). Religion in America: The demographics of belief and affiliation. In E. P. Shafranske (Ed.), Religion and the clinical practice of psychology (pp. 21–41). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/10199-001
Yay! I love this topic!
Re: astrologer vs astronomers (numbers)
1. I could imagine any Joe Bloggs paying an astrologer for advice, but it is a bit harder imagining what some Joe Bloggs would pay an astronomer for given that most of the calculation stuff has been computerised.
2. On the other hand, I could imagine a certain US government funded organisation paying for a lot of ‘astronomers’ (mostly labelled as astro-physicists) – but outside those countries with space programmes I can’t imagine many governments would fund them beyond the usual university appointments. And of course, the likes of SpaceX and other private space programmes may have a few.
3. My understanding is that a significant number of new discoveries in the field of astronomy are increasingly coming from amateurs. (Someone correct me – this is based on vague memories of articles in the MSM, so take with a grain of salt)
So it is almost like a social stratification of the field of astrology/astronomy…
@Australian Dreamer: Exactly!! No really, like, when we celebrate anything liturgically: the Eucharist, the Nativity, Holy Week… the language of all those services is *Present Tense*. We are not re-enacting something that happened in the past. We are participating in something that happened, is happening, happens forever, because it is outside of time. God is outside of time, so anything He does, is for all the time.
Hi JMG, this post reminded me of a quote from Carl Sagan:
“I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness…”
Is enchantment incompatible with critical thinking?
Given this does it seem reasonable that most people who are trying to follow a traditional occult path in our times are, at first, just getting to a place that the average peasant was in the time when the world was enchanted? And getting to the level of an actual wizard (for want of a better word) from that time period would require that much more time and effort (if it is even possible)?
For JMG & others, a bit of a magic monday question (in order of specificity):
-How does one go about finding the magic incantation/ritual/dance for a particular activity?
-What if that activity is a relatively recent one (say, my work – that of a bike mechanic)?
-Is there a limit? Bikes (1817) vs woodworking vs soldering electronics?
Can I imagine myself one of the “great” bike mechanics? Or does it have to be the “first”?
“So what happened?”
Part of what happened, at least in the Western parts of the world, is that the Abrahamic Faiths were pretty good at conquest and imperialism.
With some concessions made here and there to other some supernatural agents and phenomena, but with many of them recast… Nay, legislated to be agents and subjects of God. The others that were acknowledged to exist tended to be minor characters who were seen as non-harmful due to their rather pro-social relationship to the local culture (think Santa and some fairies), or seen as evil due to being enemies and haters of God’s children (Wedigo, Baal/Moloch).
This subjugation of all else (He never gave up His war tendencies) of course made it easier to fulfill any further disenchantment whenever they felt like it was in order, and so by God they did it.
For indeed, Our God is an Awesome God.
“Another is the equally simple but far more brutal fact that the disenchanted world praised by today’s pundits in such triumphant terms has turned out to be unfit for human habitation. If we’re so much smarter than our ancestors, and thus presumably so much better at understanding and meeting human needs with our omniscient science and almighty technology, how come so many of us are blowing our brains out or drinking and drugging ourselves to death because of the sheer misery of life in the world that reason has made?”
This passage makes much sense to me. The proponents of the disenchanted world set themselves up for failure by promising too much. And they did deliver a lot, but the expectations kept rising higher. In contrast, the enchanted world has limits — limits on what you can think, do and wish for. Existing in that world means one has to accept those limits and work within them.
The problem, or rather predicament we face is this: today’s world that was created by reason is, at the same time, both materially far superior to the enchanted one it replaced, and is getting visibly worse. So a large number of the inhabitants are stuck. They sense that the current world is both unpleasant and unsustainable, but going back to the enchanted world means giving up so many of the mental comforts they have grown accustomed to, and training themselves to think, act and desire in a very different way. A lot of people are terrified of making that leap, so they would rather wallow in a variety of stupor-inducing activities, like the idiot box, drinking, drugs, video games to shut out that unwelcome realization.
Sorry if this is a bit incoherent and/or tangential to the point of disucssion.
In a previous comment, I mention that God never gave up on war.
While I believe this is still true, I’m of the thought that my comment was misapplied. In that moment, I was describing the acts of the children (who’s opinion on, I guess, the animals and other living things varied through the centuries), but had conflated all actions and moments in “disenchantment” with acts of the Father.
This comment was brought about by considering the comment of the “Christian Animist” above.
Hello John Michael,
Thanks for this post. Could you please elaborate more on “assumptions about the nature of human knowledge that were disproved once and for all more than two hundred years ago”?
#50, I hope your students become enchanted by the beauty of maths.
Erik Michaels, whose blog I read a lot, mentions in his latest post that we are rationalising creatures, not rational. An important distinction.
I argued with my dad when I was a kid about physics. I was trying to get him to see that “laws” of physics are actually explanations of what we perceive. Apples didn’t all suddenly hit the ground when Newton made his “law”.
Though it rather seems, in fact, like there’s an argument for the enchanted/disenchanted labels being _backward_. After all, if one group of people sees an aspect of the world and another group doesn’t, perhaps, yes, the first group is mistakenly seeing something that isn’t there. If, however, the first group is much larger than the second group, was established much earlier, generally seems happier relative to its wealth, and generally pursues ways of life that _don’t_ destroy themselves and quite a bit of the rest of the biosphere in a few short centuries… is it the first group that’s enchanted to see an aspect of the world, or the second group that’s enchanted to _not_ see one? And of course, the first group could presumably readily explain that the second was under a spell (one granting great power at a great price), while the second has to resort to things like “They’re just wrong, all of them, and in fact so wrong that there’s no need to apply the scientific method to any evidence that seems like it might show they’re not completely wrong”.
Hello JMG and kommentariat.
In my country, there’s been two big secularization events. First, in the final XIX century and early XXth century, especially in the 2nd Republic times. A politican said then: “Spain is not Catholic anymore”. In 1936 began the Civil War and then Franco won, imposing mandatory Catholicism in his dictatorship. My grandpa told me a story of the first years of Franco’s government. He was arrested for belonging to the wars losers, and was interned in a camp. Every day he and others prisoners were compelled to attend the daily mass, and he wasn’t a believer…
The second event began after Franco died in his bed, in 1975. Democracy arrived so fredom of beliefs became a constitutional right (although Catholic Church kept some privileges yet). Society started to dechristianize.
However, since the ’80s and ’90s it began a plethora of “cults”, and when immigration began massively in this century, urban mosques and Evangelical churches have become “new normal” in the spanish urban landscapes. Secularization has been relative, not absolute.
Beside this new/old religions, what I could name as “lumpen”-religiosity: new age medicines, tarot, clairvoyants, yoga freaks and “curanderos”(healers) have their public…For the “skepticals” dismay, of course.
I have a pair of stories about this half-underground world, that I read in a nook named “Healers, traveling to the miracle” of a journalist named Pepe Rodríguez, which ironically is full agnostic (I think it’s only in spanish).
He tells in that book about airline pilots, who are really superstitious in spite of their technological environment, or maybe because of that context.
In other part of the book, he meet a “healer” that has in his house a big crucifix. When he questioned him if he was a believer, the healer answered the journalist: “No, I’m not, but this Christ helps the peolpe, so it’s good for my business”.
“Imagine knowing, in the same well-of-course fashion just discussed, that how well you can complete some task…doesn’t depend on the kind of objective measures of efficiency we’re used to using. Imagine that your success depends instead on whether you can, in the process of doing that task, identify yourself with the god or spirit or culture hero that first did the same task back in the beginning of time, and make your act one with that original deed.”
This part moved me to tears. Yes! This identified something I’ve been struggling to name and helped immensely. Thank you!
Is your larger thesis on this tied to the fading out of Pluto’s influence or is this a separate theory as to why things are the way they are and where they headed?
A while back you said that once, science and religion were the two sides of a cream-filled cookie, and that magic was the filling in between. This was I believe in your posts about how science and religion got together to kick magic out of power and divide things between them during the Renaissance.
I’ve wondered, are there instances in history where it’s not magic that plays the subordinate role of the cream-filling?
Seems to me that in that “enchanted” world of the master builder who mentally re-enacts the ritual building of Solomon’s temple in the construction of his own present church, in the background, the science of architecture and material science is still present.
As someone who is very much in the enchanted world in his day-to-day life, I have no problem with the instruments of the temple of science (aka this computer) in that life. I just don’t give it the primacy so many seem to give it.
“Science” is now telling us (I’ve read a couple of articles, must get a book) that we don’t “perceive” reality, as previously thought, we “construct” it, ie when we look at a chair, the image of a chair isn’t transferred by our eye to our brain, the latest thinking is that what actually happens is that a whole host of visual data of the whole area is transferred to the brain, sorted, evaluated, *discarded* or *kept*, and based on previous experience of chairs, our brain decides that it’s a chair, on a tile floor etc, or something else. So our brains are making huge choices about what is important, and what data to keep and interpret, but are excluding vast amounts of other possibilities. This is useful, of course, it’s kind of important to know that a tiger is walking towards us from the forest, and that that information is not cluttered with lots of less urgent stuff!
This means that bringing a person from very isolated communities in say, India or the Amazon, or a monk or peasant from the Mediaeval period to 21st Century London, all with completely different life experiences, would mean they would see different things to the things we see.
We concentrate on our sight, when talking about “reality”, but compare our sight with golden eagles, or our paltry sense of smell with that of dogs, they “see” the world very differently to us (dogs “smell” cancer… it would appear their senses are a lot more developed, sophisticated, useful, than ours!), and will see things we simply don’t see, which makes the whole idea of our “perception” of “reality” a fiction (this may be “the science/philosophy bit” that JMG was talking about, from a different angle).
This raises some fun situations. We all know stories of waking up and seeing someone standing at the end of our bed. The immediate interpretation is that our sight and brain haven’t kicked into gear, and that we’ve miss-seen, and that it was a wardrobe all along. This completely ignores the other possibility… that our brains haven’t kicked into gear, and that they haven’t – yet – discarded the information, that they have learned is “not useful” in the current cultural context and, in fact, there *is* someone standing at the end of the bed (a guardian angel anyone?), but that we don’t normally see them, as we’ve learned to cut them out of our construction of “reality”…*and* we have no way of knowing “scientifically” which is the accurate (real?) situation!
Fun situation number two, we all love watching kittens playing with something in front of them, batting it like a ball, and it’s very amusing, because we know there is nothing there… well there certainly isn’t in our particular construction of reality, but that doesn’t mean it’s correct!
The last situation relates to children, seeing whatever, angels, fairies, sprites, but the adults don’t, and dismiss the children, an idea often used in twee holiday films (that I love, and I’m sure JMG positively cringes at 🙂 ), perhaps children just learn, as they grow up, that it’s important to just “not see” certain things. (If it might be your thing, see “Mary Poppins Returns”, it’s wonderful, and the original was a seminal moment for me as a 5(?) year old, so it’s facing tough competition.)
As a Christian, when I’m quiet and still (something I really should be being a lot more often!) the world around me positively crackles with spiritual energy. I’m more and more inclined these days not to worry too much about expressing it in words (although thinking and talking about these things is important). Trying to explain or define a being that exists outside space and time with 21st century English, and the philosophical and knowledge constraints we live with seems a little redundant!
Last thought, matter and energy have come up. I think it likely (based on no evidence whatsoever 🙂 ) that matter doesn’t actually exist, it’s just a representation created by energy. We “know” that a table is solid, except it’s not, it’s made of atoms that are mostly space, and it turns out atoms aren’t solid either, they’re protons, neutrons, electrons etc. Perhaps the protons, electrons etc aren’t matter either, just a representation of matter created by energy? God is in everything it would appear… literally.
My sister and I have slightly different perceptions of color. As an artist, I’m comfortable with saying something is “gray with a slight tint of blue” or even “blue with a healthy dose of gray” but with her, it’s “that’s blue, why can’t you see that?”
I usually just let it slide. I always remind myself that the color I see isn’t actually the “real” world. Instead, it is a filtered assumption. First, the object is that color because it is the wavelength of light that the surface of the object reflects. And second, that reflective light must then impact the cells in the back of my eyes, and then go through the process of my brain assigning a color to it.
And even then, the bandwidth of the colors my own eyes see is much narrower than what my cat sees. So the color is different as well.
Not everyone “sees” in the statistical center of the graph. Some of us are in the outlying fringe and very comfortable being there.
“Would be curious to know how others have found success viewing the world and peeling back the layers to more enchantment. I hope I am on a somewhat right path as it has been easier over time though admittedly it has not been very long.”
I would say that I found success in allowing enchantment in my life by opening myself to some of the simple wonders in the world. Seeing the sunlight on a path. Watching a bumble bee in a flower. All the little things we so quickly walk past can bring enchantment to you.
For the majority of my life, I’ve been an animalist. Working with the lesser spirits of animals, plants, and nature. My oldest patron is the indigenous American spirit of Grandmother Spider. She gave writing to humans and as a writer, I always feel behind me watching.
I’m in the process of rehabbing a basement for a place to live in my retirement. From bare concrete, I’ve added insulation, put up walls, run electrical, hung drywall, and now am painting and doing trim.
Several times now, I’ve had a rather large spider show up. Sometimes it’s watching on a wall. Once it walked right up to my boot as I sat doing floor trim. The rationalist might say, well spiders come in in the Fall seeking warm spaces to mate and lay eggs. The shaman in me says “Hello Grandmother!”
Sometimes you have to just smile and accept that enchantment is in your life.
*only post if you think relevant*
You had commented to someone that you had never seen anyone talking about human composting as a way to fertilize plants. An article (about human composting) linked on a aggregate site I follow included:
“The end result is a cubic yard stack of nutrient-dense soil amendment, the equivalent of about 36 bags of soil, that can be used to plant trees or enrich conservation land, forests or gardens.”
“Cremation uses fossil fuels and burial uses a lot of land and has a carbon footprint,” Katrina Spade, the founder of Recompose, a full-service green funeral home in Seattle that offers human composting, said. “For a lot of folks being turned into soil that can be turned to grow into a garden or tree is pretty impactful.”
Article is here: https://www.foxnews.com/us/new-york-becomes-6th-us-state-green-light-human-composting-law
The synchronicity of your comment and the article’s appearance on my feed made me think I was supposed to share it with you.
Final thoughts: I’ve been thinking about Donald Trump in terms of AA. To start with let’s give a bit of history. Trump’s dad was an alcoholic. To such an extent and to such a degree that Donald has never taken a drink! Which is fine and all. That is the 1st step of the twelve steps of AA actually.
Step 1 is to admit that you are powerless over alcohol and your life has become unmanageable.
The problem is that there are 11 more steps and as far as I can tell Donald is stuck on step 1. It seems to be a common thing among addicts of all kinds (and non-addicts!) to get stuck at step 1. (FYI- Only step 1 actually involves alcohol.) I think this is exactly what we are talking about here in this post by the way.
The second and third steps are:
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
And, of course, AA works because, even though imperfect, it is an attempt to put the spiritual over the intellect, conscience etc.
Generally the psychologists and psychiatrists don’t like AA, but they always run up against the facts that it works and it is practically free. Which their professions, while still sometimes doing good things, can’t always say the same things, especially about the money part.
Anyway, no way to know, but The Donald just might be a recovering Alcoholic…. I just wish he would come to meetings and find his God.
Our present way of life is counter to attachment for anything. Our stuff come from somewhere, produced by unclear kind of system, disposal after a short time by design. Not anymore using our parents and grandparents tools, with all the memories and emotions attached to them, not their uniqueness for being repaired and adjusted endless times during their life, and for being manufactured before globalist economy.
Not anymore old houses, were generations of lives occurred, leaving mysteries, curiosities, maybe even ghosts all over the place.
Same can be said of families, friends, homes, homeland, etc’.
There is no content in Things but the decided present definition, both object and definition existing for a short present time.
I don’t thing enchantment can come by just philosophy or by gods related ways. I think it is necessary to feel it first around us in our mundane world, the way everybody did as a child, which proves everybody was born with that capacity.
Also, I believe you need time, since enchantment doesn’t just appear readymade, but needs to develop and accumulate with the participation of human being.
The scientific method you describe, “controlled and double-blind experiments and statistical analyses”, was not the method Western society used to get its current knowledge. It’s not how Newton got to his theory of gravitation, or Maxwell to his theory of electro-magnetic fields, or Lorentz to his theory of relativity.
Bill Gates can use “science” to promote vaccines, but a researcher with a Ph.D. in immunology who doubts vaccines is a “science denier”. The word “science” is itself an enchantment.
On a lighter note, surely astronomers use astrology when applying for grants!
Based on my Maori enchantment it seems I am at the Tohunga kiato level: lowest class of priest. Only took 26 years to figure that out.
I’m looking forward to you unpacking your thoughts on this topic in the coming weeks.
My first reaction right now though is basically an echo of what Darkest Yorkshire said above, i.e.
the Enchanted world is pretty scary at times and the things in it rarely (or never some might say) have our wellbeing at heart.
If we somehow danced our way back into the Enchanted world expecting to commune with the fairies and channel Mercury as we cold called unsuspecting suburbanites to sell them cell phone deals from the telesales office, I guess that would be sort of an improvement. But what if went all the way back to feeling obliged to toss our first born into the fires of Moloch, lest the harvests fail or the president gets ill?
Did the Age of Enchantment end because it was so great and we were so happy there?
This post has really challenged me. Clarke’s comment (#2) expressing thankfulness for people’s logical inconsistency triggered me hard (“But rationality is the goal! Irrationality is chaos and intentional irrationality is either madness or evil.”). The old programming still regards knowledge as the True Path (“God is Mind, therefore knowledge is the path to godhead.”) and it dies a slow and reluctant death. I make no pretense of being overly scholarly–there are many of this community, including yourself, who are for more erudite than I will ever be–but that ideal is so strongly rooted that even when I’m presented with contrary evidence, giving up that worldview feels like the ultimate betrayal of all that is Right and True, leaving a chaotic and threatening universe in its wake.
My wife and I were discussing my dilemma last night and she very pointedly said, “You must choose, else you will forever be locked in conflict.” And the image of the qliphoth Taumiel, “the contending forces,” popped into my head. (I’ve come to understand that my patron deity–unnamed the chthonic earth goddess–often channels through my wife, particularly when I need to be told things I don’t want to hear, and that mental image was an additional nudge on Her part, I’m sure.)
I can see the Me-It fallacy, versus the I-Thou relationship, at the heart of the issue. I just have a difficult time with rationality as a tool, useful under specific circumstance but not others, rather than as a worldview. What worldview replaces it? How does one operate without an overarching framework to define one’s experiences? One can’t just shift from one to another from moment to moment, as one does with a tool: a worldview is a fixed thing applicable to all circumstances and all times.
>are the only human beings in all of history who have ever understood the world accurately, and everyone else down through the ages was just plain wrong
I’m not as – enchanted – by technology as I used to be. I’d say humans understand the world through stories and those stories you outlined are one way of understanding the world.
I think what got certain monkeys all gibbering over science in general was if you could capture the story in math, you could start doing things you couldn’t do with the other stories at all. You could go up a level and make meta-stories, and the really spooky thing they discovered, if you manipulate those meta stories you can eventually create new stories and then look for those back in “reality” and there they would be. Some famous physicist remarked about that and said something about how nature didn’t have to work that way at all – but it did.
Although it’s starting to look like to me that process is coming to an end. They’ve gone off in the weeds with math and their meta stories don’t seem to point to anything at all in particular. One physicist called string theory “not even wrong”, commenting on the state of things.
I wonder if there’s a storyless way of understanding the world sometimes. Humans and their stories…
As much as I live an enchanted life myself, I find it difficult to find a community. This, to me, is the most challenging aspect of living among the disenchanted. Now that I have a son, I am especially interested in finding/building community. Being a lone wolf with only internet communities is just not what I want for him. Any recommendations for finding/building in-person communities, something for the whole family?
>how come so many of us are blowing our brains out or drinking and drugging ourselves to death
Although, I would invite you to look at the obituary page of an old 19th c newspaper sometime. What jumped out at me was how many people died directly and indirectly from alcohol abuse. So this isn’t exactly a new problem and I suspect in the year 3000, you’ll probably read of people dying from similar things.
I think all technology and science really allow is the ability to do more. There’s no guarantee anyone will use the new abilities wisely or with restraint. Or, just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Maybe the Amish have it right? I dunno.
Justin Patrick Moore #27, Rock Bottom was another of my favourites on that album, along with the creeping horror of ’97 Bonnie and Clyde – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqXYdChOi7k.
My favourite 90s rapper though has to be Ice-T. A selection on –
Midnight – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qesSe6ie2I
That’s How I’m Livin’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drx4oOffuM8
Where the S*** Goes Down – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_6RX0sHwjc
The Lane – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDKkiXmp13g
The 5th – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0VAVJPi6-w
They Want Me Back In – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAmJQRTOSks
Retaliation – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CG9a_zb3YoY
Leaving the life:
I Must Stand – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWssL1ZlFBo
Dear Homie – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wL0gN3iIr8
And the song that made 15 year old me think “This is what revolution would feel like”:
Gotta Lotta Love – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4i3iTulZdFk
Chris at Fernglade Farm #35, the Airport films and th 1986 Horizon episode ‘The Wrong Stuff’ sent me the other way and turned me into an avgeek. I didn’t choose human factors, human factors chose me. 🙂
Aubrey #65, I was also traumatised by Watership Down. The part with the song Bright Eyes was pushing me to the edge but I was just holding on. Then immediately after that, the soundtrack turns to a heartbeat and the Black Rabbit glides from the right side of the screen down to the bottom left. Something about that combination of rhythm and speed of movement pushed me right over the edge.
Weilong #77, you can just imagine some people who’ve been living like that reponding to new technology like “Mountaintop removal, you say…” Most people in Kentucky and West Virginia seem to hate mountaintop removal. But on one programme I remember a family who lived at the bottom of a dark valley and were overjoyed when the coal company cut the top off the mountain because it let sunlight in.
There may be another way to enter a state of enchantment – quite possibly a different state, but still – every gardener knows that there’s real magic in the soil. Dig your hands into a good, well-cared-for loam, positively vibrating with tiny lifeforms you can almost feel and can certainly encourage. There is powerful magic in a seed, waiting to burst into life and unfold into things that will feed and/or clothe us, if we feed and tend the soil that feeds them. We can bend that force to our will, within reason, by choosing the seeds we sow and which of the competing “weeds” we cull, and boost the soil with compost to become even more powerful and grow and feed the plants we choose. We can try to outwit our competitors for all that goodness, with physical barriers, “companion” plants, and even chemicals. But we can also get it all horribly wrong if we’re not really being a part of it all & don’t listen to what the land is constantly telling us. When I’m down on my allotment, it’s very easy to believe in the sun as a beneficent being! But one who doesn’t smile on the UK quite as much as I’d like, although of course, rain (preferably at night!) is also a blessing. And I end up talking to the birds that eat the pests, and to whatever lives in the semi-wild hedge alongside & constantly tries to invade the patch I rent; tough, sturdy blackthorn, speedy, greedy brambles, misunderstood, nutritious nettles, sneaky, creepy buttercups, elegant bendy toadflax and loosestrife. Maybe if more people could garden, rather than relying on whatever the supermarkets choose to cause to be grown & sold, they’d at least have a view into a world that still retains some kind of enchantment? Maybe being removed from access to, and real contact with, the land has dulled their perception?
@nachtgurke, #51 – a long time ago I was on a guided tour of the ruins of Efez, ancient Ephesus, in Türkiye. As the guide explained to us how the city had been demolished by earthquakes which raised the land surface so that the sea – it was a big port – is now half a mile distant, suddenly I was both myself, a young British tourist, and a girl of ten or so, turning cartwheels and somersaults down the road that we were standing on, the city in all its intact seaside glory below us. It only lasted a second or two but seemed – still seems! – as real as anything else I’ve ever experienced.
Are enchantment and meaning synonymous in this case for individual people? In other words, are individuals born with a purpose unbeknownst to them that they must figure out (fate) or do we decide the meaning of our lives?
There’s a version of Tartaria as part of the King in Yellow mythos in the RPG Delta Green module Impossible Landscapes. I don’t know if it existed ealier in the mythos, but it’s a spectacular game. There the nation is called Tartesia. You can find an English-Tartesian dictionary, and predictably it’s not good for your sanity.
If you start looking for alternate theories of history it’s very easy to find. Obviously the Konstantin Yuon painting People proves the Bolsheviks were using coal-powered lasers to fight UFOs in the early 1920s: https://uploads7.wikiart.org/images/konstantin-yuon/people-1923.jpg!Large.jpg. (The image doesn’t start that big but you can zoom in a long way to see detail without it getting blurry.)
“Cremation uses fossil fuels and burial uses a lot of land and has a carbon footprint,” Katrina Spade
She’s truth. Natgas is used to incinerate corpses, so some carbon dioxide is liberated to atmosphere when dead people is burnt…
The most ecollogical funerals are maybe the TObetan ones: they leave the dead people to the birds…
I’m sorry, in my first comment I linked a web to the book I was writing about, but I linked another web without information about that “Healers” book, I didn’t found information because it’s a ’90s book…I don’t want to sell that book.
Interesting. So basically humanity embraced reductionist materialism during the scientific revolution. This caused us to limit the possible number of things in the universe that we could imagine having consciousness. Basically, the possible options for minds included our own brains and maybe some kind of external, supernatural God, and that was more or less it. Thus, we lost our ability to commune with most things in nature.
This reminds me of Vine Deloria Jr. talking about how frustrated he was that white people in the 20th century kept on talking as if Native Americans no longer existed. Interestingly, this did not just come from hardcore racists. A lot of regular folk who were quite sympathetic towards the plight of the indigenous still struggled to imagine that American Indians were still around.
Also interestingly, most historic Christian theology said that the thing which made man made in the image of God was our reason… a.k.a. our consciousness and thus our capacity for relationship. Ironically, the Bible only mentions this in Genesis 1 and 5. Both times no mention is made of reason. Instead we are told that “God created man in his own image; male and female he created them.” Notice that the image of God is connected to our capacity for the loving, procreative male/female connection, not our ability to think. Heck, the context of these chapters is immersed alongside the tree of life. Remember, the tree of life is the good tree that we never ate from, while the tree of knowledge is the one that corrupted us. And yet, most theology is written in a systematic theology style reminiscent of Aristotle rather than a narrative style written in a way reminiscent of scripture, and most of it was written by celibate people deterred from the very male/female relationship that made us made in God’s image.
Long story short, it looks like the heavy emphasis on mind over matter as opposed to mind emerging from matter has given our culture many blind spots.
Thinking turtle #108 has written:
.”The word “science” is itself an enchantment.”
I agree with that sentence. COVID hysteria has been a true cult or religion disguised on fake rationality: the masks are the new burkah, vaccines are baptism, and unvaxxed are the sinners/infidels…Fauci would be a saint or…the Pope, if you think it in Catholic terms (remember that the Pope is “infallible” since the XIXth century!).
I would add to the disguised enchantments the Ukraine-philia and Russo-phobia in 2022: It has all the smell of a secular crussade. Putin as the Antichrist, Russia as the Empire of Devil, Ukies nazis as angels (ahem ahem), and EU as the Sacred Empire or City of God, maybe.
The two Narratives have in common that they are worshipping Dear God Progress, of course.
I think someone wrote on this subject on Ukraines war (maybe Aurelien?) some time ago in this blog.
re: astrologers and astronomers. I am a backyard astronomer on occasion, and one of the things I’ve found is that spending time alone at night watching the stars can result in some of the most intense feelings of awe, wonder, and closeness to God of anything I’ve ever done.
This has happened in the backyard with a telescope, and also walking home after midnight Christmas Eve services and looking up with no equipment at all.
Knowing how far away some of things I’m looking at are, even if I don’t really understand how far, say, the andromeda galaxy is other than ‘very, very’ really adds to the awe for me, rather than taking away from it. I often find that I can flip back and forth between scientific and other modes of understanding rapidly and easily, and that knowing how things work on the scientific level increases my overall understanding and my love of that which I contemplate.
I find the scientific, rational mode of thinking is very useful for a lot of things, but I’d hate to be stuck in it 100% of the time. I’d miss a lot.
Although I wouldn’t have to deal with my tomato seedlings talking to me, which would make life less complicated and easier to explain to other people. I was standing in their sunlight. They complained. I apologized and moved. The human mind is very, very weird sometimes.
“The problem, or rather predicament we face is this: today’s world that was created by reason is, at the same time, both materially far superior to the enchanted one it replaced, and is getting visibly worse.”
Materially speaking, something like 0.2% of the Earth (that exists inside our climate-controlled spaces) is superior to its previous state – and that only from a purely human perspective. Another 95% or so – including all of the oceans, monoculture fields, clear cuts, strip mines, overgrazed pastures, parking lots, etc. – is materially inferior to its previous condition. Our “improvements” have primarily entailed resource extractions, transfers, and externalization of costs to enhance comfort and convenience within our walled-off “nests.”
Disenchantment was perhaps necessary to achieve that level of plunder, and re-enchantment will be painful and will require us to come to terms with the harm we have caused.
Let’s say you are not metaphorically but ACTUALLY at the Temple Mount, ACTUALLY at the Last Supper.
I’ve found the way to look at this is very simple: ** Do you believe in remote viewing? ** That is, we can project the our spirit outside the body to different extents and go roam around in time and space? Well if you didn’t you wouldn’t be much of a believer in magic!
Can you project yourself to meet the nearby river spirits? Of course, although time and space have meaning and if it’s farther away it’s harder. Can you project yourself a mother to her child? Everyone knows that. Can you project yourself through time to some childhood trauma, go look at and revisit it? Sure.
** So why can’t you project yourself to other, major spiritual events like Calvary and the Last Supper? ** Why can’t you go ask the Jesus spirit the way you can the river spirit? You can. That’s what Christianity IS. Christ has X-Y abilities (to open the door to heaven) and X-Y powers (faith healing) and X-Y perception (Christ consciousness) and by tuning into his consciousness or spirit you can come into alignment with those abilities and ways. ** Christianity is magic, ** it is ONLY magic, so to defeat Christianity, they had to de-magic. And you see that in all the churches today: sure we SAY all those stupid things, but nobody really BELIEVES them. No one thinks the Bible is REAL. Not literally of course, it’s just dumb stories we smart priests learned at seminary to tell Deplorables too stupid to understand the “Real world” where everybody really thought and acted like North American PMCs. Which is a clockwork Newtonian world that has no God or magic in it. All the smart people like the Amazing Randy know that.
So you can see the dividing line among sects as not Catholic and Protestant, which has no meaning, but those who “believe”, that is “connect” with God and have life and spirit in their Churches, and those who don’t. Those who don’t, don’t reach out to God or to Christ. Why would they? Is Jesus going to write them a letter parcel post or something? Be sensible. But no magic > no connection to God > no POWER either, and their churches fade from view.
Which is exactly what they did to Catholicism, starting by ending the old rite, the old magic, they STOPPED THE SPELL. The spell that helped unite the congregation, and to some extent all people, to THAT EVENT, or to a larger extent, through that event, to God.
The spell was residual and after 1,000 years not very fast to dissipate, but eventually it has somewhat, and with it, Catholicism has lost its meaning and power. Once this was weakened, they could install 100,000 priests from seminary that believe in nothing – that’s for those superstitious Mexican hill folks and neanderthal Italian grandmas stupidly holding their stupid illogical families together. Then they could install a Pope who likewise doesn’t believe anything and has a Shamanic ritual in the Vatican instead. Literally, it’s easy to find the pics. Ritually that is a magical transfer of power.
Same with the Protestants: make them direct their worship away from the doorway and Christ consciousness to pray to God as your Sugar Daddy, who is the God of MONEY and Prosperity. Make endless fun of any hillbillies who “Actually Believe”, well, anything at all. They’re not “really the Church” no heavens we’re much more hip than that my fellow childrens.
So if magic is real, that would be how I would do it, and as magic IS real, that’s how it DID happen. But if Wiccan magic is real then Christian magic is no less real. Right? Or is Christianity really just clockwork science, lacking all connection, miracles, and purpose? And magic isn’t real but all just a game? You decide.
Oh oh oh I’ve been waiting for this series since you mentioned that you were researching in this direction! I feel I’m in the sitting room at the end of a Poirot mystery and our (much more hirsute and Druidical) detective is about to finger the murderer!
@parker “This is what I have recently gathered I have been internally fighting for, in this life, unconsciously previously and now consciously.”
Regarding the apparent dominance of disenchantment, there was a recent article in CBC about census data on dropping religious affiliation. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/canadian-census-religious-affiliation-none-1.6631293 It’s now about 34% who are nonreligious, and in BC that number is 52.4%. Which puts the non-religious in the majority for the first time ever.
Of course, this fails to count the people who don’t adhere to a specific religion, but have strong spiritual lives and beliefs of their own.
The tone in the second article kind of rubbed me the wrong way, given that the reporter seemed pleased by the decline, and the first interview was with the humanist association, who was absolutely thrilled. Also, no attention was paid to the way religious attendance was banned because of covid at the point when the census was done. They did mention the whole residential schools mess as a possible contributor, but not how the unmarked graves discovery in 2021, the same year as the census might have had a specific impact. So some of that may be an artifact of the time the census was done, but nowhere near all since it’s coming on top of a decades-long trend of decreased attendance and participation in organized religion.
The secular materialists are very loud, there are a lot of them in my province, and they have a lot of power. That’s probably why churches got closed down while bars and restaurants stayed open.
What role does the mass media play in the current disenchantment? It’s occurred to me that a lot of serious occultists do a lot better after cutting out TV ; and that nearly everyone I know who has done that has a wildly more dynamic and interesting inner life. Since the experience of the microcosm and macrocosm mirror each other, it seems likely to me that the dead inner life reflects outward as a dead outer life as well, or a sense of disenchantment.
Meanwhile, of course, the media portrays a biased world: some of it is hardwired into the medium, such as how it’s hard to portray a river as a living god on TV, but some of it is also intentional, in order to support the status quo, which very much is based on this kind of dogmatic disenchanted materialism.
Of course, TV didn’t exist in 1904, but it plays a central role in today’s society; and radio, a precursor to TV, wasn’t a factor in society in 1904, but mass media in the form of newspapers did exist, and they did play a major role in shaping the mass consciousness.
Thanks for the article this week, JMG.
Part of it reminded me of C.S. Lewis “The Dawn Treader” where Eustace and Ramandu (he’s an actual star) are engaged in a conversation:
“In our world,” said Eustace, “a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.”
“Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of.”
I think that, pondering those words, one begins to see meaning and beauty in “ordinary” things.
On another note, frequently when I encounter what passes for culture/opinion/politics/medicine lately, I think not that people nowadays are non-enchanted, but they are enchanted by forces too strange to comprehend.
Almost fifty years ago I was out walking with my then boyfriend and we came to a tree with twisty, viney roots and he remarked, “That’s the kind of place where fairies live.” I’d always loved fairytales and myths and I have always believed in nature spirits, even though I’m Catholic, but I agreed with him wholeheartedly. And we’ve been married now for 47 years. So glad I found someone who believes in an enchanted world as much as I do.
And not long ago I was talking to my youngest daughter and she told me that her older boy has made friends with trees and talks to them and can understand what they say to him. He cries if he sees a tree that looks like it’s dying. I was so overjoyed to hear that! But not really surprised, she homeschoolers her kids and they are outside in all kinds of weather so feel a kinship, I think, with natural life. I wish all children could be raised that way.
Some comments on comments.
#113 Clark, talk to your neighbours, casually and gradually. You might be surprised.
#111 David BTL, a worldview can be replaced by an underlying philosophy, neither of which is necessarily always right, and either of which might prove totally wrong. Just keep tweaking and thinking. You are from the US, aren’t you? Very keen on rules over there.
#107 nati, you remind me of a serving platter and a mixing bowl I own. Both came from an old man of 70+ whose wife had just died and he was moving. I still remember his confusion and grief. Didn’t know him at all. 50+ years on I still have those kitchen utensils and use them regularly. They almost feel like a sacred trust. I live in an old house with old, new and homemade furniture. Glad to find I’m not just nuts, or am I?
#102 Michael, I love to tell people who say seeing is believing that they are not actually seeing anything and that there are more holes than solid matter in that wall. And what is a wall anyway?
And look at that, I read the comments backwards.
@thriftwizard #117 – That sounds fascinating! Thank you for sharing! Maybe you have really been there 😉
I love Journey to Ixtlan for being the tale of a man who walks in the enchanted world all the time, training one from the university who believes there is no enchantment to see truly and operate as a warrior where magic and material interpenetrate. I read a piece of a book, The Mushroom at the End of the World, a collection of essays. And one was an author based out of Australia and she talked about ‘shimmer’ and ‘brilliance’ overlaying the mundane. I’ve been hunting access to this world since childhood and finding it more and more. I remember it first felt wildly present to me when I was in Guatemala. I think things being dangerous gives a sharpness to people which increases their capacity and tendency to perceive the hidden forces.
#66 Siliconguy, I find your comment interesting because i understand that Christians tended to survive plagues and privations precisely because they helped each other. Not everyone suffers equally from illness and often all the ill need are a friendly hand, a glass of water and a clean sheet.
Siliconguy #66, your reply doesn’t address my observation. If I ask e.g. my company’s benefits administrator if neutrinos exist she’ll say “yes.” But she knows nothing of the history and issues you raised. For her, a priest in a robe and talisman (lab coat and ID badge) said it, so she believes it.
@Darkest Yorkshire: Thanks for all the Ice T links! I haven’t listened to him as much solo as with his heavy metal band Body Count. I’m copying these to send to myself so I can go through them! One of my early memories of being captivated by the power of radio was hearing someone play “cop killer” on the radio. I was in the 6th grade, and I was like “what?” It’s weird now to think of Ice T as someone who now plays a cop on a mainstream crime drama TV show. That being said, he has done really well for himself as an original OG. (And I don’t think of cops the same way I did as a young skater punk either -it probably helps that they aren’t arresting me for vandalism anymore.)
You’ve probably already seen it, but one of the things I’m reading now is the graphic nonfiction Hip Hop Family Tree by Ed Piskor. I picked up the first two volumes used to coincide with my reading on the graffiti subculture. In the second volume they have a bit about Malcolm McLaren which was also interesting, the way he used his influence (alongside situationist tactics) to nudge the culture… If you haven’t seen the Hip Hop Family Tree books I recommend them. I just read the panel on Ice T’s early hijinks last night.
I’m not sure who my favorite 90s hip hop artist would be… I absorbed most of it tangentially as it wasn’t my favorite genre. I would buy punk, industrial and electronic music when I had money as a teen. But some of my skater friends were more into hiphop, so I heard a lot of WuTang, and I had tapes of some of that stuff that people made me. A few years ago I decided I’d include more hiphop and rap in my musical diet, and am just now learning more of its history from that comic.
Clay, oh, granted. My problem with the book was that Berman spent all that time talking about how dreadful disenchantment was and how we needed to reenchant the world, and then what he presented wasn’t enchantment — it was Disenchantment Lite, a fully disenchanted world with some pixie wings and a magic wand glued on solely to make it a little prettier. It seemed to me that he edged all the way up to the first faint flickering fringes of enchantment, and then ran like a rabbit back to his comfortable rationalist-materialist reality. Of course the fact that I’d edged up to the same border, stood there wavering for a while, and then plunged into the realm of enchantment with all the energy I could muster probably didn’t help!
Telesto, that’s one of the differences between America as it exists and America as it’s presented by the corporate media and the education industry. The differences aren’t small, and they aren’t accidental.
Methylethyl, glad to hear it. It’s going to keep me busy for a while.
Kerry, that’s a fascinating point and, I think, a valid one.
SD, quite the contrary. Right now one of the main obstacles to critical thinking is blind faith in disenchantment. I wonder, too, if Sagan ever realized that it was the people in authority who were pushing his agenda, and the people who rejected his scientism were, among other things, learning how to ask reasoned questions about the dogmas pushed on them.
AV, fortunatenly it’s not as bad as that. If you can get to the state of the peasant, getting to the state of the wizard is simply a matter of technical knowledge, and we’ve got easier access to that than people in the Middle Ages ever dreamed of having. That’s why the usual training process in traditional occult schools is to have students master the technical knowledge first, so that once they achieve the awareness of enchantment, they know what to do and can get to wizard status promptly.
Bob, the magic songs for bicycle repair and soldering electronics haven’t been written yet. You aren’t one of the great repairmen of the legendary past, because you don’t live in the legendary past — but you may become a revered master of bike repair to bike repairmen in the distant future. How do you find the song? You start singing and see what inspiration comes through. Fortunately the bicycle has a known inventor, the ingenious German aristocrat Baron Karl von Drais —
–and von Drais accomplished a notable feat, the first significant bike ride, around 8.6 miles from Mannheim to a coaching inn and back in under an hour —
— was pretty good in 1819, on the bad roads Germany had in those days, and on a bicycle with no pedals. You might try making a rhyme about that. It can be as short as a nursery rhyme. Try it!
Lain, now explain why the Christian countries of Europe and the Muslim countries of the Middle East were just as full of magic, spirits, and other forms of enchantment as their non-Abrahamic neighbors. That’s a common claim but it won’t wash.
Ramaraj, it’s neither incoherent nor irrelevant. As we’ll see, there are good reasons why people leave the enchanted world now and then, just as there are good reasons for them to return to it in due time.
Sébastien, you’re the third person to ask that — understandably. A full explanation will have to wait for a later post, but here’s what I said earlier:
“The entire system of modern science relies on the belief that it’s possible for the human mind to have direct objective access to the world via the senses, and that consciousness has only a purely passive role in the process of observation. Both those claims were disproved completely by Western epistemology beginning in the late 17th century and finally tossed into the trash basket by Kant, who showed that even so basic elements of the world we experience as space and time are conditions of consciousness rather than objective qualities “out there.” Nobody’s ever disproved Kant, or the epistemologists on which he based his arguments; the usual response instead has been to bluster “Well, I just don’t believe that!” and go on pretending that the world we experience through the senses is an objective reality — rather than a set of representations co-created by the observing mind in conjunction with a “reality as such” to which we have no unmediated access at all, and about which we can know very little for certain. But we’ll be talking about this in much more detail later in this sequence of posts.”
Reese, interesting. You seem to be assuming that “enchanted” equals “deluded,” and with that reading, sure. What if “enchanted” means “empowered”?
Chuaquin, fascinating. Of course Spain has its unique trajectory through history, but I suspect similar patterns played out in their own ways in other European countries.
Denis, this is a much bigger story than the rise and fall of a snowball on the fringes of the solar system. The elite classes of the Western world passed into a disenchanted state before the discovery of Uranus, to say nothing of later planets. Stay tuned!
David T, oh, sure! Any number of cookies down through the centuries have had any number of fillings. Look at the way that religion was squeezed out of power in modern Europe between the twin forces of capitalism and Marxism.
Michael, nice to hear that the scientists have finally caught up. Western philosophers discovered that in the 17th century; Indian philosophers got there something like three millennia ahead of them. As for protons and electrons, they’re not even representations created by energy — they’re models created by human beings trying to explain the representations they experience when doing certain experiments. In terms of actual experience, elementary particles are as unreal as the crystalline spheres of Ptolemaic astronomy.
Joshua comment 118:
I have come to believe the answer to your question is YES! That is the great paradox!
Here is the way the Theodore Parker put it in 1842 in the sermon I posted a link to earlier:
“Here are two propositions : first, that God so orders things in his providence, that a perfect result shall be wrought out for each ; and, second, that He gives a certain amount of freedom to every man. I believe both of these propositions ; I have presented both as strongly as I could. I do not mean to say that I have logically reconciled these two propositions, with all their consequences, in my own mind, and still less to the minds of others. There may seem to be a contradiction. Perhaps I do not know how to reconcile the seeming contradiction, and yet believe both propositions.”
Lots more in this sermon wrapped around these two ideas.
“In the human faculties, this is the order of rank : I have put the body and all its powers at the bottom of the scale ; and then, of the spiritual powers, I put the intellect the lowest of all ; conscience came next higher ; the affections higher yet; and, highest of all, I have put the religious faculty. Hence I have always taught that the religious faculty was the natural ruler in all this commonwealth of man ; yet I would not have it a tyrant, to deprive the mind or the conscience or the affections of their natural rights.”
That is from the same sermon by Theodore Parker. This is exactly what we are talking about on this post. He is saying that the spiritual part of man with natural law is the natural “ruler” of human beings. The intellect only reveals a very limited view. And that is “science” in this context. Enchantment falls under “religious faculty”. Parker defines all this in detail in this one sermon.
JMG – I went back and read the Tamanous and Sobronost post. I can’t believe I missed it back then, it is a terrific posting! One question: given your snapshot of the Apollonian, Magian and Faustian cultures (which I found spot on) are you willing to hazard any guesses as to the essential nature of the future great culture in the Ohio valley/Great Lakes region? I am working on a series of novels set 700 years from now and a major theme of these novels is exploring the wide diversity of cultures springing up in North America out of the long dark age. Thanks and best wishes for a wonderful 2023!
“how come so many of us are blowing our brains out or drinking and drugging ourselves to death because of the sheer misery of life in the world that reason has made?”
Seems to me that quite literally we are not supposed to notice this part. Could be that that’s even part of the malign enchantment – “shhhh, shhhh, don’t worry about the 100,000 yearly opioid overdoses.”
Interesting that tracks my understanding as well. Peeling it back more –
the realities that our mind constructs. If you are familiar with ayuhuasca? I have no personal experience with it, but I am aware of its effects from first hand accounts. The drug resets the mind and it forms an entirely different reality from the stimulus. Whats interesting is that different people on different trips report seeing the same figures, some of these are known.
I have experienced a similar reconfigurations from spending many hours of meditation, and its something very common practicioners in meditation experience as well.
Wonder if you noticed thriftwizard’s comment at #117
– if I understand JMG’s point – time is a construct.
Experiences like those described at 117 are common. those past realities are still present it is possible for one’s mind to reconfigure the input the present into perceiving what came before. This seems to happen like described to someone in an unfamiliar place with a rich past, in other words their mind has not already created preconceived realities from that which is most present.
Similarly the mind can perceive both the past of the external world and internal – to see flashes of events in past lives. Based on my experiences of just tuning in and out of these things by happenstance, it’s kind of scary to think about what realities an experienced and skilled mage like JMG’s mind may be able to perceive in his workings. 🙂
In my experience artistic pursuits are a good way to get out of the disenchanted mindset – because the process does not follow the disenchanted materialist path, it’s more like one is uncovering what is already there by intuiting. Applying the same process to intellectual pursuit – in a traditionally materialist context – offers its own rewards of unanticipated discovery.
“no one person can replicate every experiment on which the modern scientific worldview is based,…”
Of course not. If you take physics, you deal with a relatively low grade of complexity and can therefore achieve a rather high grade of accuracy in some cases (though it has to be noted that accuracy is usually limited to a very narrow range around the conditions of your experiment or theory). That in cause makes it rather easy to use the results obtained by others to step upon with your own research. You know that what the others did has to be reasonably sound because the ladder holds you. But the more complex the problem is, the less reliable this approach becomes. And when we are talking about “life sciences” – I wonder how many do pretend to rest comfortably on the steps of a ladder built by others but in reality… well, the last years seem to have shown what can be seen in this regard.
The Sagan quote that SD shared is intriguing (though not surprising). It is remarkable that it is his own caste, that is wading into darkness and that is about to manifest the dark age he was talking about.
I find the study of the CosDoc very valuable, also in this regard. One could say that there is scientific trinity which consists of observation, logic and honesty as the binding element between the two. The repeated application of this principle manifests insights into our world, but it brought the Church of Science into being as well. With every step of evolution, the object of our worship shifted from the trinity to the slowly manifesting church. And as facts became the explanation of new facts, people now fully identify with the manifestation in many areas and have lost the sense for the underlying principles that allowed it to come into being. They’re worshiping an idol by now, and if you look at what for example the bible has to say in this regard and take it as a *cough* symbol, you see where all of this might be heading.
It’s sad, because it needn’t be that way. But here we are, and inertia is a real thing.
JMG and Michael (Ref #102)
In support of JMG’s reply, I would just ask you guys to talk to someone who’s degree requires physical chemistry (Most STEM degrees usually only require general and maybe organic).
When you finally hit physical chemistry, the first week usually consists of the professor informing the class that what they have learned so far is kinda cute, and provides for a decent enough means to slosh some chemicals around in a test tube, but now they get to learn how we do things downtown. (thanks Bill Murray)
Science is a reasonably useful enchantment for the day to day making of the daily bread. I can’t imagine that the simple spells (e.g. pv-nrt) is not going to have a place. I suppose that it kinda depends on the outcome of the next century. It isn’t going to be musc use in an agrarian, resource constrained day-to-day of everyman.
“Dreamer, and the Catholics have actually been saying that all along.”
Have read a couple of theology texts (admitedly from the protestant side of the fence) and there was a decent chunk in there about transubstantiation vs consubstantiation vs merely symbolic but nary a cheep about the metaphysics of it not even in the sense of this-is-how-those-backward-catholics-think-of-it.
I often say to people when they are dismissing other folks concepts something along the lines of ‘if you can’t explain it in their owns words you don’t understand their position’ or ‘how would this look from their perspective’ to try and get them to think more outside the box than whatever normally highly un-nuanced statement they had come out with.
When I read the earlier comment and replied and your response above I realised I was equally guilty of accepting my *own* throwaway line … a single half second of thought would grant me that of course the Catholics have some level of logic in their actions (whether I agree with it or not) and are not gleefully trampling bible pages underfoot and when a line like that crosses my mind or, worse, comes out of my mouth that should be the trigger for me to a) be aware of my ignorance and b) decide whether to find out and understand or stay ignorant and shut up.
Weirdly enough I learned a lot I didn’t know about my traditional side of the fence when I spent some time trying understand Russian Orthodoxy (eg faith as an individual transaction only vs faith as a community of believers).
It’s remarkable to me that one of the reasons I’ve come to enjoy this blog is how frequently our host echoes other folks that I’ve read, despite arriving at the same conclusions via a different path.
For instance, my favourite alt-Christian blogger talks about this same topic all the time. Here he is describing the sun as being literally alive:
To get even weirder, he asks whether “Hobbes” (of Calvin and Hobbes) is literally alive:
I believe this is not merely a case of “great minds think alike”. In fact it’s evident to me that when ideas converge like this it’s because the writers really are tapping the same spiritual reality.
Incidentally, but on topic, I would also like to know if our host has ever heard of Owen Barfield and the term “final participation”. Barfield was one of Tolkien’s “Inklings” and had his own approach to this topic:
I’m just curious because there are other obscure writers, e.g. Rudolf Steiner, whom I first heard of from Charlton but later read about on here.
pygmycory, I can’t say about Canada, but here in the USA, the liquor industry, including bar owners and liquor distributors, is a powerful lobby.
Aziz, from Arabia, I believe, that is it is my observation that more and more Americans are coming to feel and understand that we belong to the land of North America. That is not to be envied as NA is the most violent of the five inhabitable continents; hardly a week goes by where there is not some apocalyptic flood, fire or other extreme meteorological or geological event taking place somewhere in USA, Mexico or Canada. I suspect the fundamental reason our continent is divided into three large countries is that it requires the resources of a large nation to maintain civilized life in NA.
Your comment… “𝘐𝘧 𝘸𝘦’𝘳𝘦 𝘴𝘰 𝘮𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘴𝘮𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘴, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘶𝘴 𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘶𝘮𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘺 𝘴𝘰 𝘮𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘣𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘵 𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘮𝘦𝘦𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘩𝘶𝘮𝘢𝘯 𝘯𝘦𝘦𝘥𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘰𝘮𝘯𝘪𝘴𝘤𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘴𝘤𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘢𝘭𝘮𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘺 𝘵𝘦𝘤𝘩𝘯𝘰𝘭𝘰𝘨𝘺, 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘴𝘰 𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘺 𝘰𝘧 𝘶𝘴 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘣𝘭𝘰𝘸𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘣𝘳𝘢𝘪𝘯𝘴 𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘰𝘳 𝘥𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘥𝘳𝘶𝘨𝘨𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘷𝘦𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘥𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘩 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘩𝘦𝘦𝘳 𝘮𝘪𝘴𝘦𝘳𝘺 𝘰𝘧 𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘭𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘰𝘯 𝘩𝘢𝘴 𝘮𝘢𝘥𝘦?”…encapsulates my perception of the world better than I could ever state it. Thank you! I’m chomping at the bit in anticipation of future installments of this discussion.
Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Sometimes the science works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Both sentences state the same thing.
Like many others, I’m looking forward to this series of posts! Your post from a few years ago about nature spirits was what tipped me over into my own spiritual practices.
“…times and places far distant from the ritual and from one another fuse into a single moment…”
I don’t know if it is related, but I was just reading how children perceive time differently than adults. Children have to learn our cultural sense of time, for a child something is either an infinite amount of time away, or right now. So I wonder if it’s true that enchantment involves partly unlearning our sense of space and time?
yes, money had a lot to do with it too. Churches don’t fund the government with taxes the way the restaurant and bar industries do. It’s just that those things were also true in other places where the churches were open in the winter of 2020/21, when here they were closed. If the difference is due to organized religion being in the minority here in BC and in the majority in, say, Alberta where they were open at that time, that might explain some of the difference.
All of your examples of religious rituals seem to be examples of connecting with the original Great Building, or Rite, or connection with higher beings. Johann Hari has recently published a book called ‘Lost Connections’, where he argues for anxiety and depression as symptoms of society-wide disconnection from values, each other, the environment, and spirituality. Just a coincidence, I’m sure. 🙂
It doesn’t seem a coincidence that the rise of a belief in a dead world coincides with the exploitation of first the Americas, then coal, then oil. It’s a lot easier to justify strip-mining a dead lump of matter than Mother Earth’s body.
Is it a matter of selection pressure – in an environment with resources available to exploit, the worldview that justifies doing that gives its followers a competitive edge against other humans living in the same niche?
David T, it’s fascinating how many people don’t realize that the words they use — for example, “blue” — can mean different things to different people. That’s one reason so many discussions end up going nowhere — one or more of the participants can’t grasp that the meaning they give to a word isn’t universally held.
Random, what I said was “I’ve never seen anyone talking about human composting primarily as a way of fertilizing plants.” Emphasis added! Of course part of the point is that the results are used as fertilizer, but that’s not the principal point.
Orion, interesting. Yeah, that makes sense.
Nati, thanks for this — a useful meditation.
Turtle, I’ve been suggesting for years now that if astronomers really want to be fully funded again they ought to start casting horoscopes!
Lulzalot, we’ll talk about why the most recent age of enchantment ended, and we’ll also talk about why the ages of enchantment further back ended. Also about how earlier ages of disenchantment ended. It’s a complex story…
David BTL, why must a worldview be applicable to all places and all times? Sometimes it makes sense to treat light as a wave, and sometimes as a particle; sometimes it makes sense to approach the world through a rationalist filter and sometimes through a magical filter. Since human beings are arguably not smart enough to understand the world in its fullness, why not learn to be dextrous with worldviews?
Other Owen, exactly. It was a fascinating story and it worked very well for some things, but it got overgeneralized. That very often happen with stories!
Clark, I don’t think communities can be made; they have to grow. They’re organic, not manufactured. How to grow them? That’s a complex matter.
Other Owen, the Victorian era was deep into disenchantment, too. It’s not a new thing.
Thriftwizard, of course. Any form of craftsmanship is a way in — thus the surviving craft rituals in, e.g., Freemasonry.
Joshua, I don’t think they’re synonymous at all. Plenty of very disenchanted people perceive a purpose in their lives.
Yorkshire, funny! Thanks for this.
Stephen, yes, exactly.
Pygmycory, agreed! I’ve mentioned before that my first sight of the rings of Saturn through my homemade telescope is one of the defining memories of my childhood. It was a truly magical experience.
Jasper, hmm! Yes, that works.
#12345, enjoy your popcorn.
Pygmycory, of course the article smirked. Religion has been defined as outdated, and therefore anythign that moves away from it is Progress.
Anonymous, the media’s a very important factor. Disenchantment doesn’t come easily; it takes thirteen years of all-out propaganda disguised as schooling, and the constant bombardment of the media, to get people to lose track of their own healthy and natural connection to enchantment and buy into the disenchanted mentality. In 1904 disenchantment was mostly restricted to the intelligentsia and to factory workers; now it’s more widespread, and the media is much of the reason. That’s one of the reasons I suggest getting rid of your TV as an essential first step in becoming a mage.
Davie, Lewis had his moments! As for people being enchanted, good — we’ll be talking about that as we proceed.
Heather, thank you for both these tales.
AliceEm, now there’s a blast from the past! Journey to Ixtlan was my favorite Castaneda book, by a long shot.
“it takes thirteen years of all-out propaganda disguised as schooling”
Right. Now here’s a question then: what can be done to maximize a child’s experience of – ability to experience – enchantment? My kids are homeschooled and they’re doing great but we can always do better!
Orion, I like the sermon, except for the notion that the material body is at the bottom of the scale. The body has its own wisdom, which we need to heed much more than we do.
Ken, beyond what I suggested in that post? I have no idea yet.
Cliff, yeah, that strikes me as a good analysis.
Nachtgurke, I think that sort of drift is inevitable in any system of inquiry, for what it’s worth.
Degringolade, hmm! I’ll do that.
Dreamer, admittedly most of the Catholic theology I’ve read dates from the Middle Ages and Renaissance…
Bofur, I’m delighted to hear this — Christians, of all people, should be pursuing this line of thought. As for Barfield, yes, and in fact we’ll be talking about him later. I disagree profoundly with some aspects of his thought, and “final participation” is one of them; Barfield (along with certain other figures we’ll be discussing) fell into an intellectual trap my longtime readers will find familiar — but in exploring how they fell into the pit, we can work our way around it and understand the history of enchantment in a more useful way.
Fedora, you’re most welcome. Jump in and hang on!
Valiant, in a certain sense, I suppose so.
Jbucks, excellent! Yes, because our sense of space and time is a construct. Children perceive space and time in a less distorted fashion — and it’s possible, by returning to that less distorted sense, to do some things that properly enculturated adults cannot.
Kfish, just one o’ them synchronicities! As for selection pressure et al., we’ll get to that.
Bofur, that’s a fine question, which we can begin to explore once we’ve covered more of the groundwork.
@A #59 – thanks for that wonderful comment. I daresay you’re healthier than many.
Question for folks: I cut my own firewood these days. Does anyone have a suggestion for an appropriate ritual before cutting trees?
Pygmycory, in the USA, the liquor industry, beer distributors, et. al. does a great deal more than funding through taxes. It is a are major donor to candidates and spends a lot on lobbying,
Also, I think that out of all the threads I’ve ever read on this website this one has the best comments, proving that there is something deep that we are all longing for but too many people can’t or won’t talk about.
A practice I sometimes engage in with others is I challenge them to think of a World that worked under different paradigms, or belief systems in the past.
Ancient cultures must have had working systems, I say, that addressed the similar issues we face in a way that was successful enough to be considered “The right way to do it.” That is to say, Civilizations and cultures before us had working systems outside of scientific materialism.
Bringing this up as a conversation point often leads to Identifying evidence that illistrates how absurd it is to think absolutely nothing practiced in previous cultures worked because it wasn’t based in scientific materialism.
This flies directly in the face of Materialist dogma that indicates the only way to find truth, Or build anything properly, Or heal anyone, is through modern science.
Pyramids were built, wounds were healed, surgery was performed, metal objects were forged, ect ect. All without the help of modern science. How could this be? How in fact did we get anything at all done? This can become a very frustrating conversation for some people.
Often the responses I am challenged with are; after hundreds of thousands of years of trial-and-error we got a few things right, before science we were just living in Ignorance, and why does this conversation matter because we’ve made so much progress.
I might be able to steer the conversation towards the myth of never ending progress, the limits of science, How scientific materialism led us to a massively overpopulated world, an apparent climate crisis, the hyper consumption of fossil fuels, and massive massive wealth inequality Never before seen in history. Though often my friend is already angry at this point. If not it may be the final rebuttal is “we are just too smart for our own good.”
And then I say, “maybe we are too stupid.”
It can be a bit arrogant to converse this way, and I am certainly not the smartest person in the room. But when conversation starters are the new fusion reactor technology, flying cars (Tesla did this one recently again), colonizing mars, covid and the vaccine, our increasingly oppressive government… what else am I supposed to say?
I do wonder how much ugly architecture and our built environment of neon and street lights blotting out the stars gives a sense of disenchantment.
Our modern world as it has developed especially in the dense urban environments seem to encourage alienation and atomization as well as loneliness.
@JMG re: “David T, it’s fascinating how many people don’t realize that the words they use — for example, “blue” — can mean different things to different people. That’s one reason so many discussions end up going nowhere — one or more of the participants can’t grasp that the meaning they give to a word isn’t universally held.”
I’ve noted before – I may have posted it on the other blog, I may not – that both sides of the political aisle agree that we shouldn’t harm others. The divide between the teams lies largely in the definition of “harm.”
Bofur, posts about subjects like this always gets amazing comments here, but you’re right that this one is better than most — which is saying something. (I have the best commentariat on the internet, full stop, end of sentence.) That’s one of the reasons I decided it was time to pursue the subject of enchantment in more detail here.
Ian, oh my — that’s definitely a way to throw the cat in among the pigeons! Our collective identity is rooted in the notion that we’re the smart guys in history’s room, the only ones who ever got it right, and you can get an astonishing amount of pushback by noting even very simple things — for example, the fact that medieval peasants worked shorter hours, had more days off, and kept a larger fraction of the value of their own labor than middle class Americans do today.
Info, good. Yes, that’s a far more important factor than most people realize. The built environment, after all, is an expression in matter of the thoughts of its builders — it is, precisely, an externalization of a state of consciousness, and so it reinforces the state of consciousness that created it. The feedback loop that results from that process is one of the ways that civilizations run off the rails.
Brendhelm, a good example.
@JMG, I am excited to read more about enchantment because I came to magical practice via Magic Monday & the Druid Magic Handbook four years ago out of a deep sense of spiritual loneliness. I know that in theory I have a guardian angel and that the gods exist and are present when I perform the Sphere of Protection and do my daily prayers, but that is only on a theoretical, almost blind faith level. I want to experience them more directly. Maybe that will guide me in my life and assuage this deep spiritual loneliness.
Last night as I trekked across the rain-wetted asphalt parking lot between my car and the grocery store, I passed a young man, skateboard parked by his feet, who clutched a short-stemmed flower in one hand while reaching down to the pavement with his other. He touched the pavement with the backs of his curled fingers, then stood up and intently examined his still-curled fingers while turning his hand to and fro.
“Are you all right?” I asked him, thinking maybe he’d skinned his knuckles on the pavement while skateboarding.
“I have a big beautiful spider,” he answered. “I am rescuing her.”
I said, “I’m glad that there is still someone in the world who appreciates the finer things.” We talked about the spider for a moment.
The sheer sense of wonder and appreciation of beauty radiating off this young man was a treasure to behold. He was like a human sidewalk flower, standing there communing with a spider in a soggy asphalt parking lot in the dark.
– Cicada Grove
JMG, in your response to Kerry you said:
“like every other ideology, rationalist materialism has filled up its notional space and run out of new things to say.”
And I thought that you would appreciate this:
“The rate of ground-breaking scientific discoveries and technological innovation is slowing down despite an ever-growing amount of knowledge, according to an analysis released Wednesday of millions of research papers and patents.”
Specifically, the ‘disruptive’ breakthroughs are down in all fields. Previous reports have highlighted this problem in certain fields, but this is across the board.
In an odd synchronicity, just today I threw my MP3 player onto random and it pulled up a talk by Alan Watts. The subject was about the mistake of separating spiritual world and the physical world of matter. That and to be wary of fashionable trends in science. Sounds familiar. 🙂
Also I personally call him James “the mediocre” Randy. He had a great sense of humor and that elevates him from James “the rubbish” Randy. 😉
Well, to clarify, I don’t think I associate “enchanted” necessarily with “deluded” in the _general_ case. More just “altered”, which might or might not include some sort of delusion or, as you say, empowerment. And in this case, if using the flipped enchanted/disenchanted view, I’d say that the one gripping the modern world includes both.
(Though the delusion aspect is admittedly just relative to the normal human experience; I don’t think that normal human experience is directly getting the raw structure of reality _either_, but it might perhaps be compared to something like… the non-deluded seeing a person and only seeing the present surface (their outer clothing but not their underwear, what they’re doing now but not what they were doing this morning, what they’re writing but not what they’re thinking…), while the deluded sees a vague moving blob instead. Both give some level of information about the environment while leaving other information out, but one provides more than the other.)
There is, after all, great power in the atheist materialist view of the world, fatally flawed though it also is. It might perhaps be compared to military training that seeks to foster among the troops depersonalization of whoever gets labelled “enemy”; it is, after all, much easier mentally to dump industrial waste into the river next to your factory if you _aren’t_ worried it’ll greatly offend a god, or to clear a forest and dig an open pit mine if the most formidable beings you’re worried about angering are squirrels. That reduced friction, in turn, can allow a greater and more rapid increase in industrial might and technological capability, which in turn can be used to outcompete other groups without those advantages and thereby seize even more resources. You end up with bootprints in lunar regolith and the ability to send a hydrogen bomb to the other side of the planet and wipe out a city in a few dozen minutes, or in peacetime get pictures of naked people from that distant city in just a few seconds, or travel there yourself in just a few hours.
Of course, the newest lunar bootprints are decades old by now, the tension between hydrogen-bomb-armed human fractiousness and the understanding that naked people are much less pleasant to look at when they have severe radiation poisoning is not exactly a _great_ state for the world to be in, pollution and resource depletion are rapidly closing in on our civilization from both sides even entirely within the view of the world as dead matter bumping into itself, and a broader view of the world has all that _plus_ quite a few differently embodied beings who believe in us whether or not we believe in them and are presumably not much pleased by what we’ve collectively been up to the past couple of centuries — but the power’s been there.
(Sorry about the double post, but I didn’t notice the one I’m replying to and think of the reply until after I’d already sent the previous one.)
@Darkest Yorkshire #4:
Though it does seem like different natural features can have _drastically_ different attitudes towards humans. Often, indeed, indifferent or actively hostile. On the other end, though, we have features like the Nile:
Have water and food aplenty, have papyrus to write upon, have the Red Land to defend you, the winds and currents to move your many boats, and all this and the cycle of the river to give good, deeply-rooted and long-enduring order to your lives.
Sure, the river and the Black Land can still very much be dangerous; the river is still its own entity with its own concerns and still wants respect. But if that’s not a landscape actively predisposed to _love_ good humans, I don’t know what’s going on there.
Of course, even that wasn’t enough to stop the river being dammed, when modern industrial civilization decided that even the Gift of the Nile wasn’t enough and demanded more. I do wonder what will happen when those dams finally fail, though, when the seas are higher and the rainfall patterns different.
I don’t believe in astrology, because I am a Scorpio.
The disenchantment was a function of a war to control the force of BELIEF, and it is a recurring pattern in history to deny the individual the right of their inheritance to be free, and to live up to their full potential as an incarnate human being. The inverted pentegram is the emblem of the worship of all materialism. Material is to be used and abused without consequence or sentiment. Scientific reductionism attempted to force this belief on the so called civilized and colonized world, perhaps as a fait accompli/post hoc justification for the brutality that it emerged from and with. Buddhism realized specifically how dangerous unchecked desire was because it unbalanced such a powerful force. The force of belief is the defining human power, beyond fire, thumbs, and tools, although I admit those three features worked symbiotically with the power of belief to allow us to manifest all things, good and bad which humans have achieved.
I am in that world of enchantment more often than not, even in bad moments, perhaps especially in those moments. I do not believe I can or would want to escape this worldview. My belief states the concept of God : is sentience : is in every atom, and how we interact with EVERYTHING is how we practice our spirituality. The only place outside of this sentience is in the human minds of the deluded who choose not to see the layers of interconnection everywhere, in order to reap the boon from defiling God itself by ripping the fabric of this existence as their own little gods. The illusion of gain in these circumstances is the real mass formation psychosis at work across the generations, and it appears to be culminating into a pendulum/ paradigm shift. Happy Epiphany to all.
Hi JMG and commentariat,
Do you know or have a working guess why it is that some people have occult experiences without seeking them and others do not, even if they believe them to be real (I’m referring to comment #75 by Carlos M.) ?
Frank from Germany
Whew JMG! That’s a very good beginning to a very large topic.
I remember reading about various secret societies at elite US universities, like Skull and Bones at Yale University, and others like the Bohemian Grove.
It seems likely to me that the upcoming leaders in business and politics are initiated into rites which are used to enchant the rest of us into following along. An image of a new creme-filled cookie emerges– The cookie on top of society ineptly wielding enchantments downward while loudly proclaiming that we live in a secular materialist universe; The cookie on the bottom of society using their own enchantments to resist being crushed by the other two layers; And the creme filling in the middle (middle management, if you will), that feels compelled to swallow the emptiness proclaimed from above for job preservation, and is having the life crushed out of it with no means of defense.
Some of this elites’ strategy may be due to an understanding of the role of German occultists prior to WW II, which you have covered previously in some detail. An elite person knowledgeable about the facts of that story will realize that these occult workings were real and effective, and will determine that they never be used again– Except of course, to further his own political fortunes! So the elite practices occult arts privately while publicly declaring them to be nonsense. Hoping I am wrong in these suppositions…
Thanks for the explanation, John Michael. It rings a bell and I should have known better before asking. This being said, I had a cursus in various scientific fields as a engineer, both fundamental and applied. I agree with the rather subjective reality of, let’s say, quantum theory and the standard model of particles. However, when I got myself a 5kg round bar of steel dropped on my foot attempting to chuck it in a lathe, I felt it rather real. On the other hand, I can conceive that the concept of temperature is subjective representation of reality because one can’t feel the temperature out of his senses, only heat gradients. Do I get it right? I’m by no mean a philosopher, though. Being French, I had to take mandatory philosophy class as a senior in high school (rather the local equivalent of it) but wasn’t that much impressed.
So far so good, I’m pleased with the reality I can deal with. And I don’t throw away the idea that other realities migh exist. Any good source about the very concept of reality you can recommend for a newbie like me?
Lulzealot #110, I’m going to have to remember “Did the Age of Enchantment end because it was so great and we were so happy there?” when talking to people who belive in a past golden age. 🙂
Justin Patrick Moore #137, I hadn’t heard of Hip Hop Family Tree and I’m reading the first one now. If you like electronic and industrial, a few more recommendations:
Back to the 80s Vol. 5 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qk1nnAHI1mI. Retro synthwave collection. Music for racing motorbikes through a neon city night.
Dance With Dead – That House https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PN5YntoTFKw. Retro synthwave perfection.
Our Dream https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMoCM_FgLP8. Sovietwave collection. There was a picture that isn’t online anymore of a sign saying ‘Soviet Ganymede: 20% Oxygen by 2060’ and a woman cosmonaut taking her helmet off with an expression of “We actually did it.” This is the music to go with that image.
The Enigma TNG – Egyptian Night Club https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7Gkh_9hyi8. Cyberpunk rave culture Kemetic mysticism?
Haus Arafna – Colony Collapse https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z48KUf-RiGw. Industrial apocalypse.
Reading the comments on how early experiments on parapsychology have stronger effects because “the entities get bored,” brought to my mind the idea that psychology might be suffering from this effect as well. So, the crisis of replicability in psychology might exist in part because the area deals with the mind (and, ahem, the link with demons and some mental problems).
I was educated as an astronomer. You know how few of us actually *look at the stars*? Fewer than laypeople, I think. Everybody liked stargazing going into their educations, but somehow… just not a priority, I guess. Actively discouraged by some. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, for example, strikes me as the kind of guy who has not gone stargazing in 30 years or so for fear he might experience An Emotion. (Carl Sagan, OTH, apparently did enjoy the majesty of the cosmos– he just had to be high off his posterior on cannabis to allow himself to experience something close to enchantment. On the gripping hand, Richard Feynman talked about using scientific knowledge to expand one’s joy in the world rather than reducing it. Very different approach, that! I think he would have been cool with a little enchantment.)
Since I couldn’t find a job in my field and know very few who were fortunate enough to do so… yeah, I can buy there being more astrologers than astronomers. JMG, do you have any tips for someone who wants to cross to the winning team? A reading list, recommended courses, whatever? I can’t say I’d mind playing Kepler if I could keep the lights on that way, even if most of my classmates would insist they’d rather starve.
Seeing “The Sun Is Alive and Conscious” and “Rupert” in the same link immediately reminded me of this:
But the paper above is from 2020, actually Sheldrake might have got inspiration from Charlton.
This may not be the right post for it, but something in this essay and comments triggered a thought. We do have more myths than progress. Someone upstream commented on the mythic narratives around COVID and Ukraine. You sure do get an emotional reaction questioning either! But there’s a stronger one. So strong that I didn’t realize how it shaped my thinking until now– the Myth of the Holocaust.
I’m not calling the Holocaust a myth to deny its historical reality, of course. (My country has what I now see as blasphemy laws to keep you from doing that. So I want to make very clear that I’m not doing that.) What I mean that, along with the historical event called the holocaust, we also have a package of stories we refer to that carry immense weight in our culture. (Some of them are accurate, some distorted in retelling, and some just common misconceptions. True of any historical narrative in the popular consciousness.) I’m not saying these stories shouldn’t hold weight, either! This isn’t about antisemitism. It just never occurred to me that the narrative might serve the role of myth. Honestly I think it is a more dearly held myth than progress itself.
Question Progress, and people will think you are a kook. Question COVID and they will think you are dangerous, take your truck and freeze your bank accounts. Question the Holocaust and you will go to jail across much of the Western world. So it seems to me that the last of these myths is the most dearly held. I haven’t the foggiest of ideas why that should be or what it means, but I will think on it. I’d like to your opinion, too.
(I mean, look at how I’m hedging my words here, to avoid going beyond the pale and appearing to question the myth. I feel discomfort using the word myth. This shows how powerful it is! JMG, if this is not a topic you’re comfortable with in your comments section don’t put this through but please let me know so I don’t try and bring it up again on another thread.)
[I am putting this through because Epileptic Doomer has made a valid point: progress isn’t the only narrative that has immense emotional importance in our time. I’m aware, however, that this is an issue about which many people are incapable of having a reasoned discussion, so I want to say in advance: we are talking about narratives. If anyone tries to drag the discussion over to what did or didn’t happened to Jewish populations in Europe between 1933 and 1945, their comments will be deleted; if the comments are egregious enough, I’ve got my ban hammer handy. I’m willing to take the chance that enough of my readership is mature enough that we can discuss narratives as narratives.
[‘Nuf said. — JMG]
Re worldviews and tools
I suppose I’d say that one’s worldview is one’s map of reality, distinct from mere tools to perform a specific task. Now one can certainly update and revise one’s map as new information comes available–that’s simply refinement. But you can only have one such map at time and that the map must be internally coherent and logically consistent. (I understand, of course, that the map is not the territory, but the map is all one has to represent the territory and thus serves at its proxy.)
To flip-flop between contradictory representations at will means that one has no consistent perception of reality, which circles back to the comment about insanity. Instability and inconsistency are dangerous and that danger must be neutralized or defeated. (The alternative being that we are hapless victims doomed to suffer the whims of fate and circumstance, which is a possibility I guess, albeit a depressing one.) How is one to navigate safely if one has no stable, consistent, and logically-coherent map to do so? This is where I get hung up.
@ Liam, JMG etal re: Catholics and the eucharist
The Orthodox understanding of liturgy is similar. When we participate in the liturgy, we are going to liturgy on a particular day, in a particular year, AND we are, every single liturgy ever, participating in The One Great Liturgy, outside of time and material space, with the saints, angels, and every Christian who has ever lived and ever will live, ‘unto ages of ages’.
There is a wonderful account of something like this in the Father Arseny stories here:
These were originally circulated as samizdat, and who knows if they are true histories, folktales, or something of both (enchantment!), but this one is a good illustration of the Orthodox view of liturgical time and space: when we pray, when we participate in religious rites, we participate in the eternal– we don’t just remember it or yearn for it, we enter it.
Brendhelm. both sides of “the political aisle” agree we shouldn’t harm others?? I think both sides, or powerful factions therein, are very much committed to harming others. Malign enchantments, perhaps?
Interesting post/topic. Makes me think of animism and how real/relevant animistic perspectives seem to me. Some folks here might enjoy learning more about the work of Graham Harvey, an unconventional British academic who thinks and writes about animistic perspectives.
I’ll be following this very closely, as Barfield’s Saving the Appearances is a personal favorite of mine. I know you wrote some on him on the Well of Galabes. Have you changed your views any? Should be a fascinating discussion. I look forward to your explications on this. There does seem to be a tendency in Christian tradition to try to finalize things in a certain way, which goes too far and is not helpful. I wasn’t aware Barfield’s apparatus falls much afoul of this tendency, although you can quite plainly see it in most other Christian places. All things are relative to God, even the Christian religion. So the supremacy of God just means the servanthood of God, and we are back to original participation, except in a “final” (participatory and irrevocable) way – that’s how I read Barfield. Final is not evolutionary, but restorational, and beyond. Maybe that’s me modifying him. Somehow, the “evolutionary/progressive” element has to be disentangled from Christian revelation, without compromising the message, and people have a lot of trouble doing that. Barfield seems a little better at it, than say, R. Steiner.
Rereading it now. Always thought provoking.
JMG Of course! The model is not the thing, I’m looking forward to hearing about the philosophy.
Jas, thanks missed that… ah gardens, I’ve just moved, and will be guiding a garden from scratch, it’s basically just a patch of earth just now, looking forward to it.
JMG: getting a nonce error when posting comments after 24 hours.
In regards to Parker, he talks about the body more elsewhere. And I think he is really also talking about Emerson’s “Transparent Eyeball” and how it is all, including the body, a part of the “Universal Being” as Emerson calls it.
Speaking of enchanting….
Jefferson always was barefoot in bed so that the first thing he did every day upon waking up was to put his feet on the wood floor and make as direct contact with the earth as he could. (no rugs for him!)
So I was visiting my dad on Tuesday at his assisted living and one of his aides was there. She is Muslim and it was almost time for prayer at sunset. I asked which way was Mecca. She said, laughing, “I have an app!” Then immediately pointed in the correct direction without the app. We all laughed, in a good way!
I think of the pointing in the direction of Mecca as a way to ground yourself, to know where you are physically, and as a way to connect you with an enchantment.
JMG- First, thanks so much for this blog and comments. It is the only thing I do online pretty much any more. It is special.
I’m going to post the first poem I’ve ever written. It is not finished, as I have been taking my time to edit as you recently wrote about, but I feel compelled to post it here as will make sense. So here goes:
It’s hard to find God on Twitter.
But once I did.
Can you Fit
The Infinite in 140 glyphs?
Is 280 cyphers enough
To get the message across?
Would a thousand be enough?
Or One million?
Or One billion?
“To Infinity and Beyond!”
It’s hard to find God on Twitter
Plenty of lost souls though
Sitting on threads while simultaneously
On the Couch
Drinking a beer
Waiting, Waiting, for an angel to appear
Or maybe a stripper
Looking for Contact! Contact!
It’s hard to find God on Twitter.
But once I did.
My mom tweeted me!
But then I remembered she was dead.
Maybe it was Turing’s Man?
Maybe the N.S.A.?
Maybe The Donald or Elon?
I’m still not sure.
It’s hard to find God on Twitter.
How do you tweet your mom’s last breath?
How do you tweet holding her hand at the end?
@David by the Lake
if I use a scientific understanding of a drop of water as H20 molecules bounded by surface tension one minute, and then switch to admiring the beauty and clarity of the drop of water and the way it sparkles in the sun and produces cool effects with light and develop the urge to write poetry about it, I’m switching mental maps at will.
Ditto treating light as a particle, then as a wave, and then waxing rhapsodic about how pretty it is and how we can’t can’t see without is seems completely reasonable to me.
I don’t think this is madness; I think it deepens my understanding and appreciation of what I contemplate. I just have to keep in mind that you can map the same territory in different ways and remember which one I’m using at the moment. A topographic map and a street map are both useful descriptions of the territory in different circumstances, and you can understand more about the territory using both of them than using either alone.
@Epileptic Doomer #180
At the risk of wading into a contentious discussion, I’d like to propose that the consequences of questioning a narrative don’t correlate directly with the importance of that narrative to our society.
Although questioning the Holocaust narrative is indeed verboten across the western world, and a great deal could be said about why *this* genocide out of many attained special status, I’m not aware that this narrative or myth importantly shapes people’s lives and decisions and perceptions in any significant way – at least in my region. To me that puts it far below Progress, the woke social justice narrative, most religions, and political tribalism in terms of explaining the shape and trajectory of modern society.
@Mark L, #40
The fact that you cannot perceive the, shall we call it literal truthness, of the Eucharist does not mean it does not exist, it is possible that you simply have not witnessed it. I have never witnessed it (the Christ in the wafer) myself either (though I have had direct experience with the Holy Spirit, of which I’d rather not talk about), but my mother does. She does not go around talking about it because she does not want to be called the crazy church-going old hag, but she has seen the Christ at the time of the Consecration ritual. She cannot control when will she see it, though. And I do believe her to be a reliable witness and not, indeed, a crazy old hag because she can do other stuff such as receive premonitory forewarnings about specific events, usually hours or days in advance of those happening in the material world. Of the reality of Masonic rituals I know nothing, but given all the other information here exposed, I doubt those are the exception that confirms the rule.
Instead of saying some mystic experiences are the real deal and others are mere superstitions (and, let’s be honest, in today’s industrial world it is always the Christian and the Catholic who gets labeled as superstitious), I prefer to think that we are all under the same disenchantment “area of effect”, but if we are sufficiently attuned to one entity or another we might break through the fog from time to time. So, by all means enjoy and cultivate your connection with Nature’s spirits.
@Darkest Yorkshire #176: I really like the Haus Arafna… that is nice! I’m also really down with the idea of cyberpunk rave culture Kemetic mysticism. That’s a nice Kemetic floor banger!
Okay, I’ll get in on this game. Here are a few of my favorite industrial pieces:
Skinny Puppy: Yo Yo Scrape. This one is from the compilation BRAP, which featured a whole disc of their early music made on four-track tape…
Download, Siegsang: tribal industrial with searing words on ecocide. Perfect for when you are about to chain yourself to a tree up in the pacific northwest.
For a bit of post-industrial / electronic, and because Coil were one of the most magical of the industrial groups… The Last Amethyst Deceiver, because we will in time have to pay our respects to the vultures. (Also good chill music while crafting HDP product/)
“Pay your respect to the vultures / for they are our future / our fathers and mothers have”
& to show that Coil could make a real floorbanger, here is Coil vs. ElPh from the “Born Again Pagans” EP:
& probably better to file under “surrealist” or “dada” more than industrial, Nurse With Wound was part of the milieu, and one of my absolute favorite musical groups:
Two Shaves and a Shine feat. lyrics from David Tibet. This one could also be described as hillbilly krautrock.
My brief industrial list would be incomplete without a release from Nocturnal Emissions:
An anthem from the meat generation is this one, No Separation…
Reese #170, in the Yorkshire Dales there are potholes with very different personalities. Alum Pot clearly hates you and wants you to die (and it does kill people). Meanwhile the Buttertubs are so friendly it feels like it would actually be difficult to fall into one. Further south on the moors near where I live, there was a natural spring my grandma and grandad used to swim in. It had beautifully clear water and everyone called it the Blue Lagoon. Now it’s choked up with dumped rubble. The spite is certainly not carefully aimed.
I have never really thought about holocaust denialism. Now that we have google — I looked it up. And in an odd sense of irony — Putin made that illegal in Russia, where it is not illegal in the US (so much for the Putin == Hitler argument).
I think the above, along with the failure of the “coof” shots — is going to make people begin the question lots of things. I for one never questioned our vaccination programs, but over the past few years I am beginning to wonder. Others may expand and look at the above.
Anyway — fascinating insight — thx for sharing
really looking forward to this series. I grew up in the suburbs and very keenly felt the effects of the myth of disenchantment. Myths are powerful things. What I’ve heard a lot of people call the boredom of the suburbs I felt most keenly as a spiritual absence. Whenever I went off to the wood or the seashore I felt presence. Return home, absence. Years of this before I caught on that it wasn’t just the effect of getting out of the city that was drawing me out. Probably no surprise I ended up embracing a nature spirituality. Anyway, I wanted to say, I’m sure you’ve read it, but Vine Deloria Jr’s The World We Used to Live In is one of the things that really started to lift the veil for me, and open my eyes to the real world.
One of the things which I find fascinating about the Holocaust Narrative is that it has a fascinating divergence from the usual patterns of emotional response to questioning: people usually get angry about someone questioning a narrative or belief if there’s a reason to think it’s wrong. The more persuasive the evidence against their treasured narrative, the more dramatic the reactions usually are. This is, intriguingly, not the case with the Holocaust Narrative: the evidence is pretty overwhelming it happened, to deny it involves a lot of special pleading, but it is nonetheless something a lot of people get very, very defensive about.
What’s occurred to me recently is that the issue may be the political role the Holocaust has come to play, and that even to discuss this risks triggering cognitive dissonance on a spectacular scale for a lot of people. Simply put, the Holocaust forms the core narrative used in the Western World to justify the American Empire. The idea that the Holocaust is what happens without the US intervening to check the worst impulses of the rest of the world; and that the American Empire thus exists to stop it, is an implicit narrative in the portrayal of the US as being in Europe to stop a repeat of World War II, if the thing which made World War II so horrible was the genocide. The fact that the American government has not stopped other genocides, and in fact has on occasion condoned them, and arguably engaged in them as well, does not change the fact that this narrative is the one used to justify the American Occupation of Europe.
So, what makes the Holocaust Narrative such an emotional mess for our society is not the obvious surface narrative, but rather that this surface narrative is being used in the pursuit of political power, by means of a second and much more dubious narrative; and that of course this means that critics of the American Occupation of Europe are going to end up question both narratives; and it seems plausible to me that the American Empire has done what it so often does, and propped up the weaker opponents as controlled opposition, and thus focused the debate on the question of whether the Holocaust happened or not, rather than the (to them) more challenging question of “Does this justify the political claims made by the American Empire?”
Wow, ok I must say that I find what Epileptic Doomer writes to be very thought provoking. It seems to be an essential part of myth-making: Take a historical event and carefully spin a story around it (I’m not saying this has to be intentional. It can maybe just happen?). Then place guarded thought stoppers all around it to prevent realities sharp edges to touch it while you continue to carefully nurture the unborn myth and make it grow. Time will blunt realities hard edges and as the newborn myth develops its own inner life, it becomes more robust all by itself, too.
So there are historic events that are strong enough to provide a mental idea, imagery and energy to create a stable vortex that may grow and become more stable by sucking the energy of its surroundings into it. Would that be a correct (although coarse) image? But aren’t myths then huge “karma-machines”? Some seem to need huge amounts of karma dumped into it to be created, some seem to create huge amounts of karma for those who are sucked into its vortex, some seem to be able to resolve individual karma in great amounts and some seem to do all of it and “pump” karma, for good or for ill?
And it the grade of historical accuracy does not even seem to be important and can range from close to 0% to close to 100%.
“I think that sort of drift is inevitable in any system of inquiry, for what it’s worth.”
At least it does look like that. Would you say then that any system of inquiry and any organization related to it will turn into some sort of idol-worship regardless of its original content? What about occultism and the various organizations and orders that are build around it?
@ pygmycory #190
I’d agree with you re water and poetry and topo vs street maps, but those aren’t mutually contradictory. Even the particle/wave issue can be resolved by developing a model that provides room for both observations. Again, no contradiction. I’m thinking more along the lines of broader notions, a metamodel if you will. So, to reference an example mentioned previously, is my life fully predetermined with all my actions preordained so that I am merely acting out a script already written or do I possess agency in my own life? One cannot hold these both simultaneously true without violating basic rules of rationality. Likewise, I cannot pursue two contradictory value systems without being/acting insane: for example, supporting religious freedom on one hand and compelling conversion to my faith on the other. I can have one map and one set of values defining my actions. I cannot employ rationality selectively. What is true? What map do I use to maximize my path through life? What objective function ought I maximize? These questions require singular, stable answers, else my life path is a futile exercise of guesswork and frustration.
Epileptic Doomer @ 178 have you considered writing books or articles or maybe a blog about astronomy and related topics in plain language for us scientific illiterates who are interested in the topic but allergic to fancy terminology and complicated formulae? One writer who managed to explain topics in geology to a fascinated readership, and did rather well at the gig, is John McPhee. Especially now, when supposedly intelligent people are convinced that we are going to the stars any decade now, we badly need voices who can be heard and understood explaining why that is not possible. Also, there seem to be many new discoveries in your field; I would love to have someone like you explain them to me so as I could understand.
@Mark L #191
That‘s an interesting thought about the missing correlation.
What I can add is that things are different in Germany – this narrative does shape life to a great extent. Some of that is just in the nature of things, being Germany and all, but the narrative (and I am emphatically _not_ talking about legit remembrance and learning from history!!) has taken on a life of its own, almost something religious:
We have become so afraid of ever becoming „Nazis“ again, that as a society, we are well past the point where we could talk about the underlying mechanisms, similar developments, comparisons, etc – i.e. any kind of meaningful talk.
In most public discourse, calling somebody a „Nazi“ is an immediate strike out. Everything which on the surface goes into that direction (e.g. a legit political movement slightly to the right of the actual middle, but by no means rightwing extremist) is, by association, Nazi and thus needs to be „destroyed“ by all means.
Comparing something with certain aspects of the Nazi time is a total no-go (unless certain people compare certain other people). And „right“ as opposed to left in political terms is by a lot of people used as a synonym to „rightwing extremist“
I believe that this was different in my youth (but maybe my memory fails me here) – people could freely discuss what makes things totalitarian, compare details of current trends with things from the Third Reich (even if only to show how things differed), etc. But somehow, this narrative has silently turned into some kind of religion.
To me, this is a very difficult development. We have, to some extent, lost the ability to spot faschist or totalist tendencies, or other things which could and should be measured against the Third Reich (to work out both the differences and the similarities), and thus to spot worrying trends and things which are going wrong. The covid time has made that amply clear.
I don‘t think this is a healthy way of remembering – and I also don‘t think it does the victims of the Nazis justice if we are totally on the lookout for brown clothes, but miss any other forms of exclusion, totalitarianism, etc. Those who suffered from the holocaust, and their memories, deserve better than that.
Funnily enough (or maybe not – but humour sometimes is my saviour…), this has reached the point of total madness, like some of the corona behaviour has – a couple of days ago, I saw a tweet which takes the cake.
For background, the slogan „Nazis raus“ (= „Nazis go away“) has commonly been used in Germany to express that one is against rightwing extremists – I think I‘ve still got some buttons with that somewhere in a drawer from my teenage years. 😉
The author of said tweet had tweeted something else, more or less calling somebody a nazi. Since people apparently took offense with that, he replied
„Weil‘s hier Unbehagen mit dem Begriff ‚Nazi‘ gibt. Ich meine selbstverständlich nicht Nationalsozialisten, sondern Nazis im Sinne von: Nazis raus.“
(„Since people didn‘t feel good with the phrase „nazi“. Of course, I don‘t mean national socialists, but Nazis in the sense of ‚nazi go away‘“)
As you can see, the narrative has reached the interesting point where a nazi according to the narrative („nazi go away“) isn‘t the same as an actual nazi. 😉
On the positive side, a lot of „normal“ people, not in public discourse or on twitter, are well aware that the narrative doesn‘t match with reality (or with history) anymore. So I‘m quite hopeful that we‘ll turn back to a healthy way of remembering and learning, and hopefully soon.
Anyway, this is just a data point from my personal experience. Interestingly, I had never thought about this as a sacred narrative before Epileptic Doomer brought it up. Lots of food for thought there. JMG, thanks for allowing this discussion!
I think I used too few words to attempt to describe what I was feeling.
From my perspective, the Eucharist is real and meaningful because Jesus Christ continues to exist on a spiritual plane and the ceremony calls participants into communion with Him. I say this as someone who is not a Christian, though I know many and believe the realness of the experience they describe.
What I meant to convey was that to me, the connection to Jesus is true and real (at least if the ritual is sincere) while the connection across space and time to the Last Supper is only symbolic (i.e. real in the way in guides our thoughts, not real in the sense of actually transporting us there).
That’s still probably not enough words, but I wanted to clarify that I was trying to draw a distinction between enchantment in the sense of bridging worlds and planes vs. enchantment in the sense of bridging time and space.
An enchanted/disenchanted anecdote. Today on my lunch walk, following Orion’s suggestion, I threw a rock in the neighboring creek and had a great time on the trail, inviting the water into my walk. When I remember, I try to add the blessing walk.
Towards the end, about a half hour later, I felt a heavy “force” on my right side and realized I was passing the local Google building. I’ve never felt that before, and I think it was because the creek and I had made a stronger connection than normal.
The Google building had no personality. It was just a very strong, oppressive force that pressed against the side of my head. Those people have to live in it every day. I know the skeptics in my life would pass this off as a psychosomatic something or another, but it was surprisingly real.
Cs2, many people suffer that same loneliness. It’s a slow process, learning to perceive the presence of less densely material beings, but chugging away with the work out of sheer doggedness is a good start.
Cicada Grove, thanks for this! What a lovely narrative.
Team10tim, good gravy Marie, they’re actually admitting it! I wonder when they’ll dust off a copy of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and read the part about “normal science”…
Michael, I’m impressed by your MP3 player — a fine synchronicity indeed. As for Randi, I tend to think of him as the Unamazing Randi and leave it at that.
Reese fair enough. If I may translate, the enchantment of rationalist materialism is useful for some purposes and very, very problematic for others, and the enchantments more normal for human beings are — well, useful for some purposes and very, very problematic for others!
Paradoctor, the irony there is that Scorpios are typically much more likely to believe in astrology!
Mackenzie, that’s certainly one way to look at it. I’ll be interested to see what you think of the model I’ll be developing as we proceed.
Frank, the traditional explanation in occult circles is that the people who have spontaneous experiences had occult training in a previous incarnation.
Emmanuel, interesting. What I’ve read about Skull & Bones and the like — which I studied in some detail for my books on secret societies and conspiracies — suggests that it has a lot more in common with Animal House than with the Golden Dawn; the Cremation of Care ceremony from the Bohemian Grove, which I’ve read — it’s readily available in some corners of the internet — is the kind of thing that most summer camps used to do a century ago. I’ve yet to see any evidence that the elite classes in today’s society have any grasp of practical occultism at all; their flacks and flunkies are very good at the debased sorts of magic now called “advertising” and “public relations,” but those fail as often as they do precisely because they’re not adequately paired with workings for self-initiation and spiritual development, so the purveyors of such things routinely end up believing their own hype. I should probably do a post on that one of these days.
Sébastien, the experience of having a five pound weight dropped on your foot is just as real from a magical point of view as from a scientific one. The problem with science, from an occult standpoint, is not that it’s wrong — it’s that it’s hopelessly incomplete. I don’t know a good source on reality for beginners, but I’ll start looking for one.
Anonymous, that makes a great deal of sense!
Doomer, as a trained astronomer you have a significant advantage in studying astrology, since you already know how the solar system works. Since there are a lot of astrologers these days, if you want to learn how to do it professionally, you’ll need to find a niche not already filled to the bursting point. One way to do that — the one I’ve used — is to start by studying astrology in books too old to be fashionable. My faves are Llewellyn George and Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson, but your mileage may vary; Alan Leo was the great figure from the generation before theirs, and you can go all the way back to ancient Greek astrology — the Hellenistic methods are seeing quite a revival these days. That approach gives you methods that most of today’s pop astrologers have never heard of, and you can make quite a reasonable income by specializing in those: say, classic political astrology, as I’ve done, or horary (divinatory) astrology, or electional (choosing the right time for something) astrology, or what have you.
As for your hot button question, yeah, that’s a useful reminder of the way that the collective imagination picks and chooses narratives to fill various archetypal slots. Hitler and the Nazis generally have become far more powerful of a presence in the collective thinking of the West than they ever were in their time; the monotonous way every kind of political invective ends up obeying Godwin’s law is a good marker of that. It’s particularly impressive in that two other twentieth century autocratic regimes, those headed by Stalin and Mao, each killed considerably more people than Hitler’s regime did, and yet they haven’t attracted anything like the same archetypal status.
David BTL, but you’re perfectly capable of using different maps of the same territory in other contexts — say, using a highway map to get to a trailhead and a topographic map to hike from there. Why not more generally? Start from the basic viewpoint that the map is not and cannot be the territory, and that insanity is a matter of misapplying a single map to situations where it doesn’t apply, and the question takes on a very different color.
Methylethyl, I thought this was the case, but I don’t have anything like the necessary background in Orthodox theology to be sure. (And I figured my Orthodox readers would clarify the point, so thank you!)
Jacques, thanks for this. Animism as a modern philosophical stance is a fascinating thing — an attempt to use the tools of the modern disenchanted consciousness to make sense of the enchanted world. Efforts like that are common at this stage of the historical cycle, and very valuable indeed.
Celadon, my views on Barfield are more nuanced but not greatly different than they were. The problem with his scheme, as I see it, is precisely that he (like Steiner) tries to shove the data into the standard linear historical trajectory that the modern West inherited from Christian orthodoxy: a single trajectory in which each stage happens only once. As we’ll see, that can only be defended by serious misstatements of the historical evidence. Take Barfield’s insights out of that rigid historical scheme and he becomes extremely useful — and I’ll be using his ideas extensively, though in ways he’d probably find very unwelcome. (The last word in Saving the Appearances, of course, remains the great fault line between us.)
Michael, yes, exactly. It’s by mistaking the map for the territory, the model for the thing it models, that so much modern thought has run right off the rails.
Orion, orientation toward a sacred place is a classic method of enchantment, as important as orientation toward a sacred time. That’s a fine example. Thank you for the poem!
Sng, I have indeed read Deloria’s fine book The World We Used To Live In, and pretty much everything else he wrote — a fine, thought-provoking writer and philosopher. I also grew up in the suburbs, btw, and had very similar experiences to yours!
Nachtgurke, the transformation of inquiry into idol worship is a constant problem in the occult field as well. It’s painfully common to see an occult teacher or an occult practice turned into a plaster idol for people to worship, and serious occultists who are awake to that risk routinely hedge themselves and their teachings around with traps of various sorts to try to discourage that habit.
Jon, fascinating. I have to say that doesn’t surprise me at all.
A sincere thanks for the great fortitude and stimulation that your work continues to bring me. I have stocked up on plenty of books for 2023, including a few of yours. I am very much looking forward to this series of essays John. Sometimes when I’m reading your work I get that strange sensation of a sudden falling tilt of equilibrium that wakes one up with a jolt. It was very much by chance that I encountered your work (on television, you will be delighted to read) but it was my great fortune.
P.S. Just to let you know, I never did enter my old family home when I was visiting recently. I think it was for the best.
Two other fascinating elements of the Holocaust as Narrative have struck me: the first one is that as the Holocaust fades from living memory, it is undergoing a transformation into the realm of myth and legend; in other words, if we look carefully we can see the process by which myths and legends are born! This seems particularly relevant in the Jewish community, and I could easily see a case where a thousand years from now Yom HaShoah is still practised by many in the Jewish Community, although the events it marks have been reinterpreted and mythologized into something quite different from the present.
The second oddity of contemporary politics that the Holocaust Narrative helps explain is the weird way in which criticism of Israel is so radioactive in much of the West: Israel, after all, has as its founding Narrative that it was founded in response to the Holocaust. Any criticism of Israel thus comes close to criticizing the Holocaust Narrative.
Extremely OT: But – check out this month’s Smithsonian. First, there’s an article on Gallia Pladicia, the Last Empress of Rome. The description of her weak, impotent, and downright idiot menfolk in Rome made the most spoiled and clueless members of our own Establishment seem like paragons of strength and reason by comparison. However, she was also a one-woman Christian Taliban, when in power. Then, an article on the man who started the Frontier Theory of American expansion, came to realize his ideas only reflected his Upper Midwestern culture, and finally dismissed the theory as having been a mistake.
John, you ask “who is it that belongs to this “we” whose speech you define in such sweeping terms?”
I refer to all men (human beings) as “we” when speaking of the physics of the human condition.
I refer in particular to the English speaking people of the Anglosphere (aka The Five Eyes https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Eyes ) as “we” when speaking of the Crown dialect of English. This includes you, me and probably all the people of this forum*. More generally, this dialect of English is the global language of commerce and, in this context, my use of “we” also includes those inculcated in this particular dialect and its associated behaviour.
Note * Here is a simple check: search the Internet under “John Michael Greer” plus a word such as “fossil fuel”, “climate change”, “warming”, “economics”, “greenhouse” etc. Each word elicits many pages of search results. Together they form a lattice work of links to ego-derived uses of the words typical of the Crown dialect of English.
These are subtle matters best understood with compassion.
Re “Hint: all linguistic meaning is always contested…”
Yes, indeed it is – no more so than by the ego in every man (human being). The ego is ever vigilant and in denial of the principles of physics. It ever strives in most ingenious, incredible ways to subvert any compassionate meaning reminding us of our mortality and our roles as stewards amidst the universal flux. As Confucius advised 2500 years ago, a society soon unravels into conflict and disarray when it uses language without compassion. In modern terms: without compassion, people are unable to transcend the limitations and deceits of thoughts (words) and the ego.
Re your response to MrPlod (and Orion) re Maori culture: “fascinating I don’t know the first thing about any of the Polynesian languages, and may see if I can change that someday.”
MrPlod (funnily enough, my own nickname in my youth) speaks considerable truth about Maori (the language).
Our English ancestors colonized Aotearoa (NZ) in the 1800s using muskets and cannons to deprive Maori of their lands, rivers and forests . However their most persistent, potent and destructive weapon has been constant language warfare.
In brief, the Crown (the City of London Corporation merchant bankers) have waged an unrelenting war on Maori (the people and the language) using language as their prime weapon to “alienate” Maori from nearly all their lands and from their culture.
My English school teachers refused to teach us Maori, stating that Maori is a “dead language” and it is of no commercial value. The Crown in all its manifestations, brutally punished Maori people for speaking it.
I finally got to attend a formal class in te reo Maori in 2019 at age 72 and was profoundly humbled and inspired by the beauty, wisdom and wonder of the language. Understand I was born and bred surrounded by the Waiorongomai, Ratanui, Oreore, Maunganui, Matarua streams; the rich forests of totara, rimu, rata, kowhai, kawakawa, rangiora, manuka and other native trees thronging with kereru, tui, pīwakawaka, ruru and other native birds; the lakes Wairarapa, Onoke and Ponui; the Remutaka, Orongorongo and Tararua ranges; and the mountains Papatahi and Maunganui.
Do you hear the music in te reo Maori? The reason is syllables in almost every word of teo reo Maori ends in a vowel.
The stories of people being of the lands and waters are inherent in most of these names. You can hear the songs of the ocean, the streams, the winds, the birds in the sounds of these words.
Certainly the existence of Maori people in Aotearoa for several centuries impacted its unique flora and fauna. However the Maori language was such that Aotearoa remained a land of great forests and clean, fertile waters prior to the Crown’s colonization.
By contrast, the spread and dominance of the English language this past two centuries has been associated with the vast razing of the forests and despoliation of the waters.
I am old enough to recall traveling as a five-year old child with my family in our crowded, little 1947 Morris 12 car for hour after hour for hundreds of miles through pastoral lands littered with the burned stumps of what had once been magnificent, giant trees. I was filled with a sense of the profane, of shame and unease.
Seven decades on I finally catch a glimmer of insight into the beautiful, sustaining force in te reo Maori and the brutal, horrible force of the Crown dialect of English. My sense of the excruciating pain that Maori people must feel at the loss of their beautiful language is only tempered by my sense of gratitude that I have lived long enough to experience the true hope in physics inherent in te reo Maori and to know there are ways my mother-tongue, the English language, can be repaired with compassion so it too sustains our children i.e. so they can enjoy enchanting and enchanted lives.
S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse series has a wealth of details about rituals for cuttin
g down trees, for killing an animal, etc, from well-researched sources. It’s a Post Toastie in which the last three Industrial Revolutions have been made impossible (please play along with massive amounts of horsepuckey in how this was done – it’s stage setting) – and the veils between the worlds have slowly started to thin.
The Changelings – the first generation with little or no conscious memory of the world as it once was – take magic and enchantment for granted, except,. perhaps, in the handful of remnant cultures that cling to the Way Things Were: The United States of Boise, run by an old career military man; and the city-state of Corvallis, which is run by the Faculty Senate. (“They’re not a city-state that has a University; they’re a University that has a city-state.”) and we see the beliefs, practices, etc in the many and varied subcultures that spring up locally, and the fact that the old gods of nature are able to make themselves heard once more.
As I said, so very well researched, you could take notes while reading them and come away with a fine set of rituals for dealing with all sorts of things.
And, yes, most of it is from a neo-Wiccan source, but “This is one tradition that doesn’t have a Fluffy Bunny sept,” and since The Change happened in 1998, was spared the Wokey-Pokey that’s killled the neopagan movement in our times. Stirling is an old-fashioned Tory, for one thing. Which is like being an Eisenhower Republican.
Brother Greer (as of yesterday, I am entitled to address you as such, and my thanks for pointing me in that direction via your posts on the subject),
Thanks also for this post, which has clarified something I’ve been struggling for a while to clearly articulate. I’ve spent much of my life roaming the globe in search of something… but I’ve found it difficult to say just what that something was. Now I can say: I’ve been searching for where the world is still enchanted, as it was in my corner of my Glamorgan when I was a child and young adult. I can say without doubt that I have found it, in a number of places. Unfortunately, I’ve also witnessed it being crushed – though the question of whether the enchantment may seep back in is another question. Elsewhere, the enchantment thrives, adapting to our changing world.
Thanks also to the commentariat: there are a number of inspiring comments this week which I hope to respond to, though time may not allow.
I think that many people publicly claim to be skeptical of an enchanted world but secretly believe in it. One thing Christopher Warnock has mentioned is that he gets people who use his Horary service for trading in the financial markets.
David by the Lake,
I guess the closest I’ve come to two contradictory models of the universe at the same time is this: I’m a Christian, and believe that God created the Universe, including the earth and the life on it. I’m also a trained biologist who did my undergraduate thesis on microevolution within a stickleback population and has seen plenty of evidence of evolution, including finding fossils of extinct animals in the field. Some people have a problem with my doing this.
The way I deal with the apparent contradiction is this: the way God did his creation, looks, on a physical level, exactly like evolution. You can make predictions, and they work. Biology does not work well without evolution – a whole bunch of stuff abruptly has no explanation if you remove it that works really well with evolution understood as the mechanism.
The Bible doesn’t tell us a great deal of detail about how God created the world and the life on it, because it’s not meant to be a biology or geology textbook. It’s not about the nitty-gritty of how to create a living world. It’s about who created the world, and what that means for humans.
Both the Bible and Evolutionary Theory are maps of the territory, but they are not the territory itself. And knowing that, the apparent contradiction doesn’t actually bug me that much.
Accepting I don’t fully understand everything is really helpful too.
I know there are hams amon us.
John, you write “”The problem with science, from an occult standpoint, is not that it’s wrong — it’s that it’s hopelessly incomplete. I don’t know a good source on reality for beginners, but I’ll start looking for one.”
About 2005 I was asked if NZ English National Education Curriculum Framework could be improved. I looked at it and the thought occurred, “Hey, perhaps its not me who is the educational failure all these years. This thing is screwed to hell – especially its notion of Science.” So I asked the universe what’s a truer story and the answer came in the form of another question. The inspiration occurred to go right back to basics and ask, “OK, just what are the properties of Science?” A short list soon emerged:
Collegiality, openness and sharing
Inquiry, wonder and forgiveness
Honesty and trust
Generosity of Time and Reflection
An immense, wondrous universe instantaneously opened up to me with the sudden realization these properties have one thing in common – they are all properties of compassion, the complements of the properties of the ego.
(About 2004 what I now tentatively call the Information Principle of Energy had occurred to me – the notion that our use of symbol (word) simultaneously reflects and generates our state of being in accord with the Conservation of Energy Principle.)
It was a truly liberating “Aha! Moment”and by the week’s end a full draft of
https://truehope.info/wordpress/compassionate-ed-framework/ had unfolded.
In brief, Science is not, as our English schools inculcate in us, a way of thinking and a body of knowledge, the domain of an exclusive elite called “Scientists”. Rather Science is better understood to be an inclusive, moral state of being we experience when the elements of compassion prevail over the dictates of the ego.
In other words, every man (human being) is a Scientist and a Non-scientist to some degree, which means every man is also an Artist and a Non-artist to some degree.
I am long a school cleaner by trade and every day since 2005 the enchanting five-year old children remind me in this insight into sustainable uses of the words “Science” and “Art”. They most probably inspired my original question. Smile.
Note”: not one NZ Science pedagogue has ever faulted the rationale underpinning the Compassionate Education Framework and all have meticulously ignored its existence.
JMG, I’m not sure how well his last word weathered. It’s ironic that even today, it’s the rural and rustic people who cling more to the Faith. Just like the paganoi in Rome. And with the trouble in the Church, theres Christian’s and then theres Christians. So maybe it all washes out. I’m interested in retooling Barfields use of the word final, as an exercise in grammar. Final might mean or be made to mean reparticipation as in reperfusion. The kingdom has many mansions. But at least he wrestles w the big question. Regards.
I don’t know where you’re from, but here in the US, tossing coins into fountains (this must go back to Romans leaving votive offerings in wells and springs, at least) is so pervasive that you almost never see a koi pond without one or more signs pleading with people *not* to throw coins into the water, as it is not healthy for the fish! (I’m sure in a river or ocean it makes no difference, but of course in a tiny fish habitat it does)
Dermotok, you’re welcome and thank you.
Patricia M, interesting.
Dave, in that case, some of the statements in your earlier post were incorrect, because you were including me in a “we” and then attributing things to that “we” which aren’t true of me at all. That’s a common mistake — I encounter a lot of people who don’t seem to realize that what’s true of their “I” is not necessarily true of everyone they might put together as “we.”
Bro. Bogatyr, delighted to hear it. As for whether the enchantment may seep back — why, yes, and in fact it certainly will. I’ll be talking about that as we proceed.
Jon, that’s true indeed, and financial astrology is a good example. J.P. Morgan’s famous utterance — “millionaires don’t use astrology, but billionaires do” — has lost none of its cogency.
Your Kittenship, thanks for this! Fun times.
Dave, hmm! I certainly hope that this gets picked up by others. Of course it threatens the privileges of the existing scientific community — if everyone practices science, what happens to the right of university-trained scientists to tell everyone else what to believe? — and doubtless that’s why your proposal has been so sedulously ignored. That’s unfortunate; I wonder if homeschoolers might pick it up.
Celadon, Barfield’s ideas work quite well if you extract them from their historical straitjacket. If “final” stops being a historical label and becomes a condition to which anyone can aspire and, with the assistance of grace, attain — why, in that case I have no objections at all.
@Mary Bennett re: #183: In that case, the dispute is not on the definition of “harm” but of “others”…
@Epileptic Doomer re: #180:
I’ll propose a broader name, one less likely to ruffle feathers: the Evil Empire Narrative.
It goes something like this: There is an EVIL EMPIRE, so obviously evil and oppressive that you can tell how evil it is. We, being the Good Guys, are obviously opposed to this Empire. As Nazi Germany has been cast as the ur-Evil Empire, the Evil Empire in question must in some way evoke the Nazis. Rapproachment with an Evil Empire is possible, but only under the terms of Us, the Good Guys (that is, They become like Us, not Us like Them), and usually only when faced with a Greater Evil that must be fought. If you happen to be a subject of / oppressed by the Evil Empire, fear not, because you can always join THE RESISTANCE (this is not without risks; you may be martyred). One important task of the Resistance is to spread The Truth (capital T) about the Evil Empire to garner more support among the subjects the Evil Empire is oppressing.
The Evil Empire does not defeat Us. We emerge victorious (with the help of The Resistance, of course) and bring the Evil Empire to being peacefully absorbed into Us. We are never absorbed into Them – the Klingons become more Federation-like rather than the Federation becoming more Klingon-like, etc.
This narrative probably goes back to Britain before the World Wars, when the Evil Empire was Napoleon’s, but you can see this narrative all over the place in fiction, from Tolkien to Star Wars etc. And we follow it in real life, obviously against the Nazis and Japanese themselves, then to the Cold War (where the whole WWII alliance with the Soviets is kind of forgotten and the Soviets are cast as the new Evil Empire). Their collapse threw the narrative into both its victory stage and into a “What now?” stage that the war on terror tried to fill – the problem, of course, is that “terror” isn’t really an Evil Empire, it’s a nebulous concept. Lately of course it’s the Russians again, perhaps in part because they’re not conforming to their role in the Narrative – “vanquished” foes are supposed to be absorbed into or allied with Us in perpetuity, not start to resist Us again.
Conspiracy theories, of course, also make use of the Evil Empire narrative, in this case casting whatever cabal they see as “really” running things as the Evil Empire and themselves as the heroic Resistance – their main goal is to spread The Truth about the Evil Empire, and this Truth alone, because it is Right, will automatically make everyone believe it. The woke narrative is simply another retelling of this – the Evil Empire here is The Patriarchy, and if we spread the Truth (through e.g. DEI initiatives) everyone will magically come around. In either event, the Evil Empire must be cast as Nazis in some way, because the Nazis have been cast as the trope codifier.
I find it difficult to think of disenchantment without at the same time thinking of alienation. At the risk of generalizing, it strikes me that the modern environment fosters alienation. An easy example of this work. Work is something many people do in exchange for money, tokens, which are then exchanged for stuff. Worth is measured in tokens, and the stuff it buys. You want more money, you change your job (if you can), or get more training or more education (giving tokens in exchange) in the hope of getting more tokens, and more or bigger or better stuff, in reward. What kind of a life is this, especially if I’m going to work by bus or car, past built a environment, much of which is ugly, or appeals to someone else’s tastes? In this rather mindless work economy, “spare time” is filled with junk, with various forms of entertainment, partly because people are too exhausted to do anything else. (Again, this risks generalizing.) So of course drug and alcohol abuse, etc., are rampant. I’m suggesting that without the wheels coming of this economy many people are going to be stuck in disenchantment, because they’re rooted in alienation.
The survival of things like astrology and tarot is interesting, so I have to take it into account in this scenario, and it’s not simple survival: they are thriving. Western astrology in the twentieth century developed and flourished, and it’s doing so today as well. There is a wealth of good material on the tarot. Magic is in the same category. So, how is one to account for this? I’m not convinced that it means that there isn’t a general lack of enchantment. Rather than explain it, I’d rather say that I wait for a time when the wheels do fall off our economy, our established ways of doing things (which aren’t that old on a human timescale), so that these things, which have survived and thrived will join active efforts to mine our past for older ways of doing things, of seeing things, to create a different kind of future. Note that I do not say that we will progress further. Cultures and civilizations reach dead ends. They need to die and give way to the future. So, while it is the case that mainstream Western civilization looks to be appearing a dead end, these other things, which are clearly thriving, might join together with things yet to come to produce something fresh, vibrant, and meaningful.
Meower68 (#17) Assuming that the crystals used for navigation by the people of Iceland detected the polarization of light, they actually wouldn’t work under a cloudy sky, but under a clear sky when the sun is below the horizon. The device was refined into what’s called a “skylight compass”, which was once recently sold as a scientific novelty. See: https://www.polarization.com/compass/compass.html
The device doesn’t need a full clear sky, by the way, just a patch of clear sky, neither too close nor too far from the sun. You can observe the effect with polarized sunglasses, but there’s a little more involved to make it more accurate.
Does the fact that it’s been “tamed” to work with synthetic materials make it any less enchanted? I don’t think so. To twist a popular phrase: “any sufficiently reliable magic is indistinguishable from technology.”
Here is a little conversation I had this morning with the local whins (aka “gorse”, and for those who use ogham divinations, as “onn”) on our farm. They are a “scrubby” plant, not very much regarded by most people who come close to one (spiky), although many people do appreciate, from a distance, the sight of a field of whins in full, glorious, yellow flower.
The thing is that we (himself and myself) have long suspected that these whins are pyrophillic (ie “fire-loving”) plants. The way they grow is to start with a small, dense cluster of spiky green branches, which grow up and out. So long as they are within nibbling distance for sheep, they stay tight and green – like a well clipped hedge. As soon as they grow taller than the sheep’s reach, they begin to get spindly, and develop a lot of dry tinder on their lower parts, as the spiky leaves die but do not drop. The tops remain dense, spiky and green (and display yellow flowers most of the year, but particularly densely in May, June and July), but the lower parts turn brown and kindle into flame easily, almost eagerly.
So, we have developed a programme on this farm of burning the tinder-y whins now and again, one at a time, and at the right time, the time when a particular plant is looking most fire friendly. This prevents the whole field of whins spontaneously catching fire all at once, and spreading dangerously to other vegetation, as frequently happens here during dry spells, with untended/unregarded clumps of whins. What happens when you burn an individual plant is that first, it flames up powerfully like a torch, quickly burning all of the tinder it left behind, then it goes out, leaving quite a lot of the thicker branches barely scorched. A few days later, when it is cool, those lower branches, which actually consist of really dense timber, can be cut and saved for the woodpile.
All of this is by way of introduction to the fact that, as I walked up the hill this morning, I caught sight of a couple of patches where individual whin bushes had been burnt, and later cut down to the level of the soil, maybe two or three years ago. Each of these was now filled with new, small clusters of dense, spiky, green whin growth. And as I observed these plants “resurrecting” themselves from the ashes, as it were, it seems that I heard them say, “yes, did you not know? We are the phoenix of the plant world. We seek to be consumed by flame, and we always come back!”
Re: the mythologization of the Holocaust, a quote from one of S.M. Stirling’s characters*. “History becomes myth, myth becomes legend, and legend becomes history [as people act it out in their deeds]. Time is not a straight line. Time is a serpent.”
*The character was our old friend The Wanderer, here seen as an old mountain man in a sheepskin poncho, making coffee over a campfire – who suddenly, for an instant, is also seen with long black braids, a black Stetson, and the face of Coyote Old Man. As with Neil Gaiman, we can see the quintessentially American faces of the old gods. It just felt so right, as visions go.
Extremely OT: Kaiser on why the Mountain West has turned solidly Republican. He sees what you see. And I note that historically, “red” has meant “revolutionary” and “blue” has meant “staunchly conservative,” and now, who in these times are the revolutionaries and who are clinging to the status quo (=”Latin for ‘the mess we’re in.'” Courtesy of the Sunday funnies.)
Off topic, but worthy of a chuckle about the fusion power project.
“Iter’s previously stated goal was to create the plasma by 2025.
But that deadline will have to be postponed, Pietro Barabaschi – who in September became the project’s director general – told Agence France-Presse during a visit to the facility.
The date “wasn’t realistic in the first place”, even before two major problems surfaced, Barabaschi said.
One problem, he said, was wrong sizes for the joints of blocks to be welded together for the installation’s 19 metres by 11 metres (62ft by 36ft) chamber.
The second was traces of corrosion in a thermal shield designed to protect the outside world from the enormous heat created during nuclear fusion.
Fixing the problems “is not a question of weeks, but months, even years”, Barabaschi said.
A new timetable is to be worked out by the end of this year, he said, including some modification to contain the expected cost overrun, and to meet the French nuclear safety agency’s security requirements.
Barabaschi said he hoped Iter would be able to make up for the delays as it prepares to enter the full phase, scheduled for 2035.”
A decade here and a decade their and pretty soon you have a century. Medieval cathedrals were built quicker. Of course many of them fell down too until the masons worked out flying buttresses. Physics is such a grouch.
Thank you for the book recommendations! Is there any title in particular that would make a good starting point? Looks like a few are out-of-print and free online.
Thank you also for allowing the discussion of mythic narratives. I’m sure it hasn’t made your job moderating the comments any easier this week. My apologies if it turns into troll bait.
You may have a point about not driving behaviour, but I’m not sure I agree. I think it’s so ingrained in us it’s hard to SEE how it drives our behaviour. I couldn’t think of a single thing until I slept on it. Here’s a few examples; they’re all a bit subtle:
– I’ve seen families torn apart over political differences the second the rhetoric devolved into calling one another Nazis. A socialist and a conservative christian republican can sit down to Thanksgiving together. A communist might even find a seat at that table. Once the label “Nazi” is applied? All bets are off. The power of that word comes from the Holocaust Myth, and the larger mythic narrative around WWII.
– Find a celebrity whose career has been destroyed for comments about any group OTHER than Jewish people. If “racism is prejudice plus institutional power” as our betters tell us, blacks should be able to get away with any bigotry they want towards white folk. And they can — unless those white folk happen to be Jewish. The rules are different because the Holocaust Myth makes us all hypersensitive to antisemitism. (Nobody else gets their own word. Armenians might be discriminated against after their genocide, but have you ever heard the phrase Antiarmenianism? Me neither.)
– How many first-world countries get foreign aid in years that they not only have faced no large-scale disasters, but are running a budget surplus? What other nation is it illegal to advocate boycotting? At the policy level, the Myth of the Holocaust gets Israel special treatment indeed. It’s not something we let ourselves think about, and I think those blinders are put on in part by myth. (In America this is reinforced by Protestant Christian mythos but I think it’s a real factor.)
– Another commenter makes the point about it being the founding myth of the American Empire. “Never Again!” (… except all the times it happened again, to people who aren’t Jewish and so don’t matter to the narrative.)
On a personal note, I was huge into Progress when I found JMG’s blog. I absorbed his notion that it was a mythic narrative with no trouble. “It’s a mythic narrative that happens to be true!” (so I thought at the time, anyway.) Scientists as priests of the true religion, etc, etc. I could believe in progress wholeheartedly but had no trouble describing it as a myth. I am repeatedly using the phrase “Holocaust Myth” instead of the more comfortable “Holocaust narrative” that most commentators here have fallen into precisely because it is emotionally difficult. If I can’t even call it a myth in the privacy of my own mind (and anonymous internet comments) it must have its hooks deep in me indeed!
So perhaps my counterargument is that the power of a mythic narrative isn’t entirely proportional to how it effects day-to-day behaviour. I’d say you have to consider how it makes you think.
Milkyway @ 202, about your fascinating description of the use of the word ‘Nazi’, similar effects attend on the words ‘Communist’ and ‘Socialist’ in the USA. Many were appalled to see the scale of environmental destruction and degradation revealed after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Drying up of the Aral Sea was perhaps the most famous example. Nevertheless, the most tepid suggestion that maybe it might not be too good an idea to use the earth, or poor folks’ back yards, for capitalism’s dumping ground is met with howls of indignation, environmentalists and conservationists being routinely denounced as ‘Communists’, ‘Socialists’ intent on taking away “our freedoms” and sending righteous strivers to some new gulag.
I call this phenomenon an example of a deliberately made myth, and not at all one which grew organically out of people’s lived experience over generations of inhabiting a certain place. Maybe it is what our host would call sorcery?
As expressed by @Borfus re: this post and @jmg re: this commentariat best on the web period full stop, there are so many posts here that made me engaged intellectually and with the excitement of being in shared community, perhaps the community of inquiry and compassion described here just shy of the end, but … @CicadaGrove, I read your story and I wept, sitting on the frosty ground beneath the morning sun glancing up to see the dogs digging a hole, and tears streaming down my face because to open oneself to enchantment one must open oneself to the feeling of calamitous loss that the ‘rationalist materialist’ worldview of the plunderers helped to hide from their thoughts so they could go through with it, with the ever more violent rapacious purges and sterilization of the spectacular and precious riotous complexity of life. Read Memory of Fire if you feel up for primary source evidence. The City has written me a threatening notice about my enchanted yard again. But I got a grant from the USDA to work on climate-smart commodities which I can twist towards working on restoring health to the landbase and vibrant living soils in the great Ohio River Valley. Reading Brunetti’s Farm as Ecosystem which talks about fractal architecture in nature making functional infinity in a finite parameter which is really cool to think about. I think this magical chain helped me get funded @chrisatfernglade (got yr book at Acres conference in Covington) Thanks everyone for being here. So so much. Going to listen to some industrial music I never would have found.
Excellent post JMG, thanks.
Although concepts of substance dualism have been around for an awfully long time, Descartes surely laid the ground for a philosophy of exploitation, where Nature possesses no ‘thinking soul’ and so becomes inanimate and desacralised, with no intrinsic beauty or purposiveness. His logic effectively legitimised the rampant exploitation of natural resources embodied in the robber barons of the industrial revolution who, it might be argued, are the granddaddies of today’s ruling elite.
Related to the disenchantment brought on by the industrial revolution is urbanisation, which displaced and severed the link between the ‘folk’ and their ‘lore’ – accretions of enchantment built up over generations and highly localised, but essentially rural in origin (enclosure, driven landowners’ desires for greater farming efficiencies further disenfranchised the folk from the land.) Of course, spirituality didn’t die, but it provoked more pragmatic responses such as Methodism.
Wars generally didn’t help either. In Britain, the Great War sublimated folk traditions further in deference to the war effort’s all-consuming mobilisation and mechanisation of people and resources (although, interestingly, in order to cope with the horrors of the war, England in particular became briefly mythologised as an almost Arcadian realm, although it was largely a nostalgic vision.) And WWII’s impact on food shortages led to huge swathes of land reclamation and the introduction of efficient farm machinery in favour of working horses, effectively signalling the death-knell for rural fraternities and folk practices. Disenchantment had triumphed.
If we remove the story (which I think the disenchanted world does) then the aims of the story can be removed. I suspect having a populace that is utterly aimless makes life easier for leaders who would otherwise have to negotiate various conflicting aims against our many economic endevors.
But…what happens when even our leaders are aimless due to the lack of a a story?
Do you think Alchemists will have more work than Chemists in our lifetime? What would a professional Alchemist be up to?
Postscript – @pygmycory #213 the opening quote in todays chapter of ‘the farm as ecosystem’ is ‘a useful contact with the earth place man not as superior to nature, but as a superior intelligence working in nature as a conscious and therefore as a responsible part in a plant of evolution, which is a continuing creation. -liberty Hyde Bailey, The Holy Earth.
And @justinpatrickmoore #193 Thanks for Nurse With Wound, Wow, hillbilly krautrock should be listened to in complete albums for sure. Blessed with ‘an awkward pause’
I’ve recently realized that while astrology played a major role in my shift towards an enchanted world, I started out viewing it as disenchanted, and that it still worked that way: a world with astrology, much as one with parapsychology, is not necessarily an enchanted world. It may just be one where there are certain complex patterns of energy of some sort sent by or reflected by the planets which have complex but predictable effects here on Earth. It wasn’t until recently when I got into planetary charity that I finally found myself firmly in an enchanted world.
More broadly, many, perhaps most, of the surviving elements of the enchanted world seem to me to be those which can be interpreted either way; although they can then lead those who explore them into the direction of enchantment.
It occurs to me that perhaps the reason the we site Hitler and Nazis as being the most evil of evil, even though their death count was inferior to Stalin’s and Mao’s, is because Germany is in Europe and the other two are Asian making them farther afield (out of sight, out of mind and all). Also, we officially sided with Russia and China during WWII. Either way, it also occurs to me that perhaps the reason the socialism is having a comeback is because of this lack of including Stalin/Mao/Communism into the same bucket as Hitler/Nazis, even though NAZI has National Socialist right in the name, not that most folks know what Nazi stood for. Anymore, it just means white supremacist.
In connection this topic I am interested in comments from those familiar with John Michael Greer.
I’m excited for your series of posts on this issue. Especially, I look forward to you circling back around to an issue you raised in your “Mask of Disenchantment” post from Sep. 30, 2020:
You wrote in that post that Vine Deloria Jr.:
“noted that medicine people more recently don’t appear to be able to do the things their ancestors did….
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….
This limitation did not exist some centuries ago, and appears to have come into force a little at a time over an extended period.”
I am not an operative mage, as you use the term, so I may be handicapped in being able to adequately make this point. But I will make it as concisely as I can here:
All forms of physical work are, in a certain sense, a form of magical practice. I certainly understand that they are very different from “Traditional” magical practices (Eastern, Western, or Indigenous).
You regularly repeat Dion Fortune’s definition of magic: “the art and science of causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will”.
My corresponding definition of physical work: “the art and science of causing changes in physical reality in accordance with will; changes in physical reality which cause corresponding changes in consciousness.”
The rise of each civilization is synonymous with an increased ability to accrue surpluses of energy and put them to work. All of the physical work done, utilizing all inherited or uncovered technologies, are forms of magical spells, at least in a certain sense, working on the material world.
As the rising civilization accrues more and more surpluses of energy, it is able to deploy more and more elaborate physical workings on the material world.
I claim that all forms of physical work are very similar to magical practices in that:
* they call unseen realities into existence
* these new realities, at least in some sense, also now call us into existence as well
* if done improperly, the workings take on a mind of their own that can be outright dangerous
As civilizations rise, “Traditional” magical practices have less and less effect on the material world because the material world is increasingly held under the spell of the growing deployment of other powerful workings that seek to “hold it in place”. Consciously or unconsciously.
Mostly unconsciously. We are Sorcerer’s Apprentices.
But as civilizations collapse, their economies of elaborate physical work collapse. So then Traditional magical workings don’t have as much “noise” to compete with, so their powers return.
My last sentence in the linked blogpost is: (I ask readers who are practitioners of actual magical traditions to bear with me for a little while here on this evolving train of thought. Perhaps a long while. Thanks.)
This is kinda long and rambly but has its good lines. It’s about science proving “awe” (which is a stand-in word for spirituality/enchantment) is good and necessary for the health of humans.
The conclusion: “The tension between awe and science could never be fully reconciled because, in the end, ambiguity was awe’s operating principle.”
The crystals in question were (and still are) called icelandic spar. They have been shown to work under a fully cloudy sky, if you know what to look for.
Take a look at the brief summary of research, where the original study is cited: https://www.nature.com/articles/news.2011.58
Asdf, the relationship between alienation and disenchantment is interesting, and deserves close study. In our time, they certainly run in parallel, and may well be directly connected. I’m not sure that’s equally true of the disenchanted societies of the past. I’ll have to do some research.
Scotlyn, hmm! Fascinating; thank you for this.
Patricia M, it’s a good quote.
Siliconguy, I wonder when people will realize that the goal of the ITER project isn’t to produce a plasma, much less to yield commercially viable fusion. It’s to provide ample employment to a very large number of specialists who don’t know how to do anything but fusion research. That’s why the timeline just keeps on stretching out further and further…
Doomer, Alan Leo’s Astrology for All and The Key to your Own Nativity are good starting places, and — like all of Leo’s fine books — are well out of copyright. As for the mythic narratives, I haven’t yet had to delete a troll on that subject, and as you’ve seen, the conversation so far has been very thoughtful and calm. I have the best commentariat on the internet!
Mark, those are certainly factors in the process we’ll be discussing. One of the things I want to explore is the extent to which they were causes — and the extent to which they were effects.
GlassHammer, good! And that’s a crucial element of the process, because it seems to be inevitable that sooner or later the elite classes fall victim to their own enchantments…
FourSidedCircle, probably not in my lifetime, though I can’t speak to the lifetimes of those younger than me. As for what a professional alchemist would do, that’s like asking what a professional scientist would do — alchemy includes what we’d now consider chemistry but it’s not limited to that. Most of the alchemists I know these days work either with herbs, producing medicines, or with the mind, producing psychological and emotional healing, but there are many other branches of alchemy as well.
Anonymous, good! Very good, in fact. Yes, exactly; there have been just as many attempts at a disenchanted astrology as there have been disenchanted magics, and in both cases, yes, they do sometimes function as a gateway.
Clark, that seems reasonable.
Bruce, er, you do know that I respond to comments personally here, don’t you? I suppose that makes me of great interest to you, since I’m tolerably familiar with myself. 😉
Clueless, I’m not arguing at all. There’s a reason why mages are traditionally expected to make their working tools themselves, by hand.
JustMe, thanks for this! That ties into a story I’ll be telling in an upcoming post.
wonder if this cooking method I’ve learned from Traditional Chinese Medicine has something to do with enchantment: it consists of adding ingredients only in strict adherence to the feeding cycle of the five elements (that is to say wood/sour, then fire/bitter, then earth/sweet and so on, repeating the cycle over and over). I’ve been using it for many years to good effect, and I’ve asked cooking professionals who use it if, in their perception, it makes a difference from just adding a mix of the five elements/taste categories in random order. They confirmed that it gives the food a “rounder” quality.
The only explanation I could come up with for this effect was that you do it because you regard the dish you create as some kind of living entity, if that makes any sense – so submitting it to the harmonious cycle of the five elements would make it thrive. The cycle representing an organic movement as described in a similar way by Wilhelm Reich and others: Up (wood) and outwards (fire) followed by Down (metal) and inwards (water), with earth somewhere in between for stability, or existence as such.
What do you think?
All – As one of the resident amateur radio operators, I noticed that the 1877 Morse Code chart used to illustrate the Smithsonian magazine article linked above shows a different encoding than is currently used for the letter Q.
“Q” is actually more important than one might think, since a large number of “prosigns” include Q. For example, if I want to invite someone to talk to me, I might send “CQ” (etymology in dispute). To ask if my message was understood, I might send “QSL?” To indicate that I’m tuning up 5 kHz: “QSY 5K”. If I want to broadcast a message to any listening station, I could address to “QST” (which is also the name of a magazine for amateur radio operators).
@Epileptic Doomer #226.
While you make solid points about how the Holocaust Story influences thinking and behavior, I still feel that it doesn’t quite have a full mythic structure and is more of a cornerstone or thrust block within other myths. Perhaps the most important is the Evil Empire myth (@Brendhelm #219), but it also plays a role in Progress (of the social justice-equality bent) and in the Christian myth. (I suspect that it is this Christian myth that plays a larger role in maintaining support for Israel, given the deep connections between Judaism and Christianity and the importance of Jerusalem and the Holy Land for Christians as well.)
Perhaps as evidence of its subservience to larger myths, it seems that most Americans have no qualms with arming soldiers who profess a disturbingly antisemitic and Nazi-like ideology if that serves the agenda of the War Against Evil. The fact that “Nazi” has become a particularly barbed slur that is more likely to estrange families and disrupt dinner tables than perhaps any other does not appear, to me, to be based in the Holocaust Story any longer. It appears instead that it has become a placeholder word for a particular level of irredeemable badness – a deeply emotional epithet that basically says “I hate you and you are a garbage human being, and I will not listen to or respect anything that you have to say.”
There are other such historical thrust blocks which have become posthumously modified, crystallized, mythologized, and incorporated into larger narratives. One that packs almost as much punch as the Holocaust is the “Slavery Story” in the United States. The “meaning” of slavery and its abolition in modern consciousness is far different than at the time of the Civil War, when the Union was not so much morally superior (and generally had a similarly low opinion of black people) but was not economically dependent on slave labor in the way that the plantation South was.
@Orion #79 – I almost overlooked your post, glad I found it at last! Well yes, there are certain boundaries that you better not cross if you want to follow your career at school. Which applies to both students and teachers alike. School has kind of an immune system, too. And it will attack you, if you come around too alien.
A common practice is to give marks for the level of participation a student shows. I have stopped this a few years ago because I hate it if people only talk to me because I reward or punish them for doing so or not. Now I run into problems generating *enough* marks. Well, why not give NO marks, I say?
It sounds like the math professor would be an interesting guy to talk to!
@ Derek Jones: “Is there an official government employment term for astrologers, which will return employment numbers?”
I found the BLS Occupation Finder. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/occupation-finder.htm
No astrologers listed. If they run a business I they would be under whatever BLS designates business owner but can’t find that. Bet a lot of mystics, etc, are listed under “clergy” or “self-enrichment teachers” or even “authors”.
Anyway, I’m trying not to go down this rabbit hole! I will not search for how many astrologers there are in the U.S. I will not search for how many astrologers there are in the U.S.
@ Orion #34 and other posts – thanks for sharing your experiences on that cruise.
@ The Matter With Things: January 4, 2023 at 5:10 pm “The age of reason and the enlightenment, Shakespeare helping to move us away from our spiritual immersion, ‘all the worlds a stage’.”
Interesting thought but my educational experience is…lacking. Do you mind giving more insight into how Shakespeare’s plays helped move us away from spiritual immersion?
@Nachtgurke #51 – Understand if you think it best not to share but would you mind sharing the location of the castle?
@ MrPlod: #61 – “.(Maori)..unlike all the other languages ……..vocabulary was not about physical objects, place and directions but rather about people, identity and connections. As the Maori languages weaves its way further into NZ’s Paheka (non-Maori) culture I fell the country is regaining some of its enchanted past.”
I feel this is relevant to the recent Castle of Heroes post: https://www.ecosophia.net/the-castle-of-heroes/
@ Stephen alexander: #68
“I affirm the truth claims of my religion, but i believe that any religion or belief system that says “no” to the lie of this culture, the scientism, the materialism, is telling a truth and all truth is of God. may we all see an end to the disenchanted and evil world system.”
Thank you for this. I grew up as a Christian and while I acknowledge the benefits of this upbringing and the power of my parent’s prayers I find myself very antagonistic towards the “Abrahamic religions” and the claims made by monotheists. This may be me misdirecting my anger at what the world has become (and a subject of my daily SOP and meditations) but really liked your comment.
@A says: #76
“I would suggest the talk “Enchanting the Fertile Landscape” by Patrick MacManaway https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZR6FxBh-Paw&ab_channel=GatekeeperTrust
Thank you for this! I watched this presentation and it directly aligns with what I have been trying to find concerning communicating with the land which has been a focus for me the past few months and stimulated by the recent Castle of Heroes post on this blog. Highly recommend watching.
@ Roy Smith: #83
“…read/listen to/watch some of Jonathan Pageau’s work. His website can be found at https://thesymbolicworld.com/,”.
On my growing to do / to read list. Thank you.
@ Davie says: #130
“On another note, frequently when I encounter what passes for culture/opinion/politics/medicine lately, I think not that people nowadays are non-enchanted, but they are enchanted by forces too strange to comprehend.”
Prompted by this post I had a thought to try my hand at writing a passage which will go along this story line: A modern day Ulysses, with limited social media experience is trying to fly home for Thanksgiving, Christmas or whatever. He really wants to get back to the family and connecting flights keep getting cancelled forcing him to spend a couple of nights in close proximity to the modern equivalent of the lotus eaters. The same imperative to eat the social-media “lotus leaves” is there amongst the populace (sitting next to each other heads down, peering at screens) but unlike the ancient Lotus eaters, the result isn’t a peaceful and pleasant apathetic sleep but constant anxiety and stress with brief, elated peaks of manic depression the best they could hope for prior to slipping back down into anxiety, anger and rage.
@ Justin Patrick Moore: #137
“You’ve probably already seen it, but one of the things I’m reading now is the graphic nonfiction Hip Hop Family Tree by Ed Piskor. I’m not sure who my favorite 90s hip hop artist would be…”
Thank you for this. I haven’t seen it and even though I checked out from hip hop way back around 93 or so I went ahead and ordered these from my local library.
Despite checking out my favorites from the mid to late 80’s to early 90’s were and remain: Kool Moe Dee, EPMD, Eric B & Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, De La Soul, McLyte (as a rock), Boogie Down Productions and for fun, throw in Chub Rock. Can’t forget Philly with Schoolly D, acknickulos Three Time Dope, maybe even Steady B on the Chub Rock tier.
@Mary Bennett: #148
“….more and more Americans are coming to feel and understand that we belong to the land of North America.”
I’m not so sure, hence my recent interest in figuring out why I am where I am today, despite a concerted effort earlier in life not to be here….and communication with the land and help with healing while I take my sweet time in figuring it out. I grew up on another continent and when I started my career stayed overseas as long as I could on another. Wound up back where my family left two generations back……
” That is not to be envied as NA is the most violent of the five inhabitable continents; hardly a week goes by where there is not some apocalyptic flood, fire or other extreme meteorological or geological event taking place somewhere in USA, Mexico or Canada. I suspect the fundamental reason our continent is divided into three large countries is that it requires the resources of a large nation to maintain civilized life in NA.”
100% and great insight concerning the need or the thought that we need a large nation to maintain civilization here.
“I do wonder how much ugly architecture and our built environment of neon and street lights blotting out the stars gives a sense of disenchantment.”
I’m with Davie and his post #130. Not just giving a sense of disenchantment but the ugly architecture is probably a malign enchantment all of itself. JMG’s response to your comment concerned the state of consciousness of the architects and builders. So true, but even if the architect designing some soulless monstrosity only had the best intentions in mind and no malicious thought, I submit that somewhere down the line, maybe ages ago, there was an original malign intent from someone or something, that manifests into what you described.
Robert Mathiesen (#238) : Thanks for the report. I have a piece of plastic polarizing filter, and noted this morning that its long axis pointed toward the sun, when the sun was below the horizon, and when behind clouds, but I couldn’t see any effect on the clouds. Maybe I’m not doing it quite right, or maybe some nuance got lost between the scientists with their icelandic spar crystals and the published report. It was apparent to me that the contrast between cloud and clear sky changed as I rotated my filter, but maybe that effect overwhelmed a subtle effect on the clouds.
I think that I understand how light gets polarized by reflections, and depolarized by clouds, but the polarization in clear sky is still a mystery to me.
I observe that the cited article obeys one of the unwritten laws of publishing: if there’s a question posed in the title, it will not actually be answered in the text.
Hi John Michael,
Dunno, but I’ve always believed that the ‘alienation’ aspect of our civilisation was a side effect of the ongoing ‘divide and conquer’ strategy which has been in play for the past few centuries. It’s an effective tool.
Speaking of enchantments, I just read an article on ‘electrifying machines which currently use diesel fuel’. Folks spruiking such airy fantasies may not understand that more energy via way of diesel fuel is consumed every day in this country I believe, than is produced in the entire electricity grid. Let alone all the other resources required to get that happening. A truly fascinating disconnect from reality. One thing the articles seem to be certain about, is that it will all be sorted out by 2050, which is not all that far away. I suspect the folks might not like what they’ll get, but such nonsense spells are irrelevant.
@Scotty – how could you forget Slick Rick?
Our good friend Rod Dreher has been reading ecosophia again
I have had little time to write this week, but very much enjoyed reading the essay and the comments. The essay hearkens back also to the essay on nature spirits, which I still consider one of the best on ecosophia.
I would like to cite a short paragraph from Joāo Guimarães Rosa’s story Nothing and Our Condition (Nada e a nossa condição, in First Stories), in my own very poor translation of what is essentially untranslatable:
“Didn’t he look at the landscape anymore?
“Yes, if at the summits – where the mountain opens wings – and the infernal caverns, abysmal, deepest. So much did he look at them, as if to them, somehow, something he wanted to give as votive offer, the best of himself: hope and expiation, sacrifice, efforts – the very flower. Did he maybe one day meet, in a favourable mood, grateful for tributes, the King-of-the-Mountains or the King-of-the-Caverns – since everything exists and people meet everything? From himself to himself, who knows, he kept secret only what is useless, new and necessary; he was very silent with himself.”
And the protagonist goes on to execute a plan that seems utter madness, but is minutely planned and constructed – giving away, little by little, all his inherited land to his workers in a way that they don’t feel he is giving it away.
I just read the link that JustMe pointed to on awe, and I am put in mind of this: “Rather than waiting for some special vision … human beings need to ‘open their heart’ and see what is already there all around them. This is what was meant by wonder and astonishment (thaumazein [we might as well say “awe”]), the foundations of reverence (eusebeia) and gratitude—the supreme Hermetic virtues.” Wouter J. Hanegraaff, Hermetic Spirituality and the Historical Imagination: Altered States of Knowledge in Late Antiquity (Cambridge University Press: 2022), 271. Interestingly, the author of the article refers to “the bodily responses people experience when awe takes hold.” In Hanegraff’s take on Hermetic spirituality, embodiment is key.
Hi John Michael,
One of the insights gained from reading the book 1984 was that where awe does not inspire, fear is a poor substitute. Perhaps this insight is relevant to the current discussion?
Njura, hmm! I’d never encountered that before, but it makes perfect sense — and yes, it’s a form of enchantment. I bet it does indeed make really good food.
Lathechuck, yeah, I noticed that — they missed the fact that Morse’s own version of Morse code wasn’t the same as the one we use these days. Typical; I remember when the writers at Smithsonian bothered to get things right, but that was a while ago.
Chris, that’s an excellent point. The people who are insisting that diesel can be replaced by electricity are thinking in magical terms. They’re thinking of diesel in purely qualitative terms — “bad” — and electricity in equally qualitative terms — “good” — while neglecting the quantitative realities of how much of which source of power is available. That’s utterly fascinating; among other things, it’s a fine counterpoint to René Guenon’s book The Reign of Quantity which, synchronistically enough, I’m reading right now, and which insists that a fixation on quantity to the neglect of quality is an essential feature of modern, disenchanted life…
Will O, funny. I wish it wasn’t subscribers-only; I’d be interested in reading it and responding to it, Oh, well!
Aldarion, thanks for this. You’ve given me another goal in my studies of Portuguese — learning to read the language well enugh that I can savor that story in the original.
Asdf, thanks for this! That’s a lovely quote, and a very appropriate one.
Chris, it is indeed. I’m reminded of Toynbee’s principle that a creative minority leads by inspiring mimesis, while a dominant minority rules by stifling dissent.
JMG. When I sent that link to Dreher’s piece I thought he had a read me first option but I was mistaken. I am a subscriber. He uses that space for his more mystical/enchanted writing. Like all his stuff a great deal of manic panic but with some real gems mixed in. He is currently working on a book about re-enchantment and had some very good things to say about this essay while also making it clear occult stuff isn’t his stuff.
Epileptic Doomer (no. 226) ” Find a celebrity whose career has been destroyed for comments about any group OTHER than Jewish people.”
Jimmy the Greek.
Thank you for the forum. I would like to share a story from the enchanted world. As time goes by it has become a family myth. Here it is as I remember it…
As the school year 1940-1941 drew to a close, my grandma, a Russian language and literature teacher in Leningrad, was getting ready to take her daughters, my mom, age 3, and her sister, age 6, and visit her parents in a small village in the western part of Russia. She did just that and within days found herself under the Nazi occupation.
Someone reported to the occupying authorities that her husband was a Jew, which made her girls half Jewish. The authorities were stumped. They didn’t expect the Jewish problem in the depth of the Russian countryside… yet decided better safe than sorry, jailed my mom and her sister in some house and put a young German soldier to guard them. My grandma went door to door and collected a bribery (mainly, sugar and cigarettes). The German boy (may his soul be in peace for eternity) took the stuff, opened the window, and went to the outhouse…
They searched the nearby woods with the canine unit of trained German Shepherds… but here is the punchline… there was an unusually strong wind that day. That wind clearly was on my grandma’s side: it blew from where the dogs were toward my grandmother. She could smell the dogs, but the dogs could not smell her.
For my grandmother it was always a story about the wind that saved her. That wind was alive for her.
As for how this tragedy got exploited the is a great book by Norman Finkelstein The Holocaust Industry. The covid industry and the Ukrainian war industry are very analogous to the Holocaust industry.
All – On modern-day “Nazis”. Not to argue against anything else that’s been said here, but consider the lingering enmity between Russia and Germany. An acquaintance of mine who is more studied in European affairs than I am asserts that, in the Russian mind, the only attribute necessary for one to qualify as a Nazi is to be anti-Russian. So, they have no trouble describing a Jewish Ukrainian nationalist as a Nazi; that’s just a Nazi that doesn’t happen to be antisemitic. Perhaps Russian propaganda and trollery has something to do with the popularity of the Nazi label? I am reminded of a statement from the mid-20th century: in the beginning, a revolution needs patriots; eventually it needs traitors (to explain failure and justify oppressive measures). For the last decade, Putin has needed Ukrainian Nazis to justify his territorial ambition, and I’m sure he could find a way to encourage them.
As I was thinking about this post, I read the Wikipedia article on “Pogroms of the Russian Civil War”. It is incredibly sad, tragic, and possibly relevant to modern conflict.
A couple of quotes come to mind”
“Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real.” ― Niels Bohr
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy” (from Hamlet, Act 1) – Shakespeare
I have only been able to read a few of the comments, so far. Fascinating essay (thank you JMG!) and fascinating comments (thank you commentariat!) in response.
I recently read “The House at Otowi Bridge” by Peggy Pond Church (d 1986). The book, (part memoir, part biography, part history) covers the period from early 20th century up through the 1950s. The parts describing ceremonial dances at San Ildefonso Pueblo are other-worldly and transcendent. The book also talks about Los Alamos and the work that went on there during World War II and some of the scientists… Talk about juxtaposition.
I wonder if disenchantment make people more vulnerable to mal-enchantment? Such devices/media as television, ‘smart’ phones, etc., are clearly used for demonic purposes disproportionately more so than course books and newspapers. At least as I understand it.
“Yes, that’s a far more important factor than most people realize. The built environment, after all, is an expression in matter of the thoughts of its builders — it is, precisely, an externalization of a state of consciousness, and so it reinforces the state of consciousness that created it. The feedback loop that results from that process is one of the ways that civilizations run off the rails.”
This means that to counter the malign influence of said built environment. They must all be dismantled, abolished and recycled. The grey concrete needs to go. And only concrete of a sandstone color or other colors that isn’t grey should be allowed.
Scrapping them should be quite the activity in the future.
As for King Solomon’s Temple. Its noted that the Plans for it:
“19“All this,” said David, “all the details of this plan, the LORD has made clear to me in writing by His hand upon me.”
As for the rise of such ugly architecture I recommend the readers and yours truly read:
There definitely are some malign Spiritual forces at work that would tend to abolish the older more beautiful buildings of the past to replace it with modern monstrosities especially in the 20th century. As another reader noted above.
This hatred of Beauty must have come from somewhere.
Will, well, I’ll be interested to see what he has to say in his book on reenchantment. I’ll also be interested to see what he thinks of the later posts in this sequence!
Kirsten, thanks for the story! I don’t know Slavic mythology well enough to know what kinds of spirits play games with the wind, but I’m glad they were busy that day.
PatriciaT, that’s one of the complexities of disenchantment. You can’t get away from malefic spiritual forces by pretending that they don’t exist; all that does is guarantee them free rein.
Info, concrete isn’t going to be an option in the not too distant future. Did you know that the global supply of sand suitable for making concrete is running short?
Yes, I’m familiar with that Bible passage — every Freemason is. Also the comparable passages from earlier books of the Bible about the Tabernacle, which has the same basic design. There are good reasons why there must be an open Bible in every well conducted lodge of Masons, in case you didn’t know!
Thanks John re “I encounter a lot of people who don’t seem to realize that what’s true of their “I” is not necessarily true of everyone they might put together as “we.”
Yes, there are many of “us” as there are human beings and we all live the conundrum of the human condition: always the ego in us craves dominance of our awareness even as it shuns all recognition. Always it conflates and confounds “I”, “me”, “my”, “you” with “us” and “we” for its exclusive ends.
Smile. Do you recall how I suggested to you, “These are subtle matters best understood with compassion.”?
Is it not the qualities of compassion that enables us to read the word “we” in careful, humble, inclusive, sharing ways?
Is it not the qualities of compassion that enable us to smile and laugh kindly at our predicament that “I” should dare to suggest to “you” “our” need for compassion?
Such is the infinite~infinitesimal power of words for communicating eh. Smile.
Please keep this thread open a while longer. Enchantment is such a fertile, wonderful state to experience and reflect on. In fact, the words “delightful” and “glorious” spring to mind.
Please, it will not be spam if it happens you receive one more comment from me reflecting on Scotlyn’s conversation with “gorse”. If time allows (whatever time is), it will be a brief account of the enchanting relationship of young children and gorse at an English school in disenchanting Crown New Zealand.
JMG asked for a rhyme about the extremely dangerous-looking prototype bicycle. Here’s my submission:
invented a strange device
two wheels and a seat
propelled by your feet
but a pincher of goolies, oh yikes!
I’ve found the Thoreau piece that talks about everything that we are talking about here. Worth the read. Hope that everyone can find Contact! Contact!
Oh yes it does make good food I think 🙂 so is there a parallel to alchemy in treating your piece of work as a living thing? Which other pieces of work can it be applied to, in your opinion?
Wrong link. Sorry.
This is the correct one.
I love that the Sierra Club calls Thoreau “Nuts”!
When the reality is that Thoreau is actually restored to sanity!
This is exactly what we are talking about here. How “society” and the powers that be constantly deny enchantment and spirituality etc.
Is the grove ritual and its equivalents a way to create an enchanted space?
I know this is a bit off topic but well worth it. Today Ezra Klein of the NYT had an opinion piece published called ” The Dystopia We Fear Is Keeping Us From the Utopia We Deserve.” It is so ridiculous that it is almost as if Ezra had read all of your books and came up with a satirical editorial to illustrate fantasy, utopian energy thinking at its worst. His premise is that we must embrace windmills, solar, fusion and optimistic wishful thinking if we are to have Mars colonies and flying cars. We all deserve limitless future energy and we must get on board with Joe Biden’s inflation reduction act and the green goodness it creates to get our high energy space future with rocket commutes. If there was ever any doubt that Izvestia on Hudson has become a pure propaganda arm of the establishment than this is it. Also shocking his is total disregard for the effects of this “magical high energy future” will have on the planet and any hope we might have of achieving a more balanced and spiritual relationship with it.
Might there be in contemporary English a good synonym for the word ‘compassion’? Sympathy, perhaps? I have no quarrel with the way ‘compassion’ is being using here, quite the contrary, but I am far too used to hearing the word used in a quite different way. As in “Have some compassion”, usually translatable as “Let me/my client/relative”. jump in front of the line, shop after hours, be allowed favors and concessions available to no one else.
Scotty, there is the simple fact that families, like mine, who have been here in NA for 5 or 6 generations, or 9, in my case, have no longer a folk memory of the old country, and no helpful relatives back home. Furthermore, I do believe that the land itself reaches out and grabs us. There are places, out west in particular, where you can almost literally feel the immensity of geological time.
Anyone here read “In The Spirit of the Earth” by Calvin Luther Martin? Such a beautiful book. Enchantment runs through it.
‘The songs humans perceived in spirit of other beings and that were also then the songs of place, instructing the attentive listener on where he was and, from that, who he was: the image of the world engraved on the architecture of the spirit.’
‘Words are the enchanted mirror: when our words lie, the reflection decieves.’
Dave, the thread will be open until next Wednesday. As for the rest, why, keep in mind that people with Aspergers syndrome — me, for example — aren’t generally the “smile and laugh kindly” type. We’re more the “I missed all the subtle cues and so have no idea what you think you just communicated” type, and so yes, we get fussy about words. 😉
Orion, thank you for this!
Njura, yes, indeed there is a link to alchemy, and you can do the same thing with any kind of work whatsoever, without exception. And, yes, the grove ritual is a way to create enchanted space — though of course it takes plenty of practice.
Clay, oh dear gods. I just went and found it on a paywall-free site —
“Dumb as a box of rocks” sums up my first reaction, and on consideration, my final reaction isn’t much different. If that’s the best Klein can do, the dystopia he fears is as close to utopia as he deserves.
Mary, so noted, but I recommend reclaiming the grand old word “compassion.” My favorite comeback is “No, why don’t you have some compassion for the rest of us.”
The other day I ran into Robert Romanyshyn, and when I complemented him on Technology as a Symptom and a Dream, he mentioned that he wrote a follow-up: Victor Frankenstein, the Monster and the Shadows of Technology: The Frankenstein Prophesies. I was going to mention this somewhere on a thread, and then I noticed that disenchantment is one of his themes; if there’s no angels in space, then men can presume to act like gods… Don’t be fooled by his titles-you will not find yourself wallowing in Heidegger…
Regarding mentions of “The Amazing Randi”,
I had a friend many years ago who was firmly in the scientific-materialism-as-dogma camp, who was utterly outraged when I would suggest that maybe, just possibly, there could be something to all the reports of Bigfoot, UFOs, parapsychology, etc., purely in a scientific sense. No, he was having NONE of it!
So this friend bought me a subscription to the magazine “Skeptical Inquirer”, which frequently had articles ‘debunking’ this, that and that other, by James Randi. And you know, even from a purely scientific perspective, I think the real bunk was all the shrill, close-minded and kneejerk denunciations of any and all ‘establishment unapproved’ phenomena from Mr. Randi.
My friend became angry with me when he finally, several months later, asked me what I thought of “The Skeptical Inquirer”. Because I told him that it was badly named, and should have been labeled “The Dogmatic Denialist” instead.
So, if every kind of work can be treated that way – Would it make sense to use the western cycle of elements in the following way, while creating a work of art: give it reflection (air), set an intention (fire), connect it to personal emotions (water), bring it into existence (earth), repeat by looking at the stage it’s at and reflecting (air)… I wonder if it gives “rounder” works of art, like the process described above gives rounder taste in food – or is there a different order of elements to observe?
Trying to make sense of the article Clay provides (#266) has given me an intriguing realization: even the people who consciously insist they live in a disenchanted world don’t really. Dig deep enough, and everyone’s living in a world with some sort of enchantment, a world where some things are true not because of any facts, but because symbolically they must be true. This, after all, is the emotional heart of Progress: a symbolic relationship between the past, present, and future; it’s even sitting at the heart of the current cult for materialism, where there’s a symbolic relationship between the real and mater on one hand, and the imaginal, symbolic, or astral with fake on the other.
What this means is that there’s a very real sense that all that enchanting the world entails is actually paying attention to how we think anyway; and that doing that will allow for us to work with these sorts of symbolic realities on their own terms, rather than allowing them to grip us and make it impossible for us to think about anything clearly.
All – Just a follow-up on my #256, where I forgot to include this point: If history remembers the Nazi’s as mass murders, but not so much Stalin’s Soviet Union or Mao’s China, just bear in mind that the German Nazi regime was crushed. History is written by the survivors. And to the extent that Russian propaganda helps keep the Nazi hate alive (and, of course, there’s much more than Russian propaganda involved), you would hardly expect the Russians to include comparisons between German and Russian mass murder.
Hi John Michael,
René Guenon is correct in his assertion, however you’d have to suggest that there are other explanations at play there, and there lies an error of thinkin’ on the authors part. 😉 People love the silver bullet explanation, and treat every problem as if it were a werewolf. After all, you and I both know that Rome failed not for any single reason, but because that civilisation couldn’t deal with 99 problems. As a civilisation, we’re much the same.
Mind you, I’d struggle dealing with 99 problems too. 🙂
Regarding that article on “Energy Abundance”.
Decades ago John W Campbell (himself a card-carrying member of the Church of Progress) pointed out that if every human got all the energy saving devices then possible, the amount of waste heat produced by those devices would produce enough heat to cook all life on the planet. Even if all energy came from “Clean” Atomic energy !
I think one the causes od disenchantment is the tyranny of numbers (Guenon’s Reign of Quantity) especially in regards to time-keeping which started with the management of time for industry but was metaswized by mass communication and transport.
A friend pointed out to me that (in Britain) it was the need to synchronise train timetable that forced mass synchronisation. Before that the factory whistles may go at 7.00 in London and in Dundee but the time was local time. As it was when the couches rand their bells. But with the mass movement in trains 7.00 had to 7.00 everywhere. Mind you before that naval navigation, longitude, latitude and the sextant might have been a precursor ?
Now – well -we have clock accurate to the millionth of a second; what on earth for ?
And re enchantment – I have just found I can read a real book again for the first time in years 🌈 and the book was a novel by Elizabeth Goudge who seems to see and find enchantment in everything. I think you and Sara would like her; imagine Georgette Heyer crossed with Evelyn Underhill 😊
And back to time; the ability now to record and replay and experience a past event I think is important. It turns us into consumers because there is no participation interaction, (which reading still allows). It can be a real delight, sure, but it contributes, even perhaps forces, passivity upon us which renders us more than ever open to others enchantments and disenchantments.
Looking forward to next Wednesday.
Lathechuck is completely right about history being written by the victors, and that explains the pass that Russia and China get.
But I have never understood why Japan gets a pass too. They did many of the same things Germany did, and sometimes even worse. Their medical experiments might have made Dr. Mengele cringe, yet we hardly ever hear about them.
Phil 277 Japanese war crimes, of which there are quite a few, aren’t as well known because Japan was never invaded. The Americans actually breathed a huge sigh of relief that the Japanese surrendered after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki because they toured the planned invasion beaches and were shocked speechless at how thoroughly prepared the Japanese had been to meet the American invasion.
@methylethyl #182: Thank you for referring to the presence of the faithful of former times and of the angels during the liturgy! I was brought up a Baptist, so heard the purely symbolic interpretation of the Lord’s Supper as remembrance, though the strong presence of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien in my childhood counteracted this. Lately, when reading Gareth Knight’s Experience of the Inner Worlds on JMG’s recommendation, I came upon Anthony Duncan’s The Lord of the Dance. Duncan emphasizes that the Eucharist is celebrated by the risen Christ not only together with mortal humans, but also with those whom Duncan calls “immortal men”, that is the faithful who have already passed through mortal life, and with the angels.
Lately, I have begun to feel this presence. Reflecting on today’s essay, it seems to me that feeling the presence of those who lived a long time ago together with use who live today goes part of the way towards feeling that we who live now are present at what (in the normal manner of speaking) happened a long time ago.
Mentions of Guénon and quality vs. quantity remind me of Novalis’ Wenn nicht mehr Zahlen und Figuren (in German and English here: https://www.lieder.net/lieder/get_text.html?TextId=106976). Novalis was an engineer by profession, and yet it surprises me that he didn’t find wonder and enchantment in the exact sciences, too.
Just read the dystopia article.
The only thing it was good for was a good belly laugh!
Their “magic”, as it is called in the article, is worse than Harry Potter.
That said, I know, deep in my soul, that the only possiblity for human kind is a spiritual awakening.
A good place to start would be in your backyard or anywhere with some birds. Just listen to them. They have a lot to say.
“concrete isn’t going to be an option in the not too distant future. Did you know that the global supply of sand suitable for making concrete is running short?”
Although this may change things:
They might be making concrete more long-lasting this time. But we will see. So in that case if concrete manages to survive. Ways of ensuing that the surviving concrete consists of bright colors like sandstone would be a good contingency.
“Dig deep enough, and everyone’s living in a world with some sort of enchantment, a world where some things are true not because of any facts, but because symbolically they must be true.”
Is that actually a working definition of enchantment, though?
All worldviews, even disenchanted ones, must be based on certain assumptions which are often not apparent or are glossed over by believers. The Progress worldview may be demonstrably based on symbolism, but that symbolism doesn’t include anything in the way of gods or spirits or consciousness of the land or bridges across space and time.
To me, *enchantment* specifically implies that something is more than meets the eye, and that the “more” includes connections to other-than-human consciousness or to humans no longer living. I’ll be curious to see how JMG responds.
A world without spirit and the love radiating from that spirit would not be worth living in…But as Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote “the world is charged with the grandeur of God, it will flame out like shining from shook foil”… And it doesn’t matter what you call The Source of all this…it’s still there.
@Darkest Yorkshire #194:
Interesting; thanks. Sorry about the Blue Lagoon, though.
Right. Though I”m interested in what’s very, very problematic about the more normal enchantments; I certainly don’t think they produce some perfect, utopian state of being, and there are certainly things they can’t do that the enchantment of rationalist materialism can, but I’m having trouble seeing what’s bad about them to the point of using the same language for them as for the drawbacks of rationalist materialism.
Though I suspect that might just be because the problems of rationalism materialism are so close to me; I was born into a dying empire in a dying civilization, and the decline started significantly picking up speed right about when I hit adulthood. I was starting to suspect something was very wrong with the way I’d been told the world was supposed to be even before someone who’d become a friend introduced me to The Archdruid Report. On the other hand, the more normal state of existence, that in my mind is in the past [i]before[/i] we messed things up so much and also in the future where we’re heading whether we want to or not. The problems with it are thus not only much more distant from my life, they feel on some level, I think, like the price paid to _not_ get the sorts of problems we’re having now stemming from rationalism materialism.
I’m now even more interested in the continuation of this series of posts!
Not that I’m a particularly enchantment-aware person, but thinking about it, if you or I mixed a bunch of chemicals together in a vat we’d end up with a sort of beige porridge. It wouldn’t spontaneously self-assemble into oceans and continents, trees and plants, birds and bees. It would need a touch of enchantment to get the vibrant system we see around us.
I once tried to explain to my progressivist father that I could live in a world of shopping carts, appointments with the dentist on Tuesdays and bowling at five, or I could live in a world of dragons incarnated as rivers, itinerant messenger spirits from far provinces and vast mysteries beyond the power of humans to understand. I don’t think he got it, though.
Re: Holocaust vs Japanese war crimes, you will hear plenty about Japanese war crimes in Asia. The Western world is just more sensitive to those events closer to it, which is completely fine; as someone from Singapore, to be frank, I read about the Holocaust but feel comparatively little emotional reaction to it compared to the atrocities that occurred closer to home.
Part of the reaction to myths around the Holocausts probably arise from the relationship of Jews to the Christian and Muslim communities around them. I was never raised in an Abrahamic religion, and frankly find a lot of the values in the Bible alien. I respect the Jewish people and their uniqueness in the world, but nothing makes their struggle that much more noteworthy to me compared to that of Ainu, Tibetans, Naxi, Turkic minorities in China, or any number of disenfranchised ethnic groups, other than that they have more sociopolitical capital at this point in history.
Justin Patrick Moore #193, Siegsang felt kinda like a Mega Drive or SNES side-scrolling or top-down shooting game where waves of enemies just keep coming thicker and faster. 🙂
I remember in primary school, we used to talk about how our dreams would sometimes foretell real events. Certainly the world was a magical one to me when I was a child. It’s true the disenchantment of modernity did away with it for a time.
Once at 27, I always thought about “mind over matter”. At that time, I had little influence of any magical ideas, you could say a materialist mindset.
I have often felt energy congesting within me, in the past, resulting in me twitching because it needed to get out. I suppressed it often.
One day then, I looked at my dumbphone, and the energy came up, and for once in my life I let it go free, directed at the phone. The screen showed erratic colors and patterns, and a weird screetching came out of the speakers – definitely not ordinary phone behaviour.
I told it to an acquaintance, a materialist of mind, and he explained it as “temporary psychosis”.
Another materialist colleague once admonished me “don’t always interpret an opinion or direction into your life as if it was a person!”- because I always felt life spoke to me.
I am glad for the information I received here on ecosophia, because it also taught me about mental hygiene – I have always had the eerie feeling, that my thoughts and inner feelings, do not shown, did influence other people in a way that could not be explained. I did not want to believe in it because I couldn’t explain it, so I challenged it, and was taught lesson after lesson.
But it was only after reading here on ecosophia that I got clarity with the implications of my inner world towards the outer – as the mind is not discrete, locked in my head, but seemingly a continuum, pervading my organism and reaching beyond it.
In 2020, I started to feel the “space” or sphere around my body consciously for the first time, after sending my mental focus up and down my body while standing, to explore there.
When I was a kid, I sometimes just stared into nothing and felt bliss, but I was embarassed by it, and suppressed it.
My deeds often spawned karmic consequences that could not be explained via a mechanistic universe. The mechanistic universe, despite the research on quantum physics, seems to dominate contemporary thinking.
Lastly, I wonder about the origin of the hermetic practice, ceremonial magic in particular. Visualisation is certainly a basic human skill since ever – but it was written here that the LBRP and the middle pillar as such originate in the 19th century?
The corpus hermeticum is relatively thin, a philosophical text. What do we know about occultism since antiquity, and what form did it take? As I rememeber, it was written here on ecosophia that it used to be more about journaling, and since ever about contemplative meditation.
My Qi Gong teacher once said that “it was all there in our own christian tradition too” – the inner energetic practices, but that it got lost along the way. I guess that makes sense;
About “witch hunts” – does that mean, that for example in Europe it is possible that spirituality and its fringe segments of society may be endangered by the upcoming and obvious crisis?
Info #282: ‘They might be making concrete more long-lasting this time.’
Yeah, I think you can make concrete Roman style with lime from limestone furnace and volcanic ashes, and reinforce it with hazel rods, for instance; if you can keep the knowledge necessary to make that “rustic” concrete, of course. It’s not a very “esoteric” technology, but it needs proffessionalism, so a unbroken chain of proffessional masons to learn and teach the techniques.
During the Middle Ages, the chain was broken at some point, so knowledge to make concrete in Europe was lost indeed…
On Japanese war crimes, I reccomend you to read a Japanese novel named “The Sea and Poison” written by Shinseku Endo. After reading it, I wondered if I would resist myself to participate in such as atrocities because in the real world there are very few heroes…
A young doctor sells his soul to the Devil but he soon regrets it.
It’s interesting that book is written by a Catholic Japanese, so the “traitor” complex is evident…How could you be Christian and Japanese at a time?
The younger generations seem to be more interested in an enchanted world view. My wife manages a county-wide water and wastewater district but has become something of a star on the sewer convention speaking circuit ( I know, like being the chess grandmaster of the Biden Whitehouse). She comes about here enchanted worldview as a result of her upbringing ( 4 generations) in Hawaii. She usually speaks about an natural treatment wetlands project she developed on 650 acres of land that used to be occupied by old sludge settling ponds. The conventional engineering justification for such a thing would be the biological removal of heavy metals, or cooling. But what she thinks is more important is allowing the water from several high tech treatment plants to achieve a natural balance of both chemistry and spirit before being introduced in to the river. Her talks are very spiritual with many references to Hawaiian gods and beliefs. She gets many eye rolls from the old guard but the younger engineers and techs pack the hall when she speaks and seem to find great interest in the spiritual side of the message.
Reese #285, now I think about it it’s not even all bad if part of the landscape does have it in for you. I actually like Alum Pot in that horror movie ‘good fear’ kind of way. Also in the Dales, there is the Strid. Nobody even knows how many people it’s killed because often it doesn’t leave any evidence. But I’ve stood next to it and it’s exhilarating – the water boils, breathes and heaves in a way I’ve never seen anywhere else. There’s plenty about it online and there used to be a really funny page I was going to link to, but I guess someone thought describing some of its victims then having a picture of the Strid captioned “And yet I’m still hungry…” was crossing the line. 🙂
@info re: concrete longevity
Concrete only lasts a “mere” 10-100 years if you “reinforce” it with steel (rebar) since the gradual rusting of the embedded steel gradually degrades the concrete. Currently it is a lot cheaper (in the short-term time horizon of a structure planned to last a mere few decades) to use reinforced concrete which is also often required by the building codes. I wouldn’t be too optimistic that 100+ year concrete gets used at scale anytime soon…
“Jbucks, excellent! Yes, because our sense of space and time is a construct. Children perceive space and time in a less distorted fashion — and it’s possible, by returning to that less distorted sense, to do some things that properly enculturated adults cannot.“
Click! Another piece of the puzzle falls into place….
Matthew 18:3 “unless ye turn and become as little children…”
Regarding Klein’s op-ed:
As I see it, there are three fundamental problems in the op-ed:
1. J. Storr Hall’s arguments are stupid.
2. Ezra Klein’s arguments are stupid.
3. Klein’s stupid arguments do not refute Hall’s stupid arguments.
I’m going to posit that there’s a malevolent aspect to writing like this, in that, if you engage with them incautiously, your ability to think is degraded.
@Mary Bennett #267,
Sorry, rereading my comment makes it sound like I was disagreeing with your point (Americans starting to identify with the land) but not the case. Afraid, more making it about me or my trying to see where I fit in..
Talking about ancestors way back 7 to 9 generations, let me know if your Bennett’s are from the North Carolina / Virginia, border area. They tie in with one of my ancestral lines.
@Mark L, thanks for your response #203.
Of course, each one can only talk from their own experiences, so I don’t (and really shouldn’t, must not) blame you for not perceiving the same things as I do. But as long as we are “talking shop”, there are a bunch of practical decisions that are taken on the assumption these kinds of things are literal truth or not.
If something is ritual, you may change your symbolism and still have your ritual perform as expected. If it was real, no the other hand, playing make believe as if it is a different thing will not make the original reality go away. In the particular case of the Roman Catholic Church, much of its tendency to avoid change could be better explained with a bit of intellectual honesty and humility: “we really don’t know what is the literal truth and what is just symbolically truth, so it is better if we do not go around changing stuff that it’s been know to work OK for centuries”. You may notice that the RCC has been corrupt since there has been a RCC, but the potency of the sacraments only began to fade when the leadership relaxed and thought themselves smart enough to figure what parts of the doctrine could be “amended” for the sake of “ecumenism”.
re: #279: I get that. I grew up Calvinist: they have a similar “It’s all symbolic” sort of deisim-in-all-but-name approach to things. At least part of that is the differing understanding of time. I think in some sense the Protestants descending into strictly-linear time is a result of ditching the liturgical cycles. I wish I could find it again, but there’s this wonderful graphic illustration of Orthdoox liturgical cycles– wheels within wheels, as we rotate through the small cycles of the 8 resurrection gospels, and the larger cycles of the liturgical year, the great and small feasts and fasts, the daily readings and synaxarion. There is an integral sense of direction, return, and participation in a larger reality. It’s not just a story, it’s a progression of events in which we take part– not just once, but in every season of our lives– as children, as young people, as adults, as old folks, and to each iteration, we bring a changed soul. Each time we make our way to the tomb with the myrrh-bearing women, we bring another year of experience with us, a slightly different understanding. It’s a way of making our linear perception interface with an eternal reality.
Protestants, over several iterations (Lutherans and Anglicans have retained some, Calvinists, Baptists, Methodists etc. have ditched everything but Christmas and Easter), have dropped the saints’ days, the lesser feasts– most Baptists would be hard-pressed to tell you what Theophany is– the daily readings. The scripture reading and the sermon that follows is largely up to the whim of the pastor, on no particular schedule. Losing these things, it is easy to also lose the sense of unity with the rest of Christendom, past, present, and future, the sense of ourselves as participants in eternity. We like to think of thoughts—>actions as a one-way street, but it goes the other way too. Our actions mold our minds and hearts as well (“you are what you repeatedly do” right?). Protestants like to dunk on liturgical Christianity for “vain repetition”… but it’s not vain if you’re using it properly: as a tool to shape your soul, the way that repeated passes on a lathe will turn a square chunk of lumber into a beautiful bowl.
There is also quite a bit of buzz about Geothermal now that Peak Oil is here:
Fracking technology used to channel water up and down to be heated deeper in the earth’s crust and then the hot water is used to generate electricity and even artificial hot springs.
The technophiles are doing everything they can to preserve the status quo.
‘”Status quo” – Latin for “The Mess We’re In.”‘ Courtesy of the Sunday comics page.
Anonymous @ 273, I was “raised”, by a mother for whom “Dig deep enough, and everyone’s living in a world with some sort of enchantment”, as you posted above was true. All the while, both parents professed the strictest atheistic materialism. Her intuition was her secret weapon in her lifelong project to have her own way at all times. Forgive my cynicism, but I think some of the opposition to occult practices comes from those who don’t want what they think of as their edge or advantage widely shared.
Scotty @ 298, ‘Mary Bennett’ is an alias, a minor character from a famous novel. I did have ancestors named Myers who lived in the hill country you mentioned around the turn of the 19thCentury. They later moved to the Midwest, where they still farm to this day. The Continental Congress gave grants of land to Hession mercenaries who would agree to desert their British employers, and even to some Hession prisoners of war, and some did find that a far better offer than what the British king was willing to do for them.
Curt @ 290, about witch hunts, I think those are a very real in at least somme parts of the USA. I wish folks would just stop doing public hexes on famous politicians, for example. A lot of the innocent get caught up in the inevitable blowback.
Gerard, thank you for this! I’ve read Technology as Symptom and Dream, of course, but wasn’t aware of his second book on the same themes.
Alan, thanks for this. Yeah, there’s no blind faith half as dogmatic as the blind faith of those who insist that they’re the only skeptical ones in the room. In a book I’m currently writing, I suggest treating their explain-it-away narratives (“wipes” in Fortean slang) as a species of folktale, a kind of just-so story by which people explain things that, due to their belief system, they cannot understand.
Njura, why, yes, you could use that kind of symbolic analysis, and I think it would work well.
Anonymous, excellent. Yes, exactly; enchantment is the normal condition of human consciousness, and those who think they’re free of it have simply gotten so deep into it that they don’t notice the spell that they’re under.
Chris, I’m inspired to start singing:
“Ninety-nine problems for Romans to face,
Ninety-nine problem for Rome…”
Lurksalong, Guenon makes some very important points, but as I noted a little further up the thread, there are things in today’s world that seem to fly in the face of his analysis; I’ll be talking about those as we proceed. As for Elizabeth Goudge, didn’t you mention her a few months ago? Somebody did; certaily Sara looked her up and found no shortage of books available.
Aldarion, thanks for this. Novalis is always worth reflection!
Info, yeah, I saw that they’re trotting that out again — there’s an article like that every five years or so. The fact that they can now more or less replicate Roman concrete doesn’t help much, since some of the ingredients are just as scarce as good building sand. Since we’re approaching the point where concrete will no longer be made, and your chances of getting a color code imposed aren’t exactly high, may I suggest an alternative? In the future, chunks of concrete hacked off of old freeways and buildings will be a useful building material, but they’ll need to be protected from weathering; a nice coat of stucco, which can be given any number of subtle or bright colors, will do the trick nicely.
Pyrrhus, you’ll get no argument from me.
Reese, all this will be central to the discussions ahead.
Martin, if you mixed up a beige porridge and then let the energy sources of the early earth get at it for a billion years or so, that might do something very interesting…
Patricia O, no, I doubt he did. What interests me is that some people are capable of living in both.
Curt, thanks for this. I think a lot of people have similar experiences, but most suppress them.
Clay, I’m glad to hear this!
Piglet, good. I wasn’t there at the time, so can’t tell you for sure that that’s what he had in mind, but it does seem kind of likely…
Cliff, that strikes me as a serious risk. I’ll keep it in mind when I make fun of Klein’s essay a little later on.
Info, of course! The alternative is to admit that they’ve been engaging in intellectual onanism the whole time.
Patricia M, a fine translation! That belongs right up there with Vae victis! = “It sure sucks to lose, doesn’t it?”
@Darkest Yorkshire #294:
Hm, well, I’m glad there’s that silver lining.
Though I’m guessing that there are differences even among hostile landscapes, some where surviving anyway gets a degree of respect from the land and others where it just really wants human interlopers gone and their survival just makes it try harder. I don’t have any examples of either coming to mind, though.
“Reese, all this will be central to the discussions ahead.”
Methylethyl (no. 300) “…most Baptists would be hard-pressed to tell you what Theophany is…”
They may know it as Epiphany.
The funny thing is, Baptists are supposed to be all about the Bible, but when they visit liturgical churches, they are often impressed by how much Bible reading goes on there. (Following revivalist practice, Baptists will cite proof-texts but don’t usually follow a lectionary.)
@Scotlyn re: whins: That’s delightful!
In my last house, we had a similar thing. Not gorse, but broomsedge. They are a clump-forming grass plant. Left to their own devices, they build up quite a lot of highly flammable tinder, and also seem to sort of choke themselves with it. I burned the yard in sections, to clear out the fuel buildup (it got dangerous in the dry season). I wondered at first if it would kill them. But no, they come back fuller and greener than before. They *like* being burnt! Most of the plants in our little swamp-meadow did– I suppose that’s how it stays a meadow instead of becoming part of the tupelo/cypress swamp–but the broomsedge more than the rest. It has a nice personality. We became friends. 🙂
In this process, I tried hard to make friends with the cypress trees, but never could get through. They can live for thousands of years, and they’re very alien– they go back further in the fossil record than almost any other still-extant trees. I did learn, accidentally, that they have very, very strong feelings about fire. One of the younger trees, I scorched the lower branches while burning the yard. It was *very* unhappy about that. I spent the next year apologizing to no avail. The tree recovered, but it *glowered* at me thereafter. Kind of spooked me.
So, uh, be careful with the fires, and the trees. The meadow plants are personable, but the trees may have long memories and strong feelings on the subject. if I had a do-over, I’d have gone and warned the trees first, but I don’t know if it would have helped.
Dear Mr.Greer and fellow readers, I have a few confessions, an irony, and a question. I was born into a neighborhood marked by a magnificent tree, a giant stone pine, the like of which I have never seen again even in a picture. Unlike any other conifer, its crown was spherical, shaped exactly like a cauliflower and it was so dense with needles you couldnt see the branches. Our apartment was across it and I used watch, almost every day like a ritual, as birds would flock and perch on it and around it close to dusk and build up to the moment when they would all at the same time fly away. I left my hometown for boarding school, but every summer I would be back. One summer, to my shock, I saw the tree was savagely mutilated and next summer it was dead and gone. I felt this disgust and animosity towards the people that killed it. I was away for school, then work, then marriage/family and when I finally came back, decades later, there was a noted difference in the city. It was late summer, but the place was lush with greenery and the greens were bright with early/mid spring hues. My grandmother used to remind occasionally that the soil there was so fertile, one could stick an old walking cane and it would come alive with sprouting leaves and roots. Walking in the city, I would notice beautiful plants, especially trees, even in most mundane, unexpected spots. Even people there seemed different than I remembered. Many were critical if, say the administration didnt pay attention to trees during construction. My mother’s new apartment was overlooking a public healthcare clinic, with a garden full of trees, some truly amazing. Iwent in to collect some seeds and a guard stopped me, asking sternly what business I had there. When he heard I wanted to walk the garden, his demeanor changed, his body relaxed, smiling he said, somewhat proudly: “Oh, you are here to see the tree. Go ahead.” and left me to it.
The most surprising thing was, while walking through the neighborhood and being somewhat lost with old building demolished and rebuilt and many plants/trees around that were not there beofre, I ran into a small pine tree, with a plaque next to it. It stated that the seedling was planted in memory of a tree that died on that spot and the seedling was of the same variety and the tree was now protected. The seedling could not have been older than five years. Obviously, I was not the only person the tree touched and enough many people carried its memory in their hearts that they planed decades later. I was filled with love and kinship and gratitude for those people. The city is Adana in Turkey and it is created and embraced by two rivers.
I grew up with both feet firmly in materialistic world and with science and reason drilled in me. To this day, I have never seen a ghost, had a vision, touched by an angel, etc and if I had previous lives, I have no recollection. In fact, I make my living as a mildly successful member of the professional manager class. That is to say, I dwell in the belly of the beast and yet I am feeling increasingly alienated and unhappy. My work and most people I interact with, they dont resonate with I see and hear through my own experiences and my thinking is diverging away. Even though I am somewhat blind to magic, what I read in Ecosophia, both the posts and the comments, has more rhyme and rhythm for my senses and that is my irony. I am very grateful for the knowledge I gain and also for feeling less lonely, knowing that there are others that think all is not right with the beast.
Going back to plants, maybe it started with the tree, but gradually I have been attracted to plants, first towards trees and now pretty much all other kinds too. I collect seeds and plants for my garden and I also used to volunteer half day a month at a local public park as a gardener. One of the girls that worked there, she suggested that I read Stephen Buhner. I did and tried to follow his suggestions. Yes, I am skeptical, but I still wish to keep an open mind and I do want it to be true that one can communicate with plants, why not give it a try. But I have to admit that I am easily discouraged and need some kind of feedback to keep going. In one of his books, Mr.Buhner states that most people actually project what they imagine the plants might be communicating. So my question is, when one tries to open oneself to spirituality, how can a genuine feedback be distinguished from one’s projections?
To finish the way I started, with the tree, when i was a child, I used to collect pine cones around the tree to search for pine nuts. Before our old apartment was to be demolished, I went through my old stuff and toys and found, to my delight, a pine seed inside a toy. I am pretty certain it is from the tree. I took it to my home garden in Virginia and plated it a few years ago, It still has not sprouted but I glance at the spot when I walk by it.
Many Thanks, MC
re: “René Guenon’s book The Reign of Quantity which, synchronistically enough, I’m reading right now, and which insists that a fixation on quantity to the neglect of quality is an essential feature of modern, disenchanted life”
This reminds me of a similar claim that Sombart made in which he identified that as an essential feature of the USA – it can be found IIRC in his famous essay “Why is there no socialism in the United States?”
“may I suggest an alternative? In the future, chunks of concrete hacked off of old freeways and buildings will be a useful building material, but they’ll need to be protected from weathering; a nice coat of stucco, which can be given any number of subtle or bright colors, will do the trick nicely.”
Sounds good to me. Although I would have preferred for said color to infuse the concrete through and through. So that if the coating is taken away the color is retained.
So that even when ground down to powder or cut through that the rich bright color is retained even on the inside. I so despise the concrete grey responsible for so much of modern ugliness.
Scotlyn – your conversation with gorse reminded me of an enchanting story. It began in about two centuries ago when European settlers brought gorse to Aotearoa (New Zealand) for use as fences and shelter belts. It flourished in our climate, maturing in a fraction of the time it takes in Europe, flowering twice a year here and thriving on our English propensity to set fire to the lands. Steam-powered trains and traction engines aided its spread so the rail and road traveler soon saw only a rolling sea of yellow of gorse flower as far as the eye could see. Soon gorse spread the 1000 mile length of the lands of Aotearoa and had become the No1 weed for pastoral farmers – well, at least for those farmers and merchants who did not condemn en masse all the native plants of Aotearoa as the worst possible weed.
In their disenchantment, adults burned and burned the gorse, sliced and diced it with huge mowers, charged at it with bulldozers on steep hillsides and even adapted planes so they could bomb it with toxic chemicals. To no avail.
So when I came to live in this valley 35 years ago I was greeted by hillsides covered with a mass of golden gorse flowers.
Originally covered with forests for eons and then with pastoral farms this past two centuries, the valley was converted into the city dump in 1949. So for the next 25 years, until the dump was finally sealed over, the local residents and school children lived with triple flyscreens on their doors, soot stained curtains and blackened bare feet. The local fire brigades were constantly busy dowsing fires in the open dump and on the surrounding hillsides. Gorse thrived in this mini scene from Dante’s inferno.
That is the history of the mass of gorse flowers I encountered when I arrived here in 1986.
Over the years I would ask our local school children what they thought of gorse and they would reply, “Its really, really, like really bad!!!” in that vigorous way 6-10 year olds can express themselves. Then I got the job as the school cleaner and caretaker.
The few trees planted in the school yard were sad, worn and stunted while the surrounding steep, soft rock banks were eroding from children clambering up them. So I began planting trees with children, using the process to ask them questions about the surrounding gorse. Yes, they saw how fast it grew, especially after fires; how it created open, sunny, sheltered spaces shielding other plants from our powerful, salty ocean winds; how its prickly leaves protected little plants from pests like horses, cattle, sheep ((((and humans))) from stomping all over them; how native birds liked to visit the gorse bushes and pooped native seeds in their midst; how these native trees grew and crowned out the gorse so it only survived at the exposed perimeters of the forests…in other words the children saw for themselves how gorse formed a wonderful nursery for the baby trees.
I only had to point to the sun or do the motion of a bird flying to elicit all this observed wisdom of the children. My main problem occurred when they asked me why adults don’t understand this good sense and my only possible response was to shrug to indicate my bewilderment too.
Within 5 years of being caretaker, my original question elicited a very different answer from any child at the school: “What do I think of gorse? Oh yeah, its our really, really good friend because it helps all our native trees in the forest grow”. And here is the enchanting part. The trees we planted in the school grounds flourished and grew tall so today the children sit in their branches in the swaying winds in preference to playing on the industrial “jungle gyms”.
Sometimes, when those trees were young, the children might start tracking through them during their games, carelessly breaking branches and scarring roots. I would simply go to the nearby forest, select a couple of branches of dead gorse and place them in the trees as a wee, silent signal. Nothing need be said. I had overheard children explain to their parents and younger siblings how these sprigs of dead gorse protected the struggling trees and so I was aware an enchanted conspiracy – the sharing of the breath of life – existed among the children.
Similarly I allowed a 2 inch sheen of gorse to prevail over the steep rock banks surrounding the school yard. Again the children understood the silent, enchanting signal that the fuzz of gorse was protecting the rocks and the erosion ceased. The children warned their innocent peers that the gorse conveyed a prickly message with good reason.
It is possible the children enjoyed considerable humour in the conspiracy about gorse, knowing they shared the breath with the trees and with at least one adult – the school caretaker – and that they should not expect sympathy from their peers if they pricked themselves on the gorse barbs.
This enchantment lasted about a decade until a change in the school admin occurred and again the disenchanting ego in our disenchanted adults prevailed. Some of our English school parents did not see the low plant cover under the trees formed a cultured, sacrificial, cooling, sustaining mat protecting the tree roots from the wounds and scars of countless children’s feet passing over them. They only saw “Untamed Weeds” and untidiness. So it was sprayed and removed.
I dared to suggest to the Admin that we could get our children to explain to adults these seeming “weeds” are not sign of laxness and how they are actually special protector plants looking after our trees.
Admin replied we should be seen to be at least making an effort to ensure first appearances of the school looked good.
And some adults were aghast at the wilful cultivation of gorse.
Eventually my role as the caretaker was contracted out to a “Professional” gardening firm, whose first act was to spray herbicides over every weed, including every tiny sprig of the dreaded gorse. The young guys spraying the poisons whispered to me they hated doing it but it was “company orders”.
I was informed that the Crown’s Ministry of Education has deemed gorse unsafe and illegal on its property.
Within a couple of years of this disenchanting regime, the soft rock banks were eroding again, shedding rocks with every heavy shower of rain down on the steep paths so they became dangerous to walk down again. Soon the tree roots were exposed, bleeding and pulling out of the ground in the strong winds. Occasionally the school imported a truckload of mulch from afar to cover the carnage -perhaps because a little compassion prevailed or perhaps because the stricken trees formed bad PR for an “Environmentally friendly” school.
And the steep, soft-rock, school hard banks, now near naked, began eroding at the fastest rate in their existence of several decades. Last summer the Crown sent contractors with large machinery to drill deep into the rock face, cement large metal rods into the holes onto which they fixed special wire matting, spliced with large metal cables, all pasted with a sprayed on green concrete coating.
And we wonder why our enchanting children grow up to become disenchanted adults.
Maybe there is a moral in everything if we give enough time to reflecting on it? The Maori word for both “teacher” and “student” is “kaiako”. This reflects the fact they saw children as a repository of great wisdom and accordingly adults tended to pepper their children with questions.
Perhaps the moral of this tale is that great enchantment flourishes in the five-year old child residing in each of us?
John, you write to Mary ‘I recommend reclaiming the grand old word “compassion”’.
Yes indeed. Compassion is a truly enchanting word – no other word evokes all the inclusive properties that complement and balance the exclusive properties of the ego so fully.
Our modern Crown English culture would have us believe compassion involves pity, empathy, patheticness and weakness whereas our experience of compassion actually enables us to embrace the common nature of suffering and to actively seek to alleviate it.
We are our language and that is why so many choke when uttering the word.
A decade ago I searched best I could every state and national education curriculum framework of Britain, NZ, Australia, Canada and the USA that I could find on the Internet. Not one Anglosphere Curriculum Framework mentioned the word “compassion” yet, without compassion, our children inevitably become ego-driven and have no hope of survival.
Please excuse my poor grammar – I became diplopic and have taught myself to read for meaning by scanning blocks of text for key words. I struggle to read what I write. Also, inculcated as I am in the Crown dialect of English, my constant search now to speak a more sustainable dialect makes me rather clumsy and convoluted.
JMG, the nearest thing we have to a beige porridge on a large scale is a municipal garbage dump. There’s everything in there– heavy metals, light metals, chemicals, living and dead biology, all mixed up and left to cook. I believe some very weird life forms are evolving in there.
Dave McArthur – Your use of the English language is nothing to apologize for. It is technically correct in every way I can see, and your message is enchanting. Carry on!
@ Methylethyl and Dave McArthur – thank you both for those rich stories of encounters with pyrrofilic and/or gorse plantkind… 🙂
It is true, M, that you want to pick the optimum time for any burning activities, so as to only burn what wants and needs to be burnt and *not* anything else. Careful observation and practice, mostly by himself, who is the one who dances with fire in our household, does a lot of this. We found the book called “Fire Country” by Victor Stephensen (sp?) to be very useful.
I loved the part of your story, Dave where you spoke of the gorse “nursing” younger plants. It may interest you to know that the blackberry bramble was traditionally known as the godmother of oak. Certainly any tree seedlings that avoid being grazed at a tender age, while under the shelter of a bramble are more likely to grow on to maturity.
I had a lot of thoughts on this post but thought the following anecdote would be interesting to JMG and other readers:
There is a magician I have followed for years, John R King. I admire and respect his approach to Solomonic magic but have come to see that not being s
He publishes infrequently but his post last week with a link to a Harper’s Bazaar article on him seemed quite synchronous with the post here too:
Not sure if it is behind a paywall, I seem to be able to access it for free now.
Anyway, I find the contrast between the journalist’s writing and his own view of his work and accomplishments quite illustrative of a disenchanted vs enchanted worldview.
My impression of the journalist is that he doesn’t quite take everything seriously even after having met with John, seeing his ritual paraphernalia, and finds the whole affair, and John himself a bit ridiculous. He writes like an ironic post-modernist, and doesn’t really get it in the end.
John on the other hand lives very much in an enchanted world, one which is very much based on his interpretation of the Bible and the grimoires. I mean like the way he describes a small regional festival:
“Something within me stirred at seeing this, an expanse of tents that at the time seemed like the encamped Israelites in the desert following the Exodus, or the multitude before the throne, awaiting Judgment. Everyone had a place, and every place depended on everyone else also having a place.”
Compare that with the journalist’s description:
“So we made plans to meet at the Okanogan Family Faire, a festival where especially dirty hippies encamp alongside militiaman types in a valley on the far side of the Cascades. For several days, they sing and dance and barter goods and services—mostly drugs.”
Elsewhere, John described his successes and failures in life and magic. I think that whatever the outward material circumstances, his life is still very much enriched by seeing the universe that way.
The referenced comment about parapsychology on last week’s post: https://www.ecosophia.net/december-2022-open-post/#comment-92315
When I made that comment about the weird instability and unsustainability of effects found by parapsychology, I didn’t mean it as a claim about what enchantment was. I didn’t even know that you had planned to be discussing enchantment in general. All I knew was that you were going to be talking about some particular hypothesized malign enchantment associated with modernity, nihilism, materialism, and hopeless ugliness-worship, and that such an enchantment seemed like the kind of thing that anyone might suppose could have some causal connection to people disbelieving in supernatural things. What I was reacting to was the idea that, as part of your analysis of why modern people might be in some particular disenchanted or malignantly enchanted state, you might end up promoting certain accusatory theories or narratives about why people end up disbelieving in supernatural things. The main thing I was trying to do with my comment was lay out some evidence as to why those narratives might be false.
Specifically, the evidence suggests that something actively stops certain people from receiving more than a certain degree of evidence, at least in a certain expected format, that supernatural things are real.
The record from parapsychology doesn’t give much specific signal as to what that “something” would be, or why. It could be supervising divinities, it could be some organized consequence of the way our universe in particular relates to subjectivity; it could (as James E. Kennedy suggests) be intended to selectively discourage the use of supernatural faculties as another meaning-drained input to corporate profits or military advantages, it could be (as Kennedy gets halfway to suggesting) because of some retrocausal effect of avoiding some unwanted future consequence of whatever kind of mass belief would otherwise result, it could be intended to make sure multiple different conflicting worldviews continue to seem relatively viable for some reason.
Relative to what I think one should have naïvely expected given the premises of supernaturalism, the universe does seem to bend itself over backwards to make skeptical “washes” only require a small amount of stretching. Small enough that maybe the people who make those stretches are doing it sincerely, and not just out of pride or bureaucratic class identity or whatever. At least from the outside, I think it may typically be impossible to tell. I feel like the way people consistently don’t see what I see about this, about how impossible washes would be in a naïve supernaturalist cosmology if the supernatural weren’t specifically trying to be only barely visible, might as well itself be thought of as an enchantment.
Going closer back to the topic of meaning: One of James Kennedy’s conclusions is that parapsychology may have to move away from the paradigm that psi is going to turn out to be a physics-like effect, and move toward expecting it to be a phenomenon relating to meaning or development, human or otherwise. I think something similar: parapsychology may need to at least move in the direction of perspectives “from the inside” of the objects of other sciences connected with collectivities, purpose, meaning, and development, like economics, political science, or plant breeding, and probably also the objects of other related more general Wissenschaften, like film studies or land management.
(It’s weird that the English spellchecker’s suggestions for Wissenschaften are all different verb forms of “disenchant”.)
Dear John Michael,
It’s only the second post I read from you, but it feels like coming home.
The unsinging has a lot to do with language, which is ultimately unfit for grasping reality.
Disenchantment has viral qualities, you have to go through this disease of the soul to be cured. It can take a while to revive ones soul.
The state of enchantment seems similar to the state of flow. If that is the case then symmetric, rhythmical, all faculty encompassing activities help induce. Which is again similar to activating every chakra wheel.
Having a ‘holistic’ brain is a requirement.
Improvising, is a core skill. Unplanned action at the edge of learned experiment.
Hope it is of some use. It is a very timely subject to converse about, seeing the world is opened as never before. Now is the time to sing.
What has really changed the world for once and all – the belief that human beings can map out a relationship between their sensual experiences and what is actually occurring in the world outside of them. Science, as developed in the West, came to be considered superior to irrational beliefs because of its immense successes.
NO HUMAN BEING can know the whole of “reality.” Science does not deny this – they just use probabilities and as such they are very often correct. It certainly does not claim to know the answers to everything. Dion Fortune, Alphonse Constant, Buddha, L Ron Hubbard and Joseph Smith have no more knowledge of the essence of “reality” than you or I. Humans who claim to have reached levels of awareness beyond the sensual tend to use drugs or methods of entrancement that affect brain functioning so we cannot believe what they say. NO ONE KNOWS.
We are like worms looking at the toe of a human being and thinking we have the organism figured out. We know nothing.
No one has “disproved” Kant because his statements are unfalsifiable. Science can only apply to that which can be disproven. That is why philosophy has shriveled as science has grown (and I am not referring to scientism here).
Is there something beyond the sensual realm? I have had experiences where I have come to believe this. Can I prove it? No. Is it probable? No. But I have had the experiences and to me they are real. That is true religion, not some esoteric dogma.
But that is true only for me; the minute someone else claims to know all of reality, I want incontrovertible truth or cease your blathering.
@ DrHooves #92710: Wooden Nickels and Aewar have put forth a video
about recorded history, keeping written records, and the art of reproduction
AND forgery. “Shadow Rome – IV: The Book Hunters”
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