Andrew Luke is a Polytheist Christian from Belfast and, in this Editor’s opinion, not someone who matches the stereotypical ‘born again’ fundamentalist believer in a Christ Messiah
Who is the great magician that makes the grass green?
Grant Morrison, defines magic as ‘an absolute certainty in perceptual shift’, of reality becoming dream-like. Freud saw it as the power of wishes plus the motor impulse. Crowley defines magical operation is, ‘any event in nature brought to pass by will’. “The Art”, as it was known, is a literal definition for Alan Moore. Interchangeable with magic, he sees a science of language where to cast a spell simply means, to spell, where a book of spells, a grimoire, is grammar. In this way, we might see ‘drawing’ as attracting; the ‘after-life’, as we, and memories and effects of our departed co-exist, ‘the life after’. “Art like magic is manipulating symbols, words or images to achieve changes in consciousness” says Moore. “Much of magic is concerned with the inner dynamo behind us, the great work…knowledge of the self.”
What’s so special about the self? Robert Anton Wilson remarks, ‘In our reality tunnels, we abstract reality. We pick up the signals that appeal to our belief systems’, abbreviated, he smiles, to “b.s.” We energise beliefs based on past experiences with culture, friends and family. ‘All our models are constructs. We live in a world negotiating on behalf of our stories…you are the co-creator of the sights and sounds you hear’. Our eyes perceive the moon as white, though it’s gray with a reflectance dark like asphalt. The sun seems orange or red, yet when viewed from space above, may be white. Only through our interactions and processes does knowledge increase. Nowadays, Psychology treats ‘the arts’ as personal phenomenon meeting individual needs, providing explanations for difficult gaps in knowledge. Anthropologists, meanwhile, see ritual and myth as defining inter-related societies, bringing meaning, logic and some perceptual flaws.
‘The human nervous system takes in the infinity of the universe’, says Wilson, optimistically. His Schroedinger’s Cat Trilogy of parallel universe takes on a single story from multiple perspectives and shows willingness to consider beyond our reality tunnels. Such is the multiverse, it comprises everything in space, matter, time and energy. Max Tegmark writes, it consist of universes beyond observable cosmological horizons, those with different physical constants, those that to ours have possible observations and different probabilities, even all universes described by mathematical constructs, and those not measured by maths at all.
Waves collapsing when measured, photons diffracting alone to interference patterns: these two observations lead progressive Quantum physicists like Hawking to engage in multiverse theories. Literally, everyday, we agree: who hasn’t allowed their observations of fiction to co-alter that universe’s properties to one with new fundamental laws and emotions? We laugh madly and feel sorrow, as per storyteller’s intent, at Game of Thrones, or Breaking Bad, and think about their situations afterwards. We live with Buffy fan-fics and wikis, Shakespeare’s re-written history and Star Trek technical manuals. Morrison, a comic book writer, contends superheroes are as real as we are, affected differently by time, saving their singular panel appearances to stave off the aging process. Many are based on Gods: The Flash (Mercury), Superman (Zeus), Aquaman (Poseidon) and Wonder Woman (Hera), and they hop universes (and mortality) often. Their origins are energy from matter, never destroyed, only redistributed. The comics birthing them sell comparatively poorly, yet their manifestations grow everywhere.
Magic includes the following: healing, symbols, energetic dance, chants, meditation, artifacts, prayer and transubstantiation. The latter caused controversy in the Catholic church when introduced. Yet the similar props and practices suggest religion as magic’s sibling. Anthropologist S. J. Tambiah observes each have their “quality of rationality”, but historically, demarcations between magic, religion and science occur when established thought processes are challenged. He points to the 16th and 17th centuries when magic was thrown into turmoil by witch trials and reinforced by the stigmatising Protestant Reformation.
“Everything goes wrong with Monotheism”, says Moore. Once the shaman/artist’s province was all facets of culture, an intermediary between spirits and people, he says. Monotheism brought a priest caste into the community, “a sort of middle management.’ Moore contrasts Monotheism with multi-faceted Paganism, with more gods than letters in the alphabet, and the Qabalah, which sees many gods as an emanation of one. “Where there is only one God that’s unreachable, what’s the point?” he asks. “Why reduce it to one plaintive single note, that the utterer does not even understand?” Elsewhere in The Mindscape of Alan Moore, he states, “The one place where Gods and Demons inarguably exist is the human mind, where they are real, in all their grandeur and monstrosity.” As a polytheist, I feel gods are just as real, and it’s simpler and more inclusive to believe in all of them. The Reformation was followed by the Age of Reason, ‘which for all it’s good, brought the rise of materialism…a soul-less universe of dead matter’, artists and writers surrendering magical practices to advertisers with tranquilisers, through banal magic words and manipulative jingles leading us to think the same at the same time.
Morrison agrees, when speaking of ‘viral sigils’: the McDonalds arch, the Nike swoosh, capably invade the space of imagination, “and Red Square. They and other ghosts like them rule our world in the early 20th century.” Positively, he adds, the observant magician/artist does well to study these corporate entities. From there, they might imitate and steal their strategies for our own use. In Flex Mentallo, Morrison tells of superheroes trapped in a corporate machine, unable to prevent the end-of-the-universe ‘big crunch’. Yet their enduring qualities, such as Christ-like resurrection has them leap to a new big bang, where another corporation becomes their birthing vessel. Hawking defines space-time as “a hyper-moment where everything occurs”. What if we, as a species, ordered everything, our accelerating knowledge, our will and motor impulse to affect change, into past, present and now? Ideas, like energy, are indestructible, and re-distributed.
Energy released in the big bang, produced, over nine billion years, nuclear fusion reactions that created the Sun. Four and a half billion years later it continues to give us heat, light, and growth. The carbon, nitrogen and oxygen in our bodies is the same as that which formed the Sun and stars. “We are a way for the universe to know us”, mused Carl Sagan. “the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff.” The sun’s longevity comes from stellar nucleosynthesis: evolved generations of dead stars, returning their material to the interstellar medium. The process can take to trillions of years, perhaps of universes preceding the Sun’s formation, probably outliving it. Our own deceased survive in waves and particles. They own futures in features of relatives, handed-down clothing, advice and examples. Our uniqueness is more powerful than DNA; we are memes, living in memory, photograph, journal and internet archive. In nearly eight billion years our sun will likely becomes a dull and lifeless gas sphere. Yet, it too may be gathered in a new cloud, forming the next generation of stars. It may help sustain life then, as it does for us now, in a magical multiverse.