There is a certain amount of cognitive dissonance that comes from an exclusively psychological vision of how magic works.
It's not that it loses its explanatory efficacy when it comes to understanding gross physical results of enchantment, it doesn't. It's just that the efficacy becomes a litte inelegant.
We are forced into saying that "the results are probably still psychological, it's just that we don't know nearly enough about how the mind works at the moment to say anything further."
However accurate this may be, it is largely unhelpful to pile Rumsfeldian unknown unknowns on top of each other: understanding the inexplicable by resorting to another inexplicable.
This is why I currently prefer the Hamburg Conjecture: "it's all in your head, except when it isn't."
On the surface of it, this also appears to have limited explanatory usefulness. Surely the second half of the conjecture implies a decidedly non-psychological explanation of magical effects?
Yeah, maybe. Who cares? This is a chaos magic blog. Explanatory utility could be politely described in corporate speak as a "nice to have".
No, the main reason for clinging with increasingly whitened knuckles onto the gunwales of the good ship Psychologia as we collectively navigate through Apocalypse Reef is down to the tendency of non-psychological explanations to undervalue what I suspect is magic's most potent weaponry: having better ideas.
Let's hear from Grant Morrison:
"I just lived daily with my parents fighting against the bomb, the idea that this thing when it happens, we'd be obliterated, forever. & then for me the big thing was discovering superhero comics, because suddenly, there were people who could stop the bomb, Superman could take an atom bomb hit to the chest & just shake it off... so all that reflects on me, the moment you realise that the bomb, before it was a bomb, was an idea, & suddenly that understanding: Superman was a better idea, so why not make that one real instead of that one?"
That's from the 2010 documentary, Talking With Gods, which you can watch the first five minutes of here and -literally on my knees- I beg you to buy and watch.
Things are a bit shit now. 147 companies control 40% of the entire global network. The three wealthiest families in the world possess more assets than the 48 poorest countries. If ever there was need for an incorruptible champion of fairness and peace it would be now. But why not stop at one champion? Why not seven billion champions by Halloween?
The best thing you can do when things turn a bit/spectacularly shit is have better ideas.
This works in two main ways:
Macrosuperheroism does not have to mean macro results like reversing the rotation of the earth. It can be as simple as showing some economic graphs to your neighbours. Macrosuperheroism is defined, not by the scale of your input, but by the size of your theatre.
What fascinates me about the Occupy egregore is that it largely exists in a superposed state. It is an ontological framework rather than a mere protest march. You can close down the protests and you can arrest published authors but Occupy exists in the chance discussion you have with someone on the bus on your way to work.
Unlike UKUncut before it, the egregore doesn't exist in a single track toward a single, defined goal. If/when the protests are violently shutdown, the iconography -the masks, the graphs, the quotes- will persistently reappear during elections and union rallies and in public discourse until the world is ultimately changed.
(I suspect we are witnessing the first measurable civilian absorption of global terrorist tech by a population that has grown to adulthood in its shadow. We are well and truly in Grant's world now. Finally!)
Macrosuperheroism is deploying a thousand thousand little nudges toward a better world.
(Update: new data proves the value and efficacy of slacktivism.)
I was saving this British Museum piece for a Real Life Magic Artefact post but its example is too beautiful to pass up now.
It's an Edwardian penny defaced with a suffragette message. Thousands of pennies were defaced by suffragettes because:
- They were the most widely used currency in the Realm at the time. The one dollar bill of their day.
- They weren't valuable enough for the Bank of England to recall or swap out.
So they were a perfect medium for spreading ideas in a world before tumblr. But it wasn't just coins. Suffragettes also martyred themselves in front of the king's horse, sent letter bombs, smashed shop windows in the West End and, in one memorable example, hid in a closet in the Palace of Westminster the night before the national census so as to give her address to the census taker as the House of Commons.
You will be called by circumstance (Fortune?) to participate in macrosuperheroism. Where you choose to deploy practical enchantment in these theatres is up to you.
Microsuperheroism, however, does not have a theatre... or not, at least, one you can bomb or occupy.
Look away, phraseological detractors, because I'm about to drop a Morrison-approved A-bomb: Even when it's shit your world is actually still fucking awesome.
I was a bit rich during the last boom time, I was spectacularly poor and in debt during the 2008 collapse, I have been laid off twice in four years, I have been fatter, I have been thinner, I have been lonely, I have been on and off cigarettes, I have been sick (I'm currently sick) and I have been well.
At the moment times are a bit tough, like they are for most people, but (a) I have a job for which I am grateful and (b) it's one I rather like for which I am doubly grateful.
But you know what else?
It's autumn in Oxford Circus, coffee tastes good and when I'm walking to the bus stop in the morning my breath billows out steam into the crisp air like a really camp dragon.
The universe is going to do what it's going to do... that's Her prerogative. Your prerogative, as it always was, is to persistently find the joyful, the miraculous, in the day-to-day business of going about your incarnation.
You all know I prefer fireflies to hardhat-mounted torches but we can all attest to the fact that catching them -and catching them on a daily basis- is harder than it looks. Don't ever dismiss the achievement of finding joy in your daily life.
There is something beautifully political -something radically fragile- about simply refusing to let the wider world take this magic away from you. Chris's re-enchantment, for me at least, relies so heavily on tiny acts of social disobedience: of enjoying things you probably shouldn't or that no one else does.
Microsuperheroism is saying that even if it's raining outside it's only raining inside my head if I will it so. It's saying, in answer to the question "how do you stop the global financial crisis?", by really enjoying this apple.. motherfucker.
Things are going to get much shitter in the grand theatres of the early twenty first century. That's where you need to be Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes:
The post was going to close by saying that magical folk are "blessed" with the ability to have powerful ideas, to know that Superman can beat the bomb. But we aren't "blessed". We worked for this ability. We work at it every day.
Your incarnation's most significant theatre of engagement is your own wetware.
One last question for additional credit: Why did I (a) compose the Gothenburg photo the way I did and (b) choose it as the hero image for this post?
Exactly. See you up, up in the sky, my darlings.