Oh but I do love meeting new weirdos.
Last night I was invited to slightly monopolise the conversation at the monthly gathering of the London Alternate Explanation Society. Which was held at Spaniard’s Inn, mentioned in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, in a room reputed to be haunted by Dick Turpin.
It was absolutely delightful to meet earnest seekers after whatever-they-were-seeking, in a space where their various pursuits could be freely discussed. ‘Finding the Others’ -heck, even just knowing they really are out there- is the very best anti-anxiety medication. There is something about random events such as these that are like a live-action version of improperly using a ouija board. You never really know what is going to come out and through.
What always intrigues me, in a ‘correlating the mind’s contents‘ sense, is that a magical worldview seems like an inevitable conclusion, whether you come at it from a UFO, 9/11, alternative health, black budget or whatever perspective. From the previously mentioned Alan Moore Q&A on GoodReads, we have:
I suppose I had only an average person’s interest in occult matters for the greater part of my life, and while there were various factors that led to me becoming a magician back in 1993, one of the most compelling was writing a few lines of dialogue in From Hell to the effect that the one place gods and supernatural beings inarguably existed was within the human mind, where they were real in all their ‘grandeur and monstrosity’. Being incapable of finding an angle from which that wasn’t true, and realising its implications, I felt I had no real choice other than to become a magician.
Now you can -and I do- have some problems with Moore’s exclusively ‘imaginal’ view of magic, just as you can -and I do- have problem’s with Morrison’s exclusively psychological view of magic. But I quite like his characterisation of the inevitability of becoming a magician. Whatever your area of alternative research, you can actually ‘problem solve’ your way into it, almost by accident.
Sometimes I wonder if that is not a better ‘solve’ for the existence of occult aspects to the mid-twentieth century shadow state, which was a major topic of the evening. Rather than stitching together tenuous Nazi occult threads (still keep the rope-thick Nazi threads, of course), what if the shadow state had an Alan Moore moment? Consider what Dr Farrell describes as the three main challenges they faced at the end of World War II:
- The Soviets
- The Nazi International
- The UFO Phenomenon
The Soviets raced ahead with their psychic spying programmes, the Nazi International raced ahead with testing out models of physics that should not be ‘real’ (recall that Juan Peron used to boast/joke that he had his own space programme), and then there were those UFOs… whatever they happened to be. In that scenario, with unlimited money for research and the ability to kill or steal with impunity, how long before someone has a ‘Moore moment’: Holy shit. This stuff is not only real, it comes with a ready-made set of protocols for interrogating and altering reality.
The fact that you can ‘problem solve’ your way into what we might call theoretical magic -in order to stay with this post’s visual theme- interests me almost as much as why it is so many weird researchers (and a goodly number of magicians, frankly) don’t take the next step into practical magic. Once we proved atoms, we built an atom bomb. But once you’ve ‘proved’ magic?
During the after-drinks and then in the unnecessarily-confusing cab ride home, Jay was explaining how he ‘strayed onto the path direct’. (It involves insufficient Tolkien and a caravan in the south of France, but you’ll have to ask him about it.) Inevitably, the discussion moved to the rise of chaos magic among self-appointed forecasters of monoculture and other groups that inexplicably consider themselves ‘alternate’ such as ‘futurists’ who want to teach refugees about building apps or whatever.
I haven’t mentioned it before, but not for the reasons that you might think. Mostly, I am just finding it too, too funny to watch how the appropriators react when they become the appropriatee. I appropriate and get it wrong. This is what the other side of it feels like. But also, and this is just a good rule for life, you want to go out of your way to avoid situations where there is even the slightest chance you might say “I was doing xxxxx before it was cool.”
Although I note that with my general dowdy appearance and propensity for wearing my gym trainers at work rather than bringing two pairs of shoes for the day, I was definitely doing Normcore before it was in. So that’s two things that I just ‘do’ that became temporary trends. Actually, maybe they’re following me around? If the next trends are ‘being wildly unsuccessful on hook-up apps’ and ‘haircuts that make you look like you escaped a women’s psychiatric prison’ (those two trends may be related) then you’ll know I’m being followed by the shadow hipster state.
In the end, it doesn’t matter. It’s frankly expected in 2015. Millennials have been so gaslit by digital surveillance technology and psy ops that they can no longer tell the difference between reality and fiction. This is deftly described in Sam’s piece about the million mask march the other night. Chaos magic is the LARP du jour. Doing ‘what you think is magic’ but is better described as ‘expressing brand preferences’ is just as irrelevant to actual magic as becoming an accidental magician and not doing any magic at all. (Shall I say magic again one more time?)
In his weakened state, Childermass had been thinking aloud. He had meant to say that if what he had seen was true, then everything that Strange and Norrell had ever done was child’s-play, and magic was a much stranger and more terrifying thing than any of them had thought of. Strange and Norrell had been merely throwing paper darts about a parlour, while real magic soared and swooped and twisted on great wings in a limitless sky far, far above them.
What is the conversion rate of a lifetime magician versus those who discovered it and moved on? One in a hundred? One in two hundred? Check back in twenty years and see if being temporarily cool in monoculture has ‘grown the tribe’, so to speak. Encountering genuine magic has a tendency to put ‘expressing your brand preference’ and the usefulness to humanity of hackathons in a new light.
As Terence McKenna said, if it’s real, it can take the pressure.
Always go full wyrdo.