“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
Those are the words of my neighbour in space, rather than time, William Butler Yeats. And they’re good.
Certainly, they refer to the current disastrous state of institutional education where, as Dr Farrell regularly observes, standardised tests and multiple choice exams are probably the opposite of ‘fire lighting’. The student is required to select from a finite number of approved questions, rather than generate and defend his or her own answers.
The pail-filling error is also found in magic. Most of the questions I get asked are pail ones, not fire ones: pronunciation, more detailed checklists of sigil activation, and so on. But learning magic is fire lighting. No one has yet asked my opinion on whether their Eurotrip-of-a-lifetime should be guided by wine or art. I can seriously help you with that.
And before anyone even dares to make the predictable, unoriginal comment that “it’s both” just stop. It isn’t. Fire lighting is also procedural. It is also systemic. However the outcome beyond the expected chemical reactions isn’t. This would be the difference in my oft-repeated refrain that I don’t teach, I share. Sharing removes any inherent power relationship and still manages to set the barn alight nonetheless. And that burning barn risks setting alight nearby outbuildings. And so it goes.
Staying with Dr Farrell, he sometimes refers to ritual magic as a “declined technology”. Dr Skinner -whose excellent books certainly fall into the ‘fire lighting’ category for those who read them correctly- refers to it in the following Watkins talk as a “broken technology”. Same same.
We may surmise that a similar things occurs in the spirit world. The last two chapters of Star.Ships deal with how we begin to model the uneven distribution of novelty across human timelines.
The good Mister Knowles is on an absolute tear when it comes to this very idea in his current Lucifer series. In Star.Ships, I suggest that one of the things that appears to correlate -perhaps causally, perhaps acasually- with increased cultural complexity is increasing precision in observing or interacting with the heavens. Regarding Chris’s exploration of the very uneven distribution of novelty over the last century, consider the words of departed spaceman, Edgar Mitchell:
“My great grandparents came across the southern United States in the 1870s to start a new life in the western territories. They were in a covered wagon drawn by horses, driving a few cattle to start a new herd. The railroads had not been completed, automobiles had not been invented; the electric light had not been invented. My father was born shortly after the Wright brothers made the first airplane flight — and I went to the moon…In less than a hundred years we went from covered wagons to going to the moon.”
Chris covers a few of Dr Vallée’s many fascinating historical accounts of Magonian encounters, in this case the story of Milanese magician, Jerome Cardan. Cardan’s son would recall of his father’s tales of meeting these strange beings:
When my father asked them why they did not reveal treasures to men if they knew where they were, they answered that it was forbidden by a peculiar law under the heaviest penalties for anyone to communicate this knowledge to men. They remained with my father for over three hours.
So they are forbidden to fill the pail. But what Cardan also mentioned was that these beings could not reach agreement amongst themselves as to how Creation ‘works’. They were, for instance, divided over whether or not it was a single act or whether God creates and sustains the universe on a perpetual basis, every single second. (‘Powering the hologram’?) What an exciting debate to have witnessed!
What a fire that would light in the mind of a seventeenth century doctor!
What fires were lit in the minds of Imhotep, Dee or any of the mid-twentieth century aeronautical engineers witnessing the Washington overflights? What fires were lit in Crowley’s head? Or in Victor Goddard’s?
Fires lit by creatures of air. Fire and air. Something about that sounds familiar. The levelling up of animist/space shamanic modelling of these effects continues. There was Star.Ships and The Super Natural, this year, for instance. If you’re keen on this stuff, you should definitely tune in to this week’s podcast.
You should also come to the London Occult Conference next month, where I’ll be presenting a deep dive into these ideas -the concepts tabled in the last couple of chapters of Star.Ships– in a presentation called Campfire’s Edge: The Impact of the Spirit World on the Development of Human Culture.