Saturday, April 23, 2011

Magic & Poetry

Mellisa asked me,'what is my relationship or understanding of "magic?"

I thought this a fair question... I mean, I carry a SpiritStick and talk to trees..

Here's my attempt to answer her. Proved too long for a comment in FaceBook.

Magic... hmm That's a hard question.
This is going to be long. Brace yourself, be forewarned.

In short--Magic/Religion that seeks to CONTROL & OWN, is anti-poetry. But both may be--as Blake understood--modes of imaginative freedom.
It's explaining the difference that's hard.

What do I think of magic? What I think of poetry in its full power... that it can be a means of making us free... to be equals among all Things, and not false Lords of creation.

That's the short answer. Now for the long.

Good place to begin maybe: magic involves stuff that science can't account for, okay? I think that's part of how the word is commonly used, isn't it? Now, stop cold. Huge caveat here.

I don't mean anything supernatural. I don't mean any kind of reality beyond or outside that material universe which science accepts as its proper object of study. I could say much the same for the language of religious experience. Where believers in religion and magic both get into trouble is in OBJECTIFYING the experience, making religion or magic alternatives to science and its competitors, making claim to a reality outside that of the material universe--outside of our bodily existence.

Blake saw religion as a perversion of poetry--of Imagination. First, there was poetry... made into religion by those whose imagination had been corrupted. I like that. It holds together both poetry and religion (and I'd include magical ideas/traditions in the same way)... as human creations, artifacts (Blake wouldn't have liked that word here... but... ) as fabrications of the imagination. Science proceeds with an important 'as if,' as if the subject doesn't exist--other than, perhaps, a point of distortion in place and time--that is, as a still objectifiable point of view. But there's more to poetic (the ontology of poetry ?) understanding than the simple epistemological distinction between subjective and objective... it's that poetry is a way of apprehending the real that INCLUDES the subject in what it apprehends... AND in the comprehending medium of the poem, vitiating the distinction between objective and subjective.

So too, religion... or magic... stripped of its falsifying objectification--which, in mirroring science as a like/opposite, strips it of its truth.

Too many words I know... to say, that there's more to every THING than meets the eye (Blake would like that... literally meant... but I don't mean quite what Blake did... that it's about the limitation of the physical senses). Rather... more what Speculative Realist philosophers like Levi Bryant (of Larval Subjects) means when they say that the Being of objects is always withdrawn, and what we experience of them, what we encounter, is only part but never all of their powers. What we experience of an object... it's color, say (Bryant's famous blue coffee mug) is not a quality of the object, but a manifestation of its power in a particular 'regime of attraction'... here, in the presence of light that includes blue for the mug to reflect back. Whew... so what, you may ask? Why does this matter? Because, I would say... that when we lose our sense of the deep reality of THINGS, we lose something of our own reality, our powers of choice, of freedom in the world are eroded and made captive by a false sense of 'knowing,' of Ownership. We become slaves of what we think we know and own, when this knowledge is really only a limit we impose so as not to discover powers of THINGS we have not already OWNED. We are led to think ourselves other and special and superior in our very Being to all other Things.

Both religion and magic, like poetry, can be ways of breaking through those limits, but both religion and magic may also become just other ways of locking the gates, attempts to CONTROL and OWN by OTHER MEANS.

What do I think of magic? What I think of poetry in its full power... that it can be a means of making us free... to be equals among all Things, and not false Lords of creation.

Maybe it'd be useful here to repost my Seven Principles of My Spirit Stick (Fox Chase Review: Autumn-Winter 2010)

.... that there are as many gods as there are people who imagine them
... that all imagined gods are real.
... that those who keep their god in chains become prisoners of their own lives, walking through the world untouching and untouched
... that if you give your god its freedom it will grow in power and (some not all) of its power will be yours
... that the gods care nothing about good and evil
... that they only know what you teach them
... that imagined gods cannot save you from death, but if you ask, they may give you the power to save them from death.

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