Thursday, November 3, 2011

Modern Magic and Magical Thinking: for Sean the Sorcerer

Sith Lord Sean has many powerful enemies. 
In response to my earlier post about Paul Huson's Mastering Witchcraft,  Sean the Sorcerer offered his thoughts.  I wanted to give them due attention, since Sean is not only a Sorcerer but a Mystic and a Sith Lord who has received extensive martial arts training from Bruce Lee and David Carradine.

Says Sean:

I enjoy magic as a kind of psychological art form, but if one’s goal is power, it seems pretty clear that the sorcery of technology, high finance, propaganda, organized religion, advertising, smart bombs, etc. is far more powerful than folk magic, ceremonial magic or any other magical tradition I know 

That may well be - but very few of us have any kind of real access to those types of sorcery. If I had a few dozen smart bombs the world would be a significantly less stupid place:  alas, I don't.  As far as high finance goes, I'm guessing that more than 99% of my readers are members of the 99%. Very few if any wander in the corridors of power. (Those who do are presumably smart enough to use pseudonyms so they aren't connected to weirdo occultist corners of the blogosphere).  I have no access to an advertising agency or to a bully pulpit whereby I can rally my millions of listeners.  Hence I - and everyone else reading this - have to make do with what we have, and seek out whatever competitive edge we can gain through magical or other means.

The first thing any magician needs to do is make an honest assessment of hirself.  This is especially true of those who wish to wander down the Left-Hand Path.  I've seen many a diabolical superman set up a "Satanic Temple" which consisted of a website, a chatroom and a mailing list.  Few have done anything which would suggest they were members of the "Alien Elite:" if their spelling and grammar are any indication, most would have a hard time gaining admittance to the Alien Mediocre.

One of the things which make folk magic useful is how well-defined the magician's ends are.  It's hard to ascertain the success or failure of a ritual aimed at "enlightenment" or "inner peace." A love spell either works (your target reciprocates your feelings) or it doesn't: a job-hunting spell either leads to employment or it fails.  It helps keep a magician realistic and humble: it reminds us of what we can do and what we can't.  The Nietzschean chest-pounders may fancy themselves Übermenschen: the working magician knows hir weaknesses and through that knowledge understands hir strengths.
“Vodou Money Magic”? How’s that working out for the poor folks in Haiti? If the state of societies where this sort of thing is prevalent is any indication, power-seekers should avoid their magic like the plague. Thanks anyway, but I think I’ll stick to “Think and Grow Rich.”
As far as how things are working out for the poor folks in Haiti, perhaps Sean could take a look at the book's Introduction, wherein I note,
Cynics frequently ask "If Vodou is so powerful, why is Haiti the poorest country in the Western hemisphere?" We might turn the question around. Vodou has survived a century of slavery, three centuries of oppression, nineteen years of U.S. occupation of Haiti, and innumerable efforts by state and church (Catholic and Evangelical) to eradicate this "primitive superstition." Like the Haitian people, Vodou exists in the face of overwhelming odds; its continuing existence is testimony to its power and to the strength of its followers.
But while we are on the subject of books, let's consider Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich.  According to Wikipedia, by the time of Hill's death in 1970 this 1937 tome had sold over 20 million copies: since that time many more people have read Hill's work.  How many of them have grown rich? About the only thing we can say definitively is that it made Napoleon Hill rich - and so I must grudgingly admit that he is one up on yrs. truly in that regard.

I wonder here if Sean has not lost himself in the "American dream." Given the facts about American social mobility (or the lack thereof), I submit that Think and Grow Rich is no more likely to bring its readers wealth than Vodou Money MagicThe Key of Solomon,  or the Blu-Ray version of Star Wars Episodes I-VI.  As Kurt Vonnegut said in Slaughterhouse-Five
America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, "It ain't no disgrace to be poor, but might as well be." It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: "If you're so smart, why ain't you rich?"... 
Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue, the monograph went on. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say, Napoleonic times.