Saturday, 18 August 2012

Magic as Sui Generis

Theodor von Holst, The Wish, 1840.

However, ignoring for a moment the scholarly arena of understanding and representation, and instead seeking a path to dwell deeper into the occult dialectics of the arcane matrimony of the macrocosm and microcosm, it becomes apparent, and not always in a logical and pleasant fashion, that more is to be whispered, unveiled, and conjured in regards to worldviews and conditions of experience pertaining to the occult as a general designation. These can refer to correspondences and phenomena that remain elusive to mundane states of consciousness, an ignorance of the potential of the unseen forces of the cosmos, and positivistic passivity. Hence, the designation of the ‘occult’ can be employed as a fluid yet decisive category indicating both the theory and practice of specific fields of discourse involving a particular human awareness and performance within a worldview characterised by a resistance to the dominance of either sterile logic or doctrinal faith. Despite the occult referring to vast array of grammars, what establishes occult paradigms with a unique character are the emic recognitions of degrees of established or willed relationships between seen and unseen realities, and the experience of them linked through a matrix of sympathetic and antipathetic correspondences, which in itself is clearly echoed in the Hermetic axiom, “That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above, corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracles of the One Thing”.[1] These correspondences, charged and vibrating with the pure forces of the cosmos, resonate and naturally manifest within nature as an ensouled state of being reflecting the idea of psychê kosmou of Platonic thought and the anima mundi within the awareness of magia naturalis during the Renaissance period. In the following, these are recognised and mediated through an active imagination corresponding to the mundis imaginalis, which is at times the initial point of departure and fundamental impetus for all esoteric workings collaborating with exoteric gestures. The final revelations can be experienced as a metamorphôsis of inner and outer experiential dimensions.  The experience of these elements of occult theory and practice manifest when an embodied altered state of consciousness[2] is initiated, either temporarily or in a state of a fluctuating continuum, and hasan intrinsically subjective and sensory quality that is embodied and intuitive rather than purely reflective and intellectual, although the reflective and intellectual may be engaged with the intuitive and the embodied as there is no radical opposition.”[3] This can also be translated as gnôsis, indicating ‘true knowledge of what is’ in contrast to mere sense perception, implying the act of knowing instead of just acquiring knowledge.  Hence, gnôsis can be understood as a specific modality of consciousness, a breaking down of the barriers of the rational mind. Through gnôsis, the ‘knower’ therefore becomes immersed in the mundus imaginalis, and in terms of occult theory and practice the individual or individuals actively engaged become the focal point of the unification of the corresponding relationship between the finite and the infinite.

The arena in which what is whispered, unveiled, and conjured in regards to worldviews and conditions of experience pertaining to the occult as a general designation can be located within the sui generis category of ‘magic’ as a participatory worldview manipulated as an instrument by the active person through the execution of the art and science of ritual as an extension grounded in the belief in magical powers within the self and other. The purpose of this is to impose the human will on the self and the other, activating the embodiment of an altered state of consciousness in the endeavour to align the self with the corresponding ritual intent of understanding, connecting, and influencing the other.

[1] Quoted in Nicki Scully, Alchemical Healing: A Guide to Spiritual, Physical, and Transformational Medicine, 2003, page 321.
[2] This can be understood as a shift in perception from a mundane state of consciousness, yet not ignoring the effects of unmediated occult participation within the mundane sphere of awareness and activity.
[3] Susan Greenwood, The Nature of Magic: An Anthropology of Consciousness, 2005, page 5.

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