Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Alan Moore on Magic: Crappy Science

One of Eddington's photographs of the total so...

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I came across this great article by Alan Moore, modern-day philosopher and thinker, and I just had to share.
Written for a magazine that died, in it Moore tackles the treacherous topic of magic, in a way that most have not. I will come back to that topic, since I happen to think that magic is just another facet of the Mystery of Life. The connections are there. They just have to be seen and declared out loud.

The article is long and dense, and comes in two parts. Here is some good stuff:

“…This would seem to be the crux: magic, if it is a science, clearly isn’t a particularly well-developed one. Where, for example, are the magical equivalents of Einstein’s General or even Special theories of Relativity, let alone that of Bohr’s Copenhagen Interpretation? Come to that, where are our analogues for laws of gravity, thermodynamics and the rest? Eratosthenes once measured the circumference of the Earth using geometry and shadows. When did we last manage anything as useful or as neat as that? Has there been anything even resembling a general theory since the Emerald Tablet? Once again, perhaps magic’s preoccupation with cause and effect has played a part in this. Our axioms seem mostly on the level of “if we do A then B will happen”. If we say these words or call these names then certain visions will appear to us. As to how they do so, well, who cares? As long as we get a result, the thinking seems to run, why does it matter how this outcome was obtained? If we bang these two flints together for a while they’ll make a spark and set all that dry grass on fire. And have you ever noticed how if you make sure to sacrifice a pig during eclipses, then the sun always returns? Magic is, at best, Paleolithic science. It really had best put aside that Nobel Prize acceptance speech until it’s shaved its forehead.

…Science cannot even properly discuss the personal, so the transpersonal has no chance. These are matters of the inner world, and science cannot go there. This is why it wisely leaves the exploration of mankind’s interior to a sophisticated tool that is specifically developed for that usage, namely art.
If magic were regarded as an art it would have culturally valid access to the infrascape, the endless immaterial territories that are ignored by and invisible to Science, that are to scientific reason inaccessible, and thus comprise magic’s most natural terrain. Turning its efforts to creative exploration of humanity’s interior space might also be of massive human use, might possibly restore to magic all the relevance and purpose, the demonstrable utility that it has lacked so woefully, and for so long. Seen as an art, the field could still produce the reams of speculative theory that it is so fond of (after all, philosophy and rhetoric may be as easily considered arts as sciences), just so long as it were written beautifully or interestingly. While, for example, The Book of the Law may be debatable in value when considered purely as prophetic text describing actual occurrences or states of mind to come, it cannot be denied that it’s a shit-hot piece of writing, which deserves to be revered as such. “

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Anonymous said...

My, that was a bold and refreshing -if somewhat lengthy- article. Thanks for discovering this!

One could argue, though, that the role he proposes for magic is already taken by art: what would be the new thing infused by magick as an Art that is not already in any visionary artist's agenda?

[I should add that Spare's artistic approach to magic (and I don't mean his paintings and drawings) precede Moore's article by at least nine decades. His importance is a bit understated -both in this article and elsewhere.]

Illuminatus said...

What could magick ad? Well, for starters a functional art form! Imagine paintings that actually perform tasks. (It has been reported but only as an unwanted side effect.)
As for Spare, I agree with your assessment. He continues to be pushed back in the shadow of superstars like Crowley and Mathers.
Oh well..
Cheers brother