Friday, December 16, 2011

Magical Thinking

Magical thinking is correlative reasoning which ascribes meaning to various acts or occurrences in the world around one. It's powered by correlation – that is to say, association. In so many ways, we can totally say that magical thinking is supposed to be the magician's forte.

And so long as the magician maintains a clear head and doesn't let fear or paranoia conquer their internal state, it is not especially dangerous to engage in. (And you will.)* There are some issues when it comes to combining magical thinking with paranoia; one of these is that it is easy to become overwhelmed by a sense that one is constantly being threatened by powerful, evil forces.

This is not to say that there are not powerful, evil forces out there. But the question of how often one encounters them, or what forms they take, is a fairly important one. When you're making use of both magical thinking, and engaging what I call The Paranoia Engine (“Fuck! ALL KINDS OF UNWHOLESOME OCCULT/DEMONIC/WHATEVER SHIT WANTS ME FOR BREAKFAST!”), you're giving a lot of power (in terms of psychology) to the Other. If you simultaneously make the other, via association, into a monster?

That is profoundly, spiritually, fearsome.

And the pesky thing about Fear, when discussed in the context of weird shit, is that the Fight or Flight Response is still a part of the equation. Having grossly empowered these ideas, with your own thoughts, you then create and give the monster flesh. The mind finds all kinds of reasons for these ideas to be True.

And suddenly you're going through Youtube looking at signal degradation errors, or video codec errors, and thinking that you're seeing Reptilians. And since all of this other bad shit in the world is happening, you ascribe those happenings to the agenda of your personally created monster.

And does it live? Oh, yes. And it spreads from your mind, to others, every time you insist it must exist. Every time you beguile someone that doesn't know enough about information theory to know crap television reception when they see it. And in spreading your monster abroad, in giving it a context to live, you do two things:

- First, you deprive yourself of the actual ability to confront horror, and terrible things and take power back from them. The cacophonous demons of urban legend? If you shatter them and take back the power that you've given them, then you will find yourself purged of certain worries. If you're engaging in pure Paranoia and Fear as a dynamic for mapping certain ideas, and you ascribe real certainty to them, then you're not confronting your internal demons or the events that are making this reality seem so utterly certain. Instead, you're running away. Projecting your demons into the world outside you, and ascribing every terrible event to them.

- Second, you are not making those who are responsible for true terror, and true horror, actually responsible for their crimes. You're creating a creative, magical gloss, in which their inhumane acts are part of a bigger, far more terrible picture. This is the reason you're more concerned about Reptilians that eat babies (oh, Satanic Panic 2.0! How you make me laugh!), and not concerned enough about the Tuskegee Experiments in which individuals were unknowingly afflicted with syphilis and left untreated. You're focusing on Monarch Programing, when you need to pay attention to MKULTRA. If we are to trust Naomi Klein at all, and we might at well, the big point behind MKULTRA was not Manchurian Candidates, nor the LSD tests that helped pave the way for the Hippy movement (at which point the CIA lost control of it's beast, and legislation sought to correct what it discovered to be a grave mistake) but to facilitate better torturing techniques, including but certainly not limited to, information retrieval from targets that were resistant to torture. As I understand it, this was the “real” purpose of techniques like “Psychic Driving”.

When you're looking for the monstrous aspects of MKULTRA, it's easy to focus on the cartoonishly evil aspects of the project (that just might be intentional disinformation) and to forget that underlying it is this: individuals were subjected to extensive psychological projects intended to hamper aspects of their personality, without their consent. It is very easy to forget just how harmful such projects were to those exposed to them. But, and this is more important, it's just as easy to forget that if the reason for MKULTRA was better psychological torture and information retrieval from hostile targets then those techniques are almost assuredly being used, right now, on prisoners of war. In prisons our government doesn't like admitting exists.

That's real horror, right in your backyard, right now. And the people who did and do such things should be found and put on trial. They should face human rights violations. They should be held accountable.

But they will never be fucking found as long as people focus themselves on the most outlandish and unbelievable, and try to make it seem like the world is overrun by fantastic monsters from beyond. This hides, right in plain sight, the people walking around and doing terrible things around us all the time. It leaves them unaccountable. And the world, see, remains tarnished by their continued ability to perpetrate evil.

The ideas inspired by magical thinking – those used to navigate and investigate, via association – should never be treated lightly when you're engaging them. You need to ask yourself what the consequence that you're ignoring is. You need to stop assuming you see the world clearly; you do not. You simply see it differently. And there may be some truth in it. It's just very rarely literal, unless we're talking about thaumaturgy.

But magick, like magical thinking, is best when it's subtle. It infuses the “mundane dross” of our every day reality, of the ideas we play with and spread, and just gently brightens or darkens them. Ultimately, there is a question of how much power you're giving to certain notions. If the world has nothing but demons – and I don't really care how you contextualize them be they grays or succubi or Men in Black – then there's something important missing. Like, for instance, icons of love and and wonder and worship that exist alongside you, constantly. Allies that provide you with insight. Moments of bliss, lost looking at the beauty of the colors and their vibrancy in the world all around you.

And no matter how much you invoke the light, no matter how much you try to call it to you, it will be diminished by the spectral presence of the (largely internal) monsters that you've cast into the shadows around you.

Is that the way anyone really, and I do mean really, wants to live?

I thought about it long and hard for years. I wandered to weird astral places. I did strange, spooky shit. The darkness isn't as terrifying, and contains more wonder, when you bring the love and amazing experiences that have shaped you for the better with you into it.

Nothing is quite as good as holding and kissing someone you love. Nothing is quite as fantastic as seeing the smile on the face of a friend. Nothing is quite like knowing that you can comfort them in the time of need, if they should ask. We make the world better, in so many ways, by choosing to interact positively with those around us. But it is far, far harder to actually do this when you've got a dozen urban legends, and a few half-baked-half-mad thoughtforms to boot, breathing down your neck.

The fear comes in, and you have to run away. Or fight it!

In reality, the fear is the enemy. Yes, there is horror and very real terror in the world. Yes, there are human monsters and astral ones.

But there's other, better, things too. There's also being in the moment. The magick of friendship. The bonds of solidarity. The love of one's community.

So you have to ask, which is more important? Trying to fight the monsters you've empowered with your own mind in a state of Fight or Flight, or focusing on the people around you right now, who both need and love you?

Call me a sell-out, wanna-be white-lighter if you want. It's cool. I've heard worse. But I'd rather fix myself before I try to locate all the world's problems and fix them. Because I know that if I don't continue to work on my microcosm, to shed the poisons and feed the positives, then inevitably I'll destroy everything I love and cherish. And then it will all be for nothing.

I threw in my chips a long time ago on the side of love. Somehow, it actually made the monsters less threatening. And there was no need for paranoia after a while, either. In it's place was something else, something indescribable, but totally better.

Which is not to say that I don't occasionally scry an urban legend now and again. Sometimes, it's just fun to do the old dance without taking it too seriously. Call it gnostic agnosticism about certain subjects if you want.

You may now return to your Prison Planet, and worries about the NDAA, which is still a totally fucking horrible bill that should never happen. And don't even get my started on SOPA.

* Most toxic aspects of magical thinking can, in my experience, be slain with the raw talismanic power of Occam's Horrible-Ass Razor. Magical thinking is rarely simple, and thus often susceptible to the Razor.


V.V.F. said...

+1. Fear is the mind killer.

Scylla said...

The day I called a Lovecraftian monstrosity Little Brother, and kissed his sticky, tentacled, forehead like a baby... that was the day I realized I was a big fucking hippie. Take away the leather, and the black, and the blah blah... Hippie.

If it's "As I will it, so shall it motherfucking be" - then I will it to be beautiful, and wonderful, and MAYBE a little bit weird (in the Thompsonian sense), but it's always, ultimately, awesome. Even in it's horror. Because it's awesome horror.

Lions are giant kitties. Monsters in the dark are probably just frightened and blind. I'd rather be The Doctor than The Master any day.

Rose Weaver said...

This is the best post I've read from you in a very long time, which is not to say your other posts are not good; they are. It's just that this post is about exactly what I've been doing within my own small neck of the world as of late and for the very reasons you point out.

"So you have to ask, which is more important? Trying to fight the monsters you've empowered with your own mind in a state of Fight or Flight, or focusing on the people around you right now, who both need and love you?

Call me a sell-out, wanna-be white-lighter if you want. It's cool. I've heard worse. But I'd rather fix myself before I try to locate all the world's problems and fix them. Because I know that if I don't continue to work on my microcosm, to shed the poisons and feed the positives, then inevitably I'll destroy everything I love and cherish. And then it will all be for nothing."

How right you are, my friend! You certainly aren't a "sell out". You're being damn smart.

Harold Roth said...

I have been wondering how much these days are like the thirties in Weimar Germany. Are we going to turn around ten years hence and wonder why we didn't get the hell out while we still could? I don't know.

All I know is that I have to focus as much as possible on doing good here and now, and not just for me and mine, but for others as well. Doing good is empowering. It builds the positive and the good, and in that way it spits in the face of what hates and breaks and tortures.

Thing is, there are also people around me who are very much into the poisonous thinking that you have described, where there are momentous forces acting to crush our society. IMO, the alien thing is an indicator for a lack of a social analysis. We are not as a society encouraged to have one, after all. I think people sense hidden forces but can't rationally explain them for a world represented as a kind of middle-class fairyland where if we just all try hard enough, we will become rich, and only bad people go to jail. When the actuality of your experience flies in the face of that myth, then you have to either look at society critically, which is difficult if you have no tools to do so, or create another mythology to explain it. Aliens fit the mythology bill, along with other more traditional myths like the world conspiracy of Jewish bankers and communists, etc.

The thing that gets me more than anything is the warped rage out there, which comes out as the desire to see the vast majority of other folks on Earth dead. This is beneath a lot of the more wacko analyses out there, IME. There's all this anger that has become distorted because it has no productive outlet. So people actually look forward to social collapse, hoping most folks will die and they will be left to kill at will or live alone on an island or whatever is their fantasy, usually cadged from movies. That, for me, is poison. I have to remove myself from much interaction with those people, because that kind of thinking will tend to undercut any positive action one might take and render it null and void. Then all you have is pointless hate. IMO, anger is an engine. Use it to build, not destroy.

Personally, I have been spending a lot of time in recent years working on self-reliance and trying to encourage that in others through growing plants, preserving, starting your own business, doing your own magic, whatever. Sometimes it feels like a cop-out, like I should be doing more for others. I don't know. I have no big answers.

Spondalux said...

I really liked this post. It is refreshing to see a magician endorse love/positivity as a real way of being magical rather than the magicky faux-evil and fictional darkness that is so popular these days. Thanks!

Lance Foster said...

#1 excellent! excellent, excellent! yeah, if people are such great sorcerors, why don't they work on real stuff like climate change, our developing police state, and the banal evil of everyday stupid-selfish

also, get some sung nursery rhymes, the sillier the better good as salt. also, don't underestimate ridicule