Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Thoughts on Wealth and Magical Power

Spring has finally come to the Great White North, and the leaves are starting to bud. It is looking a lot nicer since the browns and greys of winter after the snow-melt and rains have become green with the promise of warmer weather and a verdant rebirth. Still, there are cool days and a quite a lot of rain, but at least it’s rain and not snow. Despite the fact that the warmer days of summer are approaching us again, I find myself overloaded with work, so I can only gaze at the wondrous changes through my window.

Presently, I have begun the arduous task of transitioning from my old job and role to one that is new. I need to focus on mastering new skills, dusting off knowledge and techniques long stale and getting up to speed with a completely different technology. These are delightful things for me to do because I always love new challenges and learning to master new technologies. I am grateful that my company is giving me this opportunity to re-tool, but I can hardly blame them. Finding people with my business knowledge is quite difficult, since what I do isn’t just limited to knowing how to use fancy technological applications. The fact that I also know how to write is also somewhat unique to an IT professional, so I can see the practical reasons why my employers want to give me the opportunity to retool. It’s far cheaper and faster to allow me to extend my abilities than it is to hire someone with all of the abilities that they require.

Thus, my work related on-the-job training and the massive workload will keep me busy for quite some time. This is why I haven’t been writing articles for my blog lately and why I am not likely to write much in the future either. I am just too busy making certain that I can continue to function as I have done previously in my career, and so manage to continue getting a good paycheck to put a roof over my head and food on the table. I am not wealthy but I am also not poor. I have been quite fortunate and I am grateful for what I have been able to accomplish in my life so far.

I know all too well that things can and do change, and the fickle finger of fate can just as easily afflict one with misfortune as it can seemingly award one with good fortune. I would like to believe that my magical abilities have helped to shape my fortune over the extent of my lifetime, but it could have also been my ability to periodically reinvent myself and to be fairly practical minded when it came to money and career choices. I like to think of myself as a man of magical power and arcane ability, since I am a witch and a ritual magician. Yet when it comes to talking about magical power and how that mysterious quality can impact one’s temporal and material reality, then things can become murky or even a bit confused. Allow me to explain what I mean by this statement.

There are essentially two basic kinds of magical workings that most ritual and ceremonial magicians might perform, and these consist of the works of thaumaturgy and theurgy. Thaumaturgy can be defined as essentially making things happen in the material world based on a combination of magical and mundane steps. Thaumaturgy is therefore mainly concerned with producing material effects regardless of the medium (such as energy, spirits, psychology, etc.). Typically, a thaumaturgical operation will be able to “bend” probability so that something that has a distinct possibility of occurring can be “willed” into becoming manifest. Theurgy, on the other hand, is concerned with spiritual insights, wisdom, occult knowledge and conscious illumination. Therefore, when magicians talk about influencing events through the application of magical rituals, they are usually talking about thaumaturgy. When they talk about transformations and transcendence, they are talking about theurgy.

In my book “Disciples Guide to Ritual Magick” I have discussed the nature and quality of the concept of magical power. I have maintained that it is a subjective phenomenon that has more to do with the experience of magic and its apparent meaningfulness. A powerful magical ritual is one that has profound meaning and significance for the magician. Magical power is therefore a metaphor for the emotional experiences of meaningfulness, profound significance, and insightful synergy that accompanies a successful working.

Of course, a working that fails to produce the desired effects could also appear similarly ground-breaking, but magicians typically remember their successes and try to mitigate or even forget their failures. I often refer to a magician recounting his or her exploits and successful magical workings as “tales of power.” They have a tendency of magnifying over the years and with the many renditions. (I suppose that the failed workings and misadventures would be called the “tales of folly.”)

A powerful magician is one who can not only get the desired results that he or she is striving to achieve, but does so in an obvious and profound manner. This is to say that really good magic always produces far more than just the desired outcome. It teaches, instructs, guides and ultimately leads one to a greater level of being than what might have been otherwise. What I am implying here is that thaumaturgy can and does lead the magician to theurgy, although not always and certainly not immediately.

Even so, magical power should never be confused with real power in the material world. While it is possible that the archetypal magician should be materially successful, perhaps even wealthy and widely influential, this seldom ever occurs. Why is this so? Why are magicians to be found in mostly the middle or lower classes and not amongst the wealthy elite? Shouldn’t magical power be synonymous with material power?

Anton Lavey once drily stated that real occult masters and men of magical power should reside in a station of life commensurate with their magical prowess, that is amongst the elite, and if they didn’t, then they were just a bunch of deluded frauds. I read this bit of hyperbole in Anton’s monthly periodical “The Cloven Hoof” and I can see that some folks have taken it to heart over the years. This belies the fact that Anton himself passed away leaving a very modest and meager estate behind him. He was also something of a steadfast atheist and didn't believe in any "occult powers."

Needless to say, I have often sensed a bit of snobbery and a sneering quality of prejudice from the quips and comments made by middle class white male magicians who like to look down their noses at those who are materially below them, including those men or women of color who are not part of the supposed elite of middle class magicians. Of course, whatever material stability one has these days has been bought dearly for the price of actual material freedom, since the typical working stiff can’t afford not to have a job and a career in order to survive. There are some lucky few who make a living offering their occult services for a fee, but the rest of us have to work a mundane job in order to make a living, and that takes us away from what we would rather be doing with our time. However, those magicians who are doing well money-wise have managed to leverage their middle class roots and privileges into a stable material existence, but this could change at any time. Misfortune occurs every day and happens to everyone at some point, but those who are rich and powerful are less impacted by it.

Additionally, look at the general population of the U.S. and see who is most engaged with the practice of magic. The number of middle class magicians and their potential middle class clients is quite small compared to the rest of the population of middle class folk. This is not so in the lower classes, particular the ethnic minorities and non-white people living in urban areas. There are far more magicians operating in these communities and people who will engage them for a modest fee than in any other community or class. When you think about it, doesn’t that really make sense?

When upper class people seek retribution for a wrong that they experienced at the hands of someone else do they go see a magician or a root conjuror? No, they go see their lawyers and sue the crap out of their would-be perpetrators, or they pull some influential strings and cause all sorts of woe to those sorry bastards who have wronged them. They don’t need any magic because their money and influence is all the “magic” that they ever need, and it usually protects and empowers them quite well. They can afford to be rich assholes when we would never consider behaving in that way. The rest of us poor schmucks have to make do with intimidation, physical threats and perhaps even violence, and if that can’t be done, then we either have to lump it or perhaps engage in some magic either on our own or by hiring a magician, witch or root conjuror.
For this reason, the very powerful, well connected and wealthy elite have viewed the practice of magic, particularly thaumaturgy, as disdainfully irrelevant. To them the religious status quo has always been an integral part of their outer social image. They might be interested in oddities or attracted to novelties, but in most cases, when they indulge in such matters they are just considered harmless wealthy eccentrics. They actually don’t deviate too much from social norms because it’s bad for business. So for this reason magic has always been and always will be the proclivity of poor and powerless people because they don’t have the means of throwing their weight around, whether by material power or by the threat of violence. They are, in a word, the little people that the rich and powerful treat with indifference or scorn. I count myself as part of that faction of “little people” regardless of my paycheck, since misfortune could easily take away everything that I have materially achieved in my lifetime. There is little difference between the urban poor and myself, at least when compared to the mega-rich, so I should always consider my material interests when voting. You can bet that I don't vote for Republicans or Libertarians.

Do my words bother you? Do you feel the need to dispute what I am saying because you think magicians should be powerful in all areas of their lives? Well, then, here’s a little test. Compare your vaunted material power and swagger to that of the Koch brothers and see how it stands up. I am certain that you will handily lose that comparison. They are spending hundreds of millions of dollars attempting to buy the supposed democracy that we live in, and they are gradually succeeding. For instance, instead of talking about what we need to do about climate change and how we should mitigate its dire effects, we are instead talking about whether or not it is real. The scientific consensus is that climate change is practically a fact, agreed to by over 97% of scientists. The global ice caps are melting at an unprecedented pace and it is obviously due to the high levels of carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere. How did so much carbon-dioxide get into the atmosphere? Simple, from the massive burning of fossil fuels. Heavy mechanized farming has also greatly contributed to the green-house gas effect. Still, we have the majority of conservative politicians and media pundits denying that climate change is even happening, and all too many people are foolishly agreeing with them.

This is only one of several conservative themes that are completely absurd yet nevertheless are being seriously played out in our country, pitting lies and hyperbole against scientific fact. Modest gun control as a form of second amendment abrogation is one, Obamacare as a national disaster is another and voter fraud is still another. Not to mention the supposed fake scandals that are being acted out by the Republicans in Washington against an administration that is boringly bereft of scandal. Why is this happening? Does the fact that the Koch brothers own a major share of the fossil fuel industry have any bearing on why the conversation about climate change is stale-mated by those who outright deny its reality? As Bob Dylan sang: “Money doesn’t talk, it swears.”

Progressive policies tend to assist the many for the sake of taxing the wealthy few, and so they are a method smoothing over social and economic inequalities. They don’t in any way discourage anyone from becoming wealthy, and in fact, they greatly assist in social and economic mobility. However, such policies have been demonized by those who wish to enlarge and expand economic inequality. Want to guess who is pushing such ideas into the political consensus? The Koch brothers and their mega-rich allies!

To humorously misquote Ronald Reagan, let me boldly tell my fellow Americans, “Rich people aren’t the solution to our problems, they are the problem!

We magicians and witches are natural subversives working against the established order. Whatever you have is just waiting to be taken away by the .1%, so struggling against the system, whether clandestinely or openly, is the only way for us to survive. Thinking that we have powers to directly influence the world that we live in is a time honored illusion indulged in by middle class magicians. We can, in the end, only influence ourselves, and even then we are not immune to misfortune. So, don’t be fooled into thinking that you are safe from economic calamity, because you aren’t.

Even great magicians have their ordeals, difficulties and times of hardship. Misfortune has always been the true test of one’s character, personal strength and personal empowerment. Therefore, it is better to admire the magician who comes from a poor family and succeeds than to admire some arm-chair magician who has never had to struggle and fight for what he has.

Frater Barrabbas

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