It’s not a Wednesday, and I’m not a chaos magician.
I do have a background in chaos magic, but the last time I identified that way was oooh…over a decade ago now. I mention this, because there’s an interesting debate going on in certain circles (and has been going on for years) about using fictional figures vs apparently ‘real’ deities and spirits.
This one’s been triggered by someone seeming to suggest that the ancient idea of Heroes and modern Superheroes are the same. More details on this can be found over at The House Of Vines
My dear beloved brother in arms Jack Faust has a post on it wherein the major positions are linked to, though I also suggest you go and read Notitiae Doctoris for albeit long but very important look at things in terms of cultus and doing honour to folks. (The good Doctor has some great points on devotion, which need wider reading).
My dear mophead brother (Who is looking increasingly like a sordid Californian Austin Spare as he ages) talks about thoughtforms and going on adventures and value judgements and stuff. Read his post, since this is a quick one from me (I hope (ETA: I was very wrong)) and draw your own conclusions. He’s not as dyed in the wool Chaos Magickey as that seems, I assure you, and in fact this post will possibly get me yelled at for the next month but sod it, I’m British and blatant mockery of friends is a veritable necessity.
Anyway, everyone loves thoughtforms. They’re relatively easy to create, with practice, and once you know how to make ‘em, it’s easy to break them. Seriously, watch people you know who have certain tendencies to fall into repetitive thought patterns/actions. They do it without even trying. Don’t even get me started on people who suffer depression and what kind of mess we can generate. Yeesh. There’s a reason mental discipline is important in magic, folks.
Anyway – as I said, I have a background in Chaos Magic, but I’m a Heathen. Maybe I’m not a proper Heathen for some, but you know what, I do not give a fig. Point is, in my experience, the world seems full of Stuff & Things, and some of that Stuff & Things fits the shapes ascribed to gods, landwights, and ancestors according to lore. Some of That Stuff & Things does not.
I’ll be blunt – I’d never ask Batman for help. You know why? Because I don’t live in Gotham. I’d never pray to Superman because frankly, he’s too much of a boy-scout. But if you want to? Knock yourselves out.
On the other hand, I’ll call on the old gods and the Mighty Dead, and maybe even the man-god that is Yeshua because dammnit I have family history, my Dad’s a bloody priest of his and I’ve been initiated into some of the rites associated with him – having been baptised and confirmed and all.
Why them? Why have I even hung with the Lovecraft squad in rituals?
Not because ‘it works’ though it does, but because of something very bloody important:
I have a relationship with them. I have a tie to them.
Cthulhu, Nylarathotep and the rest – fictional all. Yet when you call, there’s at least something that moves behind the names for me. And I hate to tell the chaos magicians in the audience, but ‘belief’ is a blind alley. It’s as nebulous a concept as prana or chi or orgone. [ETA: As far as the average Westerner is concerned ]
Just a name, just a story to tell ourselves, to try and get our heads round the fact that we did something weird, maybe a little kooky, and something happened.
And we don’t know why.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s repeatable, and if it is? Bully for you. Really. Let me know when your all encompassing Grand Theory Of Everything is published.
But also bear in mind this – it may only be repeatable for you. You may have a mutant nervous system, or your life experiences may have altered you in such a way as the linkage of imagery, sound, feeling, thought and memory mean you can do things other people can’t.
Or, as it more likely, it might just be a freakish one-off, like a shotglass full of blood emptying itself after a ritual.
You see humans like to know why. It’s a survival trait, and one that has served us in good stead, so we tell stories, we make shit up to fill in the gaps, or tweak theories or models to get good-enough approximations.
Do you know what a Cargo Cult is? Read the link, please.
Now, some of you might be laughing at how ridiculous that is, being modern, technologically aware folks who have probably seen The Matrix, or read Simulacra and Simulation or something like it by Baudrillard.
Except, welcome to the unpleasant notion:
Reality is a Cargo Cult. Everything you learn is by repetition, mimicry and extrapolation. The Gnostic truth of it is that you are at the mercy of your sensorium, locked into it until you die, at the very least.
I’m not saying there is no Real. I’m just saying that you’ll never,ever get to to touch it. You may experience a close approximation, but you will never, ever hit zero per cent error.
So stop buggering about with belief. Stop worrying about what’s real and what’s not. Work with what’s in front of you. Use what you have, and use it with inhuman bloody precision. Don’t ever be satisfied with it, but never give it up. Spend the rest of your life studying your Mysteries – not anyone else’s.
A blade of grass – study it. And then when you are done, abandon what you know, and start again.
There are mysteries of land and song, of blood and bone and breath, of word and deed. You are a Mystery that takes a lifetime to discover, one of infinite depth.
You are a damn rune, one that is risted with the blood which runs in your veins.
The rune-god, the Terrible One, the Father Of Magical Songs – for nine nights he hanged himself, wounded. No escape, no quarter. No bread, no mead.
All that he was, burned to ash by fire, and frozen by ice. He gave it up, sacrificed it, because he acknowledged there was no other greater Mystery in all the worlds. He sacrificed himself to his Self.
And if the superheroes are part of you – if you truly bleed Gotham, if the you can hear the Joker in your own voice, feel the pain of immigrant from a destroyed world who is feared, shunned and worshipped. If you get down on your knees and weep the heartfelt sobs of an orphan boy who watched his parents get murdered in front of him, or feel the unending rage of the strongest there is, while all the while struggling not to hurt anyone?
If those are truly yours, and not just mirrors, not just reflections, because you want to escape the face in the mirror for somewhere better, then you know what, what the hell are comics creators doing reading my blog?
Me? I shall take my Mighty Honoured Dead. I shall drink with them, and laugh with them, and love with them, as I did in life, and as my kin did with their forefathers, and their forefathers did with theirs. I will take every piece, every moment of my life, every breath, and I shall not move from the centre of my Self, at the crossroads of the worlds. I will fail at looking constantly at myself, but I shall keep looking, keep seeking. I will fall, and I shall be bewitched, and in that bewitching, I shall be bound, and in that binding I will discover the laughter that breaks all fetters, and find that I never left.
And I shall burn with the light of my own lamp, which has been fuelled by my ancestors, that burns blood-red across ten thousand years. I shall eat the flesh of every moment, every experience, and every word and song that calls to that unuttereable infinite self shall strengthen me, shall echo and reflect that Mystery.
Do you understand yet? Or would you know more?
My ancestors, my heroes, my words, my deeds; my mistakes, my triumphs, my betrayals, my hopes and my dreams. My gods, my songs, my stories, my breath, my bone; my thoughts, my memories, my sex, my death.
My love, my life, my body, my mind; my tears, my blood, my pain; my despair, my joy, my agony, my ecstasy.
My fury. My wodh.
All of these and none, are doors to my Mystery. They are the bindings and the ties, the dreams that point the way, the prophetic speech that encompasses my life.
I am a word spoken, a rune sung by the voice of the All. There is nothing else for me, but me.
Austin Spare once wrote:
“However great your reach, whatever you touch, shall touch flesh.”
Perhaps chaos magicians should listen to their Grandfather, eh?
That notwithstanding, only unflinching devotion to that which makes you, you ,matters. And although you are, in some sense utterly alone, you are not and cannot exist in isolation. So I say again, learn the Mysteries of your land, of your living, and your dead and they shall show you the path. Perhaps then a god will smile out at you from the pages of a comic book, or pass you by in the skin of a stranger on the street.
Perhaps your ancestors will greet you when you look in the mirror, and if you sit with them long enough, enjoying their company, perhaps they will introduce you to long dead heroes, now so much more than mortal?
I’ll leave you with words which are not mine, and are from fiction, yet are spoken and written truly from the heart:
“Lo, there do I see my father.
Lo, there do I see my mother, my sisters and my brothers.
Lo, there do I see the line of my people back to the beginning.
Lo, they do call to me.
They bid me take my place on Asgard in the halls of Valhalla,
Where the brave may live forever.” -The 13th Warrior
Be seeing you.
[Addendum :It’s been pointed out to me that prana and chi are not nebulous concepts within the contexts of their own traditions. This is entirely correct. It’s just the Western Materialist Paradigm that views them so within the context of not being satisfied with traditional forms of measurement, and hence would regard them as nebulous. Mea culpa for falling into dominant-culture unconscious biases. I hope the drift of the sentence can still be grokked. ]