An Unbridled Power: Divinity, Chrematistics, and the Closing of the Anthropocene

Once upon a time, a sage named Thales lived in Ancient Greece. As the story goes, it was he who first introduced Egyptian geometry and Babylonian astronomy to Miletus, overlaying a mathematical science onto a mythopoetic cultural narrative to illuminate the structure of reality.

Thales’ two major points were these: 1) that water was the first principle of all; and 2) that everything was ensouled, alive. Put otherwise, water is the principle source of a living cosmos.

Questioned as to whether his personal impoverishment negated any relevance philosophy might hold, Thales, according to Aristotle, demonstrated the “practical” value of philosophy by using his wisdom to one year successfully predict weather patterns for an early harvest. He cheaply leased all the olive presses in the area during wintertime, securing large monopoly profits at the harvest.[1] Producing absolutely nothing himself, Thales had managed to become rich.

Thales’ use of philosophy in this way indicated two things: first, the relationship of property to profit; and second, that one could successfully leverage one’s spiritual attunement, integrating knowledge of planetary cycles with the reigning cultural dynamics of the day; all of which derived from a living, cosmic principle. That is to say, in his wisdom, Thales had commodified the principle of life, to make money—capitalizing on a universal energy source.

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Having become rich simply by manipulating the price of property in the area for his own self-interest, Thales performed what Aristotle called “chrematistike,” the art of procuring the necessities of life in kind, a process recognizably distinct from the economy. For money, lacking entirely of any inherent value, is accumulated for its own sake, a commercial endeavor eclipsing and destabilizing the regional capacity for self-sufficiency—what Aristotle referred to as the Autarchy. [2] Early Greek thinkers understood this kind of restless moneymaking to be contrary to nature, a rejection of reason in which a dreamer actively refused to perceive reality.[3]

More than two millennia later, Marx would echo the threat, that chrematistics, unrestrained in its aims towards absolute wealth, no longer regards riches as limited. Rather, the unceasing movement toward profit-making becomes a singular purpose, a “boundless drive for enrichment” whose sole force is hindered only in how much money can be made. Thus the capitalist, or what Marx calls “capital personified and endowed with consciousness and a will,” does not treat use-value nor even a single profitable transaction as an immediate aim, looking instead to the circulation of goods as a source of riches, introducing as the final goal of economics the preservation and increase of money to infinity. [4]

This has, of course, become a hallmark of modern rationality. For just as rational action chooses means in relation to ends, money values a good’s exchangability in lieu of its inherent value, alienating it from the source of life it is rooted in to disrupt its ecological trajectory. To exchange the good in question—in Thales’ case wisdom, Sophia—in a momentary trans-action, transfigures what was once a good and desired joy unto herself into a medium—a commodity bought and sold without regard for her own well-being. The prostitution of Sophia.

In Weber’s study of the relationship between religion and socio-economic life, the implication of the increased “rationalization” of the west disallowed for any course but a life detached from human and worldly desire. Magic was thus systematically eradicated as the means to salvation from a newly-mechanized world; until ultimately, the providential interpretation of specialized labor ethically justified profit-making as deriving its spiritual authority from God.

Coin

This point cannot be overstated: that what Ancient philosophy had demonstrated and diagnosed as an unnatural and existential disorder has since been recognized as the cornerstone of Modern rationality.

Like mana, money amasses social power and spiritual energy, commanding the currency of what we might refer to as a divine economy. Against the external influence of foreign investment, with its power to corrupt traditional values, resistance to capital tends to emerge with the ferocity of a culture facing the existential threat of sorcery and black magic, for instance against dam projects, or water privatization schemes.

Neurobiologically, the effect of money on the psyche is like that of any other technology: It offers the technical means to accumulate a desired good[5]; its story the symbolic tool to measure the emotional currency of a spiritual value. We might understand money, with its power to purchase any good, as a kind of prayer then, a divine supplication to deity: ask and ye shall receive.[6]

Yet research also suggests money inflates one’s sense of self-worth at the expense of others, privileging the accrual of means ($) over a signified ends (Sophia), to promote selfish, destructive, even psychopathic tendencies. The rationale, I would argue, underlying clear-cuts, prostitution, externalizing costs—profits before all else. Before life even.

By constructing for ourselves a myth of value, whose bottom line is inherently exploitative, causally destructive, and forever limiting, we can point to the Anthropocene’s Faustian deal with the devil as a fallacy of misplaced concreteness—the fantasy of absolute knowledge, and with it, the power to control reality; all in exchange for its soul.

The early Church called this magical attempt to accumulate divine power by monetizing the Holy Spirit, “Simony,” the egophanic revolt to idolize and possess the power of God.[7] For in the eyes of the apostles, the vision of the divine could not be contained or limited, reduced or equated totally with mere technical terms to mediate the true value of the self-contained good; it was something sacred, beyond purchase.

Thus the political scientist Eric Voegelin can identify the western crisis as a pneumopathology, a spiritual disease of the mind that omits an essential element of reality from a scientistic system. We are missing something that transcends it.

Christ’s newest vicar, Pope Francis, agrees, that humanity has reduced itself to consumers in the dominant economic paradigm. He explains,

“The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.”[8]

In consuming this false and malicious reality, we close ourselves off from the source of divine potential by interrupting its accessibility to us.

*

What do we do then, when evil is everywhere, seemingly woven into the very fabric of reality, running even into the depths of our souls? What do we do with advanced degrees in wise relations that reconnect spirit and matter? “What are you going to do with that, now that the heat of a future hell grows hotter in its quickening approach?” That last part was subtext, but the Question remains philosophical to be sure, returning us to the source of eternal mystery that makes a quest for truth possible even to begin. Asked differently Is there a happy ending to our story?

The gift of a divine response was considered a Chrematismos—an oracle, or revelation from God, an answer bestowed upon one in a dream, for instance. To partake of such divinity, and participate in the sacred economy and life of God is called Grace by Catholics, further characterized by Michael Murphy as the process by which “unitive knowing, self-transcending love, and other extraordinary capacities emerge in us, during which such capacities appear to be freely given rather than earned, spontaneously revealed rather than attained through ego-centered effort.”[9]

We might then see the divinity of Jesus’ revolutionary nature not in his titles of “messiah” or “Christ,” nor even in his performed miracles, for there were similar “magical messiahs” at the time. But Jesus performs his acts of healing freely, rendering the spiritual monopoly of the Temple obsolete, threatening Rome’s political control over its subjugated peoples, and destabilizing the corruption of an imperial disorder. In this respect, Jesus’ chremata, his divine calling and invaluable work, responds to the communal desperation of his time by cultivating an abundance of virtue to be shared without regard for compensation.

This is a Socratic revelation even prior, that virtue does not derive from money but rather from virtue comes money, there being no greater good than service to God. The source of the Good Life, then, the means to improve the soul, is Love, whom Socrates remembers in the Symposium as a great daemon, a brilliant wizard, healer, and philosopher, intermediating between mortality and immortality, between ignorance and wisdom and the desirable middle of two extremes—the right disposition that becomes for Aristotle, a “golden mean.”

This golden mean, threading itself through history into our day today, is, I think, what we can call Philosophy proper. The subject of—our—study here: philosophy, cosmology, consciousness– magic.

Loving wisdom lets us approach a situation while remaining open to the perspectives of others, to understand the consequences of our judgment. And though I would be open to doing the work of God and performing divine acts of grace, the journey we are each on is in the first place an inherent and invaluable good unto itself, guiding our maturity to partake of what is true, beautiful, and good.

I’ve come to realize a life freely given in love is evidence of an unceasing transformative power moving beyond itself, to extend an essential relation. The future of this boundless, untamed love is the gift of communing with a power greater than ourselves, given to move freely into and through us if we but let it, attuning to and reciprocating a cosmic-erotic energeia.

This is why a shrine to the Graces would often be set up in a public place, a reminder to return a kindness for the sake of mutual prosperity; the linchpin of a self-sufficient community. The recognition that everything we do matters, from the food we eat, to the electricity we use, to the things we buy, to the people we see and touch every day.

Mother earth is sick, and those of us pursuing doctorates, or seeking mastery in healing arts (as philosophy is) are certainly embarking upon the worthwhile endeavor to alleviate spiritual sickness while attending to the emotional and intellectual exchange between extremes of excess and deficiency.

For myself, reinhabiting my time, my body, my life, my traditions, and learning to live anew, in loving communion with you all, and what we are to become, seems like a first step towards living a good life, in right relationship.

To receive this life, as the gift of spirit, is to embody a divine response as a pathway to the infinite, re-enchanting a creative energy by giving thanks for a loving, immortalizing power that presents itself through us when we reciprocate its virtue.

In my final attempt now to revitalize an Aristotelian, Earth-centered, Christian cosmology, I’ll end with a quote from The Nicomachean Ethics, meant only to facilitate and potentially habituate the practice of giving away something of value for free.

“Pure Benevolence cannot be adequately repaid; the beneficiary must make the best return that he can.”

The End.

[1] For a more in depth assessment of the implications of Chrematistics, see Herman Daly, For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community… pg. 138

[2] See “Aristotle discovers the Economy,” in Primitive, Archaic and Modern Economies: Essays of Karl Polanyi, ed. George Dalton. Anchor Books: Garden City, NY

[3] See pg. 322 in “Wisdom and the Magic of the Extreme.” Voegelin, Eric

[4]In Das Kapital Note #50, pg. 261 Volume 1. Marx, Karl

[5] See “How the Brain Responds to the Destruction of Money,” Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics © 2011 American Psychological Association, Vol. 4, No. 1, 1–10 http://bsb-lab.org/site/wp-content/uploads/BecchioJNPE11.pdf

[6] As in Matthew 7:7-8

[7] giving something of a temporal nature for the purchase thereof; or in other terms it is defined to be a commutation of a thing spiritual or annexed unto spirituals by giving something that is temporal.”

[8] See Pope Francis: “Apostolic Exhortation of the Holy Father Francis to the Bishops, Clergy, Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World.”

http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html#No_to_the_new_idolatry_of_money

[9] Catholic Catechism and Future of Body.

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On Power

Power is the ability to marshal flows of energy.

Where individuals marshal energy flows, be they politicians, fictional characters with fantastic  powers, electric guitar players, or corporate executives, matter and energy accumulate. Such command of energy flows is related to charisma, and can confer reproductive fitness. Political power may also be quantifiable, if we measure the power density of energy flows commanded by powerful individuals. Decentralized information (the Internet) and decentralized energy production (renewable energy production technologies such as rooftop solar panels) are disruptive of Agrarian and Industrial Age power concentration paradigms. The individuals who control the energy flows in those paradigms do not want to see them supplanted. They entrench against an onrushing future.

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That matter and energy accumulate and concentrate in recurrent patterns seems to indicate that such concentration of surplus energy (and, therefore, wealth) is in the fundamental nature of the universe. In human affairs, unless such concentration is purposefully checked by regulating how matter and energy (money and power) accumulate at energy flow nodes, it leads naturally to feudalism and monarchy – and presents an existential threat to democracy.

http://ibhanet.org/Resources/Documents/newsletters/Origins_IV_08.pdf#page=3

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The Dark Aspects of Paracosms

Often, magic creates a change or shift in the external world of consensus reality. As a symbol, magic evokes concepts of power and manipulation, the technological trickery through spells and wands to enact certain physical manifestations that would not have been procured otherwise.  But perhaps enchantment is another perspective on the same subject, one that anticipates a relational force that creates a novel vision or world into which one can step, wandering and wondering in something alluring, enchanting, magical.

The emergence of imagination in deep psyche bursts into a plethora of conscious forms: the underworldly power offers an imaginal entryway into a sacred depths, where imagination and will are enjoined as an entryway into the archetypal and mythic depths. This tensional aspect of the magician’s realm, between control and enchantment, remains a constant struggle on the dark road to power. The stability of this long narrative is born as the paracosms of psychic imagination, as Will and Imagination together structuring reality in multivalent composites of historical significance, in harmony or discord, fluctuating between psychic balance or violent extremism.

The history of relationships is to forge common bonds for structures relative to one another in a differentiation of realty (the lives of Nietzsche, Crowley, Jung, Hitler, Tolkien, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Voegelin, for instance). In these cases, natural intelligence evolves together, relating as life (self-similar across scale), in which the rate of time, as a coevolution of species, experiences acceleration.

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When trauma affects energy level, the vibrational interaction of energy waves and frequencies of atoms, impacts the vibration of cellular DNA, so that the energy frequency of trauma, i.e. Slavery, is negative energy wave. That is, slavery reiterates the psychological forces that impede love. The resulting lack of community unity inhibits relational ties, so that physical interactions are colored with with emotional ties that dissolve in the face of negative perception. Racial, sexual, intellectual, biological, etc. prejudice in turn perpetuates trauma, institutionalized in the commodified and rearranged energy relations that are redirected towards maintaining exploitative relations. “Skin whitening cream” for those “dark” “others.” “Colorist” ideals impact reality through socio-economic and political-religious relations–welfare camps for impoverished individuals at the “bottom” of the spectrum of beauty, power, truth.

Consciousness, like Race, is similarly a magical spectrum, known visually, mentally, auditorally. It is a state of mind, like beauty; an emotional-intellectual state translated into physical capacity. Therefore our consciousness of history must be in Real Terms, so we can learn the history of trauma and cultural resilience; so we can know about the values, and principles of community that maintain humanity in the face of slavery.

Beauty is an attracting resonance; each cell has a unique function: be who you are, for to acknowledge experience reveals our contributing role in a community of life; children need to be taught from birth that they are loved, and beautiful, so their words and actions derive from a deep emotional bonding, a source from which we can exclaim to the world: I am the keeper of own soul and the spirit of who I am, for if we don’t cherish it, who else will? In this way we can begin to become Self-aware of the responsibility of knowledge as we unload our baggage into world, turning to the divine eternal.

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Beyond Revolution: Symbol and Mystery in Eric Voegelin’s Philosophy of Magic

“What can be said at all can be said clearly; and whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent.”

–Wittgenstein,

Tractatus Logico-Philsophicus

Abstract: Eric Voegelin’s search for truth ends where it begins—in mystery. This paper suggests that at its center is Eric Voegelin’s philosophy of magic. I argue Voegelin’s emphasis on magic and its role in gnostic revolution further places it as a cornerstone for his larger body of work; Moreover, this study of magic must be situated in its traditional context in order to articulate a common framework for any future study of magic to draw from.

Keywords: Magic, Gnosis, Sorcery, Revolution, God, Symbol, Time, Divinity, Mystery

 

Introduction: On the Crisis of Existence

This section locates Eric Voegelin’s work as focused initially on the symbol as cosmion, or named order, of an existing world, evoked and reified in language and performative utterance. The implications of the misplaced fallacy of political doctrine were made relevant to Voegelin when he narrowly escaped National Socialism’s system of science with his life, a system rooted in what Voegelin defines as an outburst in the “magic imagination”: the “magic dream.”

Early on, Voegelin articulated the problem inherent in political ideas, e.g. the national economy: A linguistic symbol to create and call into existence a world through the power of naming it as such. On the potency of this performative utterance, with the ability to speak reality into existence, we have only to think of Parmenides’ dictum, “by being, it is.”

Because symbols have no meaning apart from the experience they express, any symbol of history means nothing apart from what it is—its own nature. It’s nature, reborn in each moment, becomes the very meaning of the symbol itself, offering an ideal image for meaning: it stabilizes meaning by controlling the term’s “purpose,” or intent. Voegelin understood this as the attempt “to enclose a temporal process in the rigidity of a spatial construct, an attempt that, being in its essence unrealizable, must not lead to truths, but always to further unsolved problems.”[1]

That is to say, the objectification and reification of “spirit” as a term deforms the truth of reality into a doctrinal truth about reality. This misplaced concreteness is nowhere more relevant than in the self-organization of political religions, where political will constitutes and self-directs the nature and form of its own political process. Admitting knowledge of phenomena as a key to utilitarian mastery, Voegelin states that understanding human substance does not provide a similar key to society and history:

“The expansion of the will to power from the realm of phenomena to that of substance, or the attempt to operate in the realm of substance pragmatically as if were the realm of phenomena—that is the definition of magic.”[2]

With this definition of magic at hand, we can now begin to understand the relevance magic would hold both for Voegelin and us today. To restate the issue in Voegelin’s words,

“We have ventured the age of science will appear as the greatest power orgy in the history of mankind; we now venture the suggestion that at the bottom of this orgy the historian will find a gigantic outburst of magic imagination after the breakdown of the intellectual and spiritual form of medieval high-civilization. The climax of this outburst is the magic dream of creating the Superman, the man-made Being that will succeed the sorry creature of God’s making. This is the great dream that appears first imaginatively in the works of Condorcet, Comte, Marx, and Nietzsche, and later pragmatically in the Communist and National Socialist movements.”

 

Voegelin’s Magical Thesis: Pure and Simple

This section follows Voegelin’s initial inquiry into the “magic cosmion of order,” from its evocative constitution to repetitive objectification and the systematic murder of alternatives. The deformative potential of the “magic of the word” implies the active divergence in the “magic imagination” between dream and reality. Thus “magicians” use “grimoires” and “magic operations” for a “magic effect.” The “magic trick” does not work however, so Voegelin can diagnose the “magic program,” and in particular the “magic act of violence” as a symptom stemming from the rejection of reason, a spiritual disease seeking to realize its utopian dream by transfiguring reality.

Identified as the outburst of magic imagination, the magic dream is deliberatively used to control or influence factors, intending its images as the archetypal symbols of divine power, whose evocative power of language, “the primitive magic relation between a name and the object it denotes,” transforms the field of human forces into an ordered unit in the evocative act—what Voegelin calls the “magic cosmion of a constituted order.”[1]

Voegelin main concern with these “magic evocations—that is, historical articulations of experience constitutive or regulative of political order”—is due to the “power of magic evocation,” the function of the immanent psychological language that evokes the presumption that any term refers to an objective reality, facilitated by a persuasive “symbol of the magic unit,” whereby the power of name to evoke a political unit is described “as something not magically but empirically and objectively real.”[2]

The privileging of utilitarian mastery of reality becomes an idolatry of sorts, where science is held as the key to curing evil and transform humanity. For Voegelin, “the interrelation of science and power, and the consequent cancerous growth of the utilitarian segment of existence, has injected a strong element of magic culture into modern civilization.” It is for this reason, the attempt to “create an absolute cosmos out of the finite forces of human desire and will” that Voegelin is able to tell us the process “may be called magic.”[3] Voegelin explains:

“By accident, studying other problems, I found for instance that the term magic, in the sense of the magic of the word, appears for the first time in a production by Gorgias the sophist, in the fifth century, in the Encomion Helenes, where he speaks of the magic of the power of Paris in persuading Helen to come along with him. That’s where the magic of the word appears. And he compares that magic of the word to the magic of addiction to drugs. So you have two main sources for getting drugged: either the magic of words or chemical drugs.” 382

Such structuring power in the form and function of language implies its close connection with divinity and the many names attributed to the eternal, self-existent nature of God. Voegelin’s concern with the legalese that transfers power to the sovereign, through which a group transforms itself into a person with distinctive political force in history, is apparent: Throughout history, this “magic function of kingship” creates political order by symbolizing it through a unity of human personality, imposing a conceptual framework in which speech assumes itself as a function of God, bestowed to man by God, for example to Adam in the Old Testament, or Thoth, interpreting the will of God in words, through which all things are made, coming into being through an act of speech. This power of naming divinity becomes the symbol of infinite perfection, a royal art, emphasizing human power and will in the “reascension” toward spiritual enlightenment to accomplish marvelous actions.[4] The difference between the magic dream and reality is therefore, for Voegelin, the “activist’s faith in his power to transfigure the structure of reality. He must imagine himself to be a magician…”[5]

Voegelin recognizes this “magic opus” as a System of Science, a second reality intending itself as an operation in first reality, attempting to escape control and judgment by the criteria of First Reality: the System’s “magic program” intends human transformation as a technical “magic effect,” not through gradual moral reformation, but via “total revolution” and the “orgy of destruction” it offers.[6] The dream denotes a self-generating reality that disposes actual reality through speech acts and language, purely imaginative acts with no basis in reality whatsoever.

In turn, new evocative orders are self-interpreted by utopian activist dreamers who expect the first reality to conform to the second reality of the dream, distinguished by a “trick action” from ordinary action that results in a “transfigured reality”— The magic, Voegelin shows, does not work but rather “reveals the terror at the core of the magic dream.”[7]

The elimination of an essential feature of human nature defines the dream as a utopia, whose disenchantment gives rise to spirited revolt against the injustice of such an act. Voegelin reiterates the disconnect between the means and end inherent to the process, explaining how most “ideologies” are in fact “magic operations in the same sense that Malinowski uses magic of the Trobriand Islanders,” beliefs and rudimentary rites standardized into permanent traditional forms that enable man to carry out with confidence important tasks—“the sublime folly of hope,” which, if used carelessly, becomes dangerous blasphemy.[8]

In a sense, Voegelin defines magic, especially the “magic of violence,” by its inefficacy for transforming reality into its intended object. His point that “magical activism” has been catastrophic for the process of history is vindicated in his analysis of Hegel, the “master magician” of the 19th century.[9] Hegel attempts to conjure an image of history, using it as an instrument of power, so that the “grimoire of the magician…will evoke for everybody the shape and the reconciliation that for himself he cannot achieve in the reality of his existence.” Knowledge of this system of science allows one to learn the “magic words that will evoke the shape of things to come.” Thus Hegel’s Science of Spirit is a search for the “magic words” and the “magic force” “that will determine the future course of history by raising ‘consciousness’ to its state of perfection.”[10]

Voegelin offers the only true test there is: “The effectiveness of the grimoire depends on the transformation of First into Second reality as a fait accompli.”[11] Hegel’s does not. The scientism invoked by Hegel is a magic attempt to achieve mastery over history and reality, and ultimately fails.  Here, Voegelin traces the magician’s dream to its origin in the “activist’s passion of transforming the truth of divinely created order into the terror of humanly created nontruth, if not antitruth.” By making the imaginary results of the magic operation acceptable as real resolutions to real problems in reality—whether changing the nature of man by writing a book or resorting to violence; the judgment embedded in the utopian imagination is realized as a formative social force in the world. For in substituting phenomenal for substantial reality, the atrocity does indeed change reality in the manifestation of the “magic act of substitution.”[12] As Voegelin explains,

Magic means the attempt to realize a desired end that cannot be realized if one takes into account the structure of reality. You cannot by magic operations jump out the window and fly up—even if you so desire. If you try such things—for instance, producing a change in the nature of man by the dictatorship of the proletariat—you are engaged in a magical operation. There you have the problem of disease and the magic.”[13]

Voegelin diagnoses the act of violence as a symptom of a disease of the mind, prompting his concern for its pathogenesis and the structure of consciousness that both confuses dream and reality and makes it a real force in society and history.[14] Yet in pursuing the surface motivations for resistance “to the extreme of their expression in magic operations,” Voegelin’s analysis

“could not be conducted without constantly touching on the deeper stratum of resistance, i.e., on its source in the structure of questioning consciousness itself. In the depth of the quest, formative truth and deformative untruth are more closely related than the language of ‘truth’ and ‘resistance’ would suggest.”[15]

Voegelin names this rejection of reason, in which one believes themselves possessed of a magical power to transfigure reality, and where the two images rival each other for the claim of reality, a “spiritual disease,” or “pneumapathology,” his analysis of which emerges in his most mature works, as in the “key to all his other works,” where he specifically identifies the magical dream to abolish the reality we participate in: [16]

“At the extreme of this revolt in consciousness, ‘reality’ and the ‘Beyond’ become two separate entities, two ‘things,’ to be magically manipulated by suffering man for the purpose of either abolishing ‘reality’ altogether and escaping into the ‘Beyond,’ or of forcing the order of the ‘Beyond’ into ‘reality’…The first of the magic alternatives is preferred by the Gnostics of antiquity, the second one by the modern gnostic thinkers.” [17]

To summarize what has just occurred in this last section, research indicates that from Voegelin’s first encounter of the magic cosmion of order, his in-depth analysis of the magic of word, magically evoked by those claiming divine inspiration, precipitated a theory of active divergence in the magic imagination of dream and reality: self-described magicians use magic operations whose magical effects—the system of science, grimoire, and magic program—are found to not work; Moreover, the active rejection of reality is no more apparent than in the attempt to transfigure it through the magic of violence, which collapses into pneumapathology.

 —

In the next sections, we explore the relationship between gnostic revolution and revolutionary gnosis, the various disciplines of chronology, chorology, and cosmology in understanding the nature of space-time and the expression of its order, as well as the movement of a divine presence as it is contextualized by the silence it is birthed from, and its potential for ecstasy, a stepping out of ordinary states of consciousness for the sake of moving toward wholeness…

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Magic, Mysticism, and the Redirection of Energy

“By Being, It is.” -Parmenides

There is hardly a subject more elusive than magic, a word conjuring paradoxical images, illusions, and impossible happenings—phenomena that explode the known parameters of ordinary reality. Magic forces a reconsideration of the nature of existence in the acknowledged failure to grasp the causal mechanism that lays hidden behind the mystery of any performed trickery.

In Israel Regardie’s Tree of Life, magic and yoga form two distinct branches (techniques) of Mysticism, the sacred art of ecstatic union of self and universe, in comprehensive consciousness adjusting to “larger, more harmonious ends.” (Regardie 1932) In this sense, magic deliberately intends the exaltation of the imagination and soul to transcend the normal plane of thought, providing the foundational event of mystical psychology: the experience of transcendence that induces a “disturbance of consciousness.” (Voegelin 2000) In its movement toward transcendence, the soul’s spiritual outbursts become ontic events that manifest the social fields constituting an evolutionary history.

Yggdrasil

Here, transcendence originates in the tension between spiritual and mundane orders, reorienting one to a primal experience invoking the complex network of cosmic analogies, rooted in a common source. Any hermeneutics of transcendence will subsequently radiate symbols to communicate this primal tension, harmonizing spirit and matter through symbolic concepts to effect corresponding physical effects; and it is this process that differentiates magic from mysticism. For whereas mysticism is a method of changing one’s perception and experience of reality by empowering one’s mind, magic, by contrast, changes reality itself. (Garb 2014)

In her landmark text Mysticism, Evelyn Underhill holds that mysticism in its pure form is the “science of union with the absolute,” an “approach to the Unitive Life” that is “freely beyond doctrine”—the art of establishing conscious relation with the Absolute to lead a spiritual life. (Underhill 1911) She explores the relation of the mystic tradition to vitalism, psychology, theology, symbolism, and magic, detailing the “Mystic Way” as the process of awakening, purification, and illumination of the self, drawing from such mystics as St. Teresa, Meister Eckhart, St. John of the Cross, and many more…

This mystic path is contrasted from the path of magic, in which “the will unites with the intellect in an impassioned desire for supersensible knowledge.” (Underhill, pg. 71) Magic thus becomes the “antithesis” to a mysticism in which “the will is united with the emotions in an impassioned desire to transcend the sense-world, in order that the self may be joined by love to the one eternal and ultimate Object of love; whose existence is intuitively perceived by that which we used to call the soul…” (ibid) The difference between mysticism and magic is, for Underhill, described as the difference between love as an instinct of the heart, on the one hand, and the deliberate exaltation of will as an activity of the intellect on the other.

Mystic union is the fulfillment of mystic love, a total dedication, desire, and tendency of the soul towards its source, annihilating the illusion of separation: “By the surrender of her selfhood in its wholeness, the perfecting of her love, she slid from Becoming to Being, and found her true life hidden in God.” (Underhill, pg. 449) Magic, distinguished from ecstatic union with this Source, reaffirms the material plane yet denies the freedom of Reality by extending, rather than escaping, the boundaries of the material world, effecting a desired end by a forced realization of will through knowledge. For “in this hard-earned acquirement of power over the Many, he tends to forget the One,” seeking instead control over the world instead by the disciplined mastery of the human will.  (Underhill pg. 162)

Yet does the reconstitution of the human mind not inevitably change the very nature of the world itself? The psychoactive mediation of a deeper sense is instructive, indeed formative; any re-presentation of transcendent experience symbolizes a sacred integration of the hidden, unconscious articulation and will of the Source, whereby new potentiality in the development of consciousness and activity is released into the planetary organism, engendering a zone of vibrational frequencies. (Runhyar 1982) The order of energy shifts as patterns of resonance to transcendent attractors, recombining essential (archetypal) frequencies as cultural structures resonate to new vibrations in tune with natural rhythms that reflect the creative activity of the “divine order” of the “gods.”

In this way we can understand the cosmic whole as a harmony integrating its differentiated tones into the music of the spheres, releasing a vibrancy of spiritual tone whose psychic resonance impacts the human psyche, individually and collectively. Through “divine love,” the mystic mind of wholeness harmonizes this universal plenum of vibratory energy, whose melody is ensouled in vibrating psycho-mental space. As other members of culture resonate, vibrant with this new, creative tone, their entire being becomes attuned to the rhythms and the fundamental vibration of the cultural reality.

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Enchanting new forms of vibration, the sympathetic relation between inner and outer dimensions of an interconnected whole can perhaps now be described as “magical,” bridging the Spiritual and Physical planes in the experience and delivery of one’s full potential in a mysterious and universal energy field. Our cells, DNA, and emotional process directly effect the physical world we contact, influencing matter through instantaneous communication in an interconnected field. The archetypal resonance of magic redirects energy to the original movement of a species, whose intelligences inform the whole-bodied awareness of an instinct evolving physically and consciously to purposely affect relations towards its continued survival. Perhaps in this way we can more ably recover our place as fractal expressions of a common energy and forge cosmic fire as it flares forth from our own lives, lessening its distortion by according to a divine harmony in touch with its natural rhythm; hoping, dreaming, and acting to remember our truest nature, rooted in the phylogenetic Tree of Life. 

Outside Sources:

Garb, Jonathan (2014) Lecture 1.2 “Magic, Mysticism, and Psychology.” In Modern European Mysticism and Psychological Thought. Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Retrieved 2/2/14 from Coursera (https://class.coursera.org/mysticthought)

Regardie, Israel (1932) The Tree of Life: An Illustrated Study in Magic. Llewellyn Publishers: St. Paul, MN

Rudhyar, Dane (1982) The Magic of Tone and the Art of Music. Shambhala: Boulder, CO

Underhill, Evelyn (1911) Mysticism: The Preeminent Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness. Doubleday: New York, NY

Voegelin, Eric. (2000) Order and History: In Search of Order. (Ed. Ellis Sandoz) In the Collected Works of Eric Voegelin. University of Missouri Press: Columbia, MO

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Occult Science and the Hermetic Arts

Who has fully realized that history is not contained in thick books but lives in our very blood?

-Carl Jung

The art of free society consists first in the maintenance of the symbolic code; and secondly in fearlessness of revision, to secure that the code serves those purposes which satisfy an enlightened reason. Those societies which cannot combine reverence to their symbols with freedom of revision, must ultimately decay either from anarchy, or from the slow atrophy of a life stifled by useless shadows.

-A. N. Whitehead

Truth is a perspective of reality, arising from man’s participation, with his conscious existence, in the reality of which he is a part. Hence, the consciousness of a reality intended as its object by the desire to know is accompanied by the consciousness of the quest as an event within the reality intended: the human intentionality of the quest is surrounded by the divine mystery of the reality in which it occurs…

-Eric Voegelin

The universe is the primary revelation of the divine, the primary scripture, the primary locus of divine-human communication.

-Thomas Berry

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How do spiritual masters manifest a lived understanding? And how can we rethink education in light of an integral consciousness? It is in this context that the human creature embarks upon an esoteric method for healing by restoring spiritual balance, with occult science offering empirical evidence for the hidden forces that aid such healing.

In Clymer’s Occult Science, or Hidden Forces (The republication, completely revised, and reinterpretation of L.H. Anderson’s Occult Science and Encausse’s (Papus) Science Occulte), the voice of the Divine Oracle / Arcane Philosophy teaches that “[wo]man is a creature possessing God-like powers and potentialities; with unlimited possibilities; that [s]he may become a creator, not the victim of circumstances, and has within himself[/herself] the power to shape his[/her] environments according to his[/her] Will…”

Paraphrasing, when these powers and forces are properly understood and intelligently developed they indicate a newer and better mode of living. Those with high ideals who study the Occult or Arcane forces of mind and Spirit, the control of matter, and the use of these forces toward achievement in the realm of various fields of human benefit, accomplish seeming miracles, especially in the elimination of vicious habits by influencing these former victims toward a better course in life. It is thus entirely possible to attract, direct and redeem by the thoughts we hold in the mind, those who are inclined to follow destructive tendencies.

“We become, by desire and effort, the receiver and the redirector of any and all forces, powers and energies in the Macrocosm of which we are a replica, and to which we correspond, as we harmonize ourselves with the operating Law…The center of all permanent power is in the Soul, the Spiritual self, but this Center is non-existent until such time as [wo]man awakens to [her/]his possibilities and makes an active effort to awaken this center; bring it into activity and become receptive to the forces powers and energies which are both material and Spiritual, therefore permanent. ”

Our thoughts become magnets, continually attracting to us those things and people toward which our thoughts are turned, so that the nature and quality of  thoughts become the ruling power in a life; the desire-thoughts REbirth us after another higher pattern. Occult truths are absorbed into the thought, to become desires, ultimately permeating the whole of being. When love enters life’s activity, the Soul’s Desire to feel the Willingness to make Efforts necessary activates hidden powers and forces to achieve one’s aim—these inner forces of power providing the experience of rapport with divine presence (experienced intellectually, emotionally, and physically).

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Brian Swimme writes in his chapter “The Art of Forging Cosmic Fire” (from The Universe is a Green Dragon): “The universe gives fire—real fire, the fire of the heavens…Let’s start with your present moments of experience: this involves sensations, thoughts, feelings, expectations, and hopes, the whole subjectivity that defines your now. We think of this as the psychic manifestation of body’s neurophysiological processes. Electricity flows through your nervous system in physical correlation to your subjective experiences…So from a physical point of view, the movement of ions in your brain corresponds to your subjective experience. Different ion flows would give you qualitatively different experiences; or equally true, a qualitatively different mood would manifest as a different movement of ions in your nervous system…right now, this moment, ions are flowing this way and that because of the manner in which you have organized energy from the Sun…what you are thinking and feeling this very moment is possible only through the cosmic fire…we have the power to forge [to shape and discharge in a manner worthy of its numinous origins] cosmic fire. What can compare with that?”

By attuning to a universe operating in harmony with exact laws (“habits”), the cosmic human can become an agent for its application, with health, well-being, and success becoming a magnetic/attracting force of a power which, as one comes into contact with it, transmutes or spiritualizes the Soul, activating its potential through desired effort to bring material and spiritual forces, powers, and energies into cultural permanence. If mind governs energy/information flow, and the deliberate use of attention governs the mind—whose behavior (energy, force, power) irrupts into nature—then by redirecting one’s Soul/Life-Force towards Love (the “supreme emotion”), one can experience successful living by intentionally emanating its divine presence.

Thich Nhat Hanh writes in his Teachings on Love, “Happiness is only possible with true love. True love has the power to heal and transform the situation around us and bring deep meaning to our lives…Love, compassion, joy and equanimity are the very nature of an enlightened person. They are the four aspects of true love within us and within everyone and everything.”  (The Buddha tells that whoever practices the Four Immeasurable Minds together with the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, the Four Noble Truths, and the Noble Eightfold Path will arrive deeply at enlightenment.)

This is especially reminding of the hermetic arts, with magic, alchemy, astrology, and divination deriving from a common source, a relation binding opposites into the very spiritualized material the Emerald Tablet of Hermes calls “the power of powers” that “overcomes all subtle things and penetrates all solid things,” forged in the space where Heaven descends and Earth ascends to create the world. Alchemy is the sacred science of subtle states of human and cosmos, following nature’s mode of operation, beginning with the unity or wholeness of opposites, to realize their reality in the experience of the world.

“This primal energy, which is associated with fire, order, light, and even being, may also be identified with the Archetypal Image of the soul itself, but also with the imaginal organ that will transform the world itself into soul, that is, effect its transfiguration into the radiant body of incorruptible luminous fire that is its true nature (Green Hermeticism, pg. 151)

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Hildegard understood that once the soul was so purified it became Wisdom and Love, those who were purified were perfected in the three realms of Sophia that are, traditionally, the perfection of the human state—Trismegistus—master of the three realms of the Cosmic Tree of Life: heaven, earth, and the underworld. Here we are reminded of Sophocles’s exclamation in his Fragments,

“O thrice-blessed they

That ere they pass to Hades have beheld

These Mysteries; for them only, in that world,

Is life; the rest have utter misery.”

Indeed it is through the hermetic arts that the entire corpus of Western esoteric philosophy and occult practices can be synthesized, understood, and effectively applied. In this way do the alchemist and magus become a living “philosophical stone,” the mind/brain (mercury) bridging self-consciousness (sulphur) and the body (salt).

Within such a framework we can regard the resonance of cosmic ecology, culture, personal magnetism (“soul-force”), and language, to anticipate an archetypal calculus whose subject includes knowledge to catalyze the rate of spiritual change and better recognize how space can increasingly be held for divinity to incarnate into various bodies. These come down to us through forms like Steiner’s Occult Science and Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga, which further communicate and change the structure of the cognitive mind by embodying a fuller relation to the One’s Self and Cosmic Psyche. This is how Antoine Faivre can point to four fundamental characteristics intrinsic to the esoteric approach to Divine Wisdom: 1) correspondences, 2) living nature, 3) imagination and mediation, and 4) the experience of transmutation (with two other relative/non-intrinsic aspects that frequently appear in such study, 5) concordance and 6) transmission).

If physical action reflects a state of mind, then mental transmutation must have a transformative effect; if one knows the “magical” procedures to induce divine transformation, healing can take place through the restoration of spiritual balance to resolve any crisis. As one Hermetic Axiom of The Kybalion discloses, “If the Universe is Mental, then Mind must be the highest power affecting its phenomena. If this be understood then all the so-called “miracles” and “wonder-workings” are seen plainly for what they are. The ALL is MIND; The Universe is Mental.”

Writing “curricula” (that gets practitioners to a state of eco-spiritual harmony by understanding the principles, patterns, strange attractors, dissipative structures, etc. that exist in our minds as they have been concentrated in alignment to a numinous fire radiating Goodness into a living culture) might be a hubristic case of overreach. But with the future of life on earth hanging in the balance, we need (to know how to effect) a miracle.

The originating  power that conditions our present moment offers a creative intensity, permeating the evolution of an archetypal process to consciously participate in the psychophysical order of the emerging Earth community. By altering the mode of consciousness to assist in the mutual enhancement of a life-force made manifest, humans can begin to take our place in a primal, sacred, and divine state of  co-creative enactivity.

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The Nobility of Karmic Resonance

“The ecological and social crises we face are inflamed by an economic system dependent on accelerating growth. This self-destructing political economy sets its goals and measures its performance in terms of ever-increasing corporate profits—in other words by how fast materials can be extracted from Earth and turned into consumer products, weapons, and waste.”

-Joanna Macy

A power larger than ourselves may be needed to discipline our behavior, govern our boundaries, act as a reminder to restrict our actions, and call us to moral maturity. In many cultures, karma acts as a force more powerful than humans—an intertwining of existence—establishing reciprocal relations between human and non-human nature: between humans and gods, via glaciers.

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Our inability to protect the natural world indicates an insufficient reverence, where climate change is generated as a moral rebuke: Glaciers in Asia feed its greatest rivers, acting as the lifelines for two billion people. When the ice and snow are diminished by changing weather patterns exacerbated by human activity, then to upset the natural order is to induce punishment from the gods that maintain the energy cycles that allow for that same human activity.

At the moment, our planning processes are inefficient (ignorant? wicked? evil?): they overlook the multivalent aspects inherent in the necessary mitigation and adaptation to current crises and future scenarios, arising from an incomplete understanding of our own interrelatedness, and leading ultimately to a collective suffering.

Our lives reflect the practiced art of imagining, grasping the qualitative relations of a wholeness—the essence of a beauty we can only strive to make sense of. Applying an activist epistemology to ethical and political realms offers insight into the matter of the nature of reality: the kind of world process in which we pursue a common destiny. Becoming conscious of our relation to the earth through spiritual life-place learning, we nurture the psychogeographies of our souls. Perhaps then this perfect moral storm that transcends disciplines can enthuse a new ethics to hasten new cultural forms imbued with moral and spiritual positions to emphasize non-materialist values.

Our experience reveals the physical operation of a cosmic organism. Pure generativity concentrates to attract inspiration, infinitely transcending stabilized values that maintain the creative destruction of a mutually enhancing process, changing us to respond to the needs of a greater whole as it communicates its beauty through our own lives. A collapsing civilization is nothing but the decrepit activity of a broken earth system’s diseased power as it expresses the universal essence of an omnipresent struggle to survive. Yet if all powers are one and seamlessly pervasive in a self-display of radiant energy, certain cultural practices can make it easier to resonate with “goodness,” or right relation, as embodied in a given life-place

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“World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not just mere absence of violence. Peace is, I think, the manifestation of human compassion.”
― Dalai Lama XIV

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