A Cognitive Theory of Magic

Unauthorized magic is judged as a hindrance for the correct unfolding of an overlying event-frame—the salvation of the soul.

A final summary of the relation between established religion and unauthorized magical action: Magic in general can be seen as an innovative force in three ways.


First, magical rituals can effect the emergence of new religious systems through the process of ritualization leading to symbolic interpretation. This is strongest in cases of non-formalized, agent-based magical agency involving the construction of brand new constitutive rules of ritual action, but it can also be found in possible reinterpretations of known symbolic elements. Through their employment in magical rituals, known symbols are stripped of conventional relations to other symbols, a process which facilitates transformation of meaning.

Second, magic is focused on ritual efficacy and is therefore open for import of foreign ritual elements and structures believed to enhance this efficacy. This tendency is strengthened by the de-symbolizing aspects of magical actions in which iconic and indexical properties of objects are utilized at the expense of symbolic relations, thus facilitating import of efficacious elements and structures independent of their symbolic embedding. In this respect, magic can be described as a ‘syncretistic engine’ that brings about exchange of ritual elements and structures between religious traditions and ethnic groups. The de-symbolizing aspect of magical actions enhances this, as ‘exotic’ signs seem to be ascribed extraordinary power.

Finally, magic is indirectly innovative by effecting a reaction in established religions against competition from unauthorized magical rituals. Thus, non-institutionalized ritual actions indirectly affect the form and structure of established and insitutionalized religious rituals, at least in cases where these are confronted.

Instead of understanding magic and religion as two equal systems opposing each other, I propose a more dynamic explanation. Magic is a general mode of ritual behavior that, when appearing outside established, authorized and institutionalized religious rituals, prompts the creation of either new systems of beliefs and religious institutions, or provoke a re-evaluation, reflection and possibly change of already established ritual structures. Utilizing very basic cognitive processes, magic is a permanent force in the historical development of institutionalized religion. It constantly challenges established religions’ abstract and context-distant symbolic interpretations by directing attention to concrete, context-near and goal-directed understandings of ritual action. Due to the very structure of our cognitive system, the disenchantment of the world proposed by Weber is always followed by a re-enchantment, creating new ways of infusing our everyday world with magical agency.  (190-191, Jesper Sörensen)


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Love Actually: Reflections on Steiner’s Anthroposophy and Whitehead’s Philosophy in “American Philosophy and Rudolf Steiner”

“When a hybrid physical feeling occurs, the eternal object that was previously felt only with appetition is now felt physically, so that it is unrestrictedly realized. It now does confer definitenesss upon the individual. The novel possibility is no longer simply felt appetitively as a possibility; it now actually characterizes the experience. It is the difference, for example, between wanting to love all sentient beings and actually loving them.”

David Ray Griffin, pg. 177-178, in American Philosophy and Rudolf Steiner

In American Philosophy, Griffin’s chapter devotes space to an otherwise neglected aspect of Steiner’s philosophy, namely his “esoteric disclosures on such topics as the evolution of consciousness, karma and rebirth, diverse sciences and arts, and the inner life of the child (which forms the basis of the Waldorf approach to education).” (pg. xxvii) Steiner’s “all-embracing interpretations of the universe” that “have been out of fashion for most of this century,” (xvi) are, as with Whitehead’s, intended to overcome the duality between nature and spirit to gain insight into those “occult” forces otherwise hidden to sense perception.

Here, Griffin’s insight into the overlap between Whitehead’s account of this process and Steiner’s “spiritual discipline” is helpful to understand reality in a more inclusive way. Steiner’s Anthroposophy and Whitehead’s philosophy similarly seeks to provide a framework to understand the power of ideas and their effect on reality, as well as the implications of such ideas.

Griffin details a number of agreements between Whitehead and Steiner’s project to 1) reconcile science and religion, 2) provide an inclusive scheme of thought, 3) articulate the relevance of immediate experience to a worldview, 4) understand the existence of genuine freedom, 5) define pan-experientialism (“interiority”), 6) point out correspondences and interdependence between the macrocosm and microcosm, 7) overcoming the subject/object divide, 8) engender ontological romanticism 9) describe the evolution of consciousness (the idea that cultural evolution involves actual changes in the intra-psychic structure of existence) 10) recognize a divine influence, with Christ as revelation of nature of God, whose essence operates as love; 11) place God in relation to the world, 12) understand the reality of nonsensory perception, 13) recognize that knowledge of objects is not impossible, and 14) define an epistemological monism through which reality can be directly perceived.

Whitehead’s support for some of Steiner’s “occult” notions is similarly given, emphasizing A) Occult qualities and powers, in which creativity is recognized in the human mind in sensory perception, B) Extrasensory Perception, and ways objects rise to the level of conscious perception through perceptual modes, C) The Akashic Record, in which the distance between moments are erased so that knowledge of the past is possible through spiritual perception of the consequent nature of God, D) Divine Influence, or the subjective aim of a finite occasion with the power of self-determination even in relation to God, and E) Life after Death, and the unity of experience that is not dependent on the body.

I’d first like to draw attention to the hidden transference of conscious memory to the Oversoul as it reincarnates throughout time as soul. In this way, the spiritual discipline of Anthroposophy relates to the process philosophy of organism in the relation of esoteric wisdom to divine source, or the ground of conscious creativity. As self-determined novelty is felt mentally and then physically (hybrid), the “life” that exists becomes the personality of the living hybrid’s physical prehensions over time. This makes for a possible way in which the soul can survive bodily death, in that the conscious remnants of soul might be integrated in the Akashic record or the “mental” aspect of the physical cosmos.

Whitehead defines the human soul in terms of its relationship to novelty—a relation of intensity. Life is intensely felt as a “hybrid physical feeling,” the self-determining novelty as it is felt mentally and intensely experienced in an actual occasion of experience. Novelty as hybrid physical feeling is the way “progressive evolution” and the “transformation of the human soul” occurs. This is how living prehensions connecting occasion to occasions are understood as hybrid physical prehensions, transformed by the novelty that was felt mentally in the prehended occasion and felt physically by the prehending occasion. That is, if a form or eternal object [i.e. soul] is a pure possibility, to feel it mentally is to feel it as a possibility; consequently, when the eternal object is felt physically, it is unrestrictedly realized, conferring definiteness upon the individual and characterizing the experience.

Griffin explains this as the difference “between wanting to love all sentient beings and actually loving them.” (pg. 178) It is the character that is experienced and intensely felt in those hybrid occasions that live into each new moment through the intensity of thought, feeling, and desire: “It is when the novel possibility for one’s own existence is felt with sufficient desire or appetition that a hybrid physical feeling can occur.” 178

Steiner ideas of reverence is similar to Whitehead in this regard, which “awakens in the soul a sympathetic power through which we attract qualities in the beings around us, which would otherwise remain concealed.” As the soul feeds on feelings, each occasion of the soul’s life acts as the creative synthesis of a multitude of feelings. Sympathy, then, provides the feeling of the feeling in another, to feel conformally with that other. This devotion of souls for others thus opens one to receiving more intense feeling and become conscious of their feelings. Griffin thus opens up the question of whether Steiner’s reverence allows for extrasensory conscious perception: “Love is a tie that binds; in this case it would bind souls together telepathically.” 179

By connecting Steiner’s method of intuitive thought and feeling and Whitehead’s divine aim directed towards the intensification of experience, we are provided an occasion by which love opens us to conscious knowledge of qualities of beings of which we had previously no conscious knowledge. The deepest mysteries are hidden, perceived, and attained in one’s personal world of thought and feeling:

Act of Will V4The “occasion of experience arises out of whole past universe and is a microcosm, containing that universe, including God, within itself. If we could become fully conscious of the feelings at the base of our experience in each moment, we would indeed know “the deepest mysteries.” The way to deeper knowledge is through, not around, our feelings.”

This provides the impetus to craft “contemplative practices” with which to form right kind of thoughts and through these thoughts develop certain kinds of feeling: “thoughts entertained with intensity are seen to be capable of making a difference for the better.” 180-181 Whitehead too sees religion as a system of general truths, intensely apprehended to effectively transform character. Here, thought is intensely felt over time to bore itself into the soul, to produce real change. As one can only attain something by desiring it, one should thus not try to eliminate the desire for spiritual knowledge and self-transformation, but rather educate the desires. Steiner believes “desire will always tend to fulfillment if backed by a particular force,” so that we can learn to cherish and foster a particular desire to bring with it its own fulfillment.

3 levels integrated

What force fulfills life? Esoteric cosmologies like that of Sri Aurobindo suggest the subjective experience of Brahman offers insight into the nature of reality. The soul is incarnate in the illusion of material space-time, though it maintains an ongoing and eternal relation (one-ness) with divinity. This incarnating aspect, the soul or psychic being, is the essence of the energetic quality that reincarnates from life to life. Aurobindo holds that there exists a supreme power, the Supermind, which is the first emanation and can be brought into play through the practice of yoga to yoke life, mind and matter with sublime states of consciousness, being, delight and power and thereby manifest more of our inherent divinity.

The point of the soul is to live in relation to the nature of god. The life of the soul marks the distance between living occasions of novelty, creatively expressing itself as the conscious concrescence of ConsciousBlissForce (Sachichananda, the subjective experience of Brahman). As each individual occasion culminates in this larger process, Nature Alive emerges in the culminating organism, the Everpresent Now of Time.

In each moment (each actual occasion) the self-consciousness of divine presence acts as the process of organic becoming—Life—a microcosm containing God within itself. ConsciousBlissForce integrally enacts itself as the life of the soul, reincarnating in those masters and doctors healing the world (overcoming separation) to actualize loving force in Time.

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Holotropy, Synchronicity, and the Akashic Field (with a little Astrology thrown in for good measure)

Our dominant culture’s fragmented worldview is contrasted with emerging “new paradigm” sciences that point to the unbroken wholeness of a total existence. David Bohm suggests consciousness and matter are of one order, where “the movements of both are the outcome of related projections of a common higher-dimensional ground.” (Bohm 1980, pg. 209) Here, time is conceived as the manifestation of this ground into a sequence of movements that connect matter and consciousness in a living process. As cell assemblies form neural circuits, cognitive processes manifest “a synchronization of diverse, rhythmically oscillating neural circuits” to provide for the primary conscious experience. (Capra 1996, pg. 293) Ken Wilber  proposes  mind is thus not reducible to the brain, but rather is the interiority of awareness, phenomenally experienced “from within.” (Wilber 1996 pg. 127)

In a similar fashion, Gregory Bateson indicates that patterns of configuration emerge in those units whose completed circuits “show mental characteristics,” where mind is “immanent in the circuitry.” (Bateson 1991, pg. 261) He emphasizes the circuitry extends past the limitations of the isolated individual, depending instead upon a larger ecological network. Conscious systems, therefore, can be understood as organized (meta) patterns of living communication. As the quantum vacuum generates the reality from which life (as embodied mind) emerges, the patterns of neural connectivity project processes of a deeper order, perceiving from within the cosmic energy circuits that exist in the evolution of an original primeval fireball– what we might call the “Big Bang,” or “Great Flaring Forth.” Put otherwise, mind and material are entangled aspects connected a-causally as the phylogenetic “tree of life” becomes consciously self-aware in its human form.

Ervin Laszlo articulates this cosmology as a self-referential process in which we interpret the frequencies of a deeper order. As the quantum vacuum generates a holographic field accessible to the human mind—what he calls the Akashic Field (A-Field)—information is recorded in the ensuing interference patterns and act as the memory of the universe.

“The waves propagate in the vacuum and interfere with the waves created by the bodies and brains of other people, giving rise to complex holograms. Generations after generations of humans have left their holographic traces in the A-field. These individual holograms integrate in a superhologram, which is the encompassing hologram of a tribe, community, or culture. The collective holograms interface and integrate in turn with the super-superhologram of all people. This is the collective information pool of humankind.” (Laszlo 2004, pg. 150)

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By registering these patterns as they emerge from a primordial energy, supersensitive living organisms embedded in the dynamic creativity of the universe activate and bring these archetypal energies into conscious self-awareness. Moreover, the identification of individual consciousness with the greater “cosmic consciousness” underpins the experience of each great spiritual tradition, in which one becomes Self-conscious of the “mysterious and primordial emptiness and nothingness that is conscious of itself and is the ultimate cradle of all existence.” (Grof 2006b, pg. 139)  The whole universal co-creative process thus incarnates in the human in this way, expressing its fractal nature in the subtle reflection of a deeper order that remains self-similar across scale.

“Our true nature is divine—God, Cosmic Christ, Allah, Buddha, Brahma, the Tao, Great Spirit. Although the process of creation separates and alienates us from our source and our true identity, our awareness of this fact is never completely lost. The psyche’s deepest motivating force on all levels of consciousness evolution is the drive to return to the experience of divinity. However, the constraining conditions of the consecutive stages of development prevent a full experience of our own divinity and force us to search for various surrogates that are ultimately inadequate and unsatisfactory.” (Grof 2006a, pg. 296)

Such scientific developments point to the transformative power of non-ordinary states of consciousness in mobilizing healing potential to resolve spiritual crisis through energetic healing. Rick Tarnas writes, “Spirituality is now recognized as not only an important focus of psychological theory and research but an essential foundation of psychological health and healing.” (Tarnas 2001, pg. 65) Given as a major source of spiritual experience then, this “healing potential of ecstatic states suggests new orientation in psychiatric therapy.” (Stan Grof 2008, pg. 289)

For instance, Grof recognizes the psychological effects of LSD can “induce transpersonal experiences in which there is access to accurate new information about the universe through extrasensory channels[, making] it difficult to accept that such experiences are stored in the brain.” (Grof 2012, pg. 116) Rather than assuming the manifestation of consciousness to be the product of an individual human brain, we might more accurately describe  “subconscious domains [to] extend far beyond the confines of the subject’s brain and organism.” (Laszlo undated, pg. 27) Considering the universe holographically then, the brain as its holographic expression projects reality by participating in a deeper whole, “permanently recorded in an immaterial field to which each of us has under certain circumstances experiential access.” (Grof 2012, pg. 236)

By transcending personal boundaries and experiencing the healing field of an unconscious ordering principle, individuals can amplify their connection to a collective unconscious, catalyzing through spiritual attunement the mental process needed for conscious integration.  Grof writes, “Only the experience of one’s divinity in a holotropic state of consciousness can ever fulfill our deepest needs.” (Grof 2012, pg. 188) The experience of divinity  offers archetypal awareness of the psyche’s embedded nature, establishing a cellular awareness of an underlying unity that our true nature is divine. As archetypes resonate like strange attractors in a common field, new patterns in consciousness can emerge to effect new paradigms to institutionalize and systematize a renewed and intended reality.

From entheogenic tribes to today’s entheogenic raves, the morphic resonance of a divine essence is reflected experientially into the whole of human history, each world containing this divinity within its own unique self. The movement toward wholeness is facilitated through thoughts and feelings held intensely over time, fulfilling the desire to imaginally grasp an essential and sensual beauty that provides ecstatic  experiences through new forms of artistry. As each person more fully radiates such divinity, emanating and reverberating with the deeper order, we are each able to perceive, interact, and respond to a seamlessly omnipresent energy in cultural displays of archetypal resonance. Those rituals that positively reflect the sacred event of moral freedom catalyze participation in  wise relations needed to heal ourselves and overcome separation by actualizing the telesomatic effects of a sympathetic force. In this way do we become conscious of time as a living process of universal communion, enacting the sensual experiences necessary to become self-aware; and in doing so, address energy blockages (traumas) through conscious integration.

It is this inner exploration of human systems that is in synchrony with the conscious evolution of cosmic transformation, where external occurrences and internal states can be recognized as manifestations of the same archetypal complex. Stan Grof suggests confrontation of archetypal stages of consciousness regularly occurs during important transits of corresponding planets, offering a method in experiential psychotherapy able to clarify the archetypal nature and timing of nonordinary states of consciousness:

“While the correlations concerning past experiences are primarily of theoretical interest, examining current transits can be extremely useful in the work with individuals undergoing “spiritual emergencies,” and the possibility of making remarkably accurate predictions of the archetypal character of nonordinary states based on future transits is an invaluable tool in the planning of psychedelic and holotropic sessions.” (Grof 2009, pg. 61)

Here, finally, are we offered a way to resolve the crisis of our day, looking inside ourselves for the causal forces that initiate our own collective suffering. As the inner is reflected into the outer, we might more consciously assume the world before us to be the illusion we have constructed for ourselves. This gives us impetus to reconsider our own relations, to ourselves and each other, so we can in turn be called to manifest our most cherished experiences, realizing what was formerly left unconscious.

“The subtle signals are there to be heard. The Universe is singing all the time. If we learn how to listen, we can probably hear something new, like a harmony that resonates within our own Beings. If we then feel for the upbeat and breathe with the music, we have only to lift our arms like the dancing Shiva, stamp out a rhythm with our feet, and dance.” (North 1994, pg. 28)

Bateson, Gregory (1991) A Sacred Unity: further steps to an ecology of mind. HaperCollins Publishers: New York, NY

Bohm, David (1980) Wholeness and the Implicate Order. Routledge: New York, NY

Capra, Fritjof (1996) The Web of Life: a new scientific understanding of living systems. Anchor Books: New York, NY

Grof, Stanislav (2006a) The Ultimate Journey: consciousness and the mystery of death.  Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Substances: Santa Cruz, CA

Grof, Stanislav (2006b) “The Akashic Field and the Dilemmas of Modern Consciousness Research,” in Science and the Reenchantment of the Cosmos: the rise of the integral vision of reality. (Ed. Ervin Laszlo) Inner Traditions: Rochester, VT

Grof, Stanislav (2008) LSD Psychotherapy: the healing potential of psychedelic medicine. MAPS: Santa Cruz, CA

Grof, Stanislav (2009) “Holotropic Research and Archetypal Astrology,” In Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology. Vol 1 no. 1 (Summer 2009) Accessed 7/27/13 http://www.archaijournal.org/05_Archai_Grof_Holotropic_Research.pdf

Grof, Stanislav (2012) Healing our Deepest Wounds: the holotropic paradigm shift. Stream of Experience Productions: Newcastle, WA

Laszlo, Ervin (2004) Science and the Akashic Field: an integral theory of everything. Inner Traditions, Rochester, VT

Laszlo, Ervin (Undated) “Subtle Connections: Grof, Jung, and the Quantum Vacuum,” Retrieved 7/28/13 http://www.stanislavgrof.com/pdf/Laszlo-Grof_and_Jung.pdf

Tarnas, Richard (2001) “A New Birth in Freedom: a (P)Review of Jorge Ferrer’s Revisioning Transpersonal Theory: a participatory vision of human spirituality.” In The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Volume 33, No. 1 San Francisco, CA

Tarnas, Richard (2006) Cosmos and Psyche: intimations of a new world view. Penguin Group: New York, NY

North, Carolyn (1994) Synchronicity: the anatomy of coincidence. Regent Press: Berkeley, CA

Wilber, Ken (1996) A Brief History of Everything. Shambhala Publications: Boston, MA


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Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money

I’m eager to read more on rogue magicians’ heretical processes that disrupt capital flows and subvert the systemic injustice of static patterns through collaborative networks of artistic finance.


On “building an extensive community of confident financial heretics capable of emerging…within a few years, ready to respond to the inevitable financial creses of the future…,” in “Life Without Money,” edited by Anitra Nelson (also published by Pluto), a line that sticks out to me was something to the effect of “where money flows to, resources flow from,” so that exorcising money from the economy would have a transformative effect, abolishing this medium of exchange as a holder of value to empower ecosystemic “liquidation.”

The crux of the book proposed the empowerment of bioregional networks by planning to ensure local abundance, to be sustained and shared through non-monetary economic systems. Money being now digital, supposedly indicating the value of energy over time, we experience this particular expression of electricity meaningfully, as when the poor are disallowed to eat by the absence of credit or debt, the means by which purchase power is achieved. They have no money, presumably for lack of income source, so an economy of disconnection and poverty exists.

Capital accumulation is essentially the transference of potential energy to private property, redistributed in transactional purchases. Resources are developed and depleted, turned into unreusable pollution and waste at the cost of deprivation and suffering. As Marx writes in his Communist Manifesto (part 1): “Modern bourgeois society with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. 

To abolish money would thus dissolve the illusion of a depreciated exchange value and restore an inherent value unsullied by human abstraction. A more informed medium might emerge as the shared intention of the collective set of relations, of which all life is an integral part.

Would love to hear your thoughts here where hopefully we can expand on economic sabotage, magical warfare, empowered love, and restorative justice.

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4 Magical Elements

The four elements of nature
Water, Fire, Air, Earth
Four magical elements
Compassion, Joy, Equanimity, Loving-Kindness
Four magical elements
Water, wash away my ignorance
Fire, transform my suffering
Air, carry me along, free me from my attachments and teach me to let go
Earth, show me your ways
Allow me to receive all without aversion and discrimination, so my heart will become as big as you
Four magical elements
Teach me the meaning of true love


When you reach the heart of life you shall find beauty in all things


Consider the conscious life of the soul an occasion in which the phylogenetic tree becomes self-aware of the elemental convergence of conditions needed for its own enduring unity of experience. The archetypal process of nature is born in the creation of light, an emanation of  cosmic interactivity. Time is the distance traveled by (re)incarnational soul as it resonates in relation to what conditions its character.

“This basic world is brought into being through the vital pulse of life that sustains the existence of every organism. This world both exists as a seamless whole and is comprised of a multiplicity of differing dimensions and features (worlds). These dimensions, once enacted, always involve a blending or intertwining of their nature. In this sense, our identity as a living being and our relation to the generative force of that living cannot be easily discriminated. Thus in a fundamental sense, the continuous Enaction of this basic world acts as a fountain of generativity, embedded within the greater generative force of spirit, through which existence itself is brought into being…In this coemergence of self and world(s) any identity is creatively affected by the dynamics of the worlds in which they find themselves, while simultaneously affecting the very constitution of those worlds.[1]

[1], Malkemus, pg. 217  TOWARD A GENERAL THEORY OF ENACTION: BIOLOGICAL, TRANSPERSONAL, AND PHENOMENOLOGICAL DIMENSIONS In The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 2012, Vol. 44, No. 2

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The Wilderness Effect, Embodied Situation Cognition, and the Enactive Process Model

Paradoxically perhaps, the wilderness effect does not require true wilderness to work its magic. Given that it works very powerfully on UK protest sites, it seems likely that it has the potential to catalyse profound transformation in the wider community. Greenway’s evocative phrase that “civilization is only four days deep” (Greenway, 1995: 129) comes back to me, and I suspect it is even more fragile than that: removing just some of the trappings of the 21st Century can profoundly shift our awareness. My PhD research found that urban Eco-Pagans – who do not live on protest sites – developed a way of relating to the essence of sacred nature which functioned in a similar way to the wilderness effect. Over time, Eco- Paganism enhanced the urban practitioner’s embodied awareness: urban Eco- Pagans learnt to become aware of how we think with and through the embodied situated self, and thus enhanced their embodied communion with places, flora, fauna. As well as being profoundly healing, these intimate local relationships patterned a sacred relationship to the world (Harris, 2008).

When Merleau-Ponty articulated the phenomenology of the embodied mind he concluded that in knowing the world we become part of it, and thus the conventional subject-object distinction was illusionary. Abram applies Merleau- Ponty’s work to develop an embodied environmental philosophy which understands the body as “a sort of open circuit that completes itself only in things, in others, in the encompassing earth” (Abram, 1996: 62). Thus the immediate environment that meshes with our thinking and perception is participatory in that it always involves “the experience of an active interplay, or coupling, between the perceiving body and that which it perceives” (Abram, 1996: 57).

Certain circumstances and techniques allow our normally shallow conscious to deepen, enabling us to become more aware of the blurred boundary between self and world. This process can be illustrated using the cognitive iceberg diagram. Most of the time we are unaware of the deeper processes of ESC: as shown in figure 1, our consciousness is focused at the narrow tip of the iceberg. But at other times our normally shallow awareness begins to slide down the cognitive iceberg into the deep body, sometimes bringing a sense of expansion and a blurring of the boundaries between self and world.

It is this slide down the cognitive iceberg that – at least partly – explains the power of the wilderness effect. As Greenway and others have noted, the wilderness effect brings “a shift from culturally reinforced, dualism-producing reality processing to a more nondualistic mode” (Greenway 1995: 131). Although “consciousness remains”, it is no longer dominated by “the need-crazed egoic process (especially the making of distinctions)”. What remains is “a simpler, ‘nonegoic’ awareness” which can “open consciousness … to the more natural flows of information from nature” (Greenway 1995: 132). This is exactly what we see on the enactive process model: when our awareness slides down into the deep body, consciousness remains but we can sense that the “organism and environment enfold into each other and unfold from one another in the fundamental circularity that is life itself” (Varela et al., 1991: 150).

The enactive process model model helps explain how spending time in the organic environment can lead to a profound awareness of the fundamental connection between what we conventionally perceive as self and world. This shift in awareness underpins many aspects of the wilderness effect, notably the “shift from culturally reinforced, dualism-producing reality processing to a more nondualistic mode.” (Greenway 1995: 131).

The implications of this research for ecopsychology are two-fold: first, the influence of the wilderness effect is far more widespread than previously thought; second, my enactive process model contributes to the theoretical underpinning for this evolving discipline. Given that the wilderness effect has a powerful and largely beneficial affect, we would do well to encourage its influence; by applying the insights offered in this article we can do just that.


(Taken from Adrian Harris’ The Power of Place: Protest Site Pagans; European Journal of Ecopsychology 2: 1-27 (2011))

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Subverting Obsolete Paradigms

There is no basis in the scientific description of nature for believing in the radical Cartesian division between mind and world sanctioned by classical physics. This radical separation between mind and world is a macrolevel illusion fostered by limited awareness of the actual character of physical reality, that perpetuates the idea that the self is separate from an encompassing nature, so that, in the interest of self-gratification, nature is exploited and transformed into material prosperity, raising the standard of living insofar as it infers the monopolization and exclusive control of the material in question.

Resolving this crisis of alienation necessitates the empathetic and compassionate “overthrow” of the assumption that one is separate from the natural forces s/he emerges from. We are in fact in perpetual relation with all that exists. The only thing that separates us from anything else is time–before which we shared a common origin. To exploit any relationship is to construct a form of hierarchy, in which the self is aggrandized and placed at the top, while that which remains at the bottom is systematically marginalized and repressed with violence.

Ultimately, a process of renewal must occur so that our symbolic consciousness can heal the fractured relationship we are struggling to sustain. In “The Blood of the Earth: an essay on Magic and Peak Oil,” Archdruid John Michael Greer writes,

“the first full fledged peak oil revitalization movement raises its banners and begins attracting a mass following with strident denunciations of the existing order of things and the promise of a bright future reached by what amounts to a sustained exercise in magic” (74).

Dualism, while enchanting, inevitably blinds us from the modus operandi of the cosmos, the law of nature, initiating a crisis in which limits, laws, and principles are concealed. Capitalism, and the privatization of productive capabilities (i.e. the earth system via property), is itself an ideology or illusion that separates a theater of appearances from an objective and truthful reality: industrial society, as sustained by a dwindling fossil fuel reserve, will inevitably collapse. Casting spells that bind the populace to such notions that such a process can continue, will ultimately dissolve.

In a review of Capitalist Sorcery: Breaking the Spell  Nikolay Karkov explains,

“Capitalist sorcery operates by “capture,” through a culture of “spells” that immobilise thinking and paralyse collective action. What anti-capitalist politics needs then is not so much demystification or dis-alienation, but a counter-magic capable of protecting its practitioners and breaking the spell.”

To this extent direct action is conceived of as an important form of earth-based ritual– a resistance or revitalization to build connection with the trees and earthly energies so that collective PERCEPTION can shift to accommodate this intimate connection.

“Sometimes activists experience the earth’s sacred energies, or life force, during direct action resistance to deforestation or other environmental defilement. They may also do so during what might be called ‘magical direct actions’, where the goal is to seek, explore and direct the sacred energy of the forest (itself an expression of the earth’s energy) towards specific ends. In a way similar to some of the earthen ritualising discussed earlier, direct action might be directed towards personal healing (e.g., helping persons to transcend their anger and manifest the loving energy of the universe) or towards planetary healing. This action may help activists reach out to their most bitter adversaries through a kind of prayer-as-energy-manipulation that seeks to focus the loving energy of the universe in an ecologically salutary way.”

The felt sense of ‘connection’, kinship and loyalty to earth and all her life forms and living systems is critical for any magician as s/he seeks to draw power from the living world in order to cocreate and enact the world emerging from consciousness. The magician’s actions then is the permeable membrane between the inner and outer worlds, the glue that provides for transcendent unity beyond binaries.

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