Magic, Culture, Identity

Posted on July 11, 2008
Filed Under Culture, identity, Magic, mystical journeys | Leave a Comment

Taylor’s latest post helped codify a few things I’d been considering as well in the world of magical practice and the role of identity.

As noted previously, a great deal of the influence on my magical and meditative practices are distinctly Eastern, mostly Taoist, Indian, Chinese and Buddhist.  Such practices also have far different identity-concepts for people with magical and mystical inclinations and skills.  The often-eccentric Taoist Immortal, a studious Chinese Fang-shih, an awakened Buddhist mediator, are different identities than the western magician.

Thus I’ve begun to wonder if the concepts of the Western Magician are not just different – is it possible they are too limited?  Do the identities provided in Western Magic limit who we are and what we can become, especially in an age where we have so much information at our finger tips:

A few factors and things I’ve thought of:
* The aforementioned dominance of Crowley.  I of course consider him talented, but also over-rated, and a person who despite his many experiences, never actually seemed to grow much as a person.  He became very iconic – and perhaps having that icon was too limiting.
* The ironic influence of Chaoism.  Chaoism’s deconstructive bent was entirely necessary for magical and mystical practices to make any progress because one had to go back to the basics.  However ages later, it appears there’s still far more deconstructing going on that constructing.  I feel the deconstructive vein in magic has gone too far, with systems being built up and torn down, but little being made for the long term.
* The western role model for the magician.  The west’s spiritual heritage is often anti-magical and extremely limited in it’s acceptance of mystical experiences.  Thus western magic has an odd undercurrent of negativity running through it – the Faustian image, excessive Crowley, battling secret-societies, etc.  This self-limiting and subconciously negative view of magic is one I find very troublesome and suspect lies as a mild, constant poison in western culture.
* The association of magic with rebellion in our culture.  Though understandable given the last item, rebellion is only useful in what comes out of it.  If the Revolution doesn’t build something, then what’s the point of it?
* The rebellion aspect of magic also prevents it from being integrated socially – when you are considering yourself an “outsider” there’s only so much one can do with society at large.  Most of history has practitioners of magic not as outsiders in the large, but part of society – even if the society kept them at a distance for obvious reason.
* The dissociation of magic from other practices.  Being “a magician” is in a way really limiting – as our ideas of a magician are limiting.

Coming to the Western approach from a mix of being an outsider and an insider, I think our concepts of the magician need to change for magic to evolve and grow, embrace broader identities.  Maybe we need to be practitioners of magic while being more, where magician is part of a larger – but integrated – picture.

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