Legitimatization of the Unlegitimatable?
Before the government gave me low-cost, high-quality health insurance, I used to turn to occult expert, Aleister Crowley (also known as the Magician of the Beast 666), for help.
He has a wonderful, super meta-qabalistic encyclopedia system of magical utilities; the Liber 777.
Let’s say you wish to cure Syphilis. Just turn to Column CLXXXVI “Diseases (Typical)” – Syphilis is listed as 14.
Now, there are a variety of options to magically cure Syphilis, but for the sake of the example, let’s say you wish to appease the Deity whose domain includes syphilis. Well, do you want a Roman Deity, an Egyptian Deity, an Hindu Deity? Let’s go with a Greek Deity. Number 14 in Column XXXIV (“Some Greek Gods”) is Aphrodite.
If I am going to appease the Goddess Aphrodite, I will need to offer her things she enjoys and that encompass her being. In Column XXXIX (“Plants, Real and Imaginary”), it says she likes (and is) Myrtle, Rose, Clover, Figs, Apples, and Peaches.
Like-wise, a color best suited for her altar is “bright rose of cerise rayed pale Yellow”, emeralds are in her dominion, and if I do any prayer for her it is best to do it on a Friday.
Let’s talk about magic as defined by Aleister Crowley:
is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.
Any required Change may be effected by the application of the proper kind and degree of force in the proper manner through the proper medium to the proper object.
An example from book shows this postulate in action:
“It is my Will to inform the World of certain facts within my knowledge. I therefore take magical weapons, pen, ink, and paper; I write incantations – these sentences – in the magical language i.e. that which is understood by the people I wish to instruct; I call forth spirits, such as printers, publishers, booksellers, and so forth, and constrain them to convey my message to those people. The composition and distribution of this book is thus an act of magick.”
Little do we know, we are engaging in Magic every time we manifest our Will into tangible action and change. The definition and example above seem to be very logical – practically scientific. Crowley, up-playing the scientific part, even included a list of Theorems for Magick:
1. Every intentional act is a Magical Act.
2. Every successful act has conformed to the postulate.
3. Every failure proves that one or more requirements of the postulate have not been fulfilled.
4. The first requisite for causing any change is through qualitative and quantitative understanding of the conditions.
5. The second requisite of causing any change is the practical ability to set in motion the necessary forces.
Crowley’s introduction to both the Liber 777 and Magick in Theory and Practice is, more or less, an argument in favor of systematizing magical practices to seek out their empirical truths through trial and experimentation. In a sense, he and his theosophical contemporaries wanted to elevate mysticisms to the level of hard science. With scientific lexicon, systematic trials, and meticulous table references, they sought legitimization of their practice.
In my opinion, it is a ridiculous shame that Crowley would even compare magic to science. I don’t think magic could ever be legitimized using the same peer-review system that science has.
Now, if you think this blog entry is an anti-magic/pro-science argument. . . abrahadabra – you are wrong!
Jean-Francois Lyotard wrote a pivotal essay in the 20th century, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. He argues that knowledge, scientific and technological, is recently less a search of Truth than a means of economy and political power.
He states that technology serves two principal functions: Research and Transmission of required learning.
Of Research: Our current technology could only have arisen from being built upon prior technology and theoretical paradigms. Our advancement in Genetics owes itself to earlier cybernetic theory.
Of Transmission of required learning: Lyotard writes, “…it is common knowledge that the miniaturization and commercialization of machines is already changing the way in which learning is acquired, classified, made available, and exploited”. Lyotard is specifically talking about computer languages, data banks, informatics, cybernetics, etc. But a layman example would suggest that you do a Google Scholar search on iphones, 3D Printers, and other technologies and their correlation to what we are learning, how we are learning it, and why we are learning it.
“The nature of knowledge cannot survive unchanged within this context of general transformation. It can fit into new channels and become operational, only if the learning is translated into quantities of information. We can predict that anything in the constituted body of knowledge that is not translatable in this way will be abandoned . . . Along with the hegemony of computers comes certain logic, and therefore a certain set of prescriptions determining which statements are accepted as ‘knowledge’ statements”. (pg. 4)
We can simplify the idea to an ouroboros; our accumulated knowledge helps create new technology to find more knowledge within the same paradigm, which will create better technology to dig deeper into that same paradigmatic knowledge, ad infitum.
Like Aleister Crowley (and Jean-Francois Lyotard), I agree that hard scientific knowledge does not represent the totality of knowledge to be found in our universe.
But unlike Aleister Crowley, I disagree that other types of knowledge could be legitimated as parallels of science. It could never happen under our current scientific paradigm.
Lyotard writes that a scientific statement “is subject to the rule that [it] must fulfill a given set of conditions in order to be accepted as scientific. In this case, legitimation is the process by which a “legislator” dealing with scientific discourse is authorized to prescribe the stated conditions (in general, conditions of internal consistency and experimental verification) determining whether a statement is to be included in that discourse by the scientific community”. (pg. 8)
This idea of meeting internal consistency as a mode of legitimation is, once again, an ouroboros. It is self-legitimating.
With these examples of self-legitimization we come to two questions with implications of power and government; “who decides what knowledge is, and who knows what needs to be decided?”
Now, with all this said, I know that science isn’t inherently malicious. As Crowley’s 11th theorem of Magick states:
Science enables us to take advantage of the continuity of Nature by the empirical application of certain principles whose interplay involves different orders of idea connected with each other in a way beyond our present comprehension.
But what a shame that the Master Beast would submit himself to the “gold standard” of scientific review. There are aspects of Nature which elude continuity and empirical application, and Crowley had surely known that. Poo-poo to him for seeking legitimation of something which cannot/need not be legitimized. Could the tunnel-visioned, economic, self-legitimating ouroboros of science uncover the entirety of the Universe, of the Multi-verse, and the very essence of even things which escape all reason?
What I am saying is that if you practice magic or ascribe to an empirically unprovable faith, do not be shy! Take great pleasure that your activities are unknowable and ungraspable. Take great pleasure that your activities can’t be legitimated in our current body of scientific knowledge! Take great pleasure that you acknowledge the empirically, maximally invisible!
Be joyous in its irregularity.
Man is ignorant of the nature of his own being and powers. Even his idea of his limitations is based on experience of the past, and every step in his progress extends his empire. There is therefore no reason to assign theoretical limits to what he may be, or to what he may do.