The Magician, The World

Our life is no dream; however, it should be, and perhaps one day shall be.

–Novalis

There are gates to the Other everywhere.

There is a delicate and brilliant rapture in the wilds, the forests, the forgotten places which have not heard the echoes of mortals for centuries. Or the ancient pilgrim sites, the holy wells and temples, the towering Buddhas and the resounding Cathedrals. The incomprehensible vastness of the sea, or the mountains, or the deserts, or the stars.

And there are the gates within, the meditations, the prayers. The conscious and unconscious unlocking and opening of vine-covered doors and iron portals into outer truths which can only be explored by entering passages no one else sees.

There are gates to the Other everywhere. But we should not forget–there are also gates we build ourselves.

Worlding and Dualism

I’ve introduced the notion of worlding into the discussion of place and enchantment for a reason. When we speak of the sacred and the mundane, the Other and the material, enchantment and disenchantment, we can get caught in a dualism or dichotomy which, if internalized, divides all of our existence into two opposites. Countless writers have explored the danger of this way of thinking, inherited in western thinking particularly through René Descartes and other Enlightenment thinkers. I can’t match their brilliant work, nor do I need to. A short explanation should suffice.

On the surface, it appears that dualism is almost self-evident. There is male and female, day and night, mother and father, dead and alive. It would seem one could derive dualistic thought specifically by observing nature, and this is why dualism (and many other Enlightenment ideals) take root almost invisibly within our minds—they appear to be obvious or self-evident.

Dualism, of course, ignores every single state between its two artificial polarities. There is Day and Night, yes, but there is also Sunrise, Sunset, Noon, Afternoon, Evening, Midnight, and Gloaming (my favorite word EVER). There are days you work, nights you work, nights when the thinnest amber sickle-moon rises over the trees into an explosion of wheeling stars, evenings which last forever in gold-rose-violet light, mornings you wake too early, nights you wish would never end.

There is male and female, yes. But there are males who express female, females who express male, old men and young boys, gruff adolescents and mothering fathers. There are girls, maidens, mothers, crones, women who heft 50lb bags of flour over their shoulder without effort, women who move with grace as if the wind itself. There are ladies, there are riotgrrls. There are FTM’s and MTF’s, androgynes, hermaphrodites, metagendered, and there is at least one indigenous culture with five genders, the Bugi of Indonesia.

Dualism is a shorthand so omnipresent in western materialist culture that it’s easy to mistake it for a natural division of the world.  But it isn’t.

Everything (can be) Sacred

There’s a Pagan response to dualism which is an incredibly good start. Acknowledging that dualistic thinking regarding Sacredness is wrong (and damaging) by reducing the world to mere either/or, it posits a potential and powerful answer: everything should be seen as sacred.

This approach is beautiful. We’ve divided so much of the world into this/not-this that our classifications have become almost the “word of God.” Many who espouse this view have identified the damage dualistic thinking has done, and some have (I think correctly) traced this thinking historically to the Reformation and particularly Calvinism. Before Calvin, the universal/catholic (remembering that catholic means “universal”) view was that nature had a sacredness specifically as it was created by the same god who created humanity. Even though most catholic thinking enforce hierarchies within the order of creation, since it was all creation, it all had its place and role within the order of things.

Calvinism, and the Enlightenment which sprung from the Reformation’s divorce from the universalizing thought of Catholicism, introduced and then built entire theories of human existence apart from nature (with a couple of outliers, like Rousseau). No longer was the forest sacred because it was created by the Christian’s god, it was useful because it was converted and improved by man. (“Improvement,” by the way, is one of the central logics of Capitalist thought—Adam Smith justified stealing land from the First Nations people in America because they weren’t doing anything with their land: that is, they weren’t improving it).

The view that everything is sacred, then, counters this insidious, Materialist trend, and is quite affective. And I am very much in love with this idea, that every place and everything we do is holy and beautiful. It’s beautiful—but insufficient. I don’t think it’s true—or, not yet, or not without the agency of our worlding.

Worlding and Agency

Mind if we revisit the quote from Chakrabarty which I introduced in my first essay?

 “[D]isenchantment is not the only principle by which we world the earth. The supernatural can inhabit the world in these other modes of worlding, and not always as a problem or result of conscious beliefs or ideas…gods and spirits are not dependent upon human beliefs for their own existence; what brings them to present are our practices.”

Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe, p111-112

The reason “worlding” seems to me an apt way to understand enchantment and disenchantment is precisely because it is an act of human mediation, an act of human agency. It reminds us that, because we create the world, we delineate or expand the Other, imbuing and drawing it forth, coaxing and shepherding it from its hidden places or walling it out of our worldings.

Think on the image of The Magician from Tarot. One of the more common meditations on the card suggests that he “mediates heaven and earth,” and also represents communication. The Magician, therefore, worlds the earth. Druids are fond of triads, and even Hegel pointed out that the Celts seemed to possess a sort of dialectical thinking before he developed his theories on dialectics; that is, the one, than its opposite, and then a third which mediates and transforms the duality into something new.

We are that third.

We are The Magician, teasing out the threads of meaning from the wilds and the stars, from spirit and from matter. We weave these threads from and into the earth, worlding what should be sacred into what is sacred. Everything should be sacred, yes, and everything can be.

We, frail and brilliant mortals, made of flesh and dirt and shit, the dust from stars and the wind from graves—we world the earth into disenchantment or enchantment, co-creating with the gods and the spirits, seeing the sacred in what is ignored, imbuing the mundane with meaning.  We, like The Magician, and like the figure of The World, can choose to dance with creation and open gates of the Other, or choose to world it from our lives.

 

About Rhyd Wildermuth

An intractable tea-swilling leftist-punk bard, Rhyd Wildermuth has left bits of his heart(h) everywhere—in a satyr’s den in Berlin, hanging from an elder tree over a holy well in Bretagne, scattered in back alleys of Seattle, and lost somewhere in the bottom of his rucksack. He’s devoted to Welsh gods, breathes words, makes candles, plays recorder, fumbles with tech, and refuses ever to learn to drive. He also writes at paganarch.com.

  • Henry Buchy

    “Dualism, of course, ignores every single state between its two artificial polarities. ”
    no, it does not. Nor does it imply polarity or opposition. Dualism postulates there are two irreducible elements, which from their admixture, all things arise. Nor are these elements thought of as in opposition or polarized, but cooperative and complimentary. there are, of course, dualistic systems which view things as you mention, but not all dualistic views see things in that artificial way.

    • http://paganarch.blogspot.com/ rhyd wildermuth

      Hello!
      I think you’re referring to Hermetic or Neoplatonist Dualism?

      My opinion on all dualisms is thus: they are useful but also insufficient. That is, the resolution of the dualism is what matters, not the polarity, and that resolution is specifically human agency (worlding).

      • Henry Buchy

        no, I am referring to dualism plain and simple, without adjectives which modify its meaning by nature of the two elements they postulate.
        the resolution of anything, in one sense, is to reduce it to it’s constituent parts. Both dualism and monism pretty much do that, monism just reduces things to one irreducible element.
        In another sense, the resolution can be a solution, What is ‘the dualism’ you are considering? and how is human agency it’s resolution/solution?
        If it is the idea of humans separation from nature, then we’re talking the artificial duality you mentioned, and then yes, its solution is human agency but human agency is also its cause.
        As I mentioned in my original, not all dualistic thinking resolves into polarities or opposites. Nor does all dualistic thought necessarily make a division between man and nature, how could it if all things are comprised of an admixture of two irreducible elements?

        • http://paganarch.blogspot.com/ rhyd wildermuth

          Can you give me an example of a non-artificial, non-human-constructed duality? And one that isn’t reductive? Reductionism is precisely what I think we should all avoid.

          • Henry Buchy

            I never implied there were any. Any philosophical view is based on perception. you suggested artificial polarities constituted dualism. I disagreed with that opinion. But sure I’ll play and say space and matter are a non artificial non human dualism. And it could be argued that all things result in their admixture. That doesn’t mean I’d consider them in opposition or polarized, nor does it mean I’d ignore the spectrum of possible combinations.
            You seem to see ALL dualism and ALL reductionism as somehow contrary to your proposition of ‘worlding’, and that just isn’t the case. Seems like you’re ignoring the middle grounds as it were and focusing on the polarities.

          • Henry Buchy

            oh, and my question still stands-What is ‘the dualism’ you are considering? and how is human agency it’s resolution/solution?

          • http://paganarch.blogspot.com/ rhyd wildermuth

            Could you maybe consider re-reading my essay? The entire point of it was specifically NOT to ignore the middle grounds.

            The dualism I’m referring to is Cartesian (again, re-read my essay, please) and related forms.

            And again, for examples of the problems of dualism, see the examples I noted. Female/Male is a false dichotomy assumed natural and self-evident. It’s useful but insufficient and artificial. There is no irreducible female, nor an irreducible male, only an imposed opposition used as a short-hand. Same goes with Day/Night and actually Space/Matter (or Spirit/Matter).

            As it is human agency which imposes dualistic thought, human agency is precisely that which resolves the duality. The gods as Other become the gods as also Here because of our practices (see the Chakrabarty quote).

          • Henry Buchy

            I’ve read your essay quite carefully, hence my original reply to your statement”Dualism, of course, ignores every single state between its two artificial polarities. ”
            again,
            “no, it does not. Nor does it imply polarity or opposition. Dualism postulates there are two irreducible elements, which from their admixture, all things arise. Nor are these elements thought of as in opposition or polarized, but cooperative and complimentary.”
            you keep returning to opposites and polarity, yet they are not the whole of a dualistic approach.
            “there are, of course, dualistic systems which view things as you mention, but not all dualistic views see things in that artificial way.”
            and here I actually agree with you that there are dualistic approaches as you’ve outlined, but not “ALL dualism is oppositional or polarized. That’s the thing right there. That you presume dualistic views see things as opposites or poles, not all do. There are no oppositions, except as you say those imposed by others, just as you seem to be imposing them here. I’ve maintained a dualist view, all my many years as a practicing witch. the gods have never been “other” and have always been present regardless of my practice. They are made of the same stuff as we and everything else. Just because I may reduce that stuff to two elements, doesn’t imply any thing else than simply ‘we are all comprised of those two’. It doesn’t imply opposition or polarity, but rather a more symbiotic relationship.

          • http://paganarch.blogspot.com/ rhyd wildermuth

            Ugh.

            We are in essence arguing the same thing, but you are taking great offense at my wording and repeating yourself. You may just not like my style of writing, which is okay, because there’s plenty of other columnists here on Patheos. I note in your history of Disqus comments you often do not like their word-choices either. Do you have a blog? One of the best ways to address problems with other people’s perceived inexactitude is to write as well. Please consider this!

          • Henry Buchy

            well no I took no ‘great offence” at your wording. Just one expression, the general statement of “Dualism, of course, ignores every single state between its two artificial polarities. ” It seems that that generalization is critical to your theory, and that someone pointing out that that generalization isn’t accurate somehow upsets that.
            As far as word choices yes, I am critical of word choices and phraseology, especially in written word, as you say due to the perceived inexactitudes they can convey.
            Poor word choices and phraseology are at the root of the bruhaha’s in the blogosphere, and I disagree that the best way to address those is by writing a blog page about it, but to address it in the comments section of the piece in question, and have an interactive discussion about it, which is writing.

  • lilithdorsey

    I enjoyed your inclusion of the Chakrabarty quote and mention of Hegelian dialectics, in my tradition of New Orleans Voodoo we do our best to embrace this otherness and liminality, for here is where the magick begins!

    • http://paganarch.blogspot.com/ rhyd wildermuth

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! I’m utterly fascinated by the liminal, and I think it’d be awesome to bring it back into our conceptions and language. One of the reasons I like the word “gloaming” that I mentioned above is that it indicates the time between sunset and twilight as all the colors slowly wash out of the world almost imperceptibly but darkness has not yet set in.
      I really like the idea that something can be two things at once and yet everything in between. That gap which opens within such thresholds seem akin to the opening of the eternal into the temporal, or a gate in which the Other is worlded into ours.
      Have you read Chakrabarty, by the way? His work is amazingly useful for speaking about religious practices that the Western world declared dead even as they continued practicing.

  • Blackcat

    Very interesting! The concept of humans balancing dichotomies as a role was introduced to me prior. One idea is to conceive of consciousness arising first through the awareness of other, then by inference awareness of self. Consciousness needs other to recognize self, in other words. The baby has no concept of itself until it realizes it is not its mother. In some Ceremonial Magick teachings, there is a meditation on zero ’0′ which is nothing which is also everything. Yet it can be conceived of as static. Next comes ’1′. But not as a single, rather as a line that splits the 0 into dichotomy.. and the rest of the universe as we conceive it begins because there is now motion from one to other and back and forth- heartbeat, pendulum swing, etc…I love the idea of being ‘third’. My own tradition teaches, we are between Earth and Sky. good read.. thanks

    • http://paganarch.blogspot.com/ rhyd wildermuth

      You’re welcome! Glad you enjoyed it!

      Your mention of consciousness reminds me of what appears to be the mystery of dependencies. That is, we are first dependent but don’t understand dependency until we become independent. But we also cannot understand independence until acknowledging inter-dependence, that independence derives from independent beings acknowledging the relationship (that is, dependency) to each other in order to be independent.

  • Thisica

    I consider the possibility that there isn’t a duality of existences, but a plurality. Why must we focus on two central elements of Being? Monism doesn’t appeal to me, either–it smacks of reductionism to the hilt. I’m also suspicious of holism as a philosophical orientation as well, since it echoes reductionism in attitude. Both holism and reductionism seek something central at the core: holism by erasing differences from the top and reductionism by focusing solely on one kind of existence.

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