The Other Side of the Hedge: Through the Portal

The Other Side of the Hedge: Through the Portal February 24, 2017

In his post What Happens When You Leave a Magical Portal Open?, fellow Patheos Pagan blogger John Beckett ponders the question of what is causing the shifts that we’re seeing in the West, with increasing reports of “across the veil” activity.

Merlin's Cave at Tintagel, Cornwall England. Photo by Mankey.
Merlin’s Cave at Tintagel, Cornwall England. Photo by Mankey.

I’ve given this question a lot of thought. I believe we’re seeing a phenomenon promoted by a combination of things. One aspect is the breakdown of the physical/spiritual split inherent in Western culture. This is a shift that’s been happening since the mid- to late-1800s and accelerating since about the end of WW2. This seems to be in parallel with the exponential increase in knowledge, travel, and communication.

I’d like to briefly examine two factors that I believe have been important. The first has been an expansion of exposure to ideas from outside traditional Western culture. While that has been going on at least since the time of Empedocles (c. 490 – c. 430 BCE), the acceleration of communication has changed the rules entirely. The boundaries of Western culture have become permeable; some might even say frayed.

Further, there have been unprecedented changes in awareness of the world, spawned and spurred on by modern communication and technology. Everyday people see more of the wider world than any people ever in history. Relatively speaking, we’re not nearly as limited by time or space as humans of any previous period.

The Veil is a Western Construct

The veil itself is a phenomenon that keeps the everyday cause and effect in place. Spirits and gods don’t appear and make prognostications. Leaders don’t (publicly) depend on astrologers to understand the world. Everything hums along in what appears to be, on the surface, “normal.”

The veil that we’re talking about is a feature of Western culture. Now, don’t get me wrong; just because it’s “cultural” that doesn’t make it arbitrary, or a bad thing. But it does mean that we need to examine the shift away from a nice, thick veil that keeps the weirdness out in context.

"Hadrian's Wall" by Johnnie Shannon. From Wikimedia via CC License.
“Hadrian’s Wall” by Johnnie Shannon. From Wikimedia via CC License.

Every culture has its own rules on what’s “real” and what’s not. Culture isn’t just language differences or value differences, but (if you truly go down that rabbit hole) differences in cause and effect and perception of the world. I wouldn’t say that the worlds are vastly different; up doesn’t becomes down, for instance. But the differences can be real in ways that are impossible to be wholly rational about.

What we’ve been watching over the last seventy-plus years is a breakdown of a much more monolithic Western culture. That culture enforced a huge “no magic” zone in its territory and made non-prescribed spiritual work significantly more difficult.

Spiritually speaking, we’ve traded safety for freedom. With the post-modern interest in variation over normative behavior, the spiritual straitjacket has been significantly loosened. It’s the democratization of spirituality, and we can’t be sure how it’s going to turn out.

Modern Communication Has Changed the Game

The Internet. Cell phones. Satellites. These are the things driving a new spiritual revolution. The creation of massive, simultaneous communication has changed the nature of awareness in spiritually and magically significant ways. In other words, the Internet has changed the rules of magic. While in the last twenty-five years, we suddenly have a chance to gather virtually in numbers that are basically unheard of for these kinds of practices.

But the larger world has changed fundamentally as well. We need to consider the spirits of the millions of people watching Duck Dynasty together and creating massive egregores around the themes of the show. Others do the same with Stranger Things, with Real Housewives, with just about any phenomenon that hits the media in a big way.

"Ortelius World Map" from 1570. From WikiMedia.
“Ortelius World Map” from 1570. From WikiMedia.

Modern media and communication is drawing people’s attention in unprecedented ways. Imagine that the egregore of a TV show, with hundreds of thousands of emotionally-invested viewers, is spectacularly more powerful than the egregores of historical tribes. And imagine that we create them and abandon them left and right, with just a few surviving decades. It truly is a brave new world.


It’s not just that there are more people than ever before on the planet. Suddenly, we can coordinate in ways that we take for granted, but which have no precedent. No one really knows what’s going to happen, but I suspect that the breakdown of the veil means we’ll see more and more of a larger universe.

The opening of holes in the world isn’t because something’s gone wrong. It’s a direct effect of the global changes we’re living through. We’re in a world of uncharted territories. There will be new wonders, and new dangers as well.

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