Atempts to get closer to Magic
We would like to get closer to what those beings, in that world, of the ethnos, we do not ask now if there is ever a "city" that rests on no enthnos, a world that is not rooted in an ethnos, experienced as magic, what was with them, in that time, magic? Mircea Eliade proffers us this example, in the course of his book where he gathered up selected texts according to his sense of the matters under consideration for students of religion, about the peoples who inhabited the South-East of Australia, derived from a discussion with a European, about the year 1904.
“...go anywhere and do anything. He can be invisible; but when he makes himself visible it is in the form of an old man of the Australian race. He is evidently everlasting, for he existed from the beginning of all things, and he still lives. But in being so, he is merely in the state in which these aborigines believe everyone would be in if not prematurely killed by evil magic.”
Taken this way, the magic is a comprehensive efficaciousness. What is “evidently everlasting”, is vitiated by the “evil magic”. Obviously this magic names something very strong. One objects to the word “believe”, as prejudicial, and in order to simply avoid extenuating difficulties would say: With them, everyone is killed by evil magic. But it is clear that if we understand magic under this conception, it is only a general understanding as yet, like a definition or a general theory which brings orientation, we come into the sense of magic as something rather like causality, as the sphere in which the issue of the needs of men, in their dealings with what is already there will play out. In the search for a solution, through sorcery and the ways in which the Australian combated this magic. The thought of magic, taken like this, does not involve complex analytic activity, as with forms of divination and the logic of certain Mystical arts which attempt to see reality directly, to unveil it through knowledge as with the subject matter of the works of the scholarly studies of Gershom Shalom. Mystical vision does not involve, in itself, a science, but Kabbalah does. But we do not wish to go into these things that lead us affar. We presume without further ado the Shaman is not a Kabbalist, even if he “soars” through the spirit world, long before the drum has established its passionate rhythm, so the others may leap up like flames, and even if he in some way reminds of the mystic.
Perhaps this is insufficient and we must think magic as the implications of symbolic understanding, as understood by Eliade, Jung, and others. But first let us consider what we are doing.
Here we do not attempt to speak about magic, or to add to the scholarly knowledge of that subject in the manner of a independent judgment. Rather we are only seeing what the methodos, with its leading sentence “Seriousness imitates play” can decisively dig up. And the materials here are part of the path that aims at leaping into something. A comment about the subject matter of a leap is in order. What is presented by examples that can be envisioned, such as a Witches' Sabbath, where the various features are described, a circle of toadstools, within a shadowy grove, out in the moist forest sward, a motley gathering of darkly hooded figures, and the nude body of a middle aged witch, with small breasts, a star filled sky spread infinitely open. Such, as we might call them, aesthetic descriptions, bringing to mind the hic et nunc or actual situation, has no noetic content. An interpretation about the Witches' Sabbath, about the why of it, would supply some noetic or essential content. The leap would never transport the thinker to the living content, the visual, or to the noetic, the natural principle, but it sets the key, or tonality in which they both sound. And the Macht, or power of the phrase is part of this minor or great key. E.g., the word Democracy has a great significance to political life today, even when it is only vague and not brought into example or explanation. The might in the tonality is like what Nietzsche called will to will, which is no will to power or political activity bent on lightening the world of human beings, rather it is what is like Rausch and Iki. It is not at the discretion of human beings, but tends to be involuntary.
In order to suggest the tonality in which Heidegger conducted his research let us begin with an experiment. Let Gott ist Tot, read Gott ist Tod, or God is death. Then we can see the tonality of authenticity. The authentic is understood as the consideration of a man towards his death, as in the example of Tolstoy’s study of the dying Ivan Ilych. This is how Heidegger understands Christianity. As the light that answers the question about the authentic as death. God is this death consecrated and inverted into life. Here we think of the “evidently everlasting”. Is the authentic then the “evil magic”? Taken this way we can see how the order of men as such, is far from the authentic. Men do not live if the “evil magic” is constantly upon them, even if it is always stalking them. If we understand magic this way, we stay in the Life, in the visible constancy, in what Nietzsche called the Dionysian. The Dionysian ranges over both authentic and inauthentic, from one end of the world to the other.
Is magic a way of thinking what they are doing, when they use the powers of cognition to make nature nature in the ways a fixed system of nature, the field of activity as understood by the practitioners of the modern sciences, issues forth from whoever does scientific work? If so it is to be thought not in the mortal realm of the Dionysian. If we ask about technicity, what we have been calling rationality, in the era when the Catholicity, as Christendom, becomes the power of science, as the great authority which in a secondary way is flanked by politics in the form of business or economy, it might make us think of the question whether humans are in control, or the cognition of the science is moving on its own. For instance, in the work of Nick Bostrom who takes up the question long posed about the dangers of sudden annihilation by some scientific catastrophe which would stamp out all things on the earth, or even in some larger area. It is instructive here to consider that such difficulties bring us principally into political matters, about what might be changed. For instance if Bostrom were to fill some people with concern and then it was said, stop it all immediately. But that, it is not important how absurd such an example is, would not help the methodos in its way. That is not the kind of thing thinking belongs to, as the thinking that is guided by the methodos and wonders how the thought might involuntarily be brought to a new look.
Let us consider what magic could look like as a symbol world. According to the prosaic thought, led as it is by the compulsion of modern education, into the practical attitude of absurdity, that holds (as though through a tacit necessity) that the world is caused by the activity of energy that undergoes a hundred-fold process in the optic system of the brain, and then becomes the world. Within this region of the English thought one finds the peculiar claim that we see memory, and never what is seen. So that perception is only perception for the brain, and aperception, or intellectual awareness of perception, is the selected presentation of memory. Now we are using the English thought, as we use the concept of magic, to help us along the way. If the symbol, like the poem, where the poem means that some, here and now, is taken as the occasion for showing what is wide and great in the human, and so goes into the memory, as it were, of the human as the world, each thing encountered is supposed to be an aperception only. Which is to say, the symbol is what comes forth, not the perceived individual, but the greater content. So far no suggestive shock braces us and tears us from our prosaic stupor.
Let us review the misunderstood past in order to, prepare ourselves, in future to think into the questions. George Berkeley says “to be is to be perceived”. The English thought holds, the tragic thought that no longer cares if there is truth or meaning, and is never troubled, holds this to say that the thing is never independent of the human being, that there is no thing on its own, or in its self. The philosophers, on the contrary, prior to the end of their race (or genus, as in “the death of the race of Pompeii”, which in the Latin say genus after the pre-Darwinian notion of race, those buried by the Volcano), used to understand this in a totally different manner. What they thought was that perception was already an intuition of the essence of a thing. Thus nous, the perceiver of being or the whole, was already part of perception, rather than a feature of aperception. The debate in those years concerned whether or not essential difference were a feature of the human being or the world. The question of whether the things existed on their own was never raised, and would have been held absurd. Common sense teaches that they do, and common sense was held to be judicious by the race of philosophers. We must consider why does the English thought force the issue of memory, which is like a forced entry into the human world? A selection. Why, too, does the Symbol, which might be thought as a realm of magic, demand this feature in the things, in the direct contact with them, and not as something added on by the intellect. Why, too, did the philosophers hold that the distinction between orange and pear, sun and street lamp, was real, and a feature of the perception, so that perception was already apperception?