When you want to know how things really work, study them when they’re coming apart.”

William Gibson, “Zero History”

Imagination makes memory. It makes language, then gradually buries it under new-spun fields of words. By degrees, this repeating process moves the world into space-times as far from the one we now inhabit as a young Tesla is from a worker ant dutifully carrying his package into a hill.”

Jon Rappoport, “The Ghost Machine in the Silver Heel of Hermes”

MAY 9, 2011. Where is modern magic?

Invoking Tesla or Frank Lloyd Wright or Bucky Fuller doesn’t have punch. It seems to be a misnomer.

Those men exemplified the individual creative principle. But is that enough to rank as magic?

Tesla was a brilliant inventor, but wasn’t his trick being able to hold in his mind all the parts of a new working machine before he ever put it together? In which case, he was “just a scientist,” albeit a “terrific visualizer.”

Even the notion that he was CREATING something escapes most people.

And if they grant that he was creative, so what? Where is the magic?

Humans on Earth keep drawing a line of demarcation between creating and magic. Artists create. Perhaps scientists do, too, on occasion. But magic is supposed to be something different. It’s arcane, strange, it’s done with spells and code, it’s a foray into another dimension that is waiting to be discovered.

In the 20th century, though, a few people saw an equivalence between magic and imagination/creation.

It had been a gradual shift. It started much earlier, as a new consciousness bled into the culture—in the late 18th century, we suddenly had the example of a Republic based on the notion of individual freedom. Freedom, the naked platform from which creation could be launched—without the old cosmologies and religions and priesthoods. Without the odd symbols and spells and initiations.

The figure of the magician was stripped of the need to wear a flowing cloak and a beard and engage in portentous proclamations.

And so he slipped under the radar.

But the principle, the creative principle, was there. In truth, it had always been there, had always been the essence of the thing.

Several modern problems have arisen, to add to the confusion. The modern stereotype of the creator, the artist, involved starving and suffering and becoming the victim of society. That certainly didn’t help people equate magician with creator. And many artists were commercial hacks, planning their work purely on the basis of finding a boss that would reward them with a paycheck. Magician? Hardly.

Enter the 1960s. Magic was intertwined with striving after fictional versions of pagan religions and using (in the long run, debilitating) drugs to enhance consciousness and pretending that it was all one great “return to ancient traditions.” The robes and beards made a comeback. They were part of the Disneyesque revival for the brain-addled.

Here is another distinction. From the hyperactive, instant-must-have-it-now perspective of the present day, magic is viewed as something that will, with a few correct flips of thought and ceremony, plunge the student into the heart of a realm where miracles automatically takes place. As if that was how it had been done in ancient times. Whereas, creation, involves, perish the thought, work. Magic just springs into being. For the adept, it’s like making a cup of instant coffee. Bingo, bango, bongo.

Magicians were much more powerful in ancient times. They knew secrets that have been lost. They were initiated into the mysteries. We don’t have that now. If we did, we could make magic, too.”

If you read that quote with a vague whining overtone, while nursing a joint, and glazing over with the concept that the “universe” is a benevolent mother that grants wishes like a sub-atomic genie, you pretty much have it.

Through a combination of ingenious marketing ploys and technological advancements, we now think of a few years as a significant period of time, in which great changes race across the landscape. If a month goes by with no riveting happening reflected by the media, we lapse into boredom. But if we look back and consider, say, the years 200-300 AD or 400-300 BCE…it feels as if we’re watching paint dry. I bring this up because only a hundred years have passed since the upheaval in art that declared, once and for all, that the artist doesn’t need to imitate Nature. A hundred years are a mere blip on the calendar.

More great things are in store for us.

The modern artist is getting his sea legs. He will produce new kinds of languages that, for people who grasp them, will usher in an era of magic. In previous articles, I’ve tried to describe features of these languages.

Just as, in the 17th century, it was unthinkable that you could sit at your desk and, in real time, see and talk to another person thousands of miles away, it is now a jolt to imagine that languages can be invented which will make present-day communication seem like an archaic, frazzled, dessicated series of mumbles.

It’s always this way: the present moment appears to be THE paradigm of reality. Whatever challenges it is absurd.

But listen. The human race has already achieved the stage of developing language that mirrors physical reality. The job is done. The syntax is up to the job.

Poets have stretched and twisted words into greater shapes…

But now we are ready for something else. Language that transports us into realms of feeling, sensation, and perception we’ve barely glimpsed. We may think such an idea is absurd and baseless, but the door has been opened part way already.

This new language won’t be imitative in any sense. It will be created. And what it conveys will also be new. Again and again, we’ve circulated around the cluster of meanings and emotions and yearnings we identify as “profoundly human.” This is going to change. In the journey, we won’t be lugging old suitcases full of psychology and cosmology and metaphysics and science. We’ll be exceeding every previous attempt to paint “ultimate reality.”

And when we make that leap, we will find that everything is magic.

The myriad present strategies of human self-sabotage will look to us like the ravings of church prelates, who demanded obedience to a fairy tale of doctrinal redemption under threat of death.

As I say, these predictions may seem absurd. But from the vantage point of the coming future, after we pass through the open door, what we are experiencing now will appear as a minor obsession wrapped inside a comic nightmare.

Then we will know art is magic—and always was.

When all our experience and thought is poured through a vessel of language that is only equipped to deliver a tiny fraction of what we can invent and perceive, we go around and around on the wheel. We condition ourselves to pretend—unconsciously—that language is an admirable mirror of our potential.

This is a delusion.

Think of the cave man struggling in his world to express a few ideas to his clan. Then, unload on him the full weight of a sophisticated lexicon. Pick one. Tang Dynasty Chinese. It would look to him—if it looked like anything at all—like a dazzling galactic storm. Ideas, emotions, distinctions, metaphors signaling levels of being and experience beyond possibility.

We are at a similar crossroad.

We are quite sure our present experience of life, of our own lives, is firm and full and expansive and even adventurous. How could we ascend further to the point where we perceive millions of new dimensions of Self, where we realize our old (2011) sky and universe is a mere low-hanging reverie on the fabric of our imagination?

Fortunately, we aren’t invulnerable to change. We will eventually look back on this present as lackluster, as if people in the year 2011 were exercising premeditated restrictions on themselves and their language. Now, we only see a hint or two of our future. We insist on a tranquil view of our accomplishments; we think of ourselves as so generous with language. If only we knew.

By the way, Shakespeare (1564-1616) invented some 1700 new words in his plays. He expanded the vocabulary of English significantly, as well as the way verse was written and metaphor could be extended. Those words include several I embedded in the previous paragraph: premeditated; lackluster; invulnerable; hint; generous; tranquil.

The invention of language extends consciousness—and that is a magical event. Language creates realities that were never present before, like rabbits appearing out of hats, cards moving from one pocket to another.

Before Shakespeare, it was Chaucer who multiplied English. People mistakenly think such feats are no more unusual or revolutionary than finding new strains of tobacco. But when mind advances from the size of a pea to a palace, because of words, the whole vista of life changes.

This expansion, via language, is continuing as we speak. It’s invisible, in part, because we are using old language and its forms to think about that fact. This is called a knot, or a paradox, but the knot is coming loose.

Ecstatic moments that suddenly appear and then vaporize in dreams; exotic irrelevant shapes that well up through the push-pull of analytic calculation; chains that snap during odd alpha-state reflections; huge propelled desires that seem to find no home or target; dynamic glints in the skies…these unlabeled events that put cracks in our armor will become letters and words and sentences in a new tongue and script. And then there will be magic.

Then we will know that art is greater than we imagined—because we will be imagining greater art.


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