Posts Tagged ‘Magic’

Magic Books

Magic all by themselves

The idea of a magic book is well-established in our culture.  It starts way, way back with Judaism and the reliqueries for the Torah…maybe even the Ark of the Covenant which should have housed the tablets of the Ten Comandments written by the ultimate author:  The Ultimate Magic Book.  Before that there were books of magic in Egypt and Babylonia.  We can keep looking in the past, and as long as there was a written language, there was a magic book.

I do want to blur the lines between a holy book and a magic book.  The words have different connotations, but the meaning is the same.  Somehow the book will transcend the ordinary world of men and women and by its words or its influence,  change the ordinary to extraordinary.

Some may suggest that books in general have a magical quality and I certainly will not deny that.  The act of reading is magical in itself.  If you try to deconstruct the process of reading you will find just how magical that is.  Everyone who has ever read a good book will remember the times when the reading was so effortless that one became “lost” in the story.  Where did the story play out?  In your brain, of course.  Surging waves. frigid winds, burning sands…they were all far away from the comfy chair.  Yet you felt you were there, and many characters in literature have become more real to subsequent generations than “real” people we know.  Robinson Crusoe, d’Artagnan and Elizabeth Bennet come to mind.

This is magic.

Van Gogh knew of this magic.  He had few friends growing up.  His disability made him different, and people throughout his life avoided him.  He suffered an acute loneliness that few of us can imagine.  He was a great reader.

To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.  ~W. Somerset Maugham


He painted this:

THE BIBLE and Vincent's novel

If I tell you that is his father’s bible, and Vincent’s novel, you get the picture.  I see that the candles have gone out.

Books are a uniquely portable magic.  ~Stephen King

I often derive a peculiar satisfaction in conversing with the ancient and modern dead, – who yet live and speak excellently in their works.  My neighbors think me often alone, – and yet at such times I am in company with more than five hundred mutes – each of whom, at my pleasure, communicates his ideas to me by dumb signs – quite as intelligently as any person living can do by uttering of words.  ~Laurence Sterne

If you think about it. the act of reading a book puts one in contact with the thoughts and ideas of other human beings who may thousand miles away or a thousand years ago.  What else in our daily life can do such a thing?

Books don’t have to come from Snape’s library to be magic.


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I took a calculus class when I was 18 years old.  It was hard.  I remember studying what I was taught on Monday then being scandalized that something new was being taught on Tuesday before I was really sure I knew how to do Monday’s problems.  I finally figured out how to work Monday’s problems on Friday, but that meant I didn’t catch any of Tuesday – Thursday’s lessons.  Then came the Friday exam.  I got 25% correct.  Monday’s lesson.  This was what the whole semester was like for me.  I had to take Calculus again.

The second time through, I was able to keep up a little better (after all, I knew all the Monday lessons).  But what I remember the most about that course, and what flashes before my eyes every time I hear the word “calculus” after 30 years … is what happened one evening while doing homework in a little cold dorm room at midnight.

The homework that night was one question.  I was already 3 pages into solving that one question.  It had to do with a huge cylinder of water.  Some water was flowing in, but the cylinder had a leak that got bigger as more and more water leaked out of it.  The question was about the volume of water left in the cylinder after a specific period of time.

My pages of work looked something like the illustration above.  At the end was an answer to three decimal places.  Anyone who has done this work knows you are only half done at this point.  I turned back to the beginning and started going over my work to check all the steps and all the math.

As I was doing this, something magical happened.  My brain stopped looking at little numbers and symbols and started to read the math.  The comprehension had nothing to do with the squiggles on the page…and everything to do with it.  My brain was not thinking in words.  It was thinking in numbers and the concepts behind the formulae.  I grokked calculus fully.  *angelic choir sound*

The best analogy will be trying to remember being a child and sounding out each letter of the alphabet in order to read your first word.  Can you remember that transition from a phonetic reading to sight reading?

I was deep deep into that cylinder and that flowing water when my roommate came in and broke the spell.  I was never able to go back there again.  I know that scientists and mathematicians do this every day.  It is not special to them.  It was to me, though.  Very special.  A whole world opened up to me that night.  I got a glimpse of magic that came and went.

I think this happens to artists and musicians as well.  I have found myself lost in that world when painting, when listening to Wagner and Beethoven, and when writing.  There is a creative part of the brain that takes your consciousness and puts it in a timeless place where language only gets in the way of meaning.

Plato called this place the world of forms.  I have been there.


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Yeah...it could happen

Magical Realism.

Sounds like an oxymoron.  How can anything magical be real?  Did the idea of magic come from the wishful thinking thousands of years ago?  Was it born of coincidence, as when a hungry Neanderthal wished that charging mammoth would just drop dead…and then watched as lightning struck it?

Perhaps the concept of magic grew from enthusiastic explanations for the unexplainable.  Lightning was a mystery until just a few hundred years ago.  Thunder had various explanations in every culture before science made it less fun with diagrams of super-heated air and sound waves.  I prefer the bowling trolls, myself.

Other common events like illness and decay have been blamed on sorcery for as long as they have existed, and still do in cultures that have not embraced the scientific method of explaining the world around us.

Aleister Crowley defined magic as the “science and art of causing change to occur in conformity of will.” (He spelled his magick with a k).

There you have it.

Is it possible to cause change to occur in conformity with your will-power?  If you cannot do it, the answer is “no”.  If you can do it, the answer is, “of course”.

How does one learn to use magick to get what they want in the real world?  Crowley has written many step-by-step guides.  What I have found is that he teases the reader with allegory. At the dawn of the twentieth century when he was writing about magick, there was no good vocabulary in English for what he wanted to describe.  He was a student of yoga, yet even the Sanskrit words he uses to describe what he means are difficult for Westerners to really understand.  He turns to classical metaphors and allusions to mythology to try to convey what is essentially impossible to do with words.  If the reader does not know Greek and Latin, and is not familiar with all the literature Crowley absorbed while at Cambridge, it is easy to get lost.

There are other, more accessible teachers, but the aspirant must eventually make his own path.  All paths will eventually lead to enlightenment, and there is a teacher on each one.  It is the realization that you must abandon them all and move toward the Abyss on your own that brings the magic to you.

This is what Nadira discovers in the sequel to The Hermetica of Elysium.   The Necromancer’s Grimoire explores the next step in her journey to understand the nature of reality: controlling it.

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