“You’re all a bunch of fuckin’ slaves!” ~ Jim Morrison
I have come to think that our definition of a slave has been misleading, and has been deliberately chosen to pull the wool over our eyes and convince us we are free. This has happened because we defined slavery from the perspective of slave ownership. We abolished the right of person to own slaves, and to buy and sell slaves.
But in so doing we did not remove the underlying essential experience of slavery, which is to say, being forced or coerced into working for a cause or system you would not otherwise support, under threat of violence, torture, imprisonment, starvation or homelessness. If you are only working to prevent one of these five states then you are, in this definition, a slave. You may be a slave with more rights than a slave considered the property of a person, and a correspondingly better life, but you are none-the-less still a slave, considered worthy of life only in so far as you find some way of helping to prop up the system. We have traded being slaves of people for being slaves to the system itself.
In the magickal and mystical community, I’ve become aware of different responses to this. These may echo the responses of individuals who become aware of the problems with the system without the aid of magic and mysticism. However, even these people subconsciously use the same techniques, and as Uncle Al once said:
Why should you study and practice Magick?
Because you can’t help doing it, and you had better do it well than badly.
So, what choices do self proclaimed magicians make?
0. Living in the wilderness: Once a popular option, now increasingly difficult. The magician would learn to live off the land, foraging food, maybe hunting, maybe accepting offerings from people seeking wisdom. The Hermit turns their back on the world completely. Rather than using their magic to end slavery, they live in self-imposed exile to simply escape it. However the Hermit, free from the propaganda and influence of their society become free to see situations with more clarity. Such practises became somewhat institutionalised in parts of the world as monks and nuns. A lesser form of this approach includes those modern magicians that refuse to watch tv and deliberately avoid newspapers. Another modern form involves living in squatting communities and trying to survive outside the system.
1. Self advancement in the system: The magician attempts to use magic to rise to the top. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that this path is as stupid as using magic to try and win the lottery, and has much less chance of success. At best, they can hope to become a little richer than they were before. Still, so long as the system doesn’t corrupt them too much, they may reach a position of influence that helps keep magical ideas alive, even if they taint them with corrupt politics.
2. Become a big fish in a small pond: Realising the chances of them using magic to rule the world are vanishingly small, the next trick used by magicians is to start or join a magical cult. If the cult becomes convinced of its own self importance they can reach the stage of pretending the outside world is unimportant. The problem with such cults is they tend to be based on hierarchy, which is to say they have modelled themselves precisely on the outside world they are trying to run away from. They are then hypocrites, and would be completely ineffectual in creating change, if their orders didn’t themselves become vehicles for the transmission of certain mysteries and practises that might otherwise have been lost.
3. Start a business: Since employment means subjugating your will to do the bidding of your employer, many magicians seek to become self-employed. Avenues for this vary depending on talent, but usually revolve around some form of creative skill, such as writing, art, crafts, but can also include fortune telling, herbalism, massage, forms of therapy, becoming a village witch, etc. Some run shops selling books and new-age trinkets, or aromatherapy oils. Such shops may often form a first point of contact with the mysteries for many drawn to the magical path, so they are not without their use. The danger is that dependence on the business can lead to the magician over emphasising the importance of those mysteries and techniques that make them the most money. This could happen even subconsciously.
4. Use magic to cope: This option involves the magician resigning themselves to their fate of living as a slave, but using magic to cope with the horror of that situation. At its worst this makes magic a form of escapism, at its best it allows the magician to find pleasure in life no matter what their situation. Its danger lies in apathy.
5. Magical revolution: Realising that the only hope for humanity lies in continuing the (incomplete) revolution out of dictatorship and into a society of mutual respecting individual sovereigns, the magician turns their attention towards the war against the memeplexes that enslave us. This is perhaps, to me, the most fun and satisfying use of magic. Its danger lies in taking the revolution too seriously and becoming bitter. Or appearing so to others such that they become afraid to hang around you. To counter this, the successful revolutionary magician should take to ensure that they live colourful, hedonistic lives that can prove inspiring to a future generation of magicians. Another danger has been to draw the attention of the authorities, which has lead to imprisonment. in the past, or demonisation in the press, although this happens less of late as they have realised that this tactic tends to give the revolutionary publicity.