“It is my Will to inform the World of certain facts within my knowledge. I therefore take ‘magickal weapons’, pen, ink, and paper; I write ‘incantations’ — these sentences — in the ‘magickal language’ ie, that which is understood by the people I wish to instruct; I call forth “spirits”, such as printers, publishers, booksellers and so forth and constrain them to convey my message to those people. The composition and distribution of this book is thus an act of Magick by which I cause Changes to take place in conformity with my Will.”
I want you to know that this is fiction.
I want you to know that I am lying about that.
Throughout my lifetime, I’ve heard the basic argument, “If Magic were real, we’d see it in action.” And I’ve also heard the idea that “Stories are fictional, but they become true because we believe in them”. And this has always been acceptable, because it is known that the first idea is intended as a real description of the real world, and is therefore scientific; and the second part of part of the fictional world, and therefore need not answer to Science.
I’ve always wanted to believe in Magick, and so I’m excited as anything to realize:
This was never true.
This was always a conspiracy.
Now, honestly, it seems like my idea of this is unlikely. If I see people engaging absolutely in mass magical-thinking, unironically, unquestioningly, and enthusiastically, the likeliest explanation is that they’re simply very, very wrong. That is, they’re judging reality using models which do not map to an actual underlying reality, and so, in the longterm, they’re likely to be wrong. It’s as if you said, “When the Moon is full, this 1957 Chevrolet pickup truck sprouts wings and is able to fly from one place to another”; your model is probably not based in something that’s true, and therefore, you’ll be disappointed.
But our brains do not work that way. We simply say, “Oh, it didn’t happen THIS full Moon, but it will happen next time”; or “It happened! Only I dreamed that it did not”; or “It WOULD have happened, only my neighbor swept her leaves off her yard and partly onto mine because she is wicked; and this vengeful act inspired fear in the car, such that it dared not show its true nature. But once I have duly punished my neighbor, surely the car will sprout wings, as is right and proper.”
There is a simple ending here: real things are real, and imaginary things are imaginary, and it’s okay for us to suspend disbelief for imaginary things and hold the line in a firm manner on things which are real and true.
Let me offer you a theory:
In the end, the Universe will belong to those who most enjoy both their reality and their delusions, but understand that the parts of reality we most enjoy are, most likely, actually delusions. Because while the truth can be stranger than fiction, truths are rare and hard-won, and have a great difficulty in pleasing you as much as your wildest fantasies.
There’s no way to be entirely grounded in either one, because there is very little ground left. Find a patch that’s fairly real, stand on it, and cherish your delusions; but be prepared, if your ground seems infirm, to realize that it might not actually be there, and then, you’d best hightail it for sanity. Because eventually, the purely delusional will fall; those seeking reality will continue to be caught up in philosophical illusion; and only Magick prevails.
In fiction, of course. In real life, you know exactly what’s true, and what isn’t.