You really believe in that stuff? Magic, flying saucers, reincarnation, ghosts, all of that?
For a low value of ‘believe’… sort of, yeah, no, maybe. The way I see it, believing sometimes makes things real, sometimes obscures what’s really happening. Sometimes both at the same time.
From my own experience, some pretty weird things can happen. I saw a UFO when I was a kid – bloody big thing, a dark hexagon with weird lights, flying silently high up over my dad’s car. It was a flying object, I couldn’t identify it – so Unidentified Flying Object fits. ‘Flying saucer’ doesn’t. And ‘alien spaceship’ is speculating way, way beyond what I saw.
For me, that’s the fun bit. People experience all sorts of odd things that don’t quite fit into the ‘normal’ view of life. And then what they experience leads to stories, myths and legends.
Oh – and I’ve seen a few ‘ghosts’ – but very few behaved like traditional spirits of the dead. And reincarnation is just a story some people like to use to explain why some folk seem to remember shit from before they were born.
The trouble comes when folk decide to completely believe a theory, a story, like that. There’s an old saying – Convictions cause Convicts. What you believe, at the very least, can limit what you’re prepared to accept as real or valid. I’ve found – and I am far from the only one to do so – that treating belief itself as a tool rather than an absolute works pretty well.
Everyone has their own story or myth, a bunch of metaphors they use as the basis of how they live their life. Many stick with the one their parents or society told them. Some move to other myths as they grow older. And some of us nick bits from a whole bunch of stories and try to use them all to work out what the hell’s going on.
Oi! You didn’t say anything about magic!
Good point. I left that one to the side because I call myself a magician – which is kinda hard to explain.
Magician? You’re having a laugh!
Often! But not about this.
Think of magic as an ongoing attempt to find a practical application of those stories and metaphors. A myth whose central idea is that a person can change the world by the right combination of thinking, imagining and timing.
Long ago (I was a weird kid, so I started early), I found that stuff sometimes seemed to happen in connection to my wishes and frankly, it freaked me the fuck out. Not big stuff – not Harry-Potter-level special effects – but enough to seem, from where I was, to be more than just coincidence and wishful thinking. So I was keen to find some way to explain, or at least understand, what happened to me. Traditional religion and science didn’t seem to cover it, so I looked at the more extreme stories. Some of that (multi-model theories of reality, chaos magic, alchemy, stories from mystical schools such as the Sufi, Taoists and tantrists… even some fictional tales) fit. So I nicked what worked for me, what fitted life as I’ve lived it.
All I can say is, living my life based on those stories doesn’t seem to have caused me or others any significant harm – in fact, it’s done some good, I think. Even if it is just a story… it’s one that has at bare minimum given me some confidence, a few handy tricks up my sleeve… and helped me deal with some pretty extreme situations and people. At worst, it’s a kind of positive thinking – if you believe you can change the world, you’re more inclined to try to.
But… it can’t all be real, can it?
Define ‘real’. Without using symbols or some kind of inherited myth or story. I’ll wait…
That’s the problem with saying something is ‘real’. Somewhere along the line, you have to use words and concepts that are limited to a particular language… which is invariably based on a whole bunch of old stories. As soon as you try to define reality, the old Taoist sages said, you’re missing something out. I try not to forget that – and I get suspicious of anyone arrogant enough to claim they know The Whole Truth.
There’s a definition of ‘real’ I like, from Philip K. Dick (a man who knew a thing or two about weird shit invading your life). Reality, he said, is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away. Or as my-wife-the-shaman puts it – no matter how hard you’re tripping, all cars continue to be real.
But sometimes… that car can be a symbol of something else. A harbinger, an omen. Or just a lift. Depends on the time, the place and the person.
And no, not all of it is what I’d call real. But a lot of it is real enough, sometimes. Real enough to change the course of a person’s life – or even end it. We all know, some stories can transform you – and how real the story is seems to be the least of it.
What about Jesus? ( Or Mohammed, YHVH, FSM, whatever…)
What about them? Works for some. Not my kind of story.
Some folk get really bent out of shape when you imply that their myth-hero might not be as real as they’d like – or (worse!) they’re no better or worse than the other guy’s myth. Best to remember your beliefs look just as odd as theirs, from the outside – and that nobody has a monopoly of truth.
(Sometimes, when it gets weird out there, you might come across something that acts like a God, or demon or other sort of not-human intelligence/fictional character. The trick is to treat ‘em with enough respect to survive the encounter, but to consider them as if they’re real – not as real. Good advice generally, I’ve found.)
What about Science?
Science is a really good bunch of stories. I like a lot of those. Some I believe more than others – which pisses off many of sciences cheerleaders no end.
The great thing about science is that it’s testable by anyone with the same kit and outlook. This is good. Having some ideas you can (mostly) rely on and test is a blessing to us all.
But some of those ideas aren’t quite as absolute as their aficionados would like us to believe. And even funnier… some of the folk who take the story of science as absolutely true are very fond of saying woo-woo-weirdos like me are just seeing patterns that aren’t there, making connections that don’t fit the facts – and at the same time, assume they’re completely immune from doing the exact same fucking thing. That irks me.
What about hoaxes?
That happens, and far too often for my liking. But consider that for a hoax to work, it has to be based on something real – or at least real enough to be believed. I’d say anyone who claims all weird shit is a hoax is about as dumb as someone who says none of it is.
You’re making this shit up!
Maybe I am. But at least I try to make up something that fits what I’ve experienced, not just copy the point-of-view of someone else. (Or… at least, I copy a lot of someone elses’, which may help me triangulate on what’s really going on.) And I do try to check my assumptions and experience as I go. That, for me, is what a magician is.
So… where else can I find out about other weirdoes like you, if I really have to?
As ever, Google is your friend. Try a few of these people who’ve influenced me one way or another:
Hermes Trismegistos, Robert Anton Wilson, Aleister Crowley, PB Randolph, Maria Prophetessima, Fulcanelli, Nicholas Flamel, Austin Osman Spare, Doreen Valiente, Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Terry Pratchett, Colin Wilson, Patrick Harpur, John A Keel, Jacques Vallee, Terrence McKenna, Ronald Hutton, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Pete Carroll, Phil Hine, Gyrus, Taylor Ellwood, Francis Breakspeare, Kali Black, Lupa. Many, many more.
Also, I’ve been waffling on about this stuff for a while, in a blog series called Guttershaman. And due to the kindness of the Weaponizer clan, I’ll be chatting more about it around here.
See you around…
Cat Vincent – Doing Your Head In since 1964.