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Animated Statues

Since its publication in The Gnostic 4, there has been a fair amount of furor over Alan Moore’s article “Fossil Angels”. Though the article itself was written in 2002 (a point used several times to discredit it), it has not seen official publication until now. Contrary to many arguments to the effect that Moore’s commentary on the sorry state of contemporary occultism is no longer relevant, I see it as being as timely as ever.

Author and magician Aaron Leitch, whose work I respect, himself wrote a rebuttal of “Fossil Angels” entitled “Fossils of Angels”. In this blog post, Leitch’s main argument seems to be that Moore doesn’t understand magical practice and is out of touch with the community surrounding occultism. This, however, misses the point entirely and turns the debate back upon Moore’s qualifications (ad hominem) without addressing his concerns, concerns which are powerful from anybody with occult sympathies.

It seems to me that what Leitch and others are really responding to are Moore’s harsh words, terse tone, and tongue-in-cheek baroque writing style (including unflattering comparisons to A. E. Waite, whose work I love but whose writing style is something of a punishment for misbehaving English majors). But let us not be side-tracked by those things!

I am the first to admit that practical magic, done well, works. Yes, this puts me on the outs with a lot of free thinkers and even Gnostics, who want the subject to be entirely psychologized, or else who want it to go away like a teenager does an embarrassing parent. Moore—and his commentator and supporter Miguel Conner (another guy I respect a great deal)—seems to be saying that he doesn’t buy the efficacy of practical magic at all; I’m not sure if this is actually what he is saying, though. Even if he does feel this way about so-called “results-based” magic, that doesn’t detract from his actual message. I can’t help but agreeing with Moore that the petty applications of magic so commonly attested to are an absolute waste of the symbolism and methodology of magic. It is unfair and ridiculous to posit, as many critics have, that Moore simply “doesn’t know the community” he’s talking about; I’m sure that he is well aware that not every single occultist or magician falls regularly into the traps he disparages, but I’m right along with him if he asserts (as I read him to) that the majority of what he encounters in the erstwhile occult community are poseurs, pretenders to imaginary thrones, and overly dramatic LARPers. And of course, nobody will ever admit to being one of those people! While I don’t put Leitch in this category at all, it is in the interests of damn near every occultist in the world to either refer to Moore’s article as, in the words of one commentary, “self-important rubbish,” or to agree with it as whole-heartedly as necessary to appear to soar above Moore’s critiques. Anything not to have any demands made of oneself!

Well, let’s all just admit that every occultist or magician has committed the crimes of which “Fossil Angels” attests. Some of us have done so more often, or more egregiously, than others, but it is a total lie to say that any one of us has never been petty, childish, or delusional in our approach to or use of magic. If we aren’t willing to be honest about this one point, then we are responsible for the cultural powerlessness of magic. Period.

But the real emphasis is not on these negative points. Moore, in his aggressive way, spends the whole article leading up to the final punch:

We could, if we desired it, have things otherwise. Rather than magic that’s in thrall to a fondly imagined golden past, or else to some luridly-fantasized Elder God theme-park affair of a future, we could try instead a magic adequate and relevant to its own extraordinary times. We could, were we to so decide, ensure that current occultism be remembered in the history of magic as a fanfare peak rather than as a fading sigh; as an embarrassed, dying mumble; not even a whimper. We could make this parched terrain a teeming paradise, a tropic where each thought might blossom into art. Under the altar lies the studio, the beach. We could insist upon it, were we truly what we say we are. We could achieve it not be scrawling sigils but by crafting our art to spread its holy psychedelic scarab wings across society once more, perhaps in doing so allow some light or grace to fall upon that pained, benighted organism. We could be made afresh in our fresh undergrowth, stand reinvented at a true dawn of our Craft within a morning world, our paint still wet, just-hatched and gummy-eyed in Eden. Newborn in Creation.

I cannot imagine a more lively or exalted goal for a magician to attain to!

Finally, in support of this point, let me quote another source, Meditations on the Tarot (Anonymous):

This is the aim of sacred magic; it is nothing other than to give the freedom to see, to hear, to walk, to live, to follow an ideal and to be truly onself—i.e. to give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, the ability to walk to the lame, life to the dead, good news or ideals to the poor and free will to those who are possessed by evil spirits. It never encroaches upon freedom, the restoration of which is its unique aim. (pg 61)

[…]

One has to de-mechanize in order to become a mage. For sacred magic is through and through life—that life which is revealed in the Mystery of Blood. May our problems become so many cries of the blood (of the heart), may our words be borne by blood, and may our actions be as effusions of blood! This is how one becomes a mage. One becomes a mage by becoming essential—as essential as the blood is. (pg 72)

Magic is an art, psychological and psychic, which has for its aim and purpose the restoration of freedom and the infusion of life. Just as the Egyptian priests and classical Hermetists had magical formulae for animating statues, so too must modern magicians of whatever tradition or clan be prepared not only to animate the images passed on to us by posterity, but also to create living works of art ourselves, works of which we can not just “take pride” but of which we are confident in our prayers and visions will bring LIFE and FREEDOM to the benighted and set more and more unchained upon the path which winds ever up the mountain. If our goals are anything less, how dare we?

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  1. July 18, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Greetings,

    In this article there were admittedly some points that I agree with and disagree with. The first quote seemed to me somewhat ‘fluffy’ the second however is pretty much exactly what I see as magic. The regeneration of the blood, is MAGIC! It is in our cellular makeup to change, once this change takes place the body and its fluids take different form, this leads to an astral presence that is stronger than the last. In this process if we practice the inner alchemical methods the effects of ‘miracles’ will be very available. Of course as of yet i havent been able to manifest these effects personally , but in symbolic form we all ‘raise the dead’, ‘walk on water’ etc. In Raj or Kriya Yoga this is described as Subconsciousness.

    • July 18, 2011 at 9:59 am

      Thats Super consciousness, Spell check does wierd things.. 🙂

    • July 18, 2011 at 2:42 pm

      Before judging the quotation as “fluffy” (a term which I take to mean “lacking substance”), I would suggest reading Moore’s entirely article. It is anything but insubstantial. As to the quotation used from it, I couldn’t disagree more: the point is that magic itself has become insubstantial, but that we are in a position today to rectify the situation by producing a magic which is truly creative and which actually adds something meaningful, even salvific, to the world in which we live. I can’t think of anything more weighty and substantial than that!

      As to the “cellular regeneration”, I’m not so sure about that. While what you say may be true, I’m not convinced that it is the whole story, or even a relatively large part of it. The quotation used isn’t referring to physical blood, but is instead using blood as a symbol for that which gives (and is essential to the processes of) life. I have a lot of respect for authentic Yoga (including Kriya and several forms of Raj which I have encoutnered) but, again, the material side of them is a vehicle for the psychic; the physical improvements made to the flesh may be helpful and heathful, but they’re not the real answer to the question of either magic (as a psychic art and event) or miracles (as spiritual events).

  2. Aeon Eye
    July 19, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Hi Thomas Allogenes. I just recently stumbled on to your blog via Facebook. I agree with most of the sentiment in your original post (and your take on Leitch’s comments), but I do think that people tend fetishize the word “magic”, much like “Gnostic” and sloppily apply it in any malleable contexts, frankly. They’re concerned with appearances of being “magical”, I’ve come to find. Thanks for your thoughts.

    -AeonEye

    • July 21, 2011 at 2:50 am

      I pretty much agree with your assessment, AeonEye, but I have to ask: are you saying that Alan Moore is doing this, or somebody else? Without assuming either way, I’d like to stake my position that Moore is faithfully describing a valid application of magic (though not the only possible application).

  3. July 28, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    I decided to format it for a nice lil zine style printing since my first exposure to it was from that LJ and everything looks like shit on LJ. Wasn’t aware of the Gnostic 4 when I did this but I figured I’d share it anyway 🙂

    Link: http://www.mediafire.com/?yis9dy6cd7odo4n

  1. July 20, 2011 at 4:25 pm

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