Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ramsey Dukes' Response to "Serious Play"

I am coming to this thread very late, because of work pressure and other distractions. A lot of ground has been covered in the comments, more than I can respond to, so I'll mainly address the original posting even though it means risking repeating things that have already been said in the comments.

I will just add, in response to the comments about liver, there was an old joke: “is life worth living?". Answer: “it all depends upon the liver." I was also very interested in the discussion about Uranus, Pluto and Chiron, but had better stick to the main topic now.

Firstly, I'd like to correct any wrong impression about my views on magic and art. Kephas writes: “magic he said, is trying to bring about desired results or change, while art is simply creative release of energies, followed by getting to see how those energies bring about change, independent of our will." I have a problem with the word “simply", because I actually see art as something that goes beyond magic. The relationship between magic and art is reflected in the words “craft", a word often used for magic. Magic is indeed a craft, putting together a number of elements and skills in order to invoke a specific effect. So if you are designing a tarot card or magical image, it means deliberately placing appropriate symbols into the picture, or if you are writing a film script and deliberately inserting commercial elements such as car chases, gunfights, and love interest in order to make it a commercial success, then strictly speaking it is an act of magic or craftsmanship–you're making a talisman for commercial success. Art begins when the craftsman moves beyond such conscious deliberation and finds himself adding elements or shaping the whole according to a deeper impulse we might call "inspiration".

In that sense I totally agree with Kephas' summing up: "This is a key difference. It is the difference between letting a zeitgeist (spirit) move through one (without needing to understand it) and trying to move things oneself towards a desired end. For example, I might be writing this piece in order to persuade others of my point of view. On the other hand, I might simply be using words as a means to see what’s moving around inside, and coming through me, without any specific result in mind. In reality, it is a bit of both" Indeed there is usually plenty of overlap in practice.

The relevance of our conversation to the Anonymous movement is that, whereas most protesters are consciously doing things that they believe will work toward a specific effect, the actions of Anonymous seem less predictable, more open ended, more like casting a stone into the waters to create a splash, and therefore more akin to art than sheer craft.

I also agree with the warning that, by becoming an activist, one risks adding energy to the very thing you oppose; while at the same time the personal value of expressing oneself in protest cannot be denied.

On the other hand, I think the discussion focused too much on cause and effect, in the sense that the purpose of a protest action is to cause a specific change. I previously talked about magic being used to “invoke" a specific effect, rather than saying to “cause" it. Although we loosely talk about doing magic to make something happen, it's actually more about encouraging something to happen.

In the early 70s there was a call for ecologically aware people to separate out bottles and tins from their waste and bagged them separately so that they could be recycled. Critics of this pointed out that it was a waste of time, because most councils at that time had no separate recycling facility, so they simply chucked the whole lot into the same heap. But I argued that separating waste still had value as a magical ritual. Instead of feeling that nothing could be done, one was satisfying one's own need to pay tribute to the Earth by conscious attention. One was being mindful, and that in itself has value. One could also argue that, if enough people did this, it would eventually pressure the councils to offer a recycling service—but that is slipping back into a cause-and-effect argument.

So, in that sense, I do believe that taking part in a public protest does have significance as a shared ritual, a directed expression of one's feelings that does have intrinsic value. If the protesters could remember that as they take part, it might help them to avoid the sort of inflated expectations, and resulting sense of disappointment that K warns against. It also helps to get one out of it too simplistic cause-and-effect expectation. Invoking a group mind, Demon or whatever is a bit like voting for a politician: you make an informed choice of what you are invoking, but then to some extent surrender yourself to trusting it to do the right thing. Your protest is no more than a satisfying push in the right direction.


Raggedy Man said...

These two posts have profoundly changed my paradigm regarding current events, their significance, and my own thoughts, actions, and further words on the subjects in question. Thank you both for expanding my awareness, and ability to consider things like this on a more symbolic level.

The Grey Pilgrim said...

Great post. For anyone interested in delving deeper into the distinction between magic and art i highly recommend looking at Tolkien's ideas on the subject. He spent a great deal of time not only in his fictional work on the distinction and relationship between the two. The crudest summary i can give is technology is really magic and what we imagine as magic is really deep art.

Magic or technology transforms the material realm and consciousness through manipulating the material realm in subtle or gross ways. Where as the deep arts transform the consciousness of the observer by becomeing more real then consensous reality and thus by that feet become a new consensous realty and change the material through consciousness. Finally is the idea that those who know not the craft and its ways percieve it as magical because we do not understand the art behind it.

Really interesting stuff and thanks as always Mr. Kephas for keeping us thinking.

Anonymous said...

In the beginning was the Logos,
And the Logos was with God,
And the Logos was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by Him;
And without Him was not anything made that was made.
In Him was life, and life was the light of men.
And the light shines in darkness,
And the darkness comprehended it not....
He was in the world, and the world was made by Him,
And the world knew Him not....
And the Logos became flesh,
And dwelt among us,
And we beheld His glory.