Magic and Molecular Gastronomy
I have been thinking a bit about how we shape magic and how much we (esp. magicians) rely on things being done because that is the way things have always been done. Perhaps we can learn from the emerging culinary art of molecular gastronomy. Chefs like Heston Blumenthal and Ferran Adria are true alchemists applying the processes of “salve et coagulate” to create new experiences that push the limits of eating to create interesting, new experiences. Whilst I think that in pure food terms what these researchers are achieving is phenomenal, I also think that we can learn a lot from them and apply these ideas back to magic.
As an aside (which may or may not be relevant) I don’t think we can eat like Heston and Ferran cook every day. As ever a good diet based on organically grown natural produced ingredients seems to be the key. Whether this also applies to magic remains, I believe, to the discretion of the magician.
Just to give you a taste of what I am on about, here is a recent article on Ferran which I think is particularly profound in that it discusses Ferran's thoughts.
Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/w... (watch the embedded video if you can)
"He kept referring to a new language and that to create a new language you need a new alphabet, new grammar, new tools and processes. He argues that his style of cooking is this new language and that, with every new technique, he's building up the alphabet."
Is this an “Alphabet of Desire” (to reference Austin Osman Spare) I wonder...
I think that this is very important and in terms of affecting the world, exactly how we need to be thinking as magicians. We have been handed a number of systems that have been derived for the most part in antiquity. These are not bad systems and for the most part do work once one embraces and begins thinking their ideas. However, I wonder....
Gareth Hewitson-May in "Dark doorway of the Beast" summed up my problem with these systems very well
"The utter devastation that has swept through the esoteric fraternities for the last two thousand years, has unfortunately completely dissolved the coherence of attitude that is necessary to the understanding of the system. It is therefore of monumental importance that all attempts to recover such complete doctrines should be abandoned as futile. The very fact that language, understanding, communication, terminology, relevance of material are now so very different, that it is plainly obvious that the 'return' of any such 'recovered doctrines' in today’s culture would only serve to confuse, rather than to illuminate."
This really is the crux of my problem. I think we have changed over time and whilst none of the past magical systems have become invalidated, we have moved away from the mental processes which their original creators followed. In fact not only our psychology, but our physiology means that we must at least tweak and personalise what is written.
Keeping to the ideas of an alphabet (I could and will discuss energy systems one day), I really think we need to think about our language and consider that our language has changed both in literal terms, eg from Ancient Greek, Latin, Hebrew etc and also in symbolic terms - even in English we use different terms and phrase things differently in modern times. As an example of this consider how we find different things funny. Modern sitcoms have a very different humour than sitcoms written only 20 years ago and (for example taking a domestic sitcom) "Terry and June" is vastly different than say "One foot in the grave" which will be vastly different to domestic sitcoms in 10-15 years.
Similarly, Victorians used to entertain themselves in the evening by watching jellies (jello in the US) wobble. To our minds that seems to be the formulae for the most unbelievably tedious evening. And whilst cannabis was perfectly legal and obtainable in the Victorian era I don’t think that can account for this mad behaviour.
I am not sure what to think when we read about modern magicians seeking to recapture an authentic tradition and reconstruct it exactly as it was. Could this be the equivalent of trying to compile and run a computer program written in Basic or COBOL on a modern compiler such as Visual Basic. Sure it might do something but it won’t be able to fully reference the system it is running on or address the interface in such a complete way.
There is the question as to how much our language influences our thinking. This idea is referred to in linguistics as the [i]Sapir-Whorf[/i] hypothesis which proposes that a person’s language sets constraints upon how they think. This idea is by no means universally accepted, but it does seem to be partially accepted as one of the factors which influences thought.
Cliff Pickover in “Sex, Drugs, Einstein and Elves” gives several examples of how language shapes and limits things. In the first example he illustrates how languages compartmentalises words. Let us consider the words “Strawberry, Raspberry, Mulberry and Blueberry”, all words linked by the suffix “berry”, which we can use to link these as examples of “berries”. Thus through the language we can process these words and categorise then as examples of “berry” without any further information.
Now let us consider the French equivalent of these words – “Fraise, Framboise, Mure, Myrtille”. Clearly they do not share any common parts such as a “–berry” suffix. Any thinking processes working with these cannot unify them except with a knowledge that is larger that the words themselves.
We frame our thoughts in language, and so without any form of mystical practice our thoughts become very much limited by our language. Mysticism is accessing the ineffable, takes us to places where language cannot describe because these are places not visited by evolutionary humans developing language; and so we often come back “mind-expanded” but at a loss for words to describe the experience, often in trying to reach for the language we have to stretch to metaphor and/or take the risk of sounding nuttier than the average squirrel’s dinner.
Sadly I feel that this is leaving sceptics such as Richard Dawkin’s lost in a dark realm, not because there is no divinity in nature, but because they cannot see the gaps in language, mathematics and the scientific method which point to a larger world. It is perhaps analogous to being trapped in flatland and being caught trying to resolve an apparent inconsistency which doesn’t break down to an expression in 2D which it has in 3D. Linguistically this is illustrated by sentences such as “This sentence is a lie”. If a lie, it becomes true, if true it becomes false.
It is strange that these things are not obviously apparent as paradoxes which show that there must be a larger descriptive context than language from which the concepts behind this are generated. After all, “This sentence is a lie” cannot be permanently resolved one way or another. Logician Kurt Gödel showed with his famous theorem that such inconsistencies (paradoxes) occur in all frames of reference – including physics – and therefore reality must be bigger than we experience or describe.
MC Escher illustrated these inconsistencies in his artwork, showing that by trying to reduce a greater context such as a 3D world as a 2D image leads to similar paradoxes. I believe we have a similar problem, trying to resolve a multidimensional universe in fewer dimensions. No wonder we cannot equate the quantum and classical world views and end up getting tied up in string.
So we have two problems. Paradoxes crop up in expression meaning that we cannot unambiguously express something. However we have another problem in that our languages have developed as a species means on communicating the day-to-day issues. Because our experiences of heaven are so fleeting we do not really have the language and expression in describing it.
There may be exceptions to this. “Channelled” languages such as Enochian and mystical languages such as “Senzar” may have derived from sources not evolved in such as way as to focus on the human survival conditions such as fight, sleep, sex, food and so may be better suited to exploring the magickal universe. But until we can learn to think in such languages (and do we have enough info to do that?) the powers they may hold will remain just slightly out of reach.
I am not however as fundamentalist of Gareth Hewitson-May, and I don’t want to bin everything. Such an act would throw the baby out with the bathwater. However I do think we need to call time on attempts to look for historical authenticity and to try (say) to practice an authentic sixteenth century goetic evocation because we have changed since the sixteenth century and are no longer the same people. I believe we need to look at magick with very hard eyes, work out the basic building blocks are develop these into a magical system suited for 21st century
Perhaps we need to expand out horizons and rather than limit ourselves to a language, expand out and develop our own personal "PANguage" In doing this we will calibrate ourselves, our minds, mental process and magickal universe to creation
Please post your thoughts