For Our Purposes
As far as I can see what magic is depends on what a person wants it to be. But for our purposes we do need to set a description we all can accept for the moment. So for my purpose I’m going to say that magic involves the manual manipulation of any object as to amaze and surprise an audience. What we could call stage magic.
That’s the definition Aleistar Crowley used for stage magic, choosing to spell the word magick when referring to what he called real magick. Later Wilf Backhaus of Chivalry and Sorcery made his spelling Magik, a decision adopted by his companion Edward Simbalist. Later yet Gary Gygax adopted Crowly’s spelling, saying that real magick and stage magic are two different things.
You know what, he’s right. Magic is about fooling people in order to entertain them. Magick in turn is about manipulating reality using a tool that can’t exist in our reality.
That’s what I said, it can’t exist. Not in our reality. There are somethings that are possible, and others that aren’t. Put to the test magick, as Crowley and Gygax spelled it, just doesn’t work. It can’t work, the tools just aren’t there.
The Thing Is
When something actually works, and we can demonstrate that it does work, we learn why. At the very least we come up with a reasonable explanation for it that does not involve any alternate explanation—my emphasis. That we believed in magick back in the day—or even today—has nothing to do with the matter, believe all you want, that lead weight just aint gonna float off into outer space.
And the Magical?
Oh, that exists, but in our reality it refers to things that we find magical, and what we find magical is very much a matter of perception and how we handle our perceptions.
Before the age of 10 we use a part of the brain other than the prefrontal cortex for thinking. Thus our thinking is irrational and emotional. When we turn 10 the first layers of the prefrontal comes on line and our thinking becomes more and more rational. This continues until we reach the age of 25, when the prefrontal cortex takes over the job of cognition entirely, but until then we really can’t understand completely.
We miss things, we misunderstand. We can be, and often are, overwhelmed by events. Much more often than we would be later in life. When asked what the golden age of science fiction was author Harlan Ellison replied, “12.” When things happen too fast we can be dazzled, and for the 10 year old everything is happening too fast.
In our reality that’s what magic is about, being dazzled. Being overwhelmed by our perceptions,of what we see, hear, smell, and feel. And it can happen even at quiet moments.
Being autistic I can be overwhelmed by being out in public. Things get to be too much and I can’t handle it. You could come across a lake in the forest and be overwhelmed. When I was 10 I got stopped when I realized just how being in a stand of trees then standing outside the Mount Palomar Observatory affected me. It’s what Mr. Spock of Star Trek called, “Fascinating.”
Think of terms such as “sleepy blue ocean” or “a night in the forest.” Think of your reaction to a song you first head with a person you were infatuated with when you heard it for the first time. That is what I’m talking about when I use the word “magical”. That is most often what we’re talking about when we use the word, “magic”.
Just Too Much
That’s what magic is about in reality, being simply just too much. Its anything that’s too much to handle. It happens more often when we’re young, but it can still happen even when we are truly old. Everything is magic when you’re five, and even when you’re twelve it is still very magical. Even when you’re 95 a moment can still be magic, under the right conditions—seeing a new born for example.
Magic is very much an emotional response to an event or occurance, but emotional responses are not what you’d call a reliable response.But what about in a fantasy? Can an event in a fantasy world be magical? Can magic as we understand it exist in a fantasy world?
My take is,yes. But that can wait until the next post.