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How magical combat can win the next election Only a powerful spell can break our political disillusionment

Not a positive vision (Laura Cavanaugh/FilmMagic)

Not a positive vision (Laura Cavanaugh/FilmMagic)


October 7, 2023   9 mins

At a certain point in the life cycle of every civilisation, intellectuals become entranced with the idea that there must be a rational order underlying the blooming, buzzing confusion of the universe. At this stage, most people hail the triumph of reason, and take it for granted that everything else can and will be reduced to obedience in due time.

Of course, that’s not how things work out because the universe, with its usual serene indifference to all things human, refuses to play along. Crisis arrives when too many failed predictions turn rationalism into a laughing stock, and the whole enterprise grinds to a halt as people abandon it. That’s what happened in ancient China, in the twilight of the Chou dynasty, when its rationalist schools failed to bring good government; it’s what happened in ancient Greece in the twilight of the classical age, when its rationalist philosophy failed to inspire moral virtue. It is happening now, in the twilight of the industrial era, as our rationalist sciences fail to provide the Tomorrowland future we’ve been promised.

One of the ways you can tell that an age of reason is coming to an end is that magic comes back into fashion. Here again, we’re following the usual path at the usual pace. The revival of magic that began in a very quiet way in the 1850s, and first found a wider public in the 1890s, went into overdrive in the Seventies and hasn’t looked back. Earlier this week, the University of Exeter in Britain announced a new degree in “Magic and Occult Science” to reflect a “recent surge in interest in magic” among young Brits.

However, the popular revival of magic does nothing to guarantee that it will be done with any degree of competence. Quite the contrary, most of the people who take up magic in the twilight of an age of reason are still far too influenced by the ideologies of the departing era, and so they generally make a hash of things. This is especially visible in the realm of political magic.

Yes, there is such a thing as political magic. We saw quite a bit of it thrown about on both sides during the 2016 US presidential election, as I argue in my recent book, The King in Orange. A modest amount was competent, but most of it was either the fumbling of enthusiastic beginners or the blunders of people who thought they knew much more about magic than they did. This not only risks bringing the ancient and honourable art of magic into disrepute, but also has the potential to create a lot of collateral damage.

Doubtless, there will be plenty of magic deployed in next year’s presidential election too. With this in mind, I’m going to offer some instruction in the art of magical combat on the off chance that both sides in the upcoming electoral squabble might listen — rather than flailing around like drunken halfwits, trying to bash each other with weapons they don’t know how to use.

Let’s start with some necessary clarifications. If your exposure to magic consists of reading denunciations of it by ranting sceptics, you know nothing about it. If it consists of fantasy novels and Hollywood spectacles, you know even less. Let’s be even more specific and formulate a rule, which I hereby name Rowling’s Law: if it looks like the sort of schlock you’d see in a Harry Potter movie, it’s not real magic.

Magic is the art and science of causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will. It doesn’t affect matter directly, and it can’t be used to overturn the laws of nature. Within those limits, it can accomplish astounding things. If you examine your experience of the world, you’ll find that only a modest portion of it depends on the material realities that surround you: much more depends on what you perceive, feel and think about those realities and the subtler social, psychological and spiritual realities that also surround you.

These latter elements are the raw materials of magic. The tools of magic are will and imagination, whose power can come from many sources, of which human emotion is generally the easiest to access. The forms that give it direction and effect are symbols and symbolic action. Here, the basic principle can be stated simply enough: a symbol held in one mind, charged with will and desire, can affect another mind even when there’s no obvious way for the effect to take place. What this implies, of course, is that individual human minds are not as isolated from one another as most current ideologies like to insist.

Before we get into the rules for effective magical combat, however, I’m going to have to give two warnings. I’ve learned from long experience that I can say these things in so many words and people will blow right by them in their quest to misunderstand magic, but the effort has to be made. Here goes:

Warning No. 1: The rules that follow apply only to magic. They don’t apply to military or political strategy, say, or anything else that takes place principally in the material world.

Warning No. 2: The rules that follow have nothing to do with ethics or morals or who’s more virtuous than the other guy. I’m talking about what works.

With those in mind — and please do keep them in mind — we can proceed to the central principle of effective magical combat in the political sphere: “You win a magical struggle by formulating an ideal as strongly, precisely, and vividly as possible, while completely ignoring the other guy.”

Did you keep my two warnings in mind? To judge from my repeated experience, the moment they read those words, people immediately try to apply them to military and political strategy, probably having to do with the Nazis, who exert a weird gravitational attraction on people’s imaginations. What goes through their minds is this: that’s very sweet and moral and pure, but Churchill couldn’t have stopped the Nazis if they’d just formulated an ideal, blah blah blah. If you thought this, please re-read the two warnings above, and this time pay attention.

How do you win by formulating an ideal as strongly, precisely, and vividly as possible? It’s quite simple. Magic can’t win a political or military struggle all by itself. What it can do is give a good hard boost to the more practical side of the struggle. It does this by generating energy, enthusiasm, loyalty, and love among your side’s supporters — by attracting allies rather than making enemies, and by making people on the other side start to wonder if maybe your side has a point. By doing that, magic can quite readily provide the edge that makes victory happen.

As it happens, the Nazis are a great example of how not to approach political magic. They were heavily into the notion that the rules of magic also applied to the material world, and they were just as into the idea that flinging high-intensity nastiness at their enemies was their ticket to victory. Adolf Hitler spends page after dreary page in Mein Kampf ranting about hatred as a source of power. That’s why he launched an invasion of Russia without issuing winter uniforms to the Wehrmacht: he hated and despised Russians so much that he didn’t believe they could resist his magic and his armies long enough to make that an issue. We all know how that worked out.

On the other side of the struggle was English occultist Violet Firth Evans, aka Dion Fortune, who put together a network of British magical practitioners to mess with the Nazis. One of the things that made the Wehrmacht so successful at first was that the leadership of the nations it invaded tended to suffer a sudden collapse in morale. Fortune, who recognised the role of magic in causing that collapse, set out to monkey-wrench that process and keep Britain from suffering the same fate. She firmly rejected the notion that they should attack the Nazis with magic; instead, her network ignored the Nazis and concentrated on formulating an ideal at home as strongly, precisely, and vividly as possible. Again, we all know how that worked out. (You can find the details of her method in The Magical Battle of Britain, edited by Gareth Knight.)

The same principle applies to any magical struggle involving groups of people. Say you support a political party, and you want to encourage other people to do so. Obviously that’s going to take activity on the material plane, which follows its own rules — but it also has a magical dimension. If you want other people to flock to your party, you need to formulate an ideal and make it as strong, precise and vivid as you can. That will catch people’s attention, inspire them, and encourage them to listen to your party’s speakers and vote for its candidates.

Those words “strong, precise, and vivid” are the key to the process. It emphatically will not work to focus all your attention on a vague buzzword — “justice”, say, or “freedom”. You need to formulate exactly what you mean by the concept: justice for whom, at whose expense? Freedom for whom, at whose expense? You need to know exactly what you’re trying to achieve, what it will cost, and who will pay the price for it, or you will not achieve it.

Nor is it enough to leave that knowledge in abstract terms. In magic, an image is worth a thousand vague words; a “concrete thought form”, to use the technical term, is necessary to provide the energies with a pattern around which to coalesce. What do you want your party to achieve? What do you want your country to become? To practise effective political magic, you need to be able to give that answer in terms of vivid imaginative experiences. When you walk down the street in the future you want to achieve, what does it look like, sound like, smell like? When you happen to see your future mayor or president at work, what exactly are they doing? And is the image something that will attract the enthusiasm and idealism of a lot of people, or just of your little special interest group?

But what if you don’t want to do any of that, and spend your time instead focusing on how evil the other party and its candidates are, and flinging nasty magic at them? Your results will not be what you want, because the the principle given above has a hidden catch: the ideal you formulate doesn’t need to be appealing to you. In fact, it can be utterly loathsome to you. So long as you formulate it as strongly, precisely, and vividly as you can, you give it strength and encourage other people to flock to it.

The most obvious example here involves Donald Trump. The main reason he was able to come charging out of the political fringes to seize the Republican nomination, and then the White House, and the main reason he still dominates the American political landscape, was that so many people threw so much energy into hating him. They formulated a good clear image, all right, and they did it strongly, precisely, and vividly, charging it with every ounce of hatred and rage they had. It was an extraordinarily potent spell. Unfortunately for them, it had the opposite effect of the one they wanted: for many, it made Trump’s own spell more appealing.

Of course, Trump also had the help of a Western habit I call “the tyranny of mandatory niceness”. In the upper reaches of our societies, expressing negative emotions is taboo, and will get you the same kind of reaction that expressing sexual desire would have gotten you in Victorian England. As a result, there are a great many people seething with negative emotions who desperately want some way to vent them — some excuse to shriek their hatred and rage right out there in public. Donald Trump provided them with that service. In effect, they thanked him for it by pouring emotional energy into his image, and he proceeded to make good use of it.

The point to keep in mind is that fixations of this sort have practical consequences. For that matter, if something keeps Trump from winning the GOP nomination this year, the Democrats will be caught flatfooted. Blinded by their own animosity, they have yet to formulate an ideal of their own that can catch the imagination, the aspirations and the hopes of the voters.

Old-fashioned occultists like me are wearily familiar with this effect. When we teach magic, we’re constantly having to remind people to focus on the thing they want, not the thing they hate or fear or want to get rid of. Of course, there’s a reason for that, which is that so few people figure out what they actually want. Nearly always, people want to think instead, “If only X happens” — and X, of course, can be anything from winning the lottery or losing £20 to marrying the right person — “my life will be wonderful”. Then they spend all their time thinking about the money or the spouse they don’t have, or the weight or the spouse that they do, and fail to focus their will and imagination on exactly what kind of changes they want in their lives. In this way, they cement themselves even further into their current misery.

As in the personal microcosm, so in the political mesocosm. For the last half-century or so, the main US political parties have spent all their time and energy ranting about the bad things that the bad people in the other party are doing, and neglected to offer any positive vision of their own. There are unpleasant reasons for that habit. Until the rise of the populist movement, both parties were pushing the same set of policies on most issues, while cultivating a handful of hot-button issues to keep their captive constituencies in line. Avoiding a positive vision was essential to that approach.

Democrats loved to preen themselves on their environmentalism, though somehow they never did much to benefit the environment, while Republicans loved to preen themselves on their support for Christian morality, though somehow they never did much to further that cause, either. For both parties, these and other niche issues allowed them to pretend to be idealistic and distract their constituencies from the fact that much more important issues were being ignored. Meanwhile, the politicians of both parties pandered to big corporations, fell neatly in line behind one clueless imperial misadventure after another, and lined their own pockets in a frenzy of kleptocratic greed. Holding up an ideal that meant anything to most Americans would have been a major misstep for either party, as the gap between even the most modest ideal and the sleazy realities of life among Washington DC’s political parasites would have quickly become a severe liability for all sides.

Yet the absence of any such ideal helps to explain the spreading cynicism and contempt that so many Americans feel for the people that govern them, as well as their willingness to turn to political outsiders such as Trump. To judge from the evidence of history, that’s just going to accelerate until somebody formulates a positive and appealing ideal strongly, precisely and vividly enough to seize the collective imagination of the American public. That could be done by a politician — but it could also be done by an ordinary person. It could even be you. As the political machinery of our failing republic clanks and lumbers deeper into what could become its terminal crisis, you might want to consider it.


John Michael Greer is the author of over thirty books. He served twelve years as Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America.


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Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
8 months ago

This article is way more entertaining than it has any right to be.

Last edited 8 months ago by Matt Hindman
TIMOTHY REES
TIMOTHY REES
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Hi, I was impressed with all your replies, “I need your help.”
”I’m the Great Britain People’s Party organisation leader. When “Pandemic” was released, it was blatantly obvious to me that something more sinister was happening, Britain’s future was in crisis, and that the outcome of the 2024 election would mark a true turning point in history. As a result of the public’s reaction to the Pandemic and Brexit chaos, the Great Britain People’s Party was formed in Jan 2023. People have criticised my website for flaws attributable to my formal education, lack of funds, and lack of support. Unlike the major parties with wealthy donors, consultants, and advisors who continuously exploit the people’s goodwill,
I would appreciate your help; greatbritainpeoplesparty.co.uk. Email GBPP@mail.com with recommendations and opinions. Thank you. Timothy.

Last edited 8 months ago by TIMOTHY REES
chris sullivan
chris sullivan
8 months ago
Reply to  TIMOTHY REES

inspirational !! you go son…

T Bone
T Bone
8 months ago

Sir John- I enjoyed your writing but I think you fail to understand the roots of American Democracy.  After the Puritan Pilgrims fled England because of the King’s strict enforcement of Anglican Church rules, they created a covenant called the Mayflower Pact that dictated how they would make decisions according to God’s word (The Bible).  They debated the best course of action and then came to consensus. They interpreted that thoughtful consensus as God’s will.  It wasn’t a self-serving consensus. It was based on an idea of shared sacrifice and commitment to biblical principles.  There was no Magic. It was scripture.

Just from a basic utility standpoint, I don’t see how Democracy can work without a heavy dose of Biblical values.  There’s no check otherwise.  Secularists refuse to admit how many metaphors about human nature that the Bible nails. Both English and American law is overwhelmingly influenced by scripture. But the Change Agents called Progressives think these laws are patriarchal and oppressive and need to be “reimagined” in more “equitable” ways.

Until Secular people admit the Bible gets alot of things right, we’re going to be in these stupid scenarios where brilliant people deny reality in real time out of hubris.

Progressives have been habitually wrong for at least 3.5 years now and not because they’re dumb but out of stubborn arrogance.

Trying to use University Professor rationalization called “Magic” is not going to “unleash the collective consciousness of the masses.”  There may be a politician or person out there that can unite a large well-intentioned group but there is no “collective consciousness.” There is only unique individuals with free will and the ability to voluntarily agree with other like-minded people to work towards a common purpose.

Last edited 8 months ago by T Bone
J Bryant
J Bryant
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Interestingly, willingness to adhere to biblical teachings or to magic both require faith. There is no ultimate, rational proof of either God or magic, and faith must suffice.
I must admit I find the author’s rules for using magic to be indistinguishable from a certain strain of modern self-help teachings that say exactly what the author says: clearly identify a goal, visualize it in detail, then do what you must to reach that goal. People with that kind of focus naturally attract others to themselves, and if the goal has general application others will likely choose to pursue it too.
Still, I like the concept of magic. I also like the concept of a collective unconscious. I don’t know how true either of those concepts are, but, as the old saying goes, there are more things in Heaven and earth… We undervalue the role of the subconscious in life and overvalue rationality, imo. Magic is as good a word as any for all those mental processes and sensory impressions we’re not consciously aware of but which exert great influence in our lives.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Whilst your summary of how T Bone’s argument and the concept of Magic spring from the same “leap of faith” construct is spot on, i don’t find Magic at all useful. It just comes across as another means of seeking to explain something in terms which lie “beneath rationality” which provides more than enough scope for it to be used to manipulate and control others, which should rightly be seen as anathema.

Indeed, the stage (or popular) use of magic does precisely that. I find nothing remotely entertaining in the use of “magic tricks” except to diminish both recipient and audience; an exercise in gullibility.

Taking that to the wider consideration of Magic just has a similar effect but writ large. It might have a use for politicians seeking to manipulate and control, but is that something that we should either encourage or even respect? Not this commenter.

In terms of using it to describe aspects of our consciousness, or substrates, it’s therefore more likely to.obscure than.illuminate; to diminish rather than enhance; and finally, to provide a means of subjugation which we should all thoroughly reject.

Last edited 8 months ago by Steve Murray
Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I was with you until the opinion we “overvalue rationality”. IMO the vast majority of my fellow humans are ruled by emotions, occasionally wrapped in fallacious, psudo-rational arguments.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

The Green’s are the ultimate ‘magicians’ and look at the disaster they are unleashing on the planet.

PS Sunak might be well advised to widen his ‘smoking ban’ on tobacco to include whatever it is the author is smoking.

Last edited 8 months ago by Bill Bailey
T Bone
T Bone
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I think there is rational/empirical evidence of God but you’re right that there is not “proof” and never will be. Faith is required.

I think the Good Druid is referring to the Hermetic principles of “Magic” or Alchemy based on the teachings of Hermes Trismigestus.

Glynis Roache
Glynis Roache
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I’ve stated before on here that I’m a fan of the concept of the collective unconscious. I may be wrong, but I doubt that Mr Bone is in a position to deny its existence with real authority. Perhaps he’s never wrestled with the confounding intricacies of the double slit experiment. The astrophysicist Ethan Siegal describes them well and summarises thus :
“It is extremely tempting, in light of all of this information, to ask what thousands upon thousands of scientists and physics students have asked upon learning it: what does it mean about the nature of reality?
Does it mean that nature is inherently non-deterministic?
Does it mean that what we keep or destroy today can affect the outcomes of events that should already be determined in the past?
That the observer plays a fundamental role in determining what is real? The answer, disconcertingly, is that we cannot conclude whether nature is deterministic or not, local or non-local, or whether the wavefunction is real. What the double slit experiment reveals is as complete a description of reality as you’re ever going to get. To know the results of any experiment we can perform is as far as physics can take us. The rest is just an interpretation.
But the heart of quantum physics can be found in these experimental results. We impose our preferences on the Universe at our own peril. The only path to understanding is to listen to what the Universe tells us about itself.”

T Bone
T Bone
8 months ago
Reply to  Glynis Roache

When you refer to the “collective conscious” or “collective unconscious” would that refer to say a Football game where a large crowd simultaneously channels an emotion that impacts players and affects an outcome?

Glynis Roache
Glynis Roache
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

My concept of the collective unconscious ? Hmm … Is it of such a nature that it could be harnessed by football supporters at a level beyond just the emotional charge of hearing support? Hmmm… I was, for better or worse, instinctively predisposed to like Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious as a repository for human archetypal behaviour and the matrix for conscious psychic occurrence. The concept of it seemed to be given a new boost and even a new direction when quantum physics and the demonstration of quantum phenomena in microtubules in the brain entered the public forum and began to indicate a mechanism through which this collective consciousness could actually operate. Of course, this is not a jump that physicists have condoned. And they would probably consider that the abuse of the ‘observer effect’ (whereby the collapse of a quantum waveform into something ‘solid’ that can be recorded is dependent upon the presence or absence of a witness ) has extended way beyond the unfortunate Schrodinger’s cat. Nevertheless, the idea that outcomes in the ‘real world’ can be influenced may have grown from exactly that. The theory being that the universe is full of ‘potentials’ (ie waveforms) and by concentratedly ‘witnessing’ a desired outcome you can collapse the potential you want to collapse. It’s one hell of a jump. Especially for a football crowd who may want the same outcome but may not have coordinated laser focus. And then there’s the lot behind the other goal to contend with … In short, I’m ambivalent. Predisposed in favour of a quantum field of shared consciousness but reserved about a general ability to intentionally harness/access it to produce desired outcomes. Though many believe in eg. the healing effects of directed thought, especially if many people do it at the same time, it is obvious that open access to this ‘energy field’ could have unfortunate sequelae eg as the origin of mass hysteria. In Alsace in 1518, in fit of ‘something’, a crowd of people literally danced for days – some to their deaths. Sometimes, I wonder if it operates as an undercurrent in the sudden waves of eating disorders, trans issues etc … I’ve even speculated on its relevance in Catholic exorcisms viz ‘what exactly could a demon be?’ An intrusive negative thought form from the sinister end of the collective unconscious? And is there some energetic/neural equivalent of the blood brain barrier to keep things out under normal circumstances?
    So why, given the complications, would I be so keen on the idea in the first place? Because it could bolster a lack of faith, providing me with an origin myth and a meta narrative for life – including the concept of a greater power and how such a power could operate. I grew up with neo-darwinism and grew depressed at the subsequent heralding of the ‘selfish gene’ and Dawkin’s ‘pitiless universe’. Such an expenditure of effort just to propagate a species in the least painful way possible. We have to be more.

T Bone
T Bone
8 months ago
Reply to  Glynis Roache

Well keep in mind those reports in Alsace are not well documented. Most of the recorded history was written well after the alleged events.

That said, I don’t dispute the existence of mass hysteria. I assume there is some truth to the story. In fact, mass hysteria or group psychosis appears to be a common feature of people living in oppressive conditions that are told grand existential narratives by a Magisterial governance structure. It induces a sense of panic that leads to a domino of anxiety.

If you read progressive environmental papers, you can see why progressives are so anxious.
Regular readers are inundated with doom and gloom. They aren’t getting balanced reports and since they have absolute faith in progressive experts to interpret the science, they are mired in a doom loop.

While I understand the need for people to develop a grounding narrative that helps them contextualize the world, I remain confused why Secular Humanism changed its perspective on Human Nature.

Materialists like Feurbach decided that in order to break free from superstition, people needed to dispense from the logic of Judeo-Christian principles. But Judeo-Christian principles recognize all people as inherently fallen and flawed. They don’t point to some people being good and others being evil. They point to all people being broken.

This to me is a statement of empirical fact. So in this case, antipathy to Judeo-Christian principles has led to objectively false perspectives on human nature and in doing so
has created a society that rejects the obvious.

Last edited 8 months ago by T Bone
Glynis Roache
Glynis Roache
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Not in fundamental disagreement and still have a foot in the Christian camp. Secularism and ‘humanism’ will have their own problems controlling human nature. It remains to be seen if they can do it. It may not be the Church any more, but yes, some Magisterium will be enforcing their own ideas and, as you’ve said, particular narratives constantly iterated play an enormous part in anxiety etc. As somebody else said, there is a throne at the centre of every power structure and whoever sits on that throne will dictate the narrative. Good luck with finding a better ‘somebody’, secularists.
Speaking personally, it’s just that a scientific background leads one to want to try and reconcile various disciplines. It’s really just about reconciling brain function and psychology at one level with what happens at a deeper level. It’s neurobiology and biochemistry at one level and the activity of the quantum world beneath.Tying it all in with ‘faith’ and the possible persistence of a consciousness ( soul?) in the face of rampant secularism is just my personal cross to bear.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Beautifully put.

rod gartner
rod gartner
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

literally a single statement you make might actually be convincing if they were not entirely founded on false assumptions
all religions exist as mechanisms to perpetuate or amplify the “validity” (or if you demand it: “righteousness”) of a governing order, which may include thr formal structure of the religion itself
religion exists so that the towns folk can be assured that the local warlord’s claims to leadership and a share of manpower and crop bounty are *divine commandments* that create a seemingly enormous risk to challenging the established order (as opposed to the power of “one guy” vs the mob)
note that “established order” doesnt mean “who is the king”
it means “fulfillme agreements/contracts with others and following the laws, even when no one is looking”
the additional function is to establish no limit in space or time to the authority
the warlord is king everwherent. the contracts you make with a distant village after weeks of trekking are empowered by infinite range, so you better fulfill them no matter where you are.
organized formal religion began to faulter with the advent of “strong institutions” that could and did function utterly independent of religoious institution (a common reference point are the banking and economic developments that began during the Renaissance)

even more acceleration comes from rapid movement of information. a common focus for this idea is the full industrial era in Europe.
incidentally this paradigm even managed to cause the previously strongly insular Jews to re-organize their approach to socialization within increasingly secular Europe (prior to which, public facing economic endeavors were run by informally educated women, while the men focused on religious education)

the idea that, without a book or dozens of Hamurabi’s Codes copied in every town that people will fail to follow a lifestyle of peace, safety, lawfulness, etc is

1) a complete delusional myth born from literally *nothing* but your own imagination and what “seems logical” to you.
2) contradicted by literal dump truck loads of counter examples:
hint literally every single society not within the cultural diffusion sphere of the ancient near east.
no matter what your pop culture (assembled as it is from your self same world view and hennce little more thsn another voice in your head sgreeing with you) View is:
without paying attention to the highly specific and arbitrary allocation of value, these societies followed the same basic strictures
thats because “though shalt not kill” is literally an evolutionary social-organizational development to reduce the ongoing high caloric intake needed in a combat based dominance society
all homo sapiens, and most or alll hominids, developed it before leaving africa to become homo sapien sapien.
there is a reason why, no maatter the civilization, the earliest forms of writing (not pictograms) are always the same:
they are always economic records.
receipts (10 goats for assorted clay pottery and Salt). contracts. promissary notes. rarely but somrtimes recipes or instructions
because, at base, thats why humans create societies: to leverage and amplify our own capabilities with peers)
incidentally it wouldnt have happened if human offspring did not require solidly decades to raise to adulthood… a faster turn around and we would live like chimpanzees or gorillas.

T Bone
T Bone
8 months ago
Reply to  rod gartner

Would you consider Anthropology to be an Empirical Science or a Social Science? Do you think Anthropology was ever written with bias or can we be assured that the “Science” it talks about is “settled.” Anthropology is a Narrative put together by general contractors that have a very difficult job. They have to explain the progression of the species based on expert studies in a wide variety of subjects like historical weather patterns and soil sedimentation. The margin of error on all these studies including carbon dating studies makes the Anthropology “facts” more like Greek Myths enshrined into the record as “truths.” An Anthropology writer has to self-evaluate source credibility. They aren’t just taking pure facts and explaining them. They need an entertaining story to sell.

If Science is intertwined with Politics it ceases to be Science. If Religion is intertwined with Politics it ceases to be Religion.

In the Puritan example that I cited, the Pilgrims fled England to detach themselves from State’s attempt to use the Church to control their minds. They were not only religious refugees but political refugees.

Any historical analysis that conflates Christianity with European Colonial Power is talking about State Christianity not private Christianity. It’s just poor analysis. America detached Church and State and ended up infinitely more Christian.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
8 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Very well said. My only suggestion would be to replace “towards a” with “to expose” in your final sentence (google it, if you will).

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago

The amount of hate and contempt the Dems spewed at Trump for trying to build the border wall has left them in a bit of a pickle. Now they want build a wall themselves, but how do you walk back four years of venom?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

“how do you walk back four years of venom?”
By pretending it never happened,
Otherwise known as “magical thinking”.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

With the aid and abetting of the media they own.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

Yep.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago

No they don’t.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I would rather have a leader who can change course when they realize the decision they made isn’t working, than one who would rather die than admit to being wrong.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Oh, to have such a leader. Instead, we have a reanimated corpse who unironically admits that he is told what to do: “You mean the wall thing? I was told I had no choice”.
A leader, male or female, is singular, but, in Biden’s case, a mysterious they certainly do run his operating system.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago

That was a shameful response on Biden’s part, and simply not true.

starkbreath
starkbreath
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

I’d rather have a leader who didn’t screw up so spectacularly in the first place.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  starkbreath

I agree, but they do screw up, don’t they.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

This wasn’t normal I’m right and you’re wrong. This was a holy war. This was four years of unrelenting demonization. This was orange man rac!st, fac!st anti-Christ. And I suppose this how the Dems sell their sudden change – erase four years of history, aided and abetted by the regime media and followers willing to be gaslighted.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Rubbish.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Why replace the one who got almost everything right with one who didn’t then has to ‘change course’? Sticking with Trump would have saved a lot of trouble.
Mind you I’ve yet to hear anyone suggest arraigning Fauci, CDC etc.
Come on Donald ,grow a set and say that would be the first thing you would do.
Then here in the UK we could go after SAGE and a load more of the quacks who screwed the UK economy and involved us in the greatest vaccine trial in history. Which by the way, appears to have proven the mRNA vaccines are an utter disaster.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Hum. According to reports from both Mr. Biden and others in the Administration, either the money was spent on a wall, or DHS lost it.
Doesn’t sound like much change-of-mind going on there.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

That’s not true. The money is still available.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
8 months ago

Superb piece. As usual. Anyone who had an inspirational teacher or a boss with “vision” will recognise the power that one mind can have over others. It is about as close to magic as we’ll get in a universe that doesn’t give a damn about human endeavour. And on that note, we’d have been a whole let better off if we’d stuck to venerating Mother Nature and marking the motions of the heavens.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
8 months ago

I can only presume you must be a Green. Most of the other “Charismatic (sorry Magical) leaders kill their cult followers, the Greens are into destroying everyone – at least in the West.
https://www.brainz.org/10-most-notorious-suicide-cults-history/
As for Human Endeavor and the Universe not giving a damn. Who cares? People give a damn.
The two greatest Human Endeavours in history are (assuming you don’t believe that Christ was the Son of God)
a) The British Abolition of the Slave Trade and using their Navy and “Empire’ might to back it up
b) The Industrial Revolution – that was probably the greatest because once machines could ‘magnify’ effort, slavery would probable have faded away anyway. YET From that endeavour the world and mankind has blossomed.
Here’s Hans Rosling on population and the ‘Industrial Revolution’ features as the starting point for ‘progress’ and good lives for all.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FACK2knC08E
From lives being nasty, brutal and short the industrial revolution raised everyone who embraced it out of poverty.
Ironically ‘Lockdown’ was the greatest disaster for world poverty since then. (Time to hold some of the lunatics who advocated it to account?)
However, the Malthusian Greens and their magic of Net Zero are the biggest threat to humanity at present. Net Zero is completely insane and impossible AND a ounce of rationality on the part of any on our leaders would reveal it.
So contrary to the author’s belief, I say we need a reassertion of ‘rationality’. Something we haven’t had from most of our leaders for decades. Less magic and more reason, should be the call, in the UK at least.
There perhaps is what needs to be said to inspire the UK. We may be small, BUT boy have we changed the world more than anyone else.

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
8 months ago

So magic is trickery. Surely that is not a particularly profound observation. Furthermore as someone once said, “you can’t fool all the people all of the time” and in a highly connected world doesn’t that become an ever bigger problem for the trickster?

I do agree with the observation that in seeking to persuade someone it is not a good idea to focus on the negative. It’s maybe why the Remainers lost on Brexit. They mainly lectured us on the foolishness of the Brexiteers and the dangers of national independence. They hardly said anything about the positive benefits which would flow to ordinary Brits from staying in the European Union. Could that have been because those were rather difficult to discover and articulate?

Waffles
Waffles
8 months ago

I’m pretty sure Ancient Greece fell because it was colonised by the Romans,not because rationalism failed to demonstrate enough virtue.

Ancient Greek rationalism gave us democracy. Mysticism gives us theocracy at best.

I remember life in the 70s and 80s. It was rubbish. Boring as heck and terrible food. Today is already a wonderland of abundance compared to then. Thanks to rationalism, you can waggle your fingers and we can read your thoughts instantly while thousands of miles away. Now that is magic!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Waffles

Isn’t that thanks to technology which is magical as far as I’m concerned.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

I bet you don’t call a magician when the gas boiler fails? 😉

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago
Reply to  Waffles

Maybe in Britain, but in the US, the 80s were awesome.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Lady T ran GB plc during the 80’s and for my TRIBE that was perfection itself. “Dives in Omnia”!*

(*Riches In everything!)

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
8 months ago
Reply to  Waffles

Argh, don’t think about what the article actually says, you’ll ruin the magic for the rest of us! 😀

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Waffles

The homicidal Macedonian pygmy, sometimes referred to as Alexander the Great and his equally homicidal father Philip destroyed Classical Ancient Greece, not the Romans.

The Athenian Demosthenes is our best source about what
an absolute menace the barbarian Macedonians represented. Unfortunately he was too late to avert disaster.

The Romans didn’t turn up for well over a century, and then only to pick up the pieces.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
8 months ago

Incredibly well informed as usual Charles.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
8 months ago
Reply to  Waffles

Don’t worry, Net Zero is 27 years away, AND assuming Doomberg’s observation that.
“On the road from abundance to starvation lies riot.”
is false, the 70’s and 80’s will look like the product of a Cornucopia in a few years time.
‘Mealy worm flour anyone?”

R Wright
R Wright
8 months ago
Reply to  Waffles

The Greeks lacked love for their fellow Hellenes and were crushed under despots and kings in the 4th century. That was long before Rome arrived.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

“Blinded by their own animosity, they have yet to formulate an ideal of their own that can catch the imagination, the aspirations and the hopes of the voters.”
And just what could the aged, decrepit, senile dimocrats offer up to catch anyone’s imagination? Not much I would hazard :0)

(Even their younger members have nothing more than the endless repetition “it’s the evil Republicans that are the enemy” shtick. Got news, folks. Boooorrrriiiinnnnggg.)

Last edited 8 months ago by UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

Meanwhile, back on the planet Earth…
Trump’s “magic” in 2016 was his ability to persuade. He had been complaining about the quality of professional politicians for years and finally decided to do something about it. He was laughed off initially but he stuck to his message, which resonated with the rust-belt working class: offshoring manufacturing along with unchecked immigration is taking away your ability to provide for your family. His persuasiveness cleared out the primary field and punched a hole in a lazy Clinton’s political entitlement.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Would he have won without COVID lockdown and the CDC/Fauci ‘advice’ I wonder?

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

He told the working class that he was for the underdog that it was an “us against them” situation and they believed him. Now he is the victim, the savior, being sacrificed for being one of them. This is what he actually says, as any cult leader would say, and again they believe him.

Last edited 8 months ago by Clare Knight
Buena Vista
Buena Vista
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Clare, your post leads me to believe you were “away” from 2017 to 2021. Coma? Alien abduction? Head in the sand?

Liam F
Liam F
8 months ago

” Magic is the art and science of causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will”
Or put another way- magic is just the ability to change someone’s mind. Hardly novel.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Liam F

Or magic is the power to brainwash millions of people to create a cult. Just ask Jesus, the pope or any of the other cult leaders past and present. It seems magical to me.

Last edited 8 months ago by Clare Knight
Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Point out what Jesus said that you object to?
There are cults and cults, You perhaps need to read the New Testament (and no I”m an Atheist now, BUT was once a devout Catholic so read a great deal of it.) Jesus was for the people NOT the Government (which is his day always included religion)
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.’
‘Let he who is without sin amongst you, cast the first stone.”
“Walk the extra mile.”
“Do good to those that hate you.”
“Turn the other cheek.”
I do wonder at you view of the man (It would be truly great IF he was the son of God, but I don’t believe it)
Much of his teaching would make the world a far better place. the problem is that to follow his teaching would be nigh on impossible. But how anyone can attack him for his advice on how to live is beyond me.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
8 months ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

She obviously has no clue about Jesus.

Tom Hammer
Tom Hammer
8 months ago

Not sure what to make of it, but I wish all authors could write as clearly.

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
8 months ago

As an example of magical thinking my mind turned to: “We will fight them on the beaches. We will fight them in the streets. We will fight them in the hills. We will never surrender!
Or,
“I have a dream….”

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Alan Hawkes

Exactly.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
8 months ago

Trump is patently not tolerated by a lot of people, but he’s accepted by enough owing to the sheer corruption inherent to his rival candidate Biden and the toxic, virtually Maoist nature of the cultural politics of the Democratic Party today.
This is such an unhealthy relationship for representative liberal democracy that it’s American incarnation seems to have mutates into something else entirely. I can only describe him as a virtual civil war, since most of it is manifested digitally.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

“Magic is the art and science of causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will.”
It’s a bit more than that. Aleister Crowley who first defined magick in similar terms did not include the words “in consciousness” that the author has inserted here. Crowley was clear that these changes could impact matter and reality directly. The author reduces the science and art to wishful thinking, which is basically what the law of attraction is.
You can start with a thought experiment. Ask the Universe for a gift to manifest itself out of the blue within 48 hours. It won’t be anything huge, but it will be… something. When I did it, I received a bag of oranges from a client who had just returned from Dubai, it was completely unexpected and unforeseen. He was the last person I’d have thought of to be the conduit of a gift.
Don’t ask for anything specific. Just “a gift”, and it will come.
That tends to unsettle ones’ view of reality when it happens.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

It’s what’s known as a coincidence.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

It isn’t, that’s the whole point.

TIMOTHY REES
TIMOTHY REES
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Great reading!

starkbreath
starkbreath
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

And when it doesn’t happen, what? Here’s a concept: if you want something, don’t ask an uncaring universe for it, make it happen yourself As for Crowley, he was nothing but a con man and cult leader, running his shtick on bored, gullible rich people.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago
Reply to  starkbreath

Bit it will. Prove yourself wrong.

starkbreath
starkbreath
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

So I should ‘ask the Universe for a gift to manifest itself out of the blue within 48 hours’? Are you a grown man or a child?

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  starkbreath

As a child I was always perplexed by a saying of adults “those that ask don’t get, those that don’t ask don’t want”. Translated as “you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t”. C’est la vie.

starkbreath
starkbreath
8 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

I think the meaning of the saying is that you don’t ask for things, you get them for yourself, therefore you don’t want.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
8 months ago

This essay set my mind racing off on a number of interesting tangents.
For instance, why do so many people jump to the assumption of magic versus reason or established religion? There’s ample evidence of the value of all three things, but also of their failings. We would, needless to say, be better off with more open-mindedness. Apples and oranges, and peaches,too!

AC Harper
AC Harper
8 months ago

I’m in two minds about this article. Yes, people of similar beliefs and habits tend to cluster together and the mechanism is not currently understood well. See “Connected: The Amazing Power of Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives” by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler.
But unless ‘Magic’ has more explanatory power than the influence of social networks, Magic has nothing to recommend it other than a ‘label’ to encourage personal change. A label that usually fails to deliver for the same human failings that also cause ‘reason’ to fail.

Maximilian
Maximilian
8 months ago

I loved it 🙂
There’s much to be said about magic in modern times. Naturally, some will not jive with specific view-points or words used in this article, but I think this is still a great starting point for anyone wondering what magic is all about.

Citizen Diversity
Citizen Diversity
8 months ago

Where there is no vision, the people perish (Proverbs.xxix.18). 
Judas, originally the principal man of the Twelve (as the Greek implies), finds he cannot maintain that position by fault-finding. “What a waste! This Dior perfume could have been sold and the money donated to a women’s refuge!”  
Eventually losing place to others, Judas finds himself bad enough to carry out an act of wickedness but good enough not to be able to bear the shame of it. His vision of being a benefactor to the poor failed because of the fault-finding. 
The magic that conjured the vision about a high-speed railway, a vision that ‘worked’ in the sense that it resulted in alterations to the material world, subsequently failed because there wasn’t an orchard of magic money trees. Someone must have cut it down along with the ancient woodland. 
Perhaps there might just be a certain something in the fictional world of the child wizards. ‘People poured their emotional energy into his (Trump’s) image’. In other words, he made himself look and sound like those people. Previously, he had rubbed along well enough, and at close quarters, with a host of establishment figures.  
Uther Pendragon starts a Trojan War type of conflict with another king because he, Uther, has a vision of possessing that other king’s wife. Uther has Merlin, the magician, cook up a ‘medicine’, as the chroniclers put it, so that his appearance is altered to that of the queen’s husband. Two of Uther’s companions also drink the medicine so that they look like two men in the enemy king’s household.  
So disguised, the three are able to enter the enemy king’s castle without raising suspicion. Because he looks and sounds like her husband, the queen willingly submits to Uther’s amorous advances. Merlin’s ‘polyjuice potion’ turned his lustful vision into reality. 
 
 
 

Nathan Sapio
Nathan Sapio
8 months ago

I started this article amused and translating your terms into marketing concepts. But congratulations on the last 3 paragraphs, that is the perfect summary of the US political state of affairs.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
8 months ago

Although I believe this guy is a crackpot and has a gift for writing, what he describes as “magic” is just good, old fashioned politics. Call it what you like. The following line is as true as it gets, however:
“Crisis arrives when too many failed predictions turn rationalism into a laughing stock, and the whole enterprise grinds to a halt as people abandon it.”

JR Hartley
JR Hartley
7 months ago

Isn’t “magic” another flavour of “manufacturing consent”?

Richard M
Richard M
8 months ago

I got 6 paragraphs in before I gave up. Can anyone beat that?

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard M

Yes, I gave up, also.

Ralph Hanke
Ralph Hanke
8 months ago

I imagine and will a world where we all understand John’s words and gain a better world for doing so.

nigel roberts
nigel roberts
7 months ago

There’s a lot of Saul Alinsky here.

Kellen
Kellen
7 months ago

I couldn’t make it through this article. What I know is, complex dynamic systems can’t be commanded or controlled, and behavioral nudge units influencing cognitive infrastructure are real. This is the magic.

starkbreath
starkbreath
8 months ago

This piece is a classic example of how to use a certain amount of rationality and facts to sell ludicrous bullshit. In the 14th paragraph, the great Lord High Druid basically attributes Britain’s resolve against the Nazis to some alleged ‘occultist’ calling herself Dame Fortune. Not only is this magical thinking, it reveals the condescending attitude towards regular people underlying all the mystical twaddle. This is also evident in the author’s high-handed tone. Why unHerd continues to run articles written by this self-deluded charlatan, I can’t fathom.