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Manifesto for Magicians

Adam Krause

In the “Foreword” to Thee Psychick Bible, Carl Abrahamson writes about the role of art in a culture. “Culture in itself is usually associated with performing arts, painting, music, literature, and many other forms of traditional manifestation. The sphere of culture. But essentially, culture is exactly what the word entails: a culture—a structure or soil that contains the implicit possibility of growth and manifestation of life and, in extension, ideas and information.” The cultural artifacts of artists are merely one manifestation in the larger cultural context in which those artifacts exist. Art does not exist in a vacuum. It can impact and change reality. As Abrahamson writes, “Here we can return to the very origins of art (cave paintings, etc.). The idea was not to have a glass of wine together with tribal kin in a cosy cave, to self-aggrandize through witty ironic criticisms. The idea was to impose one's will on the world outside your own personal sphere, or that of the tribe. Art as magical evocation.”

Cultural artifacts should not be seen as commodities in a world of commodities, but emanations of will upon reality, designed to transform self, other, and surroundings. As John Cage said of music, “It makes little difference if one of us likes one piece and another another; it is rather the age-old process of making and using music and our becoming more integrated as personalities through this making and using that is of real value.” The capitalist culture in which we create demands that we create commodities. But we don’t have to do that. We can make talismans designed to transform that culture into something new. Artists can accept the given or undercut it. A clear choice. But a scary one to make.

Our creations can alter reality. To quote the Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta, “Everything depends on what people are capable of imagining.” Human ideas, whether inhabiting our cerebral cortex or outwardly manifested in our creations, hold the power to shape the world. Once ideas arise from the ether of our minds, we can shape and externalize them, and they can then change reality. This is a form of magic. Spells are sentences, and sentences can be cast.

Artists, writers, and musicians are among the closest things to magicians existing today. But this role is regularly rejected. The magical powers of sounds, words, and images are mostly wielded by advertisers who seek to sell products rather than change the world. Meanwhile, artists, writers, and musicians have largely accepted their assigned roles as entertainers, providing diversions from reality rather than collisions with it.

But magic can be reclaimed. As the early twentieth century occultist Dion Fortune writes, “Any act performed with intention becomes a rite.” Discipline, intention, and the knowledge that magic is alive can change any art or act from mundane to magical, and the world into something new.      

-Adam Michael Krause