The Four Elemental Trials of the Magus

          Aldous Huxley believed human beings had far more to fear from the seductive power of the things that we all desire than we do from the more obviously destructive threats presented by any of the things we tend to fear. He cited “man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions” as being far more dangerous than any possible form of tyranny or oppression that we might expect to enslave us from above. I fear the world will not end in a bang, or even a whimper, but in an endless drone of commercials.

          Although I can easily imagine how in other parts of the world the fear of some political tyranny might be far more realistic and reasonable, here in America I believe our most prevalent form of slavery comes not from anything of which we’ve been deprived, but from all that we have and to which we’ve begun to feel entitled; ours is not an oppression that comes from above, but from within, and, although I will provide you here with a very simple three part method of self-treatment, I don’t really believe that most of us will be able to truly escape it and so I will also propose a far more radical forth and final step at the end for those few who dare agree.

          Recovery can only begin once one comes to actually see and appreciate the debilitating effects of luxury, an awareness which becomes less and less possible as we all continue to lose access to any sort of world unmarred by the various debilitating traps of modern convenience. Don’t get me wrong; I’m very grateful that I have a computer with which to upload these words onto the internet, and that these will eventually be read by you and perhaps countless others who also have computers, but the sad reality of things is that you’re probably far fatter, dumber, and weaker because of all this, and no amount of education, encouragement, or advice that it is currently possible for me to put up on this page is going to counter the harm that the very existence of this medium will continue to do to you and to millions like you. I say this not to be cruel, but, to be perfectly honest, because I’m not even the littlest bit afraid of you and, in general, this grim fact serves only to make me sad and frustrated with the life that I have to live.

          So step one is to seek physical adversity: help someone move, go dancing, pick a fight, walk instead of drive, do a push up, go for a jog, climb a hill… you get the idea.

          I’m sorry, what’s that? You say that the internet has made you smarter and better informed? Okay, let’s pretend that you actually don’t spend most of your time online looking at porn and checking for facebook updates; one cognitive researcher and author by the name of Nicholas Car has made quiet a convincing argument against the idea proposed above, saying that, although the internet provides everyone with the potential to access a great deal of information relatively effortlessly, the fact of the matter is that information overload has only served to reverse much of the progress that other, more positive, information mediums, such as books, had once helped us to gain.

          In his book, “The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains,” he explains how the act of reading books once served to actually increase our powers of focus and concentration in a manner than ran contrary to the human mind’s natural state of distraction and scattered attention, whereas the internet, although rich in information, provides almost all of that information in a manner that only exacerbates our innate tendencies to scan, skim, and superficially consider topics which now only briefly and lightly pass beneath our ever-shallowing powers of consideration. The decadent luxury of this technology may, in fact, be rotting our brains.

          So step two is to seek intellectual adversity: Learn something new or help someone else learn something which you think you already know, memorize something, attend a lecture, get into an argument with someone smarter than you, read an actual book, watch a documentary film, thoroughly research some topic and write a report… again, use your mind in a way that increases it’s power the same way you should be exercising your body. It appears to me that, in many ways, the institution of college has destroyed education. Oh and you may also want to consider the possible connection between sobriety and mental acuity. A little drug use is enlightening; a lot of drug use is enfeebling.

          The third and, for most of you, final step takes the topic of our mental development far beyond the realm of the merely intellectual and into the transcendental realm of the artistic. While the imagination behind artistic creation can only be inspired, or often times counterfeited, by exposure to other works of art, there is something to be said for obtaining some sort of education in artistic technique. This is of course far more complex than the rather straight forward paths that I’ve laid out for physical and mental development, but it should not be overlooked. According to Robert Anton Wilson, “In Communist Russia, the government was terrified of painters and poets.” There is great power in understanding art as something more than just a con.

          Of course, the con is worth understanding as well, which brings me to the final proposal, the idea which answers the question, “What, if anything, can be done about all those other people who will almost surely be doomed by their own indolence, apathy and complacency?” While idealists seem to constantly insist that these teeming masses will all be somehow awakened and saved from themselves (or from some abstract outside force that has sinisterly forced them to be what they currently are), I have come to believe that most of us are already sufficiently “awake” to see what's going on but, for those personal reasons I've listed above, simply don’t care enough to be anything other than what we are, which is a massive work force that requires, and in fact demands, subjugation in the form of conventional employment, and entertainment in the form of limitless consumerism and the easy consumption of “exotic” experiences.

          This human herd is the dreaded zombie apocalypse that I have written about elsewhere, who have so dominated the shape of the world that each one of us must either assimilate or else actively attempt some sort of escape from the mind numbing pull of their endless stampede into obliviousness. My escape plan is simple really; I propose that, like the rest of the herd, we sell ourselves to them, but on our own terms.

          Of course, this is no easy task. It seems to me that this is fast becoming the most popular solution among those awakened individuals who are not nearly as content as the rest of the world to slave away at menial and unfulfilling jobs that in no way serve their innermost needs. The only saving grace here is that much of these lofty ambitions are not born out of any great merit or uniqueness but rather from a shallow vanity and a misplaced and over inflated sense of self-regard. Most of these almost enlightened will inevitably be crushed in the stampede or will painfully learn how to march alongside the rest of the herd in the sort of lock step that is required. This is the true horror of the zombie apocalypse, but it is a horror that will not be escaped any easier simply by refusing to acknowledge its harsh reality. Remember how I said that there were dangers inherent in certain luxuries; indulge the luxury of ignoring these words at your peril.

          Those of us who survive will be the ones who had no other choice but to produce something of ourselves for the masses, because we refused to give up, refused to sell ourselves out completely to the dull designs of another and who somehow found a way to make the vain plan of self-commercialization a viable reality. The trick isn’t to become famous, although there’s nothing wrong with that, I suppose; the real trick is to become sustainable, doing something that you actually want to be doing, even if it doesn’t promote you in some obvious or direct way. Each person’s salvation in this regard must be worked out to his or her own satisfaction. The goal isn't necessarily to turn your life into a reality T.V. show for the consumption of the masses (that could easily become a hell worse than any other I could imagine) but rather to turn your life into something that serves you just as well as as it serves those who consume you.

          Perhaps it's not a perfect solution, but that's probably because I can conceive of very few solutions that don't ultimately involve being consumed by someone else in one way or another. Therefore, if you must be food, then at least you can attempt to have some hand in the cooking, no?

         What I've enumerated above are the four basic trials of human life, that of fire, air, water and finally earth, which all Magicians must pass through before any of them can claim to have truly bested the titanic forces of the Animus Mundi. As always, Good luck and Namaste.

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1 Response
  1. gravatar Anonymous

    Thank-you. I found your blog a couple days ago and have hardly been able to stop reading. This article put in clear words our collective existential dilemma, and made even more clear my own path as an artist.

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