If we consider that sorcery is the means of effecting change through the application of will, then there are many acts of collective sorcery that pass unnoticed on account of their being so pervasive. Any paradigm or framework of perception is in essence a mass agreement; and it assimilates everyone under its wing.
Dialectic argument for example is a commonly agreed approach to discovering truth; or to settle on the best course of action. None more obvious perhaps than that of the left-right dialectic of politics.
If we consider the ‘right’ to be the politics of the individual then the ‘left’ would be the politics of the collective. The polarity in politics is actually the individual-collective dichotomy; calling it left or right helps to disguise this fact. While we may consider politics and sorcery to have no common ground, the fact that any individual might be persuaded to follow left or right political trends has everything to do with sorcery.
One of the darker aspects of sorcery is influencing public opinion concerning a contentious matter so that the desired change can be carried out by aggregate opinion. To get a practical understanding of sorcery, it can be beneficial to see how it plays out in the mundane; for example in the profane arena of politics.
Reverence to the individual is certainly an agreeable idea but the existence of its polar opposite – reverence to the collective – is somewhat inevitable. Some will be in favor of the freedom of the individual over the interests of the collective; and conversely others will believe the individual must apply himself for the common good. Most will accept one side or the other but with varying degree of compromise.
There is of course a swath of people in the middle who have not been persuaded by one side or the other. The ideological battle fought out by the left and right is to hook these unpredictable ones. Such uncertain individuals, dithering in no-man’s land, make for terribly irresponsible citizens but – being difficult to persuade – have the potential to be decent sorcerers!
A sorcerer – who must remain impeccable – cannot have any personal stake in such ideological battles; but that doesn’t mean he cannot take a keen interest in them. For where there is ideological conflict, there is a power dynamic that he might make use of. The movement of power between left and right is like an alternating current. While the left sees the right as its adversary, and the right sees the left as its adversary, the sorcerer sees the left-right paradigm itself as his adversary.
While common folk take their struggles inside the dialectic, the sorcerer takes his fight outside the dialectic and pits himself against it. From this vantage point he can perceive the world energetically, unburdened by righteousness and moral judgment. This is not the same as being aloof, for there is no power in aloofness.
Inside the dialectical field, a regular person participates by charging up the dialectical ‘apparatus’ through his emotions and life force… and in turn the system sustains him with a sense of meaning to his life; and camaraderie with his like-minded peers. The sorcerer removes his attention and life from inside the dialectic and engages with the dialectic from outside.
How exactly does a sorcerer ‘tap into’ the energy flux of an active dialectic? It is a good question that perhaps does not have a good answer. It may suffice to say that the intent to tap into the energy is in fact how it is done. And that this intent may be reinforced by ritual but not necessarily so.
In fixating his attention upon the dialectic system, the sorcerer becomes a conduit for its energy to discharge. To see the dialectic is to be the dialectic. There is a process of passive identification in which there is no separation between observer and observed. And so if this identification is made with a raging political or ideological conflict – like our example of politics – then it will be an uncomfortable situation; like witnessing a horror movie. But one that will not be without reward.
From the chaos of dualistic conflict there is an emergent order that a sorcerer can draw out with his impeccability. The individual–collective dichotomy spawns its own synthesis; a realization that there is really no such thing as an individual because nothing is isolated in the world. If the observer distances himself as a separate identity from what he observes, then what he observes will also appear fragmented – the dualism is coming from him. But when he sees that the individual is illusory, or at best an apparition – and therefore the same for the collective – then he is outside the subject-object paradigm.
Subjects and objects are barriers for flow of energy, and when they are removed then only action remains. If a sportsman or a fighter sees his counterpart as an adversary separate to himself then he is inside the system. But if, in the heat of battle, he sees the battle as a whole – and thereby identifies with it – then his actions are no longer actions are no longer clumsy or affected by fear. There is only the ritual of the battle and all the power that it entails.
What is it that binds the common man to the subject-object paradigm? It is his dogmatic pursuit of meaning that gives him the necessary self importance to remain glued to it. If he were to open his eyes a little and enquire: what is the meaning of meaning? – then he might discover that he is stuck in the dialectic.
For a sorcerer, there is on one hand no inherent meaning to the cosmos, and yet he extracts meaning from it. The sorcerer may find himself seeking out hidden meanings, and yet he also knows that none exist… at least not objectively.
All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long long paths, but I am not anywhere. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.
~ Carlos Castaneda, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge
If every positive assertion creates its opposite – ie. the idea of the collective being in contrast to that of the individual – then the dialectic is itself an unavoidable paradigm so long as one sees oneself as an individual… having an individual path. Many wonderful things have manifested from this paradigm, but of these wonderful things freedom is not one.
While the dialectic is generally championed as the method for discovering the truth (and therefore it indirectly promotes technology) it can also be seen as a machine that creates conflict. And to avoid this conflict, one must cease to isolate himself from the world as an individual.