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Witchcraft, Chaos, and being a Post-Pentacostal

> I'm religious, but not spiritual

I sometimes like to say, subverting the normal construction of the phrase. It's an accurate description, though, because while I don't believe in the supernatural per se I've never entirely let go of my religious impulses.

You see, I was raised as a speaking-in-tongues praying, demon rebuking (we didn't say exorcise, that was a Catholic thing, we rebuked like the good Lord Jesus did), prophesying, warrior for The Lord Our God. As you can imagine from how I'm framing things, dear reader, I am no longer that. I haven't been a Christian in a long time, and I haven't been a glossolalia-wielding warrior of God in even longer. To be very clear, I'm not anti-Christian. I am, however, very anti the Christianity I grew up with, which was cult-like, violent, and cruel.

These days, you might call me a witch, or a chaos magician, or just a pagan---these things all apply in different ways.

It's something I don't talk about much. Mostly because I'm constantly afraid of seeming too w e i r d. I know I shouldn't be because in my experience anyone who cares about "weird" is almost immediately put off by me no matter how hard I try to seem normal.

So, why not try to care less at least here in Geminispace?

One of the reasons why I'm "religious but not spiritual" is that I did experience something during those years, I felt the power of prayer and was guided by divination. It had real effects on me and not all of them were bad. I don't want to throw those experiences away as being merely irrational delusions. I think there was something happening back then, it just wasn't the God of caprice & cruelty I was raised with.

But how do you believe in magic and ritual and witchcraft if you don't believe in the supernatural? Well, I guess I could explain it as that while I don't believe in the "super" natural I do believe that the natural world is terrifyingly strange in and of itself.

For example: consciousness. Consciousness is weird and gets weirder the more you think about it. There's no obvious reason why any natural process should lead to self-awareness like this and, yet, here we are. Not only are we conscious but we appear to have volition! That's where it gets really strange because no current model of physics we have can account of volition without breaking. Oh, and as a former particle physics researcher let me tell you that quantum mechanics doesn't save you on this front: volition is just as weird in quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, string theory, and both newtonian & relativistic classical mechanics. There's no room for the apparent "choice" we experience in any of these models. Again, though, I don't really believe in a supernatural. I think the universe might just be far stranger and harder to understand than we've discovered so far, that the apparent contradictions caused by our existence are just the start of the weirdness.

Does that mean I think magic is real in the sense of being able to change the world with your will?

Well yes, but actually no

It's complicated, right? We change the world with our will all the time. That's just called doing things. The difference between that and "magic" is mostly one of clear causality and mechanism. If I study for a test, there's an obvious connection between the studying and doing well. If I carve a sigil into the notebook where I wrote my notes for the class and I do well on the test, did the sigil have any causal connection? That's where it all gets weird.

I like the witchcraft writer/tarot deck designer Barbara Moore's perspective on this. She takes the view that if magic is merely something that unconsciously sets us in a different direction, then it's still "real". She also has some pretty evocative ideas like that there's basically no difference between a spirit talking to you and a pattern of thoughts you keep thinking without consciously intending them. It's a very materialist witchcraft and as odd as it sounds it makes a lot of sense to me.

And as someone who's pretty well versed in phenomenology in the vein of Husserl and Merleau-Ponty I think there's something to this. If something can affect your horizon, your understanding of the world around you & the possible ways you can interact with it, then that's going to affect the decisions you make, how you perceive the world, and have a causal effect on the world around you. So maybe magic is nothing more than just a way of changing how the world is constituted? Would that really be any less wondrous than the supernatural?

So I said I could be called both a witch and a chaos magician. That's because I tend to practice witchcraft with a chaos magician's heart: not believing in any set truth or reality to gods or the supernatural, experimenting constantly, expressing ideas in visualization & sigils in addition to the kinds of rituals and hedgemagic that goes into the modern witchcraft movement.

It's a weird place to be: simultaneously taking neo-pagan and magical movements as both true and not at the same time, or rather poetically true but not literally true. Expressing things that can't be expressed, affecting the world through an indirect poetic causality rather than an obvious direct one. Yes even as I write this I feel like I sound very, very strange, but it's a reflection of how weird I think the world actually is.

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