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SatansAdvocaat
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12/10/2009 2:14 pm  

The November issue of PARANORMAL Magazine (a UK publication by Jazz Publishing) contains a good 4 page article on Alan Moore by Robert Goodman.

Its entitled Art is magic, MAGIC IS ART: The World according to Alan Moore and is largely composed of interview material.

There is one passing reference to AC:

'Crowley famously said that "magic is a disease of language" but it is also an occupational complaint of writers.'

Famously or not, I cannot immediately identify the source of this quotation. Can anyone oblige with a citation ?

Regards - S.A.


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 Anonymous
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12/10/2009 5:28 pm  
"Satan'sAdvocaat" wrote:
The November issue of PARANORMAL Magazine (a UK publication by Jazz Publishing) contains a good 4 page article on Alan Moore by Robert Goodman.

Its entitled Art is magic, MAGIC IS ART: The World according to Alan Moore and is largely composed of interview material.

There is one passing reference to AC:

'Crowley famously said that "magic is a disease of language" but it is also an occupational complaint of writers.'

Famously or not, I cannot immediately identify the source of this quotation. Can anyone oblige with a citation ?

Regards - S.A.

Chapter 8 of Magick in Theory and Practice:

"I have omitted to say that the whole subject of Magick is an example of Mythopoeia in that particular form called Disease of Language."


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Palamedes
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12/10/2009 6:22 pm  

Erwin is right, in tracing the reference to Crowley's MTP, but Crowley himself was referencing German scholar who lived and worked in England, Max Mueller, one of the pioneers of comparative religion/mythology. Mueller is famous for editing the 50 volume series of the Sacred Books of the East (SBE) - Crowley was very much aware of these, as he placed several volumes on his various reading lists.
I don't think that anyone would nowadays subscribe to Mueller's idea of the genesis of mythology in the disease of language, but a more sophisticated version of it, a kind of sophisticated euhemerism, is one of the doctrinal positions of the OTO as argued by Hymenaeus Beta in his notes to the Gnostic Mass in Book Four (in which case, the idea is that various divine and mythological names in the list of Saints refer to what were originally [exceptional, enlightened, perfected but essentially] humans, along the line of "There is no God, but Man.")


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Walterfive
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13/10/2009 10:06 pm  

William Burrough echoed this when he said "Language is a virus."


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Palamedes
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13/10/2009 11:41 pm  
"Walterfive" wrote:
William Burrough echoed this when he said "Language is a virus."

Yes and no, Walterfive. I'm not quite sure what you had in mind but in my understanding these are two different ideas. 'Mythology is a disease of language' means that certain names and concepts associated with natural phenomena tend in the course of time to be explained by stories, legends, and myths. Thus a pure concept has 'diseased' into a myth; an instance of observation - almost a scientific or at least a proto-scientific act - 'degenerates' into mythological superstition. (The idea is related to the notion of pure origins; noble savage is comparable; the things were ideal in the beginning, we originally lived in paradise; but then the things got muddled - something of the sort.)

'Word is a virus,' again in my understanding, means that the language is an entity almost independent of our conscious control; words spread like virus, they so much dominate us that we cannot stop producing them, vocally or silently. But we cannot determinate their meaning completely, they are slippery, hence our constant misunderstandings, etc.

I see these two ideas somewhat related but still distinct. But the subject is a fascinating one.


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 Anonymous
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14/10/2009 12:59 am  
"Iskandar" wrote:
I'm not quite sure what you had in mind but in my understanding these are two different ideas. 'Mythology is a disease of language' means that certain names and concepts associated with natural phenomena tend in the course of time to be explained by stories, legends, and myths. Thus a pure concept has 'diseased' into a myth; an instance of observation - almost a scientific or at least a proto-scientific act - 'degenerates' into mythological superstition.

It's worth noting that the point Crowley was actually making in that footnote is much simpler than this, as he says:

"Thoth, God of Magick, was merely a man who invented writing, as his monuments declare clearly enough...It appeared marvellous to the vulgar that men should be able to communicate at a distance, and they began to attribute other powers, merely invented, to the people who were able to write. The Wand is then nothing but the pen; the Cup, the Inkpot; the Dagger, the knife for sharpening the pen..."

Although Crowley may have borrowed the terms from Mueller, the point he's making is clearly a different one, unrelated to the idea that myth-making is in some way analogous to the game of Chinese Whispers. He does say that "the whole subject of Magick" is only "an example" of it, so he's not making a general point, but all the same it's not easy to see a strong connection between the first sentence in that footnote and the rest of it. Certainly Moore's belief that Crowley said magick was "something that inevitably emerges from the basic structure of language" cannot be supported by this particular reference, because it clearly says nothing of the kind.

The actual point being made by Crowley here is almost certainly a frivolous and non-serious one, as the final sentence in that note - " And, of course, the Papyrus of Ani is only the Latin for toilet-paper" - should make clear. Crowley would have been perfectly aware that "magicians" of various kinds existed and exist in preliterate or illiterate cultures, making the observation of writing clearly unsuitable as a historical explanation for the origins of magick.


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Palamedes
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14/10/2009 1:29 am  

Erwin, this is quite interesting but I'm not quite clear how do you make the final conclusion. I understand Crowley to actually claim that what for a vulgar was an act of magic was in fact an act of writing. He says something similar elsewhere: Grimoire being Grammar and the like.


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 Anonymous
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14/10/2009 2:22 am  
"Iskandar" wrote:
Erwin, this is quite interesting but I'm not quite clear how do you make the final conclusion. I understand Crowley to actually claim that what for a vulgar was an act of magic was in fact an act of writing. He says something similar elsewhere: Grimoire being Grammar and the like.

He says that in the same place, although he does make the grimoire/grammar connection in other places, the "banned lecture" being one example. Here's the full footnote in question:

"I have omitted to say that the whole subject of Magick is an example of Mythopoeia in that particular form called Disease of Language. Thoth, God of Magick, was merely a man who invented writing, as his monuments declare clearly enough. 'Grammarye', Magick, is only the Greek 'Gramma'. So also the old name of a Magical Ritual, 'Grimoire', is merely a Grammar. It appeared marvellous to the vulgar that men should be able to communicate at a distance, and they began to attribute other powers, merely invented, to the people who were able to write. The Wand is then nothing but the pen; the Cup, the Inkpot; the Dagger, the knife for sharpening the pen; and the disk (Pantacle) is either the papyrus roll itself; or the weight which kept it in position, or the sandbox for soaking up the ink. And, of course, the Papyrus of Ani is only the Latin for toilet-paper."

Although the words are clearly linked, the idea that magick originated as a result of illiterate people witnessing literate people "communicat[ing] at a distance" is absurd, but that's what this footnote states. Since there is no way Crowley could possibly have taken such a theory seriously, I conclude that it was a frivolous and humorous interlude, possibly written for the sole purpose of making the toilet-paper joke as well as the amusing etymological points. If he really did think magick was nothing but such an enormous misunderstanding, I suspect he wouldn't have wasted as much time on it as he did.


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Palamedes
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14/10/2009 3:19 am  

I see it somewhat differently, Erwin. I think he is trying to say that there is nothing supernatural about magick, and that the only reason people associate magick with it is a result of mythopeia [myth-making] and as such is a 'disease of language.' Not that he considered magick "nothing but ... an enormous misunderstanding"- it would not be for him, but for the vulgar folk, yes. In fact, this comes rather close to your own position, which again I would (re)phrase as, there is nothing supernatural or metaphysical about magick and all the fantastic aura that still surounds the subject is "a gross misunderstanding." Similarly the Papyrus of Ani joke: not that he literally believed that this particular papyrus refers to a toilet paper but that once you start attributing strange and exotic properties to everyday things, you will end up thinking that a latin phrase for the toilet paper refers to a mystical treatise. As I said, that's the way I see it, I might be wrong, though I'm pretty much convinced that's the case.


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 Anonymous
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14/10/2009 4:19 am  
"Iskandar" wrote:
I see it somewhat differently, Erwin. I think he is trying to say that there is nothing supernatural about magick, and that the only reason people associate magick with it is a result of mythopeia [myth-making] and as such is a 'disease of language.' Not that he considered magick "nothing but ... an enormous misunderstanding"- it would not be for him, but for the vulgar folk, yes. In fact, this comes rather close to your own position, which again I would (re)phrase as, there is nothing supernatural or metaphysical about magick and all the fantastic aura that still surounds the subject is "a gross misunderstanding." Similarly the Papyrus of Ani joke: not that he literally believed that this particular papyrus refers to a toilet paper but that once you start attributing strange and exotic properties to everyday things, you will end up thinking that a latin phrase for the toilet paper refers to a mystical treatise. As I said, that's the way I see it, I might be wrong, though I'm pretty much convinced that's the case.

I agree with the position you're presenting here, obviously. I just don't see how you can get that out of that particular extract. "...they began to attribute other powers, merely invented, to the people who were able to write" comes across as a pretty straightforward statement, to me.


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Palamedes
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14/10/2009 6:50 am  

I don't know Erwin, it seems obvious to me, but feel free to disagree. I understand it as "they attributed fantastic things to those who did what they could not understand." People project into unknown and they tend to project metaphysical ideas and the like. Superstition also. Fear of the unknown. There was apparently a strong resistance towards - damn, I can't remember which - geometry or algebra even as late as the Renaissance. John Dee was rumored to be a black magician among other things also because he was engaged in the study of those. Thus I see no reason to doubt that to some people the activity of writing did seem as something mysterious and magical. After all, as Crowley also mentions, Thoth is both the God of Magick AND the inventor of writing.


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 Anonymous
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14/10/2009 7:53 am  
"Iskandar" wrote:
I don't know Erwin, it seems obvious to me, but feel free to disagree. I understand it as "they attributed fantastic things to those who did what they could not understand."

Well, that's where we differ, then. I understand it as what it actually says, without reading anything else into it. Feel free to extrapolate from it, but you'll have a hard time arguing that that's what Crowley actually meant from the evidence of his words.

"Iskandar" wrote:
After all, as Crowley also mentions, Thoth is both the God of Magick AND the inventor of writing.

Crowley's implication is that he was the God of Magick because he invented writing, i.e. that the fact he invented writing is precisely what makes him the God of Magick.


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the_real_simon_iff
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14/10/2009 9:37 am  
"Erwin" wrote:
Well, that's where we differ, then.

93,

Maybe my English is not advanced enough for your differences, but where is the exact difference between what Iskandar says:

"Iskandar" wrote:
they attributed fantastic things to those who did what they could not understand.

and what you say when you quote Crowley:

"Crowley" wrote:
It appeared marvellous to the vulgar that men should be able to communicate at a distance, and they began to attribute other powers, merely invented, to the people who were able to write

Or do you mean that Crowley specifically talks about writing and not other things the vulgar did not understand?
Just curious and willing to learn English...

Love=Law
Lutz


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 Anonymous
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14/10/2009 1:02 pm  
"the_real_simon_iff" wrote:
Or do you mean that Crowley specifically talks about writing and not other things the vulgar did not understand?
Just curious and willing to learn English...

Yes, he specifically talks about writing, and backs that up by talking about grammar, the pen, the inkpot, the pen sharpener, the paper, the paperweight, and the sandbox, all of which are writing implements and accessories. As I said, it seems pretty clear to me that he's talking about writing, as opposed to something other than writing.


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the_real_simon_iff
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14/10/2009 2:45 pm  

Thanks...


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SatansAdvocaat
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15/10/2009 3:39 pm  

Thanks to both Erwin and Iskandar for identifying the reference in MTP Chapter 8, and for so much more ! Interesting observations, but are you two regular sparring partners in the intellectual arena ?

Anyone fancy a less intense discussion on the 'Moore-ian' subject of snake-gods named Glycon with long, blonde hair ? 😉


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wolfangel
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15/10/2009 4:50 pm  

The magick of what Crowley wrote in using those words as he did certainly has cast its spell, Crowley's use of language certainly is viral.


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