Old School Heretic Blog. The further development of the ideas, concepts and systems presented in this piece will be done here at the Riskail Blog, thus this piece has been transferred over to provide a bit of appropriate continuity.
Note: This is Excerpted from an ongoing Work-in-Progress, and as such it is only intended to illustrate the specifics of the Riskail setting, nothing more, nothing less. While versimilitude may creep into such matters, the focus of this body of work is Fiction, not any sort of guide to actual or factual practices. Ye Gods what a screwed-up society to live in that I even have to say that...
On Confronting the Cadeuceus
Sorcery and Magic are two intertwining pursuits that criss-cross and overlap one another in myriads of ways and yet are fundamentally quite different from one another for all their similarities, parallels and points of resonant congruence. How so? Let me explain...
Sorcery is the inspired, intuitive response to the irrational, rooted in perception, mired in personal perspective, and anchored deeply within the peculiar convolutions and topology of the very core-identity of the sorcerer. It is a sometimes ecstatic, othertimes tragic, always idiosyncratic process of direct, personal and transformative revelation, metamorphosis, and transformation that partakes of the imagination and experience of individuals who dare to become other than they were, those who seek to experience and express genius through their transgressive arts that place them into communion with a super-reality both beyond and beneath the confined and constrained frame of reference we share as a common-property inheritance of tropes, symbols and archetypes that are all available for the edification, modification, and transmorgrification as they so choose.
Sorcery is a liberal, organic and hallucinatory sort of liberating process. It embraces enigmas, promulgates paradox, and answers only to passions and drives unleashed from the depths of the unconscious and even then it is a fickle mistress, with a will and a volition of its own. One does not command sorcery, nor is there any established authority save the personal accomplishments of those who have struggled with the madness and the alienation as they have navigated the infinite territories betwixt the ever-shifting poles of desire, delirium, the ever-fecund and erotic attraction of creation and the nihilistic and egoic revulsion of destruction.
Sorcery is by its very nature transgressive, dangerous, unstable and quixotic. It is a personal path with few peers and many rivals, it can bring admirers and imitators, but in the end it requires personal sacrifice, your own unique take on the mythos you choose to guide your efforts, and your own interpretations of the vast panoply of spells that make up the vulgar apparatus, social cantrips and public domain corpus that is part and parcel of all sorcerer's heritage and the collective ground from which they all start.
A sorcerer learns principles, concepts and allegories, and they focus upon techniques, they explore established styles and join Movements based upon Manifestos, or they form short-term collaborations or covens with like-minded fellow-travelers until the inherent stesses and pressures of their respective explorations and the demands of their unique and personal visions tear such associations apart. They gain skill, invest their experience, and gain or lose prestige and notoriety based upon what they produce, the clever re-interpretation of common spells or the hard work of creating a body of new spells leading up to their Masterpiece which sums up the totality of their experience, acts as a talismanic conduit of Power connected to some source that only they could reach or that they approached in an entirely new manner.
Hacks and lesser-talents brood upon the works of the Masters, frequenting museums and private collections in order to find some way to tap into the Power and the sources of inspiration behind the works of those who have passed before them, imitators and copy-cats, some create exquisite forgeries while others become so immersed in the style and idiom of their chosen guides that they become living extensions of the sorcery of the Great Masters, some going on to surpass those they imitated, others becoming so ensnared in the intimate details of another's vision that they lose themselves and sometimes become possessed by the very identity they sought to emulate. There are those unscrupulous curators of run-down collections of obscure works who deliberately encourage this sort of thing in the hopes of cashing-in on the rebirth of formerly celebrated geniuses, but for the most part this sort of thing is considered tacky and distasteful by the mainstream of Polite Society. But of course there are the occasional notable exceptions.
Sorcerers assemble their personal arsenal and repertoire from the fragmentary and sometimes conflicting bits and pieces of vaguely disreputable arts such as psychism, animism, spiritism, and the thoroughly uncanny techniques of trance, hypnosis, mesmerism, meditation, and psychoanalysis amongst other antique and often obscure forms of esoterica and the occult. They study art as it was applied and the critical-lies of how it was interpreted, making no distinction between Truth or Fiction as it all dissolves into personal interpretation within the vast cultural ecology of phantasmagoria, psychology and divination. All the fetishes and charms, Visceral Runes and Abstract Glyphs derived from all of human experience and expression are theirs to explore and experiement with and to expand upon. Oneirism and somnambulism, amongst the other techniques of dream-work form the basis of most sorcerer's beginning explorations, quite a few of them will go on to locate and acquire their first spell-book at the Open Market that only exists as a shared-dream many have visited before and many more will experience afterwards.
Sorcery is an art. First and foremost it is based upon first-hand experience. It is personal, immediate, and intoxicating even to the point of becoming deadly addictive. The primary media is the Self, the main avenue of expression is one's own life and the works they produce. One does sorcery, one is not a sorcerer by any title or position held; it is an active pursuit that is both improvisational and open to personal interpretation, indeed it requires creativity and invention to even exist. A sorcerer seeks attunements to gain access to media to employ within their spells, often traveling far and wide to gain personal contact with specific locales in order to connect with them on some level allowing the sorcerer to call upon that particular frame of reference to empower and influence their spells in a sympathetic synchronization that is both demanding and rewarding should they make good choices. Likewise some sorcerers explore the fine art of unlocking the secret powers lurking within randomly found objects or the parts of animals, plants or structures. They employ divination, create their own tarots, and hunt out their own sets (or forgotten forms) of runes. It is a dangerous path fraught with intellectual violence, deliberate misinterpretations and wild accusations that prowl the sensoria of those engaged with it like feral beasts scenting out vulnerable and gullible prey to corrupt, twist and destroy through their insidious, corrosive influence.
Sorcery is the province of witches, shamans, mystics, visionaries, mediums, dowsers, geomancers, soothsayers, enchanters, wild talents, rune-carvers, mechanical animists, tricksters, illusionists, fantomists, binders, prophets and above all artists. It is the ultimate open-source community involved in reality-hacking as an artform.
So much for Sorcery.
Magic is the science of consciousness, formulaic and founded upon repeatable results, hard-won collated masses of data, the accumulated body of research and experiment over generations by a hierarchical and balkanized community of secretive and conservative custodians of rituals and legacies only accessible by way of rites of initiation and the study of doctrine, dogma and laws only revealed after dire oaths and terrible vows which carry unthinkable consequences should one break their promise or seek to go back on their duly given and recorded word. Magic, beyond the simplest Outer Court rituals cheaply available on any newstand or by way of any scroll-peddler or bookseller, is a body of work available only to those who receive an invitation, after they have proven themselves worthy in the eyes of some Order, Lodge, or School.
Magic is walled-off, deliberately hidden and preserved for the properly prepared whilst held in reserve and obscured from the sight and knowledge of those not ready for its challenges, burdens or responsibilities. One must appreciate the context of magic, the traditions of the groups that preserve it and promulgate it, and deliver the initiations that open one's way into it. Each step, every level along the great pyramid of initiation brings with it a new challenge as well as a renewed, often strengthened connection to the particular Powers that serve or guide the group. Power comes in time, in response to proven effort, diligent study, and repetitious application. Each candidate will have at least made some progress working through the Seven Classical Grimoires, or else they will not get far along the path of magic as each successive step is dependent upon the one before it.
Guides, mentors, and challengers, hierophants, chancellors, marshalls, and very honored fraters and sorores, your brothers and sisters within the Order, Lodge or Circle will help you, test you, challenge, provoke and assess your worthiness even as they instruct you, educate you and assign various tasks to you. It's all part of the process of becoming a wizard, a mage or philosopher with great knowledge, power and responsibility.
Magic is a form of technology, and it is highly proprietary in its dissemination and application. Memories, dreams and reflections are the stock in trade of a candidate who is expected to earn their place at the threshold to the mandala-esque boundaries of their chosen Order. Once initiated, brought across the threshold and plugged-into the accumulated lore, specific Power and particular legacies of their group, they are commited to the path. Most find it a fair bargain. The others are rarely ever heard from again.
One gains access to the teachings of their group, learning the fundamentals and receiving training in the work of assembling egregores, conjuration of the spirits and other entities aligned to their group, the doctrines underlying all magical practice, and the requisite rituals and spells only available from the group. They are connected into the collective energy of the organization, their aura primed and bound and set with seals that identify it as belonging to the Order. They are granted the right to access the shared metaconscious groupmind that informs the group, serves as their commonly-shared point of access and reference, and the repository of all their memories, knowledge and learning. Perhaps at one time these things were in some form artificial, but they are quite valid and real and dynamically active and involved in the affairs of their respective groups as could be expected of any living organism, collective or singular.
The private histories of the various Orders are built up over generations by all the diaries, journals, records and reports submitted by each member over the course of their involvement with the Order. By its nature it contains controversies, conflicts and the failings of all forms of communication. But amidst all that, there are secrets, insights, revelations and often neglected theories or lines of reasoning that can lead to whole new areas of research and experimentation, buried spells, forgotten or deprecated forms of rituals, even the keys to sub-sets of the Order that operate as clandestine cells of even more secret societies within the already esoteric and arcane Orders. And the more one digs, the more one uncovers the politics, dealings, and truth of the past and the previous generations even as they get co-opted, recruited, and drafted into the lingering conspiracies, simmering rivalries and sometimes explosive disputes that are going on all around them. They will be asked to choose a side eventually. Perhaps they will choose wisely, but they will choose none the less.
Magic is a mass of consequences, implications and knowledge both undefiled and thoroughly bastardized, bowdlerized and corrupted. It is a powerful modality for effecting change both in terms of one's inner conscious-landscape and in the world at large. Secret knowledge such as the geometry of mythology, the mechanics of planes and resonant spaces, the topology of emanatory spheres, metaphorical and practical astrology, hyper-mathematics, reformed hermeticism and more. If it is esoteric, bound by secrecy, and best not left to the uneducated, the ignorant or the profane then it is encapsulated, shrouded and held in trust by the Orders lest it be cast like dangerous pearls before pigs. Consider the implications of psychoactive nuclear weapons, or the ancient secrets of constructing timebombs or the horrendous machines capable of mindlessly devouring entire planets. Those things are replicatable, repeatable, the product of arcane sciences, and they must never fall into the hands of those who do not clearly appreciate their natures or the consequences of their use. Thus the Orders remain silent, guardians of things best not left in the hands of the uninitiated.
So much for magic.