I am entrenched in a writing project and, thanks to the flu on a few fronts, some make-up work with my students. Strangely, all of these things are focusing on “Magical Timing.” I thought, “Great! The PBP is on the letter T this week and I can write a post for timing and kill three birds with one well aimed stone!’
Seems my “timing” is not as well-tuned as I thought. This week’s post is brought to you by the letter S – not T.
Therefore, I offer a repost and revision of an old post called “Hush, Hush,” one of my very first Files. The subject is Secrecy – a very practical lesson on matter and waves:
Unfortunately, we still live in a place and time where Paganism – or anything outside of the American Christocentric imperative – is not welcome. Primarily, this is because of misunderstanding, but such misunderstanding is often based in jingoistic bias. Of course, we don’t literally burn witches anymore but plenty of people have been burned by the judgment or ridicule of others. So, there is a very “real world” reason for Pagans to maintain in silence and anonymity. This doesn’t mean that I support hypocrisy. I would never recommend that you “pretend” to be something that you are not, but I recommend that you think about all aspects of your secular life before making your spiritual life common knowledge.
Some are fortunate to live in open-minded arenas, some in a less amenable atmosphere. Some have broadminded families, some families will be angry, hurt, upset, even fearful about your decision to study Pagan spiritualties. This isn’t their fault. More than likely, they will base their comments (if you decide to tell them) on their feelings of love for you and their misguided belief that you are “dabbling” in something dark, dangerous, or even demonic.
Aside from avoiding judgment, there are other reasons to maintain silence. Maybe not about being Pagan, but about conducting a Pagan ritual. Many practitioners will tell you that they maintain silence to protect a coven secret or rite. This is all very appropriate and should be respected. But more importantly, I think, there are two reasons to keep silence. Both are very theoretical: one based in psycholinguistics and the other in quantum physics.
One major reason to keep silent involves the nature of magic and of spoken language. For me, to speak is to conjure. Derrida and Lacan knew this. Power resides with those who control language. We can subvert language and we can evolve language, but we only do this because it is language that gives us power. Most popular representations of the magician involves a “magic word”: think of Disney’s many magical characters, the Harry Potter series, “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” and almost any TV show or movie involving Witchcraft (I particularly remember “Shazam” from the 1970s). Consider Ancient Creation Myths where the universe is spoken into existence: Mesopotamian, MesoAmerican, and Middle Eastern (“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light”). Creation Myths all include a “speaking” into creation.
Another reason to keep silent is to refrain from collapsing the wave. Consciousness moves as light does. It is, therefore, both a particle and a wave; it is also, for that reason, both simultaneously “here” and “not here.” A particle, quite simply, is perceivable matter – something with mass; a wave is a transfer of energy within some substance – i.e. a disturbance in the water or in the air. Light is like quantum matter, constantly vacillating between existing and not existing, literally “popping” in and out of existence. We don’t know where they go. We don’t know from whence they return. Like our consciousness. We know that we enter altered states when in deep sleep; yet we do not know where our consciousness goes or what, if anything, displaces it while it is gone.
This is why spells are told to no one. Sound is wave only.
Everything in existence is nothing more than a wave of information (or possibilities) until we observe it in some way. Until we actually observe the not-yet-a-particle, it’s nothing more than a wave. Until it is observed, the wave is “pure potential” itself, existing in every possibility at the same time. It’s doing everything that is potentially possible – all at once.
Once we observe the wave (speak the secret), it “solidifies” into a material reality.
Much like the collapsed wave, I believe that speaking a thing changes it. I believe that confining the meaning of a Great Mystery to the limits of spoken language can “ruin” a spell. This is like taking “potential everything-ness” and reducing it to an observable/hearable singularity.
This is not to say that language is not used for spell-crafting. But in the instance of casting, language is used in conjunction with the will. This makes the words carry the will rather than the literal meaning of the word. Yes, this is a Mystery. But there seems to be something to the argument that banal or causal conversation without the power of will weakens the power of the spell.
Further, some practitioners believe that speaking a thing makes it so. For this reason, they will never talk of magical affairs without first casting a protective circle. Whenever two or more witches are together and start talking about magic, for fear of “drive by” casting, you are likely to find one who will insist on some witchy prophylaxis. If, as many believe, words are thoughts and thoughts are things, we create every time we speak.
You are encouraged to keep your silence. Protect it. Nurture it. Enshroud it. It is always possible to reveal a thing – it is almost impossible to re-conceal it.