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Alan Moore and Magic

June 11th, 2005 Posted in Esoteric
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I found an interview with Alan Moore from 2001 online at tonight. It is typical fare for him but I did like the one discussion of his attitude towards magic and his work:

O: Speaking of having an effect on people’s minds, with From Hell and Promethea, you get very deeply into the history of symbolism and magic. Are you trying to educate the masses, or is there a specific purpose?

AM: Well, I do have a purpose. I am an incredibly vain person, but I am also, with Promethea, trying to educate people about something I am genuinely interested in, and which I generally think is of interest to a lot of people. When I was 40, I decided to become a magician, for various reasons. Most people get to 40 and have a midlife crisis, and that’s just boring. They bore their friends by going around saying, “What’s it all about? What’s the point?” I thought it might be at least more entertaining to go spectacularly mad and start worshipping a snake and declaring myself to be a magician. It’s been immense fun. And, more than fun, it’s been illuminating. It’s probably at the stage now where I see almost everything in my life, and in the world around me, in magical terms. It certainly seems to have given me a lot of energy in my work. I’m probably doing more books now than I’ve ever done, even when I was young and sprightly. This is quite a fantastic amount of pages to be turning out every month. A lot of that is the new insights into my own creative processes, which I thank magic for. Because in some sense, when I’m talking about magic, I’m only talking about the creative process. Magic to me is something from nothing, which includes rabbits out of hats, it includes the creation of the universe from a quantum vacuum, or it includes how a comic comes into being from me sitting in an armchair with a completely blank mind. It’s all of this. Any given creativity is magic. And sort of by understanding magic, I have understood a little more about the processes by which I have been supporting myself for these past 20 years. Certainly Promethea is a magical rant seemingly disguised as a superheroine comic. I’ve got the wonderful talents of Jim Williams and Mick Gray and Todd Klein and Jeromy Cox helping me out on that. Yeah, it’s kind of a visionary odyssey, and I’m able to get over a lot of valid information. Not in terms of magic being a doorway to some strange mad dimension full of angels and demons and gods, although, yes, there is a lot of that. But I think primarily, magic is simply a new way of seeing the ordinary universe that surrounds us, and ourselves as creatures in that universe. I’ve certainly been impressed by some of the insights that I seem to have received from my imaginary friends, and sort of, if I can… If they are of interest to anybody beyond me, then I’m very happy to pass them on. I mean, with the readership of Promethea, we’ve had some people who’ve got frankly bored with what I suppose must have come to sound like some sort of manic, ranting lecture from Charles Manson or somebody. But on the other hand, there are a lot of people who seem genuinely appreciative, and new readers who come to the book precisely because it is exploring things like Kabbalah and Tarot and notions of human history, the makeup of the human psyche. Things that are actually a lot more broadly applicable and of broader interest than superheroes. Promethea is about very human things, even though I’m using a superheroic vessel to convey those things.

O: When you talk about the way it’s helped you and the way it could help other people in your situation, you make it sound essentially like a religion that you’re preaching to other people in order to aid them spiritually.

AM: No. No, I draw a sharp distinction between magic and religion. I see them almost as the spiritual parallels of say, fascism and anarchy in the political arena. To me, politics does not divide into right-wing and left-wing, in that capitalism and communism are both just two different ways of ordering industrial societies, which have not been around for a vast amount of time and probably won’t be around for a lot longer. To me, the two poles of politics are fascism, which… from the original Roman concept, the symbol for it was a bundle of bound twigs. The idea being, “In unity there is strength.” Religion is almost the political equivalent of that. I mean, religion, strictly speaking, doesn’t even have to be about anything spiritual. The Conservative Party is a religion in that they are bound together by belief. Almost any organization has its religious aspects. With magic, I worship a second-century Roman snake god who, on the best evidence that I can dredge up from that period, was some kind of elaborate glove-puppet that was being controlled by a second-century snake-oil salesman, basically a complete fraud, huckster, and showman. I don’t want anybody else to start worshipping this god. I find something a bit unnatural in the idea of being bound together in spiritual ideas with people. I’m sure that, in our natural state, we all believe something entirely different. I don’t necessarily want anybody to believe the same things I believe, which is one of the reasons why I’ve adopted such a patently mad sort of deity. The idea of the deity is all I’m interested in, so that’s fine for my purposes. It would be a bit creepy if everybody else suddenly started worshipping this second-century glove-puppet. Magic to me is more like anarchy. The roots of the word anarchy are an archos, no leaders, which is not really about the kind of chaos that most people imagine when the word anarchy is mentioned. I think that anarchy is, to the contrary, about taking personal responsibility for yourself. I believe that fascism is about abandoning your personal responsibility to the group or to society. You say, “In unity there is strength,” which inevitably will become, “In uniformity there is strength.” It’s better if all those sticks are the same size and length, because then they’ll make a tidier bundle, which consequently leads to the kind of fascism that we saw in the ’30s and ’40s. I mean, anarchy is about taking complete responsibility for yourself. And I would extend that into the spiritual area, with the differences between religion and magic. All I would be urging people to do in Promethea is to explore, in their own way, by whatever means they personally feel comfortable with, using whatever system they happen to feel comfortable with, whether that be Christianity, or paganism, or Hinduism, or anything else, to explore the kind of rich world that I think all of us have inside us. I just want to tell them that that world is there, that there are a variety of ways of exploring it. It doesn’t really matter which way you use, or which system you adopt. It’s a territory I find very rewarding, very fulfilling, very human. To point out that territory to other people is something I feel happy about doing. To erect a huge church there and officiate over rituals, is not.

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