I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth, forgone all customs of exercise; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition; that this goodly frame the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o'er hanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire: why it appeareth no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.
Hamlet, William Shakespeare
I first engaged with conspiracy theory in the aftermath of 9/11 and I rapidly encountered chemtrails. After a very cursory reading of the topic this neophyte decided that he wouldn't dive deeply into it as he was sure that he would get lost and go insane - seven years later, after mooching around in lesser conspiracies, I dived in anyway. Cue: holographic planes; alien orbs; mass governmental sterilisation programmes; sky-bound Faraday cages to thwart solar storms ''human cost be damned''; etc - the chemtrail conspiracy is a paranoid's dream. I learned all kinds of things about how we know mass aviation is destroying the atmosphere - global dimming for example - and thought about how often conspiracy theory obfuscates real problems. Back in 2008 when I became a ''chemtard'' I had played Horatio in a production of Hamlet and a line from Rosencrantz had been haunting me (along with the spectre of chemtrails) since then - ''to think, my lord, if you delight not in man what lenten entertainment the players shall recieve from you'' - and suddenly it dawned on me, I was and had been depressed this whole time. Sure I had powered through life with my hypomaniacal blend of enthusiasm and pure will but inside I had been fairly miserable - the sky had become for me a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours; I had used the theory to externalise my depression. When I came to understand this the clouds didn't lift, the planes didn't suddenly stop ''spraying'', and I am not saying there is no truth to chemtrails, but I did realise that the apocalypse is personal, global, ongoing, wherever, whenever and whoever you may be. The seeds of this fatalism bore fruit with my journey and residency at Edward Kelley's Tower and in the subsequent dialogue with Raziel on the nature of time-travel; in submission to destiny a great portal of new freedom suddenly seemed to open in a way that I hadn't yet conceived.
I came across the Phantom Time Hypothesis in the aftermath of the discombobulating ''What year is this?'' in Twin Peaks - the Return. Half conspiracy, half alternative history - phantom time suggests that someone has inserted 300ish years into the calendar and that the dark ages never actually happened - by this theory it is 1720. I got a little worried about this extra time, I mean even if we added a bit of spectral time in there it could mean this is 2011 and we didn't miss the apocalypse! I got my sister to ask some spirits and they said it was actually 1987 although I haven't found the time or courage to corroborate them at the moment. Returning to chemtrails and the externalisation of depression, I feel that in coming across the notion of phantom time it is now worth reflecting beforehand on how that (chance encounter, fixation, obsession) is an externalisation of something going on within me or within people around me, spiritually or otherwise.
There is time that has passed that I may think has been in the development of myself as a magician but in reality have I been avoiding her - dressing her up as ''being an ethical individual'' or ''figuring out secret government programs'' as opposed to systematically exploring her mysteries? Have my so-called decades of work in the esoteric arts in fact been meagre years? Have I padded out my studies by including a number of things that aren't really magick? There is a kind of casual/lazy ''Thelemic'' definition of magick which is basically whatever you want it to mean and there are various extreme positions held in the grimoire niches by venomous rogues which are definitely magick but might be too exclusive. That said I think there is a difference between being a conspiracy theorist who studies a bit of magick and a magician who studies a bit of conspiracy theory; the same with identity politics for people who equate their activism/rants on social media with actually being a magician. In the final analysis it comes down to time spent - if you are spending the vast majority of your time researching different conspiracy theories or ranting about identity politics/saving the world from injustice then you're only dabbling in magic at best... With the extent of the challenges to personal identity in magick I could say acting was a magickal pursuit but when you dress magic up as something other than she is then you are only spending phantom time with your true muse. I think we often like to pretend magick is this, that or something else because the realities of magical research and practise are actually more frightening, more demanding, and more exhausting. In the years I have been writing and engaging with people I have lost track of the number of posts I have seen in the blogosphere that were actually about other (at least what I consider) extraneous offtopics, and I can count the number of detailed accounts of theory, practice and results on, excusing my hyperbole, just over one hand. Some people do magic and just can't/don't want to talk about it (or just want to charge you for it) but some people, including myself at times, have clearly, at least to me, conflated her with other things. This disinclination and the (subconscious) need to escape through conflation can emerge from any number of possible sources but here are a few:
- For sorcerers who are all about results, reluctance to write about or do is wrapped up with pride either not wanting to (be seen to) brag or actually succeed (self-sabotage), not wanting to seem inadequate, or not wanting to try because failure would be too much
- For mages who are more about theory their theory is often so mingled with their personal identity that they are afraid of writing about/testing because of being judged or having someone/their results destabilise their already limited grip on reality
- For wizards who are more about experiences the fact that those experiences are beyond words and the theories, methods are impossible to try/write up because logic/language fails or the sheer insanity of it all glares through
In attempting a more rigorous definition of what doing magick or magickal research constitutes I hope to avoid padding my own studies with phantom time. Interdisciplinary and comparative work (with medical science, psychology, history, the arts, etc) is very important but when they displace the focus and are no longer magick I will rein myself in. Certain theatrical ritual(s) is/are clearly designed and deployed as a magick act, others are not - same with conspiracy research, politics, day-dreaming, meditation, philosophy, etc. This is not really a ''what is magick?'' question as it is ''what is magick for me right now?'' - I know that the lines between areas of knowledge are nebulous and they will vary between individuals but I think its important to (re)establish and narrow these boundaries for personal disciplinary and creative reasons. In answering the four fundamental questions (who I am, where I am, when I am and why I am) Phantom Time has introduced a wonderful new element of doubt for me to explore but regardless of what year this is, the clock is still ticking and extraneous knowledge and spurious activity are ever present distractions from my magickal goals.
Don't clap too loudly, it's a very old world.
The Player, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead