Last night I helped guide a friend of mine through a major life crisis. I’m not sure how it will work out, but with the help of another long-time-friend and witch, we managed to put her in a position where she had an active role in deciding how things would work, instead of simply allowing the crisis to unfold around her.
What we really did was take our impressions and understanding of relationships in general and this person in specific, and brought our insights to her in a way she should understand and use effectively.
I don’t generally think of myself as a healer. People keep telling me that I am, and I don’t like to believe them. There’s a lot of responsibility in that, and I don’t often want it. But when an old friend calls out of the blue with a simple “I need your help,” what can I do but help? And in this case the healing work was to bring insights, revelations, intuitions, observations, and unseen connections to the attention of the querent in a relevant way. Since I’m not really much of a visionary, it is how I approximate the kind of work where journeyers return with wisdom from their travels. My method is perhaps a bit more cerebral and intellectual, but I still bring home the bacon.
After the hard work was done (for us that is; crisis friend had some phone calls to make and people to talk to), witch friend and I had some talks about past experiences, events, and associates. This conversation included some musings on a few people that we know who had fallen to the depths of Magusitis (some more so than others).
Narcissism is not a pleasant thing to observe in a magician, especially a competent one. But more importantly, it affects how a journeyer handles the insights and knowledge he brings back. And if bringing back wisdom to the uninitiated is one of the responsibilities of a magician, then there is a problem.
So that’s why I’m going to talk about why I changed my career path and dropped out of graduate school.
My plan was to secure a doctorate in religious studies. I wanted to do research and teach at a graduate level. After years of swearing in restaurant kitchens, the idea of writing and traveling, attending conferences, and doing field work at pagan festivals sounded very, very appealing, as did the attendant status that I would gain from such a position.
But Academia and I didn’t get along very well.
A lot of it had to do with politics, and not just the left/right kind, but the internal nepotism kind. But most of it had to do with the complete saturation of post-modernism in the liberal arts. Because when you’re studying the world around you, the assumption that there is not objective reality and however you decide to interpret something is how it really is isn’t really that practical. And when your ego is completely invested in a theory that feel right to you, and you believe that truth and reality are subjective, you end up rejecting reality and observation in order to preserve your theory (and ultimately the ideologies it supports).
But the one thing that bothered me above all else was the incestuous nature of academia. The only think I was really producing was other academics. And at the graduate level in the liberal arts, most of the research produced is so obscure that it is indecipherable and meaningless except to other academics. So basically, your whole job become producing essentially meaningless and self-serving texts (which often defy both logic and reality, but work nicely in the abstract and disconnected world of the academy) and training people to be able to make some kind of sense of the obscure texts you have just produced. And the higher you climb on the academic ladder, the more abstract and obscure the materials you are dealing with, and the more self-serving and elitist the people you train.
And what you end up with is a group of people who can only talk to each other, about stuff that is so far disconnected from everyday life that not many other people care anyway, and who feel smugly superior over other people because of it.
Which brings me back to magusitis and magical narcissism.
Our role is to bring back knowledge from beyond the boundaries of the “normal.” Our role is to guide people who have approached or crossed those boundaries, the bring them back or push them further. And so you have to bring back what you encounter.
But if what you bring back is so obscure, or vague, or caked in jargon, it does no good. Other specialists may understand, but is our job really to cater to specialists that can do much of what we do on their own? Or is our job to cater to the laypeople who look to us for answers, but shy away from incomprehensible ones?
And if you’re too caught up in how awesome and special and elitist you are because you can undertake such journeys, and how you are better than the laypeople that can’t, then you’re not going to be able to effectively communicate with them. Which means the fruits you bring back will rot, uneaten by the starving masses.