Let’s talk about the core philosophy of Integral Magic™. Integral Magic is the understanding that at deepest level of reality – not merely at the conventional understandings of self, society, and culture – there is a meaningful pattern imprinted on All-That-Is. This meaningful pattern is glimpsed in greater or lesser degrees through language and symbol, thought and conception. The pattern is not necessarily right in front of our eyes, easy for everyone to see without effort, but it is graspable if you know what you are looking for.
The pattern I’m speaking of has been given expression in a variety of magical and mystical systems. In Kabbalah, it is said to be the Tree of Life, expressed in ten or eleven primeval energy centers which are emanations of the Divine. In ancient Chinese philosophy, it was said to be the Yin-Yang, primordial spiritual energies which comprise everything on Earth and in the Heavens. In Chinese and Western astrological cosmologies, there were 12 signs – animals or other mythological representations of the universe – which held the keys to open the locked doors of mystery in virtually all of human affairs. In a variety of mystical traditions, the hidden patterns were the letters of sacred languages – Sanskrit, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Arabic, or Japanese – which secretly reveal the patterns of the Kosmos through the order of the letters and the ways they form words with secret relationships amongst themselves. Certain vowel sounds such as AUM have been taken in ancient sacred literature to be an allegory of the four planes of consciousness.
All of these ancient and medieval systems of meaning-making are important and have interesting things to say, but there are some observations that we need to make before going into detail on any of them. First, notice that the symbol systems agree that there is an underlying cosmological pattern, but they disagree on what it is. Some take a duality to be primordial; others say that reality is essentially divided into a trinity, or four, or five parts. There are sacred alphabets with different numbers of letters, each set capping the possible metaphysical meanings.
Each culture is a separate world of meaning, its symbols set into harmonious relationship with other symbols within the same ordering, but locked against orders with different foundations in phonetics or numerology. The Greeks and the Chinese could not agree on whether there were four or five elements comprising the energy of the universe; scholars of Sanskrit and Hebrew would generally not agree on which letters connect with meanings established by the Divine. One way of talking about this characteristic of early symbolic systems is to say that they are pre-modern or ethnocentric: they can make sense of reality from within a cultural lens, but they have trouble stepping outside of it to hold a wider view.
Second, notice that these symbol systems have usually arisen in pre-modern cultures before science began to tear apart the notion of a meaningful universe in any kind of sacred sense. What use is the understanding that there are four or five elements, when empirical observation and application of the scientific method have established a Periodic Table of Elements with 118 members at last count. Modernism has destroyed the bonds previously established between symbol and meaning, demeaning the old ways as baseless, superstitious, and “magical thinking”. At a time when religions began to open up dialogue which could have fruitfully resolved conflicts in their esoteric systems, the endeavor became sidelined.
As if this were not deadly enough a blow to ancient symbolic systems in itself, postmodern thinking came along and proclaimed that “the sign is arbitrary”, that there is no particular meaning given to any linguistic symbol which is cross-culturally valid, only the whims of language speakers who could just as easily replace an old symbolic meaning with a new and equally valid meaning. Postmodernism also has a tendency to tear apart the privileged role of science as an exclusive arbiter of value and truth; however, it has nothing to put in its place except a radical pluralism and cultural relativism.
The good news from our vantage point is that postmodernists want to preserve the rich cultural diversity of the world which is replete with many examples of magical systems and mystical cosmologies; the bad news is that it denies all cultures the ability to speak about universal truths from a universal perspective. If you believe strongly as we do in the importance of preserving endangered languages, especially indigenous languages which are linked to cultures at risk, then postmodernism’s commitment to cultural survival is key. However, in due course we will attempt to demonstrate that Integral Magic’s philosophy gives a greater motivation for cultural preservation because it wants to preserve the underlying “magick” of every linguistic system and put it in conversation with the “magick” of every other system.
So what we’ve been talking about is that broadly speaking there are pre-modern, modern, and post-modern views of magic: pre-modern, in which my magical ordering system is the only and best and right way of seeing the underlying patterns of the universe; modern, in which no magical systems are correct, and an entirely scientific cosmology is erected; and post-modern, in which magic systems are culture-bound artifacts of the cultures they come from, and any attempt to leap outside of a cultural box to a universalistic system is considered imperialistic and unwarranted.
As you may have guessed already, Integral Magic is neither pre-modern, modern, or post-modern, but in another category altogether. For those of us aware that we are living in a complex world in which pre-modern, modern, and post-modern worldviews intersect and conflict, it is what is coming next. Many folks are calling it “Integral” or “Evolutionary”. I choose to call it Integral Magic or the New Magick. When it is fully articulated, it will be a philosophy which concerns itself with finding and forging the right relationship between human beings and Nature, or the individual and the Kosmos, putting humankind and our endeavors in proper perspective in the Order of Things. And it all begins with an effort to grapple with the meaningful patterns underlying language and symbol, hidden and non-obvious, but manifest and undeniable for those willing to look deeply.