The Golden Age of Magic: What Historical Period Deserves the Title?
Many practitioners of magic love to romanticize ancient Egypt as the epitome of the great magical genesis. For others Hellenistic Greece represents the creme de la crème of the pursuit of the arcane arts; this is ironic as the Hellenes themselves put Egyptian magic & mystery on quite the pedestal. Still others argue that pre-Roman, Celtic regions of Europe (Gaul/France et al) hosted the efflorescence of magical understanding, and a few, bless their wishful-thinking hearts, even insist Renaissance Europe saw magic in its prime.
Perhaps you favor another period in human history above all these. What era do you hold aloft as the flower of magical pursuits?
For me, the answer to the question below comes easily and immediately.
When, and where, in history is the Golden Age of Magic?
Right here, and right now, anywhere in the developed world. Modern civilization is proud to host the most dynamic, abundant, complete, multi-faceted, in-depth, potent, glorious, dangerous, exotic, simplified, eclectic, robust, sacred and infernal, formal and folk, doctrine and system of magic our species has ever imagined, much less actually implemented.
We are currently living in the Golden Age of Magic.
Without a doubt, no other period even comes close to comparison. Consider this:
A student living in the developed world, having at his/her disposal modern libraries and transportation, along with the Internet can readily access any tradition from any geographic region or culture, from any portion of the known human timeline! With a studious mind and work ethic, one could literally build from scratch a personal system based upon any number of or portions thereof magical schools and treatises from Egypt, India, Palestine, Greece, the Pacific Islands, pre-Columbian America, Okinawa, Sumer, Rome, and Ruthenia to name a handful.
I don’t recommend making that kind of tangled mess for yourself. The business of tradition-mingling is both overrated and problematic.
The knowledge is, however, literally at your fingertips and can surely be put to productive use. I’m always, at least more often than not, fascinated by a good comparative overview of multiple philosophies or theorems.
What strikes me the most is the consistency of agreement along certain lines. Numbers often carry their esoteric (inner, “spiritual”) significance intact from culture to culture. Colors also maintain fairly well their occult (hidden, secret) meaning between civilizations and eras. Even when two systems at first appear to offer completely distinct ideas about a number or color I often find, on closer examination, the variance is superficial and there is commonality.
The latter obviously isn’t always true. Nor, either way, is it the point of this article to cover likeness and difference between systems, so forgive my wandering.
The sheer volume of information about magic that’s available to present day initiates is unrivaled. Maybe before the library at Alexandria was burned, those living in or able to travel to that particular area would have had access to a greater stockpile. We’ll never know for sure and even if this were the case it served a small percentage of the global populace. Dr. John Dee, hell Merlin himself would have traded a limb for the kind of informational access available to anyone in the first world who cares to have a look.
No longer to aspiring initiates need to gain favor with the local or regional schools. One is not limited to traditions of his or her native land, as lore and techniques from a continent across the ocean are just as accessible.
Gone, at least in large part, is the veil of secrecy between the interested seeker and the arcane knowledge. What once remained hidden is now published in paperback and blogrolled on the Web. Formula forbidden to the average seeker, protected even by threat of torture and death, can now be thoroughly examined in museums, textbooks, lecture halls, and of course via thousands of pages and portals in cyberspace.
We shouldn’t take all this for granted. Consume and save all you can, and through personal journal and lodge or coven records crystallize all enhancements and new developments.
With the trending rush toward thought-policing and full-spectrum surveillance by governments in the West (and of course elsewhere) there is no guarantee magic and mysticism won’t again be marked as subversive ideology and purged from public access. It is my prediction that, along with personal firearms and civilian martial arts systems like Karate and Jujutsu, you can pretty much bet on the banning of any real magical content by the time our most recent generation is nearing senior citizenry.
Perhaps we’ll rise up and stop the next dark age from crossing the horizon. If not, we should enjoy the light while we still have it.