When Reality Is Optional: Mage and Post-modernism

 

“The ordinary modes of human thinking are magical, religious, social, and personal. We want our wishes to come true; we want the universe to care about us; we want the approval of those around us; we want to get even with that s.o.b. who insulted us at the last tribal council. For most people, wanting to know the cold truth about the world is way, way down the list.”– John Derbyshire

I am starting to think that every social ‘science’ can either be understood through tabletop RPGs or Russian Literature. Mage: The Ascension is a tabletop RPG that explains the post-modernism and current Wokeism by describing a fictional universe of magic. 

Perhaps the most fascinating things about Mage: The Ascension is its take on science and the technology that utilizes it. Apparently, reality in the Mage universe isn’t static and neither are physical laws. Much of reality, if not all of it is as debatable as what gender you are on a university campus. Regular people are referred to as sleepers and conventional physics are whatever sleepers think it is. Mages are people who realize that an intense application of will can alter the rules of reality. So your cellphone doesn’t work because it followers the natural rules of the physical universe. It works because people agree that the engineers and tech geeks know what they are talking about. Mages are like shamans or voodoo doctors who can ask spirits to make your sword stronger in battle or to make your crops grow with vigor.

Now you may be asking me, “Henry. What does all this nerdy MAGE stuff have to do with Wokism or science.” Well, everything actually. All these stories relate to magical thinking.

The Magic of Sacrifice

Why do environmentalists believe that windmills and solar panels will fix everything? Because they think that sacrifice and belief will change the physical realities on the ground. Real science nerds do all the calculations about how much it would take to transfer to a green economy and then they touch their glasses (anime meme) and explain how getting rid of fossil fuels without nuclear energy will lead to food shortages that make Venezuelan agriculture look like Ukrainian wheat farms without Russian intervention. The environmentalist response to all these stubborn facts is that they just don’t care enough. This makes sense from a magical and religious point of view.

In the movie, Memoir of a Geisha, the titular character sacrifices a sum of money that can buy a week’s worth of food to a benevolent god. She does this despite the fact that she is quite poor. She does this because she needs to make a serious sacrifice in order to get a serious return on her divine investment. How many times have you heard leftists say that we could cure cancer if we only spent a few more hundreds of billions on research? That policy position comes from the religious notion of sacrifice.

Quite often, the more powerful spells in the game need some sort of sacrifice to work. Usually, you have to spend money to get super fancy ingredients and a few days doing rituals. But the more extreme spells included physical dismemberment. Eating bugs in order to cast the spell to make the world healthy.

Divine Punishment

It is not uncommon throughout the ancient world to think that the poor and the dispossessed deserve their suffering somehow. As old as this idea is, I shall show that it never really went away. Just check out Job 4 with Eliphaz the Temanite. 

Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off? Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same. By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed. The roaring of the lion, and the voice of the fierce lion, and the teeth of the young lions, are broken.

Eliphaz the Temanite isn’t an unusual character. Romans and Vikings thought that slavery was justified by nature and most Hindu and some Buddhist theology has a disturbing idea that the poorer castes deserve their misery.

Science, economics, and the enlightenment suggest that the material universe doesn’t act morally. The forces of the weather sometimes create hurricanes that hurt people who live in climates that are conducive to hurricanes. The morals and behaviour of the hurricane victims aren’t relevant according to the enlightened view.

Compare that with global warming. Environmentalists clearly view global warming and any adverse weather phenomenon with the Earth Goddess Gaea punishing us for our transgressions. It reminds me of Renaissance European peasants who, under the plague, went around whipping themselves and burning down synagogues because they thought G-d was mad at them. Greens want to harass oil executives and make you live without air conditions and eat bugs. In both situations, the unrighteous must be punished and the totems of evil (Jews or fossil fuels) must be excised before the divine punishes us.

The Power of Magic Words

Speaking magic words was also a common part of magic throughout world history. Take, for example, the European ritual of a black mass. In medieval times, some would pay a corrupt priest to recite the funeral rites of your enemy so he can trick the angels and the spirits into believing that your enemy is dead. How this works with G-d knowing and judging everything I haven’t the slightest idea, but it was a thing that happened.

Names were believed to possess great power in the East as well. Bruce Lee had a girl’s name, I believe, to confuse evil spirits. Depending on how someone is named, fate might change for them according to Chinese superstition.

Many illiterate tribes refused to tell outsiders their real names because knowing someone’s name can give you power over them. Demons can be exorcised if you know their real name in Christian traditions.

It is pretty safe to say that names are very important things whenever humanity uses magical thinking. This brings us to the Left’s obsession with names.

The most obvious obsession is dead-naming. The similarities, even in the term itself, are uncanny as a Spiderman comic book. When someone changes their name, they can become a different gender. However, when someone uses another person’s dead name, they are conjuring the gender of who they were previously. This is why leftists are so freaked out about deadnaming and consider it violence (check out the Triggernometry interview). According to the Mage rules, a consensus needs to be established or transgender people will detransition through name magic. Noticeably, more conservative trans people seem to be much less freaked out by deadnaming.

However, recent events have also shown the superstitious fear that the left holds concerning names. Illegal immigrants into undocumented people or migrants. Buying people tickets to Martha’s Vineyard is human trafficking and Republicans worried about election security are fascists and the economy isn’t actually in a recession.

Leftism is often described as a religion and I believe that interpretation. I wrote one of Dr. Bastiat’s favorite Ricochet essays of that year about the subject after all. However, Leftism is far more than a replacement for religion. It is a replacement for community for patriotism and tribalism and, as I have discussed in this essay, magical and emotional thinking.

We will never get rid of human nature unless we undergo generations of genetic engineering and even then I suspect the wisdom of the Bible, Aesop’s fables, and Shakespeare will still be relevant. Mark Twain said “History Doesn’t Repeat Itself, but It Often Rhymes.” As Christianity and Judaism fade from the Left, even the superstitions that attend to those beliefs are transferred to the religion of Wokeism. While I don’t much care for any superstitions, at least religions can offer some guidance and mitigation to the worst parts of superstition. Wokeism has no such history.

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  1. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Magical thinking is endemic to our minds. We know words have power. We know we can make a sacrifice today for a better tomorrow (saving money). These are real.

    I think you are spot on.

    Also, take care the Men in Black don’t pay you a vist.

    • #1
  2. Misthiocracy has never Member
    Misthiocracy has never
    @Misthiocracy

    Henry Castaigne: So your cellphone doesn’t work because it followers the natural rules of the physical universe. It works because people agree that the engineers and tech geeks know what they are talking about.

    I dunno ’bout cellphones, but I’m pretty sure that’s how fiat currency works.

    ;-)

    • #2
  3. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    Printing this out, @henrycastaigne   :-)  

    • #3
  4. Internet's Hank Contributor
    Internet's Hank
    @HankRhody

    Henry Castaigne Eliphaz the Temanite: 7 Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off? 8 Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same. 9 By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed. 10 The roaring of the lion, and the voice of the fierce lion, and the teeth of the young lions, are broken.

    While we’re at it, it’s useful to remember that Eliphaz here is wrong. While the Bible is clear that sin breeds punishment [Proverbs 1:11-19] [Proverbs 5:22], Eliphaz is actually arguing the contrapositive, that punishment only comes from sin. This is explicitly refuted elsewhere in the Bible. [John Chapter 9:2-3, but that whole chapter continues the story]

    I’m always a little leery whenever I see someone citing Job; I’ve seen too many folks say confoundingly foolish things about that book. The way you’re describing it here works; Eliphaz’s views being representative of things thought in the ancient world. I just wanted to reiterate that just because a character in the Bible says it doesn’t mean it’s what the Bible teaches.

    • #4
  5. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    I’ve played Mage: the Ascension for over a decade.  It’s a really fascinating game, but it also brings a lot of focus on postmodernism.  A mage in that game is basically weaponizing postmodernism.

    Doing magic in that game is made of two elements – Paradigm and Skill / Arete.

    First, you need to believe you can do this act.  Every mage has a set of rules that he believes is how the world actually works.  I played a mad scientist who used unorthodox scientific theory.   My friend’s character used Hermetic mysticism.  Other paradigms could involve reality being a simulation (and then hacking it) or invoking spirits or angels to control things.   This is usually one of the defining traits of a character – you could have 6 mages do the exact same thing (light a fire) via 6 completely different methods.  (Inscribing the rune of fire, praying for an angel to light the fire, re-configuring your laser pointer with an etheric lens, etc)

    But that’s not enough.  Anyone can believe anything.  You also have to know how to do the act.  If you screw up, it won’t work, and bad things can happen.  The real difference between a mage and a crazy person is that the mage can actually change reality.  The fire in the above example will warm anyone and shine light anyone can see.   A person using knowledge of science or technology to set a fire is doing the exact same thing – it is just more in accordance with the consensus.  Like Henry said, reality is based on the average ideas of people at large, so the more obviously you break with that, the harder reality is to change.

    That’s where Paradox comes in.  Paradox is what stops a mage from having unlimited power.  Get too obvious in bending reality, and reality snaps back, reasserting the consensus. 

    So what does all that have to do with the Left? 

    First off, the Left believes in a paradigm where words and identity are all-powerful.  Doing a well-intentioned act is good no matter the consequences.  Invalidating this worldview is the function of the wicked.  If someone is a good person, anything they do to a bad person is okay.  To the Left, we are like the force of Paradox keeping them from achieving their dreams, but they have a bigger problem.

    The Left keeps on trying to change reality via the actions Henry mentioned, but they can’t actually make a change.  Reality remains the same, no matter the intentions, words, and identifications employed.   The point of the Emperor’s New Clothes was that perception cannot change reality – the Emperor was actually naked, even if he killed the kid for speaking up.  If a cold wind starting blowing, his “clothes” would do nothing to stop it. 

    Politics are not reality.  Politics can make George Floyd into a saint or a monster, but it cannot bring him back to life.  Politics can make everyone call a man a woman, but they cannot make him able to give birth or give him XX chromosomes.   No matter how much people say Green Energy is the future, it will still deliver the same amount of energy.   Unrecorded history still happened.  Even if the Left changes consensus, reality is not going to change.

    • #5
  6. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Internet's Hank (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne Eliphaz the Temanite: 7 Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off? 8 Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same. 9 By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed. 10 The roaring of the lion, and the voice of the fierce lion, and the teeth of the young lions, are broken.

    While we’re at it, it’s useful to remember that Eliphaz here is wrong. While the Bible is clear that sin breeds punishment [Proverbs 1:11-19] [Proverbs 5:22], Eliphaz is actually arguing the contrapositive, that punishment only comes from sin. This is explicitly refuted elsewhere in the Bible. [John Chapter 9:2-3, but that whole chapter continues the story].

    I’m always a little leery whenever I see someone citing Job; I’ve seen too many folks say confoundingly foolish things about that book. The way you’re describing it here works; Eliphaz’s views being representative of things thought in the ancient world. I just wanted to reiterate that just because a character in the Bible says it doesn’t mean it’s what the Bible teaches.

    In my defense, the Bible is hard. Also, I never assumed that Eliphaz the Temanite was speaking for G-d. 

    • #6
  7. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Fascinating group of ideas.

    Role playing games reflect what a society is about. The  early RPG’s simply allowed the players to inhabit a world of elves and orcs, fairies and mosters, with the ever  

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    I’ve played Mage: the Ascension for over a decade.SNIP A mage in that game is basically weaponizing postmodernism.

    Doing magic in that game is made of two elements – Paradigm and Skill / Arete.

    First, you need to believe you can do this act. Every mage has a set of rules that he believes is how the world actually works. SNIP

    But that’s not enough. Anyone can believe anything. You also have to know how to do the act. If you screw up, it won’t work, and bad things can happen. The real difference between a mage and a crazy person is that the mage can actually change reality. The fire in the above example will warm anyone and shine light anyone can see. A person using knowledge of science or technology to set a fire is doing the exact same thing – it is just more in accordance with the consensus. Like Henry said, reality is based on the average ideas of people at large, so the more obviously you break with that, the harder reality is to change.

    That’s where Paradox comes in. Paradox is what stops a mage from having unlimited power. Get too obvious in bending reality, and reality snaps back, reasserting the consensus.

    So what does all that have to do with the Left?

    First off, the Left believes in a paradigm where words and identity are all-powerful. Doing a well-intentioned act is good no matter the consequences. Invalidating this worldview is the function of the wicked.SNIP

    The Left keeps on trying to change reality via the actions Henry mentioned, but they can’t actually make a change. Reality remains the same, no matter the intentions, words, and identifications employed. SNIP

    Politics are not reality. SNIP No matter how much people say Green Energy is the future, it will still deliver the same amount of energy. Unrecorded history still happened. Even if the Left changes consensus, reality is not going to change.

    Unfortunately people on the right also employ the same screwed up sense of “magic will make it all okay.”

    I find that we are living in The Age of The Benefactor. Even on my rather RW FB group, the moderator states the USA should send its natural gas to the Ukrainian populace, because we have it in abundance. (Or so he says.)

    So very  many affluent people who are not feeling the crippling costs of food or fuel want to give our stuff  away. Fine – let them send their retirement funds to the Ukrainian people as their charitable contribution. Just don’t take it from Joe & Josie Taxpayer so that Mr Affluent can feel the warmth of Tax Payer Charity.

    • #7
  8. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    I had never heard of this, but I think I saw a bunch of cards and games at Walmart in the check out isle. I point it out to my husband., They weren’t cheap. So based on your post, I asked Google about its origins and who created it. It seems its a game that had its foundations and ideas in the occult – magic – new age – etc.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mage:_The_Ascension

    You said the following:

    “I am starting to think that every social ‘science’ can either be understood through tabletop RPGs or Russian Literature. Mage: The Ascension is a tabletop RPG that explains the post-modernism and current Wokeism by describing a fictional universe of magic.”

     

    It could explain Wokeism, but this is the illusion that has taken the world by its throat. It’s the New Age in a different outfit, but nothing new – “Ye shall be as gods” said the serpent in Genesis.  

    Curious to what you think could be explained using Russian literature – or could Mage be propaganda from same?

    • #8
  9. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    I had never heard of this, but I think I saw a bunch of cards and games at Walmart in the check out isle. I point it out to my husband., They weren’t cheap. So based on your post, I asked Google about its origins and who created it. It seems its a game that had its foundations and ideas in the occult – magic – new age – etc.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mage:_The_Ascension

    You said the following:

    “I am starting to think that every social ‘science’ can either be understood through tabletop RPGs or Russian Literature. Mage: The Ascension is a tabletop RPG that explains the post-modernism and current Wokeism by describing a fictional universe of magic.”

     

    It could explain Wokeism, but this is the illusion that has taken the world by its throat. It’s the New Age in a different outfit, but nothing new – “Ye shall be as gods” said the serpent in Genesis.

    Curious to what you think could be explained using Russian literature – or could Mage be propaganda from same?

    The game really explored ideas, but the same game system had other ones as well. All very much a product of the 1990’s

     

    • #9
  10. ToryWarWriter Reagan
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    Why do I feel a need to do another RPG panel.  World of Darkness focused.

    • #10
  11. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    ToryWarWriter (View Comment):

    Why do I feel a need to do another RPG panel. World of Darkness focused.

    I’d be down to join Henry .

    • #11
  12. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    ToryWarWriter (View Comment):

    Why do I feel a need to do another RPG panel. World of Darkness focused.

    I’d be down to join Henry .

    Darkness was weird because it presumed that the Judeo-Christian G-d exists. 

    • #12
  13. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    ToryWarWriter (View Comment):

    Why do I feel a need to do another RPG panel. World of Darkness focused.

    I’d be down to join Henry .

    Darkness was weird because it presumed that the Judeo-Christian G-d exists.

    There is a new 5e module where you can meet Jesus. 

    • #13
  14. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    TBA (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    ToryWarWriter (View Comment):

    Why do I feel a need to do another RPG panel. World of Darkness focused.

    I’d be down to join Henry .

    Darkness was weird because it presumed that the Judeo-Christian G-d exists.

    There is a new 5e module where you can meet Jesus.

    Please tell me he isn’t woke. 

    • #14
  15. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    ToryWarWriter (View Comment):

    Why do I feel a need to do another RPG panel. World of Darkness focused.

    I’d be down to join Henry .

    Darkness was weird because it presumed that the Judeo-Christian G-d exists.

    There is a new 5e module where you can meet Jesus.

    Please tell me he isn’t woke.

    I can’t really speak to that, as I’ve not seen much of it, but here is someone who has seen it and has a G-d in this hunt. 

    https://dungeonmasterpastor.com/2022/01/09/review-an-adventurers-guide-to-the-bible/

     

    • #15
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