In a recent blog post Jason wrote about Post Chaos Magic (sounds like Post modernism) he argues that fictional or pop culture entities don’t have the same effect as more traditional gods, demons, entities, etc. He notes the following:
Some chaos magicians have claimed that in the modern, largely secular world, a figure like Superman receives more collective belief than a pagan deity like Mars, thus making comic book or pop culture characters even more viable for magic than traditional gods and spirits. Even if we accept that it is belief, rather than the object of belief, that holds the power to magic, this thinking confuses attention with belief. Attention and belief are not the same thing, there is a different quality to the experience all around.
Now I want to first issue a caveat. I have not ever identified as a chaos magician. I’ve always identified as an experimental magician (which is its own path). I mention that because in my book Pop Culture Magick I made similar arguments to what is mentioned above. I have, however, distinguished between attention and belief. In my book, I acknowledged that attention was not the same as belief and that while a pop culture entity might get lots of attention what made it an effective force was the actual belief the practitioner had in its existence and abilities. And not just belief in the entity for the course of a ritual, but actual, honest to goodness belief that lasts longer than a moment.
Back in the late 1990s I had the privilege of connecting with Storm Constantine, author of the Wraeththu series. We’ve continued our contact over the years (In fact I co-run Immanion Press with her). We both worked on the Dehara system, which is a system of magic based on contact with “fictional” entities from the Wraeththu series. As we developed this system, other people got involved and what stood out to me was that none of us treated the entities as fictional entities, but rather as genuine spirits we’d contacted. To this day I continue to work with the Dehara as do other people who’ve chosen to believe in them and form a relationship with them. The impact the Dehara have had on my life has been just as real as the impact my work with with the Goetia or other more traditional entities has been.
Jason rightly points out that one of the core issues of Chaos Magic (and for that matter some forms of ceremonial magic) is a tendency to treat spiritual entities as psychological extensions of ourselves. But to me what has always made pop culture magic a viable magic is the ability to genuinely believe and interact with entities that may not date back to Ancient Greek or Celtic cultures, but nonetheless have a real and viable presence, provided the magician is willing to explore that presence. I think that what has stopped many magicians from doing so is a combination of the psychological model of magic and embarrassment about considering the possibility of forming a spiritual relationship with a pop culture entity. After all the Pagan/occult community can be fairly harsh with those people deemed fluffy, as I can attest to from my own experiences. Yet as someone who unashamedly does work with pop culture entities from a spiritual perspective, all I can really say is: Such relationships really can be as effective provided you invest them in as equally as you expect the entity to.
I will note that there is a difference when you’re working with a pop culture entity in a manner that is driven more by getting a specific result as opposed to forming an ongoing relationship with it. I’ve certainly done that kind of work as well and while useful it’s not quite the same as when you develop an ongoing spiritual relationship with an entity.