In a recent conversation about the process of magic, one person mentioned that they felt that mystery was an essential part of what makes magic magical. My response was: “Why does there need to be mystery? Mystery is a trope associated with magic, but its just a prop in the end. Looks nice…the real question is does it serve a real function or purpose in the process of magic. If it does, use it, but if it doesn’t, strip it away.”
The counter response was that removing mystery made magic a rational process or a scientific experiment. But I don’t think removing mystery guarantees rationality, as emotion can still factor significantly into a magical work. More importantly the person’s experience and perspective is also a significant factor in magical work and not something that automatically lends itself to rationality. I don;t really hold rationality in a esteemed position anyway, as I think its an artificial state of being. In other words, there’s no such thing as a purely rational state of mind. There’s always some level of emotion or feeling involved. Perhaps the closest experience of rationality is data, but even the interpretation of data is not wholly rational, as there is always an agenda and argument for how and why data is interpreted a particular way.
Regardless that’s a topic for a different blog post. Getting back to mystery…I don’t feel mystery is a necessary part of magical work. It’s a trope, a prop that is associated with magic, and also with secrecy, which is another trope associated with occultism. I dislike secrecy, as I feel what it ultimately encourages is a potential loss of knowledge, experiences, and information that could benefit others. Nonetheless secrecy is one of those tropes that magicians hold fast to, much as mystery is held onto.
When I look at mystery and secrecy I see power games being played, the secret club handshake, the knowing wink, and the decision about who is included and who is excluded. And yes it can have its uses, to create a sense of atmosphere, but ideally the magician can accomplish without needing to resort to such theater unless it serves a purpose.
I’ll admit I take an approach to magic that has been describing as a stripping down of it. Yet I don’t feel I’m missing out on anything by doing so. Removing all the extras has just provided a way to get to the heart of the magical working, to the connections that are made with the spirits, with the possibilities, etc. without needing to draw on the props. Some people find the props necessary and if that’s the case, then that’s what they need to use, but magic is ultimately a variety of paths. I just like to explore how you can strip it down and build it back up to fit your needs, while getting rid of what you don’t need.