How to kill the Book of Nature - or why Psychological Projection is a trap
Sitting on the stone terrace of the old house in Liguria, the morning sun is up. A hornet is eating old cherries in the tree above me and I am listening to her buzz that mingles with the sounds of birds in the valley before me. My mind wanders back to what I learned about Psychological Projection this week: This psychological effect that treats reality as the mirror of our minds, reflecting brightest what we fear and despise. For some reason I am struggling to come to terms with this concept, this particular view of the world... And as I am pondering on it in the morning sun I realize that Psychological Projection illustrates perfectly why Magic and Psychology collide.
What it is is this: From a psychological perspective any intuitive statement about reality is a potential Projection. The only description of reality that escapes the far sweeping arms of this mirroring-effect are objective facts. Such as: the morning wind is warm on my skin, the ants collect the breadcrumbs of my breakfast, the motorcycle roars up the serpentine road of the hills. Describing the simple things that are present right now, without any involvement of myself. Psychologically this is the way to break through the mirror of Projection. A lot of beauty and poetry sleeps in this way of perception. Yet hidden in this view of the world is a deadly poison to all magical acts... Here is the riddle that wants to be solved:
If the world wants to talk back to you, how do you differentiate its voice from your own? As the world talks to you in the same tone, the same words, the same language as your own, how do you tell it from your own?
Agrippa explains that the language or tongue of spirits is very similar to our own. Yet just like someone who is far away from you needs to shout and somoene who is a little closer can talk in a softer tone, spirits have direct access to your heart. So when they speak to you you will hear them as your own voice directly in your mind.
Engaging with the world in such a mystical way opens the gates to a world of dialogue: You look at the world, your actions, your emotions and the world answers right back to you. The only thing you need to get rid of in order for this dialogue to work is the veil (or brick wall?) of objectivity. The world talks back to you in your own voice, in your own experiences and subjective encounters. Every single encounter is a word spoken to us. If we can make sense of the words in their relation to our personal state of being, we discover meaning and move from words to stories.
Projection, however, disrupts this living connection and forces us to retreat into a world of monologue: our minds projecting their fears and disbeliefs on a blank canvas, a silent world. This is why the concept of Projection bears the risk of separating us from the world around us - locking ourselves up in the dark cages of our minds. In the end awareness of my mind's tendency to project itself leads to a constant struggle to see things as they truly are. Free from subjective Projections in their very own colors, shapes and textures. And while this might be possible to achieve in rare states of enlightment it's a great way to get really little out of life.
If you don't allow to express yourself, to influence, to change, to interact with the things around you, life becomes a museum with each beautiful object covered behind a spotless surface of glass. If you are here to get something out of life, however, accept the simple truth that engaging with any object will change both of you, the object and yourself. It's objectivity that kills the Book of Nature.
Here is an example: I was running up the hills of Liguria this morning. The sun was dawning and the olive groves were waking up (watch out - Projections coming in!). As I was running up the battered tarmac road invisible silks hung in the air spun by the spiders over night. Ever so often did I catch one of them on my face and felt the tingling web on my eyes and cheeks. I tried to brush them away but the feeling remained until I caught the next one. As I passed through a small village and left it again I suddenly thought of the silks on my eyes as blindfolds which were torn apart, one by one. I continued my run and allowed the feeling of the spiderwebs on my face to change and to become the feeling of torn blindfolds... The tingling on my eyes and cheeks changed from being distracting to being exciting and actually quite joyful: I wondered what I would be able to see with my newly discovered sight... If the colors on the hills would change, if my relationships would shine in a new light or if I would lose some illusions and self-deceiptions? It wasn't about answering the questions, but it was about being caught in this wonderful moment of experiencing how something new came to life - full of surprises, not knowing and things to come.
Once I had climbed the hill top, turned around and reached the small village again from where I had started, my heart and my mind were full of joy and power. Joy was flowing from the reminder I had received that nature is deeply playful. And power was growing from the simple fact that each run in the morning, each coffee in the midday sun, each jump from a stone cliff into the sea allows for myself to change. Whether I remain who I am today or whether I change myself completely is determined by the stories only, that are shared between the world and I.
Well, I guess a psychologist would snap their fingers at this point, smile and tell me that Projection doesn't need to be a bad thing after all - as long as we attribute it back to ourselves and not to others. And I would smile back and answer that the spiders at night were weaving their webs on the height of my eyes because they knew that I was on my way. This is the secret that science will never solve: that world and man are waiting for each like two lovers, perfectly ready for their touch.
For the psychologist the idea of wonder contradicts with their strive for objectivity. For me as a magician I try not to care about objectivity or objects, but what is in-between. I don't look at the spiderweb as one object and at myself as another. I look at both of us and everything around us being woven into one wonderful web of nature. It is only in our own words only that we can read the book of nature. Life is nothing unless we invest ourselves.