No one believes in magic. No one. It’s a silly thing to believe in. But everyone kinda wants to believe in magic. That’s why Disney movies and Harry Potter are so popular. It’s why people still believe in the wackier elements of religion, and it’s why superstition is still a relatively common thing, even among the so-called “rational” people of the world. It’s why Lovin’ Spoonful insists that the magic’s in the music and the music’s in you
Most of us understand that magic is a somewhat silly and outdated conception that’s used to fill in the spaces of the universe we don’t fully understand. But while pressed, most people will say they don’t believe in magic.
MOST PEOPLE ARE WRONG.
Magic, in one sense, is very, very real: Magic is the exact same thing as language.
You may have heard of Alan Moore. This Rasputin lookalike is Alan Moore:
Moore is the writer behind the best comic books ever created: V for Vendetta, Watchmen, Swamp Thing, From Hell, The Killing Joke, etc. He first decided magic was real while writing From Hell, his brilliant book about the Jack the Ripper murders and a supposed royal conspiracy surrounding them.
“One word balloon in From Hell completely hijacked my life … A character says something like, ‘The one place gods inarguably exist is in the human mind’. After I wrote that, I realised I’d accidentally made a true statement, and now I’d have to rearrange my entire life around it. The only thing that seemed to really be appropriate was to become a magician.”
Moore describes language and art as basically being the equivalent of magic, and when you look at the language of magic, you find that the language is basically the same as the language of writing. You cast spells. You curse someone. You read magical spells out of a grimoire, which has the same etymological roots as the word grammar.
On top of sharing the language of language, magic has the same function as language: if you are excellent at rhetoric or persuasion, you can convince someone to do basically anything you want. You can convince them of Gods that do not exist, or that things that never happened actually did happen. If you are a brilliant satirist, you can ruin someone for life or destroy their entire family reputation, much like a curse would. If you are a brilliant novelist, you can transport people into different worlds and into different levels of consciousness. Words can be used to make someone fall in love with you. Words can be used to make someone murder someone else. Words can be used to brainwash and manipulate. Words can be used to transmit knowledge through space and time. Words have power.
This idea serves people like Moore (and myself) particularly well because we are writers, and this puts us in a position of power. But it still holds true: the only real magic is language.