Joe Campbell, in an interview w/ Michael Toms, said, “The gods are w/in you. Well, they’re out there too, in some mysterious way -- but primarily they’re w/in you.” Mostly people who talk & write about Campbell & his ideas focus (as he did himself) on the “w/in you” part – the idea that gods are “masks” we place over a deep transcendent mystery, which they thus represent to us, giving us a way to think and talk about something that is inherently beyond words. But it’s the “some mysterious way” that I want to take a moment write about right now.
The best spokesperson I know for that “some mysterious way” is the British writer/musician/pagan-magician Alan Moore. I’m a huge fan of Alan Moore’s comic book work (V for Vendetta, Watchmen, From Hell, Snakes & Ladders…), but when I started reading interviews where he talked about his mystical beliefs I found these to be very exciting as well. I think Moore might be the other end of the balance-scale w/ Campbell – complementing his work and filling-out the picture. Campbell, as a self-proclaimed “naturalist,” tended to favor explanations from biology, psychology or anthropology. While always recognizing that there are deeply mysterious, “mystical” phenomena out there, he avoided comment on these things. Moore, it seems to me, offers a wonderful, rational explanation (or at least a direction of thought, if not a full-fledged theory) that complements Campbell’s work from the other end. So, I’m sharing a “blurb” version of Alan Moore 101:
From an interview w/ Bill Baker – beginning w/ the topic of art and storytelling (“mythologizing,” in Campbell’s terms):
“Storytelling and creation are very close to the center of what magic is all about…. All of humanity’s gods since Paleolithic times are in some senses fiction. That is not to disparage the entities in question, b/c I hold fiction in a very special regard. I think that some fictions have a life of their own.
“Nobody wants to use the words ‘mind control,’ but in some way that is what all art is… manipulating people’s emotions…. We use our talents… to actually change the readers’ consciousness.”
And from an interview w/ Eddie Campbell:
“[Gods might actually] be self-referential idea clusters that, upon broaching a certain frontier of complexity, have become either aware or apparently aware…. It is my belief that all gods are stories, or at least the ideas behind the stories, but stories or ideas that have become in some way almost alive and aware, or at least appear to be to all practical intents and purposes…. To my mind, one of the flaws of Christianity is its insistence upon the historical Jesus. What this means is that, should it ever be proven incontrovertibly that Jesus did not physically exist, the entirety of Christianity would collapse, its perfectly sound core of philosophies included, when there was never any need for such a collapse.”
Moore expounds upon his concept of psychogeography (that “the only lines of energy that link disparate sites are lies of information”) and Ideaspace (an idea influenced by Rudy Rucker’s essay “Life as a Fractal in Hilbert Space.”
“Obviously there is more to our experience of a place than the bricks and mortar. Our reaction to various locations seemed to me to depend upon the richness of the web of association that we connected w/ these sites…. If you are a practicing magician or poet [then] you have a web of symbol systems w/ which to decode even chance appearances in this area...
“…this hypothetical “space,” which I have labeled Ideaspace…. Maybe our individual and private consciousness is, in Ideaspace terms, the equivalent of owning an individual private house… the space inside our homes is entirely ours, yet if we step through the front door we find ourselves in a street, in a world, that is mutually accessible to everyone…. This would explain dubious phenomena such as telepathy or knowledge-at-a-distance…. The actual ideas represent the equivalent of solid objects in terms of that space. An idea may be a pebble, a rock, a mountain or a whole continent in terms of its stature…. Distances could only be associational in Ideaspace. Lands End and John O’Groates, while famously far apart in the physical world, are usually mentioned in the same sentence and thus are right next to each other, associatively speaking…. Time, as a phenomenon, doesn’t apply in the same way to the realm of the mind as it does to the time-locked material realm. We can think as easily about events ten or twenty years ago as we can about something that happened this morning, or we can think about something that might happen tomorrow…. If this were so, then this would explain, at a stroke, such phenomena as ghosts, premonitions, apparent memories of previous lives… even… de-ja-vu.
“Ideaspace, where philosophies are land masses and religions are probably whole countries, might contain flora and fauna that are native to it, creatures of this conceptual world that are made from ideas in the same way that we creatures of the material world are made from matter. This could conceivably explain phantoms, angels, demons, gods, djinns, grey aliens, elves, pixies…”
I think Moore’s Ideaspace also connects nicely w/ Jung’s ideas about synchronicity and the collective unconscious… but also, perhaps, w/ Hegel’s idea of the Spirit, an avenue of thought deserving some further explanation.