Arthur: Of course the other aspect of magic that separates it from most religions is that it’s not based on faith, is it?
Oh, no. No. Faith is for sissies who daren’t go and look for themselves. That’s my basic position. Magic is based upon gnosis. Direct knowledge. It’s a kind of ‘I’m from Missouri. Show me’ approach, if you like. [laughter] I think that gnosis it’s probably the original form of spirituality in mankind. If you look back at the old Gnostic religions that proceeded Christianity, what they depended on was direct knowledge of the Mysteries, or the ideas being talked about. If you look at the early Christians, the people that were allegedly around Jesus, then you can’t get much gnostic than St. Thomas. [chuckles] He has to stick his hand in the wound before he was convinced! Or you’ve got the Essenes, with John the Baptist-they were certainly gnostics. Back then, everybody formed their own relationship to the godhead, which was seen as being inside them, as much as anything.
This is true of the old shamanic religions, that were the forebears of all kind of spiritual and religious thinking. The shaman didn’t so much act as a middleman between people and the gods; he showed them how to get there. He told them how to make their own journeys into the Underworld. I get the impression that the shaman in an ancient tribe would have had the same sort of position as a plumber or an electrician. [chuckles] A plumber is a guy who just knows about plumbing and doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty when he’s unblocking your S-bend or whatever. A shaman is a guy who knows about traveling to the spirit world and doesn’t mind vomiting because he’s taking poisonous drugs, or getting the horrors of going to hell. It’s a community thing.
The later idea of magic, which probably sprung up when people started burning witches and magicians, when it became dangerous to be a magician. Which would probably have been around the ooo, what, the 3rd century, 4th century? When Christian mobs started putting Gnostics in hermetic scholars to death, Around that time there were Christian mobs that were putting to death hermetic scholars like Hypatea. We mention her in the first issue of Promethea. She was real. She was, I think, skinned alive by Christians. And so at that point, this is where you start to get the thing of secrecy and magic, which carries on from that point up to the present day. ‘If you’re a magician, don’t tell anybody. Don’t tell them and don’t tell them any of the visions you’ve had or give them any of the information that you struggled so long to accrue. Keep it to yourself.’ And that seems very elitist to me. I’d rather disseminate any information I’m getting by one of the means that are open to me. And I’m lucky in that I have several quite excellent means [chuckles] to disseminate information that are open to me. Comic books, CDs, things like that.