by Dr Walter Waltz of the Vienna Institute of Parapsychology
The father of applied psychology, Sigmund Freud, argued in Die Nachtmahrdeutung (1902) that magick in all its variety of manifestations is a projection of the sensate or conscious mind upon the insensate or unconscious environment. His disciple, and eventual rival, Carl Jung, put the same argument more succinctly in Aion. Beiträge zur Symbolik des Selbst (1951) claiming that: “magick does not exist, unless we make it so.”
The proof against Freud’s “Theorie Magie” requires the demonstration of magickal phenomena wholly external to human observation and intervention. That no such demonstration has been proven in over one hundred years of thaumaturgical research is testament to Professor Freud’s theory and ought, or so any reasonable man might suppose, consign the conception of magick as an external metaphysical phenomenon to the same attic room as goblins and cherubim and other obsolete beliefs.
Regrettably, those who argue for the reality of magick as a force external to human consciousness are not reasonable. They argue, in a variant of Heisenberg’s infamous thought experiment, that magick at any given point in time and space both does and does not exist and manifests in result of the “observer effect”. Magick, so they claim, is the lock, and trained human thought the key that opens it.
This argument is popularised, both by those who defend the proposal and those who ridicule it, as: magick exists, if you believe in the existence of magick! An anecdote, if you will, to show that we Austrian Germans are not without a sense of humour: in December 1913 a year before The Great War, Vienna’s Volkstheater put on a production of J. M. Barrie’s, ‘Peter Pan’. Famously, as Tinkerbell is dying there is a moment when Peter Pan addresses the audience with the question: “Do you believe in fairies? Say quick that you believe! If you believe, clap your hands!”
In most theatres I believe the response is immediate applause, but we Viennese are an exceedingly rational people and on the first night the line was met with stony silence until a young moustachioed man in a corporal’s uniform rose in his seat and loudly declared: Es gibt keine feen in Wien! – There are no fairies in Vienna. Amusing, ja?
I digress, but I think I make clear the absurdity of arguing something is so if you believe it to be so.
Leaving aside the lack of evidence for magick as a force external to conscious thought, a theoretical study of the matter reveals a question that no one can answer and few have even considered, at least from a scientific point of view. It is this: if magick exists outside consciousness but only manifests when observed by a conscious being, then what was its purpose and manner of existence prior to man’s evolution from the insensate, unconscious non-beingness that preceded him? Even if we permit our neighbours on the tree of life a small degree of consciousness, it scarcely takes the development of consciousness beyond some ten million years into the past. If magic is a lock and consciousness its key, then what possible purpose could magick have served during the two and one half billion years when no life more complex than the bacterium existed on earth?
It is at this point in the discussion that those few who have considered the matter depart wholly from science and declare that God is the source of all magick. God, we are supposed to accept, is the lock and we the key for, so they declare, He brought us into existence in order for Himself to become manifest. Others, wary of association with organised religion, identify a protean life-force as the source of all magick and regard evolution – in scientific terms a mindless tinker – as the tool by which this life-force carries out its ambition; an ambition of which we are a small and uncomprehending part.
These are theological arguments, not scientific, and in scientific terms there is not a shred of experimental evidence for the existence of magick as a force external to human (or animal) consciousness.
By contrast, Freud’s “Theorie Magie” has withstood all theoretical counter-arguments and there is growing experimental evidence, widely available and which need not be cited here, that magick is, as Freud first claimed, a product of the development of consciousness among living organisms. Manifesting first in species of birds, or perhaps with their ancestors, the great reptiles, its origins are traceable still in the remarkable migrations and homing instincts of some bird species. Later it appeared in the cetaceans, many of which are also migratory, before reaching new heights in the great apes and its pinnacle, for the moment at least, in hominids and Homo sapiens, the first to understand magick and use it consciously and so may rightly be called the inventor of magick.
Carl Jung, a pioneer in the field of supra-naturalism, had special regard for magick as a tool for understanding the precise nature of consciousness and in Wandlungen und Symbole der Libido (1912) said:
If our true consciousness lies hidden beneath the superficiality of thought, like a mountain shrouded by cloud, then magick is the cold, clear air we must direct upon it.
This allows me to draw a parallel between Jung and Sir Tamburlaine MacGregor: both argued, if not in the same words, that to be truly ourselves we must believe in the magick within us. This approach guided Jung’s investigation of consciousness and it resides at the centre of MacGregor’s This Iron Race novels. Of course, MacGregor died in 1872 and Jung was not born until 1875 and seems never to have read MacGregor’s work, so it can only be a parallel and not a direct connection.
If we regard Freud and Jung as marking the era when the study of consciousness turned from enlightenment philosophy into science, then Sir Tamburlaine MacGregor wrote in an era when enlightenment philosophy had itself only recently broken from Aristotle’s two millennia grip on rational enquiry and from theocratic obscurantism incapable of observing the world other than through the lens of scripture.
The Danish natural philosopher Carl Davinius, writing in the preface to his On the Mutability of Species by means of Natural Variation (1847) summed up the new era thus:
For almost two thousand years, a long-dead Greek philosopher and the Vatican have barred rational progress. They succeeded because progress was itself no more than a plodding dray horse. Then, a mere decade ago, Herr August Borsig of Berlin invented the railroad locomotive* and finally these cadavers of history were crushed beneath its wheels.
From my reading of MacGregor’s work it appears his description of the human soul and what he popularised as ‘Bright Colours’ are highly influenced by his near contemporary, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, 1770 – 1831. Copies of Hegel’s Phänomenologie des Geistes, (1807) and Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften, (1817) and several of his other major works, were held in the library of Edenborough’s Speculative Society where MacGregor was a frequent attendee in his youth and member from 1832 to his death in 1872 so there is no reason to doubt, given the similarities between Hegel’s theories and the psychoprosopography† in MacGregor’s later novels, that he had read, if not studied them.
Freud was not a devotee of Hegel, indeed they are quite different in their approach and Freud never acknowledges Hegel’s work as influential on his own; yet the connection between them is obvious: both sought to apply logic and conceptual rationalism upon that which had hitherto not been subject to any scientific investigation whatsoever. Rather, the inner world of man, geist und der soul und das wesen, in German, also, there are many names, was the province of the theologian for man’s nature was inseparable from the God that had made him in His image. Hegel sought to understand man within the wider world of enlightenment philosophy: Freud sought to understand the nature of man within man himself and created his own identifiers: ego, super-ego, id, psyche, persona, for the many parts that make man, and, let us add, woman, too.
Should we be surprised that, guided by Hegel’s dictum that: the sleep of reason produces monsters Sir Tamburlaine’s dissection of human nature coincides so remarkably with Freudian theory? I think not, for he was not the only nineteenth century artist to discover Freud before Freud, nor even the best known. That distinction is held by the Leipzig-born composer, Wilhelm Richard Wagner, who explored in his “Music Dramas” many of Freud’s theories, including the Oedipal Complex, decades before they were described in psychological terms. Moreover, MacGregor and Freud, along with Wagner and Hegel, were hardly rival inventors, but merely observers of that which had existed, buried in our conscious and unconscious minds, for as long as man has existed, and whose nature both MacGregor and Freud had good cause to examine.
Freud’s observations of psychological phenomena were upon his patients: for MacGregor, the evidence, incomplete as it is, strongly suggests he combined the roles of patient and observer in one. I shall not be drawn into the foolish disagreement between Mr Warbrook and Herr Zelden: there is not so much difference between the processes in certain forms of magick and those in psychological analysis, and from the considerable knowledge of such matters revealed in Sir Tamburlaine’s journals, it is clear he had access both to those who claimed to work magick and those who employed more novel forms of treatment. Which he chose, in my opinion, matters little; its success is proved by his recovery from the psychological morbidity enjoined by his first wife’s death, the happiness of his second marriage, and his restored creativity.
In MacGregor’s This Iron Race novels there are three forms, or aspects, of human existence directly described: der soul, which manifests as a familiar animal form; der gheist, or spirit, which MacGregor terms ‘Bright Colours’ and describes as a halo of auric light invisible to all but a few adepts; and finally, the conscious man living half in memory and half in the present. These we may, without too much difficulty, assign Freudian nomenclature, as follows:
The animal soul approximates to the id: the seat of our primal impulses. In Freudian theory, the id comprises two elements, Eros und Thanatos: the former is the life, or sex urge, while the latter is the death urge which thrives on risk-taking. MacGregor’s animal souls can also take two forms: one is dark, savage, and treacherous; the other light, impulsive and passionate, but essentially benign and even playful.
MacGregor’s ‘Bright Colours’ also manifest in dark and light forms, but these reveal differences in vitality, rather than character. The dark form is weak-willed and apathetic; it pleads rather than commands. The light form is vital, strong-willed, and resolute. We may correlate MacGregor’s ‘Bright Colours’ with Freud’s concept of the ego which seeks to satisfy the primal urges of the id in a sustainable manner to produce long-term benefits, even at short term disadvantage. Unlike id and super-ego, and unlike the depiction of the soul in MacGregor’s novel, it is self-aware and able to rationalise.
Freud’s ego is guided by the super-ego: in German, the Über-Ich. It seeks a form of perfection through instinctive, or evolved morality, and the internalisation of socialised morality. The latter is informed through nurture and environment and accessed through conscious and unconscious memory. MacGregor does not give the super-ego a particular form or nature, but we may see it in action as characters reflect on traumatic events in their past, often reliving them as though seeking different understandings, if not outcomes, and these events continue to inform their actions in the present. Regrettably, MacGregor’s concern for his characters’ lives prior to the narrative present has led to some accusing him of ‘losing the plot’. This I find unreasonable: narrative without proper attention to causation, or motive, is merely an accumulation of events, whereas causation gives significance to apparently trivial circumstances, such as a small boy’s fear of horses.
The whole man, including: the natural living processes of the flesh, conscious thought and the unconscious drives of the id and ego combined, is described by Freud as the psyche and in great part MacGregor’s work might be described as the study of the psyche, particularly when placed under the great stress of acquiring clairvoyance, or as MacGregor’s terms it, ‘Grace’. There is no doubt that while magick is, according to Freud’s long-standing theory, a projection of consciousness upon the unconscious environment, we construct reality from that which we perceive and therefore even though magick has no objective reality, subjectively it is entirely real.
However, it is with some amusement that I note a limitation in my expertise prevents me from further discussion for this novel is as much about persona, that which we present of ourselves to others, as it is about the various components of the psyche. Naturally, in one’s practise one gains experience of the defences the patient places between the world and his or her true nature, but the analytical psychologist’s probing must always be gentle and permissive and never direct, or the patient exercises their freedom to leave the couch. The examination of each of the characters by Bheathain’s curse is analogous to the work of the applied psychologist, even to the point where one or two become aware of the process and break the examination; however, one character in the novel reveals only what he chooses and remains untested: that character is Sir Tamburlaine himself. Even when writing in his private journal, Sir Tamburlaine’s persona never fractures and I believe that to understand his motives and methods requires the skill of a forensic psychologist and that lies quite outside my knowledge.
Dr. Walter Waltz, Vienna Institute of Parapsychology
*Davinius appears to refer to the founding of the Borsig-Werke factory in 1837. In fact, August Borsig built his first steam locomotive in 1828 when only twenty-four years old.
†The written description of characters’ psychological nature or attributes.