The Indigenous Connection
What does it mean to be Indigenous? The etymology of indigenous comes from the Latin “indigenus” which can be further broken down into “in-“, meaning inside or within, and “gen-” meaning to give birth to. Now this is more readily interpreted as being born in the land, which is what we would call being native. However we must take this a step further and conclude that it is being a part of the land as well, for as you are born within it, it is also that which constitutes your being. To be indigenous therefore is not just a simple act of being born into a place, but it is an intimate relationship with the place itself. It is the act of interanimation, whereby both place and inhabitant are mutually inspired by one another. This takes us to the root of indigenous wisdom.
Indigenous wisdom is the intelligence that comes from our interanimated relationship with the land. It is not only the knowledge we gain from watching and listening to the land and its inhabitants, but it is the communion that emerges into a greater connective intelligence. This cultural ecology is thus an external mind that is full of wisdom, history, myth and ancestry. It becomes a part of our heritage and identity because of how intrinsically woven it is into our bodies and culture. Make no mistakes about it, it becomes the localization of a deity.
This indigenous wisdom, this deity of the land, is not a metaphorical detachment of reality. It exists embedded in the web of our cultural ecology. It is physically and realistically sensual in all aspects of its being. It speaks to us through the plants and the rivers and the breeze, but only if we are willing to strive towards it in silence. And as you delve deeper into the sensuality of nature, you will uncover the entanglements of meaning and matter. It is a place where what is spiritual and physical are one in the same. It is the birth place of enchantment and magic. And it is our rightful inheritance if we are willing to meet the universe halfway.
The New and Ancient Wisdom
Turning towards etymology once again, let us explore one of my favorite words for Magic from the European continent. Draiocht is the word for magic in Gaelic. It is usually translated into “the unseen” or “hidden art of the druids”. Kind of like the word esoteric. If we break down its etymology we get an illuminating perspective. Draiocht comes from the Gaelic word for druid, draoi. This in turn is derivative of the old Celtic terminology of dru- which means “tree”, and -wid which means “to know”. Quite interestingly, dru-wid has a correlative word in Celtic, derwos which means “truth”. So the term druid, means “one who knows trees” and one who can discern the truth from nature itself.
What we must take into account here is that words for magic in Celtic and Gaelic come from the “art of the druids”, they are not derived from a substance or model separate from the druidic arts. Since there is not a lot to go on with Druidism, utilizing the etymology of druid helps us to better pin point what their art was. They “knew” trees. They were tree speakers. In other words they could commune with nature. Their art was listening and speaking to the Earth. This implies that the magic of Ireland, of the druids, was a magic of communion with the land. And that truth was derived from this very communion. As I research the etymologies of magic from different indigenous wisdom traditions, I am finding that they all mean ‘sing’ or ‘signs’ or some other word denoting communication with the myriad things of nature. Galdr was a word used for Magic in the Germanic language that referred to singing or chanting. Seidr came from the meaning “to knot”, which was specifically referring to how the medicine woman divined the truth out of the interconnections of existence. Incantar was Latin which also meant to sing, which eventually became the word “enchantment”. Henosis was the Greek word for unification or communion with the gods/spirits, the same agencies that embodied nature. It seems a fairly common world wide phenomenon, even in the Americas the Magic of the medicine man is a kind of communion with nature, a way of balancing the human society with the ecological intelligence of the gods.
When we break down language itself, we begin to realize that it is an entanglement of meaning and matter. A word is a symbol(matter) by which meaning is imbued. And yet there is this kind of fleshy and sensual semiotic experience all over. Existence is a constant phenomenon of entangling meaning and matter, an agential interanimation which is undergoing communication in all levels of its interbeing. So Magic, real Magic, is rooted in the entanglement of matter and meaning. This is the indigenous at it’s core. The roots can be applied not only in living things but in all “thingness”.
The Colonization of Magic
Magic as the entanglement of meaning and matter is in contrast to what the modern definitions of Magic prescribe. Usually Magic is seen as some kind of form of manipulation of reality by the intent/will of the magician. There are many definitions that run along this line, but they all fail to hold their metaphysical water when prodded deeply for its connection to any integral truth. More dangerously is how it has come to encourage various seekers of Magic to either become apathetic or manipulative in their magical practice.
Much of the indigenous wisdom traditions of the past were entirely wiped out by colonization, and those that were not wiped out were co-opted to become disconnected to the land from which they were born. The current definition of Magic that is used by the West today is heavily influenced by the colonial cultures whom are responsible for destroying the indigenous wisdom traditions in the first place. It was especially the Christian church that redefined and co-opted various aspects of Magic to ensure that its authority was unquestionable; and that the indigenous wisdom traditions of the conquered or enemy cultures would be seen as anathema to any civilized person. Thereby using the power of the State and the Church(sometime the same thing) to institute cultural genocide.
The two main problems with the colonialist definition of Magic stem from its implied metaphysics of individualism and its inherent ethical dilemma that arises in the notion of manipulating existence to your will. This of course has been augmented by various ideas of right hand and left hand path, along with high magic and low magic ideals, however I feel that these delineations have always been arbitrary aspects to a more flawed definition of Magic. Ultimately the idea that the world can and should be manipulated by an individual isn’t just ethically shaky, but metaphysically fallacious. In the next part of this essay, I will lay down the groundwork for a quick primer on a sound metaphysics. The goal is to refute both individualism as a possible metaphysics and the concepts of manipulation that arise from it.
The Holarchy of Interbeing – A Quick Metaphysical Primer
One of the biggest problems with any kind of supernatural philosophy is that it prescribes to a disconnect, or a duality between spirit and matter, the idea that what is spiritual exists independently of what is physical. This leads to a paradox of how each one affects the other, for if spirit is not the same substance as matter, then the two could not interact with each other. Plato and Descartes were both purveyors of this dichotomous approach, and it was their influence which has brought this same fallacious duality into the sphere of the human narrative and all its parts, effectively leading us into disconnection and separation with the natural world. The idea of individualism hinges very specifically upon the dichotomy of spirit and matter, as it assumes the Will is free from the collective forces of existence to make independent choices. And with this idea of individual supremacy came along hierarchies and capitalism and all the nasty little ideologies that have served to cannibalize the community of mankind and nature.
The only way of course to resolve the duality paradox is to take it as a basic premise that there is no disconnect of spirit and matter. This is called a non dual approach. One of the most logically efficient non dual approaches is that of Interbeing. Interbeing is the concept that all things are interconnected and therefore all things affect one another in a kind of co-creative causal interplay. This implies several things. One, there is no individual self within such an existence, such a thing is merely a trick of the mind. Two, there is no ability to manipulate the world with a pure will because you will always be an intermediary for forces internal and external pushing you towards a collective outcome. Three, as above, so below. Because of the interconnection of all of existence, what happens to one part happens to yourself, no matter how minuscule that affect may be. Four, all identity of a person or thing emerges out of the relationships they have with existence. If you were to truly exist independent of anything in existence, without the need of relationship to existence, then you would not truly exist at all.
Within this metaphysics, existence is not a partitioned space of individual particles zooming about each other, being wholly unaffected, but rather it is a constant intra-active and inter-animating holarchy. A holarchy is a system composed of holons, and holons are themselves smaller holarchies composed of more holons, all the way up and all the way down. The holon is both a part of a whole system and a whole system composed of parts, all in relationship with each other. The Holarchy of Interbeing is a model that embraces full inter-animism of all the perceived parts or modes of our existence, including that of the person. What becomes interesting from this aspect of metaphysics is that holonic entanglement becomes the basic premise of existence. By holons relating to one another they form new emergent kinds of holons that adapt to and modify various holarchies. Thus, entanglement seems to be the very basis of reality. This of course plays out within the physical laws of thermodynamics as well. As entropy seems to derive from quantum entanglement.
What meaning may exist in a world that is in constant interplay with itself? If such a world is endless in its interconnection, what purpose may arise from it, especially if it has no beginning or ending? It is within the grand meaninglessness of our existence that our real freedom exists. In the Holarchy of Interbeing, we are not prescribed essential meanings or purposes to our existence, there is no grand teleology, rather, we are engaged in the co-creation of those purposes with the rest of existence. All holons within the holarchy are constantly finding new modes of expression and adaptation by entangling themselves between each other. They are effectively becoming both the thing and the purpose. From their entanglement arises novel formulations of existence that allow for new experiences to occur within the phenomenological realm of agency. This metaphysical position is not just that all things are interconnected, but that all substance and thing-ness is a phenomenon of Magic itself! Magic is the entanglement of meaning and matter!
Magic is rooted in the liminal spaces of the in-between. It is the not quite yet queerness of limbo. It is the pregnancy of anticipation between the moments of our lives. Within the Holarchy of Interbeing, there is no ultimate derivation between a thing and its process of transition into a new thing, no matter where you cut into the reality of it all, it will always leave you wanting for more definition. The truth is that no perfect definition can ever exist, for existence is built upon the building blocks of liminality. Existence is a relationary process first, and a thing second. Existence is Magic.
Henotic Communion with Nature
It is within this strange milieu of Interbeing that both individual and collective exist as feedback loops to one another. For indeed there is no true individual or collective when the two are always found as transitions of the other. The Holarchy of Interbeing is designed in such a way that the phenomenological intra-actions of the various holons that compose it are always affecting one another, and so it is that the people of indigenous wisdom traditions were always in relationship to the natural world around them. Their shaman was not a man at the center of their society, but one who existed on the outskirts, constantly seeking the balance between the human spirit and nature. Now a days these strange doctors of liminality exist as our artists and eccentrics.
To the more rooted humans of tribal societies, Magic was an act of communion with nature. It was the act of finding balance between the self and the other, the society and the ecology, the soul and the gods. Magic was a language and a dance, a mytho-poetic intimacy that kept people in accord with the non human agencies of the land. The world was not seen as a story of separation, but as a story of connection and entanglement. Magic therefore does not stem from the individual’s Will, for the individual is merely an emergent being in an even greater chain of emergent and embedded being, whose actions and functions are just a dance within the Interbeing of reality, always inter-animating with the internal and external aspects of its existence.
Rather, Magic is the entanglement of meaning and matter, the relationships that inter-animate and co-create existence itself. It is alive and sensual as an emergent intelligence just as your consciousness is alive and sensual as an emergent intelligence, emerging from the interbeing of the constituents that make up your dynamic form and the world around it. Magic is the interanimation of agency itself. How much richer will we be when we give up the narratives of control and manipulation and seek something deeper and more meaningful? Could our striving towards an authentic individuation require the henotic dance of inter-animation so prevalent in nature? Could we be avatars of the deeper experience of locality within the holarchy of our interbeing? It seems to me that the very answers to these questions resonate from within their mystery. We must accept our entanglement as the basis of our emergence if we are to ever uncover our authentic and sincere selves, and with this acceptance we must also come to revel in the dance that is the language of magic rather than seeking to turn such a lovely essence into another commodity for the markets of desecration and disenchantment.
The Radical Resistance of Re-Enchantment
We come at long last to the application of the indigenous wisdom of magic. Where could it be used? What good is it? How can we apply it? All these questions are essential to understanding the veracity of Magic as the entanglement of meaning and matter. Magic must be used for something, it must have a use for the practitioner that incorporates them into the co-creative process of imbuing purpose into the world.
In a disenchanted and colonized world, where we have been taught that the gods are dead, where existence is an empty and meaningless string of deterministic machinations, where indigeneity has been stripped away from us, the greatest freedom and power we can acquire is the ability to imbue purpose and meaning into our world. By actively re-enchanting our world, we are decolonizing not only our own minds and relationships to nature, but we are decolonizing the capitalized perversion of Magic that haunts our narratives of separation. We must take back the real Magic from those that seek to commodify it and make it into a tool of control and separation.
The greatest work of any magical practitioner is to weave new stories of enchantment for the world. We must build the bridges between the old and the new. We must bring back to life the stories that show us the spirits and gods that emerge from our inter-relationships. We must build new rituals that share in the sorrows and joys of community in order to show each other the power of our Interbeing. We must make spaces sacred again in order to provide new grounds of emergence for connective agencies. We must seek communion with nature and the gods. It is by living in the mythic realm of reality, the liminal realm, that we can come to dance with the greater emergent intelligence of Interbeing, and in doing so, we will finally obtain the empathy and phenomenological connection necessary to help balance the human society with the rest of nature. We must decolonize our mind and soul. We must re-enchant the world. We must reclaim the indigenous wisdom of Magic!