Magic is names and their use.
To talk about magic is to conjure up ideas of wizards, spells, monsters, and fantasy. Looking back historically on magic will find all manner of mediums, priests, demons, totems, curses, and blessings. It is a hodge-podge, but there is one thing always central to magic that teaches us about its value in everyday life; names. Names are the very stuff of magic, the first components thrown into the cauldron to produce effects on the world around us. While the supernatural does not exist, names are real, abstract, and natural. Terranism asserts that magic is real and insists there is nothing supernatural about it. To understand magic is to understand humanity’s most potent ability.
A Girl has No Name
So, if magic is names and their use, what is a name? Proper names are just one variety of names, the one you give to a Soul you recognize. But names are far more fundamental. A name is a boundary; a mental difference between some stuff and some other stuff. Names are the foundation of all abstract things, they are what you begin with when you stop acting and start thinking. To name something is to collaborate in its agency, to distinguish it from everything else, and make it real. Without a name, a thing is indistinguishable from anything else. As soon as something has a name, it begins to matter.
Human beings are not the only entities that use names. Many creatures use names in one form or another. A name does not have to be verbal, it does not have to use an alphabet or symbol. But a name must be sharable. Names are the mechanism for animals to organize as groups, including ourselves.
A monkey’s frantic calls saying, “danger!” are useless if the other monkeys don’t know that “danger!” is a name for something that can hurt them. To simply react to a stimulus is different from putting a boundary around that stimulus and sharing it. A dead frog, skinned and salted, will jitter spasmodically as the salt reacts with its muscles. This dead frog’s muscles are reacting mechanically to stimuli; they cannot tell another frog about this particular entity they call salt which makes them jitter when their body is dead. The frog’s dead muscles are not using a name, however effectively they react to stimuli. In the same way, reacting is very different from identification. A planarian with its light-sensitive patch reacts mechanically to the presence of sunlight, turning towards it if it’s hungry and turning away if it’s full. But this planarian, however good it is at reacting to sunlight, cannot tell other planaria about sunlight’s presence. Thus, to a planarian, sunlight has no name. But what if our monkey didn’t tell others about the “danger!”? Would this danger still have a name to the monkey? Yes, just as long as our monkey could have shared it, it would be using a name. What matters is not whether the stimulus was shared, but if it can be. A stimulus that can’t be shared just causes a reaction, not a name.
Humans are the best species at using names. We’ve developed an incredibly advanced way of using names called fiction; names of things that don’t exist. As far as we can tell, there is no other creature on our planet that uses fiction. We’re the only ones, it’s the source of our power. Magic is names and their use, and human beings are the most powerful magic users.
Our age might not feel very magical to the people living within it, after all, prayers, curses, gods, and spirits were all things of the past to many a modern person. But this is not true. Magic is more powerful now than it ever was in the past, we just happen to call it other things. The word has been discarded but the principles remain the same.
Math is a prime example. Math is one of the most powerful magical languages and has been so for some time. In the early history of medieval masons, math was an esoteric secret, spoken of in the same breath as God, and shared only by craftsmen and academics who memorized formulas so that they wouldn’t be stolen by the public. To a wandering mason in the middle ages, their formulas were trade secrets that separated them from the peasants and brought them closer to God. To draw a blueprint was to cast a spell, a potent one, designed to erect a structure by the diligent work of the hands. If your spell was cast incorrectly, the structure would fall. If you cast it well, the structure would hold. To these masons, it was God who was the arbiter of these rules, so to understand math was to understand the divine. To engage with math was to engage with magic.
Many people still believe math reflects a divine language capable of communicating directly with the cosmos. But math is nothing without its names. 1 is a name. To designate 1 is to designate a boundary between a thing and everything else. To say 2 is to create another designated thing, and group it with the other in a larger boundary. 2 is a nested name, containing within it the names 1 and 1. It doesn’t necessarily matter what is within these boundaries. You could have a fruit and a tailpipe but group them together and you suddenly have 2 things. These two things suddenly have a name and can be encountered as one thing; a group. The implications of this sort of naming expand into the complex rules and theorems we see in modern mathematics. But the fundamentals remain the same, names and their use. And what do these disciplines accomplish? What happens when you discover new mathematical rules? You gain power over the things you name.
That power is what fascinates people. Humanity has spent enormous energy and error in the pursuit of names. In most ancient magic systems (and modern ones) the core of the practice was discovering and controlling the true name of a thing. To summon a spirit is to know its name. To be saved is to call on the name of Christ. To launch a rocket is to know the formulas (names) of the phenomena you want to control. To pray for rain requires the name of the storm god. To ward off curses is to engrave charms which name blessings. To own property you must have a name. To stab a voodoo doll you must know your target’s name. To create a company you must give it a name. To be in a nation you must be loyal to its name. This is all magic; some of it works, some of it doesn’t. Humanity has spent a lot of energy figuring out the difference.
Your Magical World
There are many magical objects that we interact with every day. Currency is one of them. Currency is one of the most successful and useful magical objects. Currency, the object, contains money, the idea. Money is an empty name that we constantly inject with meaning through our faith in it. Money does not exist and yet we sanctify currency with its power. It is an idea which we use to keep sense of the value that moves between us. Another magical object are books. Books can contain worlds completely outside the realm of all human experience, and yet when we read a book we experience it all the same. To read a book is to hallucinate together with the author and other readers over time and space. No physical experience is necessary for you to encounter the life of an ancient dead warlord or the wisdom of an imagined young revolutionary.
And then there are the large, living entities that rely on human magic to stay real. There are nations; massive bodies that live on huge swaths of land and control it with violence. There are corporations; persons which survive by making money through producing goods and services. There are gods, personifications who survive off of faith and provide a connection with the universe. None of these beings would be real without human magic. They are emergent of humans and the magical forces humans use. For something to emerge, there must always be a mechanism between the units that make it up. Magic is that mechanism for the entities that emerge out of humanity.
According to Yuval Harari in his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, the ability to use names in the form of fiction began at what he calls the “the Cognitive Revolution” (pg. 21). After this moment humanity began to use fictions widely, creating ever more powerful myths that served to forge larger and stronger societies. This is magic at work. Myths like law, gods, money, property, race, and nation were all magical tools that gave humans the ability to cooperate with each other (and kill each other). Every new magical development allowed more people to participate in a group, making the group more powerful. All of these magics are plucked out of the aether, having almost no foundation in tangible existence. But this does not mean these tools are lies. As Harari writes, “We believe in a particular order not because it is objectively true, but because believing in it enables us to cooperate effectively and forge a better society. Imagined orders are not evil conspiracies or useless mirages. Rather, they are the only way large numbers of humans can cooperate effectively” (pg. 110). To choose a magical entity and contiribute power to it is one of the most potent acts of will a human can do. Terranic doctrine calls these magical acts faith.
Magic is the practice of wielding these powers. Filling a name with meaning is to wield magic. To choose a cause, god, or company and act out its truth is to become a mage. To work in the service of national law is to channel divine power. To tell a story that pushes people to action is to cast a spell. To craft a formula that grants control over natural phenomena is to summon a spirit to your aid. To pray is to infuse yourself with magical energy. These are not exaggerations, they are humanity’s most basic and powerful abilities. And they are real, natural, phenomena that you witness around you every day.
So why doesn’t the world feel magical?
Part of the reason is that it is normal. Magic works so well it has become hidden in plain sight. Mystery has been lost since we feel as if there are no more questions to ask. And when you don’t ask the questions a mystery prompts, the problem fades into secrecy. Magic has become such a secret. It is not a secret held by any shadowy cabal or conspiratorial elite. Instead, it is a secret right under your nose; the wonder you dismiss as childish, the techniques you assume are beyond you, the questions you don’t bother to ask. To tap into your magical ability is to ask the curious questions like, “Why do I believe this?”“Why does everyone think this way?”“Why does this have power over my life?” Such questions may unearth uncomfortable knowledge, but it will open your eyes to the undercurrent of magic flowing beneath the mundane veneer of your everyday life.
The other reason is that the notion of “magic” has been marginalized by western monotheistic traditions for a long time. Wouter Hanegraaff explains in Western Esotericism: A Guide for the Perplexed, “…many of these practices have been placed in an artificial category called ‘magic’, in order to keep them apart from the supposedly more serious or respectable forms of religious worship. If we discard that distinction as normative and misleading, we find that most of what used to be seen as magic may as well be described as religion (or, alternatively, as science or natural philosophy), whereas what used to be seen as religion appears to be full of the very same types of practice” (pg. 118). This should not be seen as a conspiracy designed to undercut the average person’s magical ability. Instead, it is a self-legitimizing series of decisions made by established religious authorities. We must remember that theists do, in fact, believe in their god as an entity outside of themselves. These sorts of people would want to defend their spirituality from the unknown and chaotic forces that the church tried so hard to tame. Such an effort is perhaps commendable, but outdated. Magic needs to be rediscovered by the layperson.
Magic’s Value for Terranism
Why? Because of the internet. The old power systems are settling into a marbled foundation upon which the internet stands. They will remain at the edges, much as how traditional religions remained as individualism and capitalism overcame their authority. They will make way for the new currency of the internet; attention. If attention becomes the primary means of power in the internet age we will find magic to be vitally important. There is simply too much information on the internet for it not to be. The layperson cannot go to their local priest any more and learn the truths of the universe, they must sift through myriad truths, most conflicting, with unstable authorities. How can a person navigate the internet if they cannot parse through the information intelligently? What framework do we need in order to choose our sources wisely? Terranism believes that magical training is the answer.
The magically trained will understand, first and foremost, that they are magical. Magic is names and their use, implying that participation in a name’s value grants it power. In an age of attention, understanding what you have to offer someone who wants to engage you is the first step to approaching them wisely. From there, all manner of lessons and truths become discoverable. Learning the principles of formal logic, science, rhetoric, finance, and faith will all be tools in the magician’s grimoire. With them, they will be able to thoughtfully choose the causes and entities they contribute their power to or be able to gather attention to themselves effectively. Understanding magic, the most powerful of human abilities, will give the digital citizen the tools necessary to navigate and participate in their community.
Terranism’s goal is to give people the opportunity to learn their magical potential and use it towards building loving, interspecies communities. Terrans use magic in the name of Terra, our home and deity.
In the name is the magic.-Ursula Le Guin
TL;DR – Magic is names and their use. In the internet age of attention, understanding magic is essential to navigate and engage with the world. Terransim’s goal is to build loving, interspecies communities using magic.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Harari
A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong
Western Esotericism: A Guide for the Perplexed by Wouter J. Hanegraaff
The Books of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
Freemasons Pt. 1 by Parcast Network, Secret Societies