In the Land of Oz
There is not much difference between Parsifal in the Parsifal legend and Dorothy in Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz. They are equivalent archetypes, one being male, the other being female. Likewise, the magician and illusionist Klingsor in the Parsifal legend corresponds to the great and powerful Oz in Baum’s tale. The hero’s and the heroine’s journey and quest are both represented — the passage towards maturity.
Klingsor and Oz are the equivalent of our contemporary brandmeisters, and this raises some interesting questions. Dorothy’s companions — the timid lion, the heartless tin-man, the mindless scarecrow — discover courage, heart, and mind through the three endowments or gifts presented to them by the wizard: a medal, a clock, and a diploma in “thinkology”, respectively. In the story, at least, it was effective. The gifts were “power objects” that served to ignite what were already latent potentialities in the lion, the tin-man, and the scarecrow, but which had been, apparently, inhibited for some reason. The fetish served to arouse them.
This is the justification for all branding. Oz is the snake-oil salesman, but his particular concoctions produce the desired result through what we call “placebo effect”. It is the same rationale that advertisers use to market brands — the brand promises a benefit well beyond its use value. It promises also to satisfy and fulfill some psychological or spiritual need or to assist consumers in “expressing themselves” by realising this inner potentiality through possessing the power object. Buy this and you’ll discover your courage. Buy that and you’ll discover your intelligence. Buy this and you’ll discover confidence. Buy this and it will reveal your inner beauty. Buy this and it will permit you to express your playful innocence.
The two magi, Klingsor and Oz, are, however, represented as somewhat deficient. Klingsor is a eunuch and a castrato. The great and powerful Oz turns out to be a faker and a phoney — a wimp. Parisfal exposes Klingsor and Dorothy exposes Oz. Yet, despite being illusionists, their illusions have efficacy. When advertisers (or propagandists) speak of “truth”, as in “truth in advertising”, it’s magical truth and not what logicians typically understand by “truth” — factual truth. It’s sometimes referred to as “higher truth” or a transcendental truth — the truth of magical efficacy and mythical narrative, the “pragmatic truth” of the placebo and nocebo effects.
For that reason, too, the word “persuasion” doesn’t mean what it used to mean — agreement reached through some syllogistic Socratic dialectic or dialogue or “rational argument”. It has come to mean the power of suggestion and even auto-suggestion, which is effectively magical technique. This is, perhaps, the main reason why the human figure represented in artefacts of the magical civilisations frequently has no mouth — the mouth only appearing with the mythological structure of consciousness and civilisation (for indeed mouth and myth are connected etymologically). Spell-casting, or the chant, is monologue form, not dialogical. Magic more often than not, works through the manipulation of images — the voodoo doll, the dead owl left on the enemy’s doorstep, bone-pointing. The sight of it is often sufficient to produce the desired result — wasting away and death or paralysis of the will. It’s effectiveness relies on a group consciousness and the power of suggestion and auto-suggestion. No one really doubts that placebo and nocebo effects are real.
It’s for that reason that academic analyses of branding and propaganda are often left dangling inconclusively, or are uneven and inconsistent in their conclusions. They are applying a model of logic and truth to a subject where tests of logic and truth are quite irrelevant because we are dealing with magic, and magic has to do with power and will and not with truth and falsehood. The return of the “irrational” — of the magical and mythical structures of consciousness — has perplexed and confounded the purely logico-mathematical tests of what is “real”. (See, for example, Paul Watzlawick’s very interesting book How Real is Real? Confusion, Disinformation, and Communication and also Berger and Luckmann’s The Social Construction of Reality).
“Techniques of persuasion” are no longer about the careful construction of syllogisms, of logical discourse and debate, but about the uses of suggestion and auto-suggestion. Some form of “group consciousness” is a prerequisite for magic. The shaman or medicine man or faith healer relies on summoning the patient’s own inner recuperative and healing powers to effect a cure (or to cause illness). A hospital in Calgary, for example, hired an aboriginal medicine man to work with its native patients. He was quite effective. But when he tried to work with non-aboriginal patients, he was not effective at all. There are similar programmes across Canada.
I recall reading, at university, the account by an anthropologist (if I recall, Bronislaw Malinowski) of his witnessing of a shamanic ceremony in shape-shifting at an Inuit camp in Northern Canada. The shaman transformed into a polar bear. All Malinowski saw was a man acting like a polar bear. When the ceremony was concluded, Malinowski sought confirmation of his perception from the other Inuit, but they were perplexed by his question. No, they didn’t see a man acting like a polar bear, or pretending to be a polar bear. They saw the man change into a polar bear and couldn’t understand by Malinowski didn’t see it at all. Recall that, after Castaneda morphed into a crow, he asked don Juan whether his friends would have seen him change into a crow. “That depends on your friends”, don Juan replied. Not satisfied with that answer, Castaneda pressed home the question: what would happen if he had chained his leg to a heavy rock, would he have still “flown” as a crow? Don Juan was astonished by that question and answered: “If you chained your leg to a heavy rock, I’m afraid that you would have to fly with that heavy rock chained to your leg!”
Shamanic reality is indeed “a separate reality” and it functions according to different rules than syllogistic or mental-rational ones. The perplexity of the mental-rational consciousness when confronted by the efficacy of the magical consciousness is the same theme in George Nelson’s memoirs of his time spent as a fur trader amongst the natives of Northern Saskatchewan, recounted in his letters to his father that were saved and eventually published as The Orders of the Dreamed. Magical Time is quite different from Mental-Rational Time. The “Dreamtime” is magical time. Basically, the main difference between the archaic, the magical, the mythical, and the mental-rational consciousness structures and civilisations is that they transpire within different Time frameworks. “Structures of Consciousness” and Time Frameworks are practically synonymous terms, which is why Gebser calls “integral consciousness” also “time-freedom” consciousness — the coincidence or co-presence or synchronicity of different time frameworks, including timelessness.
“Magic” sounds charming and enchanting, of course. But it’s not to be forgotten that there is a very thin line between the awesome and the awful. And that’s basically Gebser’s warning about the “deficient magical” and the deficient rational modes of consciousness — sometimes the awesome and the awful end up being the same thing. Affairs of magic are affairs of power and will, and not of ethical values or logical values of truth or falsehood. This is the essential problem of branding and propaganda — the intoxication by power. And remember, power is one of the “enemies of the man of knowledge”, and without the counsels and checks of fear, clarity and sobriety that comes with consciousness of inevitable mortality, power perverts, distorts, and enslaves.
And that is the real threat and the issue of “technocratic shamanism”.