Potiphar12's Blog
An Octogenarian in the modern world

A GOLDEN JOURNEY TO WITCHCRAFT

I am forever trying to find some sort of proof that witchcraft works. Why? because the heroine of my books uses it and I want to empower her. But my endeavour may be doomed. Very many people – philosophers – priests – alchemists – scientists etc. have ben trying for centuries without success. There is no reason to believe that I might succeed. And if I did succeed then witchcraft would be witchcraft no longer – it would have become science. So why continue?

“FOR lUST OF KNOWING WHAT SHOULD NOT BE KNOWN WE MAKE THE GOLDEN JOURNEY TO SAMARKAND.” That’s how J.E.Flecker put it. Just the faintest glimmer of hope is enough to keep people striving. Well, is there even the faintest glimmer of hope in this quest? Is there any form of investigation that has not been exhausted before, with negative results? All effects attributed to witchcraft and similar activities have been eventually been exposed as fraudulent, or otherwise explainable, or examples of extreme coincidence. Witchcraft exists as a force, obviously, because it creates fear and provokes a response, but does Action A really produce Effect B?

Maybe things have changed a bit with the huge advances in information technology and with global inter-communication. It is hard to imagine that the carrier waves that enable television and satellite navigation and the remote opening of garage doors represent the final total of what there is to be discovered. They all depend initially on human action – somebody, somewhere, presses a button. As yet it is not possible for the button to be pressed by mental effort alone. Is that jump so colossal – a mind instead of a finger?

The effect of  technology is well discussed in the book by Adam Ashforth, Witchcraft, Violence and Democracy in South Africa. He makes the point that when western science demonstrates that an effect can be achieved by ‘modern’ methods, a witchdoctor is likely to say “Perhaps I can achieve the same thing by my ‘African Science’. This opens the door to new experiments.

Another helpful sign is the modern tendency to look for connections and similarities between disciplines, rather than blinkered pursuit of a single line of enquiry. Some writers about  Quantum Physics have suggested  that all matter might be connected at a sub-atomic level. The idea is similar to the concept of Sympathetic Magic – as used by myself in The Eager Apprentice (bit.ly/xElxKf).  Often the similarity of concepts is concealed by different languages used to express them. If specialists began to understand languages other than there own we might see progress. A BBC write-up of a conference attended by ‘a group of theologians, philosophers and scientists’ offers some interesting quotes. ‘This ignorance of other fields can cause problems’  Another comment was that the conference felt like ‘people who can’t communicate trying to communicate’. The notes also referred to a ‘culture of hyperspecialisation’. The book by Adam Ashforth mentioned above, discusses the desire in South Africa to show that ‘African knowledge’ can be on a par with science. There’s not much success yet but it is encouraging that there are others who have not given up.

There may be hints, also, in the behaviour of the computer. A great many messages appear uninvited on the screen and most of them are such that one can imagine a credible source.  A human with a purpose seems to be lurking behind them, and that human has enough skill to send these messages. But there are others that seem to have no purpose at all and don’t hint at an origin. Is there some non-human being that generates these things?

So I am intent on pursuing, on my camel, the journey over the desert towards Samarkand. I hope to meet travellers who will write on this blog and asssist my quest. They may be members of my own caravan, or passers in the opposite direction, or idlers relaxing around some oasis. To the last-named I wish I could leave a gift from the family brewery (bit.ly/RPWjqE) but there are limits to what a camel can carry. I want ideas, please, not witchcraft-related products. I think these have a place in stimulating the mind, but they are not what i want right now. So no sales pitches for pointed hats or pumpkins, please.

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