We don’t know much in the way of details, but this much seems to be clearly known among witches and magicians: life, in some form, extends beyond the mortal material coil. We existed before we were born. We shall continue to exist after we die. There are things out there in the Void waiting (with various degrees of patience) for us to return “home” to them.
It’s come up a few times before. I seem to remember a few major players talking about it while I was off in the Sunrise Temple. But what’s gotten me thinking about it a lot, lately, is coming back to the magical blogosphere and discovering that Gordon had started a podcast while I was gone. (Yes, I promptly marathoned the catalog, why did you even ask? And this is only the first of several Rune Soup inspired musings, so buckle up.) It’s one of the subjects he dwells on a lot in his conversation with Alex Tsakiris, but what really stuck in my head was the conversation with Cat Andrews, where he called certain knowledge that there is existence beyond life and death the”door prize” of practicing magic.
Which, after a moment’s consideration, really goes a fair distance in explaining just how weird magicians are. When I started practicing, just a hair short of twenty years ago, the belief in reincarnation was universal in the literature I got my hands on, and the exploration of past-life experiences was all but expected of a young faun such as myself. Whatever one thinks of the content of one’s earliest past life regressions from a more knowledgeable and experienced position, the effect of the absolute certainty in life before birth and after death conveyed by those experiences is very difficult to overstate. If I had feared death before those experiences — which, as an adolescent assigned male at birth, I probably didn’t fear as much as I should have in the first place — I certainly didn’t after. And there’s a word for people without the “appropriate” fear of death and dismemberment: fey.
For myself, I was always more interested in the “I existed before I was born” half of the equation than the “I will continue to exist after my death” half. After all: I’ll get to the latter, one way or another, sooner rather than later, regardless of what I have to say on the matter. In the meantime, I want to live this life and remember the old ones.
But, now that it’s been pointed out to me, I can’t help but dwell on the consequences of that knowledge and how it shapes the people who possess it. The certainty of existence frees us to pursue our convictions and ambitions. And it makes, by interesting contrast, the lack of such conviction in most ostensibly religious Americans quite clear.
On the reverse, it makes me really wonder about the experiences of those few magicians I have encountered who did not believe in reincarnation or an afterlife. Do they operate exclusively on psychological and cybernetic models of magic? How do they explain the phenomena that do not fit within those rubrics?
In the end, though, all those questions are academic to me — or, better yet, conversations to be had over a beer or five. I know that I was. I know that I am. I know that I will be. What I’m really excited about is the process of being.