#5: The other of magiqe
A few months back, we were all merrily celebrating the big 200 years anniversary of Alfred Edmondson. I cut a nice deal for a middle-sized magazine you’ve probably heard of. Since they are going to sue me anyway I could just as well give you the name. Point being, I was asked to do some research and add my breadcrumbs of wisdom to the ongoing ‘Genius or Madman’-debate. I did go to some archives, skimmed through unpublished records, got a lot of dough in advance. Never wrote a word. So, there’s the lawsuit. But I figured, since I don’t have anything else to write this week, I could just as well tell you the story as to why I grew obsessively annoyed to the whole argument. And that could even make for a nice tale, all things considered.
Edmondson. You’ve heard about him: Got us out of the dark ages, invented the steam engines as well as the principles of electrificy. Science to stand up to magiqe. But the point is, as mundane a thing it is to discern the two concepts nowadays, you couldn’t imagine the methodical and epistemological mess of educated spiritism, romantic philosophy, the immense knowledge of physical half-truths (and the sheer insanity) right before the dawn of secular modernism. The basic principles of energy and matter had been around for a while, but every city had it’s share of wandering mentalists, psychic hoodlums, “mesmeristic hypnotists” and half-educated crooks, dealing with magnetic theories and carnivale spiritism. In our books, we are learning names of educated scientists who came up with this theory and that new principle, one after the other. But in reality, these sober researchers marked only small turning points. The engine behind that common quest, the pathos of propaganda if you will, was far more esoteric and occultistic in nature. The “physicist” Van Galen (we know him only for his discovery of elictrificy vector fields) publicly ridiculed Edmondson as a “dull materialist” for his proclamation that energy had no humor and no moods.
Sure, the discrimination between magiqe and science is clear enough, after all. If you are not able to cast, well, you can study books as much as you want, you still won’t become a magician, boy! The DUF wouldn’t use electrificy if it had the slightest reek of magiqe on it right enough. But that’s today. There are dozens of possible distinctions between any two kinds of magiqe after all. So imagine one guy walking up, with a strange apparatus in his hands producing raw energy, heat, intelligence, control or transformation, proclaiming that, even though you don’t know how it’s working, even though you won’t see how it even can, no matter how close you look at it, it’s not magiqe, no Sir! There are some “secret laws behind it, governing everything”. Only you had to read dozens of books full of theories and formulas – but it’s not magiqe, you see, not at all, it’s something else completely, not like all the other guys walking around with their trickery, sorcery, insanity. Sure, that’s a hard one to sell, but look in the books: Edmondson did it, and that was the first thing you have to comprehend: He not only invented machines, but in a way a new kind of thinking, and that was much harder. The thin distinction between two kind of representation terms, marking a crucial difference between what is now known as magiqe and technology. Drawing that mark, in a discursive warfare, meant to discover something else completely than technology itself: The ‘Other’ of magiqe, the ‘Otherness’ of sorcery, that what didn’t exist as a word or an idea before, because there wasn’t anything else beyond the inexplicable, when all the devices at your disposal were no more complicated than a cultivator. Edmondson’s greatest invention was, actually, a word: The idea of a shore beyond the seas of transcendental spiritism, the seas of superstition and believe and spellcast. He fought this battle for a universal discourse of empiricism, transcending the transcendental, earthing it to a new dominant mode of thought.
Hang on there: We’ll get to a bumpy ride into the manic subconsciousness of a 200 years-old genius-brain soon enough. Be there in 15 days!
(I was asked to advertise the sequel if I start to pull off continuations)
I am not Fiction