Should a Magician use a Computer?

© by Salomo Baal-Shem 2010

Some would aks, whether we really need to use the computer that much in magic. Do we really have to write our diaries in a computer file? Do we need online courses, etc… Isn’t it more appropriate to use old books? Don’t we all imagine a true magician to sit in his study pondering over an old gimoire with piles of books everywhere?

True, that is what we think of a magician. We would imagine him to be able to read many languages such as Latin, Greek, Hebraic and old magical scripts such as runes or hieroglyphs, don’t we? We cannot really imagine a wise old magician to be illiterate, can we?

In other words a magician of old times was a master of the media of his time. When few people could even read or write in their own language he was able to read and write many different languages and scripts.

The same applies to the magician of today - he must master the media of today. In a time where everybody can read or write to be able to read a book is not enough, he must master the computer and the internet, which is today what a book and a library was in older times. (Books and libraries still have their place in magical studies, but we must not be limited to them.) Today a magician who cannot use the computer and the internet is as unwise as an ancient magician who was illiterate.

There is an ancient legend - told by Socrates - about the Egyptian god Thoth (Theuth), the god of magic, who invented the letters. Note well, that it was the god of magic, who invented the letters. When he presented them, the new invention was feared and disregarded, and it was believed to be better to stick to the old ways – in other words to the old media:

Socrates: I heard, then, that at Naucratis, in Egypt, was one of the ancient gods of that country, the one whose sacred bird is called the ibis, and the name of the god himself was Theuth. He it was who invented numbers and arithmetic and geometry and astronomy, also draughts and dice, and, most important of all, letters. Now the king of all Egypt at that time was the god Thamus, who lived in the great city of the upper region, which the Greeks call the Egyptian Thebes, and they call the god himself Ammon. To him came Theuth to show his inventions, saying that they ought to be imparted to the other Egyptians. But Thamus asked what use there was in each, and as Theuth enumerated their uses, expressed praise or blame, according as he approved or disapproved. The story goes that Thamus said many things to Theuth in praise or blame of the various arts, which it would take too long to repeat; but when they came to the letters, “This invention, O king,” said Theuth, “will make the Egyptians wiser and will improve their memories; for it is an elixir of memory and wisdom that I have discovered.” But Thamus replied, “Most ingenious Theuth, one man has the ability to beget arts, but the ability to judge of their usefulness or harmfulness to their users belongs to another; and now you, who are the father of letters, have been led by your affection to ascribe to them a power the opposite of that which they really possess. For this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory. Their trust in writing, produced by external characters which are no part of themselves, will discourage the use of their own memory within them. You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem
to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise.1

What would an ancient magician have answered his apprentice, who told him that he cannot be bothered to learn all these ancient scripts? Most likely he would have told him, that being the apprentice of a true magician is a high honour and if he does not want to endure the discipline needed, he may not be worthy after all.

Do you think you have the makings of a true magician? If so, learning how to use a computer and the internet cannot be such a big obstacle, most children can learn it and so can you.

1Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 9 translated by Harold N. Fowler. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1925. [274c-275b]
Last modified: Sunday, 16 January 2011, 1:21 AM