“Art is magic. Magic is art. A writer or artist is the closest thing in the modern world to a shaman.” Alan Moore
Alan Moore is an English writer primarily known for his critically acclaimed work in comic books. The series he has produced includes Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and From Hell.
Although he is often described as “the best comic writer in history” and also as simply “one of the most important British writers of the last fifty years”, it’s not that part of his life that I’m writing about today.
Alan Moore is also a Neopagan, occultist, and ceremonial magician.
Let me give you some of the writer background though, because the art leads into the magic.
His work helped develop the “graphic novel” as a genre that received more crossover respectability than the “comic book”.
At the end of the 20th century, he went further from the mainstream with the epic From Hell, the pornographic Lost Girls, a novel Voice of the Fire, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and the occult-based Promethea.
Though I know of and have read a few of those titles, I’m not a big fan of graphic novels. But recently, I heard a segment on To The Best of Our Knowledge about that other side of Moore that brought me back to him.
It seems that on his 40th birthday, he announced that he was a ceremonial magician having been inspired by research he did while writing From Hell, a book full of Freemason and occult symbolism. Rereading a line in the book – ‘The one place gods inarguably exist is in the human mind” – suddenly seemed not to be a line he invented, but the truth.
He decided that becoming a ceremonial magician was the next step. In a film, The Mindscape of Alan Moore, he said “I believe that magic is art, and that art, whether that be music, writing, sculpture, or any other form, is literally magic. Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words or images, to achieve changes in consciousness… Indeed to cast a spell is simply to spell, to manipulate words, to change people’s consciousness, and this is why I believe that an artist or writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world to a shaman.”
That radio program led me to the guest’s book, Alan Moore: Storyteller. He has been mixing his writing and his beliefs and has created what he calls his “Idea Space.” He took up the study of the Qabalah and the writings of occultist Aleister Crowley. From Crowley, he took ideas about True Will being connected to the will of the pantheistic universe, and in his magical rituals, he began using psychedelic drugs. He has since given up on the drugs, as he feels he can achieve the same effects without them.
Moore’s politics are anarchy (see V For Vendetta) and he has embraced conspiracy theories in his writing (see Brought to Light). His own belief is that there is a global conspiracy that is more frightening than a “banking conspiracy, or the grey aliens, or the twelve-foot reptiloids from another dimension that are in control” because it’s a conspiracy where “no one is in control and , the world is rudderless.” (from The Mindscape of Alan Moore)
And Moore is still involved in our very real world. Worldwide, the Occupy protesters have adopted the Guy Fawkes mask from his V for Vendetta and so have Wikileaks and anti-globalization demonstrators.
Moore has described Occupy as “ordinary people reclaiming rights which should always have been theirs. I can’t think of any reason why as a population we should be expected to stand by and see a gross reduction in the living standards of ourselves and our kids, possibly for generations, when the people who have got us into this have been rewarded for it – they’ve certainly not been punished in any way because they’re too big to fail. I think that the Occupy movement is, in one sense, the public saying that they should be the ones to decide who’s too big to fail. As an anarchist, I believe that power should be given to the people whose lives this is actually affecting.”