Robert Anton Wilson, Grant Morrison, And The Magick Of Words


“The name is the thing itself.”
–Robert Anton Wilson

Words can be a very powerful thing. Both William Burroughs and Philip K. Dick believed that language—words—were alive, had viral properties and were (at least some of them) possibly of “alien” origin. But we don’t need to subscribe to such fanciful theories to be convinced of their potentiality and influence…

…we can just visit Twitter on every given day and observe the oft-dramatic proceedings. Glyphs on Twitter: BIG MAGICK. You can weave quite a spell and move thousands, even millions.

Robert Anton Wilson never got to use Twitter, but based on his essay “Black Magick & Curses” (available to read in his book Email To The Universe), you get a very good sense that he would intuitively understand its power to motivate, infuriate, end careers, and even decide elections.


First Wilson quotes Aleister Crowley’s definition of magick:

“MAGICK is the science and Art of causing Change to occur in Conformity with Will.
…Illustration: it is my Will to inform the World of certain facts within my knowledge. I therefore take ‘magickal weapons,’—pen, ink and paper; I write ‘incantations’—these sentences—in the ‘magickal language,’ i.e., that which is understood by the people I wish to instruct; I call forth ‘spirits,’ such as printers, publishers, booksellers, and so forth, and constrain them to convey my message to those people…”

Wilson then elaborates:

“All communication contains sorcery and/or hypnosis because humans use howls, snarls, yaps, purrs, gargles, gurgles, etc.—noises of many sorts—to create a neuro-semantic ‘grid’ projected upon all incidents and events. We generally cal these grids languages.

We literally ‘see’ incidents and events only as they register upon that grid.

If I use certain words that cause you to have certain predictable neuro-somatic reactions, I have cast a spell upon you. I have enchanted you. I may have even cursed you.”

This gives the Communicator—especially if he or she is quite skillful—a tremendous responsibility. They are literally magicians.


In the essay “The Word And The Fool,” published in Heavy Metal #286, Grant Morrison provides the framework to start putting this magick to practice. Morrison urges the reader not to be so dazzled by the phantasmagoric pageantry of what is commonly believed to be magick, and instead get in touch with the soul of the text:

“We speak not of supernatural entities, for which we can offer no proof of existence outside our prodigious imaginations and capacity for invention; instead we refer to far more interesting ghosts which, immaterial though they may be, are irrefutably real.

We may conjure up, for instance, the prominent ghost in William Shakespeare’s blockbusting Hamlet. Not the wraith of Hamlet’s dad who turns up all inciting-incident and vengeful-like in the first act but the genuine non-material presence which haunts the play and illustrates my point.

I’m talking about the meaning of the text. The ‘soul’ of Hamlet.”

Not just the text itself—what Wilson would term the “map”—but what the text signifies (the “territory”).

Wielding a sharp understanding of the meaning behind the words—and skillfully applying both to a particular situation at a particular time—will generate enough magickal energy to summon forth Hamlet’s ghost, bring the dead to life, and even throw open the gates of Hell.


And so Morrison also offers this word of caution to those dabbing in word-Magick, regardless of the medium used:

“God too is hewn of the same substance from which we have fashioned the meaning of Hamlet, the idea of Freedom, or the Rights of Man; which is to say that God is made of something very like nothing at all except a profound culturally-ubiquitous agreement to acknowledge this mysterious, powerfully-charged nothing which can nevertheless effect change in the material world and which still uses all too-physical bully boys to do the work of its venomous militant wing.

A warning to us and a reminder, if nothing else, that some ghosts can kill people.

The decision to ‘make’ meaning and assign value or significance is the most Magickal decision we can make…”

Or, as Wilson wrote,

“Whosoever speaks in any tongue gives birth to blessings and curses…”

To perform magick is to cast a spell—literally, spelling words from our mouth or pen or keyboard.

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