I was plunged into this by a random statement made by Ian Crossland on the Tim Pool podcast. Ian is not the brightest bulb on the tree, and often says things that seem ridiculous to me, but this one took me up short and launched a new line of inquiry for me. He said something to the effect that
Words were originally magic spells, that's why they're spelledHey, even a broken clock is right twice a day, and even somebody who says a lot of ridiculous things also spits a lot of truth.
I know the arts all began as magic, and both speaking and writing are arts, right? "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God." He spoke the world into being. Painting, sculpture, and all the arts have their basis in early magic rituals.
One of the arts that played a pivotal role in creating civilization was stonemasonry. The initiated—those who had been taken into the secret society and taught the art, knew the ways of shaping, planing, and smoothing stone. The uninitiated hadn't learned the sacred geometry used to discover perfect right angles and whatever else was necessary in order to make perfect walls and structures like the world had never seen before. When ignorant peasants built things they maybe broke stones now and then or chipped away parts to get the right general shape, but they knew not the sacred arts and disciplines taught in the Lodge.
And in those days there was no separation between the physical arts and magic. Science didn't exist, nor did philosophy except maybe in its earliest stages, all was superstition and religion. And as I've been discovering more and more, religion was the early form of many sciences and practices, including psychology and philosophy as well as just general wisdom. The same was true about sorcery, which was magic without ethics, done to increase someone's personal power. The difference is religion was bound to the highest good and shunned personal power as a deadly sin (at least Christianity did). Humbleness was espoused.
But ritual was always included in all these practices. They would have been a strange mix of art, science, knowledge, and ritual, with no clear dividing line between any of them. We hadn't yet developed a purely rational way of understanding things.
Today we still have the Freemasons, the descendents of those original magic-workers who were able to use the sacred geometry and the discipline of stone to create incredible works the likes of which had never been seen before. And only initiates understood it. The common populace had no idea how it was done, they were left to wonder and speculate.
It was the priests who learned the sacred magic of reading and writing. Only they could read the Bible (which were hand written in those days). The peasants gasped in wonder at this incredible magic. How could those little black squiggles on the paper hold meaning? What outrageous magic was this?
Understanding these things, it's easy to see how the general populace held those initiates in high esteem, and feared them at the same time. They knew how to work the magic, which the ordinary folk couldn't do.
I think this explains the Esoteric. As I like to say now and again, there's always been an esoteric movement, and they see works like the Bible differently than the general populace does. They were the initiates, taught to read the symbolic meaning of the great holy works. I think this symbolism is what Jonathan Pageau and his brother discuss, though there may well be different interpretations and different branches. Theirs is an Orthodox interpretation. And the more I learn about it, the more I begin to understand the Bible stories in a very different way.
There's magic, yes, but magic didn't originally mean what we think it does now. I mean, it did, but that's the view the general public has of it. A very superstitious view. When the churches were founded, there was no way the priests were going to fully educate the public in how to read the Bible!! They'd all be out of their jobs! And they'd lose the stranglehold they had on the public. Reading and interpretation of the holy Word was theirs alone to perform, through that sacred learning they had been taught.
The general public (read: rabble, peasants, the unwashed masses, etc.) tend to take things very literally, and to believe in magic very literally. Oh, I think the esoterics did too to a large extent. The difference is they knew how to work the magic, and what it really was, they understood the practical wisdom contained in it as well as the ritualistic aspects and the showiness designed to wow and cow the public. I'd say they also believed that it really did connect to greater magic beyond the reckoning of man. To believe things of that nature don't exist is a very modern conceit, and a very arrogant one. But it seems like what they believed existed were patterns of natural rhythm and order, natural laws that with enough knowledge can be understood and predicted and harnessed. And behind those laws (the Logos)—something too great for us to conceive of.
I've begun looking into this a bit already.