~ closing excerpt from chapter 14 ~
I asked Isidoro Baltazar about intuitive knowledge, about
that sudden flash of insight, of understanding, that sorcerers are supposed to
cultivate above all else.
He always said to me at those times that to know something
only intuitively is meaningless. Flashes of insight need to be translated into
some coherent thought, otherwise they are purposeless. He compared flashes of
insight to sightings of inexplicable phenomena. Both wane as swiftly as they
come. If they are not constantly reinforced, doubt and forgetfulness will ensue,
for the mind has been conditioned to be practical and accept only that which is
verifiable and quantifiable.
He explained that sorcerers are men of knowledge rather than
men of reason. As such, they are a step ahead of Western intellectual men who
assume that reality - which is often equated with truth - is knowable through
reason. A sorcerer claims that all that is knowable through reason is our
thought processes but that it is only by understanding our total being, at its
most sophisticated and intricate level, that can we eventually erase the
boundaries with which reason defines reality.
Isidoro Baltazar explained to me that sorcerers cultivate the
totality of their being. That is, sorcerers don't necessarily make a distinction
between our rational and our intuitive sides. They use both to reach the realm
of awareness they call silent knowledge, which lies beyond language, beyond
Again and again, Isidoro Baltazar stressed that for one to
silence one’s rational side one first has to understand his or her thought
process at its most sophisticated and intricate level. He believed that
philosophy, beginning with classical Greek thought, provided the best way of
illuminating this thought process. He never tired of repeating that, whether we
are scholars or laymen, we are nonetheless members and inheritors of our Western
intellectual tradition. And that means that regardless of our level of education
and sophistication, we are captives of that intellectual tradition and the way
it interprets what reality is.
Only superficially, Isidoro Baltazar claimed, are we willing
to accept that what we call reality is a culturally determined construct. And
what we need is to accept at the deepest level possible that culture is the
product of a long, co-operative, highly selective, highly developed, and, last
but not least, highly coercive process that culminates in an agreement that
shields us from other possibilities.
Sorcerers actively strive to unmask the fact that reality is
dictated and upheld by our reason; that ideas and thoughts stemming from reason
become regimes of knowledge that ordain how we see and act in the world; and
that incredible pressure is put on all of us to make certain ideologies
acceptable to ourselves.
He stressed that sorcerers are interested in perceiving the
world in ways outside of what is culturally determined. What is culturally
determined is that our personal experiences, plus a shared social agreement on
what our senses are capable of perceiving, dictate what we perceive. Anything
out of this sensorially agreed-upon perceptual realm is automatically
encapsulated and disregarded by the rational mind. In this manner, the frail
blanket of human assumptions is never damaged.
Sorcerers teach that perception takes place outside the
sensorial realm. Sorcerers know that something more vast exists than what we
have agreed our senses can perceive. Perception takes place at a point outside
the body, outside the senses, they say. But it isn't enough for one merely to
believe this premise. It is not simply a matter of reading or hearing about it
from someone else. In order for one to embody it, one has to experience it.
Isidoro Baltazar said that sorcerers actively strive, all
their lives, to break that frail blanket of human assumptions. However,
sorcerers don't plunge into the darkness blindly. They are prepared. They know
that whenever they leap into the unknown, they need to have a well-developed
rational side. Only then will they be able to explain and make sense of whatever
they might bring forth from their journeys into the unknown.
He added that I wasn't to understand sorcery through reading
the works of philosophers. Rather, I was to see that both philosophy and sorcery
are highly sophisticated forms of abstract knowledge. Both for sorcerer and
philosopher, the truth of our Being-in-the-world does not remain unthought. A
sorcerer, however, goes a step further. He acts upon his findings, which are
already, by definition, outside our culturally accepted possibilities.
Isidoro Baltazar believed that philosophers are intellectual
sorcerers. However, their probings and their pursuits always remain mental
endeavours. Philosophers cannot act upon the world they understand and explain
so well except in the culturally agreed-upon manner. Philosophers add to an
already existing body of knowledge. They interpret and reinterpret existing
philosophical texts. New thoughts and ideas resulting from intense studying don’t
change them, except perhaps in a psychological sense. They might become kinder,
more understanding people – or, perhaps the opposite. However, nothing of what
they do philosophically will change their sensorial perception of the world, for
philosophers work within the social order. They uphold the social order even if
intellectually they don’t agree with it. Philosophers are sorcerers manqué.
Sorcerers also build upon an existing body of knowledge. However, they
don’t build upon this knowledge by accepting what has already been established
and proven by other sorcerers. Sorcerers have to prove to themselves anew that
that which already stands as accepted does indeed exist, does indeed yield to
perceiving. To accomplish this monumental task, sorcerers need an extraordinary
amount of energy, which they obtain by detaching themselves from the social
order without retreating from the world. Sorcerers break the agreement that has
defined reality, without breaking up in the process themselves.