Magic to Not Be Who I Am: Grant Morrison, Chaos Magic, and Western Mystery Traditions
by Christopher Lirette — Emory University
August 13, 2014 – 00:00
This is how Grant Morrison uses his magic: to be a character, to force the immaterial through his flesh and Macbook and make it hard, to spread some kind of wacky contagion wherein we—the consumers of superhero-themed media-stuff—might be able to wake up. Not just once, as in Enlightenment, which is dull and too easy, but as in syncing to intermittent wakenings, little enlightenments, being able to become new people and then different people. Morrison, as this clip from the 2010 documentary Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods shows, practices chaos magic, a branch of the Western Mystery Tradition for an age of global capital. Its mantra—different from Aleister Crowley’s "Do what thou wilt"—is "Make it work." It has no doctrine, only methods. It believes in everything. Morrison conjures not only Solomonic demons, but loa, John Lennon, and Superman. He uses it to conjure himself from raw pop.
This clip details the magic that went into Morrison’s 1990s comic The Invisibles, a heterotopian punk conspiracy Bildungsroman. The goal was simple: incite psychedelic self-discovery and sci-fi self-exploration. Morrison makes the comic—and its bald, leather-clad lead King Mob—into a hypersigil. Working a sigil involves putting into language a desire, denaturalizing the words of it into a meaningless symbol, then stare at it in an extreme moment, a limit experience (for example orgasm or bungee jumping). Then your desire becomes an impersonal force that brings what you wanted about. What Morrison wanted, apparently, was to become a superhero. Or at least someone different. And so he disorganized a world in his image.
In another Western Mystery Tradition—let’s call it "theory" or "poststructuralism"—the status of the Subject is important. All the important French guys have something to say about it, and we can use their terms—assujettissement or deterritorialization and reterritorialization—to describe what Morrison does to himself, what’s done to him, but he calls it magic. His model is to inscribe the self as mythos, to make the self magical, ever-changeable, to tear it down, to repeat, strangely. To be a character, to yank new gods into existence, to forget who you are, or, at least, to get through the week, to make it work.