Below you will find an interview with the legendary author, magician and adventurer… The man, the myth, the legend himself… Mr. Ramsey Dukes. Among his many excellent books on magic, his most recent tome is My Years of Magical Thinking. Ramsey was also featured on Gordon White’s Rune Soup Podcast this past August.
Q: What do you consider your greatest magical achievement?
A: My greatest magical achievement has probably been to initiate the demise of the entire physical universe.
I was brought up to accept a material universe driven by random, independent happenings. So, when I first suggested that the foundation of existence might be neither matter, nor energy, but information, people dismissed it as a joke. Then, in 1970 I suggested that the world we live in might be what is now called a “virtual reality”. Ten years later I proposed “Johnstone’s Paradox”, the probability argument that, if ultimate reality were material, then it is highly unlikely that we would be living in a material universe. In 1985 I wrote Words Made Flesh – arguing that, even if the virtual universe were not true, people would still come to believe it was true. But no-one but myself would publish the book. By 2000 the virtual universe concept had begun catching on with movies like The Matrix, and now it is taken seriously by a growing number of intelligent people, including some scientists.
Unlike a material universe, a virtual universe is innately magical, because everything in it is complex and connected, nothing acts independently or by chance. So my achievement has been to transform the entire physical universe into a magical reality.
Q: Who are your personal heroes, those who most inspired you on your own journey?
A: Aleister Crowley – as someone prepared to explore everything, rather than try too hard to be consistent.
Austin Spare – because he did provide a relatively simple and consistent theory of magic.
CG Jung – because he suggested to me that it is sometimes more useful to ask why things seem to happen, rather than worry if they are true.
Brigitte Bardot – because she accepted the burden of incarnating a goddess, and showed just how hard that can be (a lesson to anyone who craves fame).
(Anti-hero) Adolph Hitler – for demonstrating how seemingly high-minded rhetoric can lead to the most ghastly consequences.
Q: What importance, if any, do you place on full visual manifestation of a spirit during evocation?
A: In NLP terms I am a tactile rather than visual or auditory person, so it is far more vivid for me to feel the presence. I see too much TV nowadays to be satisfied with mere visual manifestation.
Q: What was your first “oh fuck, this shit is real” moment in your personal magical practice?
A: At a boring nadir in my life I found myself swooping down a country lane on a 1000cc MotoGuzzi motorcycle and shouting: “THIS IS FREEDOM!”. Then I remembered that three months earlier I had made and charged an AOS-style sigil of the words “I want enough money to buy my freedom”, Then someone died (of old age, fortunately) so that a person I had helped financially was unexpectedly able to repay me, so I found myself with just enough money to buy either a very ordinary car or an extraordinary motorcycle. This was also a lesson in the need for clarity of intention: I had actually wanted enough money to buy freedom from full-time employment!
Q: What is one piece of magical tech you could not live without?
A: As a tactile person, I am a sucker for big, gorgeous crystals. If I had to choose one magical weapon it would be the Wand (or the Lamp, or the Drum).
Q: At what age did you start practicing magic and why?
A: I would suggest that I started practicing magic at the moment when, as a baby, I learned that the best way to transform the world into a nicer place was to smile, gurgle happily and look cute. But I guess you want later examples? Hard to say: before I was ten I experimented with divining for a football pool win, with casting rune stones, and with distilling astrological elixirs. More consciously magical work came in my mid-teens and based on the books of WB Butler and Dion Fortune. As to why? I guess it is just my nature.
Q: What is your advice to the young aspiring magician just getting started today?
A: I think I would recommend asking a very fundamental question: is your magical intention to change the world, so that it is more like what you would want it to be? Or is it to change yourself, that you can better adapt and survive every new adventure that the world throws at you? It is the choice between Power versus Strength. You do not have to commit 100% to either, but it is helpful to clarify what really matters.
Q: What are your current magical endeavors?
A: I am currently feeling a bit old and weary, so would like to shift some of my backlog of books to write, sell enough to provide a pension, and free myself up to explore new things.
Q: How do you respond to Christian evangelists knocking on your door at dinner time?
A: Never had exactly that experience, but I suspect I would dismiss them firmly and yet politely – for I know that for many people Christianity does serve as social cohesion and comfort in an apparently alien and threatening world.
Q: What effect and focus do you think magic should have upon politics and world events?
A: This is an intriguing question and an ongoing one for me. So, partial answers.
In My Years of Magical Thinking I (as Lionel Snell) suggested that today’s unhappy “post-truth” culture was a consequence of a general drift towards magical thinking, so that people were beginning to use it without knowing how to handle it – as in the tale of The Sorceror’s Apprentice. So, for example, a politician will say something not because it is true but because it is intended to cause an emotional reaction. What people do wrong is to experience the emotion and yet try to respond rationally, debating at length the truth or falsehood of the statement. What they need to do is recognise an act of magic and instead ask WHY the statement was made, what was the intention? Then they can decide to what extent they align with that intention or not. Every demon has a purpose.
Another problem I have wrestled with is the extent to which political power feeds on the energy of public rage. What sort of binding spell could return the rage to its evoker? Or what alchemical operation might transmute such rage into bliss?
Thanks for the questions, they help me to think.