A God Dwells in the Concepts, Art-as-Magic and Other Insights: Alan Moore on The Believer

by Jeremy Johnson

Yes, and to some degree, ontologically, the creation of a metaphysical being actually is that metaphysical being. – Alan Moore

The Believer recently posted this fascinating conversation with artist, comic book writer and magician, Alan Moore: creator of V for Vendetta, The Watchmen and other stories. He is known for a darker twist on superhero stories, social commentary, and a definitive mystical outlook (see this wonderful documentary done with Moore on his life and work).

Moore is working on a new book, Jerusalem, “a noir crime narrative based on the Northampton pastor James Hervey.” At half a million words, the book is developing into a tome. And Moore, as usual, wonderfully describes the craft of writing not only as a form of art, but a form of magic. He suggests that all forms of art are, in reality, kinds of magic. The fundamentals here have to do with language: when we speak, or spell, we weave a construction of ideas and words, perceptions, around the listener. Language, he tells us, can re-orient our consciousness:

Actually, art and magic are pretty much synonymous. I would imagine that this all goes back to the phenomenon of representation, when, in our primordial past, some genius or other actually flirted upon the winning formula of “This means that.” Whether “this” was a voice or “that” was a mark upon a dry wall or “that” was a guttural sound, it was that moment of representation. That actually transformed us from what we were into what we would be. It gave us the possibility, all of a sudden, of language. And when you have language, you can describe pictorially or verbally the strange and mystifying world that you see around you, and it’s probably not long before you also realize that, hey, you can just make stuff up. The central art of enchantment is weaving a web of words around somebody. And we would’ve noticed very early on that the words we are listening to alter our consciousness, and using the way they can transform it, take it to places we’ve never dreamed of, places that don’t exist.

Now going further, when we imagine a concept like a “god”, we literally think that god into existence:

AM: When that enchantment is the creation of gods and the creation of mythology, or the kind in the practice of magic, what I believe one is essentially doing is creating metafictions. It’s creating fictions that are so complex and so self-referential that for all practical intents and purposes they almost seem to be alive. That would be one of my definitions of what a god might be. It is a concept that has become so complex, sophisticated, and so self-referential that it appears to be aware of itself. We can’t say that it definitely is aware of itself, but then again we can’t really say that about even our fellow human beings.

BLVR: But we can tell stories about the god being aware of itself.

AM: Yes, and to some degree, ontologically, the creation of a metaphysical being actually is that metaphysical being. If gods and entities are conceptual creatures, which I believe they are self-evidently, then the concept of a god is a god. An image of a god is the god—a little closer to hand.

I couldn’t find a better way to describe the deep feelings and intuitions concerning the craft of writing (in my case, both fiction and non-fiction are my forte). If we are to believe Moore’s definition of gods-as-concepts, how many gods dwell on this hyper-linked page? What kind of gods permeate the icons of celebrity advertisements in Times Square?

The participatory magic Moore describes here plays directly into the creation of Promethea (a book I recently purchased and am enthralled to being reading).

Promethea is, from the very first issue, described as a fictional character. Now there’s a strange loop of self-reference going on there, because you’re reading about this fictional character who is perfectly aware that she is a fictional character and indeed that is the source of her occult power. So it’s kind of more or less saying that, yes, this emblem of Promethea that you are looking at—this is the actual goddess Promethea. That this is an actual embodiment of the imagination. In fact for one panel I thought that we pretty much manifested the god Hermes. How would a god of language and communication manifest in a physical universe? And of course, just as a goddess of dreams would manifest through dreams, then a god of language and images and communications, and, if you like, comic strips, would probably manifest through a comic strip.

Moore’s vision of reality is that everything is an idea; the very substrate of our 9-5 work-force and corporate entities, are themselves a form collective magical rite and invocation. Modern-day pyramid structures erected to the stylistic and fashionable gods of the stock market, invisible flows of complex mathematics interpreted by the Quants (See: The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It). This makes everything, literally everything we can perceive, a mode of consciousness. A style of dreaming. Now we’re entering into a magical worldview, one where our thoughts and intentions are what help us navigate the world. Intention opens up realms and shuts them out from our perception (and in his documentary, Moore suggests, rather excitingly, that a sufficient “shift” in perception could catalyze the Apocalypse, which by its definition means an “unveiling.”)

Such a world-view is simultaneously empowering and bewildering. But most of all, it is enchanting. And I gather that is the point Moore was making all along.