Sorcery and the minoritarian

There are few things which sorcerers share, indeed this may even be central to the very practice of sorcery itself. To this extent sorcery forms, almost par excellence, an example of the ‘minoritarian’. This concept, derived from Deleuze and Guattari, names a practice of deviation from a standard. It is distinguished from the merely minor, which is akin to a minority practice, by being instead the process of ‘becoming-minor’. Given a standard (‘I should get a paying job to support myself‘) there will be a majority that incarnate this standard and a minority who do not. The minoritarian, however, is neither the major nor the minor but the resistance to the fixation of any standard, major or minor. The minoritarian resists encapsulation and stasis and not out of a voluntaristic decision but precisely as an ‘impulse’ which is active and dominating, if not actually dominant. It is not that the minoritarian is a response to a pre-existing major position but rather it is a necessary companion or contamination of any major position. The minor might be a reaction to a major and capable of being understood only in terms of the major but the minoritarian is a necessary ‘coming along with’. It comes along with any major position. It is, in this sense, an unconscious of forces. If the major is the name we give to the coalescence of forces in a particular configuration, a stabilised set of values and norms, then the minoritarian is that set of forces which swirl on the edges and underneath the central major current. Sorcery, in this sense, is minoritarian – it has swirled its way through centuries and millenia of human practice and will no doubt continue to do so. Nothing, after all, speaks to its demise and everything to its continual existence.

Given this continuous existence and the difficulty of a general account of sorcery, how might we encounter and engage with this practice other than by becoming a sorcerer? In one sense the answer to this question is wholly negative – one cannot engage with sorcery, only become sorcerous. Obliquely, however, we can encounter the sorcerous through the engagement with the minoritarian. The creation of this concept enables an encounter with something that, without that concept, cannot be touched upon, only parodied.

The roots of sorcery slip uneasily beneath the history of the human, at once superfluous and supreme. Too easily assimilated to practices of spirituality, religion, knowledge or power, the sorcerer resists continuously the theoreticians attempt to understand what it is they are, what it is they do, by continually occluding their existence within a welter of texts, both written and oral. These texts are filled with strange names, bizarre entities, curious conclusions and continuous, quite deliberate, occultation and occlusion. This presents severe difficulties in ‘generalising’ about what seems like a ‘general’ practice. To deal with sorcery is to deal with particulars that suffer generality without succumbing to it – indeed it is almost a principle of the ‘general concept of sorcery’ that in its particularity it is ‘concrete singularity’. It is, in brief, always itself and never anything other than the sorcery of a particular sorcerer. Indeed it might even be claimed that to be sorcerous the sorcerer must be radical particular. To deal with sorcery is to deal with sorcerers because sorcery is bound up with a particular practice to the point of being bound to particular practitioners. This is not, in itself, unusual and it may be noted that something similar might apply to both philosophers, artists, musicians and perhaps any concrete creative practice. The way in which the proper name might be central to something like philosophy, however, becomes troublesome with the sorcerer. There are, of course, proper names. The name of Crowley, for example, is central to many encounters with sorcery but in part this is due to the specific project Crowley had, that of creating a new religion. More obscurely there are ‘proper names’ that have become adjectives in the Western magical tradition such that we find ‘Gardnerian Witchcraft’ or ‘Alexandrian Witchcraft’, named after Gerald Gardner and Alexander Sanders respectively, in each case by opponents. In each case one thing distinguishes these proper names from those of the philosopher, artist or writer – which is that the sorcerers know themselves under a different name. The ‘real’ or sorcerous name of the sorcerer is in principle secret.

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philosopher and filmmaker from brighton, currently teaching philosophy at the Free University of Brighton

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