Friday, November 27, 2015

Magic Confusion, LOTR, and Shining

(Those who haven't read Neostriker: Shining, scroll to the bottom for important terms and definitions)

Society today has an interesting practice when it comes to words and meanings. They change the definition of something but then try to imply it was always the case. For example, the definitions of “witches” and “magic” are being changed while the creators imply that it was always this way. I find it interesting and terrifying because of the implications of changing these definitions can have.

When you take something that is by nature evil, such as magic, and then strip away the elements that make it evil, you have something completely different. Even though you may end up with the same word, the substance that makes up the word is now completely different. However, if you were to go back in time, people would not accept your "new definition" because it would not correspond. While you may be able to "re-cast" the old word to fit your new definition, you cannot impose your new definition on old interpretations of the word. The fact that you had to change the definition means that you understand they are different. Hence, what we must be careful of is that when we teach our children the concept of "good magic," they might not be able to distinguish the old definition and therefore think what is evil to be okay.

Definition of Magic

Now what does this have to do with Neostriker? There were no witches or apparent magic in Shining. As for my next novel, there won't be witches yet, but there will be magic according to what I have determined to be its original meaning. Magic is the use of evil spirits (or evil nature) to do "your will" with the twisted notion that you have power over them. In the new and modern confusion, you can see traces of this definition present. The problem is that authors did not properly convey this when they wrote their stories and their influence made it even worse.

By “authors”, I'm referring to the likes of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. When you read their stories, they indicate that their meaning for "magic" is different, but they never explained why or how it's different. So when new authors recall their stories, these new authors remember that, "since those guys used magic for good, it must be okay." In these minds, magic is a tool and the evil stems from the purpose it's used for. A recent series I saw that followed this line of logic was BBC's Merlin. However, this isn't what Tolkien or Lewis had in mind when they used the word.

For the old and venerable authors, magic is how the humans described what they saw but could not rationally explain it. The analogy would be that if we took a flashlight to medieval times, they would not be able to understand the concept of electricity and therefore it would appear as "magic". In Tolkien's case, there is a section of the Fellowship of the Ring that explains it's advanced science that we would be unable to comprehend.

Now it could be said that Tolkien failed to easily convey the difference between the "magic" that corresponds to my earlier definition and "magic of nature". For example, powers that are intrinsic to the nature of the being can be considered as okay and as a tool. In this case, Gandalf as the wizard (or Tolkien's equivalent of angels) is okay, but a normal human who studies to become a warlock is not. This is because, even in the magic of nature, there is evil when one tries to grasp for it, such as the One Ring from Lord of the Rings.

Problem 1: Grasping

When you look at the One Ring, I recall it being referred to as a "magic ring", and that is key. We often assume that its power is simply to make one invisible. However, that doesn't make sense when you read the "Ring Monologues" each character has when presented with it. In fact, both Isildur and Sauron had the ring but never turned invisible. The ring's power was actually to amplify an aspect of the nature of a character to the point that it corrupts. Hobbits are described before as already good at hiding and so invisibility makes sense. Sauron was powerful and so the ring granting him even more power makes sense. Gandalf mentions that he would initially use the ring to help his magic for good but he would eventually become worse than Sauron. The thing is that evil happens when a character tries to grasp for the Ring or, in Sauron's case, all of the rings. However, when the ring comes to a character, they are eventually able to get rid of it, with the exception of Isildur. Those who grasped: Sauron, Boromir, and Gollum. Those who didn't grasp: Bilbo, Frodo (until the end), Gandalf, Aragorn, Faramir, and Sam. The ones who grasp are seeking magic to do their will, but those who didn't were able to overcome their own desires for the good. In this sense, you can say magic is the tool for the author to develop his characters, but you should still never grasp for it.

Something N. D. Moharo says is that "tragedy occurs when someone does something they were not supposed to or not do something when they were supposed to." This falls in line with what I am saying about grasping. For example, if I'm driving and want to make a turn, I need to check to make sure there is no one in my way. Even if I really want to make the turn now, I must wait and allow the right moment to come. Otherwise, I might hit someone. That would have happened because I turned when I wasn't supposed to; I grasped at the ability to turn instead of waiting for my turn. One problem with magic as I defined it is that you are trying grasp for something to happen instead of letting it happen (more on that in my novel).

Problem 2: Calling of Evil Spirits

The second problem with magic is the calling of evil spirits. Evil spirits don't change. Hence, the only reason why evil will help you is if they believe you will cause a greater evil. Therefore, the use of magic will lead to evil unless you are able to break from it.

This part of the traditional definition is perhaps played with the most. When authors say that their definition of magic is that it’s a tool and of the nature of the character, that can be okay. However, if that’s the case, they cannot use spells or enchantments. The nature of spells indicates that another spirit is being called and therefore contradicts the idea that magic is part of the nature of a character.

The second aspect authors may play with is by suggesting that spirits can change. However, there is a philosophy that probably stems from Thomas Aquinas or Aristotle and Buddhism (if I'm interpreting the idea of reincarnation correctly) where spirits cannot change unless they have their own body. It's interesting because it could mean that the test of the angels was that they were given bodies. In fact, it could be that C. S. Lewis was onto something when writing the Magician's Nephew in that "angels" actually had their own world with a morality similar to our own and its time finished before our own world began (or maybe they existed before the dinosaurs). Anyways, hence the old understanding of magic is that evil spirits will always be evil, hence summoning them is evil.

Problem 3: Possession vs Inspiration

The third problem with magic is what essentially becomes possession. This occurs when you seek a spirit's power and they give it to you, linking you to them. You may think you are in control, but slowly and surely, you surrender one part of yourself after another. In stories, it'd happen like this: "I cannot do that now, but if you do this, then you'll have that power." Sometimes authors are nice and blatantly write it as "surrender your soul and you will have all the power you want." Now let's mark a distinction. Evil spirits possess; good spirits inspire. That's important because that's how it applies in Neostriker.

When I wrote Shining, I didn't have this full understanding of magic. As a result, you get an idea that it's the Asens that give David his powers, but it's supposed to be that they guide David to manifest and grow his own spirit. I actually determined this when preparing for my next novel (still trying to figure out a good name for it) so when I went back to edit Shining for publication, I tried to hint towards and explain this logic properly. The funny thing is the misconception actually makes sense in Episode 11 and is completely appropriate. In that episode, an evil spirit/Dark Power starts the process of "surrender for power". To contrast, Zel as a good spirit only assists, guides, and protects. With inspiration, there is still fullness of freedom in your actions, and nothing is sacrificed except for perhaps your ego.

Something you must be careful of is the nature of possession. Throughout human history and the cultures of the world, no one is able to free himself from possession. It always requires someone else or God to intervene. This is because of three things: 1) the evil spirit is more powerful than you simply by nature otherwise you wouldn’t use them; 2) The spirits can convince you that they are part of your mind and hence the actions are your will; 3) Only those siding with the powerful Good Spirit (aka God) can cast them out.

Summary and Closing

In summary, Old Magic is the use of evil spirits (or evil nature) to do "your will" with the twisted notion that you have power over them. This old meaning indicates the three things evil of magic: Grasping for something you shouldn't be; Calling upon evil spirits; and what amounts to as possession. Therefore the opposite of magic is: patience and self-sacrifice, the avoidance of evil spirits, and inspiration.

Not too long ago, N. D. Moharo, in a mutual exchange of ideas, brought up in my mind that people are skeptical about the idea of the Holy Communion changing from bread to the body of a God but they practice something very similar when it comes to definitions. I saw this to be true when I was playing a demo for a game and I came across the concept of good witches. I originally meant to cover the evil nature of witches but magic was the first step. However, I do hope you appreciated this insight not only into the philosophy of magic, but also the look into the process of writing Neostriker: Shining. If you want a more clear explanation on how Neostriker is advocating the defeat of magic, feel free to say so.

J. D. Nyle

Terms and Concepts

P.S. For those who haven't read Neostriker: Shining, here is a brief explanation of the terms used:
    David is the main character of the story who has the ability to don special armor and become a "Neostriker". It's revealed halfway through that this armor is a manifestation of his own spirit/soul called "neo" and therefore the term "Neostriker" means "Spirit Striker".
    Asens are also revealed halfway through to be spirits. Zel is the Asen who helps David grow and become more powerful.
    The Dark Power is the source of evil and hence, for the purpose of this essay, can represent magic.

For those who want to read Shining, I shared the entire story here on blogspot. You can find the links to each episode/chapter at http://neostrikershining.blogspot.com/p/full-story.html or click "Full Novel" on the top bar


I also shared half of it on Wattpad if you would like to read it on your tablet. If you like the story, please tell your friends. I would totally love to publish a hardcopy version to make it easier to read but I need support. At the moment, the only thing I can add to it is a page for each episode devoted to how I designed the chapters, characters, and ideas that changed. Unfortunately, that alone isn't enough to convince publishers that it will sell so I need some vocal support. Maybe we need a twitter campaign #publishNeostriker

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