Just say the word…

I once changed people’s lives with the stroke of a pen. No, not like a dictator ordering an execution or promoting one of his cronies to cabinet minister. And not like a CEO signing a billion-dollar deal.

No, I did it by telling a tale. And, although my experience was of a much humbler magnitude than the dictator’s or the the big-time CEO’s, the power it demonstrated to me could be scaled up to those levels by a clever and — more importantly — creative mage.

I’d nearly forgotten about this bizarre but potent life lesson until my memory got tweaked by Gordon’s recent posting about the relationship between art and The Art.That essay served as a palm-slap to my forehead, pointing out that I have failed to incorporate into my magical tool bag one of the most impressive phenomena I have ever experienced. What happened, and what should I have learned from it? That is a tale in and of itself.

In the early 80s, I was a married college student at a large university in Appalachia. My wife, who had learned costuming while earning her degree in technical theater, took a fancy to the SCA. She started a group at the university, and promptly became head honcho. I could get totally detoured by describing the… er… colorful characters this brought into our lives, and the convoluted politics of such an organization, but that would be beside the point.

A play within a play

All the context you need its that the group decided to hold an event (a “feast” as these things were called) in the autumn of ’81 that would be called “The Arabian Nights Feast”. It was to be held at a massive lodge of rough-hewn timber, surrounded by several log cabins, located off a one-lane road in a state park. Since I had amateur theater experience, I was asked to write and put on a play at the event. I suggested it could be based on one of the Arabian Nights Tales. The idea was received enthusiastically.

I searched through Arabian Nights Tales and the one that resonated with me was “Noureddin and the Fair Princess” (I read a slightly different version than I’ve linked, and I had to adapt it “freely” as they say in movie biz).

The feast by the mountain lodge was as decadent as one might imagine. There was much jousting and drinking. And folks were smoking petunias and sneaking off into the forest for becostumed trysts featuring flirtatious dialogue in pseudo-Elizabethan English. Once the rowdy crowd was herded indoors after dark for dinner and a play, the atmosphere was electric.

Now, part of my style of directing is to constantly exhort the players that “theater is ritual”, and to remind them that what they see in their imaginations becomes real to the audience through suggestion and telepathy. And so the play was a sort of ritual.

“All the world’s a stage…”

All hell broke loose shortly after the play. The woman who played the fair princess had been mercilessly flirting with me since the first rehearsal, and my wife’s spies had reported this back to her. The wife became convinced I was going to have an affair. She seized her perceived rival by her long black tresses and swung her around like a bull whip. There were other ugly scenes between various people before the night was over. And within days my wife and I were split up for good.

Over a period of months, several of the events in the play manifested in real life. The most striking of them being what became of the young fellow who played Noureddin. In the play he stole the princess who had been meant for the king. Within weeks after the play he took up with my ex, and eventually became her next husband.

The uncanny parallels between what happened in the play, and what manifested in real life actually made me a bit nervous about writing for a short while after that. I was convinced that the way things played out had been strongly affect by the creation and performance of the play.

Imagination, or remote viewing?

Years later, in the spring of ’88, I was living across the continent in a remote hamlet in California’s Sacramento Valley. I woke up one morning with a complete short story in my head: the whole thing from start to finish, with all the details. It sprang from a minimal scence I had conceived about five years earlier, in which a star in the sky observed a mortal man and fell in love with him. At the time I played with this short passage a little, making several attempts at developing it in different direction with a few paragraphs, but eventually threw it onto the trash heap of unused story fragments.

That morning I sat down at the keyboard (of my Apple IIc clone) and didn’t stop typing until I’d finished the story that afternoon. In my story the star incarnates on the earth by making herself a body from the mud on the banks of the Monogahela river, and then seeks out the object of her desires, who is celebrating in a bar up the street. In the story the bar is called “The Dipper”, which is a reference to Harriet Tubman. The bar it was modelled on was “The Underground Railroad“. If you know your Tubman lore, you’ll get the connection. The man pursued by the star is a yoga teacher (who some people swore glowed in a dim room) celebrating with friends and students before moving to Pittsburgh to open a new studio. She finds him, dances with him in a fashion that becomes legendary (and makes for bizarre police reports) and then lures him outside to have sex in an ally. Passersby see a flash of light, and the man is never seen again.

I stuck the story on the shelf until a friend from back home came to visit me in California three years later. I tossed him the manuscript one morning and asked him to read it. At one point I noticed he’d gone pale and was staring at the page with his mouth hanging open.

“What?” I asked.

“You don’t know what happened, do you?”


“With Marsha.”


He then told me about the disappearance of Marsha “Mudd” Ferber. A missing-person case that remains unsolved to this day.

Marsha was the owner of the Underground Railroad, a well-known venue on the east coast music circuit that had hosted the likes of  The Dead Kennedys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was a hotbed of alternative culture. Timothy Leary gave a talk there.

Many hours of my college life were spent in that bar. The place had (has!) an egregore, and I was (am) part of it.

It turns out that around the time I was writing the story, Marsha went missing one morning. A total mystery. She left her car and all personal effects behind. She just disappeared.

The part of my imagination that forms stories was obviously in contact with transpersonal phenomena that brought me knowledge of things I did not know on the material plane.

One more example comes to mind.

“While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping…” 

At the end of my senior year of undergraduate school, I enrolled in the English department’s fiction-writing workshop. Toward the end of the semester I submitted a partial story that violated most of the guidelines the professor had set for us, but I submitted it because it felt “inspired.”

This fragment was a scene in which a student falls asleep at his desk in his garret apartment while reading Ovid, and wakes to find Jupiter, dressed in black leather like a biker, seated in the overstuffed chair waiting to speak with the student.

I was surprised when the professor, despite the story not meeting the criteria he had set for the class, handed the story out, and even more surprised at the eager reception it got from the class. It had a certain something to it. The class begged me to finish the story, which didn’t happen because I got wrapped up in final exams and graduating.

The remainder of the story that I didn’t write but had already conceived involved Jupiter explaining to the student that the gods depended on the agency of humans for their proper manifestation in this world. Jupiter sends the student to steal a rare book from the university library to save it from being lost. If the book gets lost,  so does a vital link to an important aspect of the Jupiter cult.

Fast forward to spring of 2011. I received an invitation to join a group of magicians in a 21st century Jupiter cult. Several of the members of this cult are doing interesting research in the various manifestation of Jupiter in antiquity, involving searches through old tomes of Greek and Mesopotamian texts. This group has been a major influence in my life over the last year. I’m convinced this “inspired” story was prophetic.

What do I do with this realization?

When I have contemplated these instances of transpersonal bleed-over into my creative writing, it’s been clear to me that the first example — the reality-bending play — is in a different category than the two clairvoyant short stories. But not entirely. Where does perceiving the future end and affecting the future start?

Despite saying at the beginning of this essay that I changed lives with my scribblings, I’m not saying that my play was an act of magic. What happened was unintentional (though I suspect I subconsciously chose the material and designed the performance to end my miserable marriage). But Gordon’s, Grant Morrison’s, and Alan Moore’s observations about art and magic made me think, “Wait a minute! I’ve experienced this!”

And despite the fact that I’ve been learning classic tech in recent years such as designing talismans, calling grimoire spirits, and mixing up herbs, Gordon made me realize that I have been neglecting one of my strongest suits. I’m a narrative specialist. I studied literature, I was an amateur actor, and I’ve even published a few short stories. I make a living from the written word. Considering that I’ve experienced my narratives connecting to the future and to occurrences beyond my physical perceptions, it only makes sense to re-explore my passion for creating stories and acting them out so I can harness the reality-shaping power of narrative and make it one more tool in my magical toolbox. If such dramatic changes can be brought about by accident, I’d like to see what I can do on purpose.

The tricky thing is that there’s no grimoire to teach you how to do this. You’re on your own if you want to follow this path. But I’m determined to experiment with this. Any results will be reported in this blog.