Our world is ruled by primitive magic. Does that seem a bizarre thing to say? Well, we shall prove it to you.
In The Golden Bough, the famous study of magic and religion, J.G. Frazer wrote:
“The Principles of Magic – If we analyse the principles of thought on which magic is based, they will probably be found to resolve themselves into two: first, that like produces like, or that an effect resembles its cause; and, second, that things which have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance after the physical contact has been severed. The former principle may be called the Law of Similarity, the latter the Law of Contact or Contagion…Charms based on the Law of Similarity may be called Homeopathic, Imitative or Mimetic Magic. Charms based on the Law of Contact or Contagion may be called Contagious Magic…But in practice the two branches are often combined; or, to be more exact, while homoeopathic or imitative magic may be practised by itself, contagious magic will generally be found to involve an application of the homoeopathic or imitative principle…they are familiar in the concrete, though certainly not in the abstract, to the crude intelligence not only of the savage, but of ignorant and dull-witted people everywhere…Both branches of magic, the homoeopathic and the contagious, may conveniently be comprehended under the general name of Sympathetic Magic, since both assume that things act on each other at a distance through a secret sympathy, the impulse being transmitted from one to the other by means of what we might conceive as a kind of invisible ether, not unlike that which is postulated by modern science for a precisely similar purpose, namely, to explain how things can physically affect each other through a space which appears to be empty.”
Consider the advertising industry, one of the primary forces that shape our world. It is based almost entirely on homoeopathic magic. One of its most fundamental techniques is to take a “god” – i.e. a celebrity who is rich, good-looking, successful, popular, and skilled at what they do – then show them endorsing a particular product. So, for example, Tiger Woods at his commercial peak was seen to endorse an endless array of products, none of which had any connection whatsoever to golf, his area of special expertise. We saw him smiling into the camera as he eulogized razors, automobiles, hats, T-shirts, soft drinks etc.
What is the idea being communicated by such adverts? Simply that if these products are good enough for gods then they’re certainly good enough for you, the “commoners”. And more than that: if you want to be like a god you must imitate them and buy the products they buy. If you’re not wearing Nike you’ll never be like Tiger Woods. So everyone who admires Woods thinks – “got to get myself lots of Nike gear pronto.” And that’s exactly what they go out and do.
So, we are in the realm of imitative magic. If you want to imagine yourself successful, you must imitate success. Now, Tiger Woods is an athletic, muscular, gym-honed guy who has spent his whole life devoted to golf (at great expense to the healthy, balanced development of his psyche). That’s why he’s a golfing legend. It has nothing to do with any of the products he lucratively endorses. A fat slob who puts on a Nike cap as worn by Tiger is not going to become one iota better at golf, or indeed anything else. Yet he falls for the “magic”. He gets out his wallet and pays top dollar to Nike Corporation, just as millions of others do. As the cash registers ding, a big bell rings in an office of Nike HQ and a mechanical voice says, “SUCKER!”, but no one ever hears it because it’s in a sound-proofed room. The Board of Directors go in there from time to time to laugh at the cretins who buy their goods and to thank God for the power of Mimetic magic. They pay a fortune to Woods for his endorsement (and not a cent of that money contributes to the quality of the product), all of which then gets added to the price of the goods. But, of course, the goods were manufactured by slaves in sweatshops in South-East Asia, so Nike can keep the prices down and still reap vast profits. It’s not as if we care a fuck about the gooks – we just want to be like Tiger, and screw everyone else.
Have you ever noticed that all adverts for the beauty industry feature naturally beautiful people? Isn’t there something wrong with that? Surely the only point of the beauty industry is to make average people look a bit better, or, best of all, to make the ugly look gorgeous. A beauty will still be beautiful without any make-up at all. A beauty product that transforms an ugly duckling into a swan may be worth the money, but a product that makes a beautiful swan a tiny bit more beautiful isn’t up to much, and a beauty product that makes no discernible difference to the attractiveness of an ordinary person is a complete waste of money.
Yet, once more we are in the dream arena of imitative magic. If you buy the beauty products endorsed by the beautiful people (who probably don’t even use them), you too will be beautiful. Yeah? Dream on. Yet women all over the world fall for it in droves. Kerching! Suckers! Are these people “dull-witted” or what? If ugly people were used in beauty adverts the whole industry would collapse overnight. A British company once launched a campaign featuring normal-sized women. It was the shortest-lived campaign in history. Even average-sized women didn’t want to see themselves reflected on screen. They wanted the dream, not the reality. And magic always comes alive in the dreamscape.
The whole of advertising is based on the ludicrous idea that if you buy certain goods your life will be better, that if you imitate celebrities you stand a better chance of being a celebrity, that if you fail to imitate the stars like everyone else then you will be shunned and regarded as a freak.
In other words, if you don’t imitate what THEY want you to imitate (by paying a premium for it) then you are a failure and a loser.
And billions of people across the globe fall for this garbage, the simplest form of ancient magic imaginable. Wake up! If imitative magic didn’t work – i.e. getting ordinary people to imitate their heroes, there would be no advertising industry, no capitalism, and no celebrity culture. So, imitative magic is the basis of the modern world!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Capitalism is an economic system based on Mimetic Magic. Whereas Buddhism defines desire as the source of suffering, capitalism is dedicated to the creation of fake desire i.e. to manipulate you into buying things you don’t need. In this sense, capitalism produces nothing but suffering. It tantalises you with images of perfection i.e. it puts you in a hell of desire, and then it offers you the possibility of instant salvation. All you have to do is buy the product advertised and your desire will be satisfied there and then. Hell, they’ll even give you credit so that there are no obstacles whatsoever in your path. Who wouldn’t want to plunge themselves into debt providing they can wear the same things as their gods?
Has there ever been a more cynical and abusive system? Capitalism is nothing but psychological warfare waged day in and day out against the people. Its purpose is to make you hunger for what they want to sell you. Your appetite can only be assuaged by buying it. Hell is not having the object; heaven is when you do. And the objects are promoted via the endorsement of human gods – celebrities – whom we must all worship and imitate.
Such a simple, and even crude, system. Yet so stunningly effective. Like magic, in fact.