~ Mercedes Lackey: Crown of Vengeance
Mage Music 37
In science fiction/fantasy novels, Mages are always getting involved with battles, conjuring deadly forces to kill enemies with a flick of the fingers, a twitch of a wand, or a circle in chalk on the floor. They blast mountains to gravel, change the courses of rivers, generate blizzards from balmy spring days, bestow Magickal powers on inanimate objects and even take over the minds of the unwary and unshielded. Certainly all good tricks, but such conjuring is truly the stuff of fiction, not real Magick.
That's not because it is absolutely impossible to do those things, but because the immense power needed to generate those kind of changes of reality is just an impractical - and darned tough - way to use Magick. Even the most powerful Mage is courting failure when attempting to go against the forces of entropy in the Universe - or even the desires of living things. Which is not to say that a Mage can't do some pretty impressive stuff. It's just that changing the world that way is using the wrong end of a lever to move a rock. There are easier ways to go about Magick that will, in the end, get you where you want to be.
The reality of the reality of Magick
Think about it: Here's an army of orcs, here's the brave, solitary Mage facing that ugly bunch. Fiction would tell you that the Mage will use Magick to force the orcs to stop their advance. The reality is that the most powerful control a Mage (or anyone) has is of himself*- meaning the Mage isn't going to be using Magick against orcs at all.
So - do the orcs get to pound the Mage into mush? Actually, no - in the real world, the Mage changes his own reality to one in which there are no orcs doing damage. Um... if there were actual orcs in this world for a Mage to deal with, of course. Metaphor, okay?
I know you are objecting - because what I've described might sound a bit... wimpy - and likely at least one of your objections probably goes something like this: If the Mage's reality is changed to orclessness in a new reality, are there still orcs storming the castle in the old reality?
Probably. Maybe. It depends on whether you subscribe to the infinite Universes theory or not. Still, one soul incarnate in one body experiences one reality at a time in finite existence. Magick is about purposefully choosing what that reality will be like. Even Mages can't change realities they aren't experiencing (and that means Mages can't experience the reality of another living being without becoming that being, which would mean not being the Mage any more...). And this means that the best Magickal leverage for a Mage is to simply create a reality where orcs aren't an issue. For him, the Mage.
Perhaps this version of Magick is not something you'd like to spend time in a movie watching, but it's the way things really work. Look around you at the reality you live in. If Magick was used like a super-power, things would be a bit different than the reality we are currently sharing.
What are Mages for if not to stop orc armies?
And why do we think they should be stopping armies of orcs, anyway? Aren't orcs living beings that have their own desire and will?
Well, no. Orcs are fictional. I'm talking about this plane of reality, not theirs. Faced with the real-world equivalent of orcs, a Mage needs to leverage energy, and that comes about through knowing the true goal, the true desire, and using the true desire with will and ritual to bring about change in the Mage's reality. And the true desire can only be that of the Mage, not that of the castle or anyone else.
A fine point, but a crucial one.
If the castle is to be safe from the charging orc army (or the Mage's equivalent of orcs) the Mage must exist in a reality where it is already safe and has always been safe and always will be safe. Orcs are not part of the picture. To do this, the Mage is the one who must know in his body, mind and soul what existence in a reality of safe castle feels like, must know without a doubt that this is the reality for the past, for the now and for the future, and must bind it with ritual that will make it so.
And then it's the Mage's reality that changes - and how the energy of the Universe brings that about depends on factors beyond any finite Mage's ability. Orcs? Who cares. That army may be just charging the castle to get to the Black Friday sale. It doesn't matter what the orcs do because in the Mage's reality the castle is safe, if not orc-free.
What Mages are for in this reality
Fantasy is a wonderful thing, though as a friend of mine just said the other day, it can be frustrating reading about those Gifts that none of us have.
Except we do have them.
Not to the same degree, not every gift for every person - but we all have Magick in us and the ability to change our own reality. We can't help it - it goes with the human package. The difference between Mages and the bulk of humanity is that Mages choose their reality and the rest of us pretend we have no choice and let reality happen to us.
Thank goodness, then, that real Mages are living breathing conduits to the energy of the Universe. They may be manifesting their own realities, but in doing so Mages open portals to the Light for us. Even if we don't choose to step through, we can still bask in the Light. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it here:
Light bringers - that's what Mages are for.
That's no small potatoes, either.
* I use the masculine pronoun but understand it includes the feminine. I'm a female, and I don't exclude my gender, just am going along with what's easiest. The he/she, him/her way of writing is kinda kludgy, and I just can't make myself like using "their" when what I really mean is his/her, you know? Yeah, okay, sometimes I do, but give me a break here.