Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Cruicible: I Would Have Been Killed For Practicing Martial Magick

My old "San Ti" posture, before I got it right

Last night we watched "The Crucible", the movie of Arthur Miller's 1953 play about the Salem Witch trials.
Part of me realized how far we have come as a society since the Witch trials, but as there is nothing new under the sun, I acknowledge the strong Puritan streak that still haunts us.
Miller wrote "The Crucible" as an allegory to the anti-communist witch-hunt conducted by Joseph McCarthy in the 1950's. In fact, Arthur Miller himself was threatened with contempt of Congress for not naming people he had attended political meetings with.
But first, let's look at the Puritan hysteria that caused the stonings, hangings and drownings of accused witches in Salem. People could be accused of any small indiscretion and labeled a witch. 19 out of 150 people arrested were put to death. Here's what Wikipedia says about evidence produced in the trials of 1692-93:

"Other evidence included the confessions of the accused, the testimony of a person who confessed to being a witch identifying others as witches, the discovery of poppits, books of palmistry and horoscopes, or pots of ointments in the possession or home of the accused, and the existence of so-called witch's teats on the body of the accused. A witch's teat was said to be a mole or blemish somewhere on the body that was insensitive to touch; discovery of such insensitive areas was considered de facto evidence of witchcraft, though in practice, the witch's teat was usually insensitive by design, with examiners using secretly dulled needles to claim that the accused could not feel the prick of a pin."

Now, put in that context, I would be accused of being a Witch. My spirituality lies somewhere between Daoist and Druid. I have successfully "Witched" three producing water wells with dowsing rods. The Chi Gong and Nei Gong methods I practice resemble ritual magick. If I was spotted one morning in the deep woods practicing slow, meditative martial arts it would be reported in such a way:

Goody Two-Shoes: "I saw him with my own eyes; there he was in the glen - he was fighting with demons that I could not see. He would move and strike, it went on for many minutes, and then he fell silent.
I say it is the work of the Devil!"

And then the town leaders would attempt to capture me, force me to confess under the weight of a plank stacked with stones to crush the life out of me.

Sound far-fetched?
Look at the new "McCarthyism" that has arisen. Tea-baggers march with posters of President Obama as a "witch doctor", "Birthers" deny the fact that Obama was actually born in the United States. They call him, and by association anyone who supports his policies a "Communist".
There is a religious test to hold high office; one must profess to be Christian.

About the time I started high school, Nixon had just been forced out of office. I had believed that the old, restrictive thought would disappear the way of the dinosaurs. It was the age of Aquarius, and Jesus Christ was a superstar in a rock opera. It was to be the age of progress and free-thinking.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same.


Toldain said...

It's about fear. In our martial arts, we seek to confront our fears and overcome them. At least that's what ought to be happening.

It's also about rivalry. Once it becomes possible to dispose of rivals, be they economic, social or romantic, via charges of "witchcraft" or othering, then there are those who will do so. But it's the climate of fear that makes this possible.

In response, I feel we should do the moral equivalent of practicing in the village green while handing out free beer.

And by the way, I highly recommend to you the book Nixonland. It showed me things about the times of my youth that I never imagined.

Journeyman said...

I would suggest having a look at 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness Of Crowds' by Charles McKay.
First published in 1841, it is still simultaneously a depressingly and hilarious picture of the herd instinct in it all its stupidity.

Sean C. Ledig said...

DR, great article. Toldain, great response.

And speaking as an observant Christian, I have gotten so much shit for practicing Taijiquan or qigong. So many people think it's sorcery.

Of course, there are a lot of martial artists who perpetuate the stereotype as well for their own aggrandizement.

I've seen some very impressive things over the years accomplished by highly-skilled martial artists, as well as yogis. But I have never seen anything that had no scientific explanation.

Bobbe Edmonds said...

During the last three years of Clinton's term in office, I was a political retard. I knew nothing about the big picture, what goes on in Washington, or the structure of this country. And in the past decade, I have learned that you can't be politically ignorant about what your government is doing & saying.

I cringe to think that I would have been a tea party member back in the 90's, with my mindset back then...Having a back injury certainly puts a new perspective on what our health care really is like in this country. It sucks so bad, I have to go to fucking INDIA to get a disc herniation operation...and at a tenth of the cost to boot?

Where were the tea baggers when Bush was wiping his ass with the constitution?

As for Obama...He isn't perfect, but I'll take him ANY day over what we've had for the past 10 years. I don't give a rat's hairy ass if he was born in Antarctica and raised by she-wolves, people seem to forget that the best leaders aren't all born within the boundaries of California and Florida. His institution of electric cars for all White House staff ALONE is reason enough to re-elect him.

Re, the internal-religious thing: I have been in the teeth of this argument more times than I can count. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a spiritual person, nor do I hold with the accepted definition of what "internal" is. But I see people having the most difficult time separating the physical from the emotional when it comes to Eastern martial practices coupled with Western religious doctrines.

Personally, I don't believe that it has to be difficult. Spirituality directly affects your emotional well being, whilst martial arts directly affects the physical. Not saying the two don't often cross over, I'm just pointing out what the immediate connection is. The aversion to reconciliation seems to stem from "interpretations" of what God wants (or does not want).

As it does in all arguments between followers of various religious doctrines.