On the Nature of Sorcery (essay)

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Title: On the Nature of Sorcery
Author: Silvean Rashere

A few nights ago I was standing in the Hanging Gardens of Ta'Illistim when a young sorcerer approached me with a question. It was a deceptively simple query:

"What is sorcery?"

The answer, however, is incredibly complex. I think the reality of this is often ignored within the climate that our profession has taken upon itself in the most recent times. Frankly, I have seen the nature of sorcery reduced to meaningless aphorisms and cryptic statements that imply a deeper meaning that is never realized by the self-proclaimed sage behind them. In contrast to this, I am witness to a new generation of sorcerers that are demonstrating a true insight into the nature of our arts.

With enough brevity to keep my own explanation both readable and still complete, I hope that I can avoid the same faults that I criticize others so harshly for in my own explanation.

First of all, sorcery is a profession and guild. It has a certain language that all sorcerers recognize and use in their day-to-day interactions, it has a lineage of successful forbearers, and it has a certain niche within the various Elanthian communities. This is all rather self-evident, but it would be an error of language to launch immediately into metaphysical discussion without first laying this first half of a somewhat dry foundation.

Sorcerers are sometimes called "hybrid" spell-casters in reference to the blending of elemental and spiritual powers that create our unique spells. This is a very practical way of viewing our art, but not necessarily a complete one. It is true that we blend the elemental and spiritual realms and draw power from both. A wizard, on the other hand, draws energy only from the elemental realm and is subject to more limitations than the sorcerer. Thus, if you think of the manipulation of the flows of energy in our world as magic, then the diversity of the sorcerer grants a greater understanding of these flows and magic as a whole. One could expound on this point for the sake of creating arguments against the philosophies of the wizard's guild, but it is an old debate and with this second half of our foundation it is best to move on.

I would argue that sorcery possesses a third element that binds together these elemental and spiritual energies that we control. In their raw forms the energies of the elemental and the spiritual are diametrically opposed to each other. The elemental realm deals with tangible energies and forces of matter, and by contrast, the spiritual realm encompasses the intangible powers of the spirit. These two forces, however, can and do bind themselves together for common purpose. Every truly living being, in fact, is a binding of both matter and spirit. The elementalist will wax on about the blood as aspects of water or fire, and the spiritualist will talk of the spiritual energies that give living beings the capability of emotive development. The two aspects are bound together in each of us, then, by the extension of some cosmic power. Such complexity and intricate design could not be thus crafted if it were not so.

Sorcery, then, is bound together by this same cosmic insight. The sorcerer through the exercises and studies of the profession develops a stronger understanding of the very fabric of reality. Through this understanding he is able to not only manipulate both the elemental and spiritual energies, but he has discovered a way to break down the barriers between the two realms and bind the two energies for awesome effects. Without a doubt, this capability makes sorcery the most powerful of the magical arts.

There are still, however, limitations in sorcery. I would believe that the earliest sorcerers became too fascinated with the brilliance of their discoveries and the effects that could be performed through "hybrid" magic. In essence, the technical aspects of sorcery have come to outweigh the philosophical aspects and this has stunted the growth of the art. Sorcery holds the power to alter the very weave of the cosmos and we stand upon the edge of the enlightenment that will open this capability to us.

It is often written that "sorcery is true power" or something of this sort without any meaningful explanation. I would posit that this is the experience of the binding aspect, the cosmic insight, of sorcery without truly grasping its meaning. This, then, would be the final part of my answer to the original question. Sorcery is not only the spiritual and elemental, not only the cosmic binding of the two, but it also a gradual enlightenment that is experienced through careful introspection when orchestrating the process. If I can come to know sorcery, not just intellectually, but to know it in my blood and soul, then that is the answer to the question of its identity. Sorcery is to not just see the tapestry, but to see each individual thread and feel the same cosmic impulse in creation that I manipulate in my spells. It is this enlightened state that truly expresses the nature of sorcery and is literally a transcendence of mortality.

Who then has reached such a lofty state? Perhaps Bandur Etrevion in his last moment of brilliance before death. Perhaps no mortal has yet to do so, for know that it is easy to become complacent with and blinded by raw power along the way. What then would I answer if I were to reach this state and the question were asked again, "What is sorcery?"

I would be able to answer, "It is Silvean", and that would be enough.

Have faith my brothers and my sisters, the path before us is long and dangerous, but the reward is eternal.

Silvean Rashere H.S., D.S.A


Contributor's Note:

Taken from the Sorcerer Discussion Board, April 8, 2003.