On the Nature of Reality
When one asks “Why?”, one is engaging in the simplest act of metaphysicality. The very essence of what it means to be necessarily entails a context in which that existence may reside. Naturally, this raises the obvious and crucial conundrum that the context itself must be but an appendage of a still greater existence. Some have argued that this leads to the absurdity of an infinitude of “layers” without some means of closing the loop of self-reference and that, given their infinity, the configuration of those layers themselves might give rise, across the meta-layer of their collated surfaces, to an infinity of self-referential meanings so that the problem is compounded. Not just a single infinity, but an infinitude of them! The problem cuts both ways, however, because if there is no definite ceiling to the baroque cathedral of Reality — can one believe there is a floor?
The nearest adjacent Planes of Existence are, if not a matter of everyday concern, at least commonly referred to in the works of those mages who have grown so sufficient in their understanding as to peer into or even travel bodily to them. To be sure, this feat of magical technique is not even within the compass of the common man, but it is a matter of written record there exist the first-hand accounts of travelers who ventured Beyond the Veil which serves as backdrop for our mortal comedy.
Madmen and Liars
This debate is an ancient one, and the consensus is quite settled, but it still serves as a useful point of interest for the curious curriculum.
As one might expect, the first to travel the Planes and successfully return told tales which were immediately denounced as the ravings of madmen and the lies of charlatans. Scholars at the time, quite rightly of course, were skeptical of the things they were told, and it was centuries still more until repeated expeditions and accounts compiled such an unavoidable preponderance of evidence that even the most dogged skeptic was cornered in a position no more tenable than to weakly and resignedly insist that those who claim to have traveled to other Planes must instead have only experienced a temporary lapse into a profoundly complex solipsistic state. This last, lingering claim cannot explain, however, why those who have Traveled are able to corroborate particular details of their experiences. For if Travelers are merely collapsing into an inner fantasy, how is it that details of those fantasies seem so consistent with the reports of every other Traveler?
And even this too, as we shall see, is prey to the very explanation it seeks to debunk.
Pages In A Book Of Pages In A Book
The hypothetical collusion of fellow experimenters aside, how can it be that a vanishment into solipsism is distinct in any way from displacement into other Planes of Existence? For, after all, whether the observer is translocating his vantage point to a position within or without — the nature of that change in position is just the same and resolves none of the primary paradox of the infinitely layered quality we seem to observe about Reality.
The dogmatic and outnumbered extreme minority of dissenters of course have their own explanations for how particular (though extraordinarily complex and powerful) spells seem to function. I.e., for example, that the dead who are Raised are mere faithfully copied simulacra of the deceased rather than the original soul, and that spells which purport to translocate the caster to other Planes instead merely suppress the caster’s external senses while severing any contact which the outside world might otherwise perceive the caster by.
The Exclusive Domains Of Gods
The more religiously-oriented sages are generally content with the derived consensus view that beyond the Mundus lies the purview of godhood — by definition. That is to say, that those godheads which have seen fit to interact with mortals through either amazing condescension or by gracious invitation, have still not seen fit to illuminate for us their own origins and nature even while they apparently reign supreme within their spheres of interest.
And this, too, is a curiosity perhaps related: it is known that the gods themselves can be loosely described as being principally interested in bounded areas of concern (even if the very disparate variety of those portfolios does not seem obvious to us). Some friction does seem to occur where particular gods’ interests collide, but for the most part they seem content within their realms.
Wish Fulfillment And Prayers
It simply cannot be disputed that magic is, although strange and unpredictable at times, indeed a fact of Reality. Whether the subjective arbitrarity of it arises from the deeper construction of our cosmos and our incomplete knowledge of it, or if our cosmos is simply a chaotic and unpredictable thing at its core, remains an unsolved mystery. What many fanatical skeptics are more keen to pin down currently is whether the clerics and faithful flock of the gods are engaging in, essentially, petitions for a moment of attention from their god when miracles are demonstrated. And, I suppose, contrariwise, if whether a mage, even though he believes himself to be an independent agent utilizing and exploiting the features of magic insofar as he might grasp them, is merely being catered to by an as-yet-unrecognized deity!
Clearly, the various practitioners have their distinct views on the subject.
Clergy, priests and acolytes unanimously and predictably agree that their prayers for intercession, when they are answered, are indeed personal concessions by their petitioned deity. Most go one step further and view even non-magical phenomena as expressions of their godhead’s will, though this assertion is rather difficult to defend in the author’s personal opinion.
The thaumaturges, magicians and sorcerers who practice and perpetually experiment to expand their understanding of what they call “archaic”, “arcane” or (to translate into a more modern lexicon) Old Magic can put forth convincing (though not conclusive!) evidence that their craft originates as the manipulation of features of reality both esoteric and technical. Common wisdom observes that an extraordinary cleverness is required to perform these feats as well as a psychology implicitly tangential to the banal and mundane observation of daily life.
Often overlooked by popular discourse since the nature of their study is oriented, necessarily, toward an intimately personal practice, the psychics, espers and mystics who meditate upon internal enlightenment put forth perhaps the most radical explanation of all: that what we perceive as “magic” really is nothing but… perception. That is to say, that as far as the author has been able to ascertain their position, though as always this interpretation is open to new insights, that reality itself is but a helpful, if infantile, illusion. Or, should I say, self delusion. The author will note here that the radically solipsistic worldview of these practitioners nonetheless does not seem to inhibit their ability to perform impressive, objectively-verifiable magical stunts of their own.