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A very layered illustration entitled Psicomagia o la mentira sagrada

On Psychomagic or the Sacred Lie


Alejandro Jodorowsky observes that an art which cannot be used to heal, cannot be considered art.

A woman goes to a fortune-teller to have her tarot cards read. The “witch” says that someone close to her will die, and that this event will cost her a lot of money. Terrified, the woman seeks advice from Alejandro Jodorowsky, who tells her that she is the victim of superstition, which can only be fought with another type of superstition. Jodorowsky, in turn, prescribes her the following psychomagical act: she is to close the windows of her house and then use insecticide and find a fly. “Someone close to you has died”. Now wrap the dead fly in a twenty Euro note that has six zeros drawn on it and bury it. This death has now cost you twenty million Euros. In this way, the prophecy has been fulfilled and the woman stops worrying about it.

The latter is a psychomagical act, and thousands of people have found that committing similar acts (one for every individual, never the same) is the answer to neurotic ailments, incontinence, childhood traumas, or creative, physical or emotional blocks. Its creator, an artist and genius for some and an opportunistic charlatan for others, has been working for over half a century with artistic forms and writing meditations surrounding the art of human life. His purpose could be synthesized as follows: we are all artists; we just need to begin behaving as such.

Human experience has historically been divided into the false dichotomy of mind and body: a psychoanalytic revolution driven by Freud, and later supported by Lacan, stated that body and mind were not disconnected, but that the mind could be used to heal the body. This was, and continues to be, a problematic theory for many, because speaking in psychoanalytic terms, on principle we need to affirm the existence of the unconscious, something that beyond theory cannot be proven. However, the traditional magic of native groups has tried to heal physical and mental ailments using a method that requires a great deal of faith, and while they are not held highly by the so-called scientific and “rational society” we live in, its effects are no less verifiable, at least by the standards of those who use it in different ways in their everyday lives.

When we mention Jodorowsky in this “formal” scope, the objections begin: he is not a psychoanalyst (although he studied with Fromm), and he is not a sorcerer (although he spent years assisting in magic rituals with renowned healers in Mexico City and other parts of the country). Jodorowsky is an artist, they say; the mission of the artists is, well, making art, not pretending to heal. For Jodorowsky, however, making art and healing are in no way separable, they are the same movement: the fiction of art teaches us something about reality, just as a shaman’s or a sorcerer’s acts seek to have real consequences. Jodorowsky has referred to this as the “sacred snare” or the “sacred lie”: where the rational mind discerns an absurd act, the unconscious sees an opportunity to play and leave repression aside.

Through books as The Dance of Reality and Psychomagic, Jodorowsky has been developing, at least for the past twenty years, a provocative and new approach that encompasses psychoanalytic theory, healing practices of traditional medicine, and vanguard art. Where Lacan asserted that the unconscious was structured in the same way as language, Jodorowsky would argue that this structure is not fixed, and that we can actually communicate and promote positive changes through it. For Jodorowsky, this can be done by speaking to our unconscious in a language it can understand: the language of symbols.

After being influenced by Carl Jung, whom he would later grow to despise, Jodorowsky began to prescribe psychomagical acts based on his own experience as a vanguard theater director, as well as on his research around the nature of the Tarot of Marseille. A psychomagical act is similar to psychodrama: the symbolic weight of the objects and acts carried out by the consultant (it refers to the patient as a “consultant” because the first is someone immobile that puts himself in the hands of medical knowledge, while a “consultant” seeks to access knowledge through consultation), are suggested by the psychomagician as a symbolic remedy to a material ailment. For Jodorowsky, every disease, whether psychic or physical, is the product of lacking beauty; when beauty reappears in life, the ailment has no reason to continue.

In his most recent books (Psicogenealogía, Donde mejor canta un pájaro), Jodorowsky gives essential advice on how to become a psychomagician, avoiding becoming institutionalized as some sort of school (psychomagic, especially, is a path to self-knowledge and the individual freedom we share with others). However, Jodorowsky knows he is a man, and as such he is unable to guarantee absolute knowledge.

Psychomagic, despite its creator, continues to be a probable powerful healing tool that allows us to get better through art. It invites us to consider our life as the intertwining of stories and symbols, which only we can read and modify. Psychomagic’s invitation encourages us to travel a path (an initiation, which is the only type of true path), where we can reflect and actively participate in our true reality; perhaps this even corresponds to a true responsibility for our life and for facing the impact that it has on others.

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