Reality, Paradox, and Ascension

Reality is a work in progress; constant change keeps the universe alive. Magick is the most dynamic example of change- the alteration of reality by enlightened force of will. As humanity settles into a mundane rut, however, magick seems out of place or even impossible. When realities clash, when the possible and impossible collide, this Paradox effect becomes manifest, striking back in any number of ways. A mage – any mage – who causes change too quickly can invoke Paradox, and gods help him then.

The vision that comes so naturally with magick’s Awakening inspires most mages to some greater goal, an ultimate end to reality’s shaping. The Traditions refer to this as Ascension, but disagree as to what form such Ascension would take were it to happen. To the Technocracy, Ascension is the world made safe, purged of random elements and firmly under their control. The extreme Paths, too, have ultimate goals, but their ideals leave little room for compromise or survival.


On being told of the Idea, certain Eeyores advised me against attempting anything of the sort. But following the advice of Eeyores has rarely seemed A Particularly Good Thing for Me to Do. Quite the contrary: if the Eeyores are against something, I tend to think there might be something to it.

-Benjamin Hoff, The Te of Piglet

When realities collide, a paradox results. When working True Magick upon the world, a mage attempts to impose her own reality on the static one. Should static reality prove stronger than the mage, she may be overwhelmed by the manifestation of that conflict – Paradox.

The cause and origins of this effect are only dimly understood. No one knows why such backlashes happen, but many theories exist. Whatever the true origins of these “reality slaps,” all mages agree that Paradox is a constant danger. There is also some agreement as to how and why these effects occur, although this agreement between the Traditions is tenuous indeed.

Some mages believe that Paradox originate in an ancient feud of the Pure Ones. Other mages hypothesize that Paradox is a test designed by the Wyck to ensure that only truly deserving mortals work magick. The newly Awakened often mistakenly believe that this backlash is an external punishment from the universe; this view of Paradox is child-like in its simplicity. Paradox is not some schoolyard bully waiting to knock down younger children. When a mage imposes his will on the Tapestry, he fundamentally changes the world. In so doing, he changes himself. It’s not the world that acts on the mage. Paradox seems to come as much from the mage himself as any exterior source.

Paradox may even grow out of change itself. Although many Traditionalists seek a Reunification of the One, not everyone is convinced that this is a good idea. Some Akashic Brothers and Hermetic mages caution that it is unwise to assume the Prime wishes to be whole once more. Perhaps the Primal Essence no longer needs the security and stasis of complete unity? Perhaps now is the time for dynamism and growth? If so, Paradox may merely be the growing pains of reality. If we picture physical reality as a tectonic plate, then Paradox and conflict arise like earthquakes where differing reality-plates come together. Without such clashes, there is no growth, no change. The Primal infinity may be wise enough to welcome such evolution.

Some mysticks theorize that the only way to free oneself from Paradox is to become one with your Avatar. They claim that only through experiencing profound ego-death and rebirth can a mage rid himself of the last of his ingrained preconceptions of reality and thus free himself from Paradox. This idea is only theoretical, however, and there are no sane mages known to have entirely freed themselves of Paradox’s effects.