In his book Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology After the End of the World, Timothy Morton introduces the concept of hyperobjects as entities that are so vast in time and space that they defy traditional ideas about what a thing is. Some examples of hyperobjects include climate change, nuclear waste, and the internet.
Hyperobjects are characterized by four main features:
- They are massively distributed in time and space. For example, climate change has been affecting the planet for millions of years, and its effects will continue to be felt for millions of years to come.
- They are difficult to perceive. Our senses are not designed to perceive things that are so vast. For example, we can’t see climate change with our eyes, and we can’t smell nuclear waste.
- They are uncanny. They seem familiar, but they are also strange and unsettling. For example, we know climate change is real, but it’s impossible to wrap our minds around its full implications.
- They are ecological. They are not just objects but they are also systems that connect us to all other things in the world. For example, climate change is not just a problem for humans, but it is also a problem for all other living things on Earth.
Morton argues that hyperobjects challenge our traditional ways of thinking about the world. They are too big to be contained within our usual categories and too complex to fully understand. As a result, they can be difficult to deal with.
However, Morton also argues that hyperobjects allow us to think about the world in new ways. By acknowledging the existence of hyperobjects, we can begin to develop new ways of relating to the world around us. We can learn to live with hyperobjects and find ways to use them to create a more sustainable future.
Morton’s concept of hyperobjects has been influential in several fields, including philosophy, ecology, and art. It has helped us to think about the challenges of the Anthropocene, and it has offered us new ways of thinking about the relationship between humans and the natural world.
Magic as a Hyperobject
If we look at magic as a hyperobject, we can see if the characteristics of the concept map to those of esoteric practice.
- Magic is massively distributed in time and space. As far back as we can go in history and pre-history, we find evidence of magic. Despite the machinations of religions and states to suppress it, it is still practiced in various forms by nearly all, if not all, human cultures. Magical properties are also ascribed to non-human persons that may or may not be material, living, or other-worldly. Many practices are not confined locally but are reported to have powers that are not bounded by distance, for example, distance healing or viewing. Protection spells can last very long, and graveyard dirt can be potent over centuries.
- Magic is difficult to perceive. Magic itself has never officially been empirically measured and is mostly discerned subjectively. Experiments designed to test magic do not replicate consistently, but this is true for sciences such as medicine, psychology, economics, and sociology. These rely on analyzing data from many large trials. As Dr Dean Radin told Dr Angela Puca in an interview, “They’ll try an experiment; it won’t work. We don’t know why it didn’t work, but we rely on averages.” (A transcript of Real Magic with Dr Dean Radin from a video on Angela’s Symposium YouTube channel.)
- Magic is uncanny. The maze of magickal and esoteric practice is labyrinthine. The more one learns about it, the more questions multiply, and the goal of understanding what magic is retreats beyond the horizon of comprehension. Many aspects of the many magical paths that have existed in the past and exist today are often contradictory and yet work and may work on many levels.
- Magic is ecological. Each esoteric practitioner will have a cosmological concept, which usually involves interacting with other entities. Witches, Pagans, Druids, etc., will accept the existence of non-human persons who have rights, needs, and various levels of agency. Morton promotes the idea of non-human persons that inhabit the material world. Esoteric practitioners take that idea a stage further.
If magic is treated as a hyperobject or even a nested set of hyperobjects then we are not forced to consider magic as a consistent, unchanging way of making change in the universe. Practices can differ widely from age to age, from place to place and from culture to culture without us having to come up with a grand unified theory to explain every minute detail. As a tool to examine the myriad features of an enchanted world, it gives us new ways to understand what cannot be nailed down in one all-encompassing hypothesis.
Timothy Morton’s concept of hyposubjects is a way of thinking about humans as subjects in the context of hyperobjects.
Morton argues that we must develop a new kind of subjectivity to deal with hyperobjects. He calls this new kind of subjectivity “hypo subjectivity.” Hyposubjectivity is characterized by a sense of humility and interconnectedness. It is a recognition that we are not the centre of the universe and that we are all part of something much larger than ourselves.
Morton argues that hyposubjectivity is necessary for dealing with hyperobjects because it allows us to see the world in a new way. When we adopt a hyposubjective perspective, we can no longer ignore the fact that we are all connected to hyperobjects. We can no longer pretend that we are separate from the world around us. This new perspective can help us to develop new ways of dealing with hyperobjects, and it can help us to create a more sustainable future.
Morton’s concept of hyposubjectivity has been influential in some fields, including philosophy, ecology, and art. It has helped us to think about the challenges of the Anthropocene, and it has offered us new ways of thinking about the relationship between humans and the natural world.
The characteristics of a hyposubject are:
- Humility: A hyposubject is humble because it recognizes that it is not the centre of the universe. It is aware of its limitations, and it is willing to learn from others.
- Interconnectedness: A hyposubject is interconnected because it is aware of its own connections to the world around it. It understands that it is part of a larger system, and it is willing to work with others to protect that system.
- Responsibility: A hyposubject is responsible because it understands that it has a role to play in the world. It is willing to take action to address the challenges that we face, and it is committed to creating a more sustainable future.
A hyposubject is not a perfect being. It is still capable of making mistakes, and it still has its own biases. However, a hyposubject is always striving to learn and grow. It is always trying to find new ways to connect with the world around it, and it is always working to make the world a better place.
Pagans as Hyposubjects
If we look at the characteristics of hyposubjectivity in contemporary Pagans we find a lot of compatibilities.
- Humility: Pagans are overwhelmingly non-proselytizing. They do not hold that they have a monopoly on truth or the only true path. They are accepting; with a few exceptions like folkish Heathenry, Pagans are accepting of the LGBTQ+ community and have no qualms about accepting people with physical and mental disabilities. “Magic bears the seed of social and personal empowerment for the minorities in our society as it’s a trait of combining a profound embedment in nature with a constant leap to what lies beyond, demolishes any framework, social, gender or otherwise to pierce through into the unknown.” (A Puca, 2020, Transcript WITCHCRAFT for LGBTQ+ & Mental and Physical Disabilities from YouTube Video on Angela’s Symposium)
- Interconnectedness: despite many engaging in esoteric practice describing themselves as solo practitioners today, most feel a connection to each other and to the natural world and often other worlds. The advent of the internet has resulted in covens, circles and temples expanding from a handful of members to hundreds in a matter of a few years.
- Responsibility: Pagans tend to see ethics as personal and not based on dogma and tenets. However, Pagans tend to think about the consequences for others before acting and the ‘others’ include non-human persons in all connected worlds past, present and especially in the future.
Contemporary Pagans and the practitioners of indigenous religions can be seen as ideal hyposubjects as they mostly maintain a sense of connection to nature and the land. While practices and beliefs may differ across cultures, they know they are a part of the surrounding ecology in which all participants receive benefits and have responsibilities in return.
We are in a world that is, according to the scientific consensus, in a climate emergency. However, the majority of voters, business leaders and politicians are supporting green-washing policies that are too little, too late.
Whenever the world wakes up to the imminent danger it will be up to indigenous peoples to show us how to heal the land that they have been dispossessed of. A growing pagan world community will be a part of the impetus needed to get those necessary changes made to the way we live with and in the world.
“True magic is neither black, nor white… it’s both because nature is both. Loving and cruel, all at the same time.” (1999) a quote by Lirio, a character in the film The Craft.
Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World by Timothy Morton, (2013) University of Minnesota ISBN 978-0-8166-8923-1 https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/hyperobjects
Hyposubjects: On Becoming Human by Timothy Morton, (2021) Academia.edu https://www.academia.edu/45588025/Hyposubjects_On_Becoming_Human