It is thrilling to see the work of one of my favorite witches be lauded and applauded. Pam Grossman’s book “Waking the Witch” came out this month and has been generally praised. As longtime listener of her podcast The Witch Wave, and a big fan of her collaborative project “What is a Witch’ with Tin Can Forest, I was eager to read her new book, as were countless others.
There are some who are dismayed at this rise of the Witch, one notable being Steven Pinker. Pinker last week Tweeted that he was disappointed the New York Times had published an excerpt from Grossman’s book because the excerpt was a “credulous account of witchcraft (consistent with its sympathetic stories on astrology)” he ended the Tweet with, “What’s going on at the paper of record?” Grossman retweeted Pinker’s post stating that he had misinterpreted her work, which he had. It’s sort of funny as well, that in denouncing Grossman’s work he had posted a link to the excerpt, thus promoting it.
Still, the desire to debunk the spiritual and ‘woo woo’ is interesting to me, because so many do it with such passion that they clearly take it somewhat personally. The irony here is that they often like to paint themselves as being rational, whereas we ‘dummy new agers’ are not accepting scientific evidence or letting our emotions run away with us. When we try to explain why we believe in the unseen, and the experiences we have had that make us think there are more things in heaven and earth etc., we are told that this can’t be proven, we are gullible, it was JUST A COINCIDENCE. So let’s deal with each of these.
If something is proven to be real then fine. If something can’t be proven either way, why do we have to dismiss it out of hand? It is a given that science is about evidence, things than can be proven and explained. Except that is not the case. Theoretical Physics often works in, well, theories, ideas, what ifs, as do theoretical arms of Mathematics. The clue is in the definer 'theory'.
I have been receiving more and more possible premonitions recently, and let me state they are not always welcome (meaning they are NOT wishful thinking on my part). I can’t prove they are premonitions and I also have no solid evidence that they are not. So what? Maybe it’s a coincidence. How can we determine one over the other? Believing in coincidences is, well, a belief, but in my opinion it is a rather dismal belief and I am at loss as to why we choose the boring choice over the one that leads to other ideas about the self and the world in which we live. I think we choose to believe in coincidences because we are afraid of what it means if there are things we can’t control (which of course there are) and/or we don’t want to seem gullible. Gullible means someone is quick to believe something, it’s more than that though. It’s a judgement, a belief if you will, that if you believe in say, astrology then, you’ll believe anything. And, if you are willing to believe anyone, then you are easily manipulated. No one wants to be gullible, so then, don’t believe in that stuff, OK?
Except the spiritual community does not have the sole franchise of gullibility. I see it all the time in white people, especially males. Belief in a fair, impartial justice system or belief in an equal society based on nothing other than the fact that it works for them. Sound familiar? It may work for you as a person of privilege, but to assume that it therefore is true is gullible because there is no proof that your experience would be the same if you were from a group that is systemically marginalized. When Trump was elected, many white people, (and yes, mostly males) either came out screaming in horror at being lied to by a bad guy and the bad guy winning OR smugly stating “calm down, it’s going to be ok.” Even I as a white woman was amazed at the gullibility of these positions. I also saw how dangerous they were. The first revealed just how impressionable these people were and the second was plain complacency in the face of real danger. I may believe in magic but I’m not a political dupe!
With Pinker it’s not too surprising as much of his career is about debunking theories. Yet why did he feel that denouncing this one was worth his time? What was the point? Is it a coincidence that a well known writer, presenting as a white cis male sees fit to attack a woman who's just released her first book and identifies as witch? Actually, I think the point was to attack the New York Times rather than Grossman in this case. If such a hallowed paper as the New York Times sees fit to publish something by a witch, then whatever is next? In turn that is insulting to Grossman too.
However the attack only stands up if you agree with Pinker’s stance, and you’re willing to overlook the fact that he didn’t get the point of the article. He would want you to do just that, because that’s the only way his Tweet makes any sense; by turning a blind eye to the reality of what Grossman had written, the reality of her words in favor of the personal resentment of Steven Pinker. How’s that for belief in a belief?