Post-truth has been named word of the year for 2016 by Oxford Dictionaries who define it as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’. That’s a definition that could equally apply to thaumaturgy and much of the dark magic that is circulating the human world at present.
Post-truth has been applied to the Trump and Brexit campaigns. Look at how the statement that the NHS would get an additional £350m each week if we left the EU compared to the statements from the CBI that the economy will take a huge hit. Did people believe either? Possibly not, but connecting the notion of taking control with investing in a much loved institution appealed to people’s emotions in a way that a potential loss of GDP could never match.
The idea that people will listen to scientific information over those who offer them shiny new toys has been a real problem for campaigners such as those involved in climate change. It took years for climate change to begin to be accepted by the majority after the oil lobby used emotionally charged lies against the facts. Sadly it will now take too many years for society to be in a place where they can start to make the changes that would address the root cause. The magic of emotion over the intellect has long been understood by campaigners of all types, especially political campaigners, even if they have repeatedly failed to win the magical battles. Appeal to the heart, not the brain as people go with their gut feelings over their minds most of the time.
While the word ‘post-truth’ really sums up 2016, I’m interested in what it means from Druidry and magical perspectives. Druidry is hardly alone in holding the notion of truth central as a key aspect of its philosophy, almost all religions do this, but Druids are often overt in how important this is to us. Just look at middle of the Druid Prayer: “And in strength, understanding; And in understanding, knowledge; And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice”.
The idea of justice coming out of knowledge and understanding should not be estimated. Personally I would contend that the Druid Prayer has knowledge and understanding the wrong way round. Knowledge should come before understanding in my mind but that is, of course, my own personal truth!
Druid Joanna Van Der Hoeven wrote that “Druidry can be summed up in three words – truth, honour and service.” but that “Truth is not just figurative and literal truth”. Truth is personal too, it is our understanding of our relationship with the Awen, the world around us and with ourselves. Joanna describes it as our soul song. For me that sounds as though there is a significant emotional aspect to truth – does something feel right as well as being intellectually right? Understanding and knowledge are aspects of truth, wisdom is where they should lead.
Joanna’s interpretation of truth suggests that there is more to truth than just facts but when this is applied to much of the political messaging it leads us into troubled water. Those post-truth statements may feel like the truth, they may feel real but their lack of factual truth should eventually spark dissonance. The emotional and factual aspects need to be aligned for real truth.
Which brings us to the “justice” and the “love of it”. Part of that for me would be speaking truth to power but in a way that connects with the emotional part of truth that appeals to our soul songs, connects with the Awen and remains figuratively and literally true too. A campaign that can speak to the heart and the head is a powerful one and one that can make a strong stand against misused power. This type of full truth magic, this thaumaturgical spell, can influence people in a way that right and just, it is done with honour in the name of service – to quote Joanna again. It is powerful once delivered and we need more of it. Perhaps we should use this to make 2017 a full truth year?