Over the last five or so years there has been an emergence of a new reflexive masculinity within popular fields, where podcasters like Joe Rogan and other comedians dissect their processes and what makes them tick, interrogating the sense of ideal self, and encouraging the work that decreases its lack.
Several intersecting fields make up this study and include physical exercise from Jujitsu to hiking and bowhunting, diet awareness, love and power dynamics, broad capitalist ontology, and charisma. Charisma: that which makes people pay attention and makes us someone worthy of note. In a sense this process has always been in effect, however what is novel is that these Hermetic journeys are now played out via the Internet.
Jason Louv fits slightly uneasily within that oeuvre. His investigation into magick with Generation Hex and others have marked him as a key figure in this reimagining of the contemporary human. From its dusty patchouli stereotype to contemporary portrait of a tied rather than a tie-dyed being, Louv has brought a very different vision to what this maligned self-discipline entails. He suggests that magick might mean an active role in determining the psychology of the self, where if directed the self might reach a higher plateau of significance, if not for others, then at least the self. In times of sidelined personalities the draw of being the hero of your story (again) is appealing.
In John Dee and the Empire of the Angels Louv builds on his article for Boing Boing and suggests that Dee was much more than his reputation as a premodern cuckold. He writes that Dee was far more instrumental in the Elizabethan politics of expansion and conquer than imagined and that by extension his work was at least influential (if not central) to the shaping of the premodern era. For instance his championing of science throughout Europe in the premodern era seeded a thirst for knowledge that grew exponentially with its results. Moreover, Dee’s various adventures in exploration and a number of sciences if nothing else brought them to a wider knowledge and interest above and beyond his own discoveries. Significantly, reading about this omnivorous post-Renaissance man one is reminded of the total being that reflexive contemporary men aspire to.
John Dee is a fantastic read, well-written and ably researched. The reasonably well-versed might argue that Louv doesn’t bring much new to the discussion, however rarely are the results brought so thoroughly together, and there are ample avenues for further investigation for the interested. As such the book is recommended to those wishing for an in-depth summation of this fascinating figure, those interested in the ur-petus (moral, spiritual and scientific) of the modern era, and general readers who want their hair blown back by a rollicking historical tale.
Image: Wellcome Collection