Doug Muder has an interesting article in the UU World entitled Assembly of a lesser god , and discusses it further in his blog . The concepts he uses are, as he notes, Pagan, derived from Choas Magic . The question is whether there is anything to it, or is it all New-Age gobbledygook that should be disdained any rational modern?
I am a Pagan and, amongst other things, an animist. I believe that we, and everything around us, is made of the stuff of gods, (and vice-versa), and that everything has (to whatever minimal extent it might be) a soul and a level of understanding. And no, I cannot prove it; it just feels right- I know the difference between faith and fact. But I do know that good things come from behaving as if it were true.
One part of such animist belief is trying to understand things as their own souls perceive themselves. People have noted that cats seem to have an affinity for me. Perhaps that's because I perceive them differently than many, as I explained in a post I wrote for Ms. Kitty : "The lesson is to learn to love things as they are, not as we would like them to be. Cats are not small dogs, nor fuzzy children, nor animated stuffed toys- they are the most ferocious killing machines Mother Nature has ever unleashed into the underbrush, their ecological niche. We must remember that their affection for us, while genuine, is a perversion of their pack (pride?) instincts- we haven't tamed nor civilized them, we have merely stepped into one or more roles that would otherwise have been filled by elder cats in a pride."
The same holds true for "inanimate" objects; you have to find what a tool "wants" to do. I once had a pocketknife that I liked, even though it wasn't good for anything. It was awkward and near useless whittling; I couldn't even cook with it. (Yes, I use pocketknives and a small hatchet for cooking rather than kitchen cutlery- I learned a lot of my cooking outdoors, ok?) Then one day I got frustrated while trying to sculpt "The Hound of the Baskervilles"; it was going nowhere, and in my anger I threw the sculpting tools across the room and drew my pocketknife... and it came alive in my hand. Every stroke was sure and true, smooth and accurate, without hesitation. This was what the knife was meant for- I never used it for mundane cutting again.
How does this relate to Doug's article? Many Pagans will search for a deity with a known affinity for the subject they're addressing (I often appeal to Calliope), just as I searched for the proper role of that knife. A Chaos Magician may decide to create such a deity, imbued with the attributes needed, and appeal to that god(dess)- like Doug's Olly. And it works, if he can control his perception. Why? Because none of us- not Pagan nor Christian nor Muslim nor Jew- addresses the true deity; we address what our mortal limits allow us to perceive.
It's a political axiom that perception is reality. They mean that cynically; Chaos Magicians- and many other Pagans- mean it literally. Materialists dismiss that claim as self delusion; there is only objective reality and fantasy. But what is "objective reality"?
A physicist will tell you that we don't live in Newton's world; we live in the universe of Einstein, Schrodinger, and Dirac. That is "reality". But in truth, unless you're a nuclear physicist or a former citizen of Hiroshima, you do live in Newton's world. Everything you will ever do or see follows his rules; even the supersonic jets and missiles that would deliver an atomic bomb obey his laws- that, too, is "reality". You could build a rocket and send men to the Moon without ever doing business with Einstein.
It is also "objective reality" that anything dealing with the human equation- which is virtually our entire lives, even if you're an engineer- is dealing with human perceptions and human understanding. All our loves, hates, happiness, despair, success, failure, joy, misery- everything that matters- is utterly dependant upon how we perceive and understand our world... and those perceptions and understandings are controlled by our symbols. Manipulating those symbols- even your own- means controlling those perceptions- even your own- and thereby controlling your reality. Is life "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.", or is this "the best of all possible worlds", with any hardships being just a foible in a thing of beauty, like getting a flat tire on a Lexus? Both are equally true, for by believing them, you make them so.
As Doug noted, followers of Rita really do find parking places, and followers of placebo really do get well. And, as Doug also noted, one can create all kinds of explanations as to why that might be so. If you demand a definitive answer- "Do witches and magicians affect objective reality or not?", I will quote Louis Armstrong: "If you have to ask the question, you wouldn't understand the answer." But I will note one thing in passing: Rita's followers are happy when they find a parking spot; aggressive atheists like Dawkins find happiness in proving everyone else fools- I know whose company I'd rather keep.