Today we’re starting into one of the most difficult aspects of the occult to explain and simplify, namely its bread and butter, Magick (again the “k” exists simply to distinguish real magick from stage magic, or in-other-words, it sets Abramelin apart from David Blaine). To be completely honest as soon as I created the document that I’m writing it in it was a moment of “AT LAST” for me. Magick is my specialty in the Hermetic sciences, and I couldn’t wait to get to this point. This is going to be a series just like the previous “The Influential Wanderers,” but unlike its predecessor I’m not sure just how many articles there are going to be for it, before we return to alchemy. For today we’re going to look at what magick really is, and the most basic aspects of magickal theory. Well let’s not doddle any longer, and go straight into the work at hand.
What Magick Really Is
If you’ve been following this column from the beginning (or at least started at “The Reception and Acquisition of Knowledge”) you’ll remember that way back in “Three Pillars, One Goal” I revealed what the actual definition of magick as a science is, for those of you who haven’t read all the articles to date (I would suggest you do so because they build on one another) it is: “The Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with will, using means not currently understood by traditional Western science.” This definition was created by the (in)famous occultist Aleister Crowley, and was expanded upon by Donald Michael Kraig, because unaltered Crowley’s makes any action a magickal action. Despite the blurring of the lines between magick and mundane in the original it becomes quickly evident that we aren’t talking about Dungeons and Dragons, Gandalf, or Harry Potter, there are no fireballs, avada kedavra, or balrog battling, sorry. So if what we’ve always been shown as magick isn’t then what is? Curiously you’ve been shown what magick is since you were very little, without even knowing it.
Everyone is familiar with something being lucky or unlucky. Luck (good or ill) is, conceptually and in theory, a form of magick. The belief in it means that we believe that good will result from good luck, and ill will occur from bad luck. Somehow “luck” alters reality, it causes a change to occur, but it isn’t doing so on its own, you are willing it to cause the change because you believe it will. Thus you could say Luck is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with will, using means not currently understood by traditional Western science. You’ve been taught through superstition, folklore, and legend (both ancient and urban) that some things bring fortune (a rabbits foot for instance) or peril (beware a black cat crossing your path) via luck. Therefore the reality is that you’ve always understood a very basic piece of magickal theory, without belief that it will alter reality because of the significance you’ve placed in it, it holds no weight, but conversely if you believe it has the power to do so, then it will. In the end magick is just coincidence then, right?
The Great Lies
There are certain things that, like luck, are ingrained in us from an early age to believe are absolute truth without questioning them. Some of these are indeed quite correct, but others are lies that have been beaten into us as we’ve grown closer to our modern sciences and further away from our own innate abilities. I can hear the thought going up right now, “Wait! What does this have to do with the previous paragraph!” The answer is short, coincidence is one of those things that is actually a lie. We’re going to look at the two big ones that damn magick, and then I’ll reveal what completely destroys them.
1: Chaos: This vile term is what we assign (typically as “Chaotic”) to anything that goes against the pretty, tidy little outlook on how we say the universe is supposed to run, or attribute to anything that doesn’t fit into our happy little paradigm of how things ought to work, patterns, expectations, probability, anything that defies these is “chaotic.” However, who is to say that they don’t have patterns, expectations, or probabilities? Perhaps the reality, as magick will reveal, is that there is no such thing as disorder, but merely only a form of order that our petty mortal minds cannot possibly begin to fathom. Remember, there’s only so much that anyone can possibly begin to understand. If it doesn’t fit that mold it becomes illogical or chaotic. We typically call something chaotic like this, “That movie was just a chaotic mess! It made no sense!” The key to understanding what “chaos” is, is in looking at what that person was actually saying, “It made no sense [to me]!” If it doesn’t follow a logic pattern that we are familiar with, then it must be chaotic. The thing about that is this, take a trip to a truly foreign nation, society, and culture, something totally alien to you. Say for instance you are Spanish, you could travel virtually anywhere in Europe and get a sense of some cultural similarities, but if you were to travel to Tibet without having any knowledge of its customs, you’d might as well be stepping on to the surface of an alien planet. It would make no sense, and you might even call it chaotic.
2: Coincidence: Even sillier than “chaos” is coincidence. The prettier name for “luck,” but used in a semi-condescending manner. You want to buy something but are short by just a little, but suddenly the missing bit of money appears, “What a happy coincidence,” or you know that you have exactly enough for a purchase, as you are going to buy it you rudely cut in front of someone you know doesn’t have as much as you, as you reach into your pocket to pay in front of him/her you find a hole there, “What an embarrassing coincidence!” The question becomes, were either “just coincidence.”
So what could possibly destroy both of them, what is their nemesis? A single word.
Causality: Absolutely nothing can occur without a reason, everything is either a cause or an effect, which in turn becomes the catalyst for another cause, which results in another effect in an ever expanding chain reaction that you may be familiar with as being called “The Butterfly Effect.” (Here’s the Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect). Causality obliterates chaos because it shows that everything evolves the way it does as a direct reaction to a prior stimulus forcing it to grow in that direction, even if we can’t understand why (have you ever actually looked at a platypus?), and scoffs at coincidence because it shows that everything is cause-effect related. Here’s an example, take a look at the picture to the left of this GMC supercharged 3800 v6 engine without its pretty cover, unless you know about engines it probably looks like a chaotic mess of metal, wires, and tubes, but you still know, understand, and accept that each of these parts is required to make the vehicle move (okay maybe not the supercharger, but they’re so much fun and very useful at times!) Each piece moves through cause and effect to make the car (in this case a Pontiac GXP) run thereby we can see that there is no coincidence, we understand it, and despite making no sense we also understand that there is absolutely nothing chaotic about the pieces, the whole just looks like a mess.
Magick uses the greatest force we can generate, pure will, to set the butterfly effect in motion towards a goal. In essence, whether you like it or not, you constantly work magick. Helping, hurting, both, neither, anytime you will something to happen you’re working magick. Even if you really weren’t actively willing it, you are still passively putting your will out there, and so the butterfly beats its wings. Of course, like everything, we have to categorize it to death, so let’s look at some of the ways it chop it up next.
The most common form of magick people come into contact with in the arena of real magick is actually not what we’ve been talking about. This is what is sometimes called “Low Magick” (this is usually used in a condescending manner), and is typically practiced by the neo-pagan faiths (such as Wicca). The sense that I’ve been using magick in comes from “High Magick,” and it is practiced within the occult. Neither form is actually superior to the other, there are differences, but in the end magick is magick. In fact the whole debate between “low and high” is really a bunch of poppycock at this point. Nevertheless let’s take a look at the key differences between them:
Low magick is very informal, and pays homage more to natural forces (note how it is performed within Wicca and other neo-pagan faiths). It aims more for practicality because its creators were derived mainly from poor villagers who didn’t have access to education (another note Wicca isn’t as old as some would have you believe). Folk traditions and many superstitions were born from it (such things as black cats crossing your path causing bad luck), and why children actually dress up and go trick-or-treating/guising for Halloween are born here. Other terms for it are folk magick and witchcraft if you want to draw a parallel or explain differences without sounding like an arrogant jerk.
High magick by contrast is highly regimented, requiring precision with time and pronunciation, access to the proper ingredients for whatever magick is being performed. Essentially the difference here is that while low magick would have been practiced by villagers, high magick was performed by well to do urbanites. However, where low magick is concerned with living day to day (remember the distinction comes about during a time when you couldn’t be sure you’d live through the harsh winter months), high magick aimed at achieving ascension/transcendence. Other terms for it are ceremonial magick, Hermeticism, and Gnosticism.
Again neither is superior to the other. In fact any ceremonial magician worth his alter can also work low magick, and likewise any witch worth her circle should understand the importance of ritual. There is a huge debate about these two forms of magick that has warred for quite some time now, and I personally find the whole thing to be utter nonsense. Prior to the difference being made around the Middle Ages magick was just magick, and really where the argument came from was, one was for the “haves” and other for the “have-nots.” Here though we’re talking about ceremonial magick (I won’t be using that contemptible “High or Low” distinction again), because what we’re learning about is primarily Hermeticism (note that some aspects of Thelema, Gnosticism, Esotericism, Kaballah, and other occult traditions have already found there way in here). Perhaps eventually we’ll address witchcraft/folk magick, but until then we’re dropping this whole issue. Remember, acceptance (not tolerance) to differences is the key to it all.
If you’ve noticed I sometimes interchangeably use the words Magick and Theurgy, even making mention to what Theurgy is back in “Three Pillars, One Goal,” but I feel that we should expand on what it is. Theurgy is simply the practice of rituals with the goal of calling on the power of otherworldly forces. Well if you take that basic definition all you end up with is Magick. Remember our definition for magick.
When you perform real magick you are performing rituals, ergo theurgy is the root that creates magick. But there is a little more to it than just that. There are actually two basic forms of magick in this context. Theurgy is the first, and I won’t even mention the other. Theurgy derives from positive forces, and is ultimately aimed at the goal of achieving ascension (this forms the roots of white magick, which we’ll be getting to in a moment). The other, on the other hand, derives from negative forces, and, in short, is not only dangerous but in my personal opinion very stupid to perform (if you want to learn about it you’ve come to the wrong person, I will not help you deal with it, so don’t even ask!)
It’s So Colorful
I assume everyone has heard of something being referred to as “black magic,” so obviously magic is colorful, after all if a “black” exists than a “white” has to by default otherwise something couldn’t be considered black after all. This is both correct and incorrect at the same time. You see magick itself is neutral, just a blind force that we direct and control, but its outcomes are what lead us to calling magick white, gray, or black (there are other “colors” as well, but not that we’ll be looking at, at this time). The definition of what real magick is (as found above) can be expanded on to include the result of each “color,” after all you can also intentionally be aiming for a specific outcome (if you’re actively trying to use magick to hurt someone you are performing black magick for instance). So let’s look at the three expanded definitions:
White Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with will, using means not currently understood by traditional Western science, for the purpose of obtaining the Knowledge and Conversation of your Holy Guardian Angel.
I’ll bet that that is about as clear as mud isn’t it? In Hermetica your “Holy Guardian Angel” is your higher self. So any action that brings you closer to your higher self is in turn white magick. Yoga is actually the best known form of white magick to the uninitiated, but when I say yoga I’m not talking about Hatha Yoga. Hatha yoga consists primarily of the well known stretches and poses that you’d most likely learn about in a yoga class. These are actually best done before performing true yoga (this would be the deep meditation side of yoga). Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root word yug meaning yoke or union, when you perform (true) yoga you are attempting to yoke or unite yourself with your higher self. Yoga, mysticism, and white magick are thus all interrelated. So in the end anything that you do that brings you closer to your higher self is therefore white magick. Essentially this is the path of enlightenment (essentially what Buddhist monks are practicing). And here I bet you thought this had to do with helping people!
Black Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with will, using means not currently understood by traditional Western science, for the purpose of causing harm (physical or non-physical) to yourself or others, and is either done consciously or unconsciously.
Okay so black magick is probably a bit more what you were expecting. Any time you wish ill on someone else, or think something bad is going to happen to yourself you are actually performing black magick. Where white magick strives for ascension, black magick is concerned with purely selfish acts, and is therefore essentially the path of anti-ascension. Now by consciously I mean yes you can very obviously curse someone with elaborate ritual, or you can just wish something ill on someone, either result is black magick. You can also unintentionally strike yourself with a jinx, this is typically more accidental than anything else, such as someone believing that anytime you wear a specific color something bad will happen to you.
Gray Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with will, using means not currently understood by traditional Western science, for the purpose of causing good (physical or non-physical) to yourself or others, and is done either consciously or unconsciously.
I bet this is what you thought I’d say white magick is. Gray magick and black magick are the two most common forms of magick people work. Notice how white magick doesn’t have the “consciously or unconsciously” tagline? That’s because it’s easy to stay right where you, but without a desire to move forward spiritually you cannot. However, in working gray magick you might get a sense that this brings you a little closer to your higher self, and is thus also marginally white magick. Confused by that last statement? Here’s the thing to keep in mind gray magick, even intentionally, can do one of two things when it occurs, it can stay completely gray, or it can turn towards either of the other two. For example let’s say you worked magick to get some money (this starts as gray because it doesn’t help lead you towards ascension or directly cause harm), it could stay gray by having someone return some money they borrowed from you, or turn black very easily by causing someone to die leaving you an inheritance (I cannot see a white version aside from gaining a sense of spirituality because you come closer to pure spirit in working magick).
Well that about wraps it up for today. This piece was a monster, and I fear that we’ve only barely started into what magick really is. We’ll be moving into magickal theory next time. However, before I leave you I will warn you that this time of year (winter holiday season) is extremely busy for me, and I cannot say with certainty when we’ll move into theory. Until that time though remember: Love is the law. Love under will.
Contacting and Connecting
Well even though it has its own special post, I’m going to start adding my special twitter and e-mail address to the end of each article so here we go:
You can e-mail The Great Work at firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions, comments, and concerns are welcome, after all there’s no such thing as a stupid question, just a stupid answer. You can also stay up to date with what’s going on with The Great Work by following SSTheGreatWork on www.twitter.com. Replies are highly welcome (sometimes I wonder if anybody even reads my posts because of how few I do get ).