My Magical Menagerie: Part I

This esoteric blog would not be complete without at least some attention to the topic of magick. I, therefore, desire to take a walk through my magical menagerie. That’s just a fancy way of expressing what’s on my mind regarding this topic, from exposure to its conceptual cornucopia and in terms of working with its themes myself.

Before I begin my little stroll, I want to set the stage with a working definition of the word that I find useful: Magick is the system of operations through which changes are made in reality via the application of one’s awareness of non-physical influences.

The definition is limited and can certainly be disputed, but at least it gives some frame of reference to the presentation. Before I move on to the main topic, there is one more detail. It is a trivial detail and I am annoyed at my attention being drawn to it, but like a pesky speck of dust in the eye, minuscule as it is, it obstructs vision.

It’s the damn spelling of the word. There is no such word as magick any more than America is spelled Americka outside of a cheesy Hollywood version of old Soviet propaganda. Simply put, that admirable art of prestidigitation is not magic. If “prestidigitation” is too much of a tongue twister, we can use the word “illusionism”.

Whatever term we choose, in my view, calling this art magic misrepresents and undermines the true meaning of the word. Making up another word that just sounds the same doesn’t correct that. It just gives the slander license by tolerating a spelling that just looks and feels wrong. Alright…enough of the mini-rant. It was prompted more from poking at the keyboard on a hot muggy day anyway, than sprouting from any real gripe with occult semantics.

Moving on, I want to focus on modern magic. I do not, however, want to limit myself to purist sensibilities. Make no mistake. I greatly respect and value the perspectives that are true to tradition. I am simply turned off when the perspectives express as dictates over what I can and cannot do and still call it magic.

That doesn’t mean the so called eclectic expressions of modern magic are not by and large saturated with misconceptions. It doesn’t mean that modern eclectic magic is not diluted regarding what can be accomplished. It doesn’t even preclude the denial of magical potential in favor of psychological and pseudo-scientific theorizing that reduces the mystery of magic to a series of watered down postmodern memes.

I realize I’m setting myself up to be called a two-faced hypocrite when I end up talking about the electromagnetic basis of some occult phenomena at some point. To be clear, my gripe is not with expanding occult paradigms into scientific ones or vice-versa.

It is with the ever trendy superficial scientism and parroting of oversimplified new-age cliché as opposed to really thinking things through with an understanding of both science and occultism, wherever one chooses to focus in these genres.

Be it purist or eclectic, magic is often intertwined with ceremonial drama or some form of ritual, as a series of actions that involve specifics of time, place and materials that represent the outcome one wishes to attain in some way. Although this is indeed one way to go about things, it is often idealized by advocates as the essence of what magic is or should be.

Truly, given the populist tendencies that have oversimplified much of esoteric possibility I cannot blame the purist sensibilities. My gripe here is that they can lead to extremes of blinding practitioners to creative options that are not scripted in written traditions.

Magic, for example, can be accomplished without elaborate ceremony. The primary agent in this case can be one’s own will, be it augmented by unseen sentient influences or not. The outcome may be labeled with words such as “psionic” or “psychic”, but it can still fit into the aforementioned definition.

Magic is indeed hard to pin down conceptually in any universally satisfactory manner in my view. Even so, with enough theoretical- not to mention hands on- exposure one gets an intuitive sense of what’s involved to the extent that other practitioners and arm chair advocates usually know what is meant when someone uses the word “magic”.

That being said, I have long been interested in streamlining and minimizing the ceremonial complexity in magical ritual down to bare necessities, and even less. That does not mean the process of doing so is either simpler or “less work”. The work may actually be more, but the application of the work and its ramifications of emphasis and expression are different than with ceremony-based magic.

It goes without saying views vary across the board. Mine is that disappointment comes via a chronic misunderstanding of the meaning of creative innovation in the magical arts. Disappointment festers when innovation is confused with making things easy. Disappointment can also fester when a form of magic is taken for granted just because tradition or some trendy majority says so. So the issue isn’t to “do the work”, but to know what you are doing and why every step of the way, and to be aligned with it. In other words, effective magic is an outpouring of one’s being and not a series of technical maneuvers. And there are no free rides.

In any case, the concept of modifying/innovating tradition and to what degree this is favorable has been a point of controversy in online discussions. It is not hard to notice the dividing line polarizing those who advocate purism from those who advocate liberal modification of occult ways and means (as they understand them).

Many experienced occultists do not like the way things have been watered down and oversimplified with points of emphasis that are blatantly “made up” and marketed with little forging in the fires of experience. Then again, practical occultism is not a by-the-book skill in my honest opinion. Basic principles matter, but improvisation appears to be adapted to both the individual and the circumstances in which they find themselves in the desire and necessity surrounding application procedure.

To be more specific, in my experience, magical effectiveness is strongly dependent on one’s existential stance. This is a topic that demands ample space to be given justice. Such space will be found in another installment of this series. Suffice it to say that I am speaking of how- if at all- one understands and relates to the meaning and purpose of one’s existence and perhaps existence as a whole.

This involves reaching for that potential and discovering the most coherent way to actualize it in pragmatic balance. The stance doesn’t have to be elaborate or overtly “philosophical” in outlook. One can be a nihilist or a hedonist, a materialist or transcendentalist, or some or all of the above, regardless of ethical considerations.

The reality of one’s existential stance, however, is often over-simplified in confusing it with beliefs and belief systems. The stance is more about motive in magic and the very roots of that. Thus knowing thyself, as it were, is far more empowering than faking belief in something to force a magical outcome. On the other hand, a simulation of belief convincing to one’s own critical faculties appears to induce effective outcome to an extent. Many practitioners stand behind it, and it is unlikely every one of them is fooling themselves.

A simulation of belief, however, that is convincing to one’s critical faculties amounts to conversion to that belief. In other words, holding two opposing beliefs serially or even at the same time can be magically effective. The provision is that they are connected by an underlying truth that may be paradoxical or practically impossible to verbalize, but is felt as true nevertheless.

Without the feeling/sense of truth the effectiveness of forms of simulated belief are highly limited in my view. For example if one feels the truth that the contradiction of opposing beliefs is an illusion and also feels how this is so, then their conviction fuels what their critical reasoning might otherwise undermine. There is more to this of course, and will be reserved for a future installment as well.

I would add here that getting results in magical work is not something hard to do. What is challenging and requires much commitment in time, energy and concentration is getting results of a considerable and sustainable caliber, regardless of what one’s priorities are. Not everyone is dedicated to sex, wealth and status, and out of those occultists that are, or say they are, few apparently succeed; that is unless they remain under the radar, refraining from the kiss and tell “stance” that well-known names appear to favor.

My own existential stance is built on the premise of personal transformation. I do not view magic as metaphysical mechanics or an artful expression of rules and tools as a means to fulfill desires. I also thrive on the magic energy itself, and consider it part of my very being. The internalization of the symbolism is nourishing to me. It is augmented by cultivating the principles behind that symbolism as I coax its story into light. It goes without saying, furthermore, that commitment bonded energy expended in an operation, long or short term, is an investment toward its success. When properly appropriated, that energy will return a multiple of itself.

This is another one of those topics that can run on and on. It is a personal quirk of mine to find difficulty in saying a few simple words regarding themes that are not only challenging to conceptualize with any rational clarity, but that have depth well beyond the space afforded by a few scripted pages pretending to do them justice. Thus, once again I leave the topic open-ended, to be revisited as the winds of mood and circumstance allow.