A magical path

“What,” asked my correspondent, enquiring about the School, “is magic?” It is not the first time I have been asked that question, once the difference between performance magic and the magical work of the esoteric path has been established.

Read any tale of magic, or indeed, the centuries-old treatises and grimoires that survive, and you would have to assume that magical work is all about gaining control. Spirits, demons, elementals and angels, all are to be summoned by the magician and bound to his bidding. Even those who have trained within an established and respected magical system will still use the old forms that look and sound as if this is the case. Young students who are just starting out on their path may well hold a vision of standing on a mountaintop commanding the storm like a Hollywood Merlin, anticipating the wild exhilaration of power. Are they deluded? Is there something real behind the dream? Or are they simply destined for disappointment?

The universe is held together by vast, natural forces; amongst them are many things science does not and may never understand. Is it really possible for a single human soul to take control of the machinery of the cosmos?

In his book, Magick in Theory and Practice, Aleister Crowley defined magic as “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.” Crowley, quite justifiably, acquired a polarising reputation amongst contemporary occultists that continues amongst their more modern successors. At best, that reputation is ambivalent, at worst downright unsavoury, but few would deny the value of his body of written work to the serious student of magic. Personally, I found his books invaluable… as long as you strip back the intentional blinds and ambiguities that are strewn throughout and read them with clear eyes.

Crowley’s definition is, in my opinion, probably the clearest and most concise way of describing magic. Yet, even in such a short phrase, there is enough ambiguity to lead the seeker astray. Over the years, I reached the conclusion that the magician’s quest for control is accurately described, but lacking one significant clue to the true nature of magical work; the arcane forces that are to be brought under control are all elements of our own being. We are part of the universe and its forces flow through us and have their echoes within us. The dark and bright aspects may be externalised and personified in order that we might work with them, but their source and the result of that work is the same; what changes is the magician.

On the surface at least, that sounds as if all you would have to do is train the will and bring it under full control and focus, in order to effect change. That would fit the common understanding of the type of magic of which neophytes might dream. It is, I believe, behind the misconception that human will is the highest manifestation of man. But what if the Will of Crowley’s definition is not our own, but that of the Divine? Is it then not saying that magic is the art and science of causing change by conforming to, and aligning ourselves with a Higher Will than our own? Creating change, both within the world and within ourselves, in accordance with the Cosmic Will. When you get right down to it, that is pretty much the aim of all spiritual and religious practices, regardless of the name or definition that is applied to divinity.

The definition is a clever one, precisely because of its ambiguity. Within the phrase lies the story of the seeker’s quest… a journey from the reactions and desires of the ego, through realisation, to harmony. How it is read reflects where we are on the path and whether it is to our own will or a higher Will that we surrender ourselves.

Within the Silent Eye, it is this change from within that we seek and encourage, allowing our Companions to seek their own, personal path to realisation and their own door to open to the forces of being.  But where does that leave our hopeful Merlin? Is there no storm to control after all? No wild exultation to feel as the forces of the universe course through him, body, mind and soul? On the contrary, once we ’open up and get out of the way’, setting the stormy and imperative desires of the ego aside and allowing the universal forces free expression, through and within us, we experience that change in accordance with Will. And that is truly magical.


32 thoughts on “A magical path

  1. There was a time in my life — maybe 30 years ago — when I was very involved in magic, or my version of it. It’s funny how far I’ve drifted from it. Life has been much too real and too physical. But I remember another time and place when I read Crowley and many others and it meant more to me. At some point, I think I pushed it away. I needed to be very focused on dealing with my now and I never went back to it. In many ways, you are my last path to that part of my life. Strange how far we can drift.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We all take the path to which our feet are drawn. The thing is that magic, as I see it, is never far away from us…it is part of life and who we are. I know that without that magic, I would have been ill-equipped to face the physical and very real events of the past few years. The study of magical systems is a different ball game. I spent decades studying. You can become so focused on the minutiae of the intellectual pursuit that the truth, though in plain sight, might as well be hidden. It is the difference between a plastic bottle of fruit-flavoured, sterilised spring water and drinking from a sunlit stream.

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  2. Alan Moore defines magic as manipulation of symbols to create alterations in the consiousness of the spectator… He compares it to art, says it’s related. Makes sense, don’t you think? Good post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Art and magic are both manifestations of creativity, so yes…that makes perfect sense, although I would argue that the true alteration takes place in the consciousnes of the magician. I quite like Moore’s description of magic as a symbolic ‘grammar’ with which to view reality.

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  3. Reblogged this on Shamanic Paths and commented:
    It’s funny how we have forgotten; indoctrined or no, it seems too important to merely forget; that we are ALL magicians. Entrusting our power to others, who so freely abuse it, allows them, equally blind to their magical prowess but much more keenly focussed than we, to change the world in ways that we may abhor, yet, somehow, feel powerless to resist in the illusory tides of certainty projected, and projecting, that change.

    What is that fear; which stands in the way of reclaiming the wands and staffs we checked in, forever it seems, around middle school… that most perfectly sculpted Temple in which Crowley’s “…male child of perfect innocence and high intelligence…”, is sacrificied, along with his equally intelligent and innocent sister, on a daily basis…?

    Only one way to find out… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So well-stated, Sue. I like Crowley’s definition of magic and how you clarify it as a universal force that echoes within our own beings (as children of the universe). We are indeed the magicians in control of our own evolutions and journeys toward harmony. I generally veer away from the subject of “divine will” because the externalization and personification so often turn divine will into an oppressive version of human will. But if we look at divine will as a striving toward alignment and harmony with the perfection of the universe and we learn to flow with that magnificent force, then no wonder we’d possess the power of transformative magic. Thanks for the thought-provoking post and opportunity to reflect. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I shied away from speaking of divinity for a long time, purely because of the personifications that Man has sought to impose on his gods since time began. Each culture and time adds its own overlay to the words. But step away from those images to the purety of a universal Source and it changes the perspective. To align one’s Self with that is magic.

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  5. A wonderful post on a subject that I’ve wondered about since childhoods end. I read The Golden Dawn, Crowley and a book about the Kabbalah when very young but they seemed to be bound by too much thinking and not enough feeling. I realized the power of repetition and intent through prayers from there it was easy to understand spells and when and when not to use them. Nature and the universe we are all part of the stardust and are connected. When we send out our intent I believe that these links here us and if our intent is anchored then the wheels will turn. That to me is magic, for now, lol. My opinion perhaps will change as I grow older and learn more from existing. As a child, I knew that magic existed and that was it, end of.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the old rituals, as well as the intellectual puzzles of piecing together meaning from the texts, but I have come increasingly to accept that all such things are akin to window dressing for the soul…something that has a value in that it helps carry the mind to the ‘right place’…but it that ‘place’ that matters, not how you reach it.

      Liked by 2 people

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