Magick includes astrology and religious mythology. The term is inclusive of metaphysics, philosophy, theology, theurgy, divination and prophecy.
There is no such thing as self-initiation. We can try to lift ourselves by our own bootstraps but the outcome is a foregone conclusion. Theurgy is the ‘practice of the divine’—solipsism is therefore a considerable bar to meaningful progress.
It is impossible to convey any sense of what magick is all about to the mind of the person that lacks the ability or the will to perceive it for their self. To explain and rationalise magick in the hope that ‘men of science’ and other worthies might achieve illumination is a mission doomed to failure from the outset. Every idea conceived by the mind of man breaks down completely when subjected to analysis. The fact completely escapes those requiring proof of reality. Most persons today comfortably imagine magick to be no more than superstition and fantasy. ‘Magick’ includes astrology and religious mythology. The term is inclusive of metaphysics, philosophy, theology, theurgy, divination and prophecy. Magick embraces the life of the human soul, which cannot be weighed, measured or otherwise accounted for. One can hardly overstate the fact that a considerable body of traditional knowledge collected over many thousands of years has been lost, forgotten or discarded as useless.
The revival of magick since the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in Britain (1951) owes a great deal to Aleister Crowley (1875–1947) and Violet Firth (better known as Dion Fortune, 1890–1946). Neither of these would have described themselves as witches, even if it had been lawful then to do so. If anything, they thought of themselves as practitioners of a Sacred Science. There is a dry, academic side to the occult, but to those that dare practice it, the romance and glamour surrounding the subject is indispensible to its effective operation. Both Crowley and Firth were aware of this, incorporating it in their writings. The part that romance plays is frequently misunderstood by historians and academics. ‘Factual’ accounts of the Western Magical Tradition are therefore suffused with allegations and counter-allegations of fraud and charlatanism. Crowley provided a rational explanation for magick that has been widely adopted:
Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.
Crowley nonetheless insisted that magick should, even at the very outset, be directed towards a mystic goal, defined as the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.
It is necessary to deal with, and to dispose of, some myths. Firstly, we must deal with the notion of belief. There is much talk of beliefs and of ‘systems of belief’ whenever the subject of magick is discussed. The way of the magician or occultist is the Way of Knowledge, called Jnanayoga by Hindu philosophers. Belief is the enemy of knowledge, since the noun implies a static state of affairs, an end of the matter. In nature, there is nothing static; there is nothing that can truly be said to have an ending or a beginning. Why then should we have any need for belief? Belief is the weakness of clinging to an illusion in the vain hope that by doing so, an illusion can be turned into reality. To seek the real, we must eschew the folly of belief. Crowley had no intentions of making a religion out of magick or the Law of Thelema—this was done posthumously, in his name. The Egyptians, and other ancient races and cultures predating the introduction of compulsory state monotheism around 500 BCE, had no word in their language for ‘religion’.
Close on the tail of belief is hypnosis and hypnotism. Making oneself the passive subject of any hypnotic experiment was regarded with horror by the adepts of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. A mighty oath never to allow this was solemnly sworn by aspirants to the Order. It is not uncommon now to hear that hypnotism is not only useful in magick but is also an indispensible requirement. Altered states of consciousness are sometimes referred to as ‘trances’, but the need to discern the difference is not a matter of semantics. The idea that magick works by implanting suggestions in your mind—or worse, the minds of others—to enable something to become true that you previously thought to be false or unlikely is patently absurd. It may obtain ‘results’ for persons obsessed with the objects of their desire but such results are entirely in the realm of illusion. It is the art of the stage conjuror.
We are therefore happy to follow Crowley in adopting the spelling of magick with a ‘k’ so as to distinguish what we do from that which is done to transfer cash from gullible and easily distracted persons to the pockets of the professional con artist.
1. From the Introduction to Magick in Theory and Practice, Aleister Crowley.
© Oliver St. John 2015, 2019
This article is from the book, Magical Theurgy—Rituals of the Tarot. The ROTA crux ansata Tarot illustration is from the cover art to the above book. Click on the image to magnify.