by Hand Week 14
to the discussion of last
week, magic, whatever it may be, presents much the same
problem as astrology. Either it teaches about a new system of natural
law that is not radically different in kind from our current ones, or
it teaches us that the universe is radically different from what we have
thought. So let’s look at some of the characteristics of magic that make
it clearly different from most of what characterizes astrology.
Use of the Will: A Difference Between Astrology and Magic
activities involve looking at a chart and trying to determine what it
says about something in our lives or about our lives. Even in horary,
the main act of will is the decision to choose a time to ask a question
and construct a chart. The mind may connect itself more or less to the
chart by the strength of its intention, but the mind does not alter the
motions of the heavens.
understood in ordinary speech, magic involves some kind of an act of will
on the part of someone, or a force emanated from something. That “someone”
may be a human being or a disincarnate entity of some sort. This is where
the business of demons, etc. comes in. But this leaves room also for the
benevolent, but apparently supernatural, actions of saints or deities
to be a form of magic, unless one insists that all magic by definition
comes from evil sources. That is a problem of one’s point of view toward
magic, not the intrinsic meaning of the word.
referred to previously assumes that magic can be the result of an action
by something that is not living or conscious. This brings us to natural
magic, which is the study of the magical effects of natural things such
as minerals and crystals, plants, colors, sounds, etc. This is the part
of magic that is most likely not supernatural by our or any other definition,
but is the result simply of our not understanding natural law. Therefore,
let’s drop natural magic from our consideration and restrict ourselves
to other forms of magic that do involve some kind of living, conscious
that an act of will is required for magic—someone wants something to happen.
This can be anything from casting “spells” that are intended to coerce
or limit another’s freedom of action, up to changing oneself into a purer
and higher being, with lots of “magics” in between. The casting of spells
is of course the kind of magic that gives most people the heebee-jeebees.
The higher magic referred to is often called ceremonial magic or white
magic. It does not involve the casting of spells. Its sole object is to
use magical techniques to explore and enlarge one’s own consciousness.
In its highest form, the object is to approach God. This has nothing to
do with altering the natural world or anyone in it. One form of this is
called theurgy (which roughly means “god-working”) and one example of
theurgy is the Christian mass. The only debate concerning this kind of
spiritual magic that there might be is whether some church or other should,
or should not, have a monopoly on the practice. And of course it must
also be noted that a considerable degree of wisdom is required of those
who pursue this kind of magic.
Alone Is Not the Only Thing About Magic
But the presence
of will alone cannot be the defining criterion of magic. There was once
a student of ceremonial magic named Aleister Crowley, who made a rather
dubious reputation for himself because of his tendency to mix white or
spiritual magic with other forms that were less benign. He defined magic
as “the art of bringing about change in conformity with the will.” Here
we see the primacy of will in defining magic. The problem with this definition
is that this could also be used as a definition of any technology.
Is not medical
technology, for example, used to bring about desired (i.e., in conformity
with the will) changes in a medical situation? And in fact, some have
suggested that magic is simply a form of technology, or the other way
round, that technology is simply a form of magic! I believe that this
is not a bad argument, but I think that it is useful to make some further
In the next
article, we will look at some things that make technology as generally
understood different from magic, or that maybe make magic a form of technology,
albeit a technology very different from our more conventional modern technologies.