A while back I wrote an article about the 40 Qualified Powers, which are a useful set of energies and they have a comparative utility to the 16 Elementals. You can find that article here, but I have had further thoughts about these energies and I wanted to put them into an article that would work along with what I have already written. The ritual pattern that is used to generate the 40 Qualified Powers is called the “Pyramid of Powers” rite can be found in my book entitled “Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick - Omnibus Edition.” The rituals is examined in chapter 7 of Book 2, and the Qualified Powers are defined in chapter 8 of Book 2. I would recommend getting this book and adding it to your collection because there a quite a number of useful ritual patterns and open-source rituals in that work.
There are a number of different ways that one can utilize the Tarot as a magical tool, since it is a repository of quite a large number of magical and occult correspondences. The Tarot and the Qabalah are intertwined, particularly in the 19th and 20th century European occult versions of those disciplines. A magician can take a certain specific point of reference and look at the Tarot in that manner to discover all sorts of useful symbologies and practical referential correspondences. One such perspective is to look at the Tarot through the perspective of magical energy. What one would find would be three groups of magical powers. The first would be the sixteen elementals based on the court cards, the second would be the forty qualified powers, and the last would be the transformative powers of the twenty-two trumps of the major arcana. One could also split off the four aces to produce the foundational structure of the spiritual dimension of the four Elements.
Similarly, one could also look at the Tarot through the perspective of spirits, and with this perspective a whole array of a spiritual hierarchy would be revealed. There would be the hierarchy of the 36 astrological decans, the sixteen elementals spirits (as found in either the angelic or Enochian systems of magic), and the interaction of the various spirits associated with both the cycle of initiation and the cosmogonic creation/dissolution cycles of the trumps. Either approach, energy or spirit, will reveal the powerful magical underpinnings of the Tarot. The energy perspective reveals the magical powers that are available to the magician using the energy model of magic, and the spirit perspective reveals the spiritual hierarchy that is available for the magician to conjure. Additionally, the 36 decan based number or Naib cards, represent an actual spiritual domain that is grounded in the zodiacal hierarchy that permeates the three spherical levels of celestial, earth and underworld. The Tree of Life can also be mapped to this structure, although not in a very clean and concise manner unless the four Qabalistic Worlds are employed.
Therefore, the Tarot is a very powerful repository of all things occult and magical, and it could be considered the preeminent magical grimoire. I have also written about this concept in one of my articles, and you can find it here. While quite a number of magicians are examining and studying the latest in published grimoires and expounding about the latest developments in the arena of evocation and spirit conjuring, one book is typically ignored. That book is the redoubtable Tarot, which was fashioned to be the basis for all forms of magic in the Western Mystery tradition. If a student were to study the Tarot in a great deal of depth and intensity then I believe that such a person would be able to expand their magical perspective to achieve all magical objectives using both magical energies and spirits embedded within the symbolic correspondences of the humble Tarot cards. It is the most important grimoire and magical treatise of all time, and it is the source for all of the magical and occultic systems in the West. And, it can be used for divination, either to passively receive or actively project the patterns thereby randomly derived. Perhaps one of the greatest exponents of the Tarot is Aleister Crowley’s book “The Book of Thoth.” It was one the last books that he wrote, and it is one of the best, in my opinion.
Getting back to our topic about the Qualified Powers, I have been seeking to encapsulate these magical energies in such a manner that other practitioners of magic would see their utility and usefulness. I had assumed that the Qualified Powers were called such because they were the product of a base element qualified by an attribute of Deity. However, there is more to them than that, or at least that is what I have discovered by pondering them in greater depth. Allow me to explain what I mean by this statement.
Energy magic is typically reduced to working, in some manner, with the four elements. You can readily extend this model to include a number of different qualities of energy, but they are all based on the four elements - Fire, Air, Water and Earth. You can define these four elements in many different ways, including physical, occult and spiritual qualities. In extending the definitions of the four elements you can make their utility more refined and useful. However, you can also do this by combining with other things to create hybrid energy structures. This is the basic concept regarding the energy model of magic that I have employed in my magical system. I don’t know if others have also used this mechanism, but this is what I have found to be quite efficient and useful. The occult and magical symbol for the four elements is the pentagram, which represents the four elements tied to a fifth, which is spirit. In this manner, spirit is said to be the synergetic fusion of all four of the elements - it is the quintessential element. A magician can use the pentagram to generate/invoke or dissolve/banish any of the four elements and spirit. The basic magical technique for generating element powers using a pentagram was first employed in the Golden Dawn rite of the Superior Pentagram.
Now whether these energized elements or their hybrids are seen as being generated through the vital force of the magician’s body or through some symbolic artifice is not particularly important to the energy model. In the version of the energy model of magic that I work, it would seem to me that this energy source has its origin both within my body (as a trigger) and also outside of it. One of the reasons that I believe this is that however much energy I can raise through the artifice of magic, I don’t seem to be draining my own essential energy. Once triggered, it seems as if the magical energy that I have generated for a magical working has an endless supply. I can feel this energy pass through my body, for certain, but the ecstatic results of this energy flow seems beyond what would normally just reside in my body. When using the energy magical techniques and projecting what feels like a considerable force into the material world, I feel highly charged and energized after the working instead of feeling depleted or tired. I always have to ground off the excess in order to keep myself balanced and not emotionally keyed up. Working with the energy based system of magic can make one feel “high” or even drunk because of the emotional impact of the ungrounded energies.
As far as energy hybrids are concerned, I have incorporated three different energy structures, and these can both engage magical energies and energy based spirits. The most basic structure is to be found in the sixteen elementals. These powers consist of the hybrid pair of a qualifying base element combined with the same or another element. The permutation of four produces the number sixteen, so there are sixteen elementals. These energy based entities correspond to the sixteen court cards in the Tarot. You could use just one of these cards as the focus for generating an elemental. The other two are the 28 Lunar Mansions (Talismanic Elemental), which are represented as the hybrid combination of an element and a planet, and the 40 Qualified Powers, which are represented as the hybrid of an element and a Deity attribute.
To generate an elemental I employ the pentagram device and the eight node circle octagram (consisting of a double pyramid) as the ritual pattern used to generate what I call an elemental vortex. I can further qualify this energy by using the Enochian spirit name pair and the Enochian call for a specific elemental. However, an elemental force, even when summoned using a spirit name, has to have some kind of specific magical device to link it to some external objective - known as the magical link. The energy is focused into the center of the magic circle using a deosil circumambulation spiral from the outer periphery of the magic circle to the center. The power is released through the artifice of a widdershins circumambulation spiral from the center to the outer periphery of the magic circle, where the energy is projected outside of the circle as a kind of magical “bolt.” In order for the magical energy to find its target it must first be imprinted with the link, which is usually in the form of a charged or consecrated sigil. I consider an elemental magical power to be “unqualified” because it requires a sigil to imprint and direct it to its objective. As a joke, I often say to my students that elementals are kind of dumb and need to be qualified in order to work.
While the generated elemental is considered an unqualified power, both the Lunar Mansions and the Qualified Powers are qualified powers. What this means is that these magical energies also contain archetypal qualifiers that further define the energy (with a spiritual intelligence) so that it has a specific function and objective already determined. Both of these energy systems don't require the imprint of a magical link in order to set them to a specific objective. By definition, these kinds of magical energies already have an objective, and that is why I refer to them as qualified powers. You can use a sigil to imprint and further refine their innate function, but it is not required. Once generated and released, qualified energies will automatically empower the magician’s intention to fulfill the working’s magical objective. Thus qualified powers are also intelligent magical energies, since they are imbued with an archetypal intelligence. The 28 Lunar Mansions are actually a subset of the 40 Qualified Powers, since the seven planetary archetypes are included in the 10 attributes of the Deity.
The structure used to generate one of the Qualified Power is the magical pyramid vortex, and the device is the pentagram. The focusing and exteriorizing spirals are used just as they are in the Elemental Octagram, but the focused element energy field is imprinted with a symbol and quality of attribute of the Deity. This causes a fusion, within the vortex field, of the element and attribute, thereby qualifying the magical energy. One could also further qualify it by performing an invocation of a specific polytheistic Deity, vibrating a Qabalistic Sephirah Godname, or even just using the Tarot card itself. The magician should make certain that the energy is fully imprinted so that there appears to be a kind of energized Godform in the center of the circle. Then when this qualified energy is released in the same manner as an elemental, it will intelligently and automatically proceed outward from the circle to fulfill its objective. The ritual to generate a Qualified Power is more simple than the ritual used to generate an elemental, and since there are 40 different powers, one can have a greater variety from which to choose. As I said, you can also use a sigil to give a qualified power even more of a precise focus, but it is not required. All that is required is to develop a mechanism for symbolically defining one of the ten Deity attributes.
Coincidentally, the technique for using the 40 Qualified Powers was something that I learned using a very simple cone of power augmented by setting an invoking pentagram of a specific element to the four watchtowers and then imprinting that energy using one of the 10 Qabalistic Godnames. It was a very simple version of the Pyramid of Power rite, but it was amazingly effective. I was taught this simple technique in the old Alexandrian coven in which I first learned how to work real magic. Sometimes I wonder if any other Witches perform this kind of simple but effective magic.
I am a member of the O.T.O. and I am sometimes active in my local body. For me it is social engagement and also a mechanism through which I can get some degree of peer review and swap ideas about magic and occultism. While the methodologies that I use to perform magic are quite different than those of my fellow Thelemites, I feel a degree of alignment with the purposes and focus of many of the members of this order. I am a ritual magician with peculiar beliefs and practices, but despite my different approach and occult perspectives, I can find a welcoming place in the local body with my fellow lodge members. That being said, I can also state that I am probably a poor representative for any kind of classical approach to the O.T.O., since I am, at best, something of a reluctant Thelemite.
There are reasons for my one-off approach to magic and occultism, and even polytheism, when it comes to the classical Thelemite approach to these disciplines. In a few words, as one O.T.O. member once said, I “stink” of Witchcraft. That means my magical practices, occult ideals and polytheistic tendencies are grounded in my first love, which was British Traditional Witchcraft. Yes indeed, I do stink pretty foully of Witchcraft, and it colors everything that I do. It also makes me a reluctant Thelemite, since my whole approach to magic, paganism and the occult is firmly within the Witchcraft world-view. Allow me to explain what these differences are in greater detail. Let’s also keep in mind that I don’t consider myself an expert regarding Thelema or the canon of the O.T.O. As a reluctant Thelemite my understanding of this creed could be considered quite flawed.
As a Witch, I do not consider myself “one of the people of the book.” Witches don’t possess or adhere to a sacred document considered to be sacred writ and wholly unchangeable. We have a Book of Shadows, but that is a book of liturgy that was never meant to be changeless, since liturgical rites can and should be modified to make them better fit the times and the places where they are performed. As a comparison, the Catholics have radically changed their primary liturgical rite called the Mass, but they have not changed the Bible, particularly the New Testament. Yet Witches don’t have a testament or any kind of sacred writ, so as polytheists, our knowledge of the sacred is to be found in the actual experience and direct encounter with our Deities. Presence of Deity at a specific place and time represents the greatest mystery and the source of our spiritual faith, the other mysteries are about the fundamental attributes of human life (and all life in general), which is birth and death. It might be somewhat different for each and everyone of us, but that is the nature of a true polytheistic faith. Words get in way if they attempt to concretely define something that cannot even be adequately described.
Perhaps one of the primary characteristics of Monotheistic religions in the West is that they are exclusively a counter or protest religious movement against the status quo of the time. Jews created a counter movement against ancient Egyptian polytheism. Christians created a counter movement against classical Greco-Roman polytheism, Protestants rebelled against Catholicism, and Islam created a counter movement against Semitic/Arab polytheism. Each of these religions proposes an absolute Deity and an absolute religious truth, and although the Deity that they identify with is pretty much the same, their differences are the basis of a disagreement of opposing absolute truths. It is the foundation of monotheism (and the source of its problems) that a single absolute deity must be the one and only deity, and that the religious canon based on that deity must and should be written down into sacred writings, representing the one and only version of the truth.
Those of us who have rejected this notion of a single and absolute religious truth see the folly of these minor distinctions between monotheistic creeds and understand the need to achieve religious tolerance and a peaceful coexistence. (We do this for no other reason than to ensure our own survival.) I have also previously stated that the foundation of the world religions is based on the same kind of human interactions with the phenomenon of spirit, and that either they are all correct or none of them are correct. Since religions are continually nourished by people having personal religious experiences, one could conclude that the very existence of this phenomenon would preclude any kind of scientific dismissal. The truth is that billions of people have these experiences every day. Yet while the religious based myths are open to question among non-believers, if they remain in the context of religious myths then no one can actually refute them. They are subject to criticism especially if they are promoted as historical facts verified only by faith, such as how monotheistic religions represent their myths. A point of irony here is that science itself has been shaped by the monotheistic philosophies of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, so it could hardly function as a counter movement to the spiritual “opiates” of western religion.
One exception to this particular examination of monotheistic religions having sacred writings is, of course, Hinduism. The sacred writings of Hinduism, however, are more the exponents of liturgy, philosophy and meditation techniques, as well as embodying many religious myths and stories that are assiduously kept bounded in that wondrous domain. What Hinduism doesn’t have is a historical narrative of a single absolute deity intermixed with various associated absolute religious truths disguised as laws. Perhaps the most salient point that the religion of Hinduism makes is that there are a myriad of deities everywhere and no actual absolute truth, but many great truths bound together within the various cultic religious centers. Hinduism might be a good representative of what western polytheism would ultimately achieve if it continues for the next several centuries. While sacred writings are important to Hinduism, the foundation for that religion is to be found in the various shrines and religious cultic centers where the presence of deity is maintained at all times.
Getting back to the theme of this article, I have made the point that monotheism relies on sacred writings and represents a spiritual break from or antithesis to the status quo. I have also stated that I have rejected the absolute qualities of the theology and canon of such religions, since they would seek to cancel out the truths that I possess based on personal experience with my Deities. If religious tolerance is to be maintained then those who are not part of a religion must reject these stated absolute truths and instead declare that they are actually relative. Taking this kind of stand makes me an outlier to all forms and creeds of monotheism. It also makes me a reluctant Thelemite.
As I have stated, monotheistic religions have a common cause or origin in that they are religious protest movements against the status quo. Yet in many ways, Thelema is also a protest movement against 19th Christianity, particularly the strict dominionist practices and beliefs of the Plymouth Brethren. Crowley’s natal church was the Plymouth Brethren, and it could be said that the religion that he founded was a particular antithesis movement to that kind of strict Protestant Christianity. Yet Aleister Crowley was not content to just break from his family’s church and faith in order to engage with a different religious perspective, much as what many of us did back in the 70's and 80's. He created a powerful anti-Protestant Christian movement that used the tropes of that religion to found his own religious perspective. He called himself the “Great Beast - 666” and reveled in the very symbols of the Apocalypse as laid down in the New Testament book “Revelations.” It was the Protestant Christians who made this book into a kind of revealed truth about the forthcoming end times, and the Plymouth Brethren were particularly engaged with this theme. The themes and ideation of the book of Revelations were suffused into the Book of the Law and also powerfully colored Crowley’s experiences as depicted in the Vision and the Voice, where he evoked the spirits of the Enochian Aethyrs. Crowley believed that he was the prophet of a New Aeon who would bring forth a new religion that would countermand and even abrogate the religions of the status quo. This was also affirmed by various passages of the Book of the Law.
If we take Thelema as based on Crowley’s exegesis then we can see that it becomes a specific protest movement against Protestant Christianity. It takes the themes and tropes of Christianity, especially the messianic formulations of the end times, and inverts them so that the New Aeon represents the end of Christianity and the birth of Thelema. The Great Beast becomes a prophet of the New Aeon, the Whore of Babylon becomes the chief priestess and initiator. The Crowned and Conquering Child is not Jesus, the Lamb of God, but the Anti-Christ as the proponent of the New World Order. The Book of the Law thus becomes the sacred writ of this new creed, and the canon is established as a kind of prophetic absolute truth - not to be changed or modified. While the practice of magic and exploratory occultism are the primary religious practices of this new creed, and coincidentally there are no attempts at purifying or forcibly unifying the beliefs of those who nominally accept this creed and perform this magic and speculative occultism, the model for Thelema is based on the monotheism of Protestant Christianity. What that means is that this apparent inclusiveness could change to become a kind of rigid exclusiveness based on the sacralization of the writings of Aleister Crowley. Some have gone so far as to see in the Book of the Law a kind of inculcation and promotion of a form of religious fascism.
Despite its promotion as a limited kind of polytheism (based on a trinity of primary Deities and two human representatives), Thelema is similar to a kind of monotheism, thus having more in common with its adversarial creeds than with what would be considered a purer or detached kind of revised polytheism. Crowley was vigorously and angrily reacting against his natal faith and the church of his family, and this unfortunately has impacted everything that he wrote. An objective examination of Crowley’s writings and even the Book of the Law shows this to be a clear and even obvious case. These anti Christian elements of Thelema are problematic to me because I have rejected the tropes and creed of Christianity altogether. What I don’t want to do is to have to revisit them once again in the guise of a supposedly polytheistic and occult based religious system.
Curiously and ironically, we are today suffering from the affects of the dominionist creed of Evangelical Protestant Christianity that was spawned by the Plymouth Brethren. That version of Christianity has invaded our nation’s politics and has bolstered the white supremacy movement to produce the troubled combination of right-wing politics and the ascendancy of the presidency of Donald Trump. Perhaps Thelema might be considered an antidote to the terrible times that we live in, but it would have to become much more popular than it is to culturally oppose and defeat Evangelical Christianity. Then there would be the problem that in order to be so popular, Thelema would have to be modified to be ever more like Christianity, which would certainly end my interest in it.
Since the current O.T.O organization allows for a plurality of beliefs and perspectives within its ranks, I can belong to this organization without having to strictly adhere to its canon and beliefs. I am certainly a practicing magician and occultist who is seeking to discover the truth for myself. I acknowledge many of the ideas put forth by the religion of Thelema, but I also have a lot of doubts and points where I am not in alignment with that faith. I am puzzled by the Book of the Law, liking some passages, rejecting others, and then finding yet other passages that are confusing or unclear to me. Since I don’t accept any specific book as representing my beliefs or my faith, I am unable to accept the Book of the Law wholly and completely as holy writ representing my religious beliefs. I suspect that other Thelemites also question various passages of the Book of the Law, and that the necessity of following or adhering to one’s true will (“Do What Thou Wilt Is The Whole of Law”) abrogates any kind of surrender to a strict adherence to this book. I also belief in “Love” as the primary force that draws us all together and mitigates our differences, but I believe that a complete surrender to this emotion is folly, therefore, “Love Under Will.”
In accepting these basic premises one could say that I am a Thelemite, but I would claim to be one that is plagued by doubt, different perspectives and different religious experiences. I cannot accept the creed of Thelema without also keeping these differences and objections at the fore-front of my mind. If I belonged to a Christian or Islamic sect, I would have been forcefully ejected quite some time ago, since I would have refused to adopt a strict adherence to the basic creed. I also still have the terrible habit of asking too many damned questions, and this certainly got me kicked out of Sunday school when I was a troubled and disruptive adolescent.
Additionally, as part of my own magical exegesis I discovered that Thelema was only one of a four-part gnostic perspective on magical truth. The other three were Agape, Eros and Thanatos. These would represent Will, Love, Desire and Death, respectively. The central unifying gnostic attribute was Astreas, or the Star, which represents the fusion of all four gnostic qualities into a singular spiritual expression. Every man and woman might be a star, but then so are the deities, and so is the representation of the One. It was this theme that inspired me to write up five different Mass rites and their associated liturgies, and I continue to work with them to this day.
I do find common cause with Thelema and Thelemites, and I also find their magical workings and occultism to be quite excellent and relevant to my own. I consider Aleister Crowley to be one of my many spiritual ancestors and I still read his writings to this day. I have a different perspective and also different practices to be sure, but I also have a basic understanding that dovetails quite nicely with Thelema as I understand it. As long as Thelema and the O.T.O. promotes self-discovery and doesn’t try to coerce a single definition and creed upon its members, I believe that I will continue to work with them and be a somewhat active member. I might be a reluctant Thelemite, but I do acknowledge those with whom I have common interests, practices and beliefs. May this relationship continue during this difficult and challenging time in which we live.
I have been holding back since the election, for obvious reasons, to say anything about what happened on November 8. In my previous article I warned against the incipient fascism of Donald Trump and urged my readers to vote against him and the kind of regressive policies and overt mendaciousness that he and his followers represent to our body politic. I had hoped that enough people would see Trump for who he was, and reject him as completely unfit for the highest office in our country. The fact that Trump narrowly won the presidential election is a calamity that will profoundly impact us for decades to come. I predict that we will look back at this time as the beginning of the worst of times for most of us.
We, as a nation, have chosen someone who is so unprepared and unfit to be president that we cannot emerge from this catastrophe with our nation completely intact. He and his minions will do considerable damage to our country and our way of life, and anyone who thinks otherwise is deceiving themselves. A Trump presidency represents the end of the struggle of the people against an American oligarchy. Those who are not obscenely wealthy will also not prevail in this new order, and those who are powerless and vulnerable will be egregiously hurt regardless of color, economic condition or region. The promises made by Trump to his political followers will be shown to be false and merely convenient rhetoric, to be changed and conformed in a manner that will uniquely benefit his class. The rest of us are more or less, screwed.
So, what happened? How is it that the Democratic party was defeated when the pollsters were predicting a narrow victory for them? Who is to blame for this debacle? Certainly, what happened was unusual and unique. For Hillary Clinton it was a perfect storm of weighted political obstruction, media persecution, misogyny, outright lies, misinformation, faux scandals and even foreign intervention. None of this excuses her and her campaign for the responsibility for losing what was supposed to be a hard won victory. If anything, the election of 2016 was the year of outsiders and populist based change, at least for the presidency. Trump managed to promote himself as the populist outsider, and he narrowly won the Electoral College based on that messaging.
The Clinton campaign started out with the wrong message, since she was as an elite insider with little popular appeal outside of the Democratic Party. If she would have been smart and understood the popular consensus happening then she would have concluded that her time for running a successful campaign was in 2008 and not 2016. Things have changed in the last eight years, and Democrats needed a credible outsider populist to defeat Donald Trump. It is difficult to state whether anyone in the Democratic Party could have filled that role, even Bernie Sanders, when dealing with an overall rejection and dissatisfaction with the current administration. While President Obama is relatively popular at the end of his eight year term, his policies, both foreign and domestic are not so popular, either with the political left or the right. Perhaps it is nothing more or less than the dissatisfaction that typically happens to a President through the duration of two terms. The fact that Obama had incurred the wrath and disdain of a large swath of the conservative electorate, most likely because he was the first black president, and that this groundswell of anger was enabled and encouraged by Trump is one of the main factors that I attribute to his victory.
We also need to keep in mind that the outsider populist ploy didn’t apply to the rest of the election results, as the victory of Republicans in many of their local and state-wide elections showed the proclivity of the electorate for the conservative status quo. Now we have two branches of government under control of the Republicans, and the third, the courts, will soon follow suite. We can also expect that all of the moderate policies and progressive gains that were established in the last eight years will be reversed. We might also see such safety net programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security also eliminated, not to mention insurance reform via the AHCA. We will also likely see the end of government regulations that have safely guarded our public resources, consumables and also protected us from the avarice and mendaciousness of corporations.
Even though the Republicans have scored a very modest electoral victory in 2016, where Trump lost the popular vote by a significant margin and his Electoral College win was by a slim majority in three rust-belt states, not to mention that a few senate and congressional seats were lost to the Democrats, they have decided to push forward massive changes to our way of life. They have absolutely no mandate, but they will engage in overreach because that is what they do. If they successfully eliminate most of social service programs as they appear poised to do, then the resultant pain and suffering that such actions will produce will be completely their own work. If they make a wreck of our nation and its economy, and Trump engages in some incredibly stupid foreign policy blunders that humiliate us to the whole world, then you can expect that those misguided folks who voted for these clowns will likely change their opinions about where their real economic and social interests lie. The Republican majority may very well find itself defeated by its own ambitions and hubris, and when the American people have had enough, they will turn against those in power.
It will be at that point in time that the Democrats will field a cadre of progressive politicians led by an outsider populist presidential candidate. We will see the entrenched right-wing politicians and their supporting alt-right minions get annihilated in the pols. I think that people by that time will have had more than enough right-wing rhetoric, lies and deceit and they will finally see the results of the oligarchy coup that has dominated them since the early 2000's. They will rightly hate what has become of our nation and they will use the power of their vote to overrule and destroy this cabal. The Republicans will undergo an electoral shellacking, and they will likely lose control over congress and the presidency. This might even start happening in the 2018 elections, but I have my doubts about that happening so soon.
My only question is how long will this take? How much damage will Trump and the Republican party do to our country and the world. How much more inequality, injustice, neglect, disenfranchisement will people take before acting against the real status quo. Will it be soon enough to make a difference, or will voter suppression and other legal mechanisms be employed to ensure the perpetuation of this offensive and destructive oligarchy. Will I even live to see the day when this terrible tide will be reversed? Until this situation changes, we will be steadily and regressively pushed back until all of the social changes that produced the Middle Class are completely eradicated, and new Gilded Age will resume for the ultra-wealthy elite. We will be forced to engage them only as a service class of slaves, to be exploited until no longer needed. Until that time of progressive change and the renewal of our social contract, we will be living in the worst of times.
I haven’t been posting very many articles as of late due to the demands and busyness of my mundane work schedule. So, during this holiday interlude, I have decided to write up a series of short articles that represent what has been on my mind lately. Hopefully, I can fill the void in my blog with several new articles in the coming days. That is my object, so hopefully I can meet it to some degree.
According to political pundits we have entered the post fact age, which means that any opinion, belief or thought, no matter how foolish or unschooled, is to be considered valid, even when proven to be false. Certainly this has driven the political winds in our country since the election and its poisonous impact on the body politic, but when it comes to discussing magic and the occult, I am hoping that the post fact age doesn’t intrude on the dialogs of those who are actual practitioners. Besides, in the history of magic and even today, we have always been struggling against what the popular imagination believes is magic and what practitioners know from experience.
The recent popularity of Harry Potter, the SciFi channel’s series “The Magicians” and the recent Marvel movie “Dr. Strange” hasn’t helped to keep the topic of magic in the popular imagination closer to the practical reality. Magicians in the media are either shown to be incredible miracle workers who are able to harness astonishing powers or they are fraudulent purveyors of deception and illusion. I am certain that the continual media trope of the magician wielding supernatural forces is quite an annoyance to the scientific community at large who believe that such fantasies should have been long discarded by rational and critical thinking adults. Of course, these are the same people who would also like to see religion discarded as well.
Real magicians, witches and occultists who are practicing magic hardly need the untutored public to promote and embrace such beliefs about magic, and often a new student of magic has to learn where reality starts and fantasy ends. What often draws individuals and groups into a study of magic is the promotion of amazing capabilities and astonishing possibilities. Of course, the reality is subtle, deep, and completely undramatic. The Hollywood produced special effects never match the actual experiences and phenomena of magic, and perhaps this acts as a filter to deflect those who are deluded and refuse to see the world in a critical, logical and rational manner. While it is true that the imagination is a very important component of any magical practice, and that romantic notions are the drivers of magical processes, it is important for any magician worth his or her salt to maintain a balance between the worlds of fact and fantasy. The real issue that one realizes after practicing magic for a while is that the legends about magic and the actual practice of magic are always quite distinct.
Legendary magic has always been a part of the literary and narrative elements of human culture. Whether that magic so described is the technology of the future, belonging to advanced alien races, or that it is steeped in a supernatural domain of spirits and deities is actually immaterial. These are the stories, folk tales and fictional heritage of our culture and our times, and while the qualitative nature of these stories change, the actual themes and underlying structures seem to repeated and revisited over and over. The basis of legendary magic is that it is within the ability of human beings to harness some kind of mechanism that allows individuals to employ seemingly miraculous powers. In the previous age, a person would acquire these powers through the agency and coercion of supernatural entities, such as various kinds of spirits - angels, demons, saints, or hero demigods. It was believed then that human beings had no such powers on their own, but needed the assistance of supernatural entities in order to achieve material transformations of a supernatural type. Later on, in the 19th century, a new theme was developed that proposed that ordinary human beings had previously unknown powers vested in them that could be tapped with a special kind of knowledge or training. Either of these approaches to legendary magic saw that phenomenon as the ability to miraculously manipulate and transform matter at will, or to completely defy all natural laws.
Legendary magic basically broke all of the boundaries that human kind had been struggling against since the beginning of human awareness and consciousness. This kind of magic gave one the ability to fly, teleport, create anything material from nothing, to influence the weather, to change peoples beliefs and feelings without them knowing, to project power in the form of fire, thunderbolts, terrible storms, or even cause the sun and the moon to stop or move in reverse. Legendary magic made the wielder into a material personification of God with all of the powers of omniscience, omnipotence and ubiquity. Whether this was due to harnessing spirits or through the discovery of unknown innate powers only represented the time in which such tales were produced. Unknown human powers discovered and unleashed is a more recent trope, while the abrogation of the powers of spirits and deities is the trope of previous ages. Either narrative represents a problem and a challenge to the actual practice of magic, since expectations about the results of such activities are likely to be far too high and unrealistic.
Confusing legendary with real magic is something of a cultural phenomenon these days that would seem to be getting worse as we proceed into a future fraught with challenges and insecurities. Of course, there are certain shiftless hucksters (whose names I won’t mention) who are advertising their magical courses and techniques claiming miraculous powers and guaranteed magical results. What many magicians fail to talk about much is that failures and folly in the pursuit of magical knowledge are just as important as the successes. No one can either guarantee that their magical lore will work flawlessly for everyone or that there is a painless and easy way to be like a living God. In fact, real magic has always had boundaries and limitations since the beginning of time. Those physical and psychological laws didn’t just materialize with the advent of modern science, in fact it was science that observed and incorporated them into a mathematically proven set of theories. When someone proposes that their magic can completely suspend or abrogate the laws of nature, you should see their claims in the light of hyperbole or outright deceit. The old saying still applies to real magic, “If it’s too good to be true, then it obviously isn’t.” Still, the hucksters continue to make their outrageous claims, and gullible people continue to seek them out and get fleeced.
So what is real magic as opposed to legendary magic? Real magic is subtle, undramatic, highly internalized (subjective), and often mysterious in its various manifestations. It can be unpredictable, but when it does work as the magician has planned, the results are more a bending or connecting of probabilities than the manifestation of impossibilities. Amazing things can happen, but they never translate into making the magician a living deity. Fortune, tragedy, folly and wisdom are the products of the human experience, and magic can influence these possibilities into likely probabilities, but there are limitations and boundaries that cannot be crossed except through the artifice of visions, dreams and active fantasy. These, too, have a part to play in magic, but like everything else, they must be kept in balance so that the magician never loses his or her ability to see the world as it is rather than how one imagines it to be. Legendary magic has no place in the actual practice of real magic.
These are the rules of magic that I have learned the hard way, through continual toil, successes and failures, bright moments of ecstatic realization and accomplishment, and also depressing moments of sadness and loss. It would seem that a life dedicated to the practice of magic doesn’t preclude one from experiencing the whole spectrum of life that all other humans experience as well. Trying to change one’s life and material circumstance has inherent limitations and boundaries whether magic is deployed or not. It is human nature to look for an edge or even an easier way to accomplish some goal, but in the scheme of things, magic can only make actual probabilities occur with any reliability. If a miracle has a certain probability to occur, then magic or some other psychological mechanism can perhaps bend reality so that it does occur. It might also be possible for an outright miracle to happen, such as working magic and then winning the PowerBall Lottery, but working or focusing magic on such a possibility is more likely a wasted effort. It would be more prudent and wiser to discover a more likely path, such as a career that you could learn to love, and then work magic to help you successfully access that path.
If magic has limitations on what it can produce in the material world then what is its worth? A combination of magic, personal insight, social connections and a regimen of mundane skills and actions could give a person the appearance of living a charmed life. Even so, every human being is subject to same laws of entropy, which means that they are prone to misfortune as well as fortune, and that institutions, organizations, and also people, age and decline over time. There is no escape from death, even magicians die. The world is constantly changing, and whatever we can do to quickly adapt to those changes will indeed help make our lives more productive and rewarding. These insights are just common sense, but they are often ignored by many people, much to their future folly and misfortune.
Where a magical system that is solely applied to the material world can have limitations, a magic that is focused on knowledge, insight and wisdom has far less limitations. This is the distinction between forms of magic that follow the Thaumaturgical mechanisms and techniques and those that follow the Theurgic processes. Theurgy is the system of magic that seeks ultimately to reveal and employ the higher self in order to achieve union with the One. Realizing the truth about the self, spirit, deity and that which unites them into a singularity, are the various focusing lore associated with Theurgy. While the material situation does have some bearing on this type of magic, it concerns itself with establishing a stable life situation to eliminate distractions for the real work of obtaining full union. Theurgy only obliquely concerns itself with one’s material circumstances with the caveat that the process of spiritual and psychological evolution that it promotes will cause the manifestation of positive affirming life situations. This is particularly true as the theurgist achieves a greater awareness of that ubiquitous union both within and without him or herself.
Thaumaturgy, particularly in its modern definition, is the method through which a magician learns to adapt, cope and to some extent, master his or her material world. Complete mastery is impossible, but temporary mastery can and does occur. That achievement, based on some years of magical experience, becomes the foundation for the next step, which is Theurgy. The basic and expected evolution of magic is where the focus changes from seeking to achieve mastery of the material world to achieving mastery over one’s self-based spiritual conduit through the higher self as deity to the ultimate union of all being. While mastery of the material world is always represented by a continual work in progress, mastery of the self and one's personal illumination is something that can be achieved in a person’s lifetime. It is, as far as I am concerned, the sum and total of the great work, and in this one particular instance, legendary magic and real magic coincide.