Llewellyn Magick Blog: The Definition of “Magick” in the 21st Century   2 comments

Greetings Readers!

As I’ve mentioned before, you have probably noticed my blog has been fairly quiet for some months now.  Of course I still make event announcements here, but my usual thoughts and theories about magick and culture have been largely absent.  The reason is because I’ve been writing blogs for Llewellyn lately.  Back when Don Kraig got sick, they asked if I (along with a number of other accomplished magicians) would submit a few guest posts to keep Kraig’s Magick Blog up and running.  Of course, once Don passed away, several of us just kept submitting blog posts – and the Magick Blog continues to this day.

Of course, I’m sure most of you already know all of this, and have likely read my posts over at Llewellyn.  However, I’m also sure some number of you are subscribed here and not over there – which means you’ve been missing out unfairly.  From the start, I should have cross-posted all of my Llewellyn blogs here – at least an excerpt with a link to the full post over on their site.  And, that is what I will do from here on out.

But first, I will make up for my past oversights by cross-posting my older Llewellyn blogs here.  If you keep up with me over there, then the next several posts will be repeats for you.  Otherwise, I hope you enjoy the material you’ve been missing for the past year!  😉



From the Llewellyn Magick Blog, March 24, 2014:

The Definition of Magick in the 21st Century

Wait! Don’t surf away yet! I know this subject—the definition of magick—has been rehashed a billion times over the years. It has been the focus of heated debates and even flame wars—and never (not once!) has a consensus been reached.

Frankly, this debate has been going on for longer than you think. It was a question during the occult revival of the 19th century. It is even tackled by the authors of the medieval grimoires. Why, I would bet real money that Egyptian and Sumerian priests used to sit around in their temples and argue the same damn points.

But that is really the point of this blog. I’m not naive enough to think we’re going to reach a consensus here. However, I do think we can add something to the conversation—especially now that we have entered the 21st century, and our relationship to magick is changing drastically. As that relationship changes, so too does our understanding of magick and what it means in our culture.

In previous years, the debate was caught up in the occultism of the late 1800s. The Age of Enlightenment had dawned, the Industrial Revolution had… revolved?… and the discipline of Science (that is, as divorced from all mystical concerns) had risen to supremacy. Psychology was a new and developing study. And absolutely anything that struck the Western mind as “occult ooga-booga” (read: pretty much any form of indigenous folk magick, voodoo, hoodoo, etc.) was firmly shown the door.

Thus, the people who were raised in that environment sought an explanation for magick that fit into their paradigm. Hence was born the “psychological” definition of magick: it’s all just a form of primitive psychology. Magick is all in your head. The spirits and gods are mere “names and faces” that we have placed on our own instincts and mental complexes. Magickal tools and considerations are just “props” that help your mind engage the magick. Chaos magick arose in this environment, and it also gave us Aleister Crowley‘s often-quoted definition:

“Magick is the science and art of causing change in conformity with Will.”

Taken at face value, I find this definition to be pointless. If any change I make (on purpose) to the world around me is “magick,” then “magick” ceases to be a useful word. If I walk outside, am I performing magick because I opened a door and changed my location? Of course not! Yet, the way many students interpret the above definition, magick ceases to be a specific discipline or craft. Electricians are performing magick. Carpenters are performing magick. The ice cream man is performing magick (and he even brings smiles to the faces of children)!

Of course, Crowley added in that word “Will,” which means there is a lot more to his definition than most students realize. He means making changes in accordance with your True Will (your Fate or Karma), and his definition is saying that any action you take toward fulfilling your True Will is a magickal act. That’s better… but it still negates “magick” as a discipline unto itself. I’ve used a lot of magick in pursuit of my True Will, but I’ve also had to do a lot of mundane stuff, too.

Today, we are leaving behind the 19th century views on magick. While the psychological definition still has its adherents—some of them quite passionate in defense of their position—there is now a counter-movement of Old Magick practitioners who find that view unsatisfying. As the world we grew up in continues to break down, economies continue to collapse, medicine and other necessities become unavailable, and ill-defined wars continue to rage across the globe, people aren’t looking for “self help occultism” the way they were twenty years ago. They want the real deal: magick that can make real change in the real world. They want magick that can keep food in their families’ bellies, a roof over their heads, and everyone alive and healthy.

I fall into that category. We’re the guys who see spirits, gods, and angels as objectively real. We find the magickal tools and considerations to be important to the technology, not just a bunch of props that can be substituted or dispensed with entirely. And because of these, we see the magickal ceremonies as vital protocols when dealing with spirits, not outdated superstitions that should be simplified, reinterpreted, or left behind. And as for those indigenous forms of magick and witchcraft, rather than turning our noses up and thinking we are somehow better than all of that, we’re actually turning toward them and learning as much as we can.

So, how does this new movement define magick? Good question, and that’s why we are having this discussion now.

To get the ball rolling, I’ll share with you the definition by which I work. In fact, it is an older definition that existed for thousands of years before the modern world. The Solomonic grimoires (a specialty of mine) were written under this definition, and I think it is time we all took a fresh look at it.

Read the Rest at:  http://www.llewellyn.com/blog/2014/3/the-definition-of-magick-in-the-21st-century/

Posted April 28, 2015 by kheph777 in llewellyn blog

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2 responses to “Llewellyn Magick Blog: The Definition of “Magick” in the 21st Century

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  1. Opening a door to change your location is indeed magick.
    not so much woowoo magic, but definitely magick.

    Too understand why, drill down into the process, see the hows, the whys. Analyse the event to find it’s magic and causal processes, look for astrological and spiritual connection.

    To the animist in a living universe every mundane event is also divine,
    How can it not be magickal?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Because I’ve only relatively recently had the good fortune and privilege to stumble upon this site, I’ll respond to a comment that’s more than 6 years old – and I’ll do it with a straight face, too!

      Don’t mind me.

      Anyway, I actually love this take!

      I’d straight-up use the COMMON letter w for “will”, in that quote by everyone’s favourite ol’ Uncle Fester Crowley*, and say that magick was the art and science of effecting change in reality through the will.

      More on that later though.
      Certainly, I think a more restricted definition of “magick” is valuable for conversation.
      But I think a more expansive definition has practical value as well; for magickal work moreso than for conversation.

      __***Restricted Definition***__
      So ON THE ONE HAND, I’m pretty sure everyone who has thought about this definitional topic has actually come to the conclusion of Father Leitch quoted below, because in my respectful opinion that conclusion is objectively true.
      “Taken at face value, I find this definition to be pointless. If any change I make (on purpose) to the world around me is “magick,” then “magick” ceases to be a useful word.”

      Just as an example of what I mean, this blog is mainly about magick, but we’re not talking about the electrician’s art, or plumbing, or the art of opening physical doors etc here.
      So ONE of our definitions of “magick”, for our practical purposes, has to be a little more restricted. “Woo woo Magic”, in other words.

      For THAT definition I’d personally use “Causing changes in Reality through Astral, Spiritual or Metaphysical means”.

      If you pray, incant, envision, spellcast, or what have you, and a change occurs in Reality in accordance with what you were seeking, I say that was Magick, for our practical purposes, and I HONESTLY suspect the whole community would be in agreement.
      (If I’m wrong I’m wrong lol)

      On the other hand, if the change occurs through known physical or mental means, eg pushing something over, or completing some mental arithmetic, I think we could agree that it’s not magickal (for current restricted, practical, and conversational purposes of the definition).

      Minds are part of reality though; what of making changes to or in them?
      “Hypnosis” per se may not be magickal in this definition, if you hypnotise another you can see and hear physically; perhaps more physical/mental.
      If you inflict it via astral projection or something then of course that would fall neatly into the “astral” section of my definition.

      All this DOES sort of leave open the question of whether or not self-hypnosis is magickal in this sense, and… I don’t really have an answer.
      Self-hypnosis is almost certainly part of magick; the effect that your thoughts have on your own conscious and subconscious mind are HARDLY irrelevant.
      I don’t personally believe for a second that it’s ALL there is to magick, though.
      I’d have to throw up my hands and give up, on that particular definitional question, at this particular point.
      “Giving up” on some aspect of the restricted definition segues nicely into my next topic though; the Expansive definition!

      __***Expansive Definition***__
      Now ON THE OTHER HAND, coming back to the take that I love and why I love it, I think there is a great deal of value in it.

      “To the animist in a living universe every mundane event is also divine,
      How can it not be magickal?”

      And further, if the entire created universe is a Thought of God, then every dealing of and with anything in it is an interaction with the Divine.

      I think that this take is PRACTICALLY USEFUL, because to me, an intentional feeling of the sacredness of the mundane, the divinity of the here and now, can be a helpful practice in focusing the mind and cultivating a conducive emotional state for prayer or magickal work.

      I’m not particularly good at this whole thing, so I need every crutch I can get – and yet I’m stubbornly not a fan of over-reliance on physical props, so the crutches I gather are often mental or idea-based.

      On the subject of mental crutches, one day the quarter-sane idea came to me that just as every cell in our bodies is an entity, an organism, maybe also every THOUGHT in our minds is also an entity, and has life.
      If every thought is a spirit, then no wonder thoughts can have power – and they most surely can!
      If every thought is a spirit, then the idea of spiritual entities that exist “in thought” and not in meat is less anomalous, less impossible, less mind-boggling.
      And everything you can use to get your mind to stop impeding itself and working against your own Result is probably a good thing…
      I try to use that crackpot idea to help myself; there is perhaps a certain emotional appeal in the thought of training one’s thoughts on the Divine, each thought itself alive, with the result that its life is dedicated to the praises of the Divine in sympathetic chorus with the Seraphim and choirs of angels…

      … and so on and so forth etc.
      Never once saw hide nor hair, nor heard one peep out of my own Guardian Angel for all that, though, so it just kinda is what it is.
      I’m more stubborn than pious anyway in daily life; rebelliousness and/or irreverence would be my first or second nature.
      Often gotta really reach for any sense of the Sacred, and I can rarely hang on to it for long.

      But yes, even if we take the definition “working with Spirits”, it can fit in this expansive conception: after all, WE are spirits!**
      Our will, and our Will, and our thoughts, all involve US, and we are spiritual entities as sure as eggs are eggs, although we’re made of meat as well.
      (At least, if one isn’t a fan of the thought that human ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ exists in some capacity, one probably doesn’t find oneself browsing a magickal blog.)

      It may benefit us to “Live magickally”; conscious of the “miracle” of life, and to “Work magic Livingly”; by Intent and Attention breathing life into every working.
      (Easier said than done.
      I’ll get back to you on that.)

      *Joke not original, but I forget where I saw it… almost certainly a “how to get banned from” (some group or other) page managed by Nick Farrell.
      ** I’d love to take credit for that one, but I’m almost sure I saw it elsewhere. Can’t immediately find it again in the Llewellyn comment section but it may be there.


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