Magic is a superior power that arises from harnessing inner power and supernatural forces and beings to effect change in the physical world. The term magic is derived from Greek, either from megus, which means “great” (as in “great” science); from magein, referring to Zoroastrianism; or from magoi, a Median tribe in Iran recognized for its magical skills, and known to the Greeks. Many systems of magic exist, each with its own procedures, rules and proscriptions.

Modern perceptions of magic lean toward dismissal of it as fancy and fraud, even something to be ridiculed. But magic lies at the heart of all esoteric traditions and can be found in mystical and religious teachings.

The esteemed occultist FRANZ BARDON said in his book The Practice of Magical Evocation (1956), “Magic is the greatest knowledge and the highest science that exists anywhere on our planet. Not only does magic teach the metaphysical laws, but also the metapsychical laws that exist and which are applicable on all planes. Since time immemorial the highest knowledge has always been known as ‘magic.’ ” Bardon said that knowledge passed on by religions is merely symbolic, but that true knowledge is contained within magic. The public often confuses magic with Sorcery. “Magic is the knowledge that teaches the practical application of the lowest laws of nature to the highest laws of spirit,” he said.

Magic is as old as humanity and had its beginnings in humankind’s attempts to control environment, survival, and destiny, either by controlling natural forces or by appealing to higher powers for help. Anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski defined magic as having three functions and three elements. The three functions are:

• to produce

• to protect

• to destroy

The three elements are:

• spells and incantations

• rites or procedures

• altered states of consciousness accomplished through fasting, meditating, chanting, visualizing symbols, sleep deprivation, dancing, staring into flames, inhaling fumes, taking drugs, and so forth.

Magic is practiced universally by skilled individuals who are either born into their powers or train themselves to acquire powers. Magic is not inherently good or evil but reflects the intent of the magician. The ethical and moral uses of magic have always been ambiguous. Generally, evil magic is associated with sorcery and Witchcraft. Throughout history, people and authorities have had an uneasy relationship with magic, depending on it and tolerating its practice while at the same time condemning it. Magic is both part of religion and a competitor of religion. It has been regarded as a science and has been discredited by science. In modern times, however, science is providing evidence in support of magic.

Magic and Liminality

Magical phenomena exist in a realm of liminality, a blurred borderland that is neither in the material world nor the spiritual world, but in both simultaneously. Liminality is a term coined by the anthropologist Arthur van Gennup to refer to the condition of being “betwixt and between.” The word comes from limen, or threshold. Change, transition, and transformation are conditions that are conducive to psi and the supernatural. Magic ritual—and ritual in general—exposes the ordinary, predictable world to the instability of the liminal world. Strange things happen. The liminal realm is considered to be a dangerous, unpredictable one. Individuals such as magicians thus are dangerous because they work in this uncertain world. As adepts they are themselves the agents of change and even chaos.

Historical Overview

The Western magical tradition is rich and complex, evolving from a mixture of magical, mystical, philosophical, and religious sources. It incorporates the low magic of spellcasting and Divination, the dark magic of sorcery and witchcraft, and the high magic of spiritual enlightenment that is closer to mysticism than to spell-casting. Some of the major streams of influence are:

Egyptian Magic.

Magic played an important role in ancient Egypt, and the magic of the Egyptians became important in the development of Western ritual magic. Egyptian priests were skilled in magical arts of spell-casting, divination, NECROMANCY, the making of Amulets and TalismanS, the procuring and sending of dreams, the use of magical figures similar to Poppets, and the use of magic in the practice of medicine. Illnesses were believed to be caused by a host of DEMONS who controlled various parts of the human body; thus cures involved EXORCISMS. The mummification of the dead was done according to precise ritual magic to ensure safe passage to the afterlife. The Egyptian Book of the Dead can be seen as a magical handbook of preparation for navigation through judgment into Amenti, the Underworld domain of Osiris, lord of the dead. In Hellenistic times, Egyptian magic was mixed with classical magic.

Especially important to Egyptian magic was the proper use of words and names of power. Some Incantations involved strings of names, some incomprehensible, having been borrowed from other cultures. The use of such names evolved into the BARBAROUS names of ritual magic.

The use of Egyptian magical elements in Western ritual magic gained favour during the peak of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in the late 19th century. Members of the Golden Dawn who were interested in Egyptian magic saw the Book of the Dead not just as a collection of funerary Spells for the dead but as a handbook of Initiation. An Egyptian magical papyrus served as the basis for the Golden’s Dawn’s BORNLESS Ritual, which is intended to bring deep contact with one’s Holy Guardian Angel, or Higher Self. ALEISTER CROWLEY added his own elaboration to the bornless ritual. Crowley also brought increased attention to Egyptian magic in his Book of the Law, which he channeled while in Egypt and which proclaimed the dawn of the Aeon of Horus, the Crowned and Conquering Child.

Greek and Roman Magic.

The Greek and Roman worlds teemed with magic. Power was channeled from a host of sources: deities, spirits called DAIMONES, celestial INTELLIGENCES, and the dead. Everything was connected by sympathetic bonds that enabled magical action at a distance. The Hermetic principle that the microcosm reflects the macrocosm (“As above, so below”) was espoused in variations by Pythagoreans, Plantonists, and Stoicists.

All magical arts were practiced; the Greeks were especially interested in destiny and devoted great attention to the Prophecy of Oracles and to the fate forecast by the stars in a horoscope. Both Greeks and Romans practiced numerous forms of divination, especially lot casting and the examination of signs in nature. Dreams were consulted, especially for healing. Cursing one’s competitors and enemies was routine in daily life. Incantations involved long strings of magical words, often nonsensical, which had to be precisely pronounced along with the correct gestures.

An exalted form of magic, theurgia, has religious overtones and is akin to ritual magic. The Neoplatonists favoured theurgia, believing that they could bring divine powers to Earth and ascend their souls to heaven.

In Natural History, Pliny asserts that all magic originated in medicine in the search for cures. The magical workings of the heavens, especially the Moon, both caused and cured illnesses. In addition, demons flying through the air and shooting arrows stirred up poisonous vapors that caused plagues and pestilence.

Jewish Magic.

The early Jews were steeped in magical lore, much of which was borrowed and adapted from the magical practices of the Canaanites, Babylonians, Egyptians, and later Hellenistic-Gnostic influences. Magic was not organized into systems but rather was a collection of beliefs and practices chiefly concerning protection from demons and the procuring of blessings. As early as the first century C.E., magical lore was attributed to the wisdom of King SOLOMON. This lore provided the basis for the later GRIMOIRE, the Key of Solomon, the most important of the old handbooks of Western magic.

According to Jewish lore, the magical arts were taught to humans by angels, chiefly the Watchers, who fell from God’s grace when they departed heaven to cohabit with human women. The gift was dubious, for the Tanakh—the Old Testament—condemns sorcery, the use of spirits, and various forms of magic, such as ENCHANTMENT, SHAPESHIFTING, divination, mediumship, and necromancy.

Talmudic law reinterpreted sorcery. Magic requiring the help of demons was forbidden and was punishable by death. Magic that did not require the help of demons was still forbidden but received lesser punishments. The distinction between the two often was not clear. Natural magic involving the “Laws of Creation” was tacitly permitted. Later the use of mystical names of God and angels and verses of scripture were incorporated into incantations.

Magic was organized into systems in about 500 C.E., at about the same time as the development of Merkabah mysticism, a precursor to the Kabbalah. Merkabah mystics performed elaborate rituals of purification, contemplation of the sacred and magical properties of letters and Numbers, the recitation of sacred names, and the use of amulets, SEALS, and talismans. The trance recitation of long incantations of names was similar to the Egyptians’ “barbarous names” in that many were corruptions of names of deities and angels.

By the Middle Ages, Jewish magic depended almost entirely on the use of names and interventions of spirits. The kabbalah, a body of esoteric teachings dating to about the 10th century and in full bloom by the 13th century, does not forbid magic but warns of the dangers of it. Only the most virtuous persons should perform magic and should do so only in times of public emergency and need, never for private gain. How strictly these admonitions were followed is questionable. A practical kabbalah of magical procedures developed from about the 14th century on. Kabbalists were divided on the issue of whether or not one could invoke demons as well as angels.

Black magic is called apocryphal science in the kabbalah. It is strictly forbidden, and only theoretical knowledge is permitted. Those who choose to practice it become sorcerers in the thrall of fallen angels.

By the Middle Ages, Jews were renowned among Christians as magical adepts. These adepts were not professional magicians, but were rabbis, doctors, philosophers, and teachers and students of oral transmission of mystical and esoteric knowledge.

Christian Magic.

Like Judaism, Christianity held paradoxical attitudes toward magic. In general, magic was looked upon with disfavour—the practices of non-Christians that interfered with the new religion. Manipulative “low” magic was forbidden, but helpful magic, such as for healing, was practiced within certain limits. Jesus performed magical acts, but they were called MIRACLES made possible by his divine nature. The early church fathers especially opposed divination, which took one’s destiny out of the hands of the church.

Christian magic emphasized nature, such as herbal lore, and placed importance on mystical names. But the body of Christ, as represented by the Eucharist, held the biggest magic, as did the name of Jesus and relics (body parts and possessions) of saints.

Medieval Europe was rife with magic of all sorts: folk practitioners, wizards, cunning men and women, alchemists, and others. The practical kabbalah, Hermetic principles, Gnostic and Neoplatonic lore, Christian elements, and pagan elements came together in syncretic mixtures. A Western kabbalah emerged that became the basis for Western ritual magic. Magical handbooks called grimoires circulated.

The medieval church frowned upon magic of all sorts:

• divination of all kinds

• conjuration of spirits

• necromancy

• weaving and binding magic, in which spells were imbued into knots and fabric

• love magic and any other magic involving potions, poppets, and so forth

• magical medical remedies

The populace relied on the folk magic of local practitioners. Many possessed natural healing and psychic abilities and practiced home-grown magic that was passed down orally through generations. The church tolerated magic that was adequately christianized, such as through the substitution of the names of Jesus, Mary, and angels for pagan deities and spirits; the use of the CROSS, holy water, and the Eucharist; and incantations that were more like PRAYERS.

Folk magicians were often feared, and if their spellcasting or divination failed, they were persecuted. Any bad luck was liable to be blamed on the black magic or witchcraft of a rival or enemy.

The Inquisition capitalized on fear. In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII made witchcraft a heresy, thereby making the persecution of any enemy of the church easy. Witchcraft was not merely black magic but was devil worship, a servant to Satan’s grand plan to subvert souls. A “witch craze” swept Europe and reached across the Atlantic to the American colonies. Thousands of persons were executed.

The witch hysteria died in the advance of the scientific revolution of the 17th century. Though many great scientists of the day were versed in alchemy and the principles of magic, the importance of the latter two declined.

Alchemy and Esoteric Orders.

Alchemy—the quest for perfection—entered mainstream Europe in about the 12th century. Western alchemy is based on Hermetic philosophy, that cosmic forces govern all things in creation and that the material world—the microcosm—reflects the heavenly world or the macrocosm. Thus all things in creation have the germ of perfection within them and evolve naturally from a base and impure state to a state of perfection. The Hermetic axiom of the Emerald Tablet, “As above, so below,” expresses this philosophy.

In medieval Europe, alchemy was part of medicine not only for cures but also for substances that would restore youth and lengthen life. Alchemists sought to speed the natural evolution of perfection through mysterious chemical processes that also involved magical concepts of the inherent magical properties both in natural things and in the magical workings of the cosmos. Perfection was accomplished through the production of the mysterious Philosopher’s Stone, an agent that had the power to transmute the impure to the pure.

Alchemy was corrupted by greed: the desire to create quick wealth by turning base metals into gold and silver. Certain alchemists were PUFFERS, men who labored with billows in their stinking laboratories trying to make treasure.

True alchemy was a more spiritual pursuit: the great work of perfecting the human being through enlightenment. Spiritual alchemy was practiced by esoteric orders and brotherhoods, most notably the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons, who in turn influenced the later development of ritual magic.

The 17th century ushered in the era of science and brought the decline of interest in magic. Science explained the workings of the world by new laws. The rise of cities and technology removed people from the magic of nature. By the beginning of the 18th century, magic was no longer a major force, except in personal folk practices.

The Occult Revival.

In the 19th century, a revival of interest in occultism and magic occurred, centered in and spreading out from France through Eliphas Levi, “Papus” (Gerard Encausse), and others. Levi’s works were particularly influential and were translated into English by Arthur Edward Waite. Levi drew together the kabbalah, Hermeticism, and magic as the three occult sciences that lead to truth. He described the kabbalah as the “mathematics of human thought” that answers all questions through numbers. Magic is the knowledge of the secret laws and powers of nature and the universe. Of Hermeticism, he said in The Book of Splendours:

Hermeticism is the science of nature hidden in the hieroglyphics and symbols of the ancient world. It is the search for the principle of life, along with the dream (for those who have not yet achieved it) of accomplishing the great work, which is the reproduction of the divine, natural fire which creates and recreates beings.

Levi and others could see the ideal marriage in magic and mysticism as the means to find perfection and God. But at the same time as the occult revival, the new world of science was taking the two realms apart. The Christian church continued to drive in its own wedge in its efforts to separate—and discredit—pagan magic from the magic– mysticism of the Christian faith. It would be left to secular esoteric and magical orders to keep the flame of real magic alive.

In the late 19th century, magical fraternities and lodges rose in prominence, the best known of which was the esoteric Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in England. The Golden Dawn was founded by Rosicrucians and Freemasons who were also familiar with the Eastern philosophy taught by the Theosophical Society. It was not originally intended to be a magical order—it taught only theoretical magic in its outer order—but eventually its inner order taught and practiced the magical arts as well as rituals of high magic. The rituals systematized by the Golden Dawn influenced much of the magical work that was yet to unfold.

Thelemic Magic.

A considerable contribution to ritual magic was made by Aleister Crowley, who was already well versed in the subject by the time he was initiated into the Golden Dawn in 1898. Crowley’s oversized personality could not be contained by the Golden Dawn, and he was expelled two years later. For a time he lived with Allan Bennett, who introduced him to Eastern mysticism. Crowley incorporated Eastern techniques, especially for breathing, into his practices, along with sex and drugs. He expanded upon Golden Dawn rituals.

His most significant magical innovation is his Law of Thelema: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” The Thelemic law was dictated to an entranced Crowley in 1909 in Egypt by an emissary of the god Horus named AIWASS. The Book of the Law lays out the emergence of the New Aeon of Horus, for which Crowley was to be the chief prophet. Everything springs from the Thelemic law, and magic is the “art and science of causing change to occur in conformity with Will.” The individual is sovereign and responsible only to himself. The proper use of will raises the individual to the highest purpose, not a selfish purpose.

Crowley preferred to spell magic with a k to distinguish it from the low magic of spell-casting and sorcery. He said that “the laws of Magick are the laws of Nature” and that better effect is obtained by a group than an individual: “There is no doubt that an assemblage of persons who really are in harmony can much more easily produce an effect than a magician working by himself.”

Crowley understood that magic works forward and backward in time, which later would be demonstrated in quantum physics. Causality is complex, a force at play in a web of forces, he said. The projection of a magician’s will does not necessarily precede the effect or result of the projection. In Magick in Theory and Practice he uses the example of using magic to induce a person in Paris to send him a letter in England. The ritual is performed one evening, and the letter arrives the next morning—impossibly soon, it would seem, to have been the effect of the ritual. However, the cause of doing the magical work is the cause of the action, and there is no reason why one should precede the other, Crowley said.

Modern Magic.

In the 20th century, occult teachings were carried on by adepts such as Bardon, ISRAEL REGARDIE, and WILLIAM GRAY. Participation in ceremonial magic went deeper underground. In rural areas practitioners of folk magic continued to work. Ritual magic was done increasingly behind closed doors. On a popular level magic was seen as illusory and superstitious, not “real”—Mickey Mouse in a wizard’s hat commanding brooms to carry water. Magic was perceived as the equivalent of stage magic tricks, not a real power operating in the physical and spiritual worlds.

In the latter part of the 20th century, a renewed interest in spirituality and esotericism brought real magic back into the open. The new religions of Wicca and Paganism especially reacquainted the public with the concepts and principles of magic. In the media and arts, the image of magic has changed from negative to increasingly positive. (See HARRY POTTER.) Novels, films, and television show feature characters who possess magical powers that are used for good. Witches, magicians, shape-shifters, gods, angels, demons, vampires, and others battle it out magically for control.

All things eventually come full circle, and it is science that has turned a new light on magic and its validity. Four areas are particularly important: psychical research, alternative healing, quantum physics, and chaos theory.

Psychical research:

Scientific inquiry into paranormal phenomena began in earnest in the 19th century. In 1888 the Society for Psychical Research (SPR)was founded in England with the object of finding evidence for survival after death. This object led researchers into telepathy, cl airvoyance, psychokinesis (PK), dreams, precognition, retrocognition, extrasensory perception (ESP), out-of-body travel, and mental and physical mediumship—in short, what magicians would consider the practical magical arts and what mystics would consider to be natural supernormal powers made accessible by enlightened consciousness. This research, which was furthered by similar organizations around the world, provided a new look into the powers of the mind and the ability of consciousness to act outside the physical body and outside of linear time. Although the protocols for hard scientific proof remain elusive, parapsychologists, as they are known today, have demonstrated repeatedly in controlled experiments that psi—a term for both ESP and PK— exists and that consciousness operates nonlocally. In addition, researchers noted the “experimenter effect”: that the attitudes and beliefs of the experimenter and the subjects influence the outcome of experiments.

Alternative healing:

The mind-body connection and the ability of the mind to influence matter has contributed to an increase in the research and practice of alternative, or complementary, healing and health therapies. Psychical researchers demonstrated the effects of prayer at a distance, and similar experiments were carried into the medical field. Stripped of its religious aspects, prayer is a magical act—a projection of THOUGHT, WILL, and IMAGINATION in a petition to higher (cosmic) power for change. Medical professionals have found that imagery— comparable in magic to the use of Symbols—can play a significant role in health. Intentionality—the direction of one’s thoughts, beliefs, and intents—became a focus of research. Intentionality has been shown to impact the course of healing. Mystical traditions have long taught that thought—in other words, our intentionality—creates reality. Call it intentionality or magic; the fundamental principles are the same.

Quantum physics: Newtonian physics holds that everything in the universe operates according to a set of laws and that space and time are linear. Newtonian physics defined the scientific world view until the 20th century when Albert Einstein demonstrated that space and time are curved. Quantum physics, of which Einstein was also a part, further dismantled the Newtonian view. In quantum physics the subatomic world seems a strange place. There is no such thing as discrete observation: The very act of observing changes the thing being observed. Everything is interconnected. Things exist as probabilities until they are observed. For example, an electron has no single “place” but exists in a cloud of probabilities, everywhere at once, until observation fixes it in a location. Particles can jump from one point to another without actually moving through the space between points— the so-called quantum leap. These behaviors in the subatomic world were thought not to apply to matter on a larger scale.

Chaos theory:

According to fractals as found in chaos theory, which is the study of mathematical principles governing organic and complex phenomena, smallscale fractal patterns look the same as large-scale fractal patterns. This expresses the ancient Hermetic axiom of the Emerald Tablet, “As above, so below”: The microcosm and the macrocosm reflect each other. Thus, large-scale phenomena involving teleportation, time travel, precognition, telepathy, psychokinesis, and other seemingly “magical” might indeed be explainable.

In the universe of the magician, everything in creation is interconnected. Consciousness affects matter, acts at a distance and moves backward and forward in time. Magic exerts forces on probabilities, manifesting or fixing them into the realm of matter.

Types of Magic

Though magic itself is neutral, practitioners often distinguish between good, or white magic and bad, or black magic—though such distinctions are subjective. Bardon divided magic into three types:

• Lower magic, which deals with the laws of nature and control of forces in nature, such as the Elements

• Intermediate magic, which deals with the laws of human beings in the microcosm, and how the microcosm can be influenced

• Higher magic, which deals with the universal laws of the macrocosm and how they can be controlled

Other types of magic are known by their distinguishing characteristics.

Black Magic.

Black magic is used for malevolent purposes—to harm or to kill. According to tradition, black magic is accomplished with the aid of demonic entities. Other terms for it are goetic magic or goetia. Levi said in The History of Magic, “Black Magic may be defined as the art of inducing artificial mania in ourselves and in others; but it is also above all the science of poisoning.”

Waite termed black magic as the utterance of words and names of power for “unlawful purposes” and “the realm of delusion and nightmare, though phenomenal enough in its results.” It involves communing with demons and evil spirits for materialistic gain or harmful purpose. In The Book of Black Magic and of Pacts, Waite said that black magic is not a profane rendition of religion, and:

. . . it is not to do outrage to God in the interests of diabolism, but to derive power and virtue from above for the more successful control of Evil Spirits, and this obtains indifferently whether the purpose of the operator be otherwise lawful or not. . . . God acknowledged and invoked by Goetic Magic is not the Principle of Evil, as the myth of modern Satanism supposes, but the “terrible and venerable Deity” who destroyed the power of the rebellious angels, the Jehovah of the Jewish rituals and the Trinity of the Christian magical cycle.

Black magic is associated with sorcery and witchcraft. The Christian church associated pagan and folk magic as “black magic.”

Ceremonial Magic.

Ceremonial magic is a term for ritual magic (see below) aimed at spiritual enlightenment.

Chaos Magic. Chaos magic developed in the 1960s that dispenses with the pomp and ceremony of ritual magic and evocation of gods and spirits. AUSTIN OSMAN SPARE is considered the “father” of chaos magic for his emphasis on the power of the subconscious mind and his system of Sigils. Chaos magic is not about disorder, as the name might imply, but rather focuses on order that is beyond conscious understanding. It combines elements of Eastern mysticism and Western ritual magic. The practitioner summons power from deep within the subconscious rather than calling upon the power of outside agencies. Ritual is used to evoke images from the subconscious and to release magical power.

Ray Sherwin developed chaos magic theory and early rituals. With Julian Carroll, Sherwin formed a “Circle of Chaos” for interested practitioners in England. Peter J. Carroll wrote Liber Null and Psychonaut, chaos magick training manuals, and was a leader in the formation of the Initiates of Thanateros in 1977, the primary chaos magic organization.

Liber Null—half of which is devoted to the black arts, a “natural inclination” of humans—teaches that magical abilities are attained through altered states of consciousness, which can be learned “without any symbolic system except reality itself.” Psychonaut is intended for group magic and shamanic practice.

Carroll states that chaos is the life force of the universe and is not human-hearted; therefore, the wizard, or magician, cannot be human-hearted when he seeks to tap into this power. He must perform “monstrous and arbitrary acts” to push past his limitations, for only in extremes can the spirit, or Kia, discover itself.

Composite Magic.

Composite magic combines various religious influences, for example, Christian and Jewish elements. Composite magic is found in some grimoires. Practical magic based on the Western kabbalah is a type of composite magic.

Gray Magic.

Gray magic is a term sometimes applied to the morally ambiguous and subjective nature of magical power. For example, a curse might be black magic from one perspective, but if it is used to stop an evil, then it is considered justifiable and falls into the realm of gray magic, perhaps even good magic. In ancient times, the moral and ethical uses of magic were often quite ambiguous. Curses were regularly made against enemies and rivals of all sorts as supernatural means by which people sought revenge and tried to gain advantage.

High Magic. High magic is a term for ceremonial magic or ritual magic (see below) aimed at spiritual enlightenment.

Folk Magic. Local traditions of folk magic address casting Spells for healing, luck, protection, and so forth. Folk magic blends other forms of magic, often with mixed religious elements. Folk magic remedies and prescriptions are handed down in oral traditions and in small handbooks.

Natural Magic.

Magic based on nature makes use of herbs, stones, crystals, the commanding of the elements and the influences of planets and stars. Natural magic draws on the inherent magical properties of things. Philters, potions, powders, OINTMENTS, and so forth are based on natural magic recipes combined with folk magic incantations and charms.

Practical Magic. Practical magic is a term used for applied magical and psychic arts, such as clairvoyance, divination and prophecy, Astral Travel, healing, and spell-casting. Practical magic makes use of many techniques in other forms of magic.

Ritual Magic. Also called ceremonial magic and high magic, ritual magic is a Western occult discipline that is part of the “Great Work”—spiritual enlightenment and self-mastery, and, in the highest sense, union with God or the Godhead. Through magical ritual, the initiate seeks to purify himself as a channel for divine Light dedicated to the service of the divine and humanity. In Tree of Life, Israel Regardie describes ritual magic as “a spiritual science. It is a technical system of training which has a divine objective, rather than a mundane terrestrial one.”

Ritual magic is highly disciplined. The initiate must become skilled in meditation, concentration, and visualization and the ability to focus thought, will, and imagination. Other necessary skills involve proficiency in rituals, with proper uses of magical tools, symbols, sigils and other accoutrements; and proficiency in at least some forms of practical magic. The initiate must develop inner plane contacts with gods, angels, and entities and learn how to access and navigate in the astral plane. With sufficient practice the magician can dispense with the physical and work entirely on the inner planes within an interior magic circle.

Performing rituals alone does not guarantee the success of ritual magic. A crucial ingredient is the ability of the magician to raise intense enthusiasm, even frenzy, that augments the release of magical power in a ritual.

Enthusiastic or frenzied energy can determine the success of any kind of magic. Francis Barrett observed in The Magus, “The reason why exorcisms, charms, incantations, etc. do sometimes fail of their desired effect, it is because the unexcited mind or spirit of the exorcist renders the words dull or ineffectual.”

Ritual magic is practiced in groups, such as lodges, which have closed memberships; by fellowships; and in solitary form by individuals, usually with the help of a mentor. Most Western ritual magic follows the tradition honed by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

Sympathetic Magic. Sympathetic magic is exerted at a distance through associations that establish a connection for the flow of power. One of the best-known sympathetic magic tools is the poppet, a doll, that substitutes for a person. The connection is strengthened by attaching to the doll photographs, hair, or personal objects of the victim.

Anything can be used to establish a sympathetic connection. The best items are from a person’s body, such as HAIR AND NAIL CLIPPINGS. Personal possessions or any object handled by a person can be used. A gift can be magically charged and entered into a home or place as a magical Trojan horse. Australian aborigines put sharp pebbles or ground glass in the footprints of enemies as sympathetic magic to weaken and destroy them. The Ojibwa use a straw effigy to drive evil away from their communities. If a member has a dream of disaster, a straw man is erected that substitutes for the trouble. The people eat, smoke tobacco, and ask for blessings. They attack the straw effigy, shooting it and clubbing it until it is in pieces. The remains are burned.

Transcendental Magic.

Eliphas Levi used “transcendental magic” to describe ritual magic. “Magic is a science,” Levi said. “To abuse it is to lose it, and it is also to destroy oneself.” Waite said that transcendental magic is not the equivalent of transcendental philosophy, nor is it philosophical in nature. It does not involve black magic, or trafficking with evil spirits for evil purposes, except in cases of exorcism.

Transcendental rituals are divine and religious, with spiritual and moral counsels. The Arbatel of Magic, a grimoire, emphasizes meditation, love of God and adherence to the virtues as the best ways to practice magical arts.

White Magic. White magic is used for positive goals, such as healing, blessings, good luck, and abundance. White magic can involve any form of magic when used for beneficence.

The Future of Magic

The powers called magic have never ceased to exist, despite the efforts to dismiss them as superstition, ignorance, fraud, and illusion. Magic has been rediscovered in new terminology, with words that are more comfortable in modern times, such as psi, intuition, and intentionality. The trappings may change, but the underlying principles remain the same. In its reinvented forms, magic has become more democratic, available to everyone and not a select few initiates. Inner powers are inherent, inborn in all humans. What was once magic will become more a part of daily life.


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  • Thomas, Keith. Religion & the Decline of Magic. New York: Scribners, 1971.
  • The Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley Copyright © 2006 by Visionary Living, Inc.