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Magick Isn’t a Religion

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on March 25, 2010 | Comments (5)

In my previous blog post I presented the idea (for those of you looking to sources, it comes from Neuro-Linguistic Programming) that there is no failure, only feedback. If something doesn’t work it doesn’t mean that you’ve “failed.” Rather it gives you feedback on what you need to do to achieve success in the future. Of course, some of you might joke about this, wondering why you get so much darn feedback?

The simple answer is that while feedback is wonderful, it won’t do you any good at all unless you learn from it. Every week I receive questions from people asking if it’s “okay” to do something in magick. Just today I received an email from a person wanting clarification as to the position of banners that represent the elements within a magickal temple. They want my approval as if I were a biblical authority on what should be allowed.

As the title of this post indicates, magick is not a religion. There is no book that is the ultimate authority when it comes to magick, and that doing anything else is a sin that will result in a trap door immediately opening beneath you and forcing you to fall directly into some demonic hell!

To the best of my knowledge, Modern Magick was the first modern popular book to include an actual photocopy of an original page from an ancient grimoire, the Goetia. Although the information is the same as in published versions of that grimoire, the appearance is quite different. It looks like a student’s sloppy notes.

Do you really want to make some student’s notes your magickal bible?
Are you really going to say that you can’t change anything in those notes?

I wouldn’t! Dion Fortune, who wrote that there is no room for authority in occultism, would certainly agree with me on this.

This bring up the very nature of magick and magick books and teachers. None of the books or teachers (most assuredly including me!) are bibles or religious authorities who, like Ayesha in H. Rider Haggard’s classic tale She, must be obeyed. Magick is not a religion. Teachers and books are only guides. They share what has worked for others and, one hopes, has worked for them.

So what is magick? It is an experimental science. You base your experiments (rituals, spells, etc.) on what went before (which you learned from teachers and books). If what you learned works, use it. If what you learned doesn’t work, modify it until you discover what does work. As a scientist (magickian), you plan out your experiments (rites), perform them according to plan, and take notes about what you did, what happened and what were the results (in your magickal diary).

I give workshops all over. Next month I’m scheduled to give a brief talk at Chaffey College in Southern California. In May I’ll be giving workshops for the Pagan Unity Festival near the town of Burns in central Tennessee (not too far from Nashville). Usually, I begin my workshops with the letters:

T F Y Q A

This stands for Think For Yourself. Question Authority. I explain that just because I or some other book or speaker says something does not mean it will work for you. That’s not to say we’re lying or misleading. We’re trying to express the truth of our experiences the best we can. I urge people to try things out. If they work, continue to use them. If they don’t work, examine them and determine what you can change so they will work for you.

If teachers and books are not Bible-like authorities, how does a person who wants to be a magickian know what to do? Begin by using those resources as guides. Remember, they’re describing what works for others. But ultimately as Crowley (or Aiwas) wrote in The Book of the Law, “Success is your proof.”

As a magickal scientist, if what you do works, use it. If what you don’t do doesn’t work, use that information as feedback so you can modify it and discover what does work.

If all you can do is copy what others have done, you’re not being a magickian, you’re being a hero worshipper. As I always say, “Magick isn’t something you do. Magick is something you are.”

I would urge you to be a magickian and practice science not religion, magick not hero worship.

But I’m only a guide.

Reader Comments

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#1 
Written By Kyle
on March 25th, 2010 @ 9:39 pm

My problem is that I don’t do enough of magick…and it’s not my fault! I am persistent with doing my “white” magick, but for “gray” magick, I don’t get anywhere. I used it once to get a job (it worked!), but after that, I didn’t do much. I am not that picky, and there weren’t too many things I felt I needed.
Last month I decided I needed to do more gray magick, at least to be able to know, as Don says, what works, what doesn’t, and to keep up my practice.
but the tarot cards keep telling me that whatever I want is a bad idea! I tried seeing what the outcome would be for things I really wanted: turned out negative. I tweaked those things, in the hope I’d have more luck if I re-formulated my desire: again, negative. Finally, I started seeing how it’d turn out if I were to use gray magick to attain things I only kind of wanted (or seemingly innocuous things, such as improving minor areas in my life): more negative!
What gives? Last month, I gave up on gray magick because I attempted 6 different things, and the tarot cards each time said it’d be a bad idea. I gave up because I ran out of things to think of to use magick for.
I’m worried that my gray magick techniques will get rusty because any change I think I want to make, the tarot tells me would be bad to use magick to attempt. In turn, I won’t be able to know what works for me and what doesn’t, and my practice will suffer.
*sigh*

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#2 
Written By Frank
on March 26th, 2010 @ 11:14 am

93!

Magick is my method of science.
Thelema is my aim of religion.

I do not need to practice magick to be a Thelemite.
I do not need to be a Thelemite to practice magick.

Just as an example. Works with other traditions, too.

So you are absolutely right. Especially with TFYQA, thanks to Timothy Leary for this phrase ;) .

@Kyle: Magick has no colours.

“Magick isn’t something you do. Magick is something you are” is quite good, too. But I would add “Magick isn’t about changing the world, Magick is about changing you”.

93s
Frank

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#3 
Written By Blackbird "BB"
on March 26th, 2010 @ 11:20 am

I must admit, I find your post most suprising. Now I freely admit I am not a Ceremonial Magician, I am mostly a Tarot Reader, with some interest and experiance in more earth centered magick.

But it is my understanding that Ceremonial Magick is the Most Demanding, Most Exacting form of Magick, especially when (as you mentioned a Grimior) one is summoning, and communicating with Entities that presumably can be Dangerious. I expect it is that expectation that drives the Questions you Recieve, am I dont this (thing) exactly right? That said, it seems a dangerous enviroment to “Experiment” in, and why people turn to centries old Grimiors and such.

I look forward to your reply. BB.

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#4 
Written By Eric B.
on March 26th, 2010 @ 11:37 am

Wonderful blog Don. It really speaks about where I am right now in my development as someone who started with L.B.R.P.’s almost one year ago.
I respectfully disagree with the title of this blog, that magick isn’t a religion, at least for me. But I am learning as of late that I am perhaps my own High Priest.
When I began Modern Magick last spring I viewed you the way I viewed my mother who could tie my shoes in seconds compared to me who at the time had to struggle for minutes on end with little success… With awe.
Last summer when I read Franz Bardon’s books I viewed him as THE unquestionable authority on everything!! And I wanted to be just like him.
But as of late I feel like I am growing out of the hero worship phase. I don’t want to be just like Don Kraig or Franz Bardon. I want to be like me. =)
I want to spend the rest of my life working hard at being a magician. Both a powerful man and a good highly ethically developed man. You and Bardon have pointed the way and even set the example. But when I do reach that point in my development (when I can call myself a magician) I won’t be you, and I wont be Bardon, I will be me. =)

Thank you for proving to be a wonderful guide. =)

Much Love,
Eric

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#5 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on March 27th, 2010 @ 6:38 pm

Hi, Blackbird.

I think that’s a great question. Thank you for asking!

Now, if I were walking down the street and saw you walking on the other side of the street and yelled, “Hey, Grimley!” my guess is you would ignore me because I didn’t call you by the right name.

Or perhaps if I mumbled “Mfighelmbe Blackbird makgihfneln,” at most you would look over at me and wonder what I was saying and why you used my name. But in neither instance are you going to come all the way across the street and beat me up!

There are many kinds of magick. If you do some wrong, you’ll simply get no effect. With Evocation of spirits, there are basically two things you could do wrong to evoke the spirit: you could do the ritual wrong, in which case the spirit wouldn’t appear, or you could get things such as the spirit’s name or sigil wrong, in which case, once again, the spirit wouldn’t appear.

As we move into the 21st century, I think it’s time for the fear mongering done by some teachers–including some teachers who have never performed an evocation–to cease. One of the biggest threats is “if you do this ritual wrong you will__________” (fill in the blank with something horrible like “be ripped to shreds by demons” or “get the world’s worst case of hemorrhoids.”)

Books, such as the ancient grimoires or my Modern Magick give instructions that follow the tradition of what has worked for others. That’s a great place to start, but a mediocre place to finish.

I hope this answers your question.

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