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Magic Vs. Magick

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on May 27, 2010 | Comments (9)

Most people reading this will know that adding the “k” to “magic” is not merely an affectation. Rather, it is a way to discriminate between the entertainment known for pulling rabbits out of hats (magic) and techniques for harnessing internal and external energies that will help us change ourselves and our environment (magick). I like to define the difference simply as “Magic is an attempt to imitate magick, by artificial means, as part of entertainment.” Although the spelling with the “k” has a long history (there was a time when manuscript copyists were paid by the letter, resulting in the many words with needless double and multiple letters), it was Aleister Crowley who is credited with using the spelling to mark this difference.

Skeptic Vs. Debunker

A skeptic is a person who wants proof of something before accepting its reality. I believe that all people who practice magick should be skeptics. A debunker, on the other hand, is a person who has a particular materialist mindset and will do anything and everything to disprove any event or practice that does not fit into his or her narrow view. Although some debunkers are skeptics, most debunkers are not (even though they may call themselves skeptics). They’ve made up their minds about what is real before they look at any phenomenon. In fact, that is the reverse of true skepticism.

Once, when I was the new Editor-In-Chief of FATE magazine, we ran an article on a case of spontaneous human combustion. After it appeared, we received a letter from some debunkers (they called themselves “skeptics”). They had been frequent contributors to FATE and they claimed they had debunked the case in an article published before I became the Editor-In-Chief. I looked over the article they named.

Did they investigate the site of the case?…..No.
Did they interview anyone?……………………..No.
Did they look at the police report?…………..No.

How, then, were they able to do their debunking? In their article they revealed their secret:
They talked about it over the phone!

I published their letter along with my revelation about their “debunking.” They chose to never write for FATE again.

A Brief History of Debunking

Some magicians (entertainers) make great debunkers because of their knowledge of how the imitation of real magick is done. One of the first books on magic, The Discoverie of Witchcraft, published in 1584, revealed how tricks were done. (It also revealed that some attacks on Witches used tricks to condemn women.) The real equating of magician entertainers with debunking begins with Houdini. Although the myth he presented was that he was looking to contact his mother but only found frauds, the truth is that he had once worked as a fake medium and used his debunking to enhance his diminishing career. Joseph Rinn, a magician contemporary with Houdini, revealed in his book Sixty Years of Psychical Research: Houdini and I Among the Spiritualists, that Houdini only debunked the obvious frauds and left the difficult work to Rinn. In one of his most famous debunkings, Houdini’s assistant at the time of the events later admitted that Houdini had planted false evidence on the medium he was debunking.

Today, debunkers have attacked people they disagree with, going so far as to lie and ruin careers. One of the persons who has been debunked is one of the most revered spiritual leaders in all of India, Sathya Sai Baba. Debunkers have claimed that small trinkets and ash (vibhuti) he produces are not miracles, they’re just sleight of hand.

The Failure of Debunking

This illustrates the inherent failure of debunking. On one hand, debunking plays a valuable service. Perhaps the best known contemporary debunker, “The Amazing Randi,” debunked a well-known evangelist who was using a tiny radio receiver in his ear to get messages from his wife, telling him information about people in the audience that had been gathered earlier. He had used this to bilk people out of millions of dollars. This debunking was good.

On the other hand, Sai Baba has built schools, hospitals, and provided fresh drinking water to over 700 villages in rural India. Does he do magic tricks to help convince people he has powers? It seems so. Is he using this belief to help people? He has been responsible for helping educate, provide medicine and doctors and fresh water for millions of people. Is debunking and denouncing him good? I’m not so sure.

Magic Vs. Magick

Magic and Magick have not always been at odds. In the past, religious leaders have used magic to enhance the spiritual/magickal experience. There is evidence of shamans using tricks to help people develop altered states of consciousness. There is evidence of statues of deities with secret tubes that would allow them to “speak” at special moments during rituals. Magic, in my opinion, can be used to enhance magick.

More and more magicians are seeking to add a spiritual focus to their work. Their illusions aid people in accepting the spiritual. They allow people to develop a strong belief that magick can be real. With this attitude, the practice of real magick becomes more successful.

Although we often see magicians in the media debunking anything that doesn’t fit into their narrow mindset, the vast majority of magicians are not debunkers at all. Many are using magic to encourage spiritual practices and enhance magickal rites.

Is that wrong? As long as the Magickian is willing to tell inquirers that he or she uses magic to enhance the feelings and emotions involved with magick, I see no reason that it’s different than using candles for lighting or music to set a mood.

Magic does not have to be opposed to magick. Originally they began as partners for spirituality. That seems to be happening more and more again.

What do you think?

Is it okay to use magic to enhance the effects of magickal rituals and ceremonies?

Can they be partners or should magicians always be opposed to magickians?

Share what you think in the comments section.

Reader Comments

Written By Scott
on May 27th, 2010 @ 6:34 pm

Interesting article! I like Eugene Burgers take on the importance of magic to the human experience. Coming from a spiritual background himself I think he has found a profound place for magic in 21 st century culture. As Im sure you know he seems to see magic as a way to help create a sense of “magick” in a world quickly losing any sense of mystery.

I am also interested in Max Maven’s somewhat ambiguous take on the subject. His comments in the book “Spirit Magic” on performing “actual seances” are interesting.

These bizzarists are a fresh breath from the panting foaming cult of the rational represented by Penn and Teller and Randi, guys I respect but I can;t help but feel thet they are presumptuous and misguided in their efforts to “free us.”

Its funny how bizzarists are starting to use the “magick” spelling.

Written By Kelsu
on May 28th, 2010 @ 8:20 pm

We should differentiate between illusions and Magick.

Written By Victor
on June 2nd, 2010 @ 3:55 am

As both a magician and a magickian, I find that both magic and magick can be revealing and enlightening. Once, after performing a haunted key routine for a random spectator, I was forced to inform the gentleman (who was quite hysterical after my bizzarist patter and subsequent turning of the key) that it was all a trick. He calmed down but I was shocked by the reaction — a near panic — which certainly resulted in two altered states of conscious: his and mine!
Magic can reveal things to us about the human mind and the nature of ego that magick can not. Magick seeks to transcend the ego and make a connection with the Divine Mind. Magic seeks to challenge the normal, waking reality of the spectator.
On a passing note of interest, Magic does not exist for the magician, only the spectator; for the magician knows the secret of the effect. On the other hand, magick does not exist for the spectator, only for the magickian for it is a subjective experience.

Written By Rose
on January 23rd, 2011 @ 1:46 am

I disagree. I think using the “k” is gimmicky and artificial. Like the word witch, let’s take back the word MAGIC. Let us use “illusion” and “magick entertainment” to describe what we see on a stage.

The word magic come from the feminine form of the ancient Greek term magos meaning “one of the learned and priestly class.” This is based in the old Persian magush, “to be able, to have power.” Let’s keep our power. Let’s keep our MAGIC.

Written By Kathy
on September 14th, 2013 @ 1:28 pm

Do you know what… after reading all of this fascination information about magic and magick… I am still now not sure if I can place favoritism on either one…. for some reason I have this consciousness that likes to wrapped all up together in neat little package and call it a gift to open with heartfelt desire to experience what is inside… knowing that it is all interesting and it is the inspiration gained from either uses of magic and magick……. It feels wrong to me for someone to try ad debunk something just for the upper hand in their own magic/magick show as to control a certain outcome or agenda in a the way to never let a certain group or persons light to be shown as to not let their hearts and minds to expand and be able to go even further in creating a more expansive magic/magick show.

Written By lashaun
on September 20th, 2013 @ 11:48 am

This was helpful.

When you see the spelling majic–does that have a different origin or purpose?

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on September 20th, 2013 @ 12:05 pm

Thanks for your question.

Usually (although not always) people who use spelling such as “majic” (or majik or majick or something else) are either differentiating what they do from:
1) Entertaining magic tricks
2) Other styles of magick
3) Magick as practiced by other groups

Written By TPW
on December 19th, 2013 @ 11:26 am

I have a number of older Llewellyn books that use the spelling “magic” throughout, and one that uses it almost everywhere (The Magical Household, which sports a banner proclaiming it as part of “Llewellyn’s Practical Magick Series”). I think the publisher’s decision to change the spelling must have happened sometime between that book’s publication date (1987) and the seventh printing (1991), which I own.

There are several reasons why I prefer the five-letter spelling, the most obvious of which is understandably missed by a print publisher: phonetics. There is no difference to the ear between “magic” and “magick,” so it fails to draw any distinction therefrom. The added “k” also runs into trouble when one attempts to use other forms of the word, “magickian” being the most challenging. How does one pronounce that, exactly? And how does one prevent the listener from laughing at the attempt?

From a linguistic standpoint, “magick” would be pronounced with a hard G, as in “guest.” The “k” is more than cosmetic, but less than helpful.

The fact that Crowley added the “k” should be reason enough to avoid its use. The man made stuff up without regard to rules of language construction, or much else. His life and times are also associated with a tremendous amount of controversial material, some of it true, some of it not; those only passingly familiar with the man will often assume the worst. As purveyors of information for Wiccans and Wiccanish Pagans, the publisher should be well aware that Pagans also are subject to judgments based upon false information, and that we do not need to carry Crowley’s water in addition to our own.

I echo the sentiments of those commenters who feel it’s more appropriate to reclaim a perfectly valid word than it is to use a made-up one in its place. Making things up is another activity that practitioners of magic are often accused of, and since the spelling is made up, it more or less validates those claims.

Although I doubt the publisher will make an about-face on this issue, I remain hopeful.

Written By Bob Colsen
on January 23rd, 2015 @ 6:21 pm

More and more magicians are seeking to add a spiritual focus to their work. Their illusions aid people in accepting the spiritual. They allow people to develop a strong belief that magick can be real. With this attitude, the practice of real magick becomes more successful.

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