There are magicians and there are those who play at magickâ€¦
I was once participating on an internet forum discussing chaos magick. One person posted that the great thing about magick [meaning chaos magick] is that you didn’t have to accomplish anything, you could just do it. I asked why go to all the bother of doing magick if you didn’t accomplish anything? I also pointed out that one of the earliest names of what is now called chaos magick was “results magick,” indicating that obtaining results through magick was the purpose of doing the magick.
He didn’t respond for a few days. I imagine several of his friends PMed him about this. Eventually, he posted that I “just didn’t get it” and refused to respond to anything I posted. I can live with that.
The Formula of Magick
An outline of how magick works is actually rather simple:
Magician does A
In this description, “A” could be a ritual, a spell, mental magick, etc.
A is the direct cause of B
In this part of the magickal formula, “B” is something that is either not known or certainly not agreed upon. In the past, “B” has included the inherent natural powers of herbs, stones and natural forces such as the wind, rain, or lightning; the actions of deities, spirits, ghosts, and demons; magickal “energy,” including what Wilhelm Reich called Orgone, etc.
B is the direct cause of C
In this instance, “C” is the goal of “A.”
Therefore, a formula that describes magick is:
If and only if A then B.
If and only if B then C.
A â€“>B â€“>C
Note that to be able to tell whether your magick works, by this formula, you have to show that A is the only cause of B, and B is the only cause of C. The problem, as indicated above, is that the concept of the nature of B has changed over time and there is currently disagreement as to the very nature of B. If we don’t agree as to what B is, there is no way to prove that A caused it or that it caused C.
As readers of this blog know, I contend that magick, in part, is a science. The challenge to proving that any particular act of magick worked is showing that your magickal act caused something that resulted in achieving the desired goal. Considering the challenges of determining the nature of B, the ability to prove a single, particular act of magick was the specific cause that achieved a goal is minimal.
So why do I contend that magick works if any specific act cannot be proven to be caused by magick? As I have stated before, the methodology for proving magick works is repetition.
With repetition you don’t need to explain how B works. Instead, you show that if A then C repeatedly over time. Some doubters will say, “But that’s just anecdotal evidence. It’s not scientific proof.” I would respectfully disagree. The repetition of experimentation is a basis of modern science. In other words, if you do magick enough times and get the desired results, it’s fair to assume that the magick works. This is especially true when you can then accuratelyÂ predict the results of the magick. That is, you predict that if you do ritual A then C will occur. You then do A and C comes to pass. Others then do A and C happens for them. This is science.
I know that every time I look through a magnifying glass (A), things look larger (C). No, I don’t know the laws of optics (B), I just know that it works.
Fly in the Ointment
Unfortunately, some people use the A â€“>B â€“>C description (consciously or unconscious) to misrepresent the very nature of magick. This misrepresentation is based on the logical fallacy that merely because event Y follows event X it is fair to assume that X caused Y. There’s even a Latin phrase for this fallacy: post hoc ergo propter hoc or “after this therefore because of this.” The problem, the proverbial fly in the ointment, is that without being able to show direct causation, Y coming after X does not prove that X, your magick, caused Y. Just because you did the ritual and achieved the magickal goal does not prove that the ritual caused the magickal goal.
Repetition and the ability to make predictions
(do this magick to get a certain result)
give evidence that your magick is effective.
If you do something one time
it ranges from challenging to virtually impossible
to prove that your magick,
and only your magick,
was the direct cause.
Magick to Help
So if you can’t prove that a specific act of magick will achieve something,
why do it?
Beyond experimentation and repetition establishing that magick does work, there are several reasons people do this. First, it’s to provide a personal sense of power and control in situations where you feel you are powerless. An example of this would be looking in a book of spells and then doing a healing ritual for a friend who is extremely ill or injured. We just have to “do something!” to give a sense of accomplishment and power to our lives. Many times, in our world, we find ourselves in positions where we lack power, not just over others, but over ourselves. Doing magick helps us acquire the feeling of power to cause change. Sometimes, we just need that feeling.
A second reason is that even if you cannot prove your magick, in a specific instance, was effective, you alsoÂ cannot prove your magick was not effective (sorry for the double negative). So on the chance that some magick might be effective, go ahead and do it.
The Dark Side of Groups
In Modern Magick, and in earlier works (The Truth About Psychic Powers, How to Avoid Psychic Fraud), I discussed the benefits and challenges of being a member of magickal groups, covens, orders, etc. There are lots of potential benefits, including learning from people with more experience and working with more magickal energy than one person can easily generate. Working magick with people in groups can be a wonderful experience.
Unfortunately, there are also challenges to working with groups, a real dark side. Sometimes, cliques develop and manipulate people to be in with them or just be outsiders. Sometimes, the leaders of such groups are more interested in personal power and control over others. They may not even be aware of the way they are turning their group into a personality cult.
Or maybe they are.
In these instances, calling people together to perform magick can be used to help the group become more of a cult and establish an “us vs. them” mentality. A form of this, known as shunning, is practiced by certain religious groups. Although not a formal magickal ritual, it does follow a set of procedures (i.e., rituals) to perform when contact is made with an “undesirable” person. The goal of this is to assure that members think of themselves as special (part of the in-group and not shunned), that like robots they will obey the leader(s), and that they won’t hear anything from individuals who might give a message that doesn’t agree with the leader(s). Shunning separates the person who doesn’t follow the rules from those who do, but more importantly, it encourages followers to stay in line with whatever the leader(s) say(s). It’s the action of a cult and cult leaders.
Several years ago, a woman I knew received an evening call from her group’s leader who invited her to a “shamanic adventure” with other “advanced members” that night. She was exhausted from her day’s work and turned it down. The next day she told me she heard that the people had an amazing and mystical time and she was disappointed she missed it. She said from that time on she was going to do whatever the group leader said. She wasn’t even going to think about it, she was just going to do it. To me, this was the sign that the group she was in was clearly a cult.
Getting members of a group to do something without thinking about it is a traditional method of cult leaders establishing control over a group. This becomes easier when the task seems good, but if you think about it, can be seen as questionable. Most cult leaders don’t want you to think about it. Just obey as the woman above was going to do. And that brings me back to Wilhelm Reich, who I mentioned above, and why he was not a cult leader.
Wilhelm Reich Next to His Cloudbuster
Wilhelm Reich (1897â€“1957) was a psychiatristÂ who believed he had discovered the energy behind all life. He called this energy Orgone. He created a device he called a “cloudbuster” that he believed would harness this energy and shoot it into the sky at clouds. He predicted this would result in the creation of rain.
In 1953, some Maine farmers hired him to produce rain to save their blueberry crops. He used it in the morning, and in the afternoon it rained. The farmers paid him for his work.
So why do so few people know about the cloudbuster? It comes down to the magickal formula If A then B then C, where B is not fully known. Reich and his assistants believed they knew how the cloudbuster worked, but not what extraneous and unwanted results it might cause. Could it be reducing rain from other areas? Could it cause a flood? Could some people be harmed, personally or financially, and sue him because of it?
They didn’t know the full extent of B, and to prevent problems, they stopped using the cloudbuster to cause rain.
The Best Laid Plansâ€¦
And that is one of the biggest challenges of working magick, even for a good purpose, without being able to fully understand and control B. It’s why I suggest doing a divination before performing magick that will affect the physical plane.
For example, we have just had a serious “Frankenstorm” strike the U.S. Northeast. Let’s say you wanted to do magick to lessen its impact or turn it away from the coast. This sounds wonderful and positive. But is it? Without an accurate divination, you can’t know.
Let’s say you’re Joe Amazing and you call on your personality cult to do magick to affect the storm. In fact, let’s even assume that you have some success. The cult members will cheer, but they forget one thing:
In order to claim any success, you have to be responsible for all the results.
Let’s look at one of the possibilities. It’s possible (but unlikely) that the storm would have turned away from the coast on its own. Your magick might have actually prevented its natural movement. Even if there were less damage from the storm than you imagined might have occurred, it might have actually done more damage than if you had done no magick or worked your magick differently. In practical terms, the thoughtless (but seemingly caring) magickal actions of the cult have at least some responsibility for the billions in damages, the lost homes and businesses, and the deaths of over 100 people. This would be especially true if Joe Amazing proclaimed that in this particular instance, your group’s magick worked.
So why would people make wild claims while not accepting the responsibility for their action? To build organizations into cults. In an earlier post I described this. If you are not a member of the group, if you dare to think differently than the group, you are “The Enemy.” As I wrote in that previous post, quoting Dantalion Jones:
â€śYou must fight with your obedience to [the cult's] Doctrine. Only through Doctrine can you purge The Enemy.â€ť
And what is this doctrine? Itâ€™s â€śwhatever the Leader wishes to put forthâ€¦”
What You Can Do
- When the leader of a group tells you to do something, ask why?
- Think for yourself. Question authority.
- Just because something sounds like it could be good, doesn’t mean it will end up good.
Do a divination before taking action.
- If the leader claims the group had success in magick, does he also acknowledge responsibility for any negative results of that magick?
- Magick to help others is a worthy and positive activity. However, magick takes place 24/7 even when you’re not consciously performing a ritual. Are your actions, in effect, countering the magick of your ritual? For example, if the leader of your group urges you to do magick to help people during a disaster, are you also urged to do something such as volunteer to provide physical assistance or give money to organizations that provide assistance? If not it’s just a cult activity to gain more power for the leader while you feel good about yourself…for nothing.
So should we not do magick because of unseen negative potential? Just the opposite is true! An important aspect of real magick is personal responsibility for your actions. The American frontiersman and congressman Davy Crockett had a motto: Be sure you’re right, then go ahead. Likewise, before doing magick, make sure you’re right.
Then go ahead.
[You can make donations to the Red Cross to help the victims of the "Frankenstorm" Sandy through iTunes, on the Red Cross' website (www.redcross.org) or you can even text REDCROSS to 90999. This will add a one-time addition to your phone bill of $10.00, a donation that will go to the Red Cross. At this time the Red Cross does not need donations of food, blankets, or clothes, they need money and blood. Please contact the Red Cross to find a local blood bank where you can make a donation.]