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A False Choice

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on May 28, 2013 | Comments (10)

Logic that is Illogical

The psychology of argumentation and public speaking is filled with clever tricks. One that you’ll often see is the setting up of a false choice between two possibilities. In philosophical logic this is expressed by saying: “Either A or not-A, you can’t have both.” For example, a person is either pregnant or not. Nobody can be a “little bit pregnant.”

But sometimes, the answer to a question is not yes or no, left or right, or a similar clear choice. “You’re with us or you’re against us!” shouts the politician. But why can’t I be with you on some things and against you on others? A modern presentation of this is the approach of some politicians who say, “Either you’re for smaller government or you’re for bigger tax and spend government.” Personally, I’m for a right sized government meaning that where the government isn’t needed it should be made smaller or even eliminated, and where government is needed it should be at its most effective size, and neither smaller nor bigger than that.

I guess I’m a bit of a contrarian because I don’t always supply easy “either or” answers to complex questions. The belief that there are only two possible answers with no possible compromise and no other options is known as a false dichotomy.

Magick and Money

Some time ago, the publisher of Llewellyn asked me why, if magick is so powerful, so many occultists and Pagans are poor. I explained that there were a few answers. One is that they may not be interested in financial wealth. Another is that they believe magick should only be used for spiritual goals or to help others.

Still another reason is a misunderstanding of finances leading to guilt. Specifically, some people look at finances as a zero sum situation. The idea behind the zero sum outlook is that the world’s finances are fixed and therefore limited; if you gain, someone else loses. If my slice of the pie gets bigger, your’s gets smaller. So if you do magick to become better off, someone else is going to suffer, and you’d feel guilty about making others suffer.

However the reality is not a zero sum situation. The reality is that if you increase your wealth, everyone’s wealth will increase. In order to get a bigger slice of the pie, the entire pie gets bigger, giving everyone a larger slice. This, of course, assumes fairness in the financial world, something that often doesn’t exist if governments don’t make and enforce rules, much the way that football would be total mayhem without governance and rules.

Another problem is poverty thinking. Some magicians and Pagans—who, in my opinion, should know better—dwell on their on poverty so much they mentally create continued poverty for themselves.

Spirituality Over Practicality

In a recent post by Ananael (Aaron Leitch), he discusses this problem. He points out (accurately, in my opinion), that if a person who claims to perform magick has “issues of poverty, sickness or other hardships” such as dying penniless, some people will claim this is proof that the person’s magick was ineffective. I would extend this to say that some people will use this to claim that magick doesn’t work. He writes,

I spent plenty of time angry at my Guardian Angel, Patron Gods, familiars and spiritual helpers for “letting bad things happen to me.” Until they finally drove it into my head that they weren’t there to make me some kind of superhuman, impervious to any hardship.  They were there to make sure I made it through the bad things.

In order to justify this position he quotes from the Golden Dawn Adeptus Minor Initiation Ritual: “Hate not suffering, it was but the purification of the Gold.”

I have to respectfully disagree with the implication here. It may not be the intent, but the idea I get from this is that Ananael is saying if things are bad, tough. Just deal with it. Don’t do magick to improve your situation. Instead, do magick to mentally and emotionally deal with hardship. To me that sounds like a sort of religious approach: “We can’t help you, but if you pray to our God[s] He [they] will give you courage.”

It’s true that the Golden Dawn ritual mentioned states, “Hate not suffering, it was but the purification of the Gold.” But it doesn’t say you’re supposed to stay suffering. And if you’re quoting from the Golden Dawn, don’t forget the part that says they want you to become “more than human.” That equates with being a superman (albeit not of the “Man of Steel” variety!). When you have a problem, I would contend you can use magick to overcome it.

Practicality Over Spirituality

Morgan Drake Eckstein, in response to Ananael, posted on this question, too. He writes, accurately in my opinion,

Talk to most people in the Golden Dawn/Western Mystery Tradition community (and this includes Thelema and Wicca) and you will hear that the purpose of the mysteries is spiritual development and service to mankind. In fact, there are groups that will bar you from entering if you say anything other than those two reasons for wanting to join. Anything else, especially practical magic, is viewed as black magic and power seeking.

But this is what the documented record of Western magic is all about–weather magic, power magic, legal magic, treasure magic, health magic, love magic–all about fulfilling basic needs in a hostile wolf at the door world. Even alchemy was about the practical nine times out of ten. Yet we in the modern world are not allowed to have these needs or desires.

He blames this on an approach introduced by Madame Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society. Although he doesn’t give a specific source where she makes this claim, it certainly could be true. And indeed, her impact on modern Western occultism has been immense even though many occultists have never read any of her works. It’s true that Western occultism has been filled with people seeking for worldly success, however it’s also true that there is are long traditions that extend for many centuries before Blavatsky that honored poverty and helping others. Carrying that over into magick is not much of a leap.

Then he makes some claims I have to disagree with. He writes, “Therefore, we do not find truly poor magicians in the ranks of the Orders (unless they lied to get in)…The members of your typical esoteric Order can always pay their annual dues, no matter how much they are.” Well, without a definition of “truly poor” it’s impossible to say this is not true, but I’ve known people who have had to go hungry or live on ramen or spaghetti with ketchup so they could pay their dues. I know people who go without health care and who live in very poor housing in order to pay for magickal books and tools. So it may be that this is his experience, but it’s not universal.

He writes, ”The members of a Law of Attraction group are always living above the poverty level.” Our experiences in this differ dramatically. I’ve been lectured to about the LoA by people who then want me to buy them a meal and drive them somewhere because they don’t have money for food, a vehicle, or a place to live.

He also adds, “people can charge hundreds of dollars to do workshops, to teach magic that does not actually work, because everyone who attends can afford for magic not to work.” This, sadly, is true. However the people who pay for these workshops, in my experience, are generally not focused on being members of occult groups, magickal orders, or Covens.

The implication of his post is that the purpose of magick should be to do “small low practical spells, hoping to keep the wolf from the door for one more day.”

The False Dichotomy

So we’ve seen two writers whom I respect presenting both sides of this question. One seems to say that magick should focus on the spiritual and the other writes that magick should focus on the physical. They excellently present their positions and I acknowledge that many occultists, Pagans, magicians, and other people would side with one or the other.

Respectfully, however, I contend these positions form a false dichotomy. Specifically, this false dichotomy is that these two positions are your only choices. I say such ideas, held by so many, form a false choice and a limiting belief.

Why can’t you do both? Why can’t you advance spiritually as well as in health and in finances? I choose to follow this third way. I choose to follow a magickal path that allows me to advance spiritually, help others, and help myself on the physical plane. In fact, I’m sometimes flabbergasted that others don’t see this very obvious third possibility. For many years I’ve said, “It’s hard to be spiritual when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from.” But once you get that meal, there’s no reason not to focus on spiritual advancement and helping others, too.

Speaking of Workshops…

And speaking of workshops, I’d just like to remind you that on June 2 I’ll be giving my first worldwide webinar. This is not a recorded podcast. I’ll be giving it live. You’ll be able to see my slides on your computer, hear me talk, and download handouts. The topic is Magickal Self-Defense. For details, and to register, click on this LINK.

Then, just a few days later, on Wednesday evening, June 5, I’ll be in Minneapolis giving a free book signing followed by a workshop on The Secrets of Magickal Evocation. Come by with your books and I’ll be glad to sign them. If you don’t have them contact the bookstore and order them so they’ll be there and I can sign them for you. Or at least stop by and say hello. For details and to register, click on this LINK.

There are two things more to say about this webinar and workshop:

  1. Attendance is limited. Please register and sign up today!
  2. Neither costs “hundreds of dollars.” They’re both an investment of just $25 or less.

Please register early so you won’t be disappointed.

 

Reader Comments

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#1 
Written By Aaron Leitch
on May 28th, 2013 @ 11:39 pm

Hey Don!

Just a couple of points about my own position. First, my blog is called Ananael (The Secrets of Wisdom), it isn’t my mgaickal name. ;)

Second, I think you misunderstood my post entirely. I was not at all suggesting that magick should be only for the spiritual, and that one should just allow bad life situations to continue. In fact, if you look at the rest of my blog, it is chock-full of uncrossings, exorcisms, cleansings, defense spells and angelic invocations all geared toward dealing with real-world practical problems.

My post was addressing a specifically Western concept that, if one were truly a powerful magician, then one should be rich, never be sick, have a perfectly balanced psychology, etc. In effect, the concept is that a true wizard should glide through the world like Dumbledore or Neo, having hacked reality and therefore risen entirely above the hardships that life can bring.

Yet in the real world, magicians are as prone to hardship as anyone else. For example, I’m a wizard – but I still got into a nasty car accident a couple of years ago. There was no “invisible wall of force” around me to repel the oncoming car so that my car remained untouched. The car was totaled, and all the legal and financial hassles and hardships that followed were the same for me as they would have been for anyone else.

*However*, I firmly believe that my practice of magick is what allowed me to walk away from that car accident relatively untouched. There is just no logical reason at all for me to have lived through it. I believe without a doubt that my Guardians intervened in that situation, and tweaked reality just enough so the oncoming car hit mine just *in front* of where I was sitting, instead of t-boning directly into me. In fact, I have reason to believe that either some kind of time-travel took place, or that I was yanked out of one reality (where I died) and into a nearby reality (where I walked away).

Magick saved my life that day in a *very* real sense. It didn’t “magickally” make the bad thing “not happen.” But, where it *really* counted, it kicked in and saw to it that I made it through in one piece. And it’s not the first or last time that has happened either.

To say that I believe practical magick just shouldn’t be done is frankly ridiculous. Yet, I feel it is equally ridiculous to suggest that magick should make one 100% impervious to any and all hardships in life. It just doesn’t work that way.

LVX
Aaron

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#2 
Written By mist42nz
on May 29th, 2013 @ 1:58 am

As someone who has made enquiries in the area of magical wealth, I will share this:

It is simply a matter of priorities.

Just like most other poor people. The magicians have life choices which do not result in the pursuit of money, they do not seek status in jobs where money is the result of “work you bring home with you”.

those few magicians who do prioritise such ideals, dfo very well for themselves. For the rest of us, we discard such things early in our journey through abyss (preferring to hold other things more dear)

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#3 
Written By Moloch
on May 29th, 2013 @ 7:36 am

First off unless you are homeless & living in a box outside somewhere in the USA, your’e NOT POOR! The majority of actual poor people live in third world nations like Haiti where they have nothing but the clothes on their back. The average person in the US is “BROKE”, not poor so let’s establish that fact here & now and yes I know about the so-called ‘working poor’ but that’s just a nicer way of saying you are working for slave’s wages.

It’s been my experience with numerous clients over the years that those who have college degrees and know they can earn $50K+/yr salary tend to not bother with Financial Sorcery very much especially if they live within their means. It is the people who cannot control their spending at any financial level of wealth who have the toughest time and it is these latter ones who are usually the folks into stuff like ‘The Secret’.

Prosperity is often the only way for us to gauge someone else’s success but even that can be misleading. The first model of wealth can be setting a financial goal of annual income & then educating & work experience which allows you to achieve that. This is the model most people aim for. The second model of wealth is to keep your bills & expenditures as low as possible so that you can work a nominally paid job and still live within your means. It is the same concept for either model, living within your means, except that you go about it in two distinct ways.

This whole ‘MagicK should not be used for wealth’ is obviously a bunch of moralistic claptrap as we see even in ancient Greece, there were lead tablet spells relating to finance, prosperity & wealth so this tells us the ancients were as interested in financial success just as we are today. When you look at the original GD order, you see many members came from money to begin with. Many of them were movers & shakers in fields such as actors, authors, physicians and so forth. Crowley himself was a trust fund baby.

I find it difficult to have a serious discussion with any so-called esoteric practitioner when s/he is living in their parent’s basement (or on someone’s couch) and telling the rest of the world money doesn’t matter. Maybe for them it doesn’t matter but money IS what the world runs on & I cannot see how one can focus on Spirituality while worrying about the bill collectors and whether or not their car is going to be repossessed.

And Don, when your publisher asked why aren’t Magicians rich, did he define rich? Wealth is relative – both in the sense of how much income makes you feel comfortable and to the fact there is education, esperience & motivation necessary to earn it. Is $50K/yr wealthy? $100K/yr? $500K/yr? It’s all relative to the individual.

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#4 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on May 29th, 2013 @ 6:26 pm

Thank you for your correction and clarification, Aaron. It’s true, I was not commenting on your blog, just one post. As I wrote, “It may not be the intent, but the idea I get from … [your post] is that …[you were] saying if things are bad, tough.” Apparently that was not your intent. Unfortunately, that’s the impression I got from what you wrote. It happens.

However, the fact is that, as we both point out, there are people who believe magick should only be used for spiritual reasons and to help others. In dealing with those who hold that position I stand by what I wrote.

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#5 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on May 29th, 2013 @ 6:34 pm

Thanks for your comments, MIST42NZ. I understand what you’re saying and wrote that the reason some magicians don’t have money is they “may not be interested in financial wealth.”

However, there is a difference between those who choose to live without and those who use magick “should only be for spiritual purposes” as a rationalization for their poverty and the feeling of entitlement these particular types of people present, needing free meals, free places to live, free transportation, etc.

I have deep respect for those who choose the path of poverty for spiritual reasons. I’ve had the honor to meet many such people and although they have never once asked for anything from me I have often chosen to provide them with things to help them on their path. That’s a big difference with people trying what one occultist referred to as “spiritual intimidation” of the “I’m a real magician so gimme what you got” variety.

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#6 
Written By Aaron Leitch
on May 30th, 2013 @ 9:57 am

Hey Don,

Yep – it was a simple misunderstanding. But, hey, I squeezed another blog post out of it, so no harm done. lol

And, if we take your post on its own terms without that misunderstanding, then we are in agreement. While there are those who feel magick should be done for higher spiritual purposes only (and more power to them), I just don’t subscribe to that line of thinking. Even theurgy should lead to thaumateurgy.

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#7 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on May 30th, 2013 @ 2:24 pm

Moloch, thank you for your comments.

Respectfully, however, your comments about poor vs. broke are not “facts,” they’re simply definitions. Your definitions are correct for you while they may not be correct for others.

I would add that our publisher didn’t ask why magicians weren’t rich, he asked why they were poor. Big difference. By “poor” he had established that he meant exactly what we have been talking about: not able to afford living on their own, taking advantage of others, etc.

There is a joke that goes, “What’s the difference between a New Age Workshop and a Magick Workshop? The decimal point.” Same material, different price. Why is it that many New Agers—who are often mocked by magickal folk—are able to afford workshops when the magicians can’t?

Your idea for setting financial goals are good ones. Perhaps some New Agers have learned this. However, setting the goals isn’t enough. Focusing your energies—physical, mental, magickal—on achieving the goals is necessary, too.

A standard book on this, and one of the sources of the LoA movement is Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich!”

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