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What You Should Not Expect from Magic

This article was written by Donald Tyson on July 21, 2003
posted under Magic

Everyone who gets into ritual magic has pretty much the same goal—he or she wants to rule the world. They may not admit it even to themselves, but they are thinking: Suppose, just suppose, I could learn to hurl lightning bolts from my fingertips, and bring mountains crumbling down, and move the Moon out of its orbit?

Magic has almost a feminine personality. She is very seductive to the newcomer. She taunts and allures with promises of power. She tickles the imagination under the chin with her possibilities. Every time the sorcerer’s apprentice is about to turn away discouraged, she flips her veil and shows her smile. This is more than enough to keep those who have an innate talent for magic interested, even when they see their cherished dreams of world domination receding slowly into the mist.

Magic is seductive but not unjust. She gives far more than she takes. While she is gently pulling away the gun, she is putting a flower in its place. Instead of commanding the world, the Magus gradually learns to command personal thoughts and passions. Instead of making others see things his or her way, the Magus begins to see things their way. After a while ruling the world ceases to look like such a great idea. Too much work.

You should not expect to control others through magic. It is true that with properly executed rituals you can bring magical energy to bear on another person and change your relationship to this person in a desired way. However, everyone has a will of their own. Will is like an iceberg, in that only the tip of it shows above the surface of consciousness. If you magically push someone, they may push back. Hard. They may not even be aware that they are doing it. People who seem very weak physically and emotionally may be very strong on the unconscious level.

There is another factor to consider, which I mention only to the intelligent reader, as it is not likely to discourage fools. When you manipulate other people against their will, no matter what level you do it on, you are debasing your own soul and being far more repulsive and contemptible than you really need to be. If, on the other hand, you behave in an honorable way, you are acting in harmony with your own true nature, and may even find happiness as a result of it. Pushing other people around gives satisfaction, not happiness. Happiness has value, satisfaction does not.

Almost as alluring to the beginner as the promise of personal power is the prospect of limitless wealth. Most people have the idea that if they can master magic they can make themselves rich—otherwise, what is the good of it? Unscrupulous writers pander to this fantasy by selling books that guarantee instant money through magic, even if you have never done magic before. Magic is not the way to easy money. It is an art that requires discipline and dedication. Most of its rewards are intangible. A greater sense of well-being, increased confidence, a clearer appreciation of the beauty of life, better health physically and mentally—these things magic will give anyone whose heart is open to them.

You can make money with magic. Many people do, either by using it to open business opportunities for themselves and help along their careers, or by selling their magical skill to others. But it is no easier to make money by magic than by any other kind of honest, hard labor. If there is one eternal and unvarying law in this shifting universe, it is that there is no free lunch. Not ever. Not anywhere. The moment you think you are getting something for nothing, that is the time to start backpedaling.

The glamour of magic tickles all the vices, and lust is high on the list. Love magic is as old as time. A line in Virgil’s Eclogues reads: "As this clay hardens, and as this wax melts in one and the self-same fire, even so let Daphnis melt with love for me, to others’ love be hard." (Eclogue VIII, ll. 80-1). This is perfectly good magic, but questionable morality. What right has Amaryllis to tell Daphnis who he may and may not love? If she succeeds in binding the love of Daphnis, does she really think he will ever be truly content and happy during their future years together? Is it not more likely that he will end up hating her, even though he cannot leave her? But perhaps she is thinking only about herself, the glory of conquest, the pride of possession, and does not care whether Daphnis is happy, so long as she has him. Whatever this feeling may be, it would be difficult to characterize it as love, although it usually passes under this name.

You can use magic to find a lover, but this may be done in an intelligent or an unintelligent way. If you are seeking love, you should invite it in a form that is in harmony with your essential nature. First, you may need to use ritual to discover what your nature is. Few people see themselves clearly. Often they are attracted to someone with the qualities they admire but lack in themselves. If you already have a person in mind, you should use the Art to transform yourself and your circumstances so that the other will seek out your company, rather than trying to compel the prospective lover.

Following closely on the heels of power, money, and sex in the list of magical seductions is fame. Who is so callow among us that he or she has not fantasized about taking up the magic wand and performing a wonder here, a miracle there, to the cheering and applause of gathered thousands? Suppose you could save someone terminally ill from cancer—not just anyone, but someone really worthwhile and important. Or suppose you could ignite the Olympic flame at the next Olympic Games with a muttered word of power and a scowl. Imagine the publicity!

Sorry, magic does not work that way. It may have something to do with the fact that magic depends upon belief; or that magic transcends natural laws and is therefore unpredictable; or that magic is directed by an awareness in the unconscious called the Higher Self. If we cannot be certain that it has a moral code, at least we can confidently state it has a sense of humor. Whatever the reason, whenever a self-proclaimed "master of the occult arts" publicly performs a miracle, the miracle is absolutely certain to fail.

I have a confession to make—I have never levitated, walked on water, restored life to the dead, lit fires with my mind, turned myself into a wolf, or divined a winning lottery number. Maybe this makes me an inferior Magus. There are certainly enough people out there who do claim to be able to perform these wonders. However, I have not seen them do so. Am I willing to say such feats are impossible? Of course not; such a statement would be rash. But I have not done them, and have never seen them done.

On the other hand, I have done a variety of things that would strike most people as unusual. I have communicated with spirits, for example, in a variety of ways. I do not know precisely what spirits are, but I know that I have talked with and touched a number of them.

Also, I have made myself invisible. This may require a brief explanation. To be magically invisible does not mean other people do not see you; it means that they do not notice you. This is a strange, but at the same time an oddly liberating feeling. Also, I have left my body and looked back upon it—but precisely where I was when I was astrally traveling, or whether I was in any dimension of space at all, is a matter for conjecture.

In not one of these personal experiments did I tell a single soul beforehand what I was going to do. This makes them difficult to verify by the scientific method. However, silence was needed if they were to have any chance of success. The one way to be certain a ritual will fail is to brag about it beforehand to those unconnected with its working. In magic silence is not just a matter of discretion, but practical necessity.

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