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.

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Written by Donald Michael Kraig
Donald Michael Kraig graduated from UCLA with a degree in philosophy. He has also studied public speaking and music (traditional and experimental) on the university level. After a decade of personal study and practice, he began ten years of teaching courses in the Southern California area on such ...