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.
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:
- Attendance is limited. Please register and sign up today!
- Neither costs “hundreds of dollars.” They’re both an investment of just $25 or less.
Please register early so you won’t be disappointed.