A Pagan Primer – 29
Intro to Magick – 1
We’ve had a few issues of our Pagan Primer, and I thought it might be a good time to talk about Magick. Not the sort of thing that you see in a stage show, but Magick – the ability to manifest real change in our own world, in our own lives, through the exercise of will.
The question is – how does this magick work, and how do we use it?
This isn’t something that can be covered in a few short minutes, but perhaps we can dedicate a few installments of our Pagan Primer and give a brief introduction. Many forms of Paganism are familiar with, and use magick regularly, so we’ll discuss it in that context.
First of all, let’s take a look at what magick is. According to Aleister Crowley in his now famous work, “Magick in Theory and Practice”, Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.
I’ve seen many people qualify this statement saying that it’s not mere personal desire that’s implied by the word “will”. Personally I part company with these statements. I believe that magick is the art and science of causing change to occur in conformity with my own desire, providing that the desired change is not in opposition to the nature of the things to be changed.
Many people qualify magick, saying that “will” should mean “divine will” or the “highest good”. This is much the same as a Christian praying for the “will of God”. While it’s important to understand that there may be a divine will, or highest good, and that things will not happen contrary to “the will of god”, I don’t believe that any deity really cares about the minutiae. It’s not in divine writ somewhere that I should eat a peanut-butter sandwich rather than a piece of pizza for supper. The major themes of our lives may or may not have been at least partially scripted, but there is still great freedom. It’s in this area of freedom and liberty that magick becomes most manageable.
The statements qualifying magick, or prayer for that example are mostly an excuse for those who worry that their prayer or spell or magick might be ineffective. The desired outcome is not achieved, and one provides an excuse for the lack of effectiveness saying “It’ wasn’t God’s will” or “it wasn’t for the highest good”. It may or may not have been for the highest good. It’s also possible that the prayer or spell or magick simply wasn’t effective. It might have been performed with a lack of faith.
In order for magick to work, one needs the faith that it will, at least for the time that one is performing the spell. If doubt creeps in, the magick is almost certain to fail. Doubt implies a lack of belief, or rather, a belief in failure. For magick to be certain, the practitioner needs that certainty which will produce results. Part of the training in magick is to provide that certainty.
It’s also important to note that magick and religion are two separate things. While magick might be used in a religious context, magick especially can be used outside of that context. Magick is not a favor or grace granted by deity, but rather a force of nature which may be utilized, just like gravity or electricity or light, by natural means. There are religious practitioners, and atheistic practitioners. There are Christians as well as Pagans who utilize magick. It is no respecter of race, sexuality, gender or creed. Magick can work for all.
Really, all that’s required to perform magick is ability and skill. The good thing is that both of these can be learned. Magick is not an inherent power only possessed by a chosen few. It is a talent that may be learned. Some may have a greater initial aptitude, but all can learn.
The ability is akin to the natural abilities that some have for certain sports. Some people are stronger, and perhaps can throw a baseball great distances. Some might have good eye-hand coordination and be able to hit a baseball with a bat. Some might be good runners. Still, most people can learn how to do this on at least a basic level. We might not all have the natural aptitude to become professional players, but we CAN learn how to hit or throw a ball, presuming that we have the use of our limbs.
Likewise, with magick, we can learn how to work with the energies that empower magick.
The skill though, is also necessary. A person might be able to hit a baseball, but that alone does not equip him or her to play the game. One needs to know the rules, and to be able to work with the team. So is it with magick. One might be able to raise a certain amount of energy, but it is also necessary to be able to control that energy and to focus it to good use. This is the point of the various magickal and energy systems that are out there. Shamballa and Reiki are forms of energy healing. They are systems that enable the practitioner to focus in a systematic fashion to effect healing. The various forms of Wicca and Shamanism are constructs which enable the practitioner to work in a familiar framework. Magickal lodges are also frameworks, sometimes devoid of religious trappings, sometimes not.
So, what is the “stuff” of magick. Quite simply, it’s energy. So far though, it’s not the sort of energy which is able to be measured with scientific instruments. Many of us have seen its effects, but some disbelieve that it exists simply because of the lack of repeatable physical evidence or measurements. But for those of us who use it on a daily basis, it is quite tangible.
The energy takes on many forms. It’s the energy that flows through our Chakras, that’s balanced and allowed to flow in Acupuncture. It is the Chi of the Chinese; to the Indians, Kundalini. In the New Age community, it’s called vibrational energy. It may be “dark energy”. Whatever it’s called, it’s the force that enables magick to function, it’s that force that permits distant communication or the knowledge of psychics. It’s felt and formed by controlled imagination or visualization. It’s felt with our unconscious senses, and is the information that permits us to know who’s on the other end of a telephone line. It is the force that separates fortune from chance.
So, how do we actually use magick? How do you make something with it? How can it be utilized in our lives?
The first step is to become acquainted with it. If you strive to be a carpenter, it’s tough to become one if you don’t know what either the wood or the tools or fasteners look or feel like.
Feeling the energy of magick isn’t that difficult; we all possess it, and most of us are able to feel it. Here is a simple experiment that should allow you to do so. This is a very light form of meditation, and while it won’t induce a trance state, it requires your attention to be focused. If you’re driving, please try this exercise later, or pull over and stop your car while you try it.
Find a comfortable, relaxed position that is free from strain. Close your eyes. Relax. Put your hands together, palm to palm. If you’re very relaxed, and particularly sensitive, you might feel your pulse in the pads near the tips of your fingers. This is a very good grounding and relaxation exercise in itself.
Slowly, separate your hands just a little. Do you feel something between them? What does it feel like? Explore the sensation. Some people feel a tingling. Some feel the sensation of rubber bands or magnetic forces that seem to be pulling the hands back together. Some people feel a warmth or vibrational energy between their hands.
Now, separate your hands, and clap them together, sharply, once, and separate them again, perhaps a foot or so apart. Close your eyes, and slowly bring your hands toward each other, noticing the change in sensation as they get closer. Explore this new sensation. Is it different than the sensation you experienced when you were trying to separate your hands? What does this feel like? Is there a tingling or a vibration? Is there a resistance keeping the hands apart?
This energy that you are feeling in these exercises is your personal energy field. This is the energy that we’ll work with in making magick. It’s nothing unnatural. It is simply an energy field that is part of all of us, and like other parts of ourselves, we have an ability to control it. For some of us it might take more practice to become proficient with, but that’s true of any other skill we wish to perfect, be it playing a musical instrument or painting or any other art or craft.
A couple of weeks ago, we were discussing the energy of space – the energy that we felt when entering an old church, cemetery, henge or any other sacred site. The energy we just felt is that same energy, but it doesn’t feel the same. So what’s the difference?
In a sacred space, what we have is the residual energy of very focused intent, from many people, over a long period of time. It is the energy of peaceful worship or petition that remains when we have left. What we just experienced in this exercise though is the palpation of raw, unfocussed or unformed energy. The only purpose we had was to feel it. It had no “job”, no place to go, and wasn’t attached to worship or petition. Still, if you felt it, it was there.
Our next exercise uses our eyes. It works best in dimmer light, perhaps provided by a candle. Again, sitting comfortably, being calm, clap your hands sharply once, and separate them. Watching closely, bring your hands closer and note the sensations between them. While doing this, focus intently on the space between and around your hands. Do you see anything changing? Does the air between your hands look different as you move them closer? Do you see a “mist” or strings of light or a blurring of the space between them?
This is the second step toward magickal practice. In the first step we were able to feel the energy … now we can see it, if only dimly at this point. What we’ve seen here is the stuff of our auras. In this experiment, it was more concentrated, and perhaps a bit easier to see, but with practice, we’ll be able to see that energy when it isn’t so concentrated. You’ll be able to see that energy surrounding other people when they aren’t concentrating that energy between their hands. If you keep working at it, you’ll soon be able to see your own aura, as well as those of others.
What we’ll learn in magick is how to take this energy, to raise it, to focus it, to build it up and send it out with a purpose. We want to make it effective to our purposes. In scientific terms, we want to take this potential energy and harness it, making it useful. We just had handfuls of energy that we were perhaps able to play with, but that’s nothing more than a curiosity; we want to make something useful of it.
In future installments of our Pagan Primer, that’s just what we’ll be doing.
© 2008, Deirdre A. Hebert