A Meditation on Magick
by Bestia Mortale
I’d like to examine three levels of magick, the world, the will and the spirit, from a particular perspective I shall describe.
Like most things, magick looks different from different sides. The word “magick” normally conjures up spells, unseen forces, strange worlds and mysterious beings. This is the “supernatural” point of view. This is the vantage from which we see sorcerers pursuing arcane knowledge to gain amazing power.
Take the skeptical version of this point of view, and magick signifies self-delusion, wish-fulfillment fantasy, unconscious deception and intentional fraud.
But then stroll around to another viewpoint, where you assume knowledge rather than ignorance. Assume for a moment that you can understand everything (not that anyone can). From this perspective, much of what we think of as magick vanishes, becoming just another technology, just another way to get what you want.
When you want something, you use your understanding of the world combined with your intelligence to identify a course of action that might achieve it. Then you use your will and determination to follow that course of action. As you go, you use intermediate results to modify your course of action. Are you a sorcerer or an engineer?
Both historians of science and historians of magick are well aware that until relatively recently, the two were more or less indistinguishable. In the last several centuries, the techniques of modern science and engineering have emerged as by far the most powerful and effective means of doing magick in the world. The spells of physics almost always work reliably, and when they don’t, physicists are delighted – there are always reputations to be made in perfecting them.
The magick of getting what we want in the world is fascinating and impressive but not necessarily deeply moving. Take doing the dishes, for example. Some people still eat with their hands from food that lies in their laps. Others have pursued centuries of dogged experimentation to produce specialized eating surfaces and utensils. Some people clean such surfaces and utensils in streambeds, while others have devoted amazing ingenuity to channeling and heating water and devising special chemicals that make cleaning these surfaces and utensils easier. Some people wash their own dishes, while others have devised complex social transactions that result in “servants” of various sorts doing the cleanup. There are even electric dishwashing machines, and if that’s not supernatural, nothing is.
At the same time, who cares? We eat. If we do it right, we are nourished, we don’t get sick, and we don’t have to devote too much of our energy to doing it. Fine china, beautiful silverware, exotic spices, gourmet recipes, all these are lovely if they don’t cost us too much.
From a perspective of understanding, the magick of getting what we want tends to merge disappointingly into what we like to call “technology,” our ancillary crafts, and its appeal seems less bright, if no less useful, from this point of view.
There is also magick of the will – the art of being able to decide cleanly. Each of us is full of ambivalence. We want a thousand contradictory things, consciously, semi-consciously, entirely unconsciously. Magick of the will aligns and balances all those conflicting desires so that you can choose consistently and effectively to achieve a given end.
Will is an elusive magick that varies radically from person to person. Like music, painting or writing, it can be taught, but like any art, it is based on talent and taste. It is practiced by every successful person in the world, although few would regard it as magick. The ability to choose consistently and well, at least within a narrow focus, is essential to success in almost every undertaking.
There are easy ways to achieve will. Some of the peskiest and most disruptive of our desires are ethical and emotional. Simply by suppressing these, you can become much more effectively decisive. Fortunately, few people want to pay that price. Indeed, it may be that no one has the resources to pay that price, except by foolish borrowing.
Will is like health. Many of us are blessed with it initially, but to keep it takes luck, attention and good habits. Many of the disciplines of what we narrowly refer to these days as “magick” can be helpful, but plenty of people who have never used the word are masters of will magick.
Finally, there is magick of the spirit, the magick of listening to the quiet voices. This is a magick that is easy to lose in modern life. Plenty of atheist engineers and salesmen may be better sorcerers or better at will magick than you or I, but few of them have found a way to meet their spiritual needs.
Following Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, many of us have come to see the roots of our spiritual yearnings sinking deep into our unconscious minds, down among primal cultural artifacts and almost universal archetypes. Whether they re-emerge on the other side of the unconscious into an astral reality is a philosophical question, not a practical one. After all, satisfying the deep yearnings of your unconscious mind is important whether or not you want to believe that the spiritual world is “real.” Lots of people know that it is, and lots of other people know it isn’t, but I don’t like the question.
I’m very clear that something really happens when I give myself over to magick of the spirit. It happens often, particularly if I make the effort to let it. It happens in loving sex just about every time. It happens at the oddest moments. It happens in meditation, speaking with a goddess or a god. But particularly, it happens when I connect to the spirits of place, of the earth.
Sitting on the ragged stones at the edge of the sea watching patterns in the water, crouched with my back to a rock high in the mountains, listening to the songs of the wind, standing among the old trees in a forest glade feeling rain on my face, I find myself lost in wonder. Minutes pass when I am far, far away. I come back changed. My yearning is answered and affirmed. These are moments of pure magick for me. I don’t know what happens, but I know it’s important. It doesn’t have to do with getting some specific thing I want or honing my will; it has to do with receiving some kind of deep sustenance.
This magick of spirit goes well beyond our wisdom.