Magick: A Tool of Practicality or Personal Transformation
Article ID: 6647
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 5,285
Times Read: 7,516
Author: Iarrthóir na Fírinne
Posted: August 3rd. 2003
Times Viewed: 7,516
"Twinkle-twinkle-twink," says the television speaker. The screen shows Samantha's face morphing back into a more normal expression after having repeatedly wrinkled her nose. Oh what kind of hi-jinks was Tabitha up to this time? What kind of magical mother-in-law-born disaster did Samantha have to correct? I tell you one thing, she certainly knew about the practical uses of magick, even as she struggled to live a normal "mortal" life. Darrin was a lucky man.
But real life is not "Bewitched," and real magick is pretty far removed from what was portrayed on the boob tube. As real Witches, we live each day in a world that challenges us to find a way to put our spiritual beliefs into practice. Almost all religions, including the varied beliefs most of us practice, began with the purpose of explaining how the world came to be and how systems that are hard to understand work. A closely related second purpose for the existence of belief systems is to show adherents ways to deal with day-to- day problems and the stresses of life.
Some belief systems tell a person that if they cleave to a structured set of rules set forth by a deity (or at least an enlightened master) they will be better equipped to govern the steep and sometimes treacherous slopes presented to them by life. The risk inherent in this sort of belief is fairly obvious. First of all, many followers may find solace this way from the harshness of being, but neglect to remember that the rules are guidelines, taking them to be concrete and immutable. Over time this becomes more pronounced and slowly ekes away at the adaptability of the practitioner, leaving them increasingly unable to cope with the ebb and flow of existence. Also, by believing this way, people may become passive beings waiting for solutions to arrive at their feet. This lack of fluidity and inability to take direct action defeats the very purpose for which they were searching. It is a major reason why many feel disillusioned by organized religion today.
Luckily for us, most magickally-based belief systems understand how the world works in a different way. In magickal practice, one is taught not to sit statically and wait for a giant hand to descend from the sky to determine one's fate. Instead, we should be dynamic creatures; actively meeting challenges, facing them and finding a way through will to emerge with a victory or a chance to gain greater knowledge for the future. There is deity inside each of us, and we drive our own vehicles down life's highway rather than taking the bus. The God/dess is our co-pilot, so to speak.
Aleister Crowley in Magick in Theory & Practice defines magick as, "the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will," along with enough postulates and theorems to fill several more pages than this essay is supposed to encompass. Using this definition, we use magick each waking moment to overcome the tribulations of everyday life. Crowley continues:
"Every intentional act is a Magickal act... By "intentional" I mean "willed." But even unintentional acts so seeming are not truly so. Thus, breathing is an act of the Will to Live."
"Every man must do Magick each time he acts or even thinks, since a thought is an internal act whose influence ultimately affects action, though it may not do so at the time."
While this is just about a universally accepted definition, I prefer to qualify it with this offering from Phyllis Curott:
"The universe is not a machine, and magick is not the secret formula for manipulating the machine. You don't stand here, say this, do this, pull the lever and out comes your instant gratification. Magick is a profound spiritual process that's rooted in the idea of co-creative partnership with deity, with indwelling deity, a deity that surrounds us."
How does this relate to our question at hand, whether magick is a practical tool used to muddle through diurnal obstacles or is a function of personal growth? My contention is that the two concepts are inseparable. By practicing magick, one naturally transforms the self by invoking a partnership with deitic energy, optimizing one's coping mechanisms and creating the possibility of bypassing life's impediments through one's own acts. To quote Mr. Crowley one more time;
"Magick is the Science of understanding oneself and one's conditions. It is the Art of applying that understanding in action."
Many of the books on Witchcraft I see on the shelves at my local Barnes & Noble take a "cookbook" approach to magick, using it not as a holistic system marrying knowledge of self to transformation of self to the solvency of difficulties. The "cookbooks" take a quick fix approach to solving problems using a form of magick that is not grounded in completeness of being and fullness of self. Instead, the focus is on rote repetition of words written by others, intermixed with use of herbs, crystals and the like in a ritual that may or may not hold any real power for the individual trying to contend with issues. Curott says that:
"The how-to books that [were] out there were phenomenally dogmatic. They were very two-dimensional and approached the universe as if it were a machine and magick as if it were mechanical. They're not. The essence of Wicca is that the world in which we live is holy and sacred and divine. It's numinous and alive. When one engages in magick, it is the process of co-creation with the sacred and living universe."
To continue the cookbook analogy, trying to perform "bookbound" magick is akin to knowing the ingredients of a recipe without having an inkling of the cooking instructions. What one gets in the end might resemble the desired result, but will most likely be less than what could have been attained or be totally ineffectual - the cake will fail to rise in the oven. A Witch cannot successfully utilize magick to disentangle his or herself from everyday issues without having been modified from within by magick.
Personally, I believe magick to be something not that you do, but you are. A magickal person is able to walk confidently upright with the knowledge that whatever occurs, she or he has the power to deal with both the bugaboos that annoy as well as the crises that endanger. Muddling through life dependent upon a book, someone's written incantation or a bejeweled pendant to better one's life is no improvement over sitting and pining for a savior to ride in heroically to the rescue. You are the only magickal tool that is needed to foster change in your environment.
Until you have dealt with the turmoil within and used your power to transform yourself, you will never be successful dealing with that which is without - those "ups and downs" of life. The power we have as human beings, call it magick, Will or whatever you like, lies within us. In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu tells us;
"Knowing others is wisdom; Knowing the self is enlightenment; Mastering others is strength; Mastering the self is true power." The two "uses" for magick we are charged to consider are wedded together and interdependent.
Iarrthóir na Fírinne
Location: Los Lunas, New Mexico
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Bio: Veritus is an Eclectic Pagan who lives in Waco, TX, otherwise known as George W's backyard. He is one of the founders of Waco Eclectic Circle, who will celebrate one year together this Samhain. He would like you to know that he is not wild about labeling himself according to any set tradition, but that it is kind of kicky to refer to himself in the third person. He is married with two children who are not afraid to question, two dogs, three cats and umpteen rabbits. Among his favorite Pagan authors are Kerr Cuhulain, Phyllis Curott and Grey Cat.
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