Imagine a tunnel running from your body to the magical result you desire. Energy-information-spirit flows from the universe inside you down the tube toward the objective. It also flows in the other direction, from the objective back into you and your inner universe. This looks a lot like a discourse. So it should come as no surprise that “conversation” is one model magicians have recently used to explain how magic gets done.
To a certain extent, the conversational model of magic is based on Frater UD’s legendary “Models of Magic” essay, in which he notes that “magic as a whole has always existed in many, coexisting models. What has changed, however, is the stress laid on one model or the other in the course of time.” A very interesting stress comes to us through Speech Act Theory via the “chaos magick” of the 1980s: “Speech act theory considers language as a sort of action rather than a medium to convey and express” (https://bit.ly/2ueftVJ). In other words, the act of speaking (and the act of magic) creates as it describes. I communicate something to the universe, causing change, and it communicates something to me the same way.
This is nothing new: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Genesis 1:1). Most religions and philosophies begin with an utterance. But in western consensus culture, the popular mind is conditioned to overlook this. People think only in terms of basic cause and effect (a crude syllogism): if I do X, then I get Y, where X is something that originates in my mind and Y is something brought into being in the world outside of me because of me acting on X. This sounds a lot like early industrial reductive materialism, which assumes we are disconnected bodies colliding in space. There is no oversoul in this view, which is probably why it’s something modern magicians have to overcome before their workings become effective. The conversational model, on the other hand, can be far more nuanced and useful.
Magic is as hard to define as love or truth. It’s a concept that is highly mediated by cultural context and becomes concrete or abstract to the extent required in a given rhetorical situation. For example, I might talk about magic in terms of Speech Act Theory, making it quite abstract and theoretical. I might talk about it from the perspective of folklore, which will necessarily make it a lot more tangible (i.e. talking about magic as it exists in certain stories and legends). I might even place it in an archaeological context, which would make it extremely concrete (i.e. these are the curse tablets, religious tools, or enchanted adornments used at a given place and time). Unfortunately, Aleister Crowley’s usually half-quoted, highly abstract and permissive definition of magic has dominated Western esoteric traditions at least since 1913 when Liber ABA was made available, allowing “if X, then Y” assumptions to persist.
Crowley’s most often (incompletely) quoted definition of magic from Book 4—“MAGICK is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will”—is too loose and vague if we want to look at the interaction that takes place in a magical process. If we make his definition a little more complete (“MAGICK is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will. . . . Magick is the Science of understanding oneself and one’s conditions. It is the Art of applying that understanding in action.”), then we come a bit closer to the idea of conversation. But we’re still working with an abstraction that’s so broad it allows all kinds of pervasive consensus-culture assumptions—for example, that magic is something you can “do” to the world the way you hammer a nail into a board.
Let’s go back to our simple conversational model of utterance and information exchange: energy-information-spirit goes out from the practitioner and comes into the practitioner during a working of magic. Although it may seem that on one level we are doing something to the world (if X, then Y), it would be more accurate to say that we are guiding something in the world the way one guides a discussion to a certain subject or conclusion (I offer X. The world offers Y. X and Y change as a result—creation and description through utterance).
Applying this insight has everything to do with the practitioner relaxing her vice grip on results. As I mention in my post about being a spirit-led conjure worker, “Beginning practitioners often mistakenly think that if they just concentrate hard enough, if they just WILL something into being, the world will respond. This can work sometimes, but grabbing the world by the throat and shaking it more often results in nothing or even in the opposite coming to pass.” This is another form of “lust of result,” getting in the way of one’s own magic by thinking that you have to move heaven and earth through by own power. You don’t Heaven and earth are always-already in motion; you simply have to guide that motion in the desired direction.
Relax, breathe, and be open to the direction spirit is taking in the world. This means learning a reliable system of divination. It means developing your psychic senses so that you can converse with spirits. It means learning to summon the discarnate and intangible for the purposes of learning (for example, evoking Vassago using Paul Huson’s method in Mastering Witchcraft or the “Magical Mentor” from Gray-Cobb’s New Avatar Power or bringing forth a daemon from the Lesser Key of Solomon who “giveth good familiars”). And it may also mean finding a patron deity who can initiate you into an energy-information-spirit paradigm of magical practice.
It sounds like a lot of work and a lot of uncertainty. But that is the nature of this hidden art. You need to have perseverance and openness and a sense that magic is in line with the momentum of your True Will. And you need to love talking to the world this way. If you don’t—if you are primarily interested in “getting paid and getting laid,” by all means follow whatever spell book you’ve downloaded from the internet or come to a sorcerer-for-hire. But unless you do the work to attain deeper understanding and personal gnosis, you will forever be wading in the shallow end of the pool. So mote it be.
“The Perfect and the Perfect are one Perfect and not two; nay, are none!” — Liber AL vel Legis I:45