A More Nuanced Model of Magic

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

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Being a Spirit-Led Conjure Worker

A long time ago, when I decided that it would be a good thing to offer reiki and ritual services, I knew nothing about working for clients apart from doing public tarot divinations.  I already had a lot of magical experience, but it was mostly through doing work for myself, close friends, and family.  I had yet to discover the ins and outs of working for positive change in the lives of complete strangers.  But I would soon learn that there are many hidden lessons in this line of work.  It changed my magic.  It changed my outlook on the world.  And it wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination.  It was a crash course in interacting with the human condition as well as in the complexities of sorcery for hire.

The first lesson I ever learned was that everyone is sincere—even the most acerbic doubting Thomas.  Everyone, without exception, who contacts me for conjure or reiki on some level wants the benefit of my services even if they are too nervous or shy to allow themselves to fully admit it.  Strangely enough, the doubters are the ones who want to believe the most.  And it’s really good to doubt if you’re going to give a complete stranger your money in exchange for a spiritual service.  You should be thinking critically about this person: is he acting professional?  Is he clear?  Is he responding intelligently to your situation?  Critical thinking comes from doubt.  But we also know that you can have too much of a good thing in this case—too much doubt gets in the way of the entire experience.  So from the very beginning, the client and I walk a fine line of trust.  The client evaluates me and I evaluate him.  We enter a sincere partnership and do everything we can to create change.  Learning to trust complete strangers meant I had to mature in ways I never anticipated.

Another key lesson I learned was that no situation is simple—every life is hard; everyone’s doing the best he or she can with available tools and resources.  If someone comes to me, they have a problem that they haven’t been able to solve through mundane means.  Their lawyer stole all the money.  Their fiancée ran off with the neighbor.  Grandpa went missing in the park.  Maybe they got assaulted and are having a hard time healing from lingering psychological and physical pain.  Maybe their career is stalled.  Maybe they just need to have a spiritual experience, something completely alien to them because of the way they were raised.  Whatever the case may be, they’re suffering on some level.  Learning to understand and appreciate the suffering of others meant I had to get over myself and learn compassion.

A huge lesson I learned was that the magic doesn’t come from me—it comes through me.  This is the “spirit led” part.  A sorcerer or reiki practitioner who “tries to do things” fails a lot.  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.  Instead, through a lot of grimoire work—by seeking out both human and non-human mentors—I quickly came to understand that the most powerful work has a spiritual origin, not a human one.  I started to relax and let my spirit guides, spirits of divination, familiars, and other contacts do their jobs.  This is the secret to my success.  It’s not me.  It’s spirit working through me.  Learning to trust my connection to spirit meant I had to develop a large amount of faith in a world I could not see or touch.  Paradoxically, doing so eventually helped me see it and touch it, but that took time, belief, and the willingness to be patient and practice the art while not having all the answers.  I still don’t have all the answers.

One lesson I had to learn multiple times in multiple ways was that people in pain are often very unpleasant to be around.  We all know this to some extent.  But doing conjure is sometimes like working in the customer service section of a department store.  People are angry, sad, bereft, despairing, or even suicidal before they even speak to you.  You have to be ready with mundane solutions as well as spiritual ones, keeping a suicide hotline number handy, having online links to addiction recovery centres, women’s shelters, walk-in clinics.  Learning about my community so that I could help others made me a better spiritual worker.  It also meant I had to get out on the street and pay attention.  Now very few things escape my notice in my spiritual or physical environment.

These are only a few of the important lessons that have come from this work.  One of my teachers used to say that “many are called but few are chosen.”  And I wouldn’t truly understand what she was saying until I actually set up my website, made business cards, started doing community reiki, sorcery for hire, and counselling others.  Then I understood what “gifted for the work” really meant.  To be chosen for something like this means you have to have skills that others don’t—not just the ability to perform effective rituals, but a whole panoply of hidden qualities that enable you to thrive in this field.  And if you don’t have them right off, you learn the hard way whether you can find them in yourself.  But I wouldn’t trade those experiences, even the painful ones, for anything.

Seeking Justification in Spiritual Workings – Crescent City Conjure

I have always admired the work of Sen Elias at Crescent City Conjure.  He’s the real deal, in my opinion.

For my view on doing readings before workings, check out “How to Read Cards Regarding Magical Work” on this website.  And go visit Crescent City Conjure at https://crescentcityconjure.us

Af, the Angel of Punishment

Misery and suffering traditionally comes from hands of angels as often as from those of devils. Consider, then, what the essential difference between them may be.

Angel of anger and destruction and one of the ANGELS OF PUNISHMENT. Af means “anger.” Af governs the death of mortals. He is 500 PARASANGS tall and is made of chains of black and red fire, and he lives in the seventh HEAVEN .  In the Zohar, Af is one of three angels in Gehenna (HELL)—along with Mashit and Hemah—who punish those who sin by idolatry, incest, and murder. Af helps Hemah to swallow MOSES .

— Rosemary Guiley, The Encyclopedia of Angels

In the last heaven Moses saw two angels, each five hundred parasangs in height, forged out of chains of black fire and red fire, the angels Af, “Anger,” and Hemah, “Wrath,” whom God created at the beginning of the world, to execute His will. Moses was disquieted when he looked upon them, but Metatron embraced him, and said, “Moses, Moses, thou favorite of God, fear not, and be not terrified,” and Moses became calm. There was another angel in the seventh heaven, different in appearance from all the others, and of frightful mien. His height was so great, it would have taken five hundred years to cover a distance equal to it, and from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet he was studded with glaring eyes. “This one,” said Metatron, addressing Moses, “is Samael, who takes the soul away from man.”

— The Ascension of Moses