Practical or Low Magic

Sometimes I am so in love with universe I want to hug it. Not having arms that wide I tend to go for those close by me; my son, M, my toy rabbit Pooyan. This morning was like this. Driving to work while listening to a Bach Cantata was lovely and I was contemplating two things: this post on practical magic and my sadness that no one had responded to what I thought was a great post on Christianity, Magic and Politics. I get to work start jotting this post during my breaks, and lo and behold – a reply to the post by Stavros whose own post on the use of astrology for “political magic” (my description) is very interesting.

Speaking of doing “good works” – tomorrow my hair is shaved to raise money for the Leukaemia Foundation. You really need to sponsor me! RIGHT NOW – CLICK HERE.

Recently I have received a few requests from students, correspondents and former students on the art of ‘Practical’ or ‘Low Magic’. This is magic designed to create changes in our personal lives, to bring us better jobs, new lovers and so forth. Now, depending on my mood, the grade and mental state of the student, I can be quite curt in my reply. As I wrote in the much delayed By Names and Images, “If you are seeking instruction in this type of magic, stop reading now, as you will not find it here”. Sometimes I can even be quite rude as the Golden Dawn quite clearly views magic as a process of linking with the Divine and the natural forces of the universe. There are very few indications in the GD texts that suggest this wonderful tradition may be utilised to for practical magic or sorcery.

However, magic is one of those unfortunate words that have a number of different meanings and which elicit even more reactions when spoken about. Sadly there is no denying that both today and historically practical magic is often linked to the traditions of spiritual magic. I just wish it and other aspects of internal life, like “psychic abilities” weren’t. But they are, so there we go.

Rather than degenerate into a discussion that ‘high’ magic (that which is not for the self) is better than ‘low’ magic (that which is for the self) I want to point out something that is seldom mentioned: most readers of blogs such as this actually do not need any help from magic.  In a world where twenty thousand people will die from poverty and starvation each day, any westerner who can afford time and money to wander around the Internet must be counted as rich beyond measure.  To use our magical blessings, which stem ultimately from the One, to increase our station in life rather than to balance out the stakes a little for those who are literally starving to death says something for our personal magical motivation.  And in this vein, the profusion of spell-craft manuals and coffee table books bristling with all forms of sorcery says a lot for the general motivation of the esoteric and New Age communities today.

This is not to deny the real hardships, financial and personal difficulties we may find ourselves in. For example, poverty, even in Western countries, creates many social and personal problems. These are real, depressing and damaging. However, to reproduce from the sidebar the comments by a living elder of western magic, Gareth Knight:

For most of us however, we only think seriously of food or sex or money when it becomes a problem, which is to say when we feel we are not getting our share.  When we find ourselves in that situation then I regret to say that meditational visualisations are really not the best way to remedy the lack.  This is simply a way of trying to avoid rendering to Caesar the thing that are Caesars.  We are here in a physical condition in a physical world and while in that state we have to abide by the laws appropriate to it.

wicca2Magic is simply not the best way of solving or even helping to solve financial, sexual, vocational, familial or other personal problems. In the modern western world the community practicing practical  magic the most has to be the Wiccans. Now from personal and anecdotal experience over 25 years and in every survey I’ve ever read, there is nothing to suggest the Wiccans are better off than the rest of us. They are not richer or smarter. They suffer the same vicissitudes in love, health and work and are just as likely to have addicts and dysfunctional folk in their community as in any community. The richest Wiccan I know has made his money from sharp and aggressive real estate purchases, not from spells. Of course there is an argument that most Wiccans, despite their cones of power and sex magic are simply devoid of the solid magical skills which we of the GD persuasion have 🙂 However, despite there being less data for the GD community there is nothing to suggest that we are better off either!

I am not saying that practical magic cannot work. I think it can, under certain circumstances. It is however, far, far more difficult than most people think. Tanya Lurhmann in her Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft describes how magical folk alter their own internal reality to make it seem like their magic has worked. This is something I have observed time and time again in the Wiccan and magic-Gnostic communities (since the only GD folk I mix with don’t do practical magic, I haven’t seen it there).

Basically, it is easier to accept our fate and alleviate our problems via material means than magic. We can go on Seek or a dating/casual sex site, attend family therapy or get some emergency financial assistance from an aid agency. We can do something real, earthed and solid.

Also to be considered are the dangers of practical magic. While many practical magic techniques are not in themselves more dangerous than those of spiritual magic, their practice lacks a crucial element always present in spiritual magic – altruism. As soon as we engage in magic for ourselves we are no longer activating the transpersonal, higher aspects of our beings. Our personal desires and wants, even if temporarily let go off for the performance of the ritual, ensures that our consciousness is not fully motivated and infused by the not-self. This means we are engaging in the astral realm without the protection our higher motivations provides us. While nothing dramatic may occur, over time repeated  self-focused practices will hinder our spiritual unfoldment and development.

In addition there are problems of technique that can be dangerous. As an example, Nick Farrell, who is very sensible and adept in the GD, recounts on a recent post how basically there are no listed angels in the western tradition that can ‘assist’ in money magic. One has to resort to the assistance of a demon. I never knew this. Now different people have different views of demons but even if we see them only as personifications of repressed areas of the psyche, there is no denying they are linked to a cultural egregore that is very unpleasant. The adept may have no problem with this but the novice or journeyman may and could come out worse for the wear.

In my experience the best and most successful forms of practical magic are those performed collectively for altruistic purposes and which work in alliance with spiritual beings under the presidency of the higher powers. These are keys elements: a collegiate experience to go beyond the self; altruistic and transpersonal intentions; working in harmony with beings in the other realms where we at best can but blunder around, and; an attitude of surrender to the One. Even then, depending on the action we often fail in achieving the desired and stated outcome. There is no doubt however that we, the magicians, are changed and transformed. Also the positive ‘energy’ is never lost, the altruism, which is a form of love continues on long after the ritual finishes. Examples of these forms of rituals are sadly lacking in the Golden Dawn and western magical circles, though I have posted one of them here. In this sphere the Pagans out do us so well as the work of the Blessed Starhawk and the Reclaiming Collective show (I’ve blogged about her too).

Finally though, I would be burying my head in the sand if I ignored the fact that there exist many competent writers and teachers who present Golden Dawn derived rituals and techniques as tools for bettering our personal and material lives.  Israel Regardie detailed one such approach in his Art of True Healing essay and recounts how he used such magic to ‘set himself up’ financially upon his retirement. I guess each of us must decide for ourselves on the validity or otherwise of attempts to magically improve our lot in life.

10 comments

  1. David · May 6, 2009

    “As soon as we engage in magic for ourselves we are no longer activating the transpersonal, higher aspects of our beings.” Very good point, and I have to admit I haven’t really thought of practical magic in that way before. To me it was just about ethics, I personally find it hard to see why someone with “adept” like powers should utilize their magic for their own benefit instead of the world, it sort of seems like cheating.

    Admittedly though, lets say a person has a non-favorable current against them, be it internal or external, would not some form of magic to render this situation asunder and correct the energetic flow be correct? even if the current pushed them away from holding down a steady job and the magic that was required was to bring in more balanced influences to aid in the healing/removal of that imbalance?

    What Gareth Night says does make sense though, we exist physically, we should live physically. I just don’t see the potential harm in trying to improve our life, allowing us to live stress free and thus be more able to serve the whole.

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  3. Aima Elohim · May 8, 2009

    Just love your blogs! thanks Peregrin!

  4. Peregrin · May 9, 2009

    Hello David,

    thanks for the comments and thoughts. Your suggestion of using magic to counter a negative current working against a person, internal or external is interesting. It is also rather complex as there are many non-favourable currents. Internally for example, addictive behaviour. Externally, for example, a curse or a linkage to a negative entity or destructive egregore. In most cases magic to counter these things would, i suggest, actually be healing – a process to render the person whole and healthy – not practical magic.

    The difference between healing and practical magic is marked and largely rests in the intention, though also in technique. In your example you focus on “holding down a steady job”. Practical magic would be performed with this intention. Healing would simply aim to remove the negative current, regardless of mundane and Malkuth outcomes. Healing has always been a remit of the Rosicrucian based Orders, such as the Inner Order of the GD and its members. Sometimes however, as you know, healing is as hard to accomplish as proper, consistent and verifiable success in practical magic.

    Again, I stand by the comments in my post: if we were, in this example, to perform magic aimed at procuring employment we would be opening ourselves to the problems i mentioned. In addition, if the reason for the Malkuth plane lack of capacity for employment is related to an inner plane disturbance, be that internal or external, which requires healing, then practical magic on the inner levels could actually make matters worse. Thanks.

  5. David · May 9, 2009

    Yeah I can see what you mean, I suppose through the use of practical magic in a event where healing is needed could futher create addiction or imbalance, rather than do as intended. Simply as the act of avoiding the actual malkuth reality of the issue gives it more space to grow and rot. Instead of action, we are creating a desire for action, thus making inaction through our waiting expectations of action.

    Good points all round, I agree with you on the lack of the higher being used in self based magic due to the self based desires, and can completely see why it should be avoided for a person who is interested in spirtual magic.

    Thanks again Peregrin

  6. wandering mystic · May 9, 2009

    Greetings Brother,

    “students on the art of ‘Practical’ or ‘Low Magic’. This is magic designed to create changes in our personal lives, to bring us better jobs, new lovers and so forth.”

    All magic is designed to create positive change in our personal lives. The most important benefit of course lies in our own spirituality and connection with Divinity. However, our mental, emotional, and physical states are also important. Magic IMHO is a positive tool for both individual betterment and social/community betterment. There need not be duality in all this.

    The reference to High vs Low is more modern. You will rarely find it in ancient texts. All magic of the ancients was practical magic regardless of its focus. The key was whether it was focused on God’s working or demon working. The other distinction was whether or not it was in alignment with religious/spiritual principles or merely without ethics aka sorcery (personal power above all).

    “There are very few indications in the GD texts that suggest this wonderful tradition may be utilised to for practical magic or sorcery.”

    Check out the Jupiter Talisman in the GD manual. The Requiem ritual counts as form of necromancy. You also have of course indirectly translations by Mathers of the Lesser Key and Abramelin. One focuses on demonic evocation and the other on HGA workings AND both provide a huge amount of material magic (I prefer that term over the word practical – if you don’t mind 😉 )

    “I am not saying that practical magic cannot work. I think it can, under certain circumstances. It is however, far, far more difficult than most people think.”

    It is actually, far, far easier than most people think. However, there is a caveat. You can’t easily call on spiritual beings to assist you in material magic if a) your need is more lust than need, and b) you can easily attain your need without magic. The reason most spells don’t work is because a) they are not as well designed as they should be (Llewellyn fluff books come to mind) and b) most people really don’t need what they are asking for but are seeking it out of greed or lust.

    “While many practical magic techniques are not in themselves more dangerous than those of spiritual magic, their practice lacks a crucial element always present in spiritual magic – altruism. As soon as we engage in magic for ourselves we are no longer activating the transpersonal, higher aspects of our beings.”

    I believe the idea of altruism can be highly debated even in spiritual magic. Let’s face it, we want a better connection with the Divine because it is GOOD for US. That is ‘ok’ – magic doesn’t need to be purely altruistic to be spiritual. I am not advocating of course pure selfishness. The key to me lies in balance.

    Let me also remind you that it was the Divine that made it NECESSARY for me to eat, to sleep, and gave me the urges to procreate. I can decide that the Divine design is faulty and that those aspects of me are bad naughty etc and try to fight against them nonstop or I can embrace them and seek balance and harmony in all things. In other words, I don’t believe that flesh is evil and sinful and spirit is good and nice like certain religions teach. To me, All things ARE Spirit at different levels of manifestations.

    To quote Hillel the Elder: “”If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?”

    “As an example, Nick Farrell, who is very sensible and adept in the GD, recounts on a recent post how basically there are no listed angels in the western tradition that can ‘assist’ in money magic. One has to resort to the assistance of a demon.”

    Indeed, that was an eyebrow raiser! There are many Enochian angels related to finance and growth. There are also many other angels in Jewish lore that relate to that. Look up for example, the angel Anauel. The only reason to summon demons for money or for any other facet of material magic is because a) you want to, b) you really want to, and c) you are itching to.

    I think the heart of the issue for me lies here:

    “Also the positive ‘energy’ is never lost, the altruism, which is a form of love continues on long after the ritual finishes. Examples of these forms of rituals are sadly lacking in the Golden Dawn and western magical circles, though I have posted one of them here.”

    There is no reason in hell they are lacking.

  7. Peregrin · May 9, 2009

    Hello Wandering Mystic 🙂

    thank you for the comment and the thoughts you have shared. If i may reply to your reply a little 🙂

    I agree there need not be a dichotomy between individual betterment and community betterment – when we help the community we help ourselves. When we fully express ourselves as the One (God) manifesting on earth we will automatically better the community through everything we do. I will still wager though that once we express such divinity we will not be casting circles for a new car 🙂

    The examples of the GD you give, the Jupiter Talisman Consecration and the Requiem are not traditional GD but are the personal creations, from the Z formulae, of Regardie and another. I agree with the statements re Mathers translations of various medieval texts; but as you say, they are not Golden Dawn or Rosicrucian.

    I think I may not have been clear about what I mean when i use the word altruism: it is a recognition of the interdependence of all beings, as wonderfully formulated in the quotation from Martin Luther King Jr in the side bar. It is not about benefiting ourselves alone in any way at all, spiritual or material, if we separate the two, which of course is only a separation of thought not reality. Like Tibetan Buddhist practice, the western traditional adepts who taught me stressed the need to constantly focus outside the self, beyond the ego. We cannot attain any lasting spiritual benefit alone; we are corporate beings and we live, die and are revived together, or not at all.

    I fully agree we all need to eat, sleep etc. I do not remember referring to any aspect of life or our beings as in any way bad or naughty 🙂 My views are not based on an dichotomy of spirit vs matter; such a view is not part of the western esoteric traditions I am part of. All I was pointing out is that we, who can find time and resources to look at blogs, are already eating, sleeping and fucking better than the majority of people we share this planet with. Once we accept this and interdependence we must compassionately and logically be moved to assist those who are more in need than us.

    Thank you for sharing the words of Hillel, i will look further into this 🙂 Thanks again for your honest words and thoughts 🙂

  8. Peregrin · May 9, 2009

    Thank you Soror for your kind words. I am assuming Soror from the Motto and a few comments I have seen elsewhere 🙂

  9. Pingback: The personal and transpersonal in Golden Dawn magic « Magic of the Ordinary
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