Magic – what is it good for?

NOTE: this is a gonzo post – no editing apart from the helpful red lines under my words as I type.

At present I am not formally tied to any group where I am leading or teaching folk on a regular basis. I continue to informally teach in the various fields of magic I have been blessed to myself receive tutelage. I am not finding this any sort of lack. In fact, I LIKE IT. Apart from laziness, the main reason I like it is because I DO NOT HAVE TO DEAL WITH PEOPLE.

Especially magical folk.

You know what I mean.

There I said it.

Now, if I were ever to be a head-honcho of a magical group again, this is what I would do. Before talking about magic. Before mentioning the words ‘Golden Dawn’, before asking newcomers ANYTHING ELSE, I’d slap down a print of the following.


I have come to realise that there is, IMHO, actually no fucking point in teaching folk anything at all about magic if they do not agree with the sainted MLK on this. In fact, as I have often pointed out, the principles expressed here are the principles of modern magic, and as any depth practitioner of them would know, EVERY SINGLE AUTHENTIC religious or spiritual tradition in the world. OK, well… post-axial age spirituality. Those modern pretences to ‘tradition’ that do not recognise the interdependence of all beings and focus on the self alone fail the basic test outlined by the wonderful Father Matthew Fox when he visited Perth many years back:

“the test of a spirituality is in its justice making; does it create justice?”

Now of course, there are always those folk – magical, new age, Christian, Buddhist – like rats, they’re everywhere – who respond to such truths by saying things like ‘as I change myself, I change the world’, ‘start at home first’. Well, yes this is ONE side of the concept of radical interdependence, but not the full picture. We can act on ourselves AND in community, in society in the world at the same time. You cannot be what you ought to be until everyone else is. So, even if you’re a selfish prick, it actually pays to be focused on others… really.

So modern 21st century magic should be about moving the mage from the centre of the circle, controlling all the forces he invokes (which is like, so medieval) to an awareness that at the centre we are interdependent on the entire circle of life, on the One and the universe that forms around us.

All this is encapsulated in those wonderful words of Dr King. In Buddhist terms this is the Right View, the first path in the Noble Eightfold path, which while not being linear does require this first one to at least be done from the very start. That is, we need to have some sense, some grokking with this truth BEFORE deep spirituality. Otherwise we can easily become distorted – thinking we actually exist – or even worse that we are actually important – or even, even worse, that those little numbers after our Mottos MEAN something.

The same truth is reflected in the magical tradition by the lovely phrase found in the Inner Light, when the initiate is asked why they wish to receive the Hidden Knowledge: ‘I desire to know that I may serve’. Now of course, as Herbie Brennan honestly pointed out in the foreword to Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki’s ‘The Ritual Magic Workbook’ folk do lie at this point. We all do to some degree – because we are all broken and separate from the One, as well as made in the Image of the One, and at the centre of unimaginable circle of God’s love. A few porkies now and then… we all do it.

So, this is why – if I were ever to run a group again – I would test this commitment. That’s right TEST the silly buggers who were learning from me on this. I once spent several weeks formulating a rather neat (so I thought) curriculum of social and compassionate justice actions – volunteering, donations, campaigning – all nicely corresponding to the Golden Dawn outer ‘elemental’ grades. The idea being that, no matter how good at the meditations, spiritual processes etc, an initiate was, without them doing so many hours of this solid, earthy, practical work, they would not move on to the next grade. That’d test them! Naturally, my framework was bounced by my (democratic) lodge leadership.

So, here we are. I have been absent from MOTO recently because I have actually been doing a lot of this social based magical action – and yes, it IS magic. It’s very rewarding and intensely frustrating. But be warned, if you ever see me put up a shingle (or hear about it on the grapevine) for a magical group, this is what you are letting yourself in for. If you do not agree, do not come knocking…





  1. alexsumner · May 2, 2014

    This is a very GD oriented sentiment. Once you step outside of the GD you will find that there are organisations within the Western Mystery Tradition that categorically state that it actually is the initiate’s responsibility to go out and make the world a better place. The idea being that it is mankind’s ultimate spiritual destiny to be One, with God. Hence, that which is divisive, i.e. which prevents us being One – e.g. social injustice – should be militated against.

  2. Abhainn · May 2, 2014

    Hi Peregrin, glad to hear from you over here and to hear you’ve been kept busy doing some very good and needed magical work. I agree wholeheartily that social action is a vital part of magic in fact just writing something vaguely related to this myself for Bealtaine 2014.

  3. Pingback: Bealtaine 2014 | Abhainn – the blog
  4. Peregrin · May 2, 2014

    Hey, THAT’s great news, Alex – thanks for the corrective. Yes, I have limited exposure down here… so, hey happy to be wrong … woot woot! 🙂

  5. Peregrin · May 2, 2014

    cool, Abhainn – glad you gave me a heads up – i have a habit of skipping Bealtaine posts, as they can be a big tiresome year after year 🙂

  6. Tom · May 2, 2014

    Peregrin – Thank you for this post.

  7. Jeff · May 2, 2014

    Fantastic, and a major stumbling block for me in my work on this path.

  8. Cosette · May 3, 2014

    Just today I read a long rant from a woman in a Facebook group for people interested in magick. She was basically bemoaning the state of the world, feeling defeated, and wondering what she could do to make the world a better place. Her conclusion was to take care of herself and send positive energy into the world. A number of readers Liked her post and agreed in the comments. While a nice sentiment, I added that she should pair that with concrete action: volunteer, join an organization or campaign, stay in the know, spread the word, and celebrate small victories.

  9. Andrew · May 4, 2014

    I tried posting earlier from my phone, but couldn’t do it… lost power ere I finished writing. On the off chance the earlier comment came through, please delete that and post this.

    I think the quotation is excellent… If I ever get this lodge group started, maybe this will form part of the candidate’s challenge at he door: “believe this? We’ll let you in… don’t? OK, maybe you should leave now.” I think you’re right — it’s an essential teaching.

    I have no idea what you mean by post-axial age, though I think you’re right that this core teaching of interconnectedness and “networkiness” is critical to a modern understanding of the magical world. May many more future shamans, magicians, witches, and others come to understand this mindset!

  10. Peregrin · May 4, 2014

    Thanks, Tom 🙂
    And you too, Jeff… lovely to see you here.

    Cosette, that is very interesting… I do like what you say at the end…the small victories… 🙂

    Andrew… thanks again, and AMEN to your final statement. Axial age – I think History of God and Case for God by Karen Armstrong are good accessible discussions. Or the net, I am sure 🙂

  11. MvdV · May 4, 2014

    So much response to those who deny the role of service and compassion can be summed up by quoting the mighty Optimus Prime from Transformers: The Movie (the original 1980’s animated feature).

    ” ‘Till all are One”…

    And yes, I do recognise the self indulgent nature of inflicting my love of that movie on readers 😉

  12. silverwolfofthedark · May 5, 2014

    I do think that incorporating service into the Outer Order grades is an excellent idea and a way to positively channel the energies as well as emphasizing the lessons of the respective grade.

  13. Celtic Fire · May 6, 2014

    Nicely provoking post. I can hear strands running through it of John Donne’s, “No man is an island, entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” Don’t forget the bedrock!

    After many years of working both alone and in formal groups within the Western Esoteric Tradition, I’m increasingly of the view that unless “betterment” can be evidenced in the behaviours, immediate environment and outputs of the individual/group, then the bags need packed, the lights turned off and the door closed!

    Perhaps a healthy question to regularly ask of your own practice or that of a group is, “what am I personally sacrificing to do this Work?”

    Not easy. Service, sacrifice and betterment are hugely complex things and full of all sorts of ethical conundrums but heck that adds to the fun!

  14. Pingback: On Jovial Nature… | Wanderings in the Labyrinth
  15. Ethony · June 15, 2014

    Words that need to be said so much more and even more than that, acted on

  16. Peregrin · June 17, 2014

    Thanks, Ethony 🙂

  17. Pingback: Dangers of the Golden Dawn (well all magic, really) | Magic of the Ordinary
  18. sionnanmaree · December 31, 2014

    Goodness yes to the service aspect, something I started on personally about 12yrs ago in my own life and tried to inspire within the pagan community in Sydney. It’s honestly like pulling teeth. So disappointing was the response (or lack there of) that I stopped trying. Kept on doing my own thing with volunteer work.

  19. Blau Stern Schwarz Schlonge · December 31, 2014

    Well written Peregrin, and good points made. Thanks for linking with some of your previous articles too. Reblogging so TY and happy new year.

  20. Blau Stern Schwarz Schlonge · December 31, 2014

    Reblogged this on Blau Stern Schwarz Schlonge and commented:
    Here is a well written article on the GD and Magicke in general. Also read his links to his previous posts related to the subject. Blessed new year.

  21. Peregrin · January 1, 2015

    THANKS all – and thanks, Blau for the repost 🙂

  22. Pingback: Self Development? Bugger that for a lark! | Magic of the Ordinary

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