Does Magic Work?

Popular fantasy-fiction and childhood fairy tales have taught us a certain
view of what constitutes magic. Popular psychology discusses the concept
of “magical thinking”, or unconnected cause-and-effect thinking (such as
“if I do A then B will result” with no concrete connection between cause
and effect) as a barrier to true psychological growth. Many of us have
memories of magic that responds immediately and concretely to our
workings. What do all three of these have in common? All three of these
descriptions do not accurately describe what magic is and how it works on
Planet Earth.

For the purposes of this post I will stick to this time and place, this
reality here-and-now. Discussions of what magic did and how it worked in
other times and places are I think best left to a different post.

A large part of magic here consists of what can be loosely termed “mental
alchemy”. To put it into simpler terms, the magic worker creates the
process of magic by altering one’s own perceptions. Thus, magic here works
best when applied to oneself or one’s own situation.

Magic here is both very powerful and very, very subtle. It is internal,
drawing as much upon the will and consciousness of the practitioner as upon
the external energies of the world. The process of magic must therefore
take into consideration both the true will of the practitioner and the
ambient energies available to fuel the process, or the process
fails. Hence, the prime commandment for the successful working of magic:
“Know Thyself.”

Self-knowledge is critical to the success of magical working. You must
first and foremost know what you truly desire, and to know this you must
know who you are. By who you are I don’t mean what spiritual race; that
is almost incidental. I mean you must know how you will feel, how you will
react, what your philosophies are, what does and does not matter to
you. You must know all the light and dark sides of yourself and be at home
in your own skin. You can of course work magic successfully without this
self-knowledge. It happens all the time. Without it, though, your efforts
will produce unexpected or inconsistent results. Knowing oneself is thus a
primary focus and goal for successful magic, and it is one you would
ideally be working toward your entire life. Magic is powered by the
energies of where you are but it is focused and directed by your own
consciousness, and your subconscious. If you undertake a magical
working to bring about something you do not truly desire for yourself but
rather have convinced yourself you should want then at best your working
will fail. At worst you’ll find yourself in a situation where you now have
something you either don’t like, don’t know what to do with or got at a
price you wouldn’t have paid had you known.

I’ll relate a tale out of my own experience. Samhain 1992 I did my usual
yearly solitary ritual for the coming year and to bid farewell to the
passing one. One thing I had been trying to accomplish for about three
years at that point was to be able to sell my house and move to Connecticut
to be with the man who is now my husband. To that end, when I made my
yearly intentions I poured a huge amount of energy and passion into forming
that one. All the signs indicated that my request had been Heard and
favorably looked upon. This was in October. By March of 1993 I was indeed
living in Connecticut, however the circumstances that brought that about
were in retrospect so painful and difficult that had I an inkling
beforehand I’d have left well enough alone, and brought this change about
in some other, more mundane way. Looking back, I realize that I had
without realizing it projected some of my frustrations with my then-current
situation into my working, and that when I made my intention I had
deliberately left the reality of those situations out of the picture
instead of incorporating them into the picture in a responsible way. Yes,
the magic took those things out of the picture … in a painful way. So,
the importance of Knowing Thyself was brought home to me very, very sharply.

A critical and fundamental key to magic is to embrace the understanding
that your subconscious is a powerful tool which can be programmed. It is
for this reason that visualization is such an important tool in your
magical repertoire. You can pick up a powerful obsidian athame, make a wand
out of oak and copper, bear a silver sword and drape yourself in crystals
all you want; if you can’t visualise your intention then you can’t program
your subconscious to work on your behalf in making that intention a
reality. Again, knowing thyself is paramount to that process. One
effective technique for programming that I have found particularly useful
is to spend some time in meditation, focusing on what I am seeking to bring
about in my own life and then spending some time letting the images and
thoughts flow around that intention. This assists me in discovering if the
intention is something I truly want. I often do this several times and it
has become part of the mental preparation process for me. Once I have
explored those thoughts and images I try to anchor them as firmly as
possible into my conscious reality. One way of doing this is to embark
upon a pre-ritual meditation using music, incense, etc… things that will
bring you somewhat back to your physical reality. I then enter into the
meditative state with these reminders around me of the physical universe I
inhabit, and once again focus on the images and thoughts I have discovered
through my earlier meditations. By holding those images while remaining
aware of the physical universe around me I can bring them into my conscious
thought process and anchor them there.

During the ritual process, as I form my intentions and visualize them I
return to the thoughts and images I anchored during my pre-ritual
meditation. By now these will have been reinforced several times and have
become part of my conscious experience as well as my subconscious one. By
reinforcing this I am in effect programming my subconscious mind to bring
about in me the state of mind that will allow me to embrace the changes I
am seeking to make. Once my ritual has ended that subconscious programming
remains and will continue to effect the things I do and the decisions I
make. Over time this will ideally trigger me to choose courses of action
that will in the end bring about my desire.

It can be argued that this isn’t magic, it’s psychology. And yet magic and
psychology go hand in hand in this context. Because we are the prime
ingredient in any magical working, the psychology of how we think and
function is inextricable from the process. Knowing thyself, knowing how
you think and feel truly, understanding what it is you want and what you
are willing to do to accomplish it is the difference between success and
failure in magic. Otherwise you can be surrounded with the most magical
flow of energies ever found on Planet Earth and you lack the tools and
understanding to do anything with that. Magic exists, but only that. It
is a static force until we make it an active, dynamic force in our own

Magic exists, and it works. The magic of this world is a powerful and
subtle force. But we must use the proper tools to utilize it and the
primary tool is our own mind. Proper use of the tool requires abandoning
the old ideas of what magic should be, and growing in one’s understanding
of what it is.

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