In an attempt to not sound absolutely crazy to anyone who might see me mention magick, I’d like to bring some illumination of what magick is. This may prove to be a challenge because the term itself is a moving goalpost of sorts. To some, magick means a man on a stage sawing a woman in half as an act of illusion. Ironically, this can also be seen as a metaphor for our own subjective predilections toward illusion in all aspects of our life.
In order to explain this correctly, I must try to get you to set aside what you think you might know about actual magic and allow yourself to hear me for what I’m saying unencumbered by preset notions.
The Buddhist might say that everything is Maya (illusion) and the ancient Gnostic might say the same, but with the twist that this material construct is a kind of incubator for us to occupy ourselves why Archons feed on our thoughts and feelings without our knowing it (think, people being batteries for the machines to live off of like in the film series, The Matrix). Whether these ideas are true, or not the metaphor that they produce is indeed powerful. In many different ways, these concepts can be seen as true.
Ok, on to actual explanation.
Magick is first a method of transforming the world you see by changing the way you see the world. This requires one to willfully change hard-wired behavior and practices through mental gymnastics. Much of this involves understanding and playing with the thought-form.
A thought form is the primary way we construct ideas; it is exactly the formation of our thoughts. A thought form can also be in some ways associated with what Jung referred to as archetypes. Archetypes are overarching themes and images that we associate with primary things in our life. For example, for many, our fathers represent an image of what God might be like; If our father is cruel, then we may see God as inherently cruel. The thought form of who God is creates a landscape for our reality in a highly subjective and personal fashion and may be entirely incorrect in contrast to the actual truth of the matter.
But we are not looking for truth with a capital T here, because of the paradoxical nature of truth itself. It is like the problem scientists have with the idea that the observer changes the results of behavior simply by nature of observing. Instead we are looking to change the nature of our thoughts and tinkering with the wiring we have in our minds.
So how exactly does one manipulate one’s own thought forms and for what purpose? This is the crux of the magical practice. One must in many ways trick one’s own mind, which is no small feat, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be done.
Think of a time in your life in which you radically changed stances on a subject. Did the way you see the world change? Did some kind of transformative experience catalyze this change? In one way, or another, something changed the wiring of you mind on that particular subject. In one sense, you received gnosis (experiential understanding) on that particular thing. But the fact that this experience happened to you through your particular lens means that it may not have happened to others in the same way, even if the experience has happened to many people. For instance, no two people lost their virginity in the same way, but all were transformed by the experience in some form. The event is highly subjective and personal, though many themes may be similar within the broader context of the experience.
The greatest act of a magician then is to transform one’s self and therefore change the world that they see. In changing our perception, we change the nature of reality. And this toying with perception can change the world from something banal into something divine. Regardless of our cosmology, we can see how this happens to everyone, hence my assertion that everything is magick. If you ask a Kung Fu master what Kung Fu is, he might say the same thing.
In many ways magick is a western term for a traditionally assumed eastern idea, but our western traditions have much to contribute, though they have been stamped down and literally burned in books and people by two millennia of monotheistic suppression. The stigma is palpable and yet our disciplines of science came through these occult channels from ancient sources. Astronomy and Astrology were once one and the same, Pharmacology, Chemistry and Herbalism were once Alchemy.
So in short, the manipulation of one’s own mind to achieve a specific goal in one’s self, or in the world around them is the core of magick. To those who might think magick to be a foul and odious working with demons and other fancied creatures, this is a misunderstanding brought forth by a long tradition of slander. Consider what it means to work on yourself in such a way that your goal is personal growth for the highest goal of society through your own contribution. Consider this quote from the much maligned and misunderstood book, The Black Pullet:
“Do you feel, my son, do you feel this heroic ambition which is the sure stamp of the children of wisdom? Do you dare to desire to serve only the one God and to dominate over all that is not God? Have you understood what it is to prove to be a man and to be unwilling to be a slave since you are born to be a Sovereign? And if you have these noble thoughts, as the signs which I have found on your physiognomy do not permit me to doubt, have you considered maturely whether you have the courage and the strength to renounce all the things which could possibly be an obstacle to attaining the greatness for which you have been born?”
At this point he stopped and regarded me fixedly as if waiting for an answer, or as if he were searching to read my heart.
I asked him, “What is that which I have to renounce?”
“All that is evil in order to occupy yourself only with that which is good. The proneness with which nearly all of us are born to vice rather than to virtue. Those passions which render us slaves to our senses which prevent us from applying ourselves to study, tasting its sweetness, and gathering its fruits. You see, my dear son, that the sacrifice which I demand of you is not painful and is not above your powers; on the contrary, it will make you approach perfection as near as it is possible for man to attain. Do you accept that which I propose?”
If I have explained myself correctly, you will understand that magick is simply a broad term for one working on the improvement of one’s self for the betterment of self and humanity at large through the manipulation of one’s own thoughts and ideas, questioning every notion and challenging each one in practice and critical review.
Gabriel writes for VICE Magazine, Disinfo.com and Realitysandwich.com and is the author of three books. He is continuing his research at the University of Washington in his hometown of Tacoma, WA.