Life as a Magickian

Through my work I meet a lot of people interested in spirituality, self development, or things which, on this site, I group together under the term ‘weird shit.’ However, my approach to these topics is a little different from that of many of the people I meet. I often describe it by saying that I’m a lot more comfortable in the “Occult” section of a bookshop than I am in the “Mind, Body and Spirit” section. I am a practicing magickian (that irritating extra ‘k’ in there just to make it known that I don’t mean I spend my time devising new ways of making coins appear out of thin air). By which I mean that my spirituality expresses itself through a magickal world view, and I use the techniques, principles and practices of magick for self development and experimenting with weird shit.

I’m careful to choose when I talk about this because it can generate a range of reactions. Mostly it’s just curiosity (“What exactly is magick?” “What do you do?” “What can you do?” “Is it real?”). But also on occasion I see a certain amount of suspicion, even fear. The problem with the occult is… well, it’s right there. Occult means hidden. The occult, by its very nature, can never be mainstream, can never be well understood, can never be familiar. That gives it a certain psychological power, but it also makes it easy for people to project their fears and suspicions onto it.

This is an attempt to answer some of the most common questions about exactly what I mean by magick and why I do it in the first place.

What exactly is magick?

There has come to be a generally accepted definition of the term magick. It goes as follows “Magick is the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity to the will.” We have our Mr Crowley to thank for the definition, and as far as it goes it’s a damn fine one. But it suffers the problem of many definitions – it describes without explaining.

But let’s start with the definition anyway ‘bringing about change in conformity to the will’ – so that really means making stuff happening that you want to happen, doesn’t it? So is he saying that anytime we make stuff happening, we’re doing magick?

Well, yes. And no. The trouble with magick is that, like many other topics, it has taken everyday language and given it a rather technical, precise, meaning which – if we’re not familiar with the subject – we may not fully appreciate. Mr Crowley has an awful, awful lot to say in his writings about the meaning of the word ‘will’. One’s will is not simply what one ‘kind of wants to happen’. One’s will is the complete and full expression of one’s inner being, uninhibited by psychological fears, societies restraints or the limits of one’s own personality. When one acts with will one does magick. Which means that, yes, technically speaking making it light in a room by pushing a light switch can be an act of magick – if it is done in full consciousness with complete intent. But frankly, that isn’t a very helpful example if we’re trying to get an understanding of what we generally mean by magick.

I’ll have a stab at my own explanation. I would say that magick generally means the use of the mind to bring about change when we currently have no understanding of the mechanism that may cause that change to happen.

If I sit, meditate, focus my will on a piece of paper onto which I’ve drawn an image which represents my need for more money and the next day I get three new client enquiries, then I’d say I’ve done some magick. I currently have no understanding of a mechanism by which meditating on a symbol can ‘coincidentally’ lead to more clients coming to me, but I’ve seen it happen often enough to know that it’s got a good shot of working.

If I perform a ritual written by Lon Milo Duquette which is designed to bring me into contact with a form of consciousness known as an Enochian angel, and I have an experience which appears to be such a contact, I don’t know how the chanting and focusing has brought about that change, but I judge that it has done so.

If I push a light switch I’ve got a pretty good idea of the mechanism that makes the light go on, so I don’t think I’d call that magick – nor would most people. If I were from the middle ages, however, I might well think it was magick. Likewise, perhaps given a few centuries someone will start figuring out a mechanism by which some of the magickal techniques I use bring about the changes I observe. At which point those techniques will stop being listed in magickal books and start turning up in other parts of the bookshelf.

The act of performing magick may involve words, sounds, gestures, candles, props, following a script or spontaneous expression, meditation or other unusual states of consciousness, dance or stillness, being alone or being with a bunch of people, being in nature or being in a nightclub, hours of work or a few seconds concentration. But in the end I think all of those acts come down to one principle – they are all designed to bring about a change in the mind of the magickian involved. That shift of mind, in some way that isn’t yet understood, impacts on the Universe. Events then occur in accordance with the intention of the magick.

Well, if you’ve done it right anyway.

And lets get the big, important fact out of the way early on – there is no secret to magick. No grimoire that contains the spell that makes it all work, no recipe that grants your heart’s desire, no combination of words and gestures that make it all happen, no magic stick that if you point in the right way gives you all the power you need. All you have is you – your mind, your personality, your Will.

Anyone that tries to tell you that there is a big secret to magic either wants your money or wants to get into your pants.

Okay, I’ll admit it, there is one secret of magick, and I do happen to know it. But if you want it you’ll have to contact me personally – my contact details are here.

Why do magick?

Magick is what I do, and I’ve been doing it for about 20 years now. But why do I bother?

Hell, I ask myself that question sometimes – magick is hard work. It can be tiring, it can be stressful, it brings you face to face with many of your flaws and fears, it is frequently extremely disruptive to normal life, and it often doesn’t even work!

So why do it?

Well, I think there are four main reasons that people do magick. Different people put an emphasis on different elements.

We do magick:

For fun

People generally don’t spend a lot of time doing things that aren’t, at some level, fun. Doing magick can be exciting – you are doing things which most people don’t believe are even possible and you never quite know how it’s going to turn out. You may be able to push the boundaries of your consciousness, experiment with drawing knowledge and wisdom from new sources, or try to do something ‘impossible’ like see the future, speak with a god or have a vision of another world. That’s got to be fun, right?

To get stuff we want

Probably the most obvious use for magick: bringing about change in accordance to your intention surely means getting the world to give you the stuff you want, right? Indeed it does. Magick is often used for giving the probabilities of life a little nudge – an opportunity for a new job, a new house, a new car or a new girl. Very few people believe that magick allows us to simply conjure money and girls into existence out of thin air, which is fortunate as really it’s used for what we might call ‘coincidencing’ – having things happen ‘by chance’ just the way we want them to. So you do a working for a new job and a friend drops you an email about a vacancy a couple of days later, you ask for a new car and your parents offer you one cheaply, your intent is to get laid and you bump into this cute chick who lives down the road… You can never really say you ‘caused’ it to happen, it just sort of did, but if you keep asking and you keep getting you know there’s something good going on.

For self development

Perhaps this is the least commonly recognised use of magick – magick is frequently used by practitioners to help them overcome their own limitations and become more of who they wish to be in life. Working with the tarot is a magical act (it has the aim of bringing about change through insight even though we don’t understand the mechanism through which that insight comes) and tarot is generally used for personal insight as part of a move towards personal development. Meditation is often used in a magick as a method for understanding more about who we are and our place in the world. More complex rituals are used to put ourselves in contact with consciousnesses which help us gain greater perspective, insight and understanding. Wherever you find magick, in the present world or in the past, you will find people striving to understand more about their place in the Universe, the nature of divinity and how to live a better life.

For religious purposes

Most religions feature magick very prominently – we are, however, so culturally familiar with the practices we no longer see them for what they are. The catholic high mass is a highly complex magickal ritual, involving multiple participants, elaborate props, complex gestures, the intonations of ritualised words, and a complex belief system. It has a highly magickal aim – the transmogrification of base matter into the body of Christ, following by it’s consumption in order to bring the participants closer to god. We’ve always used magick as part of religion – typically in the modern day, however, only the more ‘pagan’ religions are thought of as actively using magick as part of their religious practices. Pagan who are dancing, singing, chanting and performing ritual acts are performing magic – it may not have a specific aim (like ‘bring me a new car’) but a more generalised one of celebrating the turning of a season, celebrating the influence of a god, or marking a passage through life. But it uses magical technique to bring about change in the participants and the world at large.

So does it work?

As I sit here on my private Mediterranean island, surrounded by my international bevy of sex slaves, contemplating my secret rulership of several European countries I can’t help but think that magick has proved pretty useful over the years…

Or rather, as I sit here in my perfectly pleasant west London flat, surrounded by a pretty decent collection of books, contemplating why I don’t have more clients just as the moment, I can’t help but think that magick has proved to be pretty useful over the years, but also pretty damn tricksy and inconsistent.

In answer to the big question then – yes, magick works. I’m sure it does and over the years I’ve seen it do remarkable things… either that or I’ve been subject to the most bizarre and long running set of coincidences you could imagine. So, follows the next question, why haven’t I won the lottery yet? Why haven’t I got my dream job and all the cash, cars and girls I could wish for? Ah well… you see, it does work, but not quite in that way.

You remember right up there near the beginning when I said magick was ‘the use of the mind’ to bring about change? That’s the tricky bit right there. Minds are damn difficult things to control. You may think it’s pretty easy to think a particular thought, or create a particular image in your mind, even evoke a particular emotion. But doing those things all at the same time, with complete conviction, without your unconscious mind generating counter thoughts, without your fears colouring your mental construction or your fantasies undoing your work? Do your think your mind has ever been in exactly the same state on two separate occasions? Surely the experiences you’ve had and new memories you’ve created between any two points in time mean you can never recreate exactly the same conditions within your mind.

As best I can tell magick works through the medium of the mind – there are certain states of mind, states of consciousness perhaps, that are very powerful and can influence the emergence of future events. A friend of mine describes magick as learning to “speak in a way that the Universe will listen to you” – and it’s not a bad description. Hold your mind in the correct state and the Universe will respond.

But how to achieve the right state, or even know what the right state is? That’s were all the ritual, props and hullabaloo come in – all of those things are designed to shift your state of mind into a ‘magical’ form which the Universe will listen to. Different types of hullabaloo suite different types of people, so we have different schools of magick that look very different to the observer. Some people are lucky enough that they need very little stimulation to attain and hold a magickal state of mind. Most of us end up figuring out which approaches (techniques, tools, props and rituals) ‘work’ most effectively for us and use that.

But there are limits – sometimes we are blocked from achieving the state of mind we need to perform an act of magick. No matter how many props we use, no matter how long the ritual, we may never be able to set our fear aside, or our anxiety, or more commonly our desperate desire for the magick to work. These emotions anchor us in the mundane and stop us from shifting into the spiritual state which allows our mind to interact with the Universe. And the magick never happens.

But how do I make it happen?

A clear, confident, peaceful mind is required for effective magick. We must be clear in our intent, i.e. know exactly what we are trying to achieve. We must be confident in our ability to achieve it. We must be at peace with the knowledge that we may succeed, but not so desperate for success we become afraid of failure. These things taken together are remarkably hard to achieve. Preparation helps, but to be effective as a magician we need to have achieved a level of self insight and self assurance which doesn’t come naturally to many people.

This generally means that to become better magickians we dedicate ourselves further to self development, and self development in turn leads to further spiritual practices, which will often bring us back around to magick once again. Work in one area constantly informs and motivates work in another. Many people may begin experimenting with magick out of a belief that it will ‘get them stuff’, perhaps all the stuff they’ve ever wished for, but when they realise that part of the problem is that they aren’t entirely sure what they want and that they are rather scared of getting it anyway, they realise that the first order of business is getting a better grip on their own personality.

Magick really works – many strange and wonderful things have come my way I believe as a direct result of magick that I’ve performed. I’ve successfully enchanted for jobs, girls, money, even cars. But I couldn’t say I could do any of those things today – I need to be in the right state of mind, with the right level of need, and the right level of insight to create a space for those things to manifest.

Magick works. But it’s unreliable (if you aren’t good at realising when you are ‘clear’ on your goals and the times when you aren’t) and it’s hard (because becoming ‘clear’ on your goals involves getting to know yourself really well and that can be a taxing process).

How do you actually do it?

Oh, let me count the ways.

First off, it’s important to understand that, as I said above, there is no big secret. There isn’t a way of doing it, there isn’t a collection of spells that always work, there isn’t a technique which once you’ve learned it you can ‘do’ magick. And in the days of the internet there aren’t any secrets anymore. All the knowledge you need is out there.

But, sadly, that doesn’t make it easy. Magick is a bit like cooking. When you start off you don’t really have a clue what you are doing – you can buy all the implements and tools you want, but you still won’t have cooked anything. Buying a recipe book is a good idea, but again you can read and read and read about different recipes, different techniques, different implements, but you still can’t cook. You only learn to cook by doing it. As soon as you start to cook you’ll realise that it’s different to how you thought it was going to be – all the smells, textures, sensations and tastes make it a very different experience to what you read about on the page. As a result you’ll probably find you don’t get the result you want the first few times. But if you learn as you go and adapt you’ll start to get things which are a little more like what you expected. Being a good cook takes a little bit of talent, a certain amount of knowledge and a hell of a lot of practice.

Now, I can really extend this analogy. When you search for recipe books you’ll naturally come across the fact that there are many different cuisines. These different cuisines are all about cooking, but they do things differently – they use different utensils, different ingredients, different techniques. It all produces food, but the food can be very diverse. Some you may like, some you may not. You’ll find much the same in magick – there are many different traditions of magick, many different approaches. You may come across books on Thelema, or Chaos Magick. The Northern Tradition, or Wicca. Traditional Witchcraft or Shamanism. They use different techniques, ingredients and have different ideas. They produce different results. But they’re all magick.

Incidentally, what would you do if you came across a recipe book which suggested it was the one true recipe book, that it was the only one that taught how to create real food because it was based on the oldest cookery book in existence and all other cuisines were debased and useless? I suggest you do the same with any magick book that suggest the same thing.

Most magickians, I’d suggest, end up doing the magickal equivalent of ‘fusion cooking’ – they take an idea from here, a technique from there, add their favourite ingredients and produce magick which suits their tastes best. Some may call it ‘inauthentic’ – because it is – but if it gets the results they want in a way they are comfortable with, then really, where’s the harm?

If you want to know how to do magick it’s actually pretty easy – find a couple of good books, read them, and try it. Your experience will be different from what you expect it to be, you will make mistakes, you’ll probably make a prat of yourself at some point, but at the very least it will be interesting. Before long you’ll start establishing your own ideas about what works, what doesn’t, what’s real, what isn’t, and defining how your own magickal Universe works (you see, when it comes to magick the magickian very much has a say in the rules of how things work… but that’s a whole other discussion).

So why live as a magickian?

Magick is my chosen form of spiritual expression.

I do it becomes it’s fun – it’s compelling to me to discover just what I’m capable of, to have experiences utterly beyond those of the mundane world and to transform myself into the best version of me that I can manage.

I do it because it can help bring me the things I want and need – although never easily and never without work.

I do it because it helps me understand more about who I am, what I want and what my place in the Universe might be.

I live as a magickian because, at this stage, I would have no idea how not to live as a magickian.