Text of a talk given on my behalf at
Hola! First of all, I, the Kite, am really disappointed not to be presenting this talk to you in person, as I’m sure you are persons I would really like to meet. Perhaps in the future we will meet. I look forward to it. Until then, thank you for this opportunity to share with you through my beloved magical partner Soror Brigantia. It is truly exciting for us to be able to contribute to the growth of chaos magic in the Spanish-speaking world.
Secondly, I am a magician and I have never found any truth out there that wasn’t made up by someone. The same applies to what I’m offering to you today. I present a bunch of over-simplified half-truths with my own bias so that you can have something to play with. Please play with it, and play hard.
One of my least favourite questions is “What is magic?” So let’s start by clearing up some errors. Firstly, there is no magic ‘stuff’ in a big Cosmic Bucket waiting to be used. No ‘energy,’ no ‘Chaos force,’ no ‘magic power.’ Magic is not a thing, it’s an activity. This activity is done by magicians, and it is from the magicians, the Magi, that Magic gets its name, not the other way around. Magic is us, the magicians.
One of my favourite questions is “What is it for?” So let’s ask, what is magic for? And magic is for two things. Firstly, we magicians (for we are the magic, remember) learn techniques to make the world more to our liking. We change the world. We can even make changes to ourselves as part of this changeable world. This is what most people mean by ‘magic.’
Secondly, as we build a track record of successful magic in the world, we begin to realise that we’ve been misled all our lives about how the world works, and what is our place in it. Every successful spell denies the lies we tell ourselves about the rigid mechanical world of cause and effect. Every successful spell denies the lies we tell ourselves about ourselves as lonely ghosts in meat puppets. Our magical success teaches us a very different story. This is what many people mean by ‘illumination.’
However, Magic is not Religion. Although Illumination sounds like it ought to be a religious purpose, we do not need to believe in any god or heaven or revelation. And we do not need a church. All of these things were made up by someone and there is no special reason why we should believe them rather than ourselves. These things can in fact become ends in themselves and pull us away from our two magical purposes. Furthermore, Religious authorities are usually hostile to Magic. So, not Religion.
Magic is not Philosophy. At least, not as understood by western philosophy. For western philosophy is a desert of ideas, of concepts, of pretty arrangements of thoughts that may or may not have any relevance to what is actually going on. Explanation is not essential to Magic. Magical theory as a philosophy is just as much a trap for the magician as Religion is.
Philosophy as it is sometimes found in the East, and as it was amongst some pre-Socratic philosophers of Greece, is different. Among such people, philosophy is not argued but lived. There is no artificial divide of concepts and actions. I consider this a fine way to live, but it’s still not Magic.
Magic is not Politics. In Politics we seek not only to live our philosophy of life, but also to extend it into the public world. This sounds like Magic because it seeks to change the world, not merely have ideas about it, but the methods of politics – activism, debate, consensus, law-giving, and so on – are not as such Magical.
Magic is not Art. Many Artists are confused about this, especially since Magic is often described as an art. Of course, Western Magic is often described these day in terms borrowed from postmodernism, which is art theory on steroids. But I’ve already pointed out that Magic is not theory.
Artistic inspiration and magical inspiration can be hard to tell apart, and much Magic manifests as Art. My best suggestion here is to discern the different intents of Art and Magic. The two Magical purposes of causing change and Illumination are the keys to telling the difference.
Magic is not Psychology. Our mind plays a great role in our Magic, but our Magic is not all in the mind. In Chaos Magic, we learn this by casting spells for results you can see in the public world. Our Magic may change ourselves, deconstruct and reconstruct ourselves, reinvent ourselves, and we may include psychological techniques, but we also make magical changes in the world which is not ourselves, so to speak.
Magic is not Science. Science proceeds from an initial ‘good idea’ to an hypothesis tested thoroughly until the collected evidence for or against the hypothesis is overwhelming. This sounds like Magic until you try to actually test it. No laboratory series will do. Magic happens in life, and you cannot ever repeat exactly the initial conditions from which your magic arose. Every magical occasion is an unique event.
Unlike scientists, we do not rely on physical cause and effect for success. Nor do we expect our efforts to lead simply to a new and better theory, but to life-changing realization of ourselves in this world which is our true home.
Magicians are less like theoretical scientists than they are like engineers. Theorists want to know if it’s true. Engineers want to see if they can make it work. We Magi are not doing experiments to prove theories, we are engineering our world and ourselves. We embody our magic. We are the experiment.
So far, I’ve described a lot of things that Magic is NOT.
Magic is not Religion.
Magic is not Philosophy.
Magic is not Politics.
Magic is not Art.
Magic is not Psychology.
Magic is not Science.
Now let’s get back to my least favourite question: what is Magic?
Firstly, Magic is magicians. We are the magic. I said this already.
Secondly, Magic is Intention. Intention is the answer to the question ‘What am I doing this for?” Ultimately, we have our two purposes of Magic to answer this question, but those purposes are served by clear Intentions for specific results.
Thirdly, Magic is technique. Technique means skill. Skill means learning. Learning means time and effort and repetition, intelligently directed. Skill also means that people with no innate ability or talent can learn magic too.
Techniques of magic are widely available in books, Internet articles and so on and pretty much any nonsense seems to work as long as you can buy into it at the time. Skill in using techniques is another matter. You can learn it on your own, but it’s like learning anything on your own: it’s unnecessarily hard and you may get discouraged and give up or you may make avoidable mistakes that mess up your life. It’s usually better to learn with a teacher or a group if possible. This is why the Illuminates of Thanateros exists, to make it easier for a magician to become highly skilled without making too many costly mistakes. Doing magic together, we learn more quickly from each other than by going it alone and we have other magicians to support us in what we do.
Our wider society does not support our magical endeavour. The authorities would rather we just worked to pay off the debts they sold us and behave ourselves quietly at home surrounded by the rubbish we’ve bought with our debts while we try to ignore our despair at the mess we’ve made of ourselves, our society and our world. As magicians, we have the chance to challenge this ugly scene and to bring back to our people the magic they have lost.
Let’s do it. Magician plus Intention plus technique. We don’t know how our efforts will turn out, but then it is an experiment. We are the experiment. You are the experiment. Let me wish you every success with your experiment, and perhaps we can share success stories some time. Speaking of success stories, I believe that Soror Brigantia now has something of her own to say.