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Discussions About Magic

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick,alt.pagan.magick
From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: Re: Discussions About Magic (Rudiments, Paradigms, Components)
Date: Sun, 18 Jul 2004 12:58:55 GMT

nagasiva wrote:
> Nihilist:

> >>> We are expressing different views of magick.
> more properly, you are discussing different views
> of magic

Actually, the discussion terminated, so i think Nihilist is correct --
we each stated our terms and then, at an impasse, we ceased to communicate.

> an interjector:
> >> You, Nihilist, do high magick - if you like the
> >> scientific study of the mind and its powers. You
> >> are like a physicist. You seek Silence as a
> >> route to knowledge.
> a mystic using 'magic' to get somewhere. the term
> "high" prepended usually implies the religious
> aspect (moral, approved, of greater value, etc.).
In addition to moral valuations, there are sometimes class, race, and
cultural embedments in such assessments of "high magic" versus "low
magic", although few welcome an open examination of them. 

> sri catyananda :
> > [Nihilist] is not like a scientist so much as he is like a
> > religious adherent. He enters the field with an a priori
> > "authoritative" set of assumptions about what magic is
> many practitioners of skills or users of technology do this.
> it is a kind of rudimentary attempt at theorizing, in which
> a single paradigm is absorbed and set up as a Known, hoisted
> up for others to knock down. sometimes this never happens,
> for whatever reason. one can see the same thing happen in the
> realms of philosophy and religion, with which these philosophical
> and technological discussions sometimes intersect.

Well said. I had not considered that he might be flexible enough to
consider this a "marketplace of ideas," to treat the magical
"authority" of Crowley as a theory -- much less as a target for
possible knocking down by other contenders for "authority." 

> > and what tools and techniques it employs and what results
> > should be forthcoming if he follows the rule-set and
> > system in which he confides his faith.
> indeed. so one is left with:
>         a) accepting his lexicon and limited perspective
>         then responding to it or asking questions within it
> or      b) employing another and ignoring him.

or        c) employing my own lexicon while attempting to engage 
          him in polite "bi-lingual" or "cross-cultural" 
          dialogue, in an ambiance of mutual respect

> >> Cat is a witch. Not a magician. She follows rules of thumb,
> >> and sometimes manages to get results, or she would say so.
> >
> > I am neither a witch nor a ceremonial magician.
> as if the termsets are all coincident. by my (biased) termset
> you're a witch, but that doesn't surprise me, nor, since we
> have discussed this, does it surprise me that you say you are
> not a witch, given what you think witches are (quite rational,
> and given your meaning I agree with your assessment [...]).

And that is a sample of c) above -- retaining your own 
term set while allowing me to retain mine, and speaking in 
"bi-cultural" or "bi-lingual" mode. And, yes, i agree with 
you -- by your definition of the word "witch," i am a witch,
and by my definition of the word "witch," i am not a witch.

But most importantly, neither of us is using the word "witch"
(or the word "magician") in an attempt to pre-emptively 
delimit the other's expressions. 

> > Note that i said "ceremonial magician." There is a reason
> > for this:  One of the basic Crowleyan cooptions of the word
> > magician, built into the Crowleyan rule-set,
> escalated by the more modern and illiterate use of the term
> 'magickian' I would add.

That one really gets to you, i know! :-) I just treat it 
as a spelling error and move on. 

> > is that a magician is one who practices ceremonial magic
> > in emulation of Medieval and Renaissance European urban
> > magic. This definition is peculiar to Crowley and his
> > followers.
> I'm curious. don't you think the Golden Dawn did it too?

Yes, you are right. Someone else (sorry, i have forgotten
who now, as it was a while back) also pointed my lapse in 
this regard. 

> what about John Dee and the subsequent Enochian mages?

Well, John Dee WAS a Renaissance European urban magician, 
so he didn't have to emulate one. :-)

> what about Solomonic mages?

As per the European grimoires called the Greater and 
Lesser Keys of Solomon?

Or as per Solomon the Jewish king? 

I presume you mean the former, in which case i think 
the Occult Revivalist Golden Dawn members who
brought those books into contemporary English editions
were part of the "emulationist" tendency of which i 
was speaking, although i over-simplified in referring 
this solely to Crowley. 

> > It is not a good working definition of magic
> which do you prefer? we've talked about this before, but
> few actually get down to the nitty-gritty and convivially
> ask these kinds of questions, plus many of us are changing
> our termsets over time, refining them, so I'm curious.

I am not prepared to make a definition of magic at this time. 
I know that for me the definition does NOT include "all 
intentional acts," no matter how finely or rarifiedly one
defines "intentional." I know that for me the definition
DOES include an acknowledgment of phenomena variously 
termed paranormality, a-causal linkage, reality-bending, and 
strange powers. I am not sure if my definition includes the
concept of "attainment" in a mystical sense. I am pretty sure
it does not include any references to "loss of ego" in the 
Buddhistic sense, although it may include "loss of ego" in 
the sense of trance possession or otherworldly shamanic 
journeying. I am certain it embraces the use of a variety of
tools and techniques that, varying in specific form from 
culture to culture, may or may not include investiture of 
symbols with meanings, manipulation of symbols, vocalizations,
ingestion and inhalation of psychedelic and intoxicating agents, 
induction of trance states, contact with disembodied spirits, 
dream work, the making or carrying of amulets and talismans,
knowledge of herbology and mineralogy, auto-hypnosis, mnemonics, 
the study of tables of correspondences, and so forth for the 
purpose of creating certain effects in one's interior and 
external life. 

But that's not a definition -- it's a catalogue. 

> > which does not serve
> > well those who use the word magic in a scientific,
> > anthropological sense.
> by this you may mean the sociological? i.e. academics who
> believe that it achieves no more than some limited societal
> conscousness-change? or are you pointing to something
> more attuned to the hyperskeptics trying to push down
> practice until they see the Randi Challenge bested?

What i meant was that by accepting only a narrow definition
of magic -- for instance, as per Aleister Crowley -- my 
correspondent, Nihilist, would be unable to discuss magic
as an equal with the general run of anthropologists who, 
when not blinded by their own religious preconceptions, give 
it a much wider and more inclusive definition, whether or not
they practice it themselves. 
> > Furthermore, it can be demonstated,
> > by an inspection of the writings of «rowley, that his
> > peculiar delimitation of the term magick (with the final k)
> > was not always what he himself was referring to when he
> > wrote of magic and magical acts.
> correct. this is most obvious in his "Magick" (/Liber ABA),
> in which he differentiates "White magick" from "black magic"
> based on whether or not it includes his angelic mysticism
> as part of its overall aims/effect. I gather he obtained
> this generally from the GD and other Rosicrucian
> mages (that if it wasn't mystical it wasn't
> good/white/authorized/recommended). correctons welcomed.
> it wouldn't surprise me if this wasn't something that was
> transcultural and employed by theurges to co-opt magic as
> I am using the term (see more below).

I also note Crowley's unacknowledged debt to Helena Blavatsky 
in this regard. Her Theosophical Society was the actual impetus
for his decision to use the word "magick" (with a k) at all -- 
and she was a great painter of the good / white / authorized 
Masters versus the bad / black / condemned / low magicians.

Interestingly, Blavatsky numbered Paschal Beverly Randolph
among the "low" and "black" magicians or sorcerers, even 
as she plagiarized his magical motto ("Try!") -- and it was her
line of racial demarcation that Crowley aped, even as he co-opted 
Randolph's magical aphorism "Will reigns supreme; Love lieth at 
the foundation!" and turned it into "Love is the Law, Love
under Will!"

> > What is important is your announcement, at the begininng, of
> > the rule-set "Silence is a route to knowledge."
> it relates to the zennie contention that shutting up and
> reflecting is sufficient to transmute the ego into something
> superior, reconfigure the consciousness into something
> admirable, and thereafter go on to alchemical glory (itself
> a kind of modern syncretism of grand proportion).

Yes, and i fail to see that Zen Buddhism has any claims to 
being a superior form of magic. 

> > I have nothing against Neo-Buddhist Physics, and i'm sure
> > Crowley would have loved it....
> he was apparently taken with Buddhism initially but he and
> his instructor Allan Bennett apparently didn't always see
> eye to eye on the matter. eventually Crowley seems to have
> put Buddhism down because it wasn't egotistical enough for
> him (LOL). corrections welcomed. I note that LOTS of
> Thelemites (/Crowleyans) enjoy Buddhism and have focussed
> a good bit of energy into it -- compare the OSOGD).

I agree. with the first half of the above -- but what do 
you mean by "compare the OSOGD"? Do you think they are Zen-
influenced or merely Buddhism-influenced? I mean, i know what 
you are referring to in terms of the words spoken during the 
OSOGD we attended, but i thought that conveyed a Tibetan-
style Buddhism rather than Zen-style -- or even a straight-out
Pure Land Buddhism of the kind practiced here in Sonoma County
by the Japanese American temple-goers in Sebastopol. Please
correct me if i am wrong, as i acknowledge that my understanding
of the various sub-types of Buddhism is rudimentary compared to
yours and that i tend to fall asleep during lectures on Buddhism. 

> > For me, for instance, the distinction between magic and
> > witchcraft is anthropological rather than philosophical or
> > theological.
> anthropologists have seemed to arrive at some consistent
> usages of the terms, which is helpful. we could compare
> some of them in this newsgroup set if you like.

I like that idea. It is kinda funny, as we are just across the
hall from each other, but i like corresponding with you in 
usenet, darling, and i would find this of interest. I am not 
the transcriptionist that you are, though, due to my poor vision, 
so i can point out a few books from my pile -- but i bet you've 
got more in your room. Ask me for the John Middleton book, though;
i'll find a few definitions from the various contributors in 
there, i am pretty sure. 

> > I see it ....
> > as being so based in cultural tradition and so difficult to
> > dissect from the observer's underlying paradigms regarding
> > race and class politics, that to even seek to speak with
> > "authority" about what form of magic or religion "works" or
> > doesn't "work" is folly.
> the term 'work' would need be concisely defined.
> the process by which such contentions would be
> either undermined or affirmed would also need be
> concisely specified. tests could be carried out.
> the skeptical might rejoice (but I doubt it).

Nah. Let's stick with a subjective definition of the word
"works" and leave it at that.

> 'form of magic or religion' will of necessity be
> dependent upon the characteristics assigned to
> each. there is a good volume of discussion on the
> meaning of these terms and what qualifies for
> them, both within the anthropological literature
> and within transcultural practitioner contentions.

Yes, and this is what i was trying to open up with 
Nihilist -- a multi-faceted understanding rather than 
an all-or-nothing "authority" system of definition. 

> within this newsgroup a number of helpful starts
> have been achieved in coming to identify the
> characteristics of magic as compared with anything
> else with which it might be confused. those lexicons
> which do *not* distinguish are usually religious
> (in the sense of dogmatic, contentious, and biased).


> > Two examples of such folly should be enough to
> > demonstrate the matter:
> > 1) There are and have been great Christian magicians
> I'm not convinced. there are stories of great Christian
> theurges. [snip]

Well, siva, you have a well-known bias against historicity, 
so i won't contend against your unconvincedness. Let it rest. 
> who are your favourite historical Christian magicians?

"Favourite"? Hmmm. In no particular order and just off the 
top of my very sleepy head: Aunt Caroline Dye, Jesus Christ,
John Dee. 
> > -- but
> > Aleister Crowley, stunted by continuous rebellion against
> > his wounding Plymouth Bretheren upbringing, would have us
> > believe that is impossible....
> arguable. he identifies one of the Logoses as "INRI" in
> his "Liber Aleph", so arguably where he overlays Krishna
> and Kristos he makes it possible for those operating by
> the stated formulae to do a kind of Christian magic. he
> does not state that those of previous aeonic authority
> (old aeon) cannot do magic, only that they may be some-
> what hampered if they do not coordinate with the New.

I believe he goes further and states that now that the New 
(HIS "new") has begun, those who remain Christians are more
or less out of the boat, so to speak -- old fogies, not
hip and with it, troglodytes. 

> > 2)
> > There are and have been great and powerful indigenous
> > magicians in many cultures throughout history
> granted, mostly we come to know them by virtue of rumor,
> legend, and religious glorification (a further argument
> for the Power of the God as Magician Behind the Scene).

Yeah, well, that's your noted a-historicity speaking again, 
and, again, i will pass it by. :-)

> > -- but modern
> > European and American observers have claimed that since the
> > regions or nations in which those magicians dwell are not
> > exploiting natural resources to the extent that our nations
> > are, their poverty can be taken as a sign that there is no
> > "real" magic in those cultures or, alternatively, that the
> > magic is at best a "primitive" or "low" form of "power"
> > seeking -- the same terms by apologists for imperialism and
> > economic hegemony when they seek to justify destruction and
> > rape of the regions and nations whose resources they desire.
> a lovely argument.
> > This is a definition of magic from the barrel of a gun: "Our
> > nation won, so our juju is stronger than yours." ....
> this is in part what comes from identifying magic with any
> kind of technology. if we can do more than you our magic
> is superior.

> if magic is the ability to spit, or blow one's nose (as in
> Crowley's Magical Link illustration, amusing), then anybody
> is a "powerful mage" and again whatever I can do better,
> intentionally, than you, is my more powerful magic, and
> especially where our wills are in contention (in this case
> 'might makes magical-superiority' which can just as well
> fold magic into science/engineering just like the sci-fi
> writers like ACClarke and academics like Thorndike enjoy).


> if magic actually requires some structural and content-
> based aspects or characteristics (which I contend must
> be if we are to speak rationally on the subject), then
> we can begin to look at what magic is, what it can do,
> what it has been attributed as causing, and whether
> any given culture can be said to have 'more powerful
> magic' than another merely on the basis of imperial
> might; control over resources, knowledge and physical
> technology; or the foresight to win exploitation rights.
> :*
> nagasiva

 Geez, honey -- we've been writing all night! The sun is 
coming up! I love you, sweetie. Let's go catch some ZZZs
before Robin comes up to visit, or Vivian calls, or whatever. 

It was the COFFEE! 

Shoot. We should have known better than to drink coffee 
at nine PM.

Ya wanta just have another cup and stay up around the clock?
Or should we crash? Your call. 


cat yronwode

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