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High versus Low Magic

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick,alt.magick.order,alt.pagan.magick,alt.magick.tantra
From: (nagasiva)
Subject: Re: High versus Low Magic(k)
Date: 14 Jun 1996 11:53:48 -0700

49960614 AA1 

Rebekah Berger :
|>...freelance writer ...asked by a science fiction/fantasy newsletter 
|>...the differences between high and low magic.  

this is a very good place to learn about such things.  there are several
individuals who will launch their ideas at you with aplomb.  rest assured,
they are metaphors describing their experience of magick and its principles,
sometimes coherently, sometimes with fancy sleight of mind.

|>In the past, I was taught that high magick tended to be mental 
|>while low magick worked with rituals and the objects inherent to that 
|>(i.e., cup, wand, candle, etc).  

this is quite common it seems, especially among those who desire a connection
between the material and their magick.  however, there are also those who
claim that 'high' magick includes that which is higher in the _chakra_ system,
or psycho-spiritual energy centers resident in bodies of consciousness.

high magick in this latter system arises within what is called the
'twilight' of nondual consciousness (meditation, trance, dream), whereas 
low magick concerns items on the opposite end of that polar spectrum 
(to procure food, sex, progeny or wealth).

|>But I realize that this might be a slant that my particular teachers 
|>took which might not encompass many approaches to high and low magick 

if your teachers taught you that there was only one set of answers for 
these questions then they gave you a powerful hurdle. :>  I have heard
quite a few different perspectives on these disciplines, using them
myself as I thought they applied in what I was saying.  I continue to
see new and more complex meanings in them (as a parallel to 'as above,
(high) so below' (low), for example). (Gratuitous Pseudonym):
|The focus of high magick is the transformation of self.  

this is indeed a popular assertion.  it appears to focus along more mystical
and literate social lines and requires much less in the way of 'flash' in
order to convince patrons (theatricality is sufficient and we needn't delve
too deeply into the mechanics of the Con).

|It has nothing to do with external effects, 

wow, none whatsoever?  this goes against the teachings of the most popular
mages of which I have read, including Aleister Crowley in his _Moonchild_.

|which would be considered merely incidental.  The high magician seeks to 
|use magick to evolve into an entity which might be considered to have 
|more than human consciousness.  High magick can involve rituals, 
|physical practices (like yoga), and/or any of a number of meditational 

note the focus on transmuting, changing from what is to something more.  
this is also an element of Setianism and most mystical systems of which 
I'm aware.  it sets up the dualism:

			HIGH       (mysticism)
			LOW        (science)

at least this is how it could be easily defined.  and yet there are
several alternatives to this schema which offer me more.

|The Order of the Golden Dawn practiced high magick, primarily. 

I'd call it ceremonial, Christian (Hermetic) mysticism.  an interesting 
comparison of our language.  I agree that given your construct above it 
is very coherent and reasonable and even draws directly from Hermetic 
sources. :>

|Low magick is focused on producing effects in the world around one.  These 
|might include healing, luck, love, or money spells.  Hexes and blessings would 
|also be included.  Rituals, talismans, prayers, and visualization techniques 
|are the primary means by which such magick is practiced.

today this would be called 'Science' and its methods and results are all
around us, promising still more and more.  Hermetic traditions (as in many
others) use talismans and magical tools of a variety to effect personal
or guild aims.  

as in the case of 'black' and 'white' magick, so 'high' and 'low' have 
been used in an often biased tone, condemning the 'black' and the 'low' 
(as the Church was competing (leading to the condemnation of 'black') 
against others within the realm material (leading to the condemnation 
of 'low')).  in each case there appears to have been a progressive 
transmutation/twisting of the language which changed over time.

the paradigms from which the activities were seen were at such variance
that fabricated linguistic descriptors arose to express rejection and
maintain connection to authority.

|Folk magick is a form of low magick.

given your definitions I tend to agree that it typically happens in the
world material, involves all manner of charms and potions, and yet at
times there is a mystical intent involved.  this is perhaps the time of
greatest power for the martyr, at the cross-roads between magick and
mysticism, the nexus of vibrant energies.

|Many magicians practice both types, although, if one is truly committed to 
|high magick, one generally abandons low magick as just a distraction.

while I agree with this and from my own perspective it appears again
and again to be true, I don't think this is due to a complete rejection 
of material (as with Gnostics who detested this world or those who see 
this 'heavy', 'solid' and 'overly dense place in which I learn' and then 
yearn to move on to something better).  

more often I think the case is that as one matures it becomes easier 
to discipline one's energies along preferred channels, and so exhibition
and excess are minimized in favor of directed action and intentional 
result.  the low realm responds best to subtle movement, body language,
for example.  the high realm needs more vibrant activity, revivals, 
baptisms, heated debates, heart-felt sharing.  it may be that as one
matures and develops, the magical 'flotsam' appearing within the material
realm subsides, our connection smoothing and broadening over time.  I'm
sure it would depend on the noisiness of the path of the mage in question. :>

|An accomplished high magician does not need rituals to produce low magick 

this is a claim about all religious authorities the world over.  I have yet
to see it demonstrated in any short term manner.  I would expect that those
who have desire and ability to manipulate the material world are doing so
or are capable of doing so and for some reason remaining here rather than
playing the stock market or gambling or confidence games.

most of the mystical teachers seem to warm about them too, the powers, the
siddhis, which come as byproducts of personal development.  I'm unconvinced
of their existence.

|The adept's awareness has expanded to the point where the props and 
|visualizations of low magick are no longer necessary.  

I used to think this way.  it is easier to believe that we may extend 
further our power without the 'props and crutches' of the material
world, and yet there are times when the boost of a familiar tool
allows me to succeed where without it I might have failed miserably.
and hindsight is wonderful too.  no 'controls', no standards of
comparison when we're out on the edge.

|Ritual may still remain, but its purpose is no longer the same as it was.  

I'd like to hear more about what you think it becomes.

|In fact, the high magick adept no longer feels any need to produce 
|environmental effects by magick because his or her consciousness is 
|not dependent upon either desire or fear.

which in turn makes it all the more easy to impersonate a 'high mage'
without the slightest degree of acumen or study (e.g. "I don't know 
much about your system, but mine is kinda mental, so I don't have
a lot of words for it."  while I have said the same things (and not
intending to deceive) I understood how easy it would be to lie about
it.  luckily I'm pretty conservative in my claims so resist temptation.
there are many who play at magick.  some say at great peril.

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