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High versus Low Magic

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick,alt.magick.order,alt.pagan.magick,alt.magick.tantra
From: (Gratuitous Pseudonym)
Subject: Re: High versus Low Magic(k)
Date: 23 Jun 1996 01:39:10 GMT

In article <4qel6e$>, (nagasiva) wrote:

> (Gratuitous Pseudonym):
>|Thus, the effects, while present, are not the focus of the work.  
>|They are merely the byproducts.
>typical magical acts include an attempt to manipulate the material
>world using nonmaterial means (symbolic rite predominant).  even 
>Crowley writes of this (_Moonchild_: procuring a magical book through
>talismanic workings).  there are countless examples of people attempting
>to satisfy their desires through what you call low magick, and many
>(perhaps entirely fabricated for all I know, though I do think some of
>them may be genuine) stories of success.

The intention and aim of what is called "high magick" do not negate the power 
or value of what is called "low magick".  They are simply different in focus, 
not necessarily in effect.

>|The desire for release from the stricture of physical limitations is 
>|probably at the heart of most magical endeavors, both "high" and "low".  It 
>|is not the physical world itself which is rejected, but the limitations 
>|inherent in its consistency.  
>my impression is that low magick is at least in part gradually abandoned
>because the workings (even in Wicca) include an attempt at focussing the
>consciousness and symbolically 'throwing' the desire into the spell.  often
>after this the objective is to 'release it', and I contend that this may
>have ascetic effects which reduce the grasping self.  

I agree.  This reinforces the point that the effects may be similar, although 
the focus is different.  In a low magick operation like that which you 
describe, the immediate aim is to gratify desire, yet its long-term effect may 
be to free the consciousness from the tyranny of that desire, which would be 
the focus of the work in high magick.  Yet, the immediate effects of a high 
magick working to free one of a given desire may well be that the desire is 
gratified in the short-term.

>not only this, I think there is good reason to presume that the Way of the
>Masters has been lost through rote repetition and conformity to social
>norms.  thus, while I may be unconvinced of their PRESENT existence, and
>especially until I see them, I do think that many of the things spoken of
>surrounding the station of Magus (Hermetic) may be possible to obtain and
>manifest through continued self-development and integration into society.

When the meaning behind a symbol or ritual is lost, it becomes an empty thing 
which inhibits instead of stimulates.  I think each of us discovers a bit of 
the meaning here and there through the study of magical symbolism and the 
practice of that which we come to understand.  Where it will eventually lead 
us can't really be predicted before we get there.  We wouldn't understand it, 
even if it was set in front of us.

>|I have always felt that ritual has a purpose for the adept, when going where 
>|he or she has not yet been, just as a map can guide one through unfamiliar 
>very interesting, since the way I engage ritual does not usually involve
>the use of previous formats. :>  I'm unsure, given my method, that I could
>adequately compare it to a 'map' as compared to some sort of vehicle, which
>you seem to mention below.

I'd compare it with wandering.  It is not essential to use a map to go where 
you haven't gone before.  It is only useful if you have a particular 
destination in mind and are not just out exploring.  Most serious magicians 
keep careful records of their work, which are the maps they make for the 
territory they are exploring.  Crowley's "The Vision and the Voice" is a good 
example.  Those who follow them may wish to use those maps, or they may set 
out on their own.

>|...less and less ritual is required to return to familiar places.  
>|A "trigger" may still be used... but that trigger becomes simpler 
>|and simpler as the nervous system becomes trained to make the changes.
>I agree that less and less (overt) ritual is likely involved for the
>developing mage, especially if we propose that the 'places' are states
>of consciousness.  yet I'm unsure that simpler and simpler triggers
>are necessary except to return to those simpler places.  it seems to
>me that the triggers may become more and more complex, eventually to
>be lost sight of by those who have not followed the Magus into the
>Dark Demesne.

Understanding what the mage is doing becomes more and more difficult as the 
mage's methods become subtler and subtler.  This may give rise to 
superstitions, which are coincidental phenomena perceived by those who witness 
the mage's activities, but lack comprehension of the processes involved.  
Ironically, psychologists would call that "magical thinking".  This can cause 
the accretion of useless actions or symbolism around an essentially simple but 
subtle operation and increase the confusion.

>|>|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.
>my point above supports these words strongly, since in some measure
>the Hermetic standards may effect the decrease of both these personal
>qualities (desire/fear), whether we want them to or no, merely by 
>virtue of the structure of the rites.

Our brains are wired in very similar ways.  This is especially true if we come 
from the same culture or from cultures that arise from a close common 
ancestor.  The rites are summations of profound experiences and should, if 
they are properly constructed and performed, induce similar states in the 
performers or witnesses, even if they lack a thorough comprehension of what 
they are doing.

>then again, it is possible that as human consciousness changes, the
>rites themselves may need changing also lest they merely lead us
>into a trap where we constantly move back and forth between extremes 
>in a never-ending paroxysm of material love/hate. 

When we are all identical and know everything, then we will have definitive 
rites for all people and all occasions.  Until then, there is need for the 
artistry and scholarship of constructors of new magical ceremonies.
>such speculations are the foundation of support for more fluid 
>traditions and are one reason why I have lobbied my Order (OTO) 
>to accept a looser hold on their central initiation and religious 
>ritual forms.  this may also be the reason that Chaos Magick has 
>become popular and why it is in some measure integrating at 
>places with the Hermetic environment.

The problem with letting go of the older forms is that we can't be sure we are 
not losing something.  Magick is not so precise that we guarantee that a new 
practice actually incorporates all of the old meanings.  I'd say that it is 
important that each member be allowed to construct and practice rites that 
they feel are a relevant contribution to the knowledge base of the Order.  
This would include variations on the core initiatory rituals.  However, the 
original rites should not be abandoned.

To my mind, this constitutes a component of the serious magical research which 
I think should be an obligation of magical fraternities.  An organization that 
assumes that its members know everything that they will ever need to know is 

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