what is magic?

What is magic?

The words magical and medical are almost the same in many languages, including English, and in some languages they are the same. Some people distinguish between magic and miracles, while others are unwilling to call anything magic, believing that there is a ‘rational explanation’ for everything, even if we don’t yet understand it. In the 20th Century, it was normal to encourage little children to believe in magic, but they were taught as they grew up that it was only fantasy; that there is no magic at all. But now adults are believing in it and teaching and practicing it once more.

What do we mean by magic? Children’s fiction is very definite about it. You can change into things. You can change one thing into another, or a person into an animal, plant or thing. You can make things appear or disappear, and you might fly through the air or round the world and back in the twinkling of an eye. Charms and amulets can ward off spells, heal any wound instantly, cure any disease. Enchanted castles, magic flutes, frogs who turn into princes when kissed, flying carpets, amulets, charms and runes, dragons, mermaids and giants, all are completely magical, all are ardently believed in by most children in our culture for at least a few years of their lives.

Why do we continue to give these ideas to our children? Where did they come from in the first place? Some of the oldest traditional folktales we have tell of magic and enchantment: stories from the mists of our half-remembered past. The Pied Piper spirits away all the children of Hamelyn, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother changes her rags to a glittering ball gown, ogres shapeshift, dragons devour maidens, and wish-granting genies emerge from unstoppered bottles. Did such things ever happen, in the dawn of time – before the ice-age, or in the glorious days of atlantis, or the even more ancient mu?

Usually it is easy to see how the impression of magic entered accounts of perfectly unmagical events in the ancient past. The holy grail is brought in and handed around by a priest, but as language evolves, the wording of the story becomes antiquated, and its figures of speech are strange to new generations of listeners. We hear that the grail ‘appeared’; that is to say, ‘was brought in’. The naïve hearer misunderstands, thinking it ‘appeared out of thin air’. We hear that ‘two white hands’ conveyed it from person to person. Most of us would understand that these were the hands of a commonplace, fully visible priest, but our ancestors learnt these poems as naive children and if not corrected, they grew up imagining these hands as magical hands that did not belong to a body – they simply ended at the wrists, or in little puffs of golden mist redolent of heaven – and so that’s what they taught. The story changes subtly again when their listeners become retellers, until it becomes necessary to assert these false impressions of magicalness as if they were the solemn truth, changing the wording to suit.

This is especially likely to happen when the listener is already awed by the sacredness of the tale, as during a reconstruction or renaissance, when the poems of a suppressed culture whose language is already archaic are revived and sometimes it changes the tale into a myth, replete with awesome ‘magic’ that mesmerises generation after generation. Why do we believe it? Clearly our need for mythic magic is often stronger than our need for history, but why? Are we trying to find in our little histories and folk-tales evidence of magic we know was practised in the past, but no longer is? Are we keeping alive this belief in it in order to revive it? If so, as our ancestors once were, surely we are magical, and magic is natural, that it hasn’t disappeared, just gone inward for good or ill (too often for ill, since so much illness is psychosomatic or has a psychosomatic dimension), and that it can and must be brought out and made active for the good of all once more.

If magic was once commonplace, where did it go, and if entirely inwards, why? Magic can be for good or ill. It can heal, but it can also hurt, and so is valuable as a weapon. Perhaps it was something like this: our early human cultures, when threatened by others would promote to high status their best defensive magicians, those that could weaken, disperse or hurt their enemies. As these cultures matured they would interact with other cultures on both friendly and hostile terms, and they’d learn to fear each other’s magic.

So conquerors would begin by sending out commandments to ‘’kill all witches” from among the conquered, and to “let not a wizard live”. We see examples of this in the bible histories, garbled as they are by bad translation and misrepresentation. (The biblical examples were not the first to forbid the magic of the defeated nations, those of the devils and demons, ogres, fairies and witches to name a few, and to exalt its own magic to the status of divine miracles.) In reaction, the oppressed peoples would consciously or unconsciously exert their strongest magical force to weaken the magic of the oppressor.

Conquest and oppression over many millennia has eroded our natural magic and disabled our magicians, until magic rarely occurs visibly. When people notice that magic ‘never happens’ in their ‘real’ world, they stop believing in it altogether. But there are always some groups of serious-minded adults who keep alive ancient magical traditions – the Freemasons, Rosicrucians, some witch and druid organizations – and attempts are often made to bring back old mystery schools for the teaching and practice of real magic in the material world. Most of these are able to teach students to produce ‘magical’ results in the simplest sense of the word – to make objects seem to disappear by waving a rod over them, for example. Faith healing does seem to work for some individuals sometimes. Street magicians in India and Egypt still baffle skeptics and impress even sophisticated observers. It does seem as if we do recall past magic, and yearn to retrieve it while fearing some of its possible consequences.

Exciting as this kind of magic is, much of it appeals to the egotist, the individual who wants to be admired, and most of us are beyond that. Last century saw our planet brought close to suicide. Two world wars and the electronic mass media brought a global consciousness to people who had never before thought much beyond their own communities. Science and technology shows us that our planet is alive, and even while we are still discovering that, to our dismay we find her ill, panic-stricken, ravaged with disease and war, terrorised by UFOs, and headed for seemingly certain death through ecological disaster. Political, religious, cultural and health issues tear humanity apart. People ask, ‘Has the world gone mad?’ Most people want something better from magic, something that will help. As a maturing species we have a long way to go, but at this stage of our evolution people in general are much more altruistic, and are shifting the emphasis of magical practice towards healing.

ban the bomb
olive branches often form this rune. it means 'ban the bomb'.

Medical advances and advances in psychology have shown that much disease is psychosomatic, the result of mind over matter i.e., bad magic. Furthermore, the medical profession now admits that good magic can heal disease. Not only prayer, but visualisation, game-playing involving sympathetic magic, and the changing of attitudes from pessimistic to optimistic are all potent healing techniques. Their action is ‘metaphysical’. ‘Meta-’ means change, ‘physical’ is to do with the interaction of forces. A change in a physical system outside the mind caused by the will is a metaphysical change. Metaphysical changes are magical changes. Everyone can cause them, for good or ill. This course aims to enable the student to take conscious control of the metaphysics of their own being in order to manage it for their own good and for the good of their communities.

Wonderful as this is, magical healing with its quick, easily visible results is only part of the story. The major revival of magic that began with the New Age tends to be more ambitious even than that. Having seen images of our tiny, vulnerable planet from space, we have bonded to her in a new way, and our healing wishes are often for her. Magic performed in our circles and temples often has a global intention. ‘Light and love’ and ‘healing’ are sent into all parts of the world, peace meditations are held worldwide and conscious intentions for the good of all beings are sent telepathically to suffering countries. Many see their magic as having the power to heal the environment as well, helping the ecology and saving threatened species.

It goes both ways – Gaia responds by empowering her healers, teaching shamanic healing for local use once again. The educated will of a trained magician is capable of far greater miracles of healing and magic of all kinds than that of an untrained healer. This course undertakes to enable the student of magic to unlock their own natural magic, connect with the major shamanic systems of the world and train their wills to perform the kind of magic great and small, for healing, creativity and change, that our planet’s salvation might well depend upon.

The Force be with you…

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