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Material Magic

In this blog I am going to get technical, so sorry about that.  It is my spin on the issue of magic which is being chatted about by several magicians who I respect namely Perigrin Wildoak , Aaron Leitch , Morgan Eckstine  and Don Kraig  who have been debating the issue of material magic and if magicians need to be rich or not.
Perigrin takes the view that magic is for service to humanity only and part of a spiritual path which is supposed to connect us to the One Thing.

“ I am very happy that western learned magic was reframed into a more spiritual direction. It makes sense to me. I am also of the opinion that is was the main driving force behind the founders of the major modern western traditions, the two most influential of course being the Golden Dawn (RR et AC) and the Inner Light of Dion Fortune.”

He is quite right, magic was reframed in the 19th century, but in some cases it went in the wrong direction. Since this goes down the line where my head has been for the last few months, I will hit out with some of my thoughts, safe in the knowledge that few will have read this far, or will go much further.

In the beginning there was magic and magicians.  Their role was somewhat dubious and was considered scary to the great unwashed.  Their role is familiar to people interested in shamanism.  They had to deal with an army of spirits that stopped ordinary people having a life, or at least a very short one.  They also had to travel into whatever concept that society had of the afterlife and bring back knowledge. They could do magic to influence material events and to make sure that they didn’t need to, they were supported by their communities.

Even Angels can be bastards in the Underworld
Don’t Blick

This evolved as societies became more complex and the underworld started to be mapped out in more detail.  The Ancient Egyptians had a crack at it and so did the Greeks.   Initially the underworld was seen as being under the ground, but that slowly changed so that there was an upper underworld (in modern times called the astral), populated by aerial demons and gods while a darker batch of gods and monsters, more closely associated with the dead still lived in an abstract Hades underground.  Humanity lived in the centre.  When they died (unless they were a god) their spirits went to live in an underworld.  Hades was one place, the Egyptians headed through various trials in the hope of getting a place on Ra’s boat (which would sail with the sun).
What it is important to remember that the word demon, or hades, or underworld did not mean evil.   Hades was not more of a bad guy than Osiris (who held a similar rule in the Egyptian pantheon).  The Roman Hades Dis Pater was seen as the person you prayed to for material happiness.

Everything under the moon…. we are all in the Christian hell
or the Pagan earth element… you choose.

What changed was the introduction of Christianity into the mix. Firstly the underworld was equated with Hell, which was the place of the damned, rather than just the dead.  Hades and Dis Pater were replaced with Satan who was supposed to rule all the world, through his various aerial and terrestrial demons.  In essence they created a universe where humanity was between two hells and needed redemption of Christ to escape.  This led to a hatred of the world as being the kingdom of the devil, but it also created a concept of anti-materiality which had been more or less absent from the ancient world-views.  The logic was simple, if the world is “of the devil” then material things must also be evil and controlled by Satan.
In the various flavours of Goetic magic the magician would be calling up demons to get material results.  But this sort of work was frowned upon by the Christian magicians who were trying to sell their idea of “higher magic” among their educated friends.  As Perigrin pointed out a change happened in the Late Victorian period which made magic something you called on only to experience the Celestial realms.  In such a Christian paradigm material magic was not going to get a look in.
All you needed to do for material success is to tune yourself to some celestial spirit, angel or other being and that would bring about change for you.  You would not get cash, but rather the opportunity to earn it, or some similar ethical protestant idea.  But the danger here was that for these Middle Class Victorians money was not an issue.  To pay the fees to be a member of the Golden Dawn you needed a steady income.  Unless you were Samuel Mathers, who was being financed by Annie Horniman, you were independently wealthy or inherited money from your parents.  Indeed lacking wealth was seen as a problem, probably with your karma, or poor breeding.
Nevertheless, this was the model that we adopted, and carried over to the 21st century.  But as magical studies became more commonplace, logical flaws started to come into scenario, particularly as less people became influenced by Christianity. For a while this did not matter as most people who were not influenced by Christianity (such as Crowley) still thought and acted as if they were.  But then people in my generation started asking questions about the magical status quo and it started becoming unstuck.
With me it came down to the fact how it was possible to invoke a good angel to blight someone’s life?  Surely something that was purely good would not do that sort of thing.  Then there was the question about service.  I made a decision to dedicate my life to magic.  It was a personal thing, but I meant it and burned a lot of bridges to do it.  You would think that the universe would be happy with that sort of decision and provide some assistance, given that the work was focused on the good of humanity and selfless.  You would be wrong. In fact the universe punished me for such a decision. I went from being comfortably wealthy to wondering if I was going to make the rent.  Did the celestials help out?  Well no. Doing everything by the old book was not working and I had to come up with something different.
I started to look at the darker magic to see what they were trying to do.  OK, I had no interest in summoning Christian demons but I suspected that there was something missing from the comfortable Victorian models that I had been using.
Readers of this blog will be aware that I recently found the works of Jake Stratton-Kent, who I believe has hit on the missing part of the jig-saw.  He started to look at the transition from Greco-Egyptian ideas to the Christian ones and applied it to the early Grimoires.  The result was that they are fragments of this earlier pre-Christian view of the Underworld.

I think that what has happened is that while we might have found the Celestial side of magic in the Victorian period, we have lost the material and chthonic forms of magic.   We need to find a way to incorporate these in a modern system which embraces the material and the underworld.
It is not an “either or” situation.  We do not have to abandon our Celestial magic to look at the material/ chthonic.  Indeed I think it is a much more balanced world view, one which does not see magic as something extra-terrestrial but rooted in our material lives.
As for a question as basic as “is it OK to invoke for material things?” well the answer to that is that in a society which no longer supports its magicians, it is up to the material universe to work for them to provide them with the means to exist.  It is certainly acceptable for them to call upon whatever agency or god to assist them.  There is nothing different from me doing a magical ritual to have enough cash to pay the rent as it is for me to have the personality or skills raise the cash for the rent.  In fact both things might still end up being the same thing.
We have to live in the world, surrounded by our spirits and reach for the heavens.   We do not need to reject one thing in favour of another anymore.

14 thoughts on “Material Magic

  1. Hell as the damned:
    Well that’s developed from the Islamic adaptions, and that from the Zoroastrians. Which is likely to come from the Chaldaens, through their version of Tartarus.

    Likewise the good spiritual world, comes from the churches. Where it’s (surprise surprise) good to give all your worldly stuff to the spiritual church, and spiritually good for you personally to starve and work your life away. It just happens that way, God says it’s true…just ask any of the priests of any of the priesthoods….

    But. The material world is bad… Gnostics and there forebearers, whose identity has slipped my mind (and I’m too lazy to even gooble it). Possible through the likes of Diogenes. The world is a veil of tears, every one is out to get you (especially the priests?), your Eorl will sacrifice you and yours at the drop of a hat (especially if you’re talented enough to think for yourself). Basically the material world, is darkness and crap and dog-eat-dog.
    What’s worse is it’s the Matrix, and any good priest has more priestly things on his mind than feminine energies.

    But the danger of material things. Is that it shrinks the mind from the heights of Socratic purity. One becomes obsessed with power, with position, and with profit. All things better left to money pinching and cheating merchants than civilised folk.

  2. Duh. Forgot the answer the question 🙂

    There is no separation. Invoke or build skill for whatever your higher self guides you to do. Obsession with spirit and condemnation of the world is just as harmful as the reverse.

    There is no intrinsic value in poverty, it is an illness.
    There is no intrinsic value in overconsumption, it too is an illness.

    On an ascetic ideal shortly after college, which was fine for me. Until my partner got ill. Then I could not help. Nor did I have the means to get myself into industry training, or to build contacts. I had not achieved freedom from the world, I had merely become a parasite in it.

    When I had a little wealth much later, I would help my friends in their endeavours, and assist with college fees and books and petrol (and doctors fees). Yet I found this did not help them become independent. All that happened is that they didn’t need to support themselves, they didn’t need to take any responsibility for their own butts or actions. To the point where they failed at some of their goals…and blamed me! I hadn’t provided enough books, or expensive enough computers. The car broke down and I did not fix it (I only paid for a tank of gas when I/we went places). Providing these intelligent rational sentient people with adequate means only enabled them crap in their own nests and blame my for the failure. A sign of the times.

    1. “There is no intrinsic value in poverty, it is an illness.
      There is no intrinsic value in overconsumption, it too is an illness.”

      So true.

  3. I think the thing that is being missed here in the current debate is the difference between need and want, and the deeper inner process of magic. There has always been ‘service’ magic and ‘want’ magic and always will be.
    Part of the process of deeper magic has been to take the magician on the journey to ‘know themselves’ at a deep level. Through that process, which is harsh, you are forced to confront your real weaknesses and vulnerabilities as well as your strengths.
    Through that process you learn what you are capable of and what you are not.
    By setting out on a service path, you do needful jobs (not for good or for bad, just what is needed and asked of you)and the struggle to survive in the outer world confronts you and pushes you to your limit. You learn about yourself not through psychology, initiation rites etc, but by having your weakness shoved in your face through life struggles – magic speeds that process up.
    once you have figured that out, and you know what your real needs are, then you are in a solid position to ask for what you need that allows you to do the work asked of you. And that need is provided for.
    That is very different from a person deciding to do a path of magic and expecting the inner lot of provide for you.
    It is a complex and difficult maze, but also a fascinating and beautiful one.
    The danger lies in using magic to get what you want. It often works if you know how to do it, but the power of Hod will flow through that and unravel you as time goes by – you are given enough rope to hang yourself.
    Whereas if you plug into the power of Netzach, you are given whatever it is you need to develop and grow, be that hardship, support and hard work. It often comes bundled together.
    I know many really good magicians who have ground to a halt because they have stepped over the line of need into want and their work begins to degenerate as does their personality. They become parodies of themselves and end up just another producer of get rich quick/curse your enemies books/magic. If people are happy to be that, then good for them. For me, there is far more out there to learn, to do.
    Thanks Nick for an interesting post!

    1. This is the best reply I’ve seen and very much along the lines of what I’ve wanted to say within this series of discussions. This has been my personal experience with magic… almost word for word. Thank you, Josephine.

    2. Josephine my experience is totally the opposite. That which was needed was never given. The “gifts” which have occurred (clairvoyance, astral journeying skills), always side effects of development.
      If something was needed it had to be ground out of the rockface, even the knowledge or awareness of what was needed was not revealed.

    3. I have to disagree with the whole idea of favouring “needs” over “wants”. For one thing “Need” is such an ambigious term. Do you mean basic needs, or your deepest rooted emotional or spiritual needs? Often what a person implies by “need” is basic survival need – and the word “need” conjures up images of desperation such as “I need a basic meal and a roof over my head”. A need is something you require just to survive. The word “needy” is actually used as an insult. There is more inspiration in Wants than Needs. If I WANT to do something,then it is not something I “have to do” (often reluctantly or regretfully) just to survive (as is a need), a Want is something that gives me more than mere survival, it grants me fulfillment, purpose. While a fulfilling a Need allows me to *survive*, fulfilling a Want allows me to *thrive*. A “want” is something that I can be passionate about, get excited about, gain soul energy and spirit power from. Can I do that from a Need? There is so much guilt associated with a “want” in our spiritual communities now: a hang-over perhaps from all the Catholic and Protestant preaching on the virtues of denying your desires and praising poverty. There is nothing wrong or selfish about going after what you want – it is only selfish if you would allow your striving for you wants to get in the way of other people’s wants or basic needs. My conclusion is: get materially affluent as you want as a magician, but do it with consideration for others – e.g. run a business that is ethical or a company that treats its employees and customers in the best manner possible. Then when you receive it, be prepared to share your wealth with the worthy, needful and grateful.

  4. A fascinating post, thank you for writing it.

    Hasn’t Man always used magic for material gain? Looking at ancient world shamanism, even cave paintings like the White Lady of the Brandberg, it seems that the idea was to attract more for the hunt, more food. The idea of using magic to transcend is comparatively new, and also handy, because it can’t fail. Whatever happens can be translated as a lesson.

    The idea that magic for gain is somehow wrong seems very much a child of religion, with all its dictats and its own agenda for gain via social control. From the crime of hubris to bypassing those priests, magic is dangerous for the status quo. And wanting stuff for the self is dangerous to the social order too.

    Greed is the single issue most likely to destroy our planet and ourselves.
    Nonetheless, we must live. Magic has always been about getting, indeed, the history of Man is about getting. The key is to know when to stop. This remains our species’ problem, whether we use magic or other means. Magic is often the least damaging way to stretch out our hands to covet, because it generally doesn’t work.

    1. Not for everyone (the material gain).
      For some of us it is to better understand who I am, and how the world around me works, and how to understand others. They talk of God…I would talk with God.

  5. Money buys weelchairs, pays for education, medical cares, books, food for the hungry, clothes, and so on.
    But I still believe that the Angels are able to do anything that demons do (and without much danger). I am working with Sachiel, and it WORKS. The angels give answers…He is a hard teacher, but my life is getting much better and I am getting much more strong. But angel magic is hard, anyway. I cant imagine what would happen if I called the help of demons:-)

    1. “Money buys wheelchairs, pays for education, medical cares, books, food for the hungry, clothes, and so on.” – very important to remember this. So many forget this. Money is basically just energy – and like all energy can be used for good or bad. What good can we do if we don’t have the energy to do it.

  6. I’d rather have time than money, any day. And magick can’t conjure up extra minutes in the day. We can only make the best of what we’re given, our Will be strong. ..

    1. What about that technique used to shorten minutes/seconds during the boring times, and conversely used to stretch time-stressed moments?

      And with money, I can hire people to do some of the tasks and/or buy the right equipment to do the task…or just say sod it and take a holiday. When I was unemployed I had time but no money, and all of those were out of my reach.

    2. I’d go for the money first. Money can buy time. In the sense that you can pay people to do the stuff they like to do but that you don’t like to do. This gives you more time to do what you like to do, what is most purposeful and inspiring to you. The old saying “Time is Money” is a cliche but like most cliches it contains a lot of truth. Time may not actually be money but one can definitely be transmuted into the other and hence they are essentially equivalent.

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