Magic and Mysticism

magician and mystic
Image by Solarus from Pixabay

Is there any difference between these two paths?

The two “M” words in today’s occult rhetoric, magic and mysticism (or magician & mystic), are often used interchangeably. Is this proper? re these just two different terms used to talk about the same thing?

Definitely no; it is inaccurate to use these terms as synonyms. It is, of course, possible for an individual to be BOTH magician and mystic, but the paths themselves are distinct.

Will Parfitt, among others, describes mysticism as moving upwards, from material reality and into the subtle realms, finally to the divine space of God. In some ways it’s like a metaphysical escapist attitude (my words, not Parfitt’s). This is the common ideal espoused by many new age students of today; transcend normal reality with its pain and suffering and enter a spiritually enlightened state in unison with the divine.

Continuing with Parfitt, magic, he tells us, is about staying grounded in this reality while reaching into the heavens and bringing spirit or divinity into everyday experience. So the magician isn’t trying to escape heavenward, she is looking to improve the world by bringing heaven here to us mortal folk, even if only in small increments within her own life.

This, I believe, is a pretty good measure and comparison for the terms and paths of magic and mysticism. I will add a bit only to accentuate, not really to alter what Will has given us.

Mystic religions or spiritual paths are defined by the concept of direct experience of, or contact with God by the practitioner. This means taking the priesthood, or middle men, out of the way and going directly toward the divine source via whatever practice and meditation the system in question prescribes. By this definition, modern-protestant Christianity is a mystical path, and so of course is neo Paganism in its best (IMO) forms.

Magic, in all its wonderful forms, is often discussed as a vehicle for spiritual growth or a path for reaching god. This is a fairly modern development, as the magic of our ancestors was about getting things done more than it had anything to do with illumination or enlightenment. Most often when you hear or read about the spiritual path of magic, you are actually being sold mysticism under the wrong heading.

As mentioned, a person can definitely pursue BOTH of these paths. I do, as do many of the good folk I associate with. I just find it important to clarify the differences. (I know… how grossly Western of me 😉 ).

Magic, an Explanation

Many people today are not even aware of the existence of magic outside of books and movies. Everyone is of course familiar with the stage magician and illusionist, with his mesmerizing card tricks and other assorted trickery. As a child I couldn’t get enough David Copperfield and I’ve always found Houdini very interesting. Prior to my young adult life my only reference point for real magic was the idea of “devil-worshippers and witches” , as described to me by well-meaning but clueless Sunday school teachers.

The Real Deal

Isn’t it curious how the art and practice of magic, the journey of shamanism, the path of the mystic, have managed to survive for millennia now, through the modern era and right to this post modern shit show we inhabit today? The deeper how and why of that is for another article, but in short, it survived because it’s f-ing real, and the keepers of the secrets have continued to pass them along to the next generation.

What’s What…

In terms of what magic is, i.e. the how it works kind of definition (well, somewhat), check the article on this page. This post is more about how you go about producing magic (truncated version) and too… sort of… how it works.

Let me get that last bit out of the way right here: we can’t tell you for sure how magic functions, as we cannot open the side panel and observe the mechanics in process. I can tell you a spell forms your ideal on the Astral or Causal plane and by Will you bring this image down a spiral ladder of Elements or energy phases, but I can’t demonstrate that objectively. Any discussion of functional nuts and bolts outside of you the magician, so to speak, is purely conceptual, to help you build focus and frame methodology.

Work Ethic, Not Destiny

Magic of any sort is a skill. Yes, you may have a certain level of talent or innate aptitude, but you must learn and practice to fully realize your potential. Don’t worry if you lack inborn talent; I sure as hell did. I began this journey as a clumsy oaf who couldn’t manifest anything but frustration and creative profanity.

Don’t buy into the idea that you must be born a wizard or witch in order to take up the art. That’s simply horseshit. I have a friend (owner of my favorite metaphysical shop) who calls this sort of thinking magical elitism. I do believe in the notion of “wizard born” or “witch blood”, that is, genetic / familial predisposition toward magic, but this is little different from a family with mechanical or athletic inclination running through the generations.

Any human being has the capacity for psychic development, mystical practice, or the study and application of magic. Ultimately your work ethic and not your inborn destiny or lineage will determine how effective you are as a weaver of arcane tapestry.

Formal or Casual Methods

Formalized magic takes place in ritual or ceremonial settings. Everything, literally, from the direction you face for certain movements to the placement of each item involved, is set neatly out in a formula specific to the work at hand. clear orderliness and structure permeate this art.

Natural or folk magic is done often on the fly, spontaneously or as a general practice throughout the day. Fewer rules and more flexibility, perhaps in exchange for less “reach” into the unseen realms characterize this practice.

Desire and Consciousness

All magic begins with a clear, if not burning intention, linked either to desire or requirement. Next, an empty state of mind and being. Clarity and presence in the now, and a full focus of mind, feeling, even body toward the goal or intent.

The magician enters a state of concentration, presumably having chosen his or her methods and tools ahead of time. Concentration lends to meditation, entering an altered state of consciousness, from where one – through education and practice – will enter into other realms of existence.

Maybe these other realms are layers of consciousness, or they could be among the multiple dimensions physicists like String Theorists try to explain to the rest of us. Whatever they actually may be, they serve as the formative medium for the reality we wish to produce with our Work. We create precisely what we want in the other and through specific methodology bring this ideal closer and closer to manifest reality here in our material world, until at last it lives alongside us.

Hopefully this makes some semblance of sense to you. If not, just hang in and keep coming back, or following the email course. Something brought you here, so don’t give up without at least giving that something a chance to explain itself through insight and revelation gained with a little perseverance on your part.

What Books are Good for the Beginner Occultist?

I get this question from time to time and it’s definitely a good one to nerd out on. Perhaps a surprise (then maybe not) I’m not as well-read as your garden variety pedant/occultist, but I still have enough context and library space to offer some interesting recommendations.

I should clarify a bit of deceptiveness on my part with the title. By occultist I purely mean magician of some sort, i.e. one who cast spells or engages in specifically magical operations.

Without much detail or fuss, here is my short list of books to help both total newbs and those who have taken their first magical steps already.

Recommended Books In no special order:

  • Basic Candle Magic by Phillip Cooper
  • Basic Sigil Magic by Phillip Cooper
  • Tree of Life by Israel Regardie
  • Elements of Qabalah by Will Par
  • Techniques of High Magic by King & Skinner
  • Basic Practical Magic by Brandi Williams
  • Complete Book of Magical Correspondences by Sandra Kynes
  • Magician’s Companion by Bill Whitcomb
  • Everyday Magic by Dorothy Morrison
  • a few more but have to stop here because Word Press “block editor” is a buggy piece of shit, won’t respond even to magical efforts to adjust, people around me soon in danger from rage building up.

Saturn Before Thursday’s Sunrise

I sat in the half-light this morning as the sun approached the horizon from the far side. During this hour of Saturn, just prior to the dawn that brings forth the hour and day of Jupiter, I contemplated the concepts of restriction and expansion.

Would the soul be found there, between those two forces, just as the Sol dwells there at this hour? The notion feels truthful, but what precisely does it mean?

Are such tides as the weak nuclear force that binds our atoms in place and electromagnetism that provides the core physical energy for the sustainment and growth of our bodies, be representatives of Saturn and Jupiter? What about gravity and dark energy, in their cosmic tug of war that determines whether the known universe is expanding or contracting? Time and space?

I’m clearly no physicist, and probably botched the rhetorical question. I’m convinced, however, there is something here in this sleep-deprived little musing of mine, and as insight shines the ray of gnosis upon the matter I’ll surely report back.

Mostly I just wanted to share the thought and say THAT, my friend, is what I love about this Work, this practice of magic. Never-ending are the tiny and elusive glimmers of something far greater than I could have ever conceived of when I began this journey.

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