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 😉 ).