Magical Systems

Where dreams come alive…

Here one can reflect upon the various magical systems of David Abram, Marcel Mauss, James Frazer, Bronislaw Malinowski, Jacob Needleman, Starhawk, Aleister Crowley, Simon Magus, Seth, Iamblichus etc…

We will provide interpretations on myth, ritual, symbolism, taboo, shamans, priests, prophets, the religious use of entheogens and ethnomedicines for spiritual/psychical healing, witchcraft and sorcery, demons, exorcism, divination, magic, ghosts, souls, ancestors and the power of the dead, ancient and new religions, the occult, the supernatural, tarot, neopaganism and nature spirituality, satanism and gnostic luciferianism, chaos magic…

Essentially, magic is the ability to align oneself with a knowledge of nature in order to induce tangible change through force. This knowledge is often called gnosis, by which one knows the true reality of existence, thereby transforming consciousness (through power and force), and with it, the world the magician is embedded within. To see Israel Regardie’s “Study in Magic,” see here: Tree of Life

David Abram-

Abram’s work specifically points to the intersections between magic, perception, and the animate natural world, where help and ritual aid are provided by a magician or shaman, who mediates between the human community and the larger community of life upon which a community ultimately depends. A sorcerers healing therefore balances the community’s relationship to the encompassing land, with disease conceptualized as a systemic imbalance or demonic intrusion into the body. This disequilibrium is rectified as the magician dissolves those perceptual boundaries enforced by social norms in order to alter consciousness through a heightened receptivity to multiple, non-human intelligences.

“Without a continually adjusted awareness of the relative balance or imbalance between the human group and its nonhuman environ, along with the skills necessary to modulate that primary relation, any ‘healer’ is worthless…the medicine person’s primary allegiance, then, is not to the human community, but to the earthly web of relations in which that community is embedded–it is from this that his or her power to alleviate human illness derives–and this sets the local magician apart from other persons.” (Pg. 8, The Spell of the Sensuous)

Being that the source of social stress today lies in the relation between the human community and the natural landscape our mass abstractions of the Other have thus naturally limited our ability to clearly perceive those powers outside of ourselves, thereby dismantling the “sensuous medium” in which we are able to more truly know the “external” world. It is the sensing body that brings consciousness in communion with experience, allowing an empathetic awareness of reality to overcome limited belief structures that ultimately reduce our understandings of nature. The effect of this sensuous experience of the body is to communicate, reciprocate, and participate through a meaningful dialogue in which an evolving language no longer separates a signifier from the signified, but rather reminds us to directly perceive a phenomenon by entering into relation with it, interacting with and invoking its being and, in so doing, connecting to the activity of the land while letting it speak through the individual:

“The coherence of human language is inseparable from the coherence of the surrounding ecology, from the expressive vitality of the more-than-human terrain. It is the animate earth that speaks; human speech is but a part of that vaster discourse.” (Pg. 179)

For further reading, see Abram’s Magic, Animism and the Shaman’s Craft from Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature

Catechism of the Catholic Church 

“Divination and Magic,” Part Three, Article One of Life of Christ, in: with modifications from the editio typica. Doubleday: New York NY (1995) pg. 569-570

2115 God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it. Improvidence, however, can constitute a lack of responsibility.

2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future.  Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm readin, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden power [occult forces?]. The contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

2117 All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others–even if this were for the sake of restoring their health–are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are event more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another’s credulity.

1997 Grace is a participation in the life of God. …He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church.

Deut 18:10, Jer 29:8

pg. 569-570

Aleister Crowley-

Crowley held magic as “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will”, including both “mundane” acts of will as well as ritual magic. Crowley wrote that “it is theoretically possible to cause in any object any change of which that object is capable by nature”. [1] Crowley saw magick as the essential method for a person to reach true understanding of the self and to act according to one’s true will, which he saw as the reconciliation “between freewill and destiny.” [3] True will is a person’s grand destiny in life, and at other times as a moment to moment path of action that operates in perfect harmony with Nature. This Will does not spring from conscious intent, but from the interplay between the deepest Self and the entire Universe.

E.E. Evans-Pritchard-

In the Morphology and Function of Magic, Evans-Pritchard writes that all important magic has its tradition and is secured through myth, so that the loss of magical power comes about through a loss of the material of the rite which makes an act of magic invalid.

“The psychological function of magic demands a background of belief in its tradition, but it does not determine the form of these traditions. Whether they exist only as loose current tradition and short-lived everyday myths or whether they become set into the mould of a compact myth or legend, depends upon the place they occupy in each society, and upon their relation to other parts of the culture in which they exist.”  12 in Magic, Witchcraft, and Curing (ed. John Middleton)

Thus an insignificant change in the sequence and procedure of a ritual does not invalidate the whole act of magic, as new magic is constantly created, transmitted, and communally sanctioned by a group through the institution of ownership. Magic, as a technique used beyond common understanding, is then a kind of cultural heritage, co-existent with man in time–a tangible weapon of culture–deriving its power through the knowledge of tradition. The psychological purpose of magic is served only when an utterance is made in conjunction with a rite, so that the crystallization of the utterance into a a standardized formula is determined by the affiliation of magic with a certain social body. Since the role of magic enables socio-economic processes to be carried out, it is therefore associated with those groups fulfilling these functions, affecting the form of magic in specific ways:

“Important magic, that is, magic which plays its role in large communal undertakings or is practised on behalf of the whole community or reinforces an essential function of society such as war or government, is always to be found in the hands of a few men…Since all important magic is in the hands of a few individuals the more it becomes spread among the members of the community at large, the more it loses its importance and social utility. This gives rise to the creation of new magic, magical redundancy, and an attempt to stabilize the magic through new groups or associations.” 21 MWC

James Frazer-

Stanley A. and Ruth S. Freed

In “Spirit Possession as Illness in a North Indian Village,” Freeds writes about a boy whose frequently repeated possessions were beyond the powers of the villagers so that shamans were summoned from outside the community. They recited sacred verses (mantras) emphasized spells, offerings, and the transference of the ghost from the victim to something or someone else, including the shaman. The remedies involved considerable conversation, during which the ghost can complain and insult others, which might have a therapeutic effect upon the one suffering possession.

Spirit possession affected both men and women of varying ages as well, and is related to difficulties and tension with close relatives, often affecting persons whose expectations of aid and support are low. Furthermore, while the victim usually recovers, the condition can develop into a different and apparently permanent psychological affliction. To this end, several conclusions were drawn:

Psychologically, spirit possession seems to fit contemporary descriptions of hysteria, best analyzed as having two conditions–intrapsychic tension and a precipitating condition due to an even or situation involving unusual stress or emotion. Precipitating conditions have two general characterstics:

1) the victim of spirit possession is involved in difficulties with relatives of the nuclear or joint family

2) he is often in a situation where his expectations of mutual aid and support are low

“The primary gain of an attack of spirit possession is to relieve the individua;’s intrapsychic tension; secondary gains include attention, sympathy, influencing relatives, and other manipulation of the individual’s current situation. Sometimes spirit possession can develop into schizophrenia. Precipitating events may precede schizophrenia as well as hysteria. Spirit possession appears to assume a basically uniform pattern in northern India, although regional variation may occur in the behavior during an attack, whether nonrelatives as well as close relatives are involved in the tense situation preceding the attack, the frequency with which accusations of witchcraft occur, and the readiness of people to attribute a wide variety of illness and misfortune to spirit possession.” 320 MWC


Claude Levi-Strauss

In The Sorcerer and his Magic, Levi-Strauss suggests that an individual’s physical integrity will not be able to withstand the dissolution of social personality if he is convinced he is the target of sorcery, since the magical situation is a consensual phenomenon. The sorcerer is believed to have an intimate working knowledge of the supernatural so that witchcraft and its associated ideas cease to exist as a diffuse complex of formulated sentiments to become embodied in real experience instead. (David Tait defines sorcery as the use of magical medicines to procure the death of a selected victim, transmitted to the victim through beer, in a kola-nut, or by being placed on a path)

The Sorcerer is convinced of two things– 1) pathological conditions have a cause to be discovered and 2) a system of interpretation in which personal inventiveness is important structures the phases of the illness, from diagnosis to cure. With this understanding, further procedures and representations are founded on a threefold experience: the shaman undergoing specific states of a psychosomatic nature; the state of the sick person; and finally that of the public who also participate in the cure, experiencing an enthusiasm and intellectual/emotional satisfaction which produce collective support. Levi-Strauss calls these three elements the “shamanistic complex.”

“If this analysis is correct, we must see magical behavior as the response to a situation which is revealed to the mind through emotional manifestations, but whose essence is intellectual. For only the history of the symbolic function can allow us to understand the intellectual condition of man, in which the universe is never charged with sufficient meaning and in which the mind always has more meanings available than there are objects to which to relate them. Torn between these two systems of reference–the signifying and the signified–man asks magical thinking to provide him with a new system of reference, within which the thus-far contradictory elements can be integrated.” 40 MWC

Levi-Strauss considers this a fabrication–a language whose function provides a socially authorized translation of phenomena whose deeper nature is impenetrable to the group, the patient, and the healer.

Malidoma Patrice Somé

Malidoma explains that according to the Dagara worldview, there is no reality apart from imagination, so that thought and nature are ultimately bound together in that by imagining and clearly focusing one’s thoughts has the potential to bring the point of focus into being. Thus those who expect that things will either work out or fail will usually manifest that reality and experience that particular mode of existence.

“In the realm of the sacred, this concept is taken even further, for what is magic but the ability to focus thought and energy to get results on the human plane? The Dagara view of reality is large. If one can imagine something, then it has at least the potential to exist.” pg. 8

Ritual and initiation are crucial in this process of metamorphasis, while the power of nature exists in silence, where perceptions  . Words then are impotent in their attempt to encode meaning simply because “words, by their very nature, are limited, mere representations of the real, human-made pieces of utterances. Reality exists independently from language.” 244

As Malidoma explains, the community is a body in which the individual is a cell. Attaining special information is done through communication with the dream world, the supernatural realm, where power is drawn for the sake of healing. This knowledge is essentially remembered by journeying within ourselves, so that the pain we experience can be attributed to the denial of our own true nature. Thus one cannot be who they truly are until they put what they remember into their own life’s work.

Bronislaw Malinowski-

Malinowski found that magic in the Trobriand Islands addressed particular kinds of problems that were specific and practical. These he distinguished from the larger concerns of human life that he identified with religion by showing how magic filled a gap left by a lack of knowledge in man’s pragmatic pursuits and how it provides an alternative means of expression for thwarted human desires, for example black magic.

For Malinowski, the many functions of magic included human beings’ attempts to increase the probability of success in important activities, and increase confidence to undertake them. Magic opened up possibilities for human action. He did not view magic as a characteristic of particular kinds of societies, but thought that it could be found when human beings were confronted with a lack of knowledge or ability to control something important to their lives. Malinowski also observed that magic had social and moral functions that led to better cooperation among group members. In addition, it gave people access to what he referred to as “miracles,” events that were unexpected or unlikely, thus giving them hope.

Addressing the question of the difference between magical and natural causality, Malinowski showed that the Andamanese used magic to supplement the actions of the natural world. In their horticultural and sailing activities they both relied on their own knowledge and skills, and used magic to assist them to handle unexpected events. Malinowski did not present magic, religion, and science in an evolutionary framework, but considered them as aspects of cultural systems. His approach acknowledged that the Andamanese had empirical knowledge and did not assume that magic was apart from, or a replacement for, effective activity in the world.

M.G. Marwick-

In “Sorcery in its Social Setting,” Marwick writes that sorcery, as a social process, implies a general theory of conflict and tension; that it is a moral force in social change and that fear of sorcery becomes an important factor in social control that emphasizes the status quo. Whereas ideal behavior is sanctioned by beliefs underlying real or imagined events, beliefs in sorcery buttress social norms, maintain social cohesion and act as a conservative force in providing a medium for the dramatization of social norms. Thus symbols of social evil and violations of cultural norms work to conflict with the general social order when new relationships are seen to modify preexisting values (e.g. undue accumulation of wealth).

Just as a messiah proclaims a stable order to replace the state of insecurity resulting from deprivation and the disorganization of the controlling normative structure of a society in a culture contact situation, the desperate search for more effective ways of understanding and modifying a confused environment allows for the synthesizing of new and old value systems to conserve indigenous norms threatened by modern ones. Misfortunes are thus attributed to sorcery as a moral theory of causation, reinforcing social norms through dramatization and redressing tensse relationships and personal deviance.

“In such a [large-scale, urban, and complex] society, disturbances in these relationships that remain personal and total may be isolated, compartmentalized, and expressed in forms that do not necessarily require a belief in mystical personal influence, a belief which is basic to the formulation of social tensions in terms of sorcery and witchcraft.” pg. 296

Marwick attributes the disappearance of beliefs in witchcraft and sorcery from our own society neither to the growth of religion nor to the rise of rationalism, but rather to the development of a society where impersonal/segmental relationships and isolated/compartmentalized tensions are expressed in forms different from those communities small enough to be dominated by the idea of personal influence.

Marcel Mauss-

Simon D. Messing

In “Group Therapy and Social Status in the Zar Cult,” Messing introduces the healing of the spirit in Abyssinian culture by explaining the individual vulnerability (points of psychological or social stress) and its connection to Zar cosmology. The world of the hidden Zar spirits mirrors the feudal and ethnocentric society so that the practitioner, a doctor who has learned to control the situation and identifies with the most powerful of the spirits possessing him, can provide diagnoses through demonstrations and treatments by negotiating with the irritating zar in order to transform him into an attitude of benevolence as “protective zar”. Messing concludes

1) The “zar” is a catch-all for psychological distrubances, ranging from frustrated status ambition to mental illness.

2) Healing is in the context of a culture which is socially more highly organized than commonly found unter the “shaman” type. The zar cult thus reveals many aspects of social structure (feudalism, position of women…)

3) Since no patient is ever discharged as cured, the zar cult functions as a form of group therapy. Chronic patients become devotees who form a close-knit social group in which they find security and recognition.

4) The zar cult is not a deviant cult; its significance in maintaining the status quo in society has traditionally been greater than improvement of social status. By matching the social status of patient and spirit, the doctor inadvertently functions to maintain the social structure of old Abyssinia. Moreover, the patient must confess neglect not only of the zar but of his other social duties as well. Once his demands have been met, the zar spirit helps the patent to carry on his normal role in the community.

5) The motivation is now shifting toward desire for upward social mobility. Even in the past a neglected wife could punish her husband by having her zar extort economic sacrifices from him on threat of relapse. But now ex-slave and low-class patients are increasingly being “chosen” by the zar. The epidemiology of possession starts a chain of events that enables them to escape from their social confinements. 292 MWC

John Middleton-

As the editor for Magic, Witchcraft, and Curing, Middleton brings together a wide variety of essays on the subject, describing accepted beliefs held by particular communities while proposing that magic is a realm where individuals believe they can “directly affect nature and each other, for good or for ill, by their own efforts (even though the precise mechanism may not be understood by them), as distinct from appealing to divine powers by sacrifice or prayer. Witchcraft and sorcery are, therefore, close to magic, as are processes of oracular consultation, divination and many forms of curing.” ix

Unlike religious beliefs and practices, which are highly expressive (symbolizing certain socio-cosmic relationships), magic is primarily instrumental in that people use it to achieve particular ends. Magic and witchcraft are integral parts of cultural life and make up a general socio-cultural milieu with an intact and coherent logic with specific premises and beliefs. These then offer explanations that allow persons to project feelings onto others while personalizing the forces of fate in order to deal with perceived “evil” with direct social action. Middleton thus provides a basic outline with which to uncover many other aspects in the magico-religious worldview: magic, witchcraft, sorcery, divination, and curing…

Jacob Needleman-

George K. Park

Park writes in “Divination and its Social Contexts,” that divination (mechanical, ritual, and emotive) is employed to eliminate important sources of disorder in social relationships through the identification of witches, though a normal consequence of such fallible accusations may be the killing of innocent persons. The great work of the diviner is in the skillful diagnosis to establish his own power as a practitioner to give cures their value. Often, such methods are called for in cases of illness and death (and other life-crises), and is associated with relieving a sense of danger by lending to certain acts peculiar but effective types of legitimation–enabling the individual to concentrate his entire energy upon a certain task without distraction to make permanent whatever choice is adopted.

“…It is the peculiar property of the diviner’s role that he is able, in the public conscience, to remove the agency and responsibility for a decision from the actor himself, casting it upon the heavens where it lies beyond cavil and beyond reproach.” pg. 236 Magic, Witchcraft, and Curing

Moreover it plays a structural role by depersonalizing various actions so that private accusations are given legitimacy and the public, reflecting the alignment of interpersonal loyalties, decide whether the divination will prevail, and to what extent. Thus, as an institutionalized procedure it provides resistance to any client’s proposal, so that the diviner can be seen as a representative for fate, rather than a human judge: the divinatory procedure is a technique for establishing effective consensus upon a particular project, acting as a decision-making mechanism by taking the matter out of the client’s hands.

The consequence creates a sense of tentativeness in all social arrangements predicated on moral allegations or particular responses to crises that are legitimated by divination, thereby establishing consensus by rendering action more predictable and regular through a de-randomizing function.  There is therefore a real dynamic where public opinion and belief is controlled and channelled so that ritual occasions presuppose an underlying consensus demonstrated to solemnize attitudes towards certain fields of power.

“The function of the ritual precations, then, was precisely indicated by their manifest purpose of colloquy with the gods. No enterprise of state could proceed without the drama of suspense by which the eventual approval of the gods was made known, and the fact of the direction of such enterprise by beings higher yet than the king was demonstrated to all.” 243 MWC

Thus the legitimacy of specific action rests in the substantive condition to prevent immediate disorder, and the formal condition to preserve the chartering myth of constituted authority which claims to embody transcendent justice. Divination can then be seen as an instrument of social control, where history is played out as the maintenance of the security of social norms, legitimating acts, events, or establishments as examples of class tendencies, formulated as sanctioned rituals.

Divination procedure:

1) Establish reason for visit (death, illness, theft…)

2) Consult gourd and throw variety of symbolic objects into hand

3) Build a story around these objects and pronounce  seeing some vaguely defined person

4) Ask who this could be

5) Reconcile diviner’s findings with own suspicions (select evil person and appraise possible motivation for sorcery)

6) Test name of evil-doer and submit a chicken to the poison ordeal to prove diviner’s findings

W.H.R. Rivers-

For Rivers, magic is that group of processes where man uses rites whose efficacy depends on his own power, believed to be inherent in objects and processes used in these rites. The efficacy of religion, in contrast, depends upon a higher power, intervened in by rites of supplication and propitiation–the difference being the belief in a universal power beyond man’s grasp. Thus magic manifests its relevance particularly in medicine, where one directs and controls the  phenomena that so often renders man unfit for normal accomplishment of physical and social functions.  While disease is thought to be caused by human agency (action by humans), spiritual being (non-personified supernaturalism), or natural causes, treatment (the magico-religious nature of rites) offers therapeutic measures employed to cure disease produced by these forces.

About these beliefs underlying magical rites, Rivers writes that the essence of magic and religion is that it inculcates reliance upon a power other than that of the sufferer, and thus he treats magic and religion as those therapeutic agencies working for the subject of mind and medicine (See “Medicine, Magic, and Religion”), pointing to the imitative and contagious associations specifically.

Medicine then regards diseases as phenomenons subject to natural law so that any conflict is pronounced through the magico-religious agency to influence the universe and control specific phenomena using self-knowledge, self-reliance, and the power of suggestion to remedy faults in society and uncover faulty trends. Growth of civilization brings new forms of disease through the inadequate adjustment of social means to increasing complexity of life, characterizing the instability of mental life. As civilization exposes man to greater stress, the emergence of medicines from associations with magic and religion offer a gradual substitution of physical causation for those spiritualistic agencies of animism (forming the early attitude toward nature).

Seth/Jane Roberts-

Everything we experience is consciousness given form, meaning physical reality is a psychological medium constructed by consciousness (and for consciousness) to experiment with the energy of thought in designed environments using the power of thought to create experiences. Groups of consciousnesses form  and participate in these events which function as symbolic interpretations of inner experiences manifesting in space-time as ILLUSIONS. The brain translates the event into a physical structure and projects the electromagnetic nature onto the brain through perceptive mechanisms to bring the event into actuality.

As Thought is converted into reality through the energy of various coordinate points (concentrated energy points permeating physical reality), the immediate material environment is altered, depending on how accurately our feelings are translated into physical reality. Symbols–highly charged psychic sructures–represent these inner realizations, not directly realized. As the symbolic activity takes place first in a psychological medium to create our reality, 2 frameworks can be conceived of whereby our physical life (Framework 1) emerges as the medium for our expressed inner lives (Framework 2), so that people involved become living embodiments of ideas at play. Our feelings are thus intellectually and emotionally experienced realities: we cause the events in life which are the results of our own thinking–our intentions holding efficacy only to the degree that static between Frameworks is absent.

When we purposefully form an intent via thought or imagination, apply the paintbrush of desire, and have faith it will come into being, we start to sense the great power of the mind, because we will eventually see the objectified results of our focus. Reality is formed from belief systems, which generate practical experience and conditions change according to these thoughts. Because everything in physical reality is merely consciousness taking on form, the energy of all that exists manifests over time as  actualized events deriving from the field of probabilities. The egoistically individual would then fully comprehend unconscious knowledge and act on his own, out of choice, to become a free and conscious co-creator.

“Consciousness is, among other things, a sponaneous exercise in creativity. You are learning now, in a three-dimensional context, the ways in which your emotional and psychic existence can create varieties of physical form. You manipulate within the psychic encironment, and these manipulations are then autpmatically impressed upon the physical mold.”

-Seth, Seth Speaks, Session 514

(Taken from The Wizards of Consciousness: Making the Imponderable Practical)

Simon Magus-


Only ecological balance can sustain freedom so that nature, often seen to be sacred, becomes the standard by which we live our lives. Government forfeits its legitimacy by failing to protect these standards. Honoring the sacred creates conditions in which nourishment, sustenance, habitat, knowledge, freedom, and beauty can thrive to make love possible. To this we dedicate our curiousity, our will, our courage, our silences, and our voices. To this we dedicate our lives.

Life opens us to particular kinds of strength to meet the challenges of profits, growth, progress, etc…which don’t deal with limitations. A culture of war comes to its ultimate conclusions when all resources are put into war, impoverish itself through waste, since resources are finite, no matter how infinite they seem. In this way individuals will either internalize the models of power in society or enter into a psychic shift to perceive the oneness of the universe to act in opposition to such destructive presuppositions.

Starhawk identifies 3 types of power–power over (to control the resources of another, determine their choices or lack thereof, and impose sanctions or punishments on others), power-from-within (spiritual power or empowerment, the ability to realize who we are meant to be and what we’re meant to do), and power-with (influence, ideas are listened to, empowering respect through experience)–necessary for  MAGIC.

Magic can be understood as a way to change informal structures of power for it is the art of changing consciousness at will. Evoking power-from-within facilitates an inner shift producing effects in the outside world by focusing on inner change– the consciousness change. Becoming responsible for your own mind requires concentration, visualization, and the awareness of energies, so as to shift and change them. RITUALS are those sets of action designed to orchestrate a movement of energy in which individuals are symbolically cleansed so they may enter into another state of consciousness, evolving changes within them too. Concentration, or more psychic ability allows for the ability to contact the source of this power, developing a proper intention of heart. Interconnected action in the physical world establishes concrete political effects where physical action embodies the inner intention and sets in motion forces to bring one’s ends about.

There are several principles in magic: act as if doing the ritual can prevent nuclear war. If enough people act as if they have the power to change the system, sometimes it can. New ideas brought into the collective mind can confront the rigidity of patterns, by engaging those trapped in a system of thought that can’t shift/change. In Outer reality there is no isolated part of the world, no isolated biological system.

“If Goddess religion is not to become mindless idiocy, we must win clear of tendency of magic to become superstition. Magic – and among its branches I include psychology as its purpose to describe and change consciousness – is an art.”

Eric Voegelin-

Voegelin understands Magic as the attempt to realize a desired end that cannot be realized if one takes into account the structure of reality. You cannot by magic operations jump out the window and fly up–even if you so desire. If you try such things–for instance, producing a change in the nature of man by the dictatorship of the proletariat—you are engaged in a magical operation. Most of what we usually call “ideologies” are magic operations in the same sense that Malinowski uses magic of the Trobriand Islanders.

Much of Voegelin’s political thought stems from his understanding of gnosis, a tendency motivated by the notion that the world and humanity can be fundamentally transformed and perfected through the intervention of a chosen group of people (an elite), a man-god, or men-gods (ubermensch), who are the chosen ones that possess a kind of special knowledge (i.e. magic, or science) about how to perfect human existence. He opted to conflate the term gnosis with magical traditions, alchemy, Renaissance Hermeticism, and apocalyptic or millenarian thinking. “The hermeticists, magicians, and alchemists sought a gnosis of the secrets of man and nature that would confer power over them.”

Hence Voegelin’s views on utopian activists are often portrayed as negative: humanity is threatened and seriously molested by by the massive social force of activist dreamers’ utopian imagination seeing to liberate us from our imperfections by locking us up in the perfect prison of their phantasy. Such activists are described as magicians and sorcerers, whose diseased consciousness understands its own deformation as the possession of a magical power to transfigure reality. To this end, Voegelin dubs Hegel’s system as intellectual magic, the Marxist variant as political magic, and the Nietzschean will to power as psychological magic.



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