What is magick? Forget all the fallacies and stereotypical pre-conceptions taught to you out of fear and ignorance and approach this question with an open mind. You will probably find it is not what you have been taught to think. Magick has been defined as "The art and science of causing change to occur in conformity with will *1" which could be put more simply as making desired change happen; or as "energy tending to change"; a definition I use is "magick is conscious evolution through directing energy". This does not really explain magick though, so I will try to elaborate on these phrases without jargon. An aim of magick is to train the mind by harnessing and making more consciously accessible such higher faculties as intuition, inspiration and the creative imagination, and by drawing on the power of the unconscious - to try and use more than the 10% of our brain's capacity that we do.
Magick assumes belief in, or rather experience of, subtle energies. We can only see about one seventieth of the light spectrum, yet what we cannot see still affects us - such as x-rays and ultraviolet light. Similarly, magick is about focusing more subtle, non-physical energies, and directing them to create change. To go about this requires experience, and training to improve the power of the mind, and specifically, the will. Acts such as meditation, breath control, voice work, body work, visualization, drama, ritual, and others, are all designed to improve our body and mind, to better sharpen us and balance us, and to enable us to perceive and wield more subtle energies. In the same way, an individual is as strong as their will, and the more balanced and integrated a person is, the stronger their will (note, this is probably one of the main reasons why so many magicians have experience of counselling and/or psychology, recognising the help these processes can give, both through training and experiencing them. This also acts as a removal of farcical social stigma often attached to these processes).
Practising magick tends to act as a deconditioning mechanism and can be a subtle process, the longer you practice, the more you change and the unnecessary inhibitions, stigmas, guilts and sin complexes that society builds in are removed. This has the effect of releasing their energy into the psyche, where it can strengthen the individual. The more physical side, such as yoga, bodywork, dance and massage, also removes the tension held in the body as body armour, and releases this and removes energy blockages which impair full efficiency and may result in illness. Possibly the major difference between magick and many of the religious paths to spiritual growth is that magick is more dynamic, and places the emphasis on you to work for change - there are no gurus in magick, rather there are fellow students with different perspectives and experiences - we learn from each other, as in other areas of life.
Magick tends to work a lot with symbols, as these are the language of the unconscious, and this is an area of tremendous power to tap. Symbols have many functions, and one of these, released through magick, can be the ability to confound the ego and the censor mechanisms, and enabling us to perceive more subtle truths, or experience direct revelations. Although we may not be able to fully explain how symbols work, we know from experience that certain symbols seem harmonious with certain types of energy. For example a magician may tell you that if you want to attract love you should wear green, and rose perfume, perhaps wear copper, like a bracelet or necklace, etc. These are all things attributed with Venus, who is associated with love, and so the principal is one of contagion - sympathetic magick, or making something happen by working with items linked to it.
This is one of the oldest and most commonly practised forms of magick. Working with the symbols of a type of energy does seem to attract that energy. A cautionary word here, magick is often seen as a way to hidden powers, and entered for the wrong reason, the "I want sex, power and lots of money" syndrome. Now there is nothing wrong with these things in themselves, but when you do magick you will discover that you tend to get what you need rather than necessarily what you want. When you do magick you generally use techniques to alter your state of consciousness and raise energy, and then direct that energy to create a desired result. The channel that energy takes as directed by your altered state of consciousness is not necessarily the path you might expect in your normal everyday state.
Magick does bring you power, yes, but it is power over yourself, not other people. It is the power that is important, to grow and to create positive change. This does not mean there is anything wrong with using magick to gain more physical things, there is nothing wrong with doing a ritual or spell to get a job, whereas trying to make a specific individual go to bed with you would be wrong. Magick is very much about intent, and if your intent is to get work, you are not imposing on people, whereas if you were trying to make somebody do something that they would not naturally do, you are imposing on their will. If you did a ritual to attract love without specifying a person, but opening yourself to the opportunity to meet someone where love may arise, and to feel more attractive and better about yourself, you are not imposing, you are trying to create positive change. Magick is a commitment to yourself, and it requires determination, perseverance, strength, openness to change and absence of rigidity, a love of life (including yourself), and a desire to grow and fulfil your potential.
It may be that you already have all these qualities and do this already without calling it magick - magick is not about labels, and those who think and talk as if it is unfortunately put some people off. Magick is learning about the natural flows of energy in the universe, and working in harmony with them to effect positive change, both in yourself and in your environment. Some people ask why magick is spelt with a 'k' on the end. This is to distinguish it from magic, associated in the popular mind with illusionism and prestidigitation, stage magic. Magick is not about illusion, it is about creating real change, and the 'k' signifies this. K is the eleventh letter of the alphabet, i.e. the one beyond ten. Symbolically this is very powerful, as we work in base ten, and eleven represents the unseen, or hidden energies - the subtle energies of magick, eleven is considered to be the number of magick.
Magickal training and experience bring forth the energies of the unconscious, and so it is no surprise to see that symbols become more important as you develop, providing not only the language of dream and the unconscious, but also helping create a more flexible perception grid of the universe. To grow spiritually, it is vital that you remain flexible and do not become dogmatic, rather that you are open to experience and willing to question your ideas and beliefs as a result of those experiences. Magick can be a painful process. It is not easy to maintain the discipline and honest self-critical approach all the time. It can also be hard work dealing with the energy released without being knocked off balance sometimes. The important thing in these cases is to remain honest and keep at it. Nobody said magick was easy! It takes a lot of practice and hard work and pain, but the rewards are spiritual and mental growth, the joy of life and the beauty of unconditional love. Beyond the limits there are no limits!
David Rankine © copyright 1999, 2000, 2001 David Rankine