In psyche's latest post on the definitions of magic, she attempts to use Crowley's definition of magic to address arguments by a podcaster named Deo who had shared an essay on his podcast wherein he challenged the veracity of magic as a real force (Actually his essay is part of what started the initial post she wrote). As I noted in this post, Crowley's definition is not a good definition of magic, because he is sloppy in his attempts to define what magic is, and is unable to distinguish from any other discipline or approach that could be used in a similar way to explain how a person uses a process to manifest something. However Deo poses an intriguing challenge to Psyche and others in this thread on his forum. Something which is brought up is the "models of Magic" Both Deo and Psyche seem to agree that these models are most effective as understanding practical applications and possibilities of magic and magical systems as opposed to being definitive theories or explanations for how the process of magic works. I'd agree with that myself, but Deo then raises an interesting question: "Is there such a thing (ontologically/metaphysically) as magic?..Does magic deserve to be an ontological category? If not, then it's metaphysically uninteresting and a worldview that lacks it can still be a complete worldview."
Deo's question is an excellent question to ask. It highlights the problem with Crowley's definition, because Crowley's definition cannot answer or explain magic in a way that differentiates it from anything else, something which Deo aptly notes, "I don't consider magic to be 'real' as an ontological component of the universe if it merely names a style of activity irrespective of any kind of mechanism underlying its alleged efficacy" An activity is not automatically magical, simply because it is named magical. A process needs to be described that shows how magic is different from something else...in fact a good definition not only persuades someone what something ought to be, but also shows why something is different from everything else.
Instead of relying on the models of magic to answer Deo's question (I've never really used them and I have my own reasons for thinking that while they provide perspectives on practical applications, the perspectives offered are not necessarily the most efficacious), nor will I rely on an aesthetic approach to magic, because while I think making meaning is a function of magic, I don't believe it is the only function. Plus, in keeping with Deo's criticism, it can be argued that making meaning is does not fall strictly in the domain of magic (as a study of semiotics will quickly reveal to a reader).
I choose to take a different tack to defining magic, based on my own definition of magic, one gained from years of personal experience and experimentation. In Multi-Media Magic, I defined magic as: "Magic involves making the improbable possible. It's learning how even the slightest change you make can have a radical effect on the internal system of your psychology/spirituality, and the external system of the environment and the universe you live in. Magic is the realization of an interdependent system of life that needs every part to bring forth the hidden potential. It is also a methodology that can be used as a stress on the interconnected system, to manifest change in it." I go on to note that magic isn't the only stress on a system. In Space/Time magic, I also noted that magic involved being aware of probabilities and manifesting those probabilities into your life.
A definition of magic then is not so much about doing everything with intent as it is about recognizing probabilities and using a process (which we call magic) to manifest those probabilities into reality. Seems simple enough, but even the definition I wrote above has problems with it. I haven't overtly identified the process that magic utilizes which allows it to be an ontological presence. I identify a benefit of magic, that it makes a person aware of probabilities and enables manifestation of those probabilities, but the underlying mechanism still isn't defined. I note that magic can act as a stress on a system, but that could still use further clarification.
What I define as a system is a recognition that all life is interconnected. Everything lives within a system that necessarily requires everything to work together in order for the entirety of the system to be sustained (And we can note the effects that occur when a system is taken out of balance, global warming anyone?). In a systems approach, both intent AND impact are considered. Impact needs to be considered in order to determine if efficacy has occurred, since impact is one means for measuring the process used to generate it (As a side not, it amazes that most definitions of magic do not consider impact at all...too much focus on intent, not enough awareness of impact). The system is not entirely a physical reality, though it is based in a physical environment. It is also based in the mentality and even spirituality of what lives within it. Any system is effected by stress. A stress in this case is a mechanism used to change the system. Different disciplines of science are stresses on a system, because they utilize mechanisms to change the system.
Likewise magic is a stress that can be used to change the system, because of the mechanism that magic provides, which is not provided by the different disciplines of science, because while science enables from a purely physical end of the spectrum, magic enables change through a combination of physical, mental, and spiritual resources. An example of this resource would be the example of embodying a physical/mental resource of the human body, a neurotransmitter as an entity (thus creating a spiritual resource) which could be used to manifest a variety of possibilities, including creating altered states of mind, healing a person's mental state by working with the neurotransmitter, etc.
But what is the mechanism that makes magic an ontological presence, and enables its efficacy? That mechanism is Identity, specifically the ability to shape and change identity in order to mesh it with the identity if the possibility one wishes to manifest into reality. Identity can be considered to be both a state of existence and, in a system, a point or node of influence, connected to other nodes of influence. Magic uses identity as a means of manifesting probability into reality, by creating resonance between the identity of the magician and the identity of the probability the magician wants to make into reality (Think of magic as a string in a web, connecting one node of identity to another node of identity). The magician anchors a potential identity in the form of a probability to his/her actual identity, via magic to enable the probability a greater chance of manifesting than would occur if methods were not used to link the two identities together. Magic is a process of identification that allows the magician to change reality by altering the identity of that reality, or for that matter altering his or her own identity to conform to reality.
Magic uses methods to create resonance between different identities, or if you will between one version of reality and another. Probability becomes reality, when enough resonance is created between one identity and another so that the probability in essence becomes an extension of the existing identity of the magician.
This is my answer to Deo's question. It's also part of my ongoing work and experimentation with magic.