I've been thinking a lot about "high" magic lately, magic done for the purposes of connecting with the divine, for communion, and in some traditions as a way of mediating spiritual forces into the world at large. Specifically I've been thinking about the need high magic fulfills for the person/people practicing it. Part of what's prompted this thinking has been the consideration of my own experiences with high magic. The conclusion I've come to is that high magic, ritual magic, or whatever you want to call it fulfills a deep need: the need to connect with something deeper and larger than ourselves. Call it a deity, call it nature, call it what you want, what we get from such a connection is a deep need met that speaks to a desire to connect with the universe.
This need isn't written about or pointed to in magical texts and I'm sure that some people would argue with me about that need I'm suggesting is fulfilled, but in my experience, I find that people in general choose to take action based on what something will do for them. This isn't to say they don't want to take action for more altruistic reasons, because that certainly can be an element for why they are doing a magical working, but I've never encountered a person yet who hasn't done something without at least some type of gain for themselves. The gain may not be material, but its still there. And when I think about high magic and the purposes of doing magic, what I see is this deep need for connection being met.
We do this high magic ritual to connect with a spiritual being, to get information, or whatever else, but also to establish we are not alone. Or we do a ritual to respond to a crisis, to save the planet or a person or whatever else, but in part we're doing it because as people, as a community we need to find some way to feel connected to each other, to who or what we're doing the ritual for, and to feel a sense of control even if there may not be any control to be had. It's a deep need which goes unstated, but its worth stating it, if only to recognize that it is there, and to develop an informed awareness that allows to knowingly integrate and use that need in our magical workings.
I think that if we were to openly acknowledge that need it would also allow us to critically examine magical workings we do and ask ourselves why we're really doing them. For example, doing a magical ritual to stop oil pumping from a broken line into the ocean is not really an effective form of practical magic, but if we examine the underlying need for it, what we find is a desire to connect with the Earth, to somehow feel we can do something for the Earth. All well and good, though I'd suggest taking more practical mundane action to help out, such as looking at lifestyle choices or cleaning up litter or changing your carbon imprint, would be a better way to serve the Earth. And if you still feel the need to connect to the Earth via ritual magic, then do that magic with the recognition that you want the connection, because that will in and of itself change the working, and you might just get an experience that provides further direction for what you can actually do to help.
When we examine our magical practice and get real about why we are doing what we are doing it lets us have a deeper experience with magic. We aren't fooling ourselves and saying we're doing this working strictly for this reason, but acknowledging that there is something we need from the working ourselves that allows us to process an event or feel a sense of control where perhaps there isn't any. And then we can look and actually determine what we can do about the situation and take action accordingly.