Shauna Aura Knight recently posted a series of blog posts about her definition of magic. She'd written the posts because she's currently taking the process of magic course and one of the exercises involves students defining what their definition of magic is. I think her responses are very thoughtful and demonstrate the kind of engagement that's really important in understanding magic. Here is her first entry, second entry, and third entry. A little while back I wrote something about magic, which is integral to this blog post, but also to my own definition of magic and how I think magic works, when it comes to practical applications of it: "The genuine experience of magic is something which changes you and your relationship to the universe. It’s not a result. It’s an ongoing relationship that informs how you experience the world and your place in it, as well as how you change it."
In her second post, Shauna makes several interesting points abut magic and why people do magic:
Some of our ancestors certainly spent a lot of effort making offerings (including the occasional human sacrifice) to appease the gods and shift the weather, or end a war. Do I think it works like that? Not really. I think that everyone stays a lot calmer when we feel like we’re doing something. We humans just don’t cope with the idea that the earth could shrug and we’re wiped out and we have no control over that. So I think in some cases, magic becomes an illusion of control.
Magic works really well for changing myself. It works well for changing the consciousness of myself and others where I have that influence. But the more specific external physical results I want, the more I’m swimming upstream against the nature of physics. Or, the more physical work I’m going to need to do to take it beyond just my intention and my will.
and in part 3 she noted:
I think that, with magic, we want proof. We want flash. We want miracles. And when we don’t get those, we wonder what magic is. When we see how magic works, it doesn’t seem very flashy…or, we realize how unimportant the flash really is.
All of these points she makes are good ones and again I'd suggest reading her entries in their entirety because it'll give you some food for thought about magic. I agree with Shauna that for so many people, what they want is proof that magic is real. They want Hollywood magic, but what they don't realize is that magic is a process and that it is subtle. The majority of magical work I've done has usually involved a build-up of actions and energy toward manifesting a possibility into reality. Rarely is it instantaneous, but the results happen when I need them to, because I've planned that into the working. And as I mentioned in a recent post on high magic, sometimes what we want is to feel connected and to also feel like we made a difference, even if how we're trying to make that difference is a symbolic gesture as opposed to real actions.
I do believe magic can generate physical results. However I think the way those physical results are generated has more to do with turning possibility into reality than anything else. When you think about it, turning possibility into reality is what practical seems to be about. Magic is stacking the deck in your favor, but for that to happen involves working with what's possible and selecting the possibility you want to manifest into reality. Some possibilities are easier than others to manifest. As Shauna notes, the more external physical results you want to generate, the more you swim upstream against the nature of physics (as we know it anyway). For example, if you want to throw a fireball, you're going to have change the laws of physics (or create some technology). If you want to telekinetically move an item, you've come got to come up with the energy to make it happen. And that energy isn't just changing the physical environment but also accessing the possibility of tossing a fireball or moving an item with your mind.
I prefer not to swim against the stream. I prefer to work with what's around me. Part of working with something involves learning about it. For example, if I'm going to work on the microbial level of my body, I'd better do some research into what that looks like, so that I at least have an idea of what I'm working with and how factor that into the magical work I'm doing. If I want to do a weather magic working, I'm going to research the weather system I'm in, so I understand the possibilities available.
I look at practical magic in terms of possibilities. What are the available possibilities? What are the variables that effect those possibilities? What can I work with to make the possibility to turn into reality? Viewed in this way magic isn't full of flash or glamour, but it works really well in terms of turning possibilities into reality. I work with what's around me, instead of swimming against it. I don't need to swim against anything to get what I want and I'm always in favor of creating the path of least resistance toward achieving my goals.
On a different note Lilith Dorsey interviewed me on her blog about divination.