Experimental Magic: The Evolution of Magic

Experiment with your magical practice by learning how to apply art, pop culture, neuroscience, psychology, and other disciplines to your magical work, as well as exploring fundamental underlying principles of what makes magic work. You'll never look at magic in the same way!

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Why Magic should change you

It seems obvious that magic should instill some kind of change within you, but I feel compelled to write this article because so often what I see in occult texts is a emphasis on changing the environment around you, as opposed to changing yourself, or a focus on changing yourself solely through spiritual means and the assistance of spirits of some type. There's this dualism within Western Magic, where you apparently have two schools of magical practice. The theurgic school is a spiritual school, wherein the magician practices high magic in an effort to connect with spiritual powers and and gradually change him/herself via that contact. The thaumaturgic school is a practical school, where magic is done to solve problems and change the environment to one that is more pleasing. I think of it as reactive magic, done to solve the current crisis in one's life. This approach to magic breaks down various magical actions by the results, and depending on what the results are a magical action is lumped in one of the two schools of magical thought and practice.


As I've practiced magic over the years, I've gradually come to a realization that magic should, first and foremost, change the person practicing it, and that such change should never be accidental, but rather should be a conscious decision. Magic does, in fact, change a person. Any act of magic you do involves not just a connection with a spiritual power or a change in your environment but a change in your identity. Who you are changes as a result of doing magic. The change may be major or minor, but it is nonetheless a change in your identity and how you identify with the universe at large. The question is: Have you thought about how you will change as a result of practicing magic for whatever reason you are doing it? Because the emphasis on change is focused more or lesson the external environment or on what spirits you'll contact, this question is not necessarily answered or considered as fully as it could be.

What if we to throw out the labels Theurgic and Thaumaturgy in terms of describing a magical action? I know that seems blasphemous, but indulge me for a moment and let's consider a different perspective. What if we focus first on recognizing that what we're changing isn't just the environment around us or the problem we're trying to solve? What if we recognize that the desire for contact isn't just connection with a spiritual entity, but perhaps even deeper, just the ability to connect meaningfully with what is around us and within us? I don't label my magical practice as theurgic or thaumaturgic, because it contains elements of both, but more importantly if I'm going to do a given act of magic, I recognize that I need to acknowledge that I'm seeking to change not just what's around me, but also my very essence and being. Such a change is one I consider carefully. The following questions are good ones to ask yourself, and I ask these questions even with my daily practice, because it helps me not take that practice for granted. 

What is it I'm really trying to change? Knowing what you really want to change doesn't just mean what you want to change about your environment or what you are connecting to. It means that you also examine what you want to change about yourself. Every change you want to manifest automatically includes some type of change to yourself, so it behooves you to be really clear on what that change is going to be and determine whether the new you is what you really want.

Why do I want this change? Knowing why you want this change is also important. Whatever your underlying motivation is, its going to be something that changes you as well, so understanding why you want this change in your life, whether it's a practical or metaphysical change is important. You are taking on responsibility for whatever changes you choose to focus on, so are you ready for those changes? Are you ready to be the new you that you are enchanting for?

How will this change effect me and those around me? Every changes has consequences. Those consequences can be good, bad, or both, but they effect you and those around you. Are you prepared to not only help yourself, but the people around you deal with those changes and the consequences that come with them? What you change can have long lasting effects on you and the people around you, so its important to be ready for those changes.

What do I need to change within myself (values, beliefs, etc.) to make what I'm doing be effective beyond the immediate result? When you do magic, it's a good idea to make sure that your beliefs and values are in line with the changes you want to bring into your environment. If your beliefs and values aren't in lien with a desired change, you'll find someway to sabotage it. By taking some time to do an internal check and get clear on whether or not you're fully behind the desired change, you can save yourself a lot of effort down the line. 

Magic ultimately boils down to change. Regardless of what school of magic you're drawing your practice from, what tradition(s) you are part of, or all the other details I could include here, it all boils down to change. You are changing your identity, and your connection to the universe, as well as the environment around you. You've got to be comfortable with that change because it will effect you and those around you. Some self awareness can go a long toward helping you develop a proactive approach to magic, where you focus as much on the change to yourself and those around you as you focus on the desired results you want to obtain.

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Taylor Ellwood is the author of Pop Culture Magic Systems, Space/Time Magic, Magical Identity and a number of other occult books. He posts about his latest projects at Magical Experiments.


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