An investigation into magic, mysticism, occultism and religion
In this, the ninth part of our occult studies course, we shall discuss and explore the subject of MAGIC, about which there are so many misconceptions, fantasies and wrong teachings.
You can find full details about our occult studies course by clicking the link above.
What is Magic? Is it the casting of spells, acquiring 'psychic powers', channeling 'spirit guides', the secret of flying through the air (with or without a "magic" carpet), acquiring wealth, power, fame, or all three at once, or chanting incomprehensible gibberish from some old book? Or is it perhaps—like the other subjects we examine in this course—not at all what it is generally thought to be?
The word magic comes from the Greek "Magos", great, signifying the "great" science. The ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Chaldeans, and other early civilizations all possessed highly-developed magical systems, from which the European system of magic was finally evolved. Greece and Rome also possessed their own distinct systems, which to a large extent were offshoots of their religions. Similarly, magic in early Europe was merely an appendage of the various religious systems which obtained throughout the continent. But with the rise of Christianity the early Church soon began to regard the practice of "magic" as foreign to the spirit of its religion, and in 364 A.D. clerics were forbidden to become magicians, enchanters, mathematicians or astrologers.
This prohibition was extended in 525 A.D. and repeated by the Council of Rome in 721, to include sorcerers, soothsayers, augurs and divination with bread or wood. It seems that it was hard to stamp out these magical practices, which are so engrained in human nature that they will never be eradicated. We need only look to the pages of any contemporary newspaper and note the hundreds of advertisements for "psychic advice hotlines", or the many monthly magazines devoted to "Mind, Body and Spirit" containing magical spells, cures, rituals, and predictions of all kinds, to know that "magic" is as popular as ever. Many people forget too, that the Catholic Mass is a very great magical ceremony, particularly if it is performed by a priest who has real spiritual power.
Is it not also true that prayer is a sort of magical ceremony, and do we not use magic when we attune ourselves with fine music, poetry, sculpture and art? To properly understand and really feel and live these things we must first enter into some sort of rapture, forgetting our daily existence for a while and merging our minds with the magic the artist portrays in stone, paint, verse or music. You see the close connection between the four subjects with which we commenced this investigation.
What is Mysticism?
It is the attempt of man to attain to the ultimate reality of things and enjoy communion with the Highest.
What is Occultism?
That which is hidden from the vulgar. The sciences called "occult" may with every reason be regarded as the seed beds of the sciences of today. Alchemy was the forerunner of chemistry, astrology the direct ancestor of astronomy. Interesting as all this may be, we prefer to adhere to our first definition of the word "occult"; namely "that which is hidden from the vulgar." This definition immediately brings the word into line with the subjects under discussion. No vulgar, uncultivated or coarse person would or could be interested in our thesis; much less understand it. No such person could have the faintest glimmer of light from the supreme regions from which descend—on those who can attune—the exalted and sublime blessings, upon which we as students of divine, spiritual and holy matters, so long to obtain enlightenment. The more sacred and holy these matters are, the more occult, or hidden; and not until we have passed through many thousands of incarnations of gradual unfoldment can we even begin to hope for a faint ray of light from these wonderful regions.
What is Religion?
Is there any further need to enlarge on this after what we have said above? So already we have seen how closely knit together are Religion, Mysticism, Occultism and Magic. Besides, when we speak of Religion, which of the many thousands of systems, sects or schisms do we mean? They all claim that only their religious, or magical, practises will lead directly to God, under whatever name they worship Him, Her or It, forgetting that there are more paths to God than man could ever invent or devise religious systems. We hear, for instance, of the infallibility of the Roman Catholic Church, yet, if we look behind the scenes and consult the Roman Church's own authentic and historical records, we make some astounding discoveries.
The legend of the Virgin Mary was not incorporated in the Roman teachings until it was found that the people in Egypt would not give up the worship of Isis when the Christian religion was first introduced into that country. The priesthood therefore found it expedient to supplant her image with the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ, and the first statues of her were made in Egypt. Mary took on and still retains all the titles under which Isis was formerly worshipped. If you take the trouble to look into any Roman Catholic prayer book, and read the litanies to the Virgin Mary, you will see that this is literally true and know how Isis was worshipped in ancient Egypt. Moreover, until recently, it was possible to see black statues of the Virgin Mary in certain Catholic countries that are actually ancient Egyptian statues of Isis!
In connection with the same worship of Isis we may read in Psalm 91: "He shall cover thee with his feathers and under his wings shalt thou trust." It would be hard to find a more direct allusion to the worship of the Father-Mother God of the Egyptians, in which Osiris was the positive and Isis the negative principle. You have only to look at a statue of Isis spreading out her protecting, feathery wings, to see the connection.
Where did these ancient teachings come from? To have worked out a religious system so perfect must have taken thousands of years, so how far back do we have to go to discover its origins? Whence did the ancients obtain their occult, mystical and magical inspiration, and where did it all start? Some occultists trace it all back to the great civilisation of Atlantis, but this only begs the question: where did the Atlanteans get their knowledge and wisdom from? One thing is certain, there were enlightened and wise Initiates in ancient Egypt who realised the great Truths of Life. Their invocations to God preserved in such texts as the Pyramid texts and the Book of the Dead prove this.
Magic is as old as man
Magic is as old as man and is based on natural laws, and was once universally taught as a divine science. Moses was said to be "learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians"—"wisdom" being a synonym for magic—and we do not doubt it for we remember those faraway times under the blazing light of Ra, the Sun, the mighty father of us all, who greeted him at dawn, with chanting choir of stately sacred lyric. And lo! as we write these words, it seems as if a wondrous curtain is raised, and we relive the memory of those days in the land of Khem. When we dwelt in scented gardens where softly waving palms raised to the cerulean dome of Heaven their crinkly leaves, as if they prayed to all the gods to save and keep our beloved land until the last travail on Earth has ended.
And we behold a mystic shrine, wherein was burning a holy lamp, alight with everlasting flame in incense-laden air. And silent watchers keeping guard—Ushabti, dressed in shining blue, vigilantly shielding it, protecting and defending the jewelled, gold-encrusted shrine, wherein was laid all that remained of mighty Pharaoh—initiated Priest and King—and his Beloved. And we saw the holy Masters who spread the Gospel of Divine Truth, comforting, blessing all those who sorrow-laden, cry unto the Lord for surcease of their woes. And benedictions did they shed upon them; softly, unaware. And tears were dried and eyes began to shine again with reborn hope. And silently the Masters passed along, unknown, unsung, with love within their hearts. And all this time those mighty hymns and magical memories have sung within us: unforgettable.
Magic is as old as Man! It is practised by laymen and priest alike. It is also a profound knowledge of herbs and minerals. Acupuncture and hypnotism are forms of magic which material science cannot explain, but which are now employed by medical science, which in itself is a form of magic, especially when a physician employs the various alternative healing therapies familiar to many of us. The Church employs magic during exorcism, and we all use magic when we sense that a loved one may be in danger and pick up the telephone to call them without knowing why. Magic is the highest knowledge of natural philosophy, and synonymous with religion and science. Its study includes the spiritual, metaphysical, psychological and physical sciences. We find magic wherever we go!
What about astrology, palmistry, divination, numerology, the Tarot, candle-burning and all the other weird and wonderful magical practices you may have heard or read about—are these 'magic' too? Who can doubt it if you read and understood all that we have said up to now?
Whilst looming large in the popular imagination and in the eyes of many inexperienced seekers, these subjects form no part of our present studies. However, we can say that there is generally little harm in these things, provided they are not taken too far or put to selfish or evil purposes. It is always and ever the intention that makes any act of 'magic' white, or black. We, ourselves, when we were young, spent many an amusing hour experimenting with pendulums, reading palms and the Tarot. Indeed, we were so successful at this latter pursuit that we soon built up an enthusiastic clientele and could have made a very good business out of it had we charged for our "services"!
This raises some interesting questions which many of you may have wondered about without ever reaching a satisfactory conclusion. We mean, firstly, what 'magic' is there in the Tarot that could account for its often accurate predictions? We hope we shall thoroughly shock you when we say 'almost none'. Aside from any meaningful symbolism which such cards may contain, which can allow the intuitive 'reader' to attune to a higher level of consciousness through concentration upon them, we would say that the cards themselves contain no 'magic' at all. One might as well use coins, buttons or even tea leaves and achieve similar results!
The solution to the mystery lies in the word concentration. Concentration plus controlled imagination are the only 'magic' involved in such predictions. The second question raised by divination of all kinds is whether it is ever justifiable to reveal bad news? We would say much depends on how well we know the person we are advising and their personal circumstances. This brings us back to the 'harm' we mentioned earlier. We think that in general such practises do little harm if they are for our own instruction or amusement. If they are practised for profit the picture changes, as we are sure you will agree. Much harm can—and is—done by well-meaning practitioners, especially when such 'readings' are made for troubled, mentally unbalanced or grieving individuals.
But beware of thinking that any of these practices are new. All these "arts" and many more that we have not mentioned, were known thousands of years ago to the initiates and adepts of the Mysteries, but they knew the natural laws upon which all such practises are based, whereas today's witches, psychics, fortune-tellers, mediums and channelers do not. It is ever and always the mind which makes any particular act 'magical', the rest is simply a means to direct the operation of the mind by means of concentration, imagination and will.
The great magical arcanum
Magic is like a universal religion, which, like an immense chain, encircles the globe in every direction, leaving no corner unvisited. From the earliest times of remote antiquity, the Brahmans were known to possess a wonderful knowledge of all the magic arts. In the lamaseries of Tibet, in the crypts of Ancient Thebes, and upon the summits of the observatories of the Chaldean Sages, magic was cultivated to the highest degree. The great magical arcanum is both a principle and a religious formula. There is no need for the wise man or woman to seek it, for he or she has already found it, whilst the vulgar, though they seek for ever, will never discover it. It is the crowning and eternal secret of supreme initiation which can never be revealed in words, and it is destruction to those who do reveal it, even among adepts. Those who know do not, and cannot, speak of it; they are permitted to hint, but that is all.
All knowledge and wisdom is revealed to them in this way. If they need a book it is presented to them; the rarest manuscripts come their way, drawn to them by an invisible and intangible magnet. They have entered into that great magic chain that began with Hermes and Enoch and will only end with the world. They can enter into incarnation at will, in order to save the world, and all previously attained wisdom attends them on their path. It is the absolute knowledge of good and evil.
What black magic is and where it leads
Let us now consider what black magic is and see where it leads those who seek what they think is money, power, fame and all the rest of the empty and worthless desires of the vulgar with which we began this article. Those of you who may have stumbled upon this page because you are seeking these things will not find the means to acquire them here. What you will find are many good reasons to turn your back on all such foolishness, which at best is a complete waste of your time and effort, and at worst will lead you into contact with evil conditions and individuals that will bring unimaginable woes to you and your loved ones; ending in insanity or worse. Let no one doubt this at their peril! Moreover, it is always the intention that makes any particular magical act "black" or "white". Never forget this, for as Shakespeare says: "Nothing is good or evil but that thinking makes it so." Guard your magical thoughts!
More often than not the rites of black magic are based on, or have for their ends, the acquirement of money and power, but still more often there is a sexual basis, always perverted because it is impure and selfish. Converts are made in the most cunning and diabolical manner, and on most occasions, the unsuspecting victims are first given alcohol or some drug, which makes them powerless to resist the advances of the magician. Once in the clutches of these unholy men (and sometimes women, too), there is very little chance of escape, and not until their prey are of no further use to them are they released. But by that time they have acquired such an appetite for the devilries that once appalled them that they sink lower and lower, and generally die an awful death.
As you can read in Symphonie Fantastique by J Michaud PhD, such magicians are quite unscrupulous and take the greatest pleasure in the agonies of their victims. One very typical way they have of enjoying themselves is the reviling of their own disciples, who in their turn revel in the satanic manner in which their "master" abuses them. They advertise themselves with all sorts of grandiose titles, and love dressing up in weird and gaudy costumes. They also love "magic wands", "pentacles" and other paraphernalia, write "learned" books on how to make all these things with proper rites and invocations, and tell blood-curdling tales of their battles with demons, whom they enslave and have at their command; until they make some error and these black servants rend them in turn.
It is very common for people to sneer at these things, but let us assure you that only the ignorant do so. It is a moot point whether it is better to be completely unaware of these things, or to know about them and in this way to be able to defend yourself by avoiding such people and to be on your guard. We think that the right kind of knowledge never comes amiss. These magicians have no power, in the ordinary sense, over innocent and pure minds. They cannot force a pure person, but they can and do trap them. Sometimes they offer large bribes of money to people they wish to manipulate for their own ends, at other times they may offer social advancement, sex, or drugs.
They also trade on people's natural curiosity and fascination with the occult, and many an earnest seeker has fallen into their hands, not knowing what they were drawn into until it was too late. They are generally expert psychologists who know many mental tricks to draw people out and make them play into their hands, such as flattery. They also employ a subtle kind of hypnotic power, especially on impressionable women, as you can read in our article on Shamanism. They love nothing better than boasting about such conquests and the power they have over their victims.
Black magic has been practised in all ages and in all parts of the world. Many African natives are past-masters in the art, and only the other day we heard of a case in which the body of an African boy who had been the victim of these practices was found floating in the Thames. We may say that any cult that offers blood sacrifices practises black magic, whether the victims are humans or animals. It is quite useless to give you details of the magical rites and incantations used by these magicians and sorcerers, for you can find full details of them in the books of Eliphas Lévi, The so-called Key of Solomon and in the Book Of Sacred Magic Of Abramelin The Mage. There is no harm in reading these and similar books if you wish to enlarge your knowledge in a general way, but our advice is not to try such spells, rites or invocations under any circumstances, no matter how tempted you may be to do so. If you do you may place yourself in great danger by invoking these dark powers, or you may draw towards you men and women who are their servants and they may influence your life and Higher Self in a most undesirable manner. You may feel very strong and confident now; and quite certain of your powers of resistance, but the traps and wiles of these people are so dangerous, and they are so full of malign cunning that it is possible to find yourself in their net before you realise it.
In the Bhagavad Gita we may read: "Those who are born under an evil destiny (having acquired evil tendencies by their conduct in previous lives) know not what it is to proceed in virtue or to recede from vice; nor is purity, veracity or the presence of morality to be found in them." This is KARMA! The black magician may sneer at virtue and think himself much more clever than the rest of mankind, "But his flesh upon him shall have pain, and his soul within him shall mourn", as we may read in the Book of Job.
We all have free will to choose the right path from the left, but once upon the latter we must go on until either the time of awakening arrives, or we forever join the ranks of the lost. When we do wish to return to the path to the Light, we shall have to cross an ocean of tears in bitter agony. A sea filled not only with the evil conditions created by our own wickedness, but the accusing faces of all those men and women we have willfully misled, abused and ruined throughout the many incarnations we devoted to black magic. And not until we have dried the tears of every one of those thousands of weeping eyes and won forgiveness from their aching hearts will we be free. . .to begin all over again. . .at the beginning! But we have now said more than enough about black magic to convulse the Higher Self and we leave the subject here.
True Magic is the Art and Science of knowing all things, identifying one's Higher Self with them, and using them for good only. By the exercise of the will and the use of the imagination, it is possible to call to our aid the positive forces of the Universe, which will obey the behests of the true Adept. You can find an excellent description of such Adepts in the book we mentioned earlier—The Quest of Ruru—in the form of the hero of the tale, the eponymous Ruru and his Teacher, Narada. To such an one there are no limits to his or her progress in the spiritual realms and all knowledge is at their disposal. There are safe and sane methods to improve our material circumstances, health and wellbeing, but these can only be revealed to the true and trusted Disciple of the Mysteries who has lost all selfish and base desires, and has dedicated his or her life to true service to their fellowmen and women.
In addition to the true account given at right of a ceremony of white magic that really took place—and we may add—is still repeated today wherever the real Adepts foregather in secret to bless and guide mankind, white magic was and remains one of the great arcane sciences. Among the many subjects taught are evolution, immortality, the real nature of the astral world and its inhabitants, the astral body, the hierarchy and classification of spirits, psychology, philosophy, ethics and religion, universal medicine, the mysteries of creation and the Magnum Opus, or Great Work of transmutation and transformation, more of which in our next article on ALCHEMY.
The genuine laws of magic must forever remain a sealed book to those who have not lost the urge for personal glory or selfish gain. Free will is truly a terrible responsibility, but a necessary one for the growth of the Divine mind within us. May that magical spark within all of us become a shining beacon of light to guide our weary feet home, where we shall join the blazing stars that made the great journey before us and now shine in the firmament of our Father in Heaven.
Published 12 March 2013 — © Copyright occult-mysteries.org. Updated 26 May 2019.