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A Brief Study of Magick

(The infamous occultist and writer Alistair Crowley added a 'k' onto the word 'magic' in order to distinguish it from the illusion kind of magic. This essay deals with magick associated with the occult and esoteric philosophies so I will be doing the same.)

Magick can be broadly defined as the practice of manipulating, experiencing, influencing and understanding the world using symbols, rituals and language as a part an esoteric tradition. The practise of magick has existed since the earliest human cultures, in very early texts magick was described as the practise of 'the art' (The Mindscape of Alan Moore 2005), this can be taken literally. Northampton writer and magician Alan Moore proposes 'art and magick are indistinguishable' (The Mindscape of Alan Moore 2005). Taking this view, every act of creation can be seen as a magical act; something from nothing, you have nothing, there is an idea, then the finished painting. Alan Moore's decision to become a magician was one he described as 'a logical end step in my career as a writer.' Alan elaborates; 'a grimoire (book of spells) is just an ancient way of saying grammar and to cast a spell is simply to spell, magick is largely a science of language' (The Mindscape of Alan Moore 2005). When one reads a poem, book or watches a television program we want whatever the stimuli is to raise our consciousness in a certain direction, this is the aim of magick, doing a magical ritual fulfils the same function as reading a poem but just one from an esoteric tradition. This attitude towards magick is one that can be held as a rationalist. In the western world magick and the occult is often associated with evil and being a malignant force. This is entirely down to the monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, who succeeded in inculcating the idea that magic and the occult was heresy and associated with the devil and the left hand path. Although in modern times pagan beliefs are generally accepted more, they still hold a cultural baggage which is a hangover from bygone days. Many women were burnt in the middle ages due to them being deemed witches, these were women who understood herbalist medicine or had esoteric knowledge which was harmless and put to good use within the village society. The all encompassing and dictatorial nature in which Christianity was enforced in Britain left no room for pagan ideas, even though paganism was there first. Dr. John Dee was a famous occultists and simultaneously a pious Christian. Much of his occult work involved the attempt to contact angels. He constructed the 'Enochian language' which is said to be the language of angels. At the age of twenty he gave lectures on Euclidian geometry and became one of the most learned men in Britain. Dee later became Elizabeth the firsts astrologer and adviser. He was the first person to plant the idea of Britain's expansion a 'British Empire'. He was also one of the first person known people to come up with the idea that there may be an invisible force governing the movement of matter, of course Isaac Newton later found out there was; gravity. Without the idea that there may be an invisible force governing matter, would Newton have knew what to look for and discovered it to be true ? Interestingly Dee was the model and inspiration for Shakespeare's Prospero of The Tempest. Many scientific theories have been foreshadowed in literature. Edgar Allen Poe wrote a prose poem called 'eureka' in which he set out the concept that the universe emerged from one infinite point, this is a long time before the science developed the theory of The Big Bang. To a large degree, modern science was born out of occult practice, before there was chemistry there was alchemy. The point is that magick and occult traditions offer different way of perceiving the world; a different language to contextualise with. It may sound strange but the media uses many concepts associated with magic. A carefully constructed newspaper front page, makes use of symbols and language to direct the thoughts of its readers. If we think of the enormous power the media has in affecting the collective consciousness of society, we realise the people who construct newspapers are in a way magicians. Through their use of language and symbols these people can control a population and make them think the same things at the same time. Ancient societies such as the Egyptians and Persian saw art, language and the sciences as magical because of their influence and force. To be a master of language was seen as sacred to write was not a method of cheap entertainment but rather a transformative force. Hieroglyphics, the Egyptian language contains many images of God's, this is because in many ways they treated writing as a deity itself. We have perhaps lost this deified attitude towards writing, as many writers are career writers. To reference the great Alan Moore again; he said at a talk at Northampton College; 'treat writing like a deity like a God, treat it as if it was some immensely powerful force for which only your best would be good enough'. Although modern occult society is largely moribund I think it could be given a large lease of life if it became intimately connected with artistic endeavour, this could be useful to the art world also which seems to not view itself as the transcendental force of which it used to. Many great writers have been inspired by the occult, you have to look to W.B Yeats who was a prominent member of The Hermetic Order of The Golden Dawn; William Blake also expressed some of the iconography found in the occult in his paintings and poems. The list goes on: Bram Stoker, Arthur Conan Doyle, David Bowie, Jimmy Page.…...

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