Magic, or Bust!

        Bruce Charlton's excellent recent post "Magic and will-power across the ages (or, How to do White Magic - as of 2021)" provides a great deal of food for thought.  In this post, Bruce Charlton describes magic as "the attainment of human will by supernatural (non-material) means."  He traces the development of magic down the ages, from hunter-gatherer times when it was mostly unconscious through modern times when it has almost entirely disappeared. 

    One thing that is apparent is that there is no magic without consciousness being involved.  For example,  Bruce Charlton writes this about hunter-gatherer magic:

    "A somewhat conjectural history of white magic (which, nonetheless, I believe is broadly correct) has it that in our pre-historical hunter-gatherer past, God-aligned white magic was simply part of life.  

The individual human's will was neither detached from the human group-will and the group-destiny; and was immersed-in the divine will and having a mostly un-conscious direct knowledge of divine destiny. 

Apparently, some individuals had a greater aptitude (what we no term the 'shamans') but the essential activity was universal: everybody did their bit, and contributed magically in some way - spontaneously and mostly unconsciously.

    Just as people took part in the life of the tribe simply by going about their daily lives, without any additional conscious effort on their part, the magic could have come about simply in the course of life, without any additional effort on the part of the hunter-gatherers.  But, although the magic would have been linked to the life of the tribe viewed by the senses, it would have been distinct from them.   I would imagine it as something like another stream in one's consciousness running parallel to one's thoughts.  Similar to how we can hear and see at the same time.  

    In the trajectory of magic throughout the ages, one notices that magic becomes more and more objective through time.  For example: 

    "For the Pharaoh and priest-magicians of Egypt, magic required elaborately-selected and -initiated priests; who employed complex systems of ritual, symbol and many other 'technologies' (such as divination) to align their wills with the divine.  

    Now,  these Egyptian magical technologies still require consciousness because, for instance, those outside the priesthood would probably not be able to use them.  And moderns certainly cannot use them.  However, some of the magic is symbols, use of language and ritual, which takes place outside consciousness. 

    With the ceremonial magic of Renaissance, magic becomes even more objective.  The focus (in both folklore and practice) is far more on the rituals and systems than on the individual magician.  The idea is that if you can just find the proper words, and actions, than almost anyone can do magic.  One example would be astrology which was worked mathematically in a very precise manner.  Indeed, Isaac Newton's interest in mathematics was sparked by his buying a book on astrology which he did not understand because it used trigonometry.  

    But, consciousness cannot be taken out of the equation even here.  Any ceremonial magician has a motivation and intent to do magic and must choose which rituals he will use to perform.  

    And what happens after the Renaissance?  Then we come to the most objective magic of all, technology.  The most objective means for human will to work upon the world, in that technology takes no account of the user and can be worked by almost anyone.  But even then, we cannot dispense with consciousness entirely.  Consciousness is necessary for the invention of the technology itself and repairing it.  And there is a minimum level of understanding necessary to use an invention properly.  And we cannot ignore the user's motivation; any technology such as a knife may have widely different uses based on good or evil motivation.

    So, what next?  If we extrapolate even further in this direction, could then be a completely objective means to work human will upon the world, that dispenses with consciousness entirely?  That is the idea of AI.  But even then there is original motivation to design and build such a technology, which does require consciousness.  Also, I believe that ultimately AI is a fantasy.  It is somewhat conceivable according to a materialistic view of the world, but if human consciousness cannot be removed from the world, then there must be deeper reasons why AI will never exist.

    Or maybe we have just reached the end of magic.  But if we look at human beings, human society needs the super-rational.  Human beings must have contact with what is beyond thinking and instinct alike.  And this would make sense if humans really have a spiritual part to them.  Furthermore, the only human society that has dispensed with the spiritual has not simply become instinctive or become animals.  On the contrary, we are unnatural.  So, we cannot dispense with a supernatural element of some kind.  

    And there is another reason why magic is a natural development out of technology.  One major problem with technology is that once invented, it can be used by anyone, no matter how ruthless.  Many people have (rightly) expressed dismay at the fact that science, which has given us so many benefits as also given us manifold ways to destroy each other more efficiently.  

    So, could we then move towards a kind of magic that only works for those with the right motivation?  I believe the answer is yes.  This is described in the above post as a new kind of white magic, white magic being described by Bruce Charlton as follows: 

    "I define white magic as in accordance with God's will; that is, in harmony with ongoing divine creation. 

White magic is done by loving alignment of an individual's will with Good..."

    Bruce Charlton describes this new kind of magic: 

" 'In sum: White magic now should not try to operate at the level of changing God's primary creation - we should not be looking to change our sensorial-perceptions of reality

We should not be motivated by a desire to impose our will; nor to attain any particular end-result in this world (such as a change in human behaviour, or society, or weather). 

Instead, white magicians need to attain (and this will, of course, be temporary and usually very partial) alignment of their own conscious thinking with God's ongoing creation.

And if this is attained then white magic will 'Just Happen'."   

    This is also elaborated upon more in this post: "Magical Thinking - the future of Magic" where Bruce Charlton writes: 

"If the magic of Original Participation was Sympathetic Magic; and that of the modern Consciousness Soul era was Ritual Magic - then the magic of the future could be Magical Thinking.

Thus there cannot be a 'black magic' of Magical Thinking. Magical Thinking is (as we experience it) intrinsically good because it is the divine in us (God immanent) really participating-in the reality of continuing divine creation.

    Is looking to magic crazy?  Well, in these times especially, we have so little raw material to work with.  Community, nation, and groups of all sorts are far weaker than they have ever been in recorded human history.  Much of our technology has been co-opted to support evil goals.  So, what else can we work with?  All human societies that have ever existed, except ours have acknowledged the supernatural, so why not look there?  Hence the title of this post. 

    Now, by magic I am using the same loose definition as Bruce Charlton.  I do not mean ritual magic circles or anything like that and we should not even attempt to do such things because at best they will do nothing and at worst, they will open up doors better left shut.  

    The other crucial thing about how to do magic is that magic is done in cooperation with the good supernatural.  Human beings creatively contribute, but we can't do whatever we want.  It is not us using the supernatural to fulfill our will (which never works anyway), but us cooperating with the good that is out there to bring forth goodness in the world.  And this could be accomplished by true art, prayer, meditation, or other means.  By nature it will be individual.   

    But we also need courage.  William James Tychonievich wrote in an excellent comment to the "Magic and will power across the ages" post: 

"In the meantime, let me just say that magic happens when you stop being afraid. That's one of the reasons magic has a certain inherent tendency toward the black. Being motivated by the Good is one thing, but if you're only "good" because you shy away from daring damnation, you're doomed to lead a non-magical life.

Perfect love casteth out all fear. White magic. So does perfect nihilism. Black magic.

    In other words, because we are cooperating with the forces of goodness, as part of this cooperation, we may have to step into something unexpected and uncomfortable.  But, if our motivations are good, then we can trust that it will be for the best.  

    Better to go down a hard path and find goodness at the end than a safe path to find destruction.  And we're already on the path towards destruction.  To not choose is to make a choice.  We can't go back.  Magic, or Bust!


  1. Excellent post. And the final paragraph is brilliant! It needs to be printed out and posted far and wide.

  2. It may interest you to know that Steiner left some indications that this sort of magic was a direction that people would take in the future. Steiner specifically singled out John Keely's work. Here is an excerpt from a short article at that treats the subject of "mechanical occultism":

    The other side is that Rudolf Steiner's audiences at the beginning of this century were familiar through theosophical literature with the personality of the inventor John Worrell Keely, who was active in America during the second half of the 19th century. Keely introduced his “motor,” which depended on raising certain vibrations to ever-higher frequencies. It was, however, governed by mechanical vibrators, regulated by the inventor himself. In Keely’s writings there are accounts of cylinders which released tremendous forces of a mechanical kind, and of vibrators for shattering rocks, useful in the mining industry. There are whole tables of vibration-numbers which go with the various spheres of reality. (

    Andrew Linnell has a presence on Facebook and has founded a group called "MysTech" which has made the subject of mechanical occultism a topic of dedicated study.

  3. >We should not be motivated by a desire to impose our will; nor to attain any particular end-result in this world (such as a change in human behaviour, or society, or weather).

    Yet this can be achieved, all the same! God cannot be commanded, or ordered about, but He can be moved and pled with. He sometimes indulges us.


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