Occult Fundamentals 001: What is Magic and the Magical Worldview?

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In Western occult we generally divide the universe into three realms: elementary, celestial, and divine. The elementary world is the physical world: the mundane world, the world of the five senses. The celestial world is the heavens: the zodiac, the planets, the stars, and any intermediaries between our world and the divine. The divine world is basically the world of God, gods, and divinity.

There is a type of virtue or power that comes from the divine realms. For the rest of this series, I’ll be using the word virtue in this sense: a physical, intellectual, or spiritual potentiality or power. This is the classical occult definition and unfortunately there is no real substitute. This concept will become clearer as we progress.

It is also, in general, a rule that every inferior thing is governed by its superior, or as Hermes Trismegistus said, “As above, so below”. This simply means that all things reflect the situation that brought them about. There is a continuous chain occurring when we examine any one part of the universe, stretching from the conditions that allowed it to originate to its present state. In this way, all things are tied through a logical chain of events back to the creation of the universe.

For this reason, many of our wise ancestors deduced that they could, through the power of their minds, ascend backwards step by step and understand the source of our world. These wise men also deduced that by understanding the way in which God makes the universe they would then be able to participate in that process. In our worldview, God has in some ways left the world half finished, with some parts waiting for man to complete. Through the art of magic, man can assist in the mingling of the divine and elementary realms, and play a role in this creative process.

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The practices that fall under the umbrella of Western magic are divided into three categories that correspond to the three realms:

For the elementary world there is:

Natural magic – seeking of virtue in the physical world. This is helped along by philosophies that explain the natural and physical world.

For the celestial world, there is:

Celestial magic – concerns the celestial world: the zodiac, planets, stars, and other heavenly bodies; and joining the virtue of these to the physical world.

For the divine realm, there is:

Ceremonial magicĀ – use of religious ceremony or knowledge of the divine to confirm magical actions or to manifest spiritual forces.

I like to visualize these realms as three concentric circle, or spheres:

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This threefold division is pretty classic and was even used by Plato. He describes spirits as the envoys that bridge the gap between heaven and Earth. In our model they would be messengers moving between the elementary and divine realms, through the celestial sphere.

Plato says that the divine will not mingle directly with the human, it’s only through the medium of the spirit world that man can have some intercourse with the divine. So in our model, you can imagine little messengers or carriers moving back and forth in the celestial circle (the word angel literally comes from the Greek word for messenger).

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Magic is the ultimate art and culmination of all philosophy because it is through magic that the human and divine realms can be united. With magic, humans can learn to steward things from the higher realms into the elementary world. The study of magic also confers upon the student a unique understanding of the universe, as magic is a unique area of study uniting the typically disparate arts of theology, philosophy, biology, art, physics, history, and many other fields. By studying magic you will be able to see these things as completely integrated and united. This will give you a large advantage when it comes to developing your intellect. You will also get many new and exciting ideas about what it means to be human.

Giving a concise definition of magic and Western occult is almost impossible. For our purposes right now, I’m going to give three short definitions. Depending on what type of person you are, at least one of these definitions should be palatable to you. You will obviously build and expand your understanding as we move forward. For now, we can define magic as:

A) The philosophy and practice of taking an active role in the creation of reality,

B) Seeing how the physical world relates to the non-physical world and participating in this relationship,

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C) the craft of interacting with the divine and the study of the relationship between humanity and divinity.

Through magic we contemplate secret things; understand the power, quality and substance of our world; understand nature and what it desires to teach us; learn how to use the physical world to our advantage, to express our will or produce wonderful effects; and weave together the virtue and power of superior and inferior things.

If this interests you, the first piece of information you’ll need is right here in the next chapter: the four elements.

[next chapter]

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