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Defining Magic (Magic Article 1)

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As the first article in this series, it seems best to start with an explanation of the subject matter. This is like the first day of class, when the syllabus is handed out and explained, and questions about the class are answered.


Let me take just one moment to explain what this is NOT about. This is NOT about religion. It is NOT about sitting in church kneeling before God, nor about dancing naked under the moonlight. A great deal of occult lore can be gleaned from old religious texts and practices, but the magic itself is completely detached from any religious path.


In simplest terms, magic encompasses that which is real, but which is not yet understood on a scientific level. Chemistry was magic – in the days before we had found ways to objectively measure the composition of an object. Psychology was a deeply mistrusted and sinister form of magic until it evolved into something more akin to its modern form. Even Physics was once the province of magic.


Anything that happens, but can't be explained by our present understanding of the world, is magic. When we learn enough about it that we can explain and measure it, it will become another branch of science.


Here's an example: Have you ever found yourself thinking about someone you haven't spoken to in a while, just as they send you a message or call you on the phone? Certainly, it's possible that it's just a coincidence... if it only happens once.


What if you wake up out of a sound sleep with the intense feeling that someone specific wants to talk to you? Is it coincidence when you find that they had just sent you a new message only moments before you awoke? What about the third time that it happens?


I have a friend who does this regularly. She hasn't had a “false read” yet.


Let's take another example: Tarot. Tarot is a form of divination – the interpretation of a randomized set of symbols to derive information. Skeptics deride divination as being so “vague” that any given spread can be bent to match any situation, and maintain that the “art” of tarot reading is simply bending the meanings of the cards to describe one's psychological reading of the questioner.


Sounds like a convincing, plausible argument, yes? I was skeptical about Tarot myself. So, I tried it. To eliminate any possibility that I was deluding myself into believing I was successful when I wasn't, I applied only those meanings which were listed in the thin paper booklet that came with my deck.


It was spooky. My roommates saw me and started asking questions, so I reluctantly started doing some readings for them – inwardly preparing myself to be a bit embarrassed.


Every card, without fail, could have its prescribed meaning read aloud to answer their questions even if I didn't know what the question was – and even when the answers involved people I didn't know or details I wasn't privy to. In fact, it was so uncannily accurate that one of my friends started asking for two or three readings every night for a while about silly things, until I had to ask him to stop because it was giving me headaches.


This is magic. Studying and experimenting with things that we don't yet understand, in the hopes of mastering and understanding them. It's an unceasing cycle of asking questions and finding answers that lead to more questions.


There are some subjects that I consider to be of crucial importance, and I'll be covering those over the next couple of articles. There are also a number of subjects about which I'd like to share my findings. Ultimately, though, this is all about you guys!


What would you like to hear about? What catches your curiosity? What experiences of yours would you like to discuss?

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Excellent question. I haven't done a lot of work with lunar energies personally, but they seem to be well and truly bound up in the dogmas of some of the nature based religious paths.


In simple form, when the moon is waxing (transitioning from New to Full), it's a good time for magic that is designed to build, heal, grow, protect, or other similar acts that consist of gathering energy and MAKING something out of it.


Conversely, when the moon is waning (transitioning from Full to New), it's a good time for magic that is designed to dissolve, destroy, harm, or hinder. This doesn't necessarily mean doing bad things, as dissolving a love spell or curse is probably a good thing to do.


If all you take away from this message is those two paragraphs, you'll probably be fine. The rest is just elaboration on some details.


Full and New Moons are particularly interesting to work with. It's been my experience that as the Moon enters the stage of being Full, it is at its most powerful for use in constructive magic, and similarly it is at its most powerful for destructive magic as it enters the stage of being New.


However, when it continues the cycle and begins shifting in the other direction, it is very easy to turn that energy to great effect for its new purpose. In other words, a Full Moon that is just beginning to wane can still be a powerful source of energy when dispelling something. Similarly, a New Moon, as it begins to wax, can be a powerful source for beginning new projects and creating things.


Some of my friends who work with lunar magic will do spells through small daily rituals that work through the entire lunar cycle, building up energy as it waxes and then pushing away the things that stand in their way as it wanes. Often this sort of thing takes the form of a few minutes of meditation with a candle that has been set aside for that spell during night or around moonrise.


As to the particular phases (New, Crescent, Half, Gibbous, and Full) I actually haven't seen much. I'm aware that the last few days of waning as the moon approaches new are called the Dark Moon in some circles, and are seen as a good time for recuperation, self reflection, and seeking balance both within yourself and with the world at large.

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Certainly interesting. I used to dabble in a few different things myself; I used to do Tarot readings for my friends, but mostly just for entertainment. I didn't really take much stock in it, myself. (Please note that I don't mean that in such a manner as to deride the value of anyone else's view on the subject though.)

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Very interesting. I, myself, am an Athiest. But, find the study of theology and metaphysics rather enjoyable. While it is true that many fields of study were once occult knowledge, I have always believed that Magic is seperate from these fields. It encompasses everything that CAN'T be explained with science. Not that they will never be explained, just that it falls outside the realms of science.


If that makes sense.


As to it not being about religion, most of todays major religions actually practice ceremonial magic, without even realizing it. Prayers are remnants of incantations and masses contain traces of magic rituals and ceremonies.


Finally, the tarot. It's main purpose is as a guide and road map, divination is a side effect.


Just my opinions, of course :picknose: !

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I kind of thought I had already replied to this, already. I think I had a couple things I was going to say, but hadn't quite formulated the second and managed to forget about it. Now I can only remember this: The definition of magic as "things science doesn't yet have an explanation to" is something I can get behind. I definitely believe that there are things in this world that fall into that category!


I think that Snypiuer's definition is the more common one, but science tends to be pretty grabby... scientists classify anything as science if it's repeatable, really, and once we get to the point where we can predict what might cause it to happen, we start to work on why. "Why" isn't critical to it being science. Personally, I expect that all things will eventually find their way to that point, and even to the point of knowing why. But I think that what Snypiuer is saying, is that we will reach a point where we definitively declare that certain things are not repeatable or predictable and therefore not science... right?... and so time will tell which of us is right. In the meantime, I'm content with "to each their own".

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I subscribe to the view that everything can be explained by science, eventually -- if we apply enough diligence to our studies and continue to refine our theories, tools, and methods. And if we don't kill ourselves off first. I'll admit that those are two very large "if" statements, though.


I apologize in my delays on follow-up, life has been interesting lately, I'm planning a move and training for a potential promotion at work, so my time and energy are at a bit of a premium right now.


For the sake of clarity, when I say "This is NOT about religion," I don't mean that religions haven't incorporated magical practices into their ways of doing things. In my opinion, every prayer uttered is a very basic form of magic -- imprinting your thoughts and desires on the cosmos with the intent of changing something. Asking a spirit to act on your behalf and see to it that the thing happens is also common practice.


Religions are not alone in doing this, either. Theater is FULL of superstitions based on mystical concepts, ranging from its treatment of the Fey (Fae, Fairies, Faeries, Fair Ones, whatever you care to call them,) to all the legends surrounding the play Macbeth. It IS believed in every magical tradition I've come across that speaking the name of a creature or thinking about it at length can draw its attention to you.


What I mean is that I believe that there is an underlying order to everything, and that what we see as magic is simply that which we haven't figured out yet. Before Psychology, we still knew that it was not helpful to keep reminding people of the bad things that had happened to them, under most circumstances. Before physics, we still knew that dropping rocks on people's feet would hurt them. As we figure out how to measure things, we become capable of understanding them more completely. If there is anything that cannot be understood, I believe it will only be that which cannot be quantified.


*looks left*


*looks right*


*looks down*




How did that soapbox get there?

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Actually, I should elaborate. Magic can be explained already. Alaeha touched on it:


imprinting your thoughts and desires on the cosmos with the intent of changing something


it can also be found in "The Lords' Prayer":

Thy kingdom come

Thy will be done

on Earth as it is in Heaven


A very common misconception is that magic is 'done' on our plane of existence. Magic actually manipulates the Astral Plane. Everything in our plane of existence is also in the Astral Plane, but not everything on the Astral Plane exist here. By changing the Astral, our plane then conforms to that change. A scientific explanation can be found in quantum entanglement, where particles become connected in a way that, regardless of distance apart, the manipulation of one particle immediately causes the same effect in the other.


All this being said, I believe that magic CAN be explained and repeated. It just falls outside the reach of science - maybe this will help.


At some point, every young person searching for answers and questioning what they are taught will come up with the BRILLIANT and absolutely original question that no one has ever asked:


If God is Omnipotent, can he create something so heavy that even he could not move it? Our, totally, original deep thinker has managed to put forth an impossible situation. If he CAN create something too heavy, the fact that he can't move it disproves his ominpotence, as it does if he can't create something too heavy. Our young genius has out done us! Unless you use magic.


The correct answer is:


Yes. He can create something that even he can't move. BUT, he's God, so he can move it.


THAT'S the paradox of magic. Impossible things can be done and even explained, just NOT by science. Magic can be refered to as the 'science' of the impossible. A branch of inquiry and explanation equal to, but seperate from science.


Of course, this is simply what I have come to believe from what I have researched.

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Very interesting!


I like your explanation about the Astral plane and the separation of science Snyp. To me, the separation is that science concerns the physical, while the Astral Plane concerns the metaphysical. What does that mean, exactly - metaphysical? The dictionary gives many definitions, all boiling down to not-physical in one measure or another, which is true but not always helpful, becasue most people still assume the Astral plane is some sort of place, like any other place, just somewhere else.


The thing is, all our realities are an illusion. I'm not saying Reality is an illusion - that would be a contradiction - but rather that our conceptions of what is reality are all illusions. Given our senses, we can have a great deal of correlation between Reality and our conceptions, but it is most certainly not a given, and is actually an uphill battle. Oh, gross correlations, such as a 100 ton boulder falling on us or a wall of water engulfing us are hard to miss, but those are the exceptions, IMO.


The Astral plane, IMO - and yes, I have 'been there' - is another conceptual reality, but one sensed through a much different mental apparatus than the one through which we sense the physical world. It is, in fact the same Reality that eludes us all, just seen from a completely different persepctive, IMO.

Edited by The Portrait of Zool

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That's not the only division possible. From a science point of view, science deals with the explainable and predictable, and magic is the unexplainable and unpredictable. In a way this is where you come to Clarke's "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" - because if it is utterly beyond your ability to explain, it *is* magic.


In the other direction, within a fantasy setting, if "magic" is rule-bound and explainable to the point where you can do predictions and repeatable tests, it becomes in-world science (Wheel of Time's channeling for instance).


In a way, our own conciousness also lands here, because it is unexplainable by us. Psychology and neurology can poke a bit on the edges, but there is nothing there that really explains how the human mind works. Maybe some day it, and metaphysics with it, will become less magic and more science, maybe it is inherently impossible for a human mind to grasp how a human mind works.

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No bet on that.

Human minds have been trying to figure out human minds for a long time now. Almost as long as there have been humans.

And I've seen no real progress in figuring them out yet. :)

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When it comes to magic vs religion

I see it as being a question of which can best

Explain the other.


A: can do "magic" because we are created in the image of GOD.


B: any "God", "Devil", or "Spirit" you run into is a thought form

The someone or some group built at some point or other.


Question is once you have a complex enough thought form

Can it start thinking ?

Edited by Zatar

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So, I tried to sneak in quietly, but tripped over this thread.


Let me start with a few clarifications form my own mind:


Religion is simply a defined set of rituals that are practiced to reinforce a belief system and the accompanying world view. Religion says there is something more powerful out there that we can connect to and become more than what we are, to allow us an additional level of strength, support or protection that is set apart from the physical world. Our belief that this higher power is both present, and willing to connect with us is the core to religion, without belief it falls over.


Magic, as a practice, is a set of rituals that are completed to provide a specific outcome, also driven by the belief of the person practicing it. The practice of magic, as it gains followers, and grows communities who share the same practices and rituals, becomes religion.


Science is a human attempt to find explanations for things that are not understood. Our understanding of the world around us is often seen and accepted through the lens provided by science. Things that are seen in terms of religion and magic can be studied, but in the most part science can only be used to understand how the rituals that were created work, not the underlying power driven by the belief of the practitioners. Science can prove that the plants used in a magical ceremony will cause vivid hallucinations, but cannot explain why each person saw what they did in each of their own hallucinations.




The perceived connection to something else, and the view that there is more than just what we experience in this base existence, is one of the more interesting aspects of the human condition. It is our quest for this external connection that prompts the creation of rituals, and magical practice, and scientific study. It is our wish to see beyond and understand something we know is there, but cannot grasp.


We establish our own connection based on the interactions of our will, our actions and our belief. Our will defines what we seek, our actions apply our will to this existence and create an environment where our will can successfully manifest, and our belief is the very fuel that drives us to continue our actions until our will is established.


Religion uses this concept to promote a handing over of responsibility for your actions, by replacing personal will, with the will of a deity. If you adhere to the specific rituals, and laws, you are promised a reward at the time of your death as payment for allowing the will of the deity to supersede your own wishes. It promotes the positives of bringing people together and allowing cooperation and organisation based on a perceived common good. But also opens the door to being used as a tool for oppression and manipulation (god wants this so we must do it).


Magic is far more personal; it is powered by your own belief and based on your own will. The actions and rituals you use change and evolve as you grow to better understand how to apply your will through your actions. It comes into conflict with religion because of the focus on your own will, rather than the will of the deity.


In both cases, the common power is belief. It is through belief that we succeed. Belief can be trained, and learned. It can be a copy of what society wants you to believe, or it can be something of your own making. As a copy, it takes on the features the person, changing slightly each time. As a created thing, it evolves, drawing in new ideas and influence and growing. Belief connects us to what is beyond, and gives form to what we find. Belief gives it strength to influence our existence, and gives us the power to enact the changes we need for it to grow further.



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