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Being a Year of Study with an Aurum Solis Commandery
By Norman R. Kraft
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2001 Norman R. Kraft
All rights reserved.
What is Magick?
There are many beautiful or popular definitions of magick. Denning and Phillips, noted authors in the Aurum Solis tradition, have written that "magick is the production of desired effects, whether in the person of the magician or exterior to it, by means of a deliberate and special use of powers and faculties within the psyche." Murry Hope, a magician of a related tradition defined magick as "concerned with the conversion of universal energies into practical frequencies that can be utilized according to the needs of the occasion. These energies in themselves are totally neutral, having no affiliation with any belief, system or personality either here on Earth or anywhere in the cosmos, their manifestation at the magical level being coloured entirely by the nature and intention of the user." Eliphas Levi beautifully captured the essence of magick when he described it as "... that which God created before all things when He said: Let there be light." Aleister Crowley's definition remains quite popular, though often misunderstood: "magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will."
Yet while these quotes have their uses, definitions of magick are akin to definitions of the Tao: by the time you have described it with language, you have already lost contact with it. While many of the tools of magick are those of the mind and intellect, the essence of magick remains mysterious to the intellect, something much more than human, something that exists across realms and modes of being we cannot know from our limited earthly perspective.
While it is natural in the beginning to rely on what other magicians have said about magick, ultimately, magick is something that you will define for yourself. For, in a sense, we all know and feel magick instinctively within ourselves. To read that "every intentional act is a magical act" seems easy enough to grasp, but it begs the question of what we are to do with this information.
In her book Applied Magic, Dion Fortune notes that many Eastern systems, such as those of the Tibetans, are quite free in discussing the philosophical and intellectual bases of their systems. It is the practical methods of using that information that remain secret. This is the way of the Western mysteries as well: the Hebrew alphabet and the Qabalistic Tree of Life were once considered deep secrets of sworn brotherhoods, but are now commonly known. While there are many books, Web sites, and classes on these topics, few explore what to do with the technologies of the mind and alchemy of spirit discovered through the careful workings of dedicated practitioners. While anyone may grasp the outer forms, the inner mysteries and the secret wisdom of the great magical orders remain as hidden as before.
While much of this question can only be answered much later in the progress of the magician, let us examine a few basic ideas to get started. Magick may be broken down into two primary areas: focus and inspiration. Those two terms can be expanded in many ways: mind and breath, concentration and religious fervor, technique and emotion, etc. It is the focus of will and thought driven by the great power of the light within.
In our culture, focus is the easiest to acquire. We've been taught just about everything in our lives through book learning and memorization. Yet without development in the second area, inspiration, magick goes flat. It is much like a very finely crafted laser device without a light source: lasers merely focus and intensify light that is already there. They cannot create light, no matter how well designed and built they are.
In the West, magick has often suffered from an overdevelopment of its intellectual side. A frequent criticism of Western magicians is that all we do is read and talk, read and talk. While intellect is an important aspect of magick, this emphasis on the mind has contributed to the considerable population of armchair magicians so common today. The study of magick is not like study toward a university degree; it is a way of life and a way of living. One may study medicine, but it is clear to most of us that to become a doctor requires a leap beyond the comprehension of the basic subjects involved.
I have seen many well-designed rituals in which the magicians have performed every detail correctly, yet that simply fall flat in bringing through any kind of real power. No matter how well designed the rite, no matter how brilliant the costumes, wall hangings, and other tools may be, no matter how precisely the magician pronounces each word, these aspects all add up to little more than the finely crafted laser without a light source. Without the inspiration of the heart, without the aspirations that arise from within, the most brilliantly worked rite will not bring through the kind of energy and power we seek.
A magician with drive and inspiration can do more with a poorly crafted rite than a letter-perfect magician who is unenthusiastic about the purpose of the ritual or so distracted by the details that the subtle aspects of the ritual are missed. A poorly designed laser with a bright light source will perform better than the bestbuilt laser with no light. It's as simple as that.
On the other hand, the finely crafted laser with a bright light source will perform better than both of these, generating a powerful, focused beam of energy. And this is what the study and practice of Western magick will develop.
A Magical Theory
How does magick work? Your appreciation of both this question and its answer will change and deepen over time, but allow me to draw on my own background to venture a few thoughts at this point.
Chaos mathematics and systems theory were born of the quest to understand massive, unpredictable processes such as the weather, and, from the lack of a scientific model, to predict something as simple as the path of a column of smoke from an incense stick.
The problem, in each case, is that the smoke and the weather are not "things" at all, but rather integral parts of greater systems of incomprehensible complexity. Thus, as is often said, if a butterfly takes flight from a flowering plant in Japan, its movements have some (if infinitesimally small) effect on the weather in California, and this affects the movements of the column of smoke rising from the incense in your living room. Moreover, we know that our planet and our solar system are inextricably linked with the dance of the galaxy and the movements of other planets and solar systems, and ultimately, with the movements of the galaxy itself as it dances its way with other galaxies in the blackness of space.
We should never consider ourselves as separate from these processes. Every action we take has a measurable effect on our environment and, to some degree, changes the very fabric of our universe. The same is true in reverse: that which changes our universe changes us. Think about this—are you not a very different person on a hot, clear, humid summer day than you are on a frozen and cloudy winter day? This is a large change in environment changing you, but many other smaller changes happen every day, every hour, every moment. Most women are well aware of the subtle but powerful effect the Moon has on their bodies and emotions.
It is a fundamental concept in many philosophical and religious systems that we are complex beings deeply interconnected to and enfolded by our environment and each other. Chinese philosophies such as Taoism are built wholly on this line of thought. As time passes, this basic viewpoint is becoming more a part of Western physics as well.
What has this to do with magick? Imagine, for a moment, our solar system—each planet calmly following its appointed path, the system as a whole calmly moving through the blackness of space. Now, imagine that you reach out and give Mars the tiniest push. That push changes the orbit of Mars around the Sun. It also changes the orbits of the other planets and of the moons that orbit them.
The change to our orbit and our Moon causes a change in the tides here on Earth, which causes a change in the weather, which negatively affects crops in the American Midwest. This changes the price of grain and vegetables in the supermarket, which affects your purchasing patterns, which changes your diet and ultimately impacts your health. (Depending on which direction you pushed Mars, however, such change could be very good for either wintercoat manufacturers or swimsuit designers.)
What has happened is that change has been introduced into the system. This change has made itself felt in the complex interactions around it and has altered the entire system. A similar push in another solar system would have quite different effects.
Now imagine that you give Mars just the right push in just the right direction, with maybe a complimentary little push on Venus, and this sets everything back into its normal orbit and movement. Weather and crops are restored to normal, supermarket prices return to normal, and fishermen can once again happily use their tide tables to predict the ebb and flow of the oceans. Harmony is restored.
Magick gives us the tools to effect tiny pushes such as these, affecting both the world around us and the worlds within us in definite, measurable ways. Think of each thing in our universe as spinning in a dance of orbits, big and small. Every person on this Earth is part of that dance, as is every molecule and atom of each cell in each person's body. Each of our movements and each of our decisions changes our universe (spiritual and physical). When these movements and decisions are willed and directed, we call it magick.
Further Thoughts about Magick
These are quotations from other Lapis Lazuli Commandery documents and group discussions that may be of some use to those starting upon the magical way. Some will be revisited later; all are offered as starting points for further thought.
Magick is not about power, even though you gain power in the course of the work. To hold power as a goal of magick begs the questions: Power over what? Power over whom? If the answer to either question is other than "myself," the art of magick has not been understood.
Magick is not an excuse for a life-style. The energy that you put into looking like a magician is far better spent doing the work of one. Magical growth never comes through the regard of others. It is a truism in magick that your inner accomplishments, are in most cases, inversely proportional to your outer reputation for magical accomplishment. Adepts are a quiet and unassuming group on the whole, with a few notable exceptions.
Magick is not about gaining status or degrees. Magick is not about social presence or enhancing your reputation or self-image, except in that magical growth will eventually lead to all of these things as those around you notice the inner changes taking place.
Magick is not about becoming famous, or notorious, or developing famous or infamous friends. Magick is about magick. Fame is about fame. Notoriety is about notoriety. Each to its purpose.
Magick is about inner work. Great concern must be placed upon inner work and inner change for the progress of magick to take place. Over time, attention may once again turn to the outside world. Or you may perhaps discover that the outside world isn't outside at all.
Magick is about profound inner change that no one but yourself may ever see. We all share a tendency to desire the recognition of others when we have accomplished something. This recognition is unimportant in spiritual matters. In fact, this very type of attention can prevent or slow progress on the way.
Magick is concerned with connection to the deeper self and connection to spirit.
Magick is much more than a role-playing game or fantasy of the mind.
Magick is a way of life and a state of mind, every day, every hour, every moment, in every action.
The most basic prerequisite for successful magical study is a willingness to change.
Magick can never do anything for you. It works through you. It is only through your own effort that magick can accomplish anything at all. To stand in your circle and call upon the gods to obtain a new job for you is akin to standing by a proposed well and calling upon the shovel to dig it for you. Call on magick for help, but pick up the shovel and dig.
Magick involves working with existing currents, learning to call upon them, to find them within, to direct them. The laws of physics still apply and nothing is truly created or destroyed, only directed and changed. This single aphorism is more important than all those that have gone before.
First Steps into Magick
The practice of magick is enhanced greatly when we develop practice routines and make observation of the cycles around us. These help the practitioner keep in touch with the currents of this and other realms. One example of such practice is our observance of the Sun's motion through the heavens each year, with formal recognition of the four solar festivals (Winter and Summer Solstice, Spring and Fall Equinox), as well as the four fire festivals (Imbolc, Beltaine, Lughnasadh, and Samhain). Another, perhaps more important practice, is the personal daily work that each magician performs to bring light, spirit, and magick into day-today life. Crucial to this daily work is the ceremonial observance of the rising and setting of the Sun.
First Magical Rite: The Solar Adoration
The spiritual Sun and the aspiration toward light play a large role in Aurum Solis philosophy and practice. In a pre-initiatory welcoming rite used at Lapis Lazuli, we attune the probationer to our goals and current. In the rite's invocation of light is this lovely borrowing from T. S. Eliot's "Choruses from The Rock:"
O Light Invisible, we praise Thee!
Too bright for mortal vision.
O Greater Light, we praise Thee for the less; The
eastern light our spires touch at morning,
The light that slants upon our western doors at
The twilight over stagnant pools at batflight,
Moon light and star light, owl and moth light,
Glow-worm glowlight on a grassblade.
O Light Invisible, we worship Thee!
We thank Thee for the lights that we have kindled,
The light of altar and of sanctuary;
Small lights of those who meditate at midnight
And lights directed through the coloured panes of
And light reflected from the polished stone,
The gilded carven wood, the coloured fresco.
Our gaze is submarine, our eyes look upward
And see the light that fractures through unquiet water. We see the light but see not whence it comes.
O Light Invisible, we glorify Thee!
In line with the spirit of this pre-initiation rite is the first daily routine a student of Aurum Solis magick should establish: the Solar Adoration. This ritual is performed twice each day, once in the morning and once again in the evening. If possible, the adorations should be done at sunrise and sunset while facing the rising/setting Sun, or as near to these events as your schedule allows. This adoration is best performed outdoors, as weather allows, for reasons you will come to understand in the course of your own performance of the rite.
There are several reasons for the regular performance of this adoration. An Aurum Solis paper describes it thus:
[The] Sun is the supreme symbol and representative of spiritual power in our world, just as the physical rays of the Sun are in fact the source of light, warmth, health and energy. Giving a few moments of time at the two critical moments in the day, sunrise and sunset, to align oneself physically and mentally with this source, is thereby to stand in harmony with the currents of life and well-being on every level. Furthermore, since the visible Sun is but the "created manifestation" of the Power to which in reality the adoration is addressed, the habitual use of "solar adoration" builds up a real perception of the spiritual underlying the physical, the "Sun behind the Sun," and thus establishes the student in rapport with the spiritual world.
Further, on the significance of the moments of sunrise and sunset:
The Sun-sphere essentially signifies the Eternal made manifest in the transient moment. Those who honor dawn and sunset, day after day, winter and summer, grow in the awareness that though these phenomena are in a sense "always the same," yet in another sense they are never twice alike: each new day, each new evening produces wonder ever new.
The adoration used in Aurum Solis is drawn from Hindu scripture, the solar invocation found in the Isha Upanishad, with some modifications. The Isha Upanishad is perhaps the most highly regarded of this type of spiritual writing among Hindus. The etymology of the word upanishad suggests sitting at the feet of a great master. Perhaps these grand poetic works of India's distant past were indeed attempts to capture the teachings of ancient masters and teachers.
Excerpted from OGDOADIC MAGICK by Norman R. Kraft. Copyright © 2001 Norman R. Kraft. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
List of Rituals
Chapter 1 - What is Magick?
Chapter 2 - First Steps into Magick
Chapter 3 - Magical Ethics
Chapter 4 - Call to the Journey
Chapter 5 - Study and Practice, Yin and Yang
Chapter 6 - Meditation
Chapter 7 - Archetypes: The Tools of Magick
Chapter 8 - Banishments, Warding, and Astral Defenses
Chapter 9 - The Magical Robe
Chapter 10 - Sophia Terrae
Chapter 11 - Qabalah
Chapter 12 - Establishing a Rhythm
Chapter 13 - Practical Magick
Chapter 14 - Times and Tides
Chapter 15 - A Few Last Thoughts
Appendix A - Aurum Solis and the Ogdoatic Tradition
Appendix B - Recommended Additional Reading
Aurum Solis: Order of the Sacred Word