magick and religion

Discussion in 'Magick' started by bgruagach, Jan 26, 2004.

  1. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    It seems to be in vogue at the moment, at least among many Wiccans, to talk down about magick as though it were disagreeable. There are apparently a growing number of Wiccans who insist they don't practice magick at all, for instance, and get upset at the suggestion that magick might have a valid place within Wicca.

    I've even seen some people speak loudly about whether others have gotten involved with an occult path for the "right" reasons... as if some reasons were inherently superior to others. Usually these loud statements insist that if a person comes to investigate occultism and eventually a path like Wicca for any reason other than a supposedly-high-minded spiritual reason then they are nothing but hypocrites.

    What do people think about this? Should we judge others as having "better" or "worse" reasons for coming to the spiritual path they are now on? Are people who don't practice magick inherently superior to those who do?

    And how does rejecting magick fit into occult philosophies that claim to hold ALL of existence, the material world as well as unseen worlds, as being holy and equally important?
     
  2. fire-nymph

    fire-nymph Member

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    I believe personally, this looking down on magic has sprung from their Three-Fold-Law. As many people are realising, if you analyse any magic working enough it inevitably infringes on someone's free will. Even a basic spell directed at obtaining a new job, for example, must then of course 'cheat' someone else out of it.

    It is out of fear of powers they believe to be bigger than themselves that they talk down to us so. I think that such people should not be taken to heart, for if we follow someone else's way of thinking - their path - then we are not truly following our own.

    xx
     
  3. Johanna

    Johanna Member

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    I've noticed this as well. I think it stems from a wish to be taken more "seriously" by mainstream religions, as well as a need to show newcomers that "it's not all about the spells".

    But honestly, if someone wants to be Wiccan or whatever without saying they practice magic, I certainly haven't got anything against it. To each their own.
     
  4. Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine

    Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine Junior Moderator, Intro Moderator

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    Zdrastvuitsye, hola, shalom, salaam, Dia dhuit, namastar ji, hej, konnichiwa, squeak, meow, :wave:, Johanna.

    This discussion reminds me of a book I read a while ago written by Nora Roberts (I forget the name right offhand, but I could post it at a later time.) The heroine was talking about this very subject with the hero of the story, and she said (I'm paraphrasing here) that a person needs a quick monetary injection into his/her finances, so s/he casts a little spell and gets the money s/he wants, but at the cost of a dear grandmother (or was it great aunt? :shrug: )

    Everything has its consequences and not everybody is willing to pay said consequences.

    Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine
     
  5. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep Well-Known Member

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    First, do no harm.

    Magick is all right with me, on one very important condition: it does no harm to anyone but only good.

    Now, between the magic on the stage and the magick of religion whatever, the first is more entertaining and relaxing than the second, for all intents and purposes.

    Susma Rio Sep
     
  6. Baud

    Baud Seeker of Knowledge

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    I consider myself Wiccan, but I don't practice magick. However, I would think that this would tend to make me not completely Wiccan instead of the other way around. ;) It is surprising that people in a religion which has been so much oriented towards practice would now denigrate it.

    The arguments made by Johanna are nonetheless valid. It is true that when I explain Wicca to people I start by explaining things like interconnection, monism as opposed to dualism, pantheism and such concepts, and then after the audience is convinced that I am not a complete nuts I explain that magick is practiced. Moreover, IMHO, too many Wicca 101 books focus primarily on magic, while they should also cover other subjects.

    I don't think the point made by fire-nymph is entirely correct, or at least if some people are in fact turned away from magick by the Threefold Law, that they don't have a complete understanding of it. The Threefold law applies to magick, but it applies also as a basic principle to everything else. When you are a nice guy, you have more chances that other people will be nice with you, too. When you regularly stab people in the back, one day you will find yourself very alone.

    Baud
     
  7. Johanna

    Johanna Member

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    I just realised that I wrote "But honestly, if someone wants to be Wiccan or whatever without saying they practice magic, I certainly haven't got anything against it.", which sounds kind of weird. What i meant was that if people want to practice Wicca or such religions, without adding magic to it, I haven't got anything against it. The way I wrote it kind of made it sound like people practice magic without admitting it.
     
  8. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep Well-Known Member

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    Christian magick

    The Christian sacraments and sacramentals are also forms of magick; but the Catholic Church claims they are instituted and they work by God's willing and doing or by His authorization. For example: baptism and Holy Eucharist, where the Body and Blood of Christ are made to appear but in the forms of bread and wine. Examples of sacramentals are holy water and consecrated oil for the anointing of the sick.

    Protestants of course reject all these sacraments and sacramentals as conceived and practiced by the Catholic Church. But to the credit of the Catholic Church, we must mention that Protestantism is the new kid in the block, compared to the bi-millennial history of the Catholic Church. And Protestantism is a splinter branch of the Catholic Church. At most Protestantism retains baptism and the Lord's Supper but only in their symbolic roles.

    As for me, I am a postgraduate Catholic, emphasis on post.

    With regard to the magick of Wicca, I wonder if Wicca practitioners of magick do their procedures before a public audience including non-believers. Or does their religion require them to do these transactions away from public attendants and even observers.

    I generally don't look with favor on enactments of religion which are not open to the general public who are willing to behave with respect.

    I read somewhere that Wicca practice three kinds or levels of magick: white, gray, and black. In regard to the black kind, I think that their practitioners can be prosecuted at least civillly, if I understand rightly that the black kind consists in some compromising effects on third parties without their knowledge and consent.

    Now, again in regard to the third kind of magick practiced by Wiccans, the black level type, enlightened Wiccans might agree with me that if the target subjects don't know that they are being targeted with magick from Wiccans, then they would not be affected in their mind. And that mental influence is the thing that does the malice -- I believe -- essentially with magick.

    Susma Rio Sep
     
  9. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    There are no requirements within Wicca regarding whether one enacts religious rites in private or in public. In most places with a Wiccan community of any size, there are groups that hold open rituals where anyone who wishes to attend is welcome. Some of these public rituals are similar to Christian and other ceremonies where most people are observers while some make a point of including everyone present (who wishes to participate that is) in the ritual in an active way.

    http://www.witchvox.com/xvn.html has one of the best listings of Pagan (Wiccan and non-Wiccan) groups and individuals around the world. There are many public ceremonies listed for anyone who is curious and wants to check out the local community.

    It is true though that Wicca in particular is largely practiced in small groups that meet in private. In the Christian community, these would be similar to prayer groups that operate out of people's homes, or perhaps private study groups that are set up informally. Because of fears of persecution, though, it's still common for many Wiccan groups or covens to be rather selective about who they invite to their meetings. The rituals that are done in private are not really much different from the rituals conducted at public gatherings. There is a lot of material in print aobut Wicca and what exactly is practiced so it's not like there is really much (if anything) that is truly secret in the way of practices and ideas.

    There is a lot of discussion and debate about the classification of magick as white, grey, and black. Isaac Bonewits, in his book "Real Magic" (first published in the 1980s) describes a classification of magick using a rainbow of colours. Most people who practice magick say that magick itself is neutral, like electricity, and can be used for noble or less noble purposes. Some people try and classify noble-purpose-magick as "white" or "grey" but others have more restrictive definitions, such as "white" magick being only that which is meant to bring the practitioner in direct communion with the Divine. Some classify "black" magick as anything that is done for practical ends, whether it is to help the disadvantaged, heal the sick, or encourage prosperity, or anything to do with achieving goals other than communion with the Divine.

    Many Wiccans hold the Wiccan Rede, "An it harm none, do what you will" as a central tenet of their philosophy. It's something to work towards, although taken literally it is pretty much impossible to achieve. But it is a guideline to help guide a Wiccan in life, and is just as good a guideline as those found in other religions. It's usually better to talk about magick in terms of specific instances and the ethics of the particular situation rather than to try and impose arbitrary and misleading distinctions like black, white, or grey on something as complex as magick.
     
  10. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the enlightenment

    Bgru writes:

    Very good: not fear of respectful observation but of persecution.

    So people writing about black magick in Wicca as consisting also in obtaining ills on others don’t know what they are talking about, or intentionally want to put Wicca in a less favorable light.

    Somehow like the first rule in medical practice: Primum non nocere -- First do not harm.

    Bgru, thanks for your enlightening explanations.

    Susma Rio Sep
     
  11. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    Wiccans are fallible humans just like followers of any other religion. There are Christians who use their religion as a weapon to attack others; people who openly pray for harm upon others. There are Wiccans who use magick for very questionable purposes. My attempt in my previous response was to try and point out that classifying magick as white, black, or grey is all very subjective and of questionable value. It's much more worthwhile, in my opinion anyways, to examine specific instances in their particular circumstances to try and evaluate the ethics involved. Magick isn't as simple as being "good" or "bad," just as prayer or any other practice can be done for noble or less noble purposes.

    You might find it interesting to read the discussion of the Wiccan Rede and other "golden rules" at http://www.draknetfree.com/sheathomas/

    It's not really surprising that so many of these "golden rules" are very similar in essential meaning. Human nature is pretty constant across cultures and history.
     
  12. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep Well-Known Member

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    Sinful prayers

    I am not an apologist for Christianity. But Christians will insist that they don't pray for ills on other people, not even their enemies. It is a sin.

    That of course is the official teaching. But some Christians can be so benighted and perverted that they could use all kinds of religous acts and objects to obtain all kinds of impious ends -- which to me is a lot of nonsense.

    Is that also the case with Wiccans?

    Susma Rio Sep
     
  13. Johanna

    Johanna Member

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    I'd say that there are plenty of Wiccans who would use magic for revenge. The Wiccan Rede is advice, not the end all rule. However, I don't feel like Wicca is a religion where revenge and "bad magic" is encouraged, just like I don't feel that Christianity is a religion where "negative prayer" is encouraged. I personally don't feel that curses have any place within deep witchcraft – it’s too selfish and petty. People got paranoid about being cursed by witches back during the witch hunts - but it doesn't seem like the "witches" actually did curse people (individuals, anyway). I’ve been told that Europeans in the North mainly used magic for prosperity and aid. The only negative magic they used was to bring down their enemies during wars and such - not to toss petty curses at their neighbours. So if Wicca is truly aiming at recreating, or at least capturing the spirit of, the old European religions, then I'd say cursing people is not exactly in line. Well, unless your village is in a dispute with another village, I guess. Magic back then seems to have been a community act, rather than a woman sitting alone in her home cursing her neighbour for mistreating her. Nowadays there are fewer who believe in it, and even less using it, so it's easy to see how some people - without the influence of a village, family, community - would be tempted to use magic as a tool for when they feel they've been wronged.
     
  14. WHKeith

    WHKeith Well-Known Member

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    For my part, I tend to separate in my own mind Wicca from magick. I do so completely aware that this is my definition alone, one not to be forced upon others, and that there are plenty of folks—especially among the more traditional elements of the Wiccan movement—who would strongly disagree with me.

    Still, for my purposes, it’s convenient to think of Wicca as a religion and magick as an entirely separate domain—the Craft. Within Wicca, there are many who honor the gods [in whatever form they deem best for themselves], revere Nature and the Earth, honor the Wheel of the Year through the various sabbats, and seek to advance themselves spiritually through understanding, study, worship, and fellowship. Within the Craft, we have a wide variety of people—some Wiccan, some not; some religious, some not; some who believe in Deity, many who don’t—who seek to shape or reshape reality through a variety of techniques, practices, and beliefs we call witchcraft and/or magic/k.

    If I were to create a Venn diagram for it, I’d draw two interlocking circles side by side, a big one for magick, a smaller one for Wicca. Many, perhaps even most Wiccans, fall in the intersection of the two circles. But you don’t need to be a witch (a word I use here to mean an initiate in the Craft and a practitioner of magick) to be a Wiccan, and you don’t need to be Wiccan to practice magick. Indeed, the vast majority of magicians are NOT specifically Wiccan.

    As always, though, there is no black or white here, and it’s hard to draw clear boundaries. Many, perhaps most, workers of magick see the first and greatest work as being the purification and improvement of self, a task usually placed in the category of religion. Gardnerian and Alexandrian witches would claim the name “Wicca” first applied to them, and point out that magick is an inherent part of their worship as Wiccans. (Many of them see the words “witch” and “Wiccan” as synonymous. I do not.)

    Brief aside: it’s a matter of record that Gerald Gardner borrowed a great deal from the ceremonial magick of Crowley and the Golden Dawn and wove it into the ceremonies of Wicca as he presented them. Indeed, after Gardner put a lot of ceremonialism into Wicca, Dion Fortune took a lot of it out; Alexandrians, who (depending on who you believe) derived from the Gardnerians, retain more aspects of ceremonial magick in their rites than do modern Gardnerians.

    Back to the main text. To muddy things further, most witches of whatever flavor will point out that magick is woven into the fabric of every aspect of our existence, while most who worship the gods will insist that magick is everywhere and in everyone in part because the gods are everywhere and in everyone, and there is no way to separate the two.

    As the ranks of New Agers and pagans swell, we find more and more who embrace the Earth- and nature-loving aspects of Wicca, but who are embarrassed or put off by things magickal. Many are excited about their new way of belief and life and wish to share it with others, but, as was said earlier, want to be taken seriously and so downplay the magickal side of things. Many others have come to Wicca from Christianity and, while willing to throw off the shackles of that belief system, retain, still, a deep-seated, even subconscious mistrust or fear of anything smacking of “the occult.” (I find this a fascinating revelation, personally. As Susma Rio Sep rightly pointed out, many bedrock beliefs of Christianity—including not only the sacraments he mentioned but the concept of atonement through blood sacrifice, the descent of the Son of God into the underworld to triumph over Death, and the idea that prayer can change ordained reality—are nothing less than a belief in magick and very old occult principles.)

    As ever, I’m for whatever works for the individual. I have no problem whatsoever with Wiccans who do not practice magick, or who do not even believe in it. Magick is above all an experiential process, something you quite literally have to see (or, at least, experience) to believe. I would take exception only to a non-magickal Wiccan trying to convert me away from what I believe and practice for myself.

    My thoughts, for what they’re worth.
     
  15. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    Just a comment of clarification regarding Dion Fortune. While Gerald Gardner (and Doreen Valiente, one of his most influential high priestesses) both acknowledged Dion Fortune as one of their sources of inspiration, Fortune herself had nothing to do with Wicca. She always denied being either a witch or a Wiccan.

    Dion Fortune was an initiate of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and later founded the mystical/occult group, the Society of the Inner Light. The Society of the Inner Light still operates today. I believe Gareth Knight, who was trained by Fortune, runs the organization now. They have a website at http://www.innerlight.org.uk/ Dion Fortune's works are still widely available today and are worth reading.
     
  16. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep Well-Known Member

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    Practical cursing

    Curse and religion go together.

    But Christianity tells us not to curse. Well, not in a private capacity on a person of no public outrage.

    Curse is understood as calling harms on other people. And in the Old Testament there is a lot of cursing, from God Himself, from community leaders, from religious authorities, and even from heads of family.

    Now, if there are religious practitioners who know the mechanics of cursing in the way of bringing harms to other people, then I have a very useful suggestion to the government police and judicial authorities to use them, in this manner. They should learn from these religious talents on the art of cursing effectively. And these government officials can be justified in resorting to cursing, because they are public leaders in charge of the community’s welfare.

    On the appointed day and time, in a regular event, the government officials entrusted with the duty of cursing will go on public television nation-wide or community-wide as the case dictates, and curse the criminals who manage to escape the clutches of the law.

    “May those who kill with impunity, who steal with no remorse, who kidnap with no regard to the sorrows of mothers, suffer horrible painful diseases, and be an abominable sight to anyone in their midst.” (Not excluding politicians and corporate con artists, of course.)

    I think such a public cursing from public authorities will at least make the life of unrepentant hardened recalcitrant criminals reap no comfort but only extreme angst from their wicked deeds.

    Susma Rio Sep
     
  17. WHKeith

    WHKeith Well-Known Member

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    Ya got me, bruagach! I had a brain fart, and wrote "Fortune" the other day when I meant "Valiente." You're quite right, of course.

    Susma . . . my problem with cursing criminals is bound up in the Law of Threefold Return. Put that kind of energy out, and it WILL come back, threefold. I don't see this as a mathematical equation for magic so much as a statement of principle. (I know of one less-than-ethical witch who claimed he knew his black-magic spells were working when he started having runs of bad luck in his life!)

    In Christian terms, I would put this in the category of "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." Not all of us kill, but we all hate, at times. Not all kidnap, but we all put constraints on the free will of others at times, whether deliberately or no. Not all of us ignore the suffering of mothers, but we all turn our eyes away from the suffering of others, at times, or act callously or unthinkingly or unfeelingly.

    Words are far more powerful than most of us realize. Thoughts may be the most powerful agent in this reality. I know *I* wouldn't want the job of State Curser of Criminals!
     
  18. fire-nymph

    fire-nymph Member

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    But surely...
    The three-fold-law is based on 'karma', yes?
    And if so, the person casting the spell has to acknowledge either subconsciously or consciously that what he/she is doing is morally 'wrong'.
    So, if someone's cursing a criminal and believes 100% what they're doing is morally just, then it won't infact come back on them, yes?
    Isn't that how Karma works?

    (Ah the confusion :))

    (not that I agree with cursing criminals, I'm just struggling to understand this three-fold-law that wiccans are so into...)
     
  19. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    Karma and the threefold law can be described as basic cause-and-effect. Another way to think of it is "everything has consequences."

    This affects all actions, all decisions (even decisions to not act in a particular circumstance.) It doesn't matter whether anyone involved had good or evil intentions, whether the result was doing harm or doing good. If you do something, there will be consequences. And because everything is connected we will definitely feel the consequences of our decisions and actions.

    It's a mistake to think of karma or the Wiccan threefold law as being only applicable to bad things. If you send out love, you most certainly get results back too, most often the same type of thing you sent out. A large part of working magick successfully is learning how to see the connections between things, and knowing how careful actions (or careful refraining from actions) can set consequences in motion that you hope for.

    Karma and the Wiccan threefold law are not just applicable to magickal acts either, but to everything we do. If I am kind to others, I am much more likely to get kindness back. If I am cruel to others, then I can expect cruelty back.

    Some people talk about karma as being "fate" as though it's predetermined. When you look at it as being the consequences that result from decisions, then it's clear that karma is hardly about predetermination but about determining one's own future by acting in the present. It's also about recognizing how our present situation is a direct result of things that we have done in the past. It's about being responsible for our circumstances.
     
  20. brucegdc

    brucegdc Moderator

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    Karma doesn't care about justice. Nor is the three-fold-law strictly equivalent to Karma.

    If I do something, it has a consequence. If I do something that harms someone, whether or not it is "just" to do so, I will reap the consequences from that (as with all other actions) - usually in at least the same amount that I did. (Often more so - hence the three-fold). If I use violence to do something, then it is more likely that violence will return to me - no matter what that is I was trying to do. It may be stopping someone from hitting someone else by hitting them first - a "good" deed. My reasons don't count - just the actions.

    Which is probably why a lot of magic users don't worry about black/white - since that's usually a matter of intent, but do worry about the means.

    It's a bit of a balancing act - taking action has consequences but not acting also has consequences. Means you have to think about your actions and what could come of them.
     

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