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The Philosophy and Practice of Magick

The Philosophy and Practice of Magick

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Published by Tsuzuki
"The Philosophy and Practice of Magick", by Peter J. Carroll

Transcribed from the Cthonos Rite tape/CD
"The Philosophy and Practice of Magick", by Peter J. Carroll

Transcribed from the Cthonos Rite tape/CD

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Published by: Tsuzuki on May 05, 2009
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03/07/2013

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The Philosophy and Practice of Magick 
 by Peter J. CarrollSome general considerations on the philosophy and practice of magick now follow:The effectiveness of magick depends heavily on the skill and subtlety of those performingit, and on the careful choice of, and preparation for, a desired effect. In general, one should tryand bring about events which have a measurable probability of occurring by chance alone, andone should not be too proud to do everything possible on the physical plane to help it occur.Thus, magick should be something thrown in to tip the scales of chance in one's favour when all possible physical action has been taken. By neglecting to maximize the probability on the physical plane, one sets up an internal conflict, in which magick is expected to make up for poor  preparation. Thus, in divination, one should not shy away from first exhausting all mundanesources of information that might be relevant, and in enchantment assist the spell both before andafter casting by all possible ordinary means.The purpose of performing magick is not to test the efficacy of magick. If it is performedin this spirit of challenge, the subconscious challenge for it to fail will be the only result whichmanifests. Magick is to be performed to get results, and even if one at first achieves results onlya little better than chance, then it at least provides an edge which can be turned into aconsiderable advantage if subtly employed.One should always look for an avenue of reasonable probability through which chancecan be bent towards desire. For example, the probability of spontaneously materialising asubstantial fortune is rather low, and even doubling that probability by magick is unlikely to leadto success. On the other hand, even a small advantage in gambling or business can produce adecisive effect. Similarly, divination should be regarded as a means of distinguishing the correctinformation from amongst those alternatives of which one is aware or able to imagine. Inmagical acts of illumination, it is better to conjure initially for modest specific improvements, or even arbitrary changes to oneself, rather than for ill defined or grandiose modifications.Although the lore of magick is peppered with tales of really extreme and improbableevents, remember that even the best of the magi rarely pull off more than a dozen such events ina lifetime. The aspiring magician should seek to work on the simpler schemes first, and toimmerse himself in the belief structures of magick, and the really great acts of power willgradually begin to manifest in his work.At any time in life, but most commonly in late youth, when we have the vague intuitionthat there is something profoundly bizarre and inconsistent about life, the universe, andeverything, there may suddenly be a horrifying or ecstatic certainty that one's own self is illusory,and that reality is also an illusion. One's carefully defended identity seems to be a pointless pretence and an empty shell. The world becomes a cacophony of meaningless sensations. Most people will reject this initiation, and manage to fill their lives and identities with sufficientconcerns until perhaps an awareness of mortality reminds them of it again. Those who do drink the poison must seek stronger medicine or become sick or mad.1
 
Rational materialism is the least powerful of the antidotes: little more than an assertion of the reality of the ego, or self-image, and the reality of physical objects, yet it works for some, andif they pursue it rigorously, they may become that much more effective in philosophy andscience for the serpent's kiss. However, it does impart a veiled destructiveness to theseendeavours. Religion and mysticism offer a different form of medicine. Transcendentalism isthe acceptance of the emptiness of self, and the unreality of phenomena, as symptoms of our temporary estrangement from some greater fullness in reality, be it Nirvana, God, or Enlightenment. Those with a particularly deep terror of extinction and nothingness become themost passionately religious and mystical, precisely because that negation is always with them.Finally, there are those brought close to death by the serpent's bite, and those who found in the poison itself a source of freedom and laughter. These are the potential magicians.Debilitating and depressing maladies with no obvious cause were recognized as theshaman's sickness in the old hunter-gatherer societies. If the sufferer could rebuild his identity, or spirits, and hence his bodily heath, with or without help from other shamans, then he could become a shaman himself. In our own culture, there is too much symptom-suppressivemedicine, and there are too many subcultural identities available for this tradition to havesurvived.However, there are many who do become magicians after a struggle with illness,typically asthma, or after the struggle with the temptations of suicide. For some candidates, theserpent's bite is an ecstatic awakening, and they proceed directly to a purely magical answer without suffering. If the self is an elaborate pretence, and the world is without a fixed meaning,then one is free to be anybody and do anything. Such freedoms equip one well for the theatre or espionage, or if one has a taste for tampering with the fabric of illusion itself, magick. After theabsurdity and eventual collapse of their empire and class system, the British have often only themost tenuous grip on any kind of credible identity, and it is unsurprising that such a high proportion of notable spies, actors, and magicians should emerge from that race.Of course, there are many people who look to magick merely as a means of augmentingtheir lifestyle, whilst retaining an essentially materialist or transcendental worldview. Thematerialist who dabbles in the occult is usually looking for something transcendental. He never finds it, because no proof or refutation of parapsychology really implies anything at all about theexistence or nonexistence of anything transcendental. Transcendentalists who dabble in magick usually obtain results as spectacular as they are useless. Quite quickly, they are surrounded bydemons and spirits, powers and principalities, and notebooks full of outlandish visions andcommunications. Soon they are alternating between excessive humility and megalomania.Those who approach magick from a materialist or transcendental point of view maysucceed in getting a few magical effects, but only an acceptance of magick on its own terms islikely to confer the persistence to actually become a magician. Thus, it is worth contrasting themagical paradigm with the rational and transcendental paradigms to see how they might usefully be untangled from each other. Although the paradigms are not mutually exclusive, they do not fitcomfortably together; yet, of all people, the magician is the least likely to feel that they should beforced to fit, and the contemporary magician has most to profit from a working understanding of each.2
 
The materialist, transcendental, and magical paradigms each recognize a different basis toreality. The materialist universe consists of matter and energy in space and time. Thetranscendentalist universe is created of spirit or consciousness. As there is no universallyaccepted word for the underlying reality of the universe in magical terms, I shall borrow andadapt the word "mana". All magical systems are explicitly or implicitly structured around therecognition of mana in some guise or other. Mana cannot precisely be described in materialisticor transcendental terms, but, as magical terms are rather limited in our culture, it is worthattempting these descriptions.Mana, in materialistic terms, is the information which structures matter, and which allmatter and thought is capable of emitting and receiving across space, and perhaps time. Mana, intranscendental terms, is a sort of life force present to some degree in all beings, objects, andevents, and able to act between them. In magical terms, mana is the power which shapes phenomena, and which phenomena emit to shape other phenomena. It is also knowledge, in thesense that the shaping power imparts information.Mana is not synonymous with consciousness in the transcendentalist sense.Consciousness is no more than a word used to describe the sensation arising from mentalactivity. Mana is analogous to spirit only to the extent that spirit is taken to imply communicatedinformation. Mana is not an attribute of matter. Rather, it is the other way around. Matter is theway in which mana most commonly appears to us. The so-called scientific laws of the materialuniverse are an expression of mana. From a magical point of view, the laws of nature areincomplete. Future events are not entirely determined in advance. Mana acts chaotically withinthose arbitrary limits it has already invented. Thus, mana is creative and unpredictable in thosesituations where there are insufficient mana conventions to determine what will happen, and thisincludes everything more complex and clockwork; and it is here that magic, or mana projection,can be used to force the hand of chance.Divination must always be difficult or subject to large inaccuracies, because manyaspects of the future are indeterminate. The decision to develop one's psychic powers primarilyfor enchantment, which is making things happen, rather than for divination is a large part of actually becoming a magician.At many points in its history, magick has been heavily contaminated with mystical andreligious beliefs. The term "chaos magic" is used to designate a philosophy of pure magick unadulterated with transcendentalism. There are two basic principles underlying it, and thesegive structure to the magician's identity. The first is that mana is spontaneously self-creative.Mana creates itself in the manifestation of phenomena and events, and, having been createdarbitrarily, tends to stick to a pattern. Thus, the universe is arbitrary within arbitrary limits.There are ultimately no reasons for the laws of the universe. They arise chaotically, and take onthe appearance of causality by repetition. Now, these arbitrary limits are less confining than most people think. The sun will rise, and water will still run downhill tomorrow, but much of whatwill happen is at this moment still undecided.3

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