Let me first say that I am not a member of any magickal group or coven nor do I have any desire to join one. I have studied religious and occult texts for the last 10 years and have a degree in Religious Studies. My understanding of magick comes from lots of reading, introspection and application.
With any discussion of magick comes a lot of misconceptions. Most people think of video games, Hollywood movies, or various tv shows where practitioners can teleport or fly, throw fire or lightning, have super strength, or summon spiritual entities or demons to appear in this world and fight for you (ala Buffy or Charmed). This is all Hollywood special effects and fantasy.
My definition of magick is based on the writings of early 20th century mage, Aleister Crowley. Crowley has a notorious reputation because he liked to push boundaries at a time when society wasn’t as open about homosexuality or religious tolerance as it is now. He was heavily into numerology and often associated himself with 666, the number of the Beast in Revelation. This, of course, led many people to believe he was a Satan worshiper. I don’t buy it. He was a very eclectic character but if you’ve ever read his writings, he’s quite passionate and articulate about his dedication to the magickal arts.
Anyway, his definition of magick is simply ‘the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with the will.’ In his magickal handbook, Magick in Theory and Practice, he writes in Chapter XIV
What is a Magical Operation? It may be defined as any event in nature which is brought to pass by Will. We must not exclude potato-growing or banking from our definition. Let us take a very simple example of a Magical Act: that of a man blowing his nose.
What he’s saying is that anything you bring about because of your Will or intention can be considered Magick – supernatural or not.
I’m not going to discuss contacting spiritual entities here (see the excerpt from the Goetia). Instead, I’m going to try to explain magick in terms of modern goal setting and motivational terms. I think that both philosophies take a similar approach to getting what you want. However, magickal language tends to be a bit more confusing and cryptic to newbies. There’s so much to learn and read that it can be overwhelming. With goal setting literature, the language is much more clearcut and easy to understand when they discuss empowerment, intention, and focus.
Of course, there are big differences. Magick has a mystical/spiritual component that you don’t find in most of the self help guru genre. And, a lot of self help gurus come off as arrogant bastards (although you can probably say the same for many magicians.)
Anyway, if you’ve ever read any books on goal setting or learning to become a millionaire, a common theme that pops up is about accepting responsibility for where you are right now, figuring out exactly what you want, and then taking steps to get there.
Most people, however, don’t want to accept responsibility for where they are right now. They blame their parents or family members, lack of money, their significant other (or lack of), their job or boss, or just about anyone else they can for where they are right now. This causes a ‘victim’ mentality where people start to say ‘I would be happy if only [I got paid more, I liked my job, my spouse/family/friends would change, I had a life partner, etc].’ The key to all of this is to be able to take a step back and ask yourself ‘why is my happiness dependent on these things? Why can’t I just be happy now?’
It’s a different state of mind because it requires you to take a hard look at yourself and reflect on why you don’t have the things you want and why that is undermining your ability to be happy. When you start looking at your life as a series of choices you’ve (not anyone else) made up to this point, you start to see that because of your actions, you’ve ended up where you are.
That’s the mentality of a magician. Magicians see life as a series of choices and events that they have some control over.
You always have a choice – even if you say you don’t, no one is holding a gun to your head and making you stay in that dead end job or lousy relationship. At any point, you can choose to walk away. Perhaps that’s not your ideal situation, but it is a choice.