Magic Philosophy 101

Magic Philosophy 101
by Nick Farrell on 2006-08-28 09:57:53
tags: magic, nick farrell, philosophy

Magic has a philosophy which runs through it like a golden thread. It is not talked about much, because the alchemical procedure of finding it is part of the path. At various points, various occultists have tried to put down their formula for students. One recent example was Aleister Crowley with his famous ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will’. There are also ‘Gnostic’ occultists who believe that matter is part of a process which needs to be escaped through a series of magical techniques and rites. The Druidic Order of Pendragon, which was a 19th century magical order had a lovely philosophy the world was a song which was made to reflect the Divine Unity.Occultism is not a religion. It is a philosophy that sits at the heart of many different religions. The word itself means ‘hidden’ or ‘set aside’. In other words, occult principles should be recognised by religion, and an occultist can be of any religion. Indeed throughout history the philosophy of magic has changed slightly to suit prevailing religious views; but the golden thread connects all these different groups from the most ancient shaman to the techno-magician of the 21st century.

It is in the application of the subject of this course that you will start to get the hang of how magic can and should work.

In looking for this golden thread we can boil it down to a few basic ideas. As United States comic Bill Hicks summed up how the Universal Mind worked as part of his act: “We are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream and we are the imagination of ourselves.” In other words the universe is an internal creation in the Mind of One Being.

This creates all sorts of problems for those raised in traditional religion. There we are taught the world is polarised between light and dark, good and evil. However occultism has never seen it as being that complex or divisive. If creation was built by the mind of one thing, then good and evil are all dreamt up by it. Christians in particular would not like this idea because it implies that God is not perfect and is evolving. Indeed it implies that this God has an evil streak that somehow showed in its creation.

The Jewish faith sees no problem with this, as the ancient prophets said, ‘if there is evil in the land, hath not God done it?’ Christianity would prefer to hive off evil to a satanic character, but a question remains: if the world was created within a perfected God then where did evil come from first?

Perfection is not all it is cracked up to be anyway. If you are perfect there is no need to develop. Indeed perfection suggests that all things have stopped because they cannot be improved. So occultists are happy to see their God as developing itself through the process of creation. If evil appears, then it is dealt with by creation in the same way that we do with some of the darker sides of our character. When we have dealt with it, then that particular problem is dealt with through us by God forever.

This being so, how does a Christian with his focus on Christ the savour manage with esoteric philosophy? It is surprisingly easy. If Christ died for your sins and that believing in him ‘redeems you’ you can see him as a universal principle – that of God forgiving itself for its faults. This act of self-forgiveness is a strong principle in psychology and makes sense if applied to a universal being.

Some occultists still believe in Satan too. This is the force that keeps you thinking that you are a small animal, locked up on a tiny planet in an insignificant part of the galaxy. In other words, it is that Universal aspect of God which makes life difficult and pushes against evolution. It is necessary, but not unstoppable.

If creation is mind then what are we? There is a philosophical question which says ‘if a tree falls in the forest when no one is around does it make a sound?’ It is philosophically impossible to prove that something happened if there were no witnesses. However esoteric philosophy tells us there were an infinite number of witnesses to this event. These range from birds, bugs and the cells and atoms of the tree itself. All things in creation are seen and remembered by the divine being.

Like everything in creation we are equipped with senses to watch the environment around us. However we are given an important tool which makes us more godlike. We have a mind which enables us to interpret what we see. Notice that I didn’t say a brain. A brain is simply a biochemical radio that enables us to connect to the Mind. This interpretation is important to the Divine because it enables it to oversee events to understand itself.

Humanity’s access to the Mind also means that we have a spark of divinity within us that is less accessible to other parts of creation. In religion this is called a soul. This is what sits in the driver’s seat of our lives and moves us to more experiences that enable God to understand more of itself. It is a fragment of infinity that is specialised to seek and understand special experiences. There are some who think that this soul on death seeks more experiences and moves to a newborn baby and reincarnates. (However in occultism this view, while common, is not universal).

The soul sits in the heart of what we are, but for various reasons we are not aware of it. The process of living often means we become lost in matter. It is a bit like when we watch a movie and lose awareness of our surroundings. This causes some minor problems for the soul, which sometimes becomes so identified with the personality it loses sight of its mission until the person dies and the soul withdraws on to the astral to have a post-mortem think. Fortunately because it does not ever forget anything this is not a problem.

The soul’s focus is called consciousness. Sometimes it is centred on the web of complexes that are our outer selves. Sometimes it is lost in the astral realms of our thoughts.

After a while there is a sense of loss. The soul dimly remembers what it is, but feels disconnected from its own divine aspect. When this happens the person goes through a crisis. They either decide to do something about it, or carry on with what they know and lead an ‘unfulfilled’ life.

In some people’s lives this process of discovering this connection is part of the soul’s destiny. Sometimes this is seen as a religious search where the soul’s divine aspect is found through prayer and meditation and worshipped.

With the occultist it is sought as one would find a romantic partner. It is literally your soul mate, which popular culture has linked to another human, but is your true self – the relationship to which makes all earthly relationships a poor shadow.

The occultist wants to get their consciousness focused so they are aware of their true self, firstly as a relationship and then finally as a union. Once union is achieved it is possible to be a divine human, an adept, who has the same powers as god on earth. This is important because if they are fully aware of their divine aspects, they can do much more to help the divine to understand itself. Not only can they understand their immediate environment, they can become co-creators with the Divine itself.

This is possible in theory, but because of the problems of getting lost in creation, some fragmentation takes place, and so a human constantly has to seek for its Higher Self and only occasionally rise to its full powers.

This attainment is not just for occultists or those who study the esoteric. It can be seen in many different humans who have worked to reach it. I have seen it in the eyes of old men and women who have lived many lives in one incarnation and are plugged into the joy of it all. Some of them are religious, others are not and would even consider themselves agnostic. They just live the motto of the ‘golden thread’ which was inscribed over the entrance of the temple of Apollo: “Man know thyself.” Now knowing thyself has become a Religious and a personal direction.

There are seven broad principles that relate to Hermetic Magic. These are sometimes called laws. These are:

1. All things are One Thing 2. All things are Mind 3. All things correspond to one another 4. All things are made from vibration 5. All things appear to be divided into two 6. The Universe works to a rhythm. 7. Everything has a cause and effect

All things are One Thing

In class one we looked at the idea that the universe essentially dreamt up all creation within itself. Some like to say this One thing is Love, however it is far above that. It can’t be described in words. It is unknowable, because it can only be understood by itself.

All things are Mind *All things correspond to one anotherAll things vibrateAll things ‘appear’ to be divided into twoThe Universe works to a rhythmEverything has a cause and effect*

The only way that an object can be created is by using material or by reproduction. The One Thing can do neither because it is infinite so it can not take any outside source and can only make its universe in its mind. Once you realise the universe is mind and works in the same way as your own (which is a reflection of the universe) then you can use it to bring about change.


Since everything is connected something that happens in one part of the universe has an effect on another. This is the hermetic idea of ‘As below so above and as above so below.’ It is because of this principle that magic which takes place on earth can also take place on the inner levels. Also, that something that happens in a small way in a magic ritual can have an impact on a large thing like a planet.

This is one reason that symbols are so important in magic. In occultism, you will hear of taking something that is symbolic of a person or a desire and using it in a ritual to help or harm them. For example, the classic voodoo dolls were made as a symbol of the person who was meant to be harmed. By harming the doll, you were making a correspondence to the real person and hurting them. The same principle however can be used in healing and other more benign states of magic.


Everything is in motion, even the most inert thing. All that we see around us is simply an interpretation of our mind of many different vibrations colliding to form images.


If everything is one thing then this law must be wrong. However the universe is a little more complex than that. It was created using the principle of polarity. In other words, we see everything in terms of opposites, light and dark, male and female, hot and cold, etc. All these dualities are brought together by the unity of what the Buddhists call the middle way. When I say that everything ‘appears’ to be dualistic, I mean that in reality it is not. It just behaves as if it were, and using this law we can also effect change. For example, hate can be neutralised by love.


The principle of vibration tells you that everything is moving. The principle of Duality says that everything is divided into two. The Principle of Rhythm says that everything moves between these poles like a pendulum. If you can tell which way the pendulum is moving, you can catch its energy and move with it. Alternatively it is possible to tell where the pendulum is swinging and work at building the opposite force to find balance. For example, in a time of extremes change, it is best to be conservative.


God does not play dice, everything happens according to rules and a sequence of events that have gone before. If something appears random in the small picture, it is because of a bigger pattern that has not been revealed yet.

When we take these ideas and apply them, we then start to get a proper understanding about how occultism works.


Nick Farrell has been studying occultism since he was 17. He has been an initiate of several magical schools including the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Servants of the Light, Builders of the Adytum, the Order of the Table Round, and Pharos. He has worked with some of the leading magicians in New Zealand, Great Britain and America. He is married and lives in Bulgaria where he writes and edits books. He also runs workshops on ceremonial magic all over the world. His first book Making Talismans, published by Llewellyn in 2001, was translated into five languages. This was followed by Magical Pathworking. When not concentrating on magic, he is a freelance writer on a wide range of subjects for computing magazines in the UK and on the Internet. He runs his own computing news and press relations company. His hobbies include ancient and medieval military history, wargaming, travelling and spending time in cyberspace.