Differing Models

April 30, 2010 by  
Filed under magick, theory

Differing Models

The diversity of esoteric exercises and rituals fill volumes, the variety systems of magickal practice is known and accepted, and yet that there is more than one way to look at what magick “is” and how it “works” seems overlooked, and the effects are not insignificant.

My magical philosophy was early informed by chaos magick, and when I first read about Frater U∴D∴’s four (or five) models of magick it made a great deal of sense to me, aiding greatly in my understanding of how people who experience the same phenomena can interpret it in such a variety of ways.

Frater U∴D∴ understood these models as a progression in human thinking (see “The Paradigms of Magic” in High Magic, especially p. 373-383), but these models co-exist in magical theory today. The four (plus one) models are as follows:

The Spirit Model

This could also be called “The Theists’ Model.” In this model of magick, gods, angels, demons, spirits and discarnate entities of all types exist and can physically and/or psychically possess, inspire, and communicate with human beings.

The Energy Model

In this model various forms of energy are posited as the source or medium through which magick works. Expressed forms may include Reiki, chi, astrological vibrations, healing energy, magnetism, crystal energy, amongst others.

The Psychological Model

This model can also be misconstrued as a “Skeptic’s Model,” as it adheres to a strictly psychological interpretation of magical effect. That said, this model should not be dismissed as “mere” psychology; psychology is a powerful tool.

In the psychological model, “spirits” might be interpreted as a neurosis of some sort, and any physical manifestations are determined to be psychosomatic in origin, and can be reasoned with therapy.

The Information or Cybernetic Model

The magician here works with pure information. For instance, in the information model a particular “spirit” may be seen a negative meme, or unit of information, which has “infected” its host, and requires replacement with a more effective and useful meme. This is a newer approach, and so has not gathered much of a recorded history of yet, but it is one which is continually gaining in popularity.

The Meta-Model

A magician working from a meta-model may work with a combination of these models, or simply use that which is determined to be most effective for the rite at hand, regardless of what the magician hirself believes.

The Models in Action

Most people work from a variety of models, without realizing the effect the tone of their belief has.

For example, a ceremonial magician may work with Enochian or Goetic systems (spirit), practice pranayama (energy), and seek deeper connection with their current (spirit/energy). An atheistic magician may perform the exact same rites and practices, but acknowledge the root of its effectiveness to be rooted in changing mindsets (psychological) or memetically-derived (information).

The experienced Pagan may believe in a god and goddess pair or an entire pantheon (spirit), while working with meridians and chakras (energy), have an interest in memetics (information), yet believe the monster hir daughter fears under the bed has been fabricated by fears of the unknown (psychological).

The sophisticated chaote, on the other hand, may slip between models as need dictates. For instance, suppose a friend is having a rough time which they interpret as a string of bad luck (energy) and this is affecting their mood, relations with family and work (psychological). A chaote may propose demonizing this bad luck, projecting its effects onto a demon (spiritual), which can then be ritually exorcised with much fanfare.

As Jordan Peterson writes:

We all produce models of what is and what should be, and how we transform one into the other. We change our behaviour, when the consequences of the behaviour are not what we would like. But sometimes mere alteration in behavior is insufficient. We must change not only what we do, but what we think is important. This means reconsideration of the nature of the motivational significance of the present, and reconsideration of the ideal nature of the future. This is a radical, even revolutionary transformation, and it is a very complex process in its realization – but mythic thinking has represented the nature of such change in great and remarkable detail. (Peterson, 1999, p. 14)

The effect of reshaping the belief in “bad luck” to “demonic activity” and banishing the personalized form is an exceedingly effective approach to ridding oneself of this influence. Its success may or may not be due to banishing a demon (spirit), releasing tension (psychological) or ridding oneself of “bad luck” (energy) — however it happens, it works.

The “Truth”

So which one is correct? Well, all of them, kind of.

In his essay “Models of Magic” Frater U∴D∴ describes the following theoretical exchange:

“Are there spirits?”
“In the spirit model, yes.”
“And in the energy model?”
“In the energy model there are subtle energy forms.”
“And what about the psychological model?”
“Well, in the psychological model we are dealing with projections of the subconscious.”
“What happens in the information model, then?”
“In the information model there are information clusters.”
“Yes, but are there spirits now or not?”
“In the spirit model, yes.”

The matter of which is always “true” or “right” is never addressed because, ultimately, it’s not relevant. Use of a single model can be limiting, and even the most hardcore atheists can appeal to the spirit model to help a friend in need.


  • Frater U∴D∴ “Models of Magic,” on SpiralNature.com, 1991. Last updated 14 December 2002.
  • Frater U∴D∴ High Magic. St. Paul: Llewellyn Worldwide, 2005.
  • Peterson, Jordan B. Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief. New York: Routledge, 1999.

©2010 by Psyche.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Psyche is the curator for the occult resource SpiralNature.com, blogs esoteric at Plutonica.net, and runs a tarot consultation business at PsycheTarot.com. She has been published in The Cauldron, Konton, newWitch, Blessed Be, Tarot World Magazine and her essay “Strategic Magick” appeared in Manifesting Prosperity: A Wealth Magic Anthology, published by Megalithica Books in February 2008.

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