The Dictionary of Traditional Magick and Etherical Science #22

The Dictionary of Traditional Magick and Etherical Science #22


A column by Gerald del Campo, The Dictionary of Traditional Magic and Etherical Science features ten author-selected definitions per issue. The definitions included in Mr. del Campo’s Dictionary do not necessarily reflect the views of the administrators or other contributors of this magazine.

Adam Kadmon

(Qabalah) The primordial Atziluthic Man. A predecessor to the Adam of Genesis. He is the first of four likenesses of God to manifest. Adam Kadmon possesses everything that is needed to achieve divine reflection. He is the observer and the observed and possesses a will, intellect, emotion, and capacity for action. He represents the fifth and highest World, providing the makings for the lower four.


(Philosophy) A branch of philosophy that concerns itself with beauty and art. Some of the central questions in aesthetics include: What is art? What sorts of things possess aesthetic significance? Is the aesthetic experience rational or emotional? What is the relationship between an artist, his work and his critics?


(Logic) Opposite of necessary. Something is contingent if the outcome could have been different. A contingent truth is a proposition which, though true, might have been false, e.g., Gerald rides a motorcycle.


(Alchemy) The Eagle represents the element of air and alchemical volatilization. When an eagle is shown devouring a lion, this indicates volatilization of a fixed component by a volatile component.

Golden Dawn

(Magical Order) Originally founded in England in 1887 by S. L. Macgregor Mathers, Wynn Westcott, and William Woodman, the Golden Dawn is the most influential magical order of our time. When the order broke up in 1903, many of the students tried to keep the tradition alive, working its Hermetic, Qabalistic magick within their own orders. In fact, the Golden Dawn has influenced just about every existing magical organization today and is widely known thanks to the work of Aleister Crowley, Israel Regardie, Dion Fortune, and others.


(Alchemy) The result of the union between Aphrodite and Hermes: Hermaphroditus. In alchemy, a human possessing both male and female qualities, which represents Sulfur and Mercury after their conjunction. Another symbol for the union of opposites.


An unproved explanation.


(Alchemy) A term to describe the leftover scum, froth, or ashes of a metallic operation.

Mahaseh Bereshith

(Qabalah) Hebrew Literally, the Work of Creation. The act of employing Qabalistic theory and Hebrew letters with magick to emulate the act of creation as it appears encoded in the book of Genesis. According to medieval literature, tangible physical forms can be created from nothingness.

Sephirah, pl. Sephiroth

(Qabalah) Hebrew One of the ten stages of development of manifestation illustrated by the “fruit” on the Tree of Life. The sephiroth are vessels containing divine qualities and powers that are related to the creation of the universe and God Him/Her/Itself.

©2008-2013 Gerald del Campo. Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Gerald del Campo has authored three books on the subject of Thelema: A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed. He is a photographer, musician and CEO for the Order of Thelemic Knights, the first Thelemic charitable organization. You can visit his blog at and his websites at and Gerald formerly served as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.

Magic and Science

November 5, 2010 by  
Filed under magick

Magic and Science

Magic and science have long been strange bedfellows. Their histories are interwoven, much like the histories of magic and religion, although the story is not as widely known. Many magicians have been scientists; many scientists, magicians. At times, the line between the two seems blurred, unless viewed through the scientific lens of today. This rather furtive love affair has continued well into the present day, where magicians will borrow heavily from scientific findings to prove that their magical worldview is scientifically tenable. However, there are two interesting factors in this relationship. First, science rarely borrows from the realms of magic to prove the existence of its worldview. Second, there are very few magicians who are actively engaged in the front lines of science. It seems that most read the popular accounts of science, then begin making connections. Most magicians will claim that they practice magic as a pursuit of knowledge and power, or at least knowledge. Science has proven its effectiveness in both of these areas; we have learned a tremendous amount of information regarding the universe, and science has given us power to control the universe to a large extent. Thus, it would only seem natural that magicians would seize the opportunity to learn about the universe they hope to understand and affect.

In the past, many magicians, whose names have become legendary, were not only interested in science, but pioneers in the field. These figures regarded magic and science as complementary, not adversarial. Their desire was to understand the universe, not play ideological or emotional politics (although, of course, many found themselves engaged in such activities). Thus, magic and science were considered different aspects of a single reality, and as such, both contributed to the knowledge of that reality. Paracelsus is a prime example. As an alchemist, he felt that the true purpose of alchemy was to create medicines that could lead to a better, longer life. He is credited with giving birth to the science of pharmaceuticals. Alchemy itself had named many of the elements that the science of chemistry would later use in its investigation of the universe. John Dee, who is remarkably well known in the occult and magical communities, was engaged in navigation and mathematics, in addition to the more well-known espionage connections. The Neoplatonists of the Renaissance were often involved in science, either through investigation, like Dee, or by patronizing scientists. Aleister Crowley related a lifelong love of science, which he claimed to have “sacrificed to the altar of magick.” Despite this he maintained a keen eye toward scientific advancements, and often touted the worth of science. Plato himself laid the foundations for the integration of science and magic; he proposed that reality is composed of two Worlds, the World of the ideal, perfect Forms, and the World of the imperfect Things. According to Plato, the means whereby one may apprehend the World of Forms is through their “shadows” in the World of Things.

Many people of a magical, or otherwise spiritual or religious bent, decry the exclusive materialism of the new scientific worldview. The fact that many, supposedly due to the scientific worldview, ridicule or marginalize any type of spirituality (with the possible exception of orthodox Christianity) often leads to a distrust of or enmity toward science in general. Thus, magicians seem to find themselves in the position of using the findings of science to “keep up” in the world of ideas. Quantum physics is one such branch of science that has been used extensively in conjunction with magical ideas; psychology is another. However, as we’ve seen, this split between magic and science is not inherent in these two systems of knowledge. What is needed is a wider acceptance of science and magic as two means of observing, categorizing, understanding, and controlling the same reality.

The world as we know it is ripe for such a change. We live in an era where the rate of technological advancements rise exponentially each year, where values either shift daily or become embittered political parties, where the world constantly swings between global prosperity and global economic meltdown, where the very planet that sustains us may be our demise. As far as the sciences are concerned, they are booming. We are witnessing the development of new technologies almost daily, with advancements in computers, biotechnology, and the tantalizing promises of nanotechnology. As literacy and scientific knowledge spreads across the world, more and more young people are taking up the challenge. Likewise, there are perhaps more magicians in the world than ever before. Magicians are able to openly profess their practices and beliefs, and there are entire sections in mainstream bookstores dedicated to “New Age” or “Metaphysical Studies.” A simple web search will yield vast amounts of magical lore, from our ancient predecessors to modern-day practitioners. The number of organizations dedicated to the practice of magic is greater than ever before. Some maintain the old ways, others look to new ways to bring magic to ever greater heights of sophistication. Magic is studied extensively in universities, and more and more academics are beginning to see the value of magic. In this storm of chaos, those with clear eyes can see the seed of potential. Humanity is in a position to redefine our position in the cosmos, and our relation to it, much as happened in the Renaissance period before us.

Whenever two human cultures begin to interact, whether through trade, exploration, or warfare, there is always an exchange of ideas. This exchange is sometimes mutually beneficial, such as those between Spain and China as facilitated by Marco Polo, sometimes destructive to one culture, such as the colonization of North America by the Europeans, and the persecution of the Native Americans. Regardless, an exchange occurs on some level. This exchange often leads to new and more empowering worldviews. With magic and science, we have two cultures, one of magicians, one of scientists. With these come to distinct worldviews. Magicians generally see humanity as a key player in the cosmos, whether its perfection or co-creator, with the universe as a place of mystery and wonder. Scientists generally see man as an unusually intelligent creature, no more a creator in the cosmos than the simplest archaea, and the cosmos as a massive clock with strange, quantum irregularities. If these two cultures, and their attendant worldviews, were to merge, with the trailblazers of science being simultaneously the trailblazers of magic, the resultant worldview could be extraordinary. It would be foolish, however, to expect scientists to initiate this merger. Science, as a worldview, holds sway currently in the West. Thus, it is up to magicians to begin this transformation of human knowledge and perception. If it were to be any other way, then magicians would not deserve that title.

©2010 by Alexander.
Edited by Sheta Kaey

The Dictionary of Traditional Magick and Etherical Science #20

The Dictionary of Traditional Magick and Etherical Science #20


A column by Gerald del Campo, The Dictionary of Traditional Magic and Etherical Science features ten author-selected definitions per issue. The definitions included in Mr. del Campo’s Dictionary do not necessarily reflect the views of the administrators or other contributors of this magazine.


(Alchemy) In alchemy, the top part of a still. Often used to refer to a complete still. An instrument used for distillation.


(Gnostic) The “first begetter”. A Greek reference to Yaldabaoth.


(Ecclesiastic) A member of a religious order choosing to dwell within a convent, monastery or a community, as opposed to a hermit, who lives in solitude.


(Magick, Religion) Literally, “calling out.” Evocation is the application of magick to cause the physical or astral guise of a spirit to appear. See Invocation.


(Alchemy) A process of separation, in which material is passed through a sieve or screen designed to allow only pieces of a certain size to pass through. In alchemy, the procedure is illustrated by the sign of Sagittarius.


(Yoga) Sanskrit The Gunas are the three basic principles in Ayurvedic medicine that represent the process through which the subtle becomes gross. They are defined as consciousness or essense (sattva), activity (rajas), and inactivity (tamas). These principles also correspond with the alchemic principles of Mercury, Sulfur and Salt.

Psychological Egoism

(Philosophy) The doctrine that a person actually pursues nothing but his own interests. Note carefully how it differs from Ethical Egoism.


(Philosophy) The doctrine that genuine knowledge is not established by sense-experience, or at least not by sense-experience alone, and so is wholly or at least to a significant extent A Priori. Contrast Empiricism.


(Alchemy, magick, general usage) One of the most stable geometric designs. In alchemy, the triangle represents the three alchemical principles: Mercury, Sulfur and Salt. In magick, demons are invoked into a triangle.


(Alchemy) One of a class of fabled female water spirits. They have the advantage of receiving a human soul by intermarrying with a mortal.

©2010 by Gerald del Campo.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Gerald del Campo has authored three books on the subject of Thelema: A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed. He is a photographer, musician and CEO for the Order of Thelemic Knights, the first Thelemic charitable organization. You can visit his blog at and his websites at and Gerald formerly served as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.

Ghosts and Glamers: What Hauntings Teach About Human Identity

December 15, 2009 by  
Filed under invocation and spirit work, magick, mysticism, theory

Ghosts and Glamers: What  Hauntings Teach About Human Identity

As human beings, we necessarily craft metaphysical paradigms which explain our perceptions and direct our actions. Whether we believe in Providence or in Lady Fortune determines whether we acknowledge some propitious turn of events as divine blessing or else merely good luck. Whether we believe in the inherent dignity of human life crucially affects how we approach questions of personal and societal ethics, as does the manner in which we interpret ambiguous terms like “dignity” and “human life.” Inextricably embedded within every bare perception lies the question of interpretation, and our interpretations have for their bedrock our philosophical and magical paradigms.

Oftentimes, human beings simultaneously harbor two or more paradigms which — considered reflectively — prove mutually repugnant. This confused state of affairs can preserve human life and society, as the extreme conclusions of any one paradigm are tempered by rival belief systems, yet such ideological inconsistency can also inflict significant levels of cognitive dissonance and psychological stress upon those who straddle opposing viewpoints over prolonged durations. The Chaos Magicians within our midst might well regard the ability to dance across multiple paradigms as virtue rather than liability, at least when the pragmatic incorporation of any and all viewpoints occurs consciously and reflectively.

Speaking for myself, I am not so sanguine about the postmodern approach which Chaos Magic takes towards reality — I believe against all odds there is an intelligible cosmos which admits human apprehension! — although I think there are lessons to be learned from an introspective consideration of the paradigm or paradigms to which one holds. In this essay, I wish to examine some common interpretations of that most ubiquitous of paranormal phenomena, the ghostly haunting, and specifically what these explanations suggest about the underlying magical paradigms. My aim here does not encompass the proving or disproving of any particular phenomena. I will not explain what ghosts are, or how such ephemeral beings might interact with the realms of the quick, at least in any definitive or authoritative sense. Rather, I wish to think about how we think about ghosts, and then examine what these thought processes say about us. (To any Zen Buddhists out there, you may fairly assume I am traveling in the opposite direction; in fairness, I am doing so reflectively, and since space-time is essentially curved we might safely assume given enough time we shall meet upon the other side.)

The original impetus for this essay began with idle musings around Samhain, when the Mists which apparently divide the material and the astral grow especially thin. While reflecting upon the nature of ghosts, I found myself face to face with a logical conundrum. There are basically two schools of thought concerning the origin of an active, apparently self-aware haunting. The simplest interpretation, by and by, says the haunting wherein the ghost interacts both with environmental changes and with living people represents the human soul of the deceased, still present in some meaningful sense within our pre-afterlife world. When people die, goes this theory, some people get “stuck” — most frequently due to exceptional life circumstances — and cannot move beyond their earthly existence. (Strictly speaking, this explanation does not require belief in some specific afterlife, or even belief in any afterlife, although one seldom holds the belief in ghosts without some concurrent belief in the afterlife.)

There exists a competing explanation for the existence and nature of ghosts, one fairly well documented in the contemporary occult community. By this reasoning, a ghost isn’t the same being as the deceased individual; rather, the deceased leaves behind a mental and emotional imprint which a sympathetic nonhuman spirit then animates. I presume we’re all familiar with this phenomenon on smaller scales; if you’ve ever walked into a room and felt some inexplicable “vibe” — whether good or bad — then you’re at least familiar with the sort of psychic residue I’m describing. Spirits tend to manifest where this psychic imprint aligns with their own natures and aims. When the deceased leaves behind some especially potent psychic imprint, or when such an imprint is fueled by the emotional charge of those who mourn the loss, then the Mists grow very thin indeed for those spirits in tune with the mental and emotional state of the deceased. The result? A “ghost” which manifests through the psychic imprint surrounding certain deaths.

This latter theory accords better with my personal sense of things, and especially my belief in reincarnation. (I should also add my definition of sympathetic spirits does not generally include what certain strands of Judeo-Christian thought would regard as demons. While I remain skeptical the ghostly presence watching over little Sally really is Grandpa, I’m reasonably certain the manifestation in question isn’t some machination of Satan. That’s not to say there aren’t dangerous ghosts out there. There are dangerous people across the world, and dangerous people leave behind dangerous imprints, which dangerous spirits then inhabit. Nevertheless, I stand by my conviction most spirits are like most people — basically good at heart, sometimes selfish, essentially looking for love.)

This belief in the “ghost” as spirit-animated imprint points towards the thorny problem of personal identity. If the nonhuman spirit animating the psychic imprint does so self-consciously, then there is little issue here; at this point, the “ghost” becomes the Trickster — epitomized by The Magician within the Tarot — although mayhap one who operates with benevolent ends in mind. Some variations of this theory take one additional step, suggesting the animating spirit may inhabit the psychic imprint so completely the spirit forgets its own identity as an independent being.

Now the issue of personal identity begins to take shape. I inquire of myself, as student of the occult: Who am I? Everyday I wear masks, glamers which I adopt and discard as my circumstances require. Here I am child, and there I am lover. Here I am teacher, and there I am student. These masks develop and evolve as I develop and evolve, although we might push too far, were we to identify me as the mere sum of such mutable projections. I am process, perhaps — a ripple of interconnected events and perceptions fanning out across space-time. And yet what are these events? My intellectual processes? My emotional responses? These are certainly the ephemeral things which leave my mark upon the psychic fabric of the universe, and were some spirit to inhabit my energy signature, the workings of my mind and my heart would be the medium through which such manifestations might happen. The warmth I bring to this room, wherein I gathered many times with family and friends — this emotional energy proves the gateway for spirits of warmth and benevolence. The wrath I displayed in another place — such anguish and terror becomes the gateway for much more malevolent spirits. The kindnesses and cruelties we bring into the physical world inevitably set the stage for the spirits who might follow afterward.

If the nonhuman spirits animating such energetic signatures merely echoed the ambient emotions, then we might have little cause to worry about personal identity; we constantly return the smiles and the scowls of those around us, all without losing any meaningful sense of who we ourselves are. Meaningful empathy towards, and interaction with, those around us normally doesn’t compromise our sense of personal identity, and we have no reason to believe spirits should materially differ from us in this regard. And yet ghosts do more than merely resonate with the ambient psychic energy; they actively mimic certain mannerisms and idiosyncrasies of the living. The question then arises: How deep does the psychic imprint run, and how much could the animating spirit really lose itself within the impression?

If some living human being lost all memory of her own identity, and moreover fully believed herself to be some other individual, we would consider her at the very least deeply delusional. If I develop amnesia, and then believe myself to be Bill Clinton, I would be regarded as lunatic, and mayhap rightfully so. The mere belief — even when passionately held — that I am someone else does not make this belief true in any meaningful sense. And yet what if the psychic imprint which the spirit accesses runs deeper? If I had all the memories, together with the intellectual and emotional responses of Bill Clinton down into the most minute of details, then might I in some meaningful sense be the former United States president? Returning to my own (non-presidential) identity, if my own memories and psychic processes could be uploaded into some simulacrum, would this simulacrum then be me? These are the questions of science fiction, of course, although actual hauntings challenge us philosophically precisely because they represent the possibility of such transference. If the imprint runs deep enough, and if we are equal to our mental and emotional activity, then how can we genuinely separate the nonhuman spirit from the deceased individual? The very hypothesis may fall to its own definitional vagaries.

There is one possible solution, although this approach suffers from its own difficulties. We might choose to define ourselves as something apart from the things which leave our mark upon the psychic backdrop. Mayhap we are something other than our mental and emotional activity. Together with the mind and the heart, we are flesh and we are soul. These latter two constitute our own animating force, the means and the will by which we translate the desires of mind and heart into action. For ghosts, the normal definition of flesh in inapplicable, although such beings generally possess the ability to impose at least limited alterations upon their environments, whether through fluctuations in temperature and electromagnetic fields, or through full-blown telekinetic or ectoplasmic phenomena.

Very few people who believe in ghosts would suggest personal identity remains strictly tied with the physical corpus, since ghosts by their very existence challenge this notion, and yet methinks we hold very solid philosophical grounds to challenge an enduring connection between personal identity and the physical manifestation, since this physical manifestation is liable to constant flux, constantly absorbing and expelling elements without any actual destruction of the underlying identity. We might say the same thing of the mind and the heart, and yet there exists this at least intuitive difference: While the complete transference of the mind and heart into another vessel might stretch our sense of personal identity, we would intuitively recognize the simulacrum receiving the psychic imprint as the original individual, whereas changes to the mind and heart strike into the very core of who we are.

There remains under consideration the personal spark of will, sometimes termed the soul. I remain uncertain whether we can meaningfully separate the will from the remaining aspects of human identity, yet making the endeavor in the abstract, we discover something very much like the physical corpus — an animating force which translates mental and emotional desires into meaningful action across our shared world. We constantly “breathe” the ambient psychic energy; much like the flesh, we observe elements enter into the will, and we observe other elements depart. I am reluctant to give some primacy to our mental and emotional aspects, and yet these seem to define us in ways more enduring than the constant flux of energies which mark the flesh and soul. And again, if the psychic imprint runs deep enough — if this imprint contains something enduring about ourselves, then does our identity change with the animating force? And if we answer this question in the negative, then does our hypothesis merely confirm the ghost is — in some meaningful sense — one and the same with the deceased?

Within this especial moment, I cannot answer these questions. I most certainly cannot unlock such conundrums for you, my dearest readers who have patiently endured unto the end. You may harbor a magical paradigm in which such questions are meaningless. Or the nature of ghosts may raise different questions within your own unique paradigm. I hope my personal reflections here encourage you to reflect upon your beliefs and your paradigms, in order to tease out what naturally follows from the assumptions you might make about your world. As always, I welcome your thoughts upon this most mysterious of subjects.

Blessed Be!

©2009 by Grey Glamer.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.

The Study of Magic – Plato, Meet Frazer

The Study of Magic - Plato, Meet Frazer

In my last column, I suggested that the western magical tradition can be seen as a response to Plato’s theory of Ideas. If we imagine that magic interacts with a world of more primary forms than our physical senses can detect, we are Neoplatonic. If we argue the opposite, that there is no such Ideal world, we are Aristotelian and, usually, materialists who do not do magic at all. However, even if we are Chaos Mages who suggest that magic is mostly a matter of internal belief, and that there is no world of Ideas external the mind of individual magicians, we’re still responding to Plato.

If Plato is right, and there is an essential world of Ideas, for magic to be real would mean that it must appeal to that essential world. If such an essential world exists, its essential truths must be universal. Perhaps the shape of those truths would be different, but any culture of any time that perceives that truth, will perceive the same.

For example, every culture that looks into the geometry of a circle will discover that the diameter of the circle encircles the circumference of the circle 3.14 times. If they have sufficient mathematical sophistication, they will even recognize that this number is irrational and continues an infinite number of nonrepeating digits after the decimal point. It doesn’t matter if we call this number pi, or Liu Hui’s constant, or the Archimedes Constant. It remains true, regardless of our ideas about it. We cannot legislate pi.

Even though we cannot know pi in its totality, we do not propose that there is not, for example, a ten billionth digit of pi. In fact, we know there is, and we know that it is one of ten numerals, although we may not know which one. And since there is no perfect circle in the physical world, we also know that it does not rely on any physical object whatsoever to calculate.

Similarly, if magic is real and we believe in the Platonic ideal, then we know that there should be some things about magic that are essential, and some that are incidental or contingent. Those contingent things will change, from society to society or even from practitioner to practitioner. But the essential things, for real magic, for magic that works, will remain the same. Of course, some people may do magic that doesn’t work, just as someone might try to calculate the area of a large circle using the approximation that pi = 3, and find themselves receiving an incorrect answer. At the same time, we cannot suggest that the essentials of magic boil down to a popularity contest. If a million people think that pi = 3, they will be wrong, no matter how persuasive they are. It doesn’t matter how many votes it gets: pi is not a popularity contest.

Yet we can say, with some certainty, that diverse cultural practices operating on the same principles may be pointing to an underlying essential truth to magic. Of course, they could also point, as a skeptic would argue, to an underlying flaw in the capabilities of human reason.

For my purpose I am content to point out a few of the similarities across cultures as possible pointers toward an essential truth about magic. I am not pretending to be exhaustive, and certainly there is room for argument.

Fortunately, my work is done for me by Sir James George Frazer, whose The Golden Bough (1922) was one of the most influential books of the twentieth century. Frazer pointed out several similarities between the magical practices of diverse peoples. He did not suggest, as I do, that these may point to some underlying truth about magic, but he did suppose that it represented an underlying structure of culture.

Frazer identifies two principles of the practice of sympathetic magic: the law of similarity and the law of contagion. The law of similarity says that any two items that appear the same are, in some sense, the same. This recalls Iamblichus’s practice of using symbols of divine forces to direct those forces. A hawk is Horus, because the two are similar. Similarly, gold is the sun, because they partake of similar signatures. In non-western magic, we see the same thing: a plant with a human-shaped root might stand for a person, or a mantra might be regarded as the God it invokes. Contagion suggests that any two objects in contact remain in contact. We see this practice in the Christian mass: the bread that Jesus broke is still in contact with all other bread, which is itself in contact with the flesh of Christ, and therefore is the flesh of Christ. In nonwestern practices, it’s common enough to require hair or other leavings of someone for or against whom one wishes to work magic. Frazer regards both of these ways of thinking as “mistakes,” of course, but really they represent the very basis of fundamental symbolic thought.

Symbolic thought is that ability of abstraction that allows us to say “this word ‘water’ represents this substance.” Moreover, it allows us to say “this substance in this cup is the same as the substance in the ocean; I can abstract them with the same symbol.” We find, then, that one of the roots of magical practice, the world over, is symbolic thought. Magic cannot work unless the world is abstracted into ideas.

It’s worth noting that it is the process of abstraction, not the result of the abstraction, that matters. In other words, it doesn’t matter what collection of sounds you choose to use to represent the concept of water: “water” or “agua” or “mayim.” What matters is that you do the abstraction and that you share that abstraction with others. Of course, if you say “mayim” and no one around you speaks Hebrew, you’ll be in trouble. But “agua” isn’t an inherently better word than “mayim.”

Looking back, I find it interesting that I ended up using language as my metaphor. Of course, it makes sense: what are words but symbols? And what are symbols for, if not to communicate? The importance of communication brings me to the next universal of magic: magic operates on the principle that we are communicating with something or someone outside of our physical perception. Ancient Greeks threw tablets down wells to communicate with the chthonic gods, while medieval European magicians conjured angels. Yoruba magicians make offerings to gods. Tantrikas invoke protector deities. Even our etymologies betray the magical importance of communication: evoke and invoke both contain the root “vocare,” meaning “to call,” and “enchant” means “to sing into.”

We also, in looking at magical practices the world over, find the notion of separation nearly everywhere. The Shaman is separated from society, the medieval wizard draws a circle, and the “hedgewitch” lives on the border (the hedge) of the village. This separation amounts to a cutting off not just of society but of the physical world; there is a turning inward which is in its final analysis a turning outward into the world of ideas, a mental world no less real than the physical. Physical objects are merely means to that end, symbols that are meant to stir something in the mind.

Few magical practices fail to emphasize the importance of mental preparation. Even medieval magic focused on mental preparation, although the grimoires we have seem more concerned with the proper furniture and clothes in the temple. If one looks farther, at the works of — for example — Giordano Bruno, one quickly finds that there’s an emphasis on mental training. That mental training is not simply trance work, either, although that is certainly present. There’s also training of memory and philosophical training.

It’s easy to imagine that our culture’s practices are, in essence, absolute. But obviously we must have some ways of thinking of things that are curtains on the window, and not the light itself. We must have decorative notions that are not essential to magic. It’s worth while, in looking at the commonalities, to look at what is not common to all cultures as well.

The first thing that sticks out for me is “energy.” Few cultures recognize the concept of energy as essential to magic. Certainly, Chinese magic has qi and Polynesian magic has mana, but neither of these are energy. Qi literlly means “breath,” and could probably better be translated “life force.” Force is not a synonym of energy, as any basic physics student could tell you. Similarly, mana means something a lot more like “embodied authority” than “energy.” And if you doubt that our ancient predecessors lacked a term for energy, do try to translate the term into Latin. You may find yourself stymied: the closest similarities to the word in even its mundane sense fall short of what we mean by it. The ancients did not have the concept of energy divorced from work or power (which are, again, distinct concepts).

So why do so many magicians in modern America talk about “magical energy?” It’s not ignorance and it’s not laziness. Just as the word “agua” means “water” in Spanish, the word “energy” represents, in a magical context, one of the essential characteristics of magic. It’s not some mystical energy that any physicist will ever discover in any lab, be her instruments ever so advanced. But “energy” in western magic fulfills a simple role, easy to determine if you read this signifier in context. Every time a book on magic mentions “energy,” it hastens to point out that this energy responds to intention. It’s not like electricity, or light, or heat, or kinetic energy, or anything else, because unlike those kinds of real literal energies, it pays attention to what we want. In fact, it represents a quality essential to magic: willful action.

Magic, always and everywhere, is not an accident; it is a willful action. Of course, there are accidental powers that we would classify as magical, and seem to share some similarities. For example, in Timor some people believe in a malignant power which comes out of an unsuspecting woman and does harm to the community. And of course there are spirits or other entities who might act according to their own wills. But, like fire, while it may get out of hand and do damage, magic is a technology that we use, like all technologies, deliberately.

Energy is a symbol of that intentionality. Other cultures provide other symbols. Ainu shamans sit under cold waterfalls, for example, as a sign of their willingness to suffer to heal others and speak for the dead. And we can see that mana and qi are, then, similar to the symbol of energy in that they represent, in culturally specific and different ways, the intentionality of magic.

Obviously, there may be more essential shared characteristics; it would take a book to examine them all. But we can sum it up in a simple definition: magic is an intentional and symbolic act of communication with a nonphysical reality.

If magic were only the wishful thinking of deluded people, we would not expect it to share any similarities across culture. And we can expect the trappings to differ, as long as the essence remains the same, just as we can expect the name of “pi” to change from culture to culture, while its value remains the same. At the same time, one could argue that magic is delusion, but that delusion has some essential quality, and so shares similarities from culture to culture. This possibility, while perhaps appealing to skeptics, would be hardly any less amazing than magic itself. Both possibilities point toward some essential quality of the human mind, or perhaps of consciousness itself.

©2009 by Patrick Dunn.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Patrick Dunn has written two books on the occult, Postmodern Magic: The Art of Magic in the Information Age and Magic Power Language Symbol: A Magician’s Exploration of Linguistics. He lives near Chicago, where he teaches and writes. You can find his blog here.

The Dictionary of Traditional Magick and Etherical Science #19

The Dictionary of Traditional Magick and Etherical Science #19


A column by Gerald del Campo, The Dictionary of Traditional Magic and Etherical Science features ten author-selected definitions per issue. The definitions included in Mr. del Campo’s Dictionary do not necessarily reflect the views of the administrators or other contributors of this magazine.

Akashic Record

(Yoga, Theosophy) A term invented and popularized by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. The idea is that the Akasha is a thought substance which can be imprinted by experience, making it possible to retrieve otherwise inaccessible information from the past, such as a person’s past life. This is remarkably close idea to the concept of Jung’s Universal Unconscious and may in fact be a reference to the same phenomena.


(Gnostic) Literally, “Unreason.” The act of misusing thought.


(Alchemy) A naked child symbolizes the perfect intelligence, the innocent soul. In alchemy and in magical tomes, the child represents the Union of Opposites. A crowned child or child clothed in purple robes signifies Salt or the Philosopher’s Stone.

Descriptive Meaning

(Philosophy) A statements or declaration whose meaning is shown in terms of reporting or describing actual or possible facts have descriptive meaning. Compare to Emotive Meaning.


(Alchemy) The egg represents the hermetically sealed vessel of creation. In alchemy, corked retorts, coffins, and sepulchers represent the same principles.


(Alchemy) The most perfect of all the metals, gold in ages past represented the perfection of all matter on any level, including that of the mind, spirit, and soul. The Sun is often used to hint to gold.


(Qabalah) Hebrew Master or teacher. Synonymous with the Holy Guardian Angel, Higher Self, etc.


(Alchemy, Roman mythology) The smallest of the inner planets and the one nearest the sun. The Roman god of pranks, thievery and commerce, which says something of how Romans conducted their business affairs. Called Hermes by the Greeks, Mercury is the messenger for the other gods, as well as being the god of science and travel, and patron saint of athletes. He is typically represented as a young man wearing a winged helmet and sandals and holding a caduceus. Mercury is also a heavy, metallic silver poisonous element that is liquid at room temperature. Often used in scientific instruments. Also called also quicksilver, alchemists acquired it by roasting cinnabar (mercury sulfide). The mercury would sweat out of the rocks and drip down where it could be collected. When mixed with other metals, liquid mercury has a tendency to bond with them and develop amalgams. These properties seemed to make mercury the master of duality in solid and liquid states; earth and heaven; life and death, and the Above and Below.

Philosophy of Science

(Philosophy) The branch of philosophy which scrutinizes the nature and results of scientific inquiry. Central questions include: Do scientist describe reality or just appearances? Can we have good reason to believe in the existence of unobservable entities (e.g. quarks)? What happens when one scientific theory replaces an older theory?

Ruach ha Kodesh

(Qabalah) Hebrew The child of the Supernals, she is the unmanifested essence that lingers like a curtain beneath her parents. Marked on the Tree of Life by the illusive, non-Sephirah Daath, or Knowledge. It is a portal through which the Absolute may enter to intervene directly with existence. Mystic Christians think of Daath as The Holy Spirit.

©2009 by Gerald del Campo.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Gerald del Campo has authored three books on the subject of Thelema: A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed. He is a photographer, musician and CEO for the Order of Thelemic Knights, the first Thelemic charitable organization. You can visit his blog at and his websites at and Gerald formerly served as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.

Veiled Issues – Does Materialism Threaten Paganism?

Veiled Issues - Does Materialism Threaten Paganism?

Veiled Issues

Before I begin my critique of Mr. Tyson’s essay concerning the threat posed by atheism, which appeared in last season’s issue of Rending the Veil, I should like to convey I have nothing but the utmost respect and gratitude for Mr. Tyson’s contributions to the occult community. The author’s Portable Magic has been an especial mainstay throughout my work with elemental evocations over the past year. Moreover, I do not intend for my essay to be an outright refutation of Tyson’s position, though I do call for greater clarity upon certain points which Tyson makes; I humbly suggest the modification of others. And I thank Mr. Tyson for initiating what I hope might prove a most fruitful discussion here on Rending the Veil and throughout the occult community.

With all this said, we should first make one key distinction of terminology which is crucial to understanding my position: What Mr. Tyson calls “atheism” throughout his essay, I term “scientific materialism” throughout mine. Narrowly defined, atheism denotes merely a disbelief in any deity or deities, whereas Mr. Tyson broadens the term to include a denial of the existence of “angels [and] devils, [and all] paranormal abilities.” I agree with Mr. Tyson there is an intellectual current which denies all these things, yet I believe this broad denial of what cannot be seen, felt, and measured more properly falls under the broader umbrella of scientific materialism, which says all things are material, and that which is incorporeal is essentially unreal. The most extreme variations of this position rather absurdly suggest since our conscious experience is essentially subjective in nature, then consciousness itself must be unreal. This sort of radical skepticism I will term scientific materialism throughout this essay.

Additionally, there exists a not inconsequential subset of occult practitioners who would probably self-identify as atheists. LaVeyan Satanists and related schools of thought spring to mind here, although I should think many schools of magical thought could jettison, more or less comfortably, the belief in deities without thereby losing the belief in magic. Such atheism neither questions nor condemns the efficacy of magic, though its magical paradigms circumvent the very gods which theological Paganism would doubtless incorporate. Regarding the existence — if not the nature — of magic, we Pagans have little quarrel with our atheist sisters and brothers across the occult community.

With our terms thus more narrowly defined, we must consider the ways by which one intellectual current can threaten another, and herein we discover a second distinction necessary for the discussion at hand. First, one current can threaten another by the sword or by the purse, cutting off or burying the physical means by which we express or communicate some especial belief. In its least subtle guise, this sort of intolerance tears down the temples of the rival belief, and puts anyone espousing the old beliefs to torture, and often to the gallows. Witness the vicious fanaticism of the Christian Inquisition of yesteryear, or today the repressive regime once (and still) imposed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The more subtle approach pours money into political advertisements and lobbying, attempting to bury the opposing viewpoint through public opinion, which in democracy often translates into legal proscriptions. (Prop Eight, I’m looking at you!) Adopting for one moment the information paradigm championed by Patrick Dunn, one might say the belief which threatens does so by flooding the channel of the opposing belief with the noise of fear and distractions. If you can make the rival paradigm physically, legally, and financially difficult enough to follow, reasons this line of attack, you can choke another belief to death.

Now the good news: Across the contemporary Western world, this strategy usually fails, sometimes backfires, and every now and again backfires spectacularly. Genuine democracy contains within itself a belief in the free marketplace of ideas. Given enough time and reflection, people will come to embrace “good” ideas and reject “bad” ones. Critically, we might observe there is disagreement even upon the heading of what constitutes good and bad; here I can only reply that I am an optimist about human nature, and deep down I believe there is something life-affirming in all beings. Now I would rather be an optimist and right than a pessimist and wrong, and yet whether I am right or wrong, there remains the widespread belief in the free marketplace of ideas, recognized in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and elsewhere. This principle protects beliefs, even and especially crazy beliefs, from the sword. Given enough time and good will, life-affirming ideas can overcome the purse.

Barring some unforeseen and catastrophic political revolution, scientific materialism cannot wield the sword. There are no lions awaiting the Christians, and no burning pyres for we who call ourselves Pagan. The very modern developments which enabled the rise of materialism depend upon the free marketplace of ideas, and materialism knows this. More cynically, scientific materialism might simply find the purse more efficacious (or at least less messy) than the sword, since the sword tends to generate martyrs and saints among those who resist. Saturate the airwaves, and one can convince many — though crucially not all — to regard the Witch and the Magician with derision. Pour enough money and technology into the pipeline, and one can theoretically drown out the voices of theism and magic. (Funny aside: I was reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods when Mr. Tyson’s essay came out; I would highly recommend Mr. Gaiman’s novel for those interested in the clash between Paganism and materialism!) Fortunately for the occultist, contemporary technology as likely as not enables the spread of magical beliefs; the very presence of Mr. Tyson’s essay and my own upon this website is itself evidence for this!

Mr. Tyson’s argument falls squarely against the militant variety of scientific materialism, something which doubtless exists throughout the intellectual world, yet here I would argue the real quarrel is with militancy itself, and not with scientific materialism. Militancy is the cancer which threatens with the sword and suffocates with the purse, whether that militancy embraces Christian fundamentalism, Islamist extremism, or even radical materialism. The existential danger to Pagan belief comes not from the content of an intolerant belief system, which can take many forms, but rather from the intolerance of the world view itself, which really comes in only two forms, the sword and the purse.

There are actually two means by which scientific materialism might threaten the existence of occult thought generally and Paganism specifically; the second occurs within the hearts and minds of individual occultists. Superficially, this line of attack can resemble the coercive approach of the sword or the persuasive tactics of the purse, yet the difference here is plain: Whereas the sword and the purse threaten existentially and from without, the explanation — the essential option — proposed by scientific materialism threatens essentially and from within. Nevertheless, there is little new found within this line of attack, though perhaps the argument has gained a certain coherence across the contemporary period. The choice remains the same: To believe or to disbelieve. Doubt is no option here, though doubt exercises profound influence over how we choose and apply one explanation over another. Every moment in time, we stand at the crossroads anew, confronted with sensory data which we can neither confirm nor explain with absolute certainty. There arises the choice: How will we explain our world upon this especial moment? We can choose to explain our world as one capable of magic, or as one completely devoid of paranormal influence. We can choose to believe, or to disbelieve. One choice may be more consistent with the law of parsimony — that is, require less leaps of logic — yet the inescapable choice remains. Always and across every moment — and regardless of our external circumstances — we must choose how we will explain the world which we observe.

Mr. Tyson frames the choice of belief as one between Magic and the Void, and I agree with Mr. Tyson’s contention that Paganism and Christianity share certain broad theological propositions, points of common agreement which make these two schools of thought natural allies against an outright disbelief in things which defy scientific measurement. Still, to regard all scientific materialism, much less all atheism, as the enemy of the Old Ways does a grave disservice to both sides. The Void of which Mr. Tyson speaks is something terrible — this much is true — yet this Void contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction, since nihilism offers no essential hope which could sustain those who would believe in disbelief. One might counter that to know the Truth is balm enough, yet the Void is no more (upper case) Truth than any other explanation. The nature of our existence confounds every attempt at certain explanation, including the nihilistic narrative proposed by the scientific materialist. Ever the choice remains.

There exist variations of scientific materialism which reject militancy, schools of secular thought which seek to heal and even to elevate humanity, only without reference to Deities. Do I disagree with their theological starting point? Of course I do, yet as an advocate of religious freedom I acknowledge a common philosophical cause which can serve as the basis for meaningful dialogue. If the Pagan, the Christian, and the secular humanist can all agree upon the need for compassionate and courageous action, then this common ground can defy the divisive and destructive power of militancy. Ultimately, neither the militant materialist nor the benign humanist can remove the essential choices we constantly make, the eternal Crossroads guarded by Hecate: Do we believe?

May the Goddess of Crossroads smile upon you. Blessed Be!

©2009 by Grey Glamer
Edited by Sheta Kaey

The Dictionary of Traditional Magick and Etherical Science #18

The Dictionary of Traditional Magick and Etherical Science #18


A column by Gerald del Campo, The Dictionary of Traditional Magic and Etherical Science features ten author-selected definitions per issue. The definitions included in Mr. del Campo’s Dictionary do not necessarily reflect the views of the administrators or other contributors of this magazine.


(Ecclesiastic) Greek αγαπη Unconditional love. Godly love. The love feast of the primitive Christians, being a meal partaken in connection with the communion. Originally a Hebrew funerary ceremony during which wine and milk were poured into the earth over the grave, and food was passed in to the corpse through a hole in the tomb.


(Gnostic) Literally “ignorance,” or the act of not paying attention.

Book of Gospels

(Ecclesiastic) Or “Black Book.” A book containing all the church’s readings for the year. It can be ceremonially carried into the temple as part of the entrance procession or put in a special place before the celebration begins.


The circle is symbolic of unity, the One Mind of God. According to Saint Augustine and a host of others, God is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere.


(Psychology) Psychic contents of the mind that belongs not to one individual but to a society, a people or the human race in general.

Desert religions

(General religious usage) Typically refers to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Zoroastrianism.


(Logic) A type of fallacy where an ambiguity arises because a term or phrase has been used in two different senses within the one argument. For example: “The state has a food stamp fund designed to meet the needs of the poor. My friend says that I am one of the poorest people he has ever known so I think that I should receive a scholarship.”

Karma yoga

(Yoga) Sanskrit Gives mastery over activity, and leads to the control of powers of action.

Mantra yoga

(Yoga) Sanskrit Gives mastery over sound, and leads to the control of the powers of sound vibrations.


(Ecclesiastic) A vestment worn around the neck to signify that the priest is celebrating one of the Sacraments.

©2009 by Gerald del Campo
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Gerald del Campo is the author of A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed, among other works. You can visit his blog at and his website at Gerald formerly served as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.

The Dictionary of Traditional Magick and Etherical Science #17

The Dictionary of Traditional Magick and Etherical Science #17


A column by Gerald del Campo, The Dictionary of Traditional Magic and Etherical Science features ten author-selected definitions per issue. The definitions included in Mr. del Campo’s Dictionary do not necessarily reflect the views of the administrators or other contributors of this magazine.


(Gnosticism) The state of not having insight or Gnosis. This is the root for the word “agnostic,” also meaning a person who does not have Gnosis.


(Gnosticism) A very confusing concept due to plethora of ways it has been used. It is masculine gender, but is used to stand for Sophia as a woman who is “the first male virgin.” Sophia has hermaphroditic associations. It is the highest or lowest form of Sophia depending on the myth, with Zoe being its countercharge.


(Alchemy) The alchemical Fermentation process in which a waxy substance (the ferment) flows from the putrefied matter. This substance is forerunner of the Stone.


(Religion, magick) Immediate consciousness of the transcendent or ultimate reality or God. A mental exercise designed to still the mind so that it is able to experience the highest and most abstract conception of Godhead. Traditional forms of mysticism can be found in the The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola and the The Spiritual Guide of Miguel Molinos, as well as in many of the writings of Sufism, Yoga, Buddhism, Zen, and Taoism. Unorthodox forms can be found in Gnosticism and the Hermetic Qabalah, etc.

Personal Unconscious

(Psychology) Opposite of Collective Unconscious. It includes forgotten dreams and memories, shocking and unbearable ideas (purposely oppressed), and perceptions not yet accessible for consciousness.


(Yoga) The breath is seen as one of the primary source of life-giving energies or forces of the universe. Similar to the Chinese concept of Chi.


(Psychology) The archetype of personal totality and the governing nucleus of the psyche, and that influence that surpasses the ego.


(Alchemy) To grind or pulverize a solid into a powder with a mortar and pestle.


(Alchemy, Ecclesiastic) A symbol to allude to the process of Fermentation and the spiritualization of matter. In Eucharistic religious ceremonies, wine is symbolic of the Blood of God by virtue of Transubstantiation. See Transubstantiation.


(Qabalah) Hebrew The level of the soul that connects the individual to God. The most ephemeral level of the soul, corresponding to Kether.

Gerald del Campo is the author of A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed, among other works. You can visit his blog at and his website at Gerald serves as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.

©2009 Gerald del Campo
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Gerald del Campo is the author of A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed, among other works. You can visit his blog at and his website at Gerald formerly served as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.

The Dictionary of Traditional Magick and Etherical Science #16

The Dictionary of Traditional Magick and Etherical Science #16


A column by Gerald del Campo, The Dictionary of Traditional Magic and Etherical Science features ten author-selected definitions per issue. The definitions included in Mr. del Campo’s Dictionary do not necessarily reflect the views of the administrators or other contributors of this magazine.


(Alchemy) One of the Four Elements of alchemy believed to carry the archetypal properties of spirit into the visible world. It is linked to the process of Separation and corresponds to the metal Iron.


(Ecclesiastic) A full-length gown with sleeves and collar worn priests, bishops and helpers.


(Qabalah) Hebrew The animal soul that corresponds to animal/ vegetable levels of consciousness. It is said to reside at the level of Yesod and Malkuth. It is mostly corresponds with the automatic bodily functions and ego. Also known as the automatic consciousness. This body does not survive death, as does the Ruach and Neshama. This really upsets people who practice Astral Travel as a way to cheat death, since the Astral Body is a projection of the Nephesh.


(Qabalah) Hebrew Corresponds to the purest aspirations of the soul and the Soul itself and corresponds to Binah on the Tree of Life. It is where the individual Soul merges with the Oneness or God. From this plane we may approach the collective unconscious. The Neschama is composed of three parts: Yechidah, Chiah, and Neschama.


(General religious, Philosophy) Omnipotence is all-powerfulness. Many religions view God as omnipotent. Descartes (and most Gnostics) postulated the possibility of an omnipotent demon who could manipulate our thoughts and deceive us.

Path of Zadek

(Qabalah) Hebrew A reference to the path illustrated by the Temperance tarot card between Yesod and Tiphareth. This path traverses the path of normal consciousness between Netzach and Hod. It is the border line between the ego and the true Self. It is called “the path of the honest man” because it is only accessible to those rare individuals who have liberated themselves of self-deception and psychological slothfulness.


pl. Qliphoth (Qabalah) Hebrew Literally, “shells” or “excrement.” A reference to the remnants of the previous, failed universes. The pieces of these shattered vessels are said to have fallen into Assiah, where Malkuth is now engrossed in them. In their present state, they serve to test and prove worthiness. The Qliphoth project the illusion of duality, making it so that we perceive one another as separate and isolated individuals. Largely due to superstition and a lack of understanding of the purpose of duality, the Qliphoth have been unfairly labeled as evil.


(Qabalah) Hebrew Literally “breath.” It is one of the three parts of the human soul corresponding to personal self-awareness or false self, the emotional self, intellect and ego. It resides within Sephiroth 4 through 9, between Meschamah and Nephesh. The Neschamah seeps into the Ruach, but it is rarely noticed by the ego, which is a shame since the effects of the Neschamah can only observed by the Ruach.

Samadhi Yoga

(Yoga) Gives mastery over the self, and leads to the control of the powers of ecstasy.


(Astrology) An area of the sky (sometimes called a “belt”) divided into twelve parts through which most of the planets appear to move. Each part has a name and symbol, and is connected with an exact time of year. According to Hermes Trismigestus, “As Above, So Below” indicates that the direction of the stars correspond and allude to the course of human evolution.

©2009 Gerald del Campo
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Gerald del Campo is the author of A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed, among other works. You can visit his blog at and his website at Gerald formerly served as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.

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