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Subject: alt.magick FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
This article was archived around: NNTP-Posting-Sat, 01 Jul 2006 09:55:57 EDT
Posting-frequency: monthly or by inquiry
alt.magick FAQ Part 1. General
What is alt.magick about?
The technical and scholarly discussion of magick and related arts and
sciences. This includes but isn't limited to: alchemy, Kabbalah/Qabalah,
Western ritual magick, Hermetics, renaissance neoplatonism, Eastern
mysticism, Neo-Pagan magick, folk magick, chaos magick, divination,
mythology, and occult and magickal organizations. Methods and schools of
magick vary. The general viewpoint in alt.magick is to try for a
dogma-free approach to magick, which precludes a lot of religious
discussion, although we draw religious and mystical vocabulary in *all*
the time, since we are too short-lived to reinvent all the symbols in the
What is magick, and why do you spell it with a 'k'?
There is no universally agreed-upon definition of magick. One popular
definition is "the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in
conformity with Will" (put forth by Aleister Crowley). Some see it as a
change in external reality, sometimes internal reality (perception or
worldview or consciousness). Magick can also be defined as any of a
variety of life-practices which devote the practitioner to self- and
(thereby) environment- transformation.
Crowley revived the archaic 'ick' spelling that had dropped out of
fashion by the early 1800s. 'K' is the eleventh letter of the English
alphabet. The number eleven has quite a few symbolical imports. Eleven is
the number attributed to the Qlippoth (chaotic, unbalanced forces in the
Qabalah). Eleven represents the union of the microcosm (pentagram - five)
with the macrocosm (hexagram - six). On a Thelemic note, eleven is the
number of words in "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law", the
number of letters in Abrahadabra, and the number attributed to Nuit. 'K'
can also be seen as standing for kteis (vagina - cup), the complement to
the peos (penis - wand), which directly relates to the creative power of
magick and is symbolic of the Great Work. On a more mundane level, the 'k'
helps to distinguish magick from stage magic (prestidigitation).
What are related subjects I can explore?
Any and all of the following might provide some thought provoking
material: mysticism, sorcery, tantra, kundalini, psychology,
parapsychology, chaos theory, quantum physics, OBE, spirit visions, sex
magick, talismans, amulets, charms, potions, ESP, memetics, Satanism, Zen,
Discordianism, channelling, Theosophy.
What are some good sources of online information?
Many websites come and go. The nature of the internet prevents
reliance upon any particular site's indefinite presence. Your best bet is
to use a search engine for keywords such as "magick", "enochian", "pagan",
"golden dawn", "aleister crowley" or any of the terms one finds while
lurking in alt.magick.
You can also check with online bookstores for available books on
subjects you find interesting.
What is alt.magick not about?
This newsgroup is not about specific religions (Pagan, Satanist,
Christian, New Age, whatever). It is not about stage magic. It is not
about the Necronomicon. It is not about conspiracy theories. All of these
topics have their own newsgroups already.
What kind of enquiry is appropriate here?
Specific questions are more likely to receive a positive and helpful
response than general 'teach me magick' type enquiries.
Are there any archives?
Google maintains the most complete archive of alt.magick.
alt.magick FAQ Part 2. For those new to Magick
Is magick real, can anyone prove it?
Usually this question is asked by someone who thinks they already know
what magick is. Once you have made up your mind, it is difficult to unmake
it, so throw out what you think you know and try for a fresh perspective.
There are any number of demonstrations of the intentional manipulation
of reality. Aleister Crowley wrote that all intentional acts are magical
acts. Every act we perform is a mysterious operation by which what we
conceive becomes what happens, to a greater or lesser degree. Now,
usually, when we think of magick we don't think of something so banal as
twiddling our thumbs. We think of somehow affecting the world around us
directly by manipulating symbols, thoughts, and feelings.
So, let's consider the placebo effect. A placebo is a chemically inert
substance which has the power to heal or relieve symptoms entirely because
the recipient believes that it is, in fact, medicine. The placebo effect
can be and has been measured by scientific experiments, beginning with
H.K. Beecher's study, published as "The Powerful Placebo" (1955, JADA
159:1602-1606). Beecher's methods of inducing the placebo effect were
unsophisticated and the researchers got only about a one-in-three positive
response. More recently, The Power of Non-specific Effects in Healing:
Implications for Psychosocial and Biological Treatments. (Roberts, A. H.,
D. G. Kewman, L. Mercier, and M. Hovell. 1993. Clinical Psychology Review
13:375-391), determined that "under conditions of heightened expectations,
the power of non-specific effects (placebos) far exceeds that commonly
reported in the literature." They found that in more than 7000 cases, the
healing power of placebos occurred in almost 70% of them.
The placebo effect is a prime example of how our beliefs and
expectations, unaided by any other physical medium, can affect the way we
feel and the way our bodies act. This is magick, demonstrated
As John Dodes, author of "The Mysterious Placebo" (Skeptical Inquirer
January/February 1997 Vol. 21, No. 1), advises, "Paracelsus (Swiss
alchemist and physician 1493-1541) wrote: 'You must know that the will is
a powerful adjuvant of medicine.' It is imperative that skeptics recognize
the wisdom and warnings inherent in this statement."
To be sure, there are many claims made by people who practice some
form of magick that they can induce psychic powers, open communications
with non-corporeal entities, cause certain events to occur, and so forth.
Some of these claims are clearly specious; others may not be. It is well
to consider such claims as what they are: claims unsupported by
experimental evidence gathered in a careful and scientific manner. It's a
good idea to check things out for yourself, carefully and thoroughly,
before you make a decision on the merits of any particular claim.
Yet, for all of that, it is a fact that magick can and does produce
some real and demonstrable phenomena.
How do I even start to figure out what to say?
Read what other people say and try to learn from the responses they
get. If you want to learn more, and want to use alt.magick as a learning
resource, that's fine. Ask a specific question. If you don't have a
specific question to ask, then go and do some research until you have got
one. Displays of ignorance do not tend to get clamped down on, however
displays of laziness or stupidity do. Also, it is important to remember
that many of us come from differing backgrounds, so please do not assume
that we have terms in common. If people react to your posting, it is very
likely on the grounds of some semantic misunderstanding. Communication is
an unending miracle, which we renew every time we read something on the
net. None of us are perfect at it, so don't worry *too* much, and never
take anything personally if folks react to it (even if they tell you so).
Anyone taking themselves too seriously here is missing the point...
Primary prereq for the group is a broad sense of humor.
Eny ov u doodz got eny kewl spelz?
Al ov uz doodz hav plenti ov kewl spelz. However, why should we share
them with you? If you want to participate in the technical and scholarly
discussion of magick, that's fine. If, however, you simply want magick to
be handed to you on a plate, you're in the wrong place. Anyway, we're all
basically selfish bastards and jealously guard our grimoires.
Seriously, some of us doodz have found that simple repetition of what
others have done before isn't a useful way of achieving one's own goals,
and thus that simply giving someone a spell without engendering at least
that much of an understanding would be a worthless thing to do.
Can someone teach me a love spell?
Most of the regular posters will blankly refuse such a request. The
employment of such a spell (which would by its very nature contravene the
free will of another person) is, by many, considered abhorrent, and anyone
who would need to ask for one is often deemed, by the nature of their
asking, to be too immature and irresponsible to be given one.
Will someone be my teacher?
Most of the regular posters are too busy to take on the role of
personal mentor. However, if you ask a specific question, the chances are
that someone will attempt to answer it. We are all learning from each
What books should I read to get started?
Where can I find a group to help me learn?
Firstly you have to ask why you would want to join a group. Secondly
you have to bear in mind that a group will teach you what the group wishes
to teach you. If you join an established magickal order, it will have its
own agenda which may not necessarily best serve your purposes. If you wish
to join a group simply to have people to talk to, fair enough, go for it,
but try and keep an open mind about everything you are told. Treat the
group as you would one of many textbooks on a subject, something that can
give you knowledge you may accept or reject. As for how to find one, lurk
on alt.magick or similar newsgroups and you'll see adverts for groups
before too long. Most of the regular posters on alt.magick would advise
you to steer clear of them, but you have to walk your own path.
How do I get started?
WORK, don't just READ. Regardless of the magickal tradition you chose
to explore, it is essential that you do something, otherwise you will
simply be studying, not doing magick. Also, be prepared to work at
whatever you start. Magick is not an easy option.
Keep an open mind, but at the beginning do not make anything other
than very tentative conclusions; do not try to ascribe "objective
validity" to any results. Keeping a record is handy. Simple, *consistent*,
and thorough application of whatever techniques your paradigm requires,
over a period of say, six months, should be a very useful grounding.
Regardless of chosen system or tradition, there are certain practises
which will fundamentally improve your ability to do any kind of magickal
#1 Breath control, i.e. rhythmic breathing
#2 Self Hypnosis (any of a thousand published methods)
#3 Committed Daily Practice
These apply to any and all systems.
alt.magick FAQ Part 3. Specific topics
What is the difference between black, white and grey magick?
In one well-respected tradition, the goal of magick can be considered
the union of the magician with the divine, the raising of the human
consciousness unto the higher consciousness. Any operation which is not
ultimately directed towards this goal is black magick. The terms arise
because "white" magick signifies the divine light, and "black" magick
signifies moving away from the divine light, into darkness.
In a more popular sense, black magick is used to describe operations
which are instrinsically selfish (usually involving harm to others). The
analogy is obvious; the above aim is to unite the individual with the
whole, to essentially "destroy" the Self, the feeling of individuality
which separates us from the divine. Thus, "selfish" operations are by
definition in conflict with this goal.
In this sense, "grey" magick can be applied to operations which,
although not directed towards this ultimate goal, are not selfish, and
arise mainly out of ignorance, rather than malice (e.g. operations to heal
Are telepathy and telekinesis magick?
Telepathy, telekinesis, and any number of other so-called "paranormal"
abilities have been advanced by some as being the force which accounts for
some or all of the effects observed by people who do magical operations.
There is little-to-no concrete evidence in support of this. Yet, it would
be an error to say that there is no possibility that such powers may play
a part in any particular event.
The power behind magick is the power behind consciousness. That has
never been adequately explained and perhaps it never will be. To call it a
"paranormal" power is merely to limit the way you look at it by imposing
another level of verbiage on it.
That said, it does all rather depend on your definition of magick. If
magic is causing change in conformity with Will, then picking up a pen and
writing a letter is a magickal act. If that's the case, then one cannot
sensibly exclude the willed act of transmitting a thought as any less
Who was Aleister Crowley?
Aleister Crowley, 1875 - 1947
One of the most influential writers on magick of all time. His
concept of magick entailed "the aim of religion, the method of science".
Was a member of the Golden Dawn, founded the A.'.A.'., and went on to head
the OTO. His goal in life was to establish and promulgate the "Law of
Thelema", embodied in Liber Legis, whose main thrust can be summed up in
the quote from that book, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the
Law". He aimed to sythesise all religions and magickal systems of the
world, and to free the essential internal procedures from the misleading
and varying dogmas to which other systems subject them to.
Who was Israel Regardie?
Israel Regardie, 1906 - 1985
The most influential authority on the Golden Dawn system of
magick. Was a member of the G.'.D.'., the A.'.A.'., and a IX degree member
of the OTO. Was almost single-handedly responsible for the survival of the
knowledge and system of the original Golden Dawn. His book, "The Complete
System of Golden Dawn Magic" is *the* authority on the subject. He was a
qualified psychiatrist, and one of his goals was to integrate psychology
with magick, to realise the essentially similar goal of both.
What are TOPY, LBRP, QC, KCHGA, BOTL, AA, OTO, GD, etc?
Acronyms standing for: Temple ov Psychick Youth, the Lesser Banishing
Ritual of the Pentagram, the Qabalistic Cross, Knowledge and Conversation
of the Holy Guardian Angel, the Book Of The Law, Argenteum Astrum, Ordo
Templis Orientalis, the Golden Dawn, etcetera.
Ok, ok, so what is the Temple ov Psychick Youth, the Lesser Banishing
Ritual of the Pentagram, etc?
ToPV: Temple ov Psychick Youth
Founded in 1982 by musicians and magicians Genesis P-Orridge and
Peter Christopherson. Drawing inspiration from both Crowley and Austin
Osman Spare, they attempted to create a set of magickal techniques based
on using sexual energy. To articulate this, they wrote a manifesto called
the Gray Book. Additional to the material in the Gray Book was the Temple
convention of using a unique system on spelling. This was not done in a
random fashion, but was done to remind the reader and writer of the hidden
aspects of language. The Temple underwent a number of changes during its
existence. In 1992, Genesis P-Orridge departed the group and proclaimed it
dissolved. The Temple members continue their activities under the name
regardless are are still pursuing their initial end as articulated in the
LBRP: Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram
A short ritual, including the Qabalistic Cross, aimed to
"eliminate from the sphere of the mind those qualities or sensations which
the critical ego deems unnecessary". It aims to release the internal power
of the magician from constricting mental restraints.
QC: Qabalistic Cross
A short, simple magickal practice in which the magician expands
his consciousness by imagining his body growing to immense proportions,
and visualises being the centre of a vast cross of light within him. Aim
is to "bring the divine light down to the magician", or to help him
realise consciousness with the divine; to "ally the personality with the
true sources of life".
KCHGA: Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel
A lengthy operation, coined in "The Book of the Sacred Magick of
Abramelin the Mage" and subsequently used by the Golden Dawn and Crowley,
and which constitutes success in the outer orders of both of them; all
previous instructions are directed towards this goal. The term suggests
direct conscious apprehension of that which guides us through life in the
"correct way", free from all self-constricting neuroses, complexes,
influences, and self-misapprehensions; when it has been accomplished, the
Adept needs little or no further guidance from others. There is no set
method; the operation will differ for each magician.
BOTL: Book of the Law
Liber AL vel Legis, the "Bible" of Thelema. Claimed by Crowley to
have been dictated to him in 1904 by a being called Aiwaz, whose nature he
could never explain satisfactorily.
AA: Argenteum Astrum
The magickal order created by Crowley at the beginning of the
twentieth century, along the lines of the Golden Dawn, incorporating Liber
Legis and various other techniques Crowley liked (especially yogic
practices). No longer extant in its original form, though a few groups
today call themselves A.'.A.'., and claim direct descendance from
GD: The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
Magickal, Rosicrucian order founded towards the end of the
Nineteenth Century, to which a huge amount of today's magickal literature
owes its existence. Valuable for the fact that it presents a very
definite, coherent, and practical system of self-development, with little
bullshit, which has influenced a huge amount of magickal "authorities",
including Crowley. Fell apart in 1904, though again, many orders today
claim descendance from the original.
What Magical Orders are there, what do they do?
Magick is ultimately an individual affair. Magickal orders or groups
may have valid reasons for existence, but they will not make learning
magick any easier, you will not have to do less work, and you will not
gain any significant knowledge merely by being a member. Orders can exist
for a variety of reasons:
1. To spread knowledge. Whilst this may have been a valid reason some
years ago, the relative freedom of expression and lack of persecution
nowadays, the proliferation of books on the subject, and the internet
pretty much negate this reason. Moreover, as is stated elsewhere within
this document, the best teacher is usually the universe itself. Many
orders claim to have "secret" knowledge which they will only disclose to
"worthy aspirants". This is nonsense. If any "secret" knowledge was in any
way important, it is extremely unlikely that it would be confined to a
small group of manic wand wavers. Secrets (within orders) exist for one
reason, to attract and ensnare members. The greatest secret of most
magical orders is that they don't have a secret.
2. To facilitate the process of finding others to work with. This
would be valid if one were to consider magick from a strictly ceremonial
sense. If not, then there are oodles of people one can work with, all
around. Yet, if such ceremonial group workings are your wont, then seeking
an order may be worthwhile, if this was all the order concentrated on. The
ego wars, and the "groups-for-groups'-sakes" mentality can easily kill
whatever value is there, however; a mailing-list could solve this problem
with a lot less fuss than could an order. Working solely with other
"like-minded" individuals can also be constricting, and can channel the
magician for miles along the wrong path; the magician should expand his
horizons, not narrow them.
What is the Abyss?
The Abyss, as discussed on alt.magick, is the "next big stage" after
KCHGA in the Golden Dawn system. KCHGA implies identification with the
true self, being a part of the whole. Crossing the Abyss implies
identification with the whole itself, or to be more precise, with Nothing.
It is a *realisation* (rather than a mere logical deduction; human reason
is individual and imperfect, and is not capable of comprehending, or
identifying with, the whole) that all individual preferences, feelings,
emotions, opinions, leanings and attachments are illusions, merely
symptoms of the interplay between the parts which make up the whole of the
universe. This being the case, one state of the universe is not preferred
over any other by the consciousness above the Abyss. Death, destruction,
deceit and disease become mere incidents in what is a rather small corner
of the universe.
This is however a somewhat difficult term to define since understaning
of its nature is impossible without direct, personal experience of it.
What is a paradigm shift?
A paradigm shift is a term used by Thomas Kuhn in his book, "The
Structure of Scientific Revolutions" to describe the process by which one
model of the universe is transformed into another in the scientific
A paradigm is an example, literally a "model" used to organize and
understand phenomena. A theory which does not fit the given paradigm is
not likely to meet with approval from the general population of the
community and will tend to be seriously contested until the evidence of
the superiority of a new paradigm can be established. If the new paradigm
is accepted by the most powerful individuals in their fields, there occurs
a "paradigm shift" and the new model becomes established in the community.
This generally takes a long time and is not entirely a logical process.
A paradigm shift then is essentially a change in the primary example,
or "model", used to explain and predict events.
How does science relate to magic, are they opposites?
Magick, as we know it in Western cultures, arises from the gnostic
religious philosophies. "Gnosis" means "knowing". Instead of simply
believing or accepting the workings of the universe on faith, a student
and practitioner of magick seeks to "know" them, to experience them
directly and to seek some consistency to their operation, and, through
this knowledge, to exert control over them. In the realm of observable
phenomena, the most refined way to do this is the scientific method.
"Science" also means "knowing".
So science is a form of magick, refined into a high degree of
reliability where it is applied to physical phenomena. There is nothing in
science which contradicts the operation of magick. However, since magick
also addresses experiences and events are not independently observable,
the methods of science do not always apply to it with any conclusive
Hard science advocates a causal materialism to be the proper paradigm
for explaining and understanding events in reality. Of course, science is
not monolithic, and a great many individual scientists vary in what degree
they agree with the underlying assumptions.
Magick, with all its various schools, can be characterized as arising
from differring metaphysical assumptions. Thus one can practice effective
magick or science with varying assumptions. Some metaphysical viewpoints
allow the practice of both without contradiction, and in others they are
How can I summon a demon?
The same way you summon anything; it is only necessary to call it
forth with the whole of your will.
Demons and angels are parts of the psyche, constructs of the ego
perhaps. A general distinction could be made that demons work at odds with
the will of the magician (e.g. phobias), and that angels work along with
the will of the magician (e.g. character strengths). Nonetheless, both
demons and angels can be employed in the fulfilment of the magician's
will, and demons can assume a new master, and be converted into angels.
In this sense, summoning demons is a lot easier than summoning angels.
Demons always want to creep up on you, and mess things up. You don't
really need to summon one, you just need to let go of your hold on it, and
it will be off doing its demonic work. <insert biblical
Constraining a demon to do your will is more likely to be a
constructive operation, than is summoning one. This is merely (!) a
question of authority. Demons are intrinsically weak, but have a special
aptitude at finding the weak spots of the magician, and striking at the
most inopportune moments. They also like to gang together, and have a
nasty habit of letting you think you have got the better of them, lulling
the magician into a false sense of security before bringing him down once
and for all. To truly constrain a demon requires the confidence and
authority which comes from discovering the true will.
Before summoning demons, it may well be worth considering if the
action is a wise one or not. Having the answer to the next question would
certainly be advisable.
How do I get rid of unwanted demons?
Demons are a part of the personality. To try to "get rid" of them is
to deny a part of your being, and is destructive. The correct approach is
to constrain, or exert control over, them; to subdue them to your will.
The first step is to know and understand the demon. You cannot hope to
control it unless you understand its nature, and how it works; you must
know your opponent before you can conquer it. You must unconditionally
accept the existence of said demon, and objectively seek to discover and
understand its name, characteristics, methods of operation, and weak
spots. To accomplish this requires a high degree of self-honesty, courage,
There are a variety of more or less well known psychological methods
to aid in this (e.g. psychoanalysis, methods for treating phobias), and a
well-constructed magical system will also provide for this in the
banishing stages of the magician's psyche.
Once this is accomplished, subduing the demon to your will requires no
less courage and determination. This question is one of authority (demons,
being parts of the personality, belong to the magician; the magician does
not belong to them. The magician must therefore make him/herself Master
over them), and willpower (demons are cunning; all avenues of escape to
them must be closed), the development of both being integral parts of any
valid magical system of development.
As ever, there are no set methods for this, except for the general
guidance given to the magician to *discover his/her own nature*.
alt.magick FAQ Part 4. alt.magick as a community
Why are you all so antagonistic to newcomers?
Much of the time people start posting to alt.magick without having
done any research or preparation of their own. This is annoying to many of
the regular posters, and an indication that the new poster is unlikely to
be sufficiently dedicated that any positive replies will be time well
spent. Furthermore, those that are prepared to persevere in their line of
questioning despite the antagonism are most likely to be the ones that
will persevere in their study of magick.
What is an idiot filter?
It is a device to weed out the idiots from the others. This often
takes the form of an antagonistic rebuttal (see: Why are you all so
antagonistic to newcomers?) This term was coined by Josh and often took
the form of a request for the possible idiot to "Shut up. Go away.".
Why should I shut up and go away?
Of all the potential teachers you can have, the greatest is the entire
universe. However, most of us spend far too much time being loud to
actually pay attention to the universe. If you shut up for a while, it is
possible that you will learn something. As for going away, it is not
always necessary that all of you go away, just parts.
What can I do to minimise being the target of antagonism?
Firstly, wait a while before posting. Read the kinds of things other
people post. Secondly, do some of your own research. Simply asking for us
to do your work for you will not go down well. Thirdly, conform to Usenet
convention. Make sure your newsreader has word-wrap set, try not to
include the entirety of a post you are responding to, but do include at
least the most recent attribution, and don't simply reply to add "Me
too.". Do not post commercial adverts, nor binaries, nor religious dogma.
Why does it matter if I don't spell properly or if my grammar is poor?
We are discussing many abstract and complex subjects. If you have an
insufficient grasp of the basic tools of language, many will doubt your
ability to adequately understand their ideas or communicate your own.
Who is in charge on alt.magick?
No-one and everyone.
Who is the group monitor / moderator?
The Invisible Pink Unicorn. However, the Invisible Pink Unicorn has
yet to pass judgement on any poster.
Who is worth listening to?
No-one and everyone. Since magick and magickal experience tends to be
highly subjective, it is best to simply lurk for a while and read posts.
Some posters will appeal to you more, not necessarily because their work
is more valid, but perhaps simply because they phrase it in a way that
makes more sense to you.
Is there a formal order associated with alt.magick?
Who is Josh and why should I care?
Josh Geller started alt.magick and has been one of the most prolific
posters over the years. He has been a big influence on a lot of the
regulars. Josh is not around like he used to be... he has too much else
going on. As for why you should care; you shouldn't.
Why do some people put equations which are wrong after their names (e.g.
The equations signify grades in the Golden Dawn system, which range
from 0=0 (neophyte), and 1=10 (zelator) through to 10=1 (ipsissimus), and
do not attempt to convey any mathematical truths. The grades signify
levels of attainment within that system, and within that system alone.
However, certain grades reflect changes in consciousness which are
universal, and mark stages in development, achievable by anyone:
0=0: Neophyte - marks an awareness of a spiritual goal, an awakening
to there being "something higher". It is a beginning. "I am aware"
5=6: Adeptus minor - signifies attainment to the knowledge and
conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, identifying with the individual
subconscious which manifests the universal Will in each person. Entails a
*realisation* of the individual's "place" in the universe, and of the
individual's true will. "I do"
8=3: Magister Templi, "Master of the Temple" - signifies the crossing
of the Abyss, or the identification with the universal Will itself.
Entails a *realisation* that the individual is but one manifestation of
the whole, and that individual preferences, opinions, attachments and
indeed the self, are illusionary. "It does through me"
It must be borne in mind that although these grades represent the
stages described, there may be any number of reasons why individuals
choose to employ them on alt.magick, none of them worth a second thought.