So it seems that the “magic is in your head” vs “magic is objective” debate is going popping up again.
A couple days ago THIS nice little rant piece appeared and caught the attention of guys like Jake Stratton Kent and Michael Cecchetelli. Suffice to say I agree wholeheartedly the piece and wrote a similar one for Witchvox several years back. I would just add that it is not only a matter of failure or lack of attempt, but lack of gift. In the old days only people who had the gift would even think of crewing around with witchcraft. It was a calling that had consequences. Today it is pop culture and people get involved for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with Sorcery.
I would also add that such people are good for Paganism overall, even if they are bad for Witchcraft. The two are not the same thing. Paganism is fast becoming a big tent religion, or collection or religions, and will need to accomodate people that have no interest in self-transformation or magic. Any religion of a large enough size has an outer shell that basically just tells people what to believe and how o celebrate certain key points. There is nothing bad about this. It is helpful to people. Not everyone wants or needs to be a magician.
At the very same time The Hermit’s Lantern posted a Lon DuQuette inspired piece entitled “All That Magick Changes Is You” that essentially makes the “Its all in your head, you just have no idea how big your head is argument”.
Now, this position has some history to it. Crowley said that the spirits were all part of your personal brain. This was further emphasized by Regardie and those that he influenced like Lon. Eventually even folks that held to this started getting results that were CLEARLY beyond just changes in consciousness, so the model got blown up a bit and the whole “you just have no idea how big your head is” thing got added in as a way of saying that even phenomena which seem external are actually caused by changes within yourself.
In the meantime other people who either always thought differently, or got bitten on the ass hard by things that they didn’t really believe in, started talking about magic in a more traditional way: the spirits are as real and as separate from your mind as anyone else is.
The only problem is that this kind of uber-literalism also misses the mark. While lower spirits like ghosts and some nature spirits are as separate as your or I (which really ain’t that separate either) but angels and goets and other BIG spirits – yeah… They are definitely not parts of your mind, but they are also not separate entirely. Call it collective super-consciousness, or whatever you want. To be honest I am unconcerned with the exact mechanics of it Neither extreme fits the observations of experience.
If you simply must be one side or the other though, go the traditional route. The idea that its all in your head, you just have no idea how large your head is becomes something that at best is just a catchy thing to say, and at worst leads people to completely wrong-headed experiments. I know one body master of the OTO who, after attending Lons lectures on Goetia, was all set to recommend Goetic Evocation to someone in his body that was having serious mental problems as way of “getting his demons under control”. Thankfully he was talked out of it or the results would have been disasterous.
Even with the “you just have no idea how big your head is” addendum, its still misleading. At that point, its not your head, and describing things thusly is eventually going to muck up your understanding of something that is really sublime at the higher levels of mystical experience.
As to the statement that the only thing magi effects is you – this is even further off the mark in my experience. I cast a binding on someone so that they stop stalking a client of mine. The target falls from her 3rd story window and winds up in a wheelchair for months. That’s not making a change within myself, thats pretty directly effecting someone else.
In my experience it is actually WAY easier to make external changes than it is to make internal changes. If it were not we would just be able to magic up peoples habits and neurosis, which unfortunately almost NEVER works.