Over on his blog this week Frater Barrabbas made a good post about being a professional magician. He is kind enough to mention me as a good example of how it can work. He also mentions that he doesnt strive for going pro, and even if it was handed on a silver platter, he would probably turn it down. He poses the question: After all, isn’t that what all magicians and occultists strive for?
Speaking for myself, my answer is NO, making money at magic is not what magicians and occultists strive for. Nor should it be. At least not at the outset.
Though more or less the normal in ATR’s as well as many Asian traditions, when I first started doing magic professionally in 2001 it was not the norm*. Ten years later and there are oodles of magicians doing it for dough. While hopefully those charging others for their services are adept at what they do, being a professional should not be seen as a stamp of quality or level of accomplishment. I have witnessed, and occasionally cleaned up the messes left by, several Inepti Majors…
Before this trend, it was being a writer that was the stamp of success. I remember discussing Rabelaisian Thelema with someone and they replied that they would accord it some value when they saw the copious amounts of writings such as Crowley produced. As if books are the final byproduct of magic! Again, there are a lot of Inepti who write books.
Some people look at magical orders as the measure of success. The same gent mentioned above bragged to me that the Caliphate OTO has “won”, because they were the biggest group to come out of the Crowley Era. They had the money, and the numbers. He was none to happy when I pointed out that by his standards Scientology would be the obvious winner, not the OTO…**
Anyway, what I am trying to say with all this is that NOTHING is a proof of magic except the success of the magic itself. Three of the greatest magicians I know are completely in the closet. Their high level jobs insure that they will never do magic for money, write occult books, or form large magical orders. Yet they are easily three of the greatest magicians I have ever met.
Magic is it’s own reward. Whether you are motivated my achieving enlightenment and gnosis or whether you are motivated by developing magical powers to effect the world around you, making money by performing spells should not be your primary motivator. It is pretty damn far from the easiest and most productive way to make money AND it will sully the nature of your inner work, which in the end will sully your practical results.
All that said, I am happy to see professional magicians growing as a force in western occultism.
First and foremost, I do what I do because of a calling to serve. At this point probably 90% of the practical results magic I do is for other people. If I did not get paid for this work, I would not have the time to do it. It’s that simple.
Secondly like me, many magicians and witches set aside traditional educations and career ambitions during their teens and twenties in favor of esoteric pursuits. This takes a toll on the financial life. Many High Priestesses, Priests, and Magi that came up on the 60′s and 70′s have found themselves in dire financial straits by the time the turn of the century rolled around. By changing the landscape to make magic for money an acceptable practice, a lot of us that are teachers and elders now will be able to avoid that fate.
Those that talk seriously about creating a paid Pagan clergy should look to this as part of the compensation model. Without some kind of service like this, it will hard to pull off. Certainly it is hard to collect a salary in a religion where everyone is clergy.
I have worked as a Sorcerer for hire for 11 years now. It started out as something to earn just enough money on the side to pay for the expenses of magic (books, travel, initiations, getting Guru’s drunk, etc). When I needed it to grow into a significant secondary income, the powers that be smiled upon me and helped make that happen. When I needed it to be my primary (and at one point only) income, I was able to pull that off as well.
There are benefits and draw-backs to each mode of operation which I will delve into in a future post.
For now, the two things I want you to walk away with are:
1. Being a professional magician should not be your primary motivation in magic.
2. If it is part of your calling, or just something you need to do to make ends meet, it can be a rewarding part of your spiritual life.
*Though I am by no means the first.
** Not a dig against the OTO. I had a great experience in the order and am now an outside admirer. Long live the Order and its work.