Magic Versus Sorcery
In modern occultism there are two approaches (just as there were in late antiquity). In late antiquity there was sorcery (goetēia) and magic (theurgia). The first is a procedure for power, such as “Sprinkle the leaves of this herb in your target’s footprints on the day of Venus at the time of the waxing moon and she will offer herself to you.” The procedure required nothing but exactitude from the sorcerer and could be taught to, or practiced by, anyone. No explanation was needed, and if the sorcerer had some magical ability it might influence events. By and large, of course, it will do nothing, and this is enough to disqualify the magical arts from the actions of reasonable humans. They have thrown their pennies into wells, kissed the Blarney stone, or in a petty fit stepped on a crack expressing rage at their mother. However, sorcery does work for some—so sorcerous cookbooks exist in numerous traditions from Hoodoo to Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible. The sorcerer is not interested in self-change, only in play. The sorcerer knows the basic formula: extreme emotion plus symbolic manipulation produces events. At first it seems like a moral distinction—some folks use magic only for self-pleasure, so what? However, after years in the field, my mind began to change. The sorcerer has literally shut the doors of perception—no matter what happens around them politically, environmentally, or otherwise, they have a single point of focus: material goods, political power, sexual conquest, vengeance. They achieve massively in their field, but they do not deviate nor do they gain wisdom. Such creatures are not to be fought magically any more than one would stand in a hurricane wind and yell weather charms. Certain dictators, billionaires, and mad rock stars may come to mind. These poor souls are the origin of the “selling your soul to the devil” stories. The large-scale sorcerer is easy to spot, much like the Olympic athlete. Occasionally, books are written about them, often attributing their power to a long-defunct Masonic group (such as the Illuminati), Jewish bankers, or reptilian extraterrestrials. The small-scale sorcerer is harder to spot and confusing for the magician. At first, the magician may question herself: “Why does Martha have so much power? I am lame!” What becomes stranger is the discovery that the sorcerer lacks happiness or confidence.
Magicians open themselves up to two things—the Unknown and their hopes. The first means that once one has placed oneself on the magical path, Wyrd things happen. Now, to a certain extent, Wyrd things happen to all sentient beings, but the magician gets more than her share. The second means that all those oaths and wishes you’ve made to be a better person will attract situations that bring you the chance for better behavior. If you meet these running toward wisdom, or joy, or wealth, then you will know the greatest possible bliss. If you sit still, the very things you wished for are a torment. Many of the exercises in this book are aimed at learning how to see that your magic is working, so your magic won’t have to whip you upside your head. Let me tell you a story about that—but first a word about the stories in this book.
I’ll tell three sorts of stories. First, there are the historical tales about magicians, philosophers, scientists, and artists. I’ll do my best to separate the well documented from the folkloric. Second, I’ll tell you stories from my own magical practice. Third, I’ll tell stories about magicians, witches, spiritualists, and sorcerers whom I know or have known—but, to preserve their identity, I will erase certain details (so the young black woman in St. Paul may become a middle-aged Chinese guy in Ontario, or the twin gay warlocks in Rome might be a straight couple in Tokyo).
How to Become a Modern Magus by Don Webb is published this year © 2023 Destiny Books. The excerpt is printed with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International. www.InnerTraditions.com
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