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A Third Way: Magic as the synthesis of Religion and Science

Why Must We Choose?

A false dichotomy is a logical fallacy wherein a person presents a choice between only two options, A or B, when in fact there are more than two options. When George Bush got on global television and announced to the world, “You are either with us or against us”, he committed a logical fallacy. One can quite obviously be against terrorism and also against the one specific way the US government chooses to approach terrorism.

The Third Way articles in this series are designed to consider classically opposed objects and explore their faults and strengths to the point at which you can see a third way between them that is the best of both worlds. One must look no further than the comparison of religion and science for the ultimate clash of viewpoints and thus the ultimate third way. These philosophical perspectives on life have dominated the hearts and minds of humans since history began. Magic is the third option which creates a bridge so that neither is completely correct all the time. Utilizing components of both religion and science, magic sees these as tools more so than ultimate truths. Just as you wouldn't use a screwdriver to paint a house, a practicioner of magic wouldn't usually apply a religious tool to fix a practical problem.

Religion Asks Why

Religion typically asks a question around the idea of “why”? Why are we here? Why are you here? Based on the typical answers a religion provides, there are steps to be made to most succinctly fulfill those answers. Actions are mostly based on faith (as opposed to reason) of the supposed answer to the question of “why”; things like prayer, fasting, good deeds, etc. These actions are usually non negotiable if you follow a particular brand; they are prescribed and the lack of following them risk your ousting from the group. You must follow these prescriptions because the answers to your problems, and the answers of “why” sit in the past, not in the future. Because the foundation is not logic, someone who navigates religion needs to be aware that their intuitive and emotional side is at work, not their side of reason. Because almost all religions presuppose that a) there is life before/after this and b) that life is nonmaterial, religion mostly deals with spirit. While you could find a religion that does not believe in god or gods, it is the exception to the rule. In some a way a creator or designer of the mechanistic laws of the universe must exist according to religion.

Science Asks How

Science asks the question “how”. It necessitates first and foremost the mind to be able to sort out all the facts that appear before our eyes. Science follows a logical system to observe events in reality and constantly check in to see if it fits with their idea of what reality is. If it doesn't fit, experimentation is used to try and find out someting new about this unexplained phenomena. Thus, the future is completely open in science for all of its rules to be rewritten; provided there is proof to do so. Becuase the question of “how”, i.e. how does the universe work, science and its advocates are focused mostly on matter. Your body is physical and provably real. Your soul? Not quite as much. Thus, its prescriptions for life are all based on physical realities; bone health, cardiovascular health, psychological health. All of it comes from knowledge discovered from controlled experiments to test reality. One could say that science follows the story that God is the creator of the universe and its laws. They merely scratched out the creator and they were left with a universe and some laws to study…no creator means they don't have to ask why, it just exists.

Magic Is The Integration of Yin and Yang

Magic sees the heart based religion as yin and the mind based science as yang and asks the question, “what do you want to do within the dance of yin and yang?”. The answer to this question is called Your Story. Its as if this world is a giant house with many rooms, some religious and some scientific. The religions and scientists of the world sit in their respective rooms and declare their rooms encompass the entire truth of the house. A magician prefers to be able to walk into and leave each room according to their needs.

Interestingly, magic allows the question of why and how to be answered individually and does not state emphatically one truth for each of those questions. Does it matter if person A uses Truth Z and person B uses Truth Y if they both acheive success? Magic trusts that the truth of the questions of Why? and How? will come to the surface on the path to accomplishing your true Will. These questions of How? and Why? should be focused on jointly in relation to Your Story and what you want to do, not separate.

Magic Uses The Good In Both Science And Religion

Magic also conveniently harmonizes many of the dichotomies present between religion and science. Should you prioritize your energy towards the intuitive feel of religion or the calculating logic of science? The question isn't mutually exclusive. Magic would ask that you utilize whatever tools necessary to accomplish your Will. Does believing in Gods and spirits and flying spaghetti monsters so motivate you to bring actual change about in reality according to your liking? Great, then you can use religious elements in magic. Does using critical thinking and logic help accomplish your Will? Great, you can use that as well in magic.

Magic Defined

The definition of magic has variations according to its many schools. Gerald Gardner of Garderian Wiccan fame sees magic in a particularly spooky or supernatural defintion. This lends people towards the traditional belief that magic is by definition incomprehensible, spooky and shifty. Others like MacGregor Mathers saw the definition of magic as “the science of the control of the secret forces of nature” 1). This keeps with the mystique of the Gardnerian definition but also alludes to the fact that what is done within the realm of magic is formed by a natural force. Aleister Crowley wrote the most broad definition, which stated magic thusly; “the art and science of causing change to occur with conformity to the will” 2). His statement is the most widely used definition and one could see why. To cause to change to occur by your will to do something…as one can see, this perfectly fits with the general question magic asks. The entire system is based around the individual's Will manifesting from their imagination into reality. Their Will (many times written with a capital letter to emphasize importance from mundane will) being the deepest goals of the individual.

Ritual In Magic Incorporates The Five Senses Of Science And The Emotional Drama Of Religion

Ritual is common in most magical practices but it is not necessary in the way movies depict it. The five senses of man are thoroughly used and meticulously so in magic, but not always for the purpose of scientific investigation. Once a reaction is known and predictable to a certain stimulus, a magician can use that to invoke certain emotions for a particular purpose in a ritual setting. Therefore, take a magician who has identified his will and it involves travel, business, and inteligent thought. He might create a ritual to invoke Hermes. He dons orange robes and keeps cadeceus symbols around his chamber (both associated with Hermes). There is a soft but rapid chanting of “Thoth” playing on his speaker system (the god Thoth of egpyt being associated with the Greek Hermes). Perhaps he holds a passport in his hands for tactile sense (Hermes being a god a travel). He burns frankincense (commonly burnt as a scent for Hermes historically) and he focuses his imagination with all the energy he can muster on his Will (probably being associated to travel, communication, business, or knowledge, all of which the god Hermes reigned supreme in) manifesting into reality. In this way, the magician is flooding his mind with associations of Hermes. Sight? Hermes. Sound? Hermes. Anything around him? Hermes. The collection of everything Hermes helps the magician to keep his concentration on his will and he performs his magical act.

Okay But What is Magic Really?

In the barest of terms, Magical ritual is a drama performed for the sake of the performer(s) only. The drama uses symbols that create a coherent story as the drama is acted out. Like a runner's high or a “groove” that a sportsmen hits in perfect sync, the magician aims to creams a story so real and fulfilling in his imagination that it can feel real to them. Some ask for help from gods, real or imaginary, others consider themselves a god during ritual. There are countless variations (impromptu, scripted, etc) on what you can do but this is it in a nutshell.

What you see here is how Crowley puts the purpose of magic; “the methods of science and the aim of religion” 3). This example shows how one can use intellectual products to influence a more religious side to act out a spiritual drama. Once the magical act is finished there are two or more perspectives as to how magic really operates. The practical theory states that the ritual has most importantly a psychological function. By boldly identifying your will, describing it and acting it out in the ritual chamber with imagination soaring, nostrils flaring and heart poinding, you are clearing out any psychological blocks you might have in fulfilling your goal or will. Now that you have performed a magical act and successfully acted out, you can go out into the real world, outside the chamber, and feel confident in the memory of your fantasized act of success. Less important in the practical theory is the possibility that your energetic magical act actually affects the objective universe and somehow, someway brings about the desired goal. The more woo-woo theory flips the importance of these two features. Few practicioners of magic assert that only the practical side is true or only the woo side is true for reasons stated above. Magic uses logic and practicality alongside emotive force and intuitive knowledge.

It's important to note as well in the practial perspective of magic that scientific methods are used routinely outside the ritual chamber in order to accomplish their Will. They do not wait for the Universe to plop success on their lap. Fulfilling your Will is hard work, there is no denying it.

Everybody Is A (Poorly Practicing) Magician

Michael Aquino notes, in the same vein as Crowely's definition of magic stated above, that everyone is performing magic every day 4). We are all trying to cause change to occur in conformity of our will. You trying to get that knot out of your shoelace this morning? An act of magic. Smooth talking that guy in an effort to date him? An act of Magic. Gingerly answering questions from a probing friend? An act of magic. The fact that nobody calls its magic doesn't make it so.

How Does This Change Things?

Looking at history, we can present a completely different story based on answering the question of magic. Not why are we here, nor how does the universe work. Rather, what dooes an individual want to accomplish? Martin Luther King seemingly had a will to create racial equality; he was quite successful and his success ripples into the future where it effects those who still haven't achieved the desired equality of race. Hitler had a will to power and a will to change the way the world was run. He was unsuccessful but like all powerful magicians, his spirit lives on and “thought currents” of his still exist in various circles around the globe. We all have indiivual wills to be fulfilled. Considering that the art and science of consciously fulfilling your highest desire is magic, we are all magicians. It doesn't matter that no one sees it that way. It simply means most people are poor magicians. A person placed in a speed chess game but not informed of the rules of the game will perform poorly. It doesn't change that they are in fact playing speed chess.

The aim of this article is to free the person from the false dichotomy choice of religion and science. The aim is not to get you to denounce your religion and join an initiatory magical society. The goal rather is to help a person realize that they can use subjective experiences of god and religion to bring about objective change in the world. Keep your religion, but make it work. Keep your science, but make it work.


Esoteric and Occult

4) see Michael Aquino's book Black Magic chapter on Greater Black Magic

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