Magic, Science, and Religion

By Michael Freedman

Magic uses some of the terminology of religions, such as words like god, goddess, god-names, angels and archangels, etc., some people think of magic as a kind of religion. Furthermore, some religions, such as Wicca, use magic.

Make no mistake, Magic, whether High Magic or Low Magic, is a lot closer to Science than it is to Religion. Some modern High Magicians describe themselves as Technical Mystics or practical magicians. Mysticism implies the possession of the ability, or seeking for the ability, to transcend or go beyond the limits of human intellect and reason to achieve a direct, personal and experiential knowledge of higher or wider ranges of existence than we ordinarily know.

The ultimate goal of mysticism is the direct, personal knowledge of the One Most High, that which is the Source of all Being and Non-being, that which is called the One Supreme God by religious people or simply the One by metaphysical philosophers.

Technical Mysticism Technical Mysticism implies the use of specific techniques to achieve the goals of Mysticism rather than spending a lot of time on theological or metaphysical discussion. This attitude has been stated succinctly by the Chief of one of the Inner Orders:

What is important is Reality and your experience of it. What is less important is any explanation of Reality; or any explanation of your experience of Reality.

Religion always involves surrender, to a greater or lesser degree. Religious people are bound by the creeds and commandments of the religion, because they have surrendered to the god of the religion. This is most obvious in those religions, such as the fundamentalist sects within Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which do not recognise the validity of any other religion. To belong, you must surrender your entire being to the god who is the central focus of the religion. The eventual aim of every religion, even those which are tolerant of other religions, is total surrender to or total absorption by its Supreme God.

The secular or non-spiritual equivalent of Religion is Politics. People are usually required by a political party to surrender themselves to a greater or lesser extent to the cause and are bound by the philosophy of the Party. This is most obvious in extremist political parties, such as Nazism or Communism. Political movements do not always recognise the existence of a god; and sometimes are in fact totally opposed to religion. Karl Marx described religion as the opium of the people, and condemned church and synagogue throughout his life.

Yet, Marxism itself became a monolithic religion, denying validity to any other philosophical or historical point of view, conducting crusades against heretics who did not cleave to whatever form of Marxism held power at any time within Communist nations.

The Way of Magic involves being in control; firstly, of oneself and one's destiny; secondly of the universe around the magician to a greater or lesser degree. The ultimate aim of the magician is not to surrender to a god; but to become a god. This is also the Way of Science, which is also a way of "The scientists are trying to play God."

One of the fundamental principles of magic, as set out in the XXXVII Axiomata Principes Magices affirms: Do this and that will happen; Do it again and that will happen again.

This basic principle of magic is also a basic principle of science and technology. It asserts that the universe is lawful and consistent. The universe is not subject to the whims and dictates of a capricious Deity prepared to set aside his own laws as a personal favour to those who offer him an acceptable bribe, as most religious people seem to assume.

There is no significant difference between the religious attitudes of uneducated, superstitious people in Catholic Italy or South America and the Protestant Bible belt of the U.S.A. Only the God-names change. Such unsophisticated sects and cults rarely, if ever understand or even know about the higher, nobler aspects of their own religions, let alone those of other religions.

Let us face it, at its unsophisticated, superstitious level, magicians are no different from superstitious religious people. Superstitious religious people try curry favour with the Saints or God, just as they might try to curry favour with local bureaucrats or the central government. Superstitious magicians look for levers with which they can force demons, angels or gods to do their will, just as crafty, politically savvy businessmen or scientists' looks for levers to control local bureaucrats or members of parliament and senators.

The point at which all these primitive, immature levels of magic and religion meet is the same principle,: "If you do this, that will happen." In the case of science and higher magic, it is a matter of discovering under what conditions, certain effects can be achieved. In the case of the superstitious, it is usually a matter of faith.

The Highest Point whereas immature people, whether magical or religious, seek to set aside the laws of nature, the mature person seeks to control the laws of nature, by understanding them and working with them. Magic, science and religion also meet at their highest points. All three ultimately seek to know the entire universe and its origins or source. Scientists seek to understand it all. The religious person seeks to be totally absorbed in it all. The magician seeks to be it all.

The one who aspires to be a High Magician or Technical Mystic needs to learn a very subtle balancing act. Make no mistake, the basic principle of technology is always true: "Do this and that will happen." High Magic is essentially a Way of Action, doing things, not talking about them or reading about them. Magic is also a Way of Knowledge, in which we seek to understand the laws of nature so that we can use them in action. In addition, every High Magician needs to be both totally in control and totally surrendered simultaneously. This is not just a typical mystics' word-game of setting down two contradictory ideas side by side and leaving it at that. This is not something you can readily put into words, but if you have had certain ordinary experiences in life, your body can remember what it is like to be totally in control and totally surrendered simultaneously.

Have you ever been yachting? Or hang-gliding? Or surfing? When the surf is high and you are riding it, you must at all times be totally surrendered to the waves of the ocean or you will miss them. But, you must also be totally in control or you will be dumped. My body can remember, when surfing was at its best, what is what like to be totally poised: totally in control and yet totally surrendered to the waves.

This is how all living beings can live, fully aware, fully poised, totally in control of their lives, and yet totally surrendered, at ease within each situation as it comes and passes by. What we High Magicians say is: Surf's Up !"