Editor’s Note: This article was written by a real wizard as a follow up to the previous piece “Ask A Wizard: The 9 Rules of Wizarding”.
The nature of magic and the Occult is such that for centuries, esoteric and arcane knowledge has been suppressed wherever and whenever possible by the venerable and indefatigable might of the “Powers that Be”. Sometimes these Powers have been religious institutions, and at other times they have been scientific or academic establishments. Many students of the secrets ask, “If magic is so powerful, why isn’t it the basic faith system of the whole world?”
Okay, in fairness, not all students phrase the question that way, but the Vicar is always pressed for time, and a whole list of questions asking basically the same thing would be super boring. And yes, the Vicar just unhesitatingly used the phrase “super boring”.
The answer is that the whole point of the Occult is that it means, and therefore remains, the hidden path. It is typical of most true magic-users that they will downplay the sources of wisdom and direct the merely curious away from the fact that this is a corpus of knowledge at least as old as civilization. And there is often a great deal of fear and prejudgment to be addressed in trying to teach the wisdom of the ancient holy ones who actually conveyed – to anyone willing to learn – the secrets of the human experience.
The confusion has many causes. Not least of these is the tireless aggression of monotheism toward the descriptive terminology and imagery that evolved from Greek and Celtic sources. Above, you saw a fun screen capture of Gandalf, one of the Vicar’s all time favorite characters. Let that be “Exhibit A”.
The Vicar fervently wishes the world really worked in such a way that he could wander around wearing a bathrobe with his hair and beard totally unkempt, brandishing a sword and hurling magic fireballs with a staff topped by a totally sweet crystal thingy. But the Vicar is a Wizard, rather than a crazy person who got way too into Dungeons and Dragons and a mess of LSD one weekend. We have to be realistic about magic if it is ever going to work for us. We have to own certain truths, and face certain unpleasant facts, if we are ever to come to a valid and accurate understanding of what magic means, what it does, how it works, and how it is a part of everything.
Notice anything about the two images? Exhibit A features a bearded man in robes with a staff that does things – cool shit, like directing magical energies and operating as a powerwell device because the user is a Servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. Exhibit B features a bearded man in robes with a staff that does things – equally cool shit, like directing spiritual energies that are offered to the user because the user is a servant of All Mighty God.
Now, the Vicar is belaboring the bejeezus out of this point, and he apologizes, but it’s one of those nights and he’s having an awful lot of fun with this – it is, after all, a chance to present a redux of one of the very first lessons he was ever exposed to in the world of true wizardry.
Those of you familiar with Jung and Campbell and the general themes of literary and characterological study will already understand at least what is called, “Level 1” among younger wizards, who have a bent sense of humor and make stupid roleplaying analogies whenever possible. But we aren’t really kidding when we say “Level 1”, because the truth is that this references a timeless and critical saying of Kung Fu Tzu (Confucious):
“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.”
A Wizard is a Wizard is a Wizard. Shakespeare was one of the best, and his magic changed the whole of Western Civilization, probably irrevocably and for all time. Consider his timeless line, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose; By any other name would smell as sweet”. There’s a particular set of reasons that his plays aren’t just plays and his words aren’t just words. He was teaching us things, and he was quite skilled in his methods. If one doubts that he was indeed a Wizard all those long years in perfect secrecy, one has only to read The Tempest – and understand the complex metaphors layered into it.
If Moses and Gandalf have similar aspects, it’s awfully easy for the skeptic to cast aside the analogous nature of the characters by pointing out that the later fictional rendering is based upon the earlier pseudo-historical rendering. There’s just one really serious and obvious problem with that: Gandalf is also based on other Wizards, besides Moses.
Note that we have again the older, bearded gentleman in the obviously essential robes. His staff is not depicted in this particular image, but we can rest assured that is only because he set it down somewhere out of frame.
Again, we see the central aspects of the Wizard, minus the staff, which is clearly optional. The repetition of these aspects and their much more important symbolic meanings is essentially so frequent that you’d almost think somebody was trying really hard to tell us all something very important.
The practice of the true path of the Occult is about the nature of the human psyche and the capacity within essentially all human beings to channel the power of words because words represent concepts. Magic is described at its core as dependent upon the use of words. For what it’s worth, this is true, but we are always and only seeking to understand the Secret Language when we pursue mastery of the Power and the Burden. There are many Orders of the Quest, as Manly P. Hall explained quite well before the Vicar was even a glimmer in anyone’s eye. Each Order is on the same quest, and the variations between the different groups are slight. But not all intend to do the same sorts of things with the magic in question.
We began this exploration with Exhibit A, but it is Exhibit B that bears thinking about, especially if you are of a more monotheistic bent. We must question why it is that this guy:
Has so much in common with this guy:
Because they do in fact have a great deal in common. The reality of both individuals is that they spoke truth to power, wielded their respective cultures’ equivalents of spiritual authority, and derived their messages and teachings from internalized voices which both depicted monotheistically. Isaiah believed that he spoke for God, and he conveyed moral teachings to the Hebrews in contravention of the traditions of the day that he saw as – or was instructed to describe as – corrupt. Socrates spoke for something he called his “Daemon” – a term that looks in English nothing like what it means in Greek. He also challenged the social conventions of his society and conveyed moral teachings. And Socrates spoke of the source of his wisdom as experience, but always also discussed something called, “The God”. This is a convenient device for a Classical Age Greek, of course, since people had favorite Gods that they might personally connect with, and this would be their God – one chosen as most appropriate out of many available. But who was Socrates’ God? And why did his words have so much power?
The Wizard Vainamoinen (Exhibit E) was noted for his capacity to use words – in song – to create things. He could supposedly bring things into being by singing. This is the bardic power, the capacity common to the Norse Skalds and the Celtic Druids and pretty much every other Wizard caste of note. It is no accident that Shakespeare is called “the Bard”.
As to what magic can do, or what it is, this is the essence of the lesson: Wisdom and Wizard have the same word root, the same conceptual source, and the same general purpose. The Druidic religion is generally considered to be dead (not to modern Druids, of course), but the thematic ideas are still very much alive. The Occult as it is accessed in magic shops from Hong Kong to London to Bangalore to New Orleans is a pale shadow of the deeper and underlying mysteries. A wise person understands how to see the world and how to draw upon what Jung called Synchronicity – the “spooky” and habitual quality of our universe to manifest things in ways that are clearly related, but not causally related.
The Quest that the Orders of the Quest seek to complete is this: Mastery of the Way. The Way is the spiritual core of the whole thing, informing every religion and endlessly echoing in every mystical, prophetic and faith-based tradition. Like anything else in human affairs, it has over time been covered in layers of obfuscation for a variety of reasons. Sometimes these misdirections evolve intentionally, as in times of persecution when the survival of the teachings is paramount. Sometimes these concealing structures evolve because of misunderstandings or misinterpretations. The reasons and the obstacles are meaningless. At the center is the Voice of the One, discerned by means of the Secret Language, which is the general term for the metaphorical messages accessible in all things.
Skepticism is the basic starting place for any pursuit of the unknown. Magical Occultism is no different. There is a world of difference between knowing what words to say and when to say them and the performance of complex and arcane – but otherwise meaningless – rituals. This is not to say that we do not contact the spirit world (the realm of the Others) or occasionally access information from sources other than the traditional. We pay close attention to dreams and we note coincidences because we understand them to be messages. You won’t catch the Vicar playing with crystals and herbs and Tarot cards – but he’ll read tea leaves in a New York minute. Understanding why a Wizard ignores certain things while embracing others is very important to understanding where to begin the practice of magic on your own.
The Vicar has penned this essay because he has received numerous emails from readers asking about how to become a Wizard or a Sorceress. The Vicar understands well the desire in many of us to be guided or to receive good direction in worthy pursuits. But the truth is simple: People are fundamentally alone in their individual journeys. Magic is the active use of the Way, and the Way is all about personal spiritual awakening. The first step on this journey is in learning to recognize what we call “resonances” in the literature and conclaves of Athena’s Men. This term refers to what we have discussed above – pay close attention to the repeating symbols and the recurrent metaphors.
And most importantly, learn to recognize the resonances in the real world around you. This is the beginning of magic. What you can see, you can one day reproduce of your own power.
Just remember that we call it “the Power and the Burden” for a reason. This is neither fantasy, nor a game. It is the Way, and it has always been with us.