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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Aleister Crowley

Aleister Crowley Image
Of all of the topics of occultism the most often misinterpreted one would almost certainly be Black Magic and more uninformed opinion and speculation is written on this subject than any other in magick. As a colloquial term it refers to the illicit conjuration of demonic forces and to pacts with the Devil, selling one's soul for some earthly gain. A popular encyclopedia of magic defines black magic as:

"as the use of supernatural knowledge for the purposes of evil, the invocation of diabolic and infernal powers that they may become the slaves and emissaries of man's will; in short, a perversion of legitimate mystic science";

but this general lay interpretation of this aspect of occultism is flawed and perverted by the vestiges of the Christian antipathy for all things occult or mystical.

For a more technically correct interpretation of what black magic actually is there are very few reliable sources to reference. Many otherwise reliable and knowledgeable sources of occult teachings misinterpret the meaning of black magic in this same light, such as Franz Hartmann's clumsy definition in Magic White and Black:

"We see, therefore, that with the exception of irresponsible persons, every one who has any will power is, in so far as he excercises that power, an active magician; a white magician if he employs them for good, a black magician if he uses them for the purposes of evil".

We only begin to shed light on the truth when we come to Aleister Crowley's masterful work Magick in Theory and Practice in which he says:

"...the Single Supreme Ritual is the attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. It is the raising of the complete man in a vertical straight line. Any deviation from this line tends to become black magic. Any other operation is black magic".

This definition takes us closer to the true technical interpretation of black magic. Crowley continues;

"If the magician needs to perform any other operation than this, it is only lawful in so far as it is a necessary preliminary to That One Work. There are, however many shades of grey".

The Supreme Ritual that Crowley refers to, also known as the Sacred Magick or sometimes as the Great Work (perhaps erroneously) represents the magician's path to the unity that is at the end of the path and so it is the only pure white magick, unsullied by any taint of material objective, focused entirely upon the ultimate identification with the divine. According to the strict letter of the law then, everything else is black magic, even if the intention is 'good'. Leaving aside all pointless philosophical arguments about good and evil; the correct value that the blackness of magic expresses isn't its moral intention but its intended arena of operation. Magick that has as its objective some material outcome is by definition, the blackest magick. It remains to the individual magician to determine if there are in fact any shades of grey to their material magick or not.

The reason that black magick may be detrimental is that it is a magickal movement in the opposite direction to the one that the magician has obligated himself to take by swearing to devote himself to the Great Work. There may perhaps be some way to mitigate this oath by asserting that a black operation in some way supports the pursuance of the Great Work but the circumstances would be rare. It is said that the Holy Guardian Angel takes two steps towards the ultimate union for every one taken by the magician and so it may follow that every step away from the HGA may invoke an even greater obstacle to accomplishing the Great Work. The Book of the Law also offers a definition of which magick is black, labeling the rituals of the old time as being corrupted and improper expressions of the True Will. An initiated Adept, having sworn his obligation to the Great Work, has made that objective his True Will and so every deviation from that True Will is by the most severe definition, black magick.

If there are black and white magicks then it follows that the Qabalah will supply other color correspondences for different types of magick which are not quite pure white magick and yet which don't have a strictly material objective. Types of magick that fall into this class are often not even thought of as magickal disciplines like divination which is attributed to Tiphareth and so is classed as yellow magick. Many obscure magicks and mystical practices fall into this category and a small consideration of the Qabalah in this area will soon make the correct interpretations clear.

Perhaps one reason why black magick has been so grossly misinterpreted is because its polar counterpart white magick has been equally misunderstood. Most modern practitioners would class operations intended for healing, or other benevolent ends as being white whereas they may in fact be black on two accounts. In the first place it would be very difficult to justify a healing magick with one's own Great Work no matter how close the person is to the magician, and it may be a gross interference in the True Will of the person being healed for anyone to interfere in their illness. To meddle in another's affairs, no matter how well intended, is nearly always an operation of the blackest magick as it almost always has purely material objectives.

There are a number of injunctions against using black magick that warn of the potential for repercussions from unlawful works that have gone awry. Often these are conflated with a Wiccan style three-fold return rule that stipulates that black magick rebounds with greater vigor than other magick gone astray. This is of course impossible as only the amount of energy that has been generated can possibly be expended, magick is ruled by physics just as everything else is, and one explanation for this myth is that black magick's adverse effects are always material and so more easily apprehended than a less material operation returning its energy would be.

On the classic work of black magic, the Infernal Pact that is so prevalent in medieval accounts of black magicians Crowley puts the case very succinctly;

"The Devil does not exist. It is a false name invented by the Black Brothers to imply a Unity in their ignorant muddle of dispersions. A devil who had unity would be a God "The Devil" is, historically, the God of any people that one personally dislikes".

He also states that trading one's soul for material gain is an impossible bargain to strike as the two things being traded do not exist on the same plane and that it is impossible to exchange the temporal for the eternal. Of course all magick is dangerous and often tempting and the Beast leaves his readers with the veiled warning that sums up black magick perfectly;

"It is, however, always easy to call up the demons, for they are always calling you; and you have only to step down to their level and fraternize with them. They will tear you in pieces at their leisure. Not at once; they will wait until you have wholly broken the link between you and your Holy Guardian Angel before they pounce, lest at the last moment you escape".

Also read these ebooks:

John Moore - Aleister Crowley A Modern Master Extract
Kenneth Grant - Aleister Crowley And The Hidden God
Thomas Voxfire - What Was Aleister Crowley

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