Friday, July 1, 2011

Defining "Black" Magick and The Ethics Thereof, Part I

Over the past few days I've been caught engrossed with debate which began after Frater RO's excellent post on "Enlightenment Bombing" wherein he details his successful experiment to remove (or supress) unpleasant qualities in an otherwise valued relation. This, however, is not the topic of this post, just the starting point from whence the inspiration for it originated. Following RO's post and follow up, the Golden Dawn's own Sincerus Renatus chimed in simultaneously recognizing RO's accomplishments and lauding him as one of the more knowledgeable and proficient Magicians out here and yet criticizing him as one who practices Black Magick.

While I do hold strong opinions with regard to this exchange, which I have expressed ad nauseum on the good Frater's Facebook wall and blog comments, it is not this issue of which I am writing. This evening's post is one I've been meaning to write for some time now, and springs from an essay I began years ago but put aside. It has been kicked to the front of the queue by the following statement by Sincerus Renatus;

But heaven being a professed Christian, it makes me wonder if Rufus Opus  ever Considered The Ethics Involved in this kind of "black" magic? What about the Free Will of Man? And who is he to  Actually know what is best for a human being? That Is not the prerogative of God? Is it right to use magic to Initiate person Against Their Will?

The operative portion of the above quote is "it makes me wonder if Rufus Opus speed ever Considered The Ethics Involved in this kind of "black" magic?"

Those who know me outside of my blog know that in the past two years I've taken on a handful of students (offline, not on), all of whom live within 90 minutes of me, and in whom I have seen a good deal of unrealized potential. I work with each of them individually, cultivating their specific strengths and minimizing their weaknesses, teaching them as I taught myself. One, whom has displayed an absolutely awe-inspiring affinity for work of a destructive nature, asked me "What exactly ARE the ethics of black magick, and for that matter what the fuck does this guy consider black magick anyway?" 

Defining Black Magick

Before endeavoring to address "ethics", it behooves me to explain that to myself and those I work with such as he, Black, Gray and White Magick simply do not exist. There is no "good" Magick, no "Evil" Magick. They do not exist. This assertion, I know, will draw the ire of some, and yet I care nothing about that.

Magick is Magick. It has many faces, many forms and its magnitude is beyond the human scope of comprehension. The power we wield when we harness the forces of nature, the planets, the elements and even moreso the spirits is something that exists wholly independent of such man-made concepts as good and evil. Like anything else in the universe, Magick can be used for evil, but it cannot BE evil. It is believed by many that rites of magick with the ability to destroy or kill are inherently evil, and yet this is folly. Is a pencil evil because in the wrong hands it can be pushed through flesh and sinew to puncture the carotid artery? No, it simple "is." It can be used to build or to destroy; To write a tome of great wisdom which can change the world, or to blind a victim when stabbed with it in the eye.  Likewise, no act of Magick in and of itself can be called evil. It is magus who determines how the power of Magick is applied and to what end. 

Let us examine a few situations;

Take, for example, a Magickal ritual wherein the Magus calls on a spirit widely known as a demon, one of the worst and more malefic thereof, makes offerings of incense and even his own blood, makes supplication unto this "devil", this embodiment of evil, and beseeches him to end the life of another man. Is this an evil act? SR and others would respond with an emphatic yes, and no justification or mitigation would suffice to convince them otherwise. 

And yet....

What if the target were a murderer of children and innocents? What if the target were the bloodthirtsy dictator of a region engaged in genocide, Darfur or Sudan? Hell, what if the target were Adolf Hitler? Would it still be evil? Would it still be "black" Magick? 

Take for example a spell wherein the Magus entreats the "Holy Angels of God", taps the forces and powers of beautiful Aphrodite and the planet of her rule for the express purpose of attracting love for himself or another. Surely THIS is a "good" or "white" Magick. 

But what if the love that is attracted is in the form of a married mother of 2, who leaves her family for the Magus? And what of HER free will? Have we not influenced her "destiny" and potentially altered her fate? 

Magick is but a tool and like any tool it can be used to build or to destroy. Magickal killing is no less valuable to us than Magick designed to cultivate love, nor is it any more evil. Therefore the terms Black and White Magick are oxymoron. There is only Magick, what you choose to do with it may make YOU evil or good by human standards and using societal norms, but the Magick is just the Magick. Therefore in my practice Magick of a destructive nature, whether to an obstacle or a man, is as relevant as its more socially acceptable counterpart. 

That being true, and having made my case for why "harmful" magick is, to me, quite acceptable under the right circumstances, the question again becomes "What are the ethics of Black Magick?"

That question, however, will have to wait until tomorrow.


  1. You certainly are right.
    But still killing is deeply imoral. No matter the excuse. In your mind yes, you have an excuse for killing. And so does the killer.

    Adolf Hitler is a a perfect example. In our mind, he is to be exterminated to protect the lives of the jews from death. In his mind, the jews were to be exterminated to protect his Aryian Europe from them.

    Any killer has a reason. We only have to think that we become like them.

    it may well be a difference between ethical and un-ethical magic. I for one am against any love magic because it s a form of binding one s will. A spell done to attract someone into a relationship they do not desires simply sickens me. And usualy these things never turn out happy.

    General love magic and attraction magic can be done ethiclly only when attracting available people of similar tastes that would in fact resonate with the magus, to increase the chances of meeting one another. But targeted love magic is equal to rape.

  2. I have found again and again that great rejection against "harmful" magic is usually the sign that you are talking to an armchair magician.

  3. I would say that the ethical definition involved in white and black, etc, is going to fall to each person to decide for themselves, based on their cultural/moral upbringing. I believe there is a universal truth, but we could discuss it till death and likely never come to an end.

    As an Example, my own code is that white is all that which has an outcome which brings everyone and everything in creation closer, and towards the Divine Beingness/Oneness. All that leads even one person away from this is not white.

    I agree... the magic itself is not black and white. It is the results.

    Following my own code, i would say that even killing Hitler would have been black. White would have been to pour on him immeasurable love and pray that he sees the error of his ways, and protection magic for all those that he would attempt to harm.

    This is of course an ideal... and being human, i am far from ideal :p A few years ago i found myself in a bar brawl attempting to save my little brother that was caught in the middle of it (neither he, nor i were a part of it, it just errupted around us). I found myself decking ppl that were attempting to hurt my little brother... so yeah... when family is involved, i am weak :( or human :) I still strive for that perfection though.

    Divine Will trumps all codes however... if Divine Will is to assist someone by force (though very unlikely), than that is the plan.

  4. I have dealt with harmful magic and my work with others is focused on repairing what others did. I am certainly not an armchair magician and I do disapprove with harmful magic.

  5. I'm loving these comments and the meaningful debate going on here... I'm going to enjoy writing the second part to this post! I always appreciate input from others who walk the walk and from whom I can learn.

  6. I would be curious as to why yuzuru finds anyone that is against "harmful" magic is an armchair magician? I am definitely not an armchair, and yet, i attempt to make sure that any magic i perform is not injurious to anyone. Even when asking for a job, i specify that the job opportunities not be taken from someone else more deserving or in greater need than myself. I also make sure not to do magic to GET the job, i only do it to get offered an opportunity to sit down and speak with the interviewer. I rely on my own skills, experience, and charming good looks (tongue in cheek) to either get the job or not.
    Even healings for myself are "if it is within Thy Will".

    I make this distinction because i believe that we do have free will and the ability to affect the universe with magic outside of the Divine Will. Others may believe that magic will only work if it is inside the Divine Will, so if it works, great, if it didnt it wasnt meant to be.

    I want to make a distinction here that is very important. These are my own views, and i do not impose them on anyone other than myself. I think we should all listen to everyone and accept them for what they believe. I would not say that R.O. is WRONG in his approach. I would simply say this is not my approach, but i listen/read his approach and give it thought. My own approaches and thoughts are continuously growing.

  7. I wouldn't agree that anyone who refuses to consider harmful magick is an armchair Magician. I would, however, suggest that anyone who says they would never, under any circumstances resort to its use simply has not encountered such a circumstance yet. Survival instinct is inherent in ALL humans, regardless of their spiritual path or how deep their belief that killing is wrong, as is defense of one's family and loved ones. Until one has been in a situation where his life or well being, or that of a loved one is in clear and present danger, he cannot know how he would react regardless of his beliefs.

    I'll touch on this in greater depth in my next post, but as a general rule I employ harmful Magick only if the situation is such that I would also be willing to use mundane means of attack. If I am aware of a real and tangible threat to my safety from another person, then that survival instinct kicks in and I react.

    I dont find that evil, immoral or even wrong. In fact I find it obligatory. I would never look for a reason to do anyone harm nor do so for material gains or advancement, but when I threat is perceived to myself or my family, I will take whatever tools are available to me and neutralize that threat.

  8. M.C. i agree with you that this IS human nature. This is inherent in us, to preserve ourselves, and our progeny, our mate which can help project our progeny, or those in our family which can do the same if we fail.

    Looking at the animal kingdom is a prime example of what is WITHIN us. The male lion will sleep 20 hours a day. Waking up to mate, eat, and defend his group. When another male threatens their territory which threatens their family, they will destroy that male. Same can be seen in a dog from a tiny Chihuahua to a great Dane.

    Are their actions Evil? of course not. They are natural. Even Hitler, in his twisted view of the world, he was acting in a way that was in conformity with his nature. He was attempting to promote his progeny, which he viewed as his entire race. He saw various enemies and enemy actions and worked to eliminate them. This is by NO MEANS an excuse for his actions! His actions were the result of these natural processes going haywire in my opinion. The results of WWI thrust Germany into the worse economic, social environment imaginable for a developed nation. Instead of turning inward (as i hope most magicians do) and seeing how they ended up there, what their Karma was telling them, and how they could make amends for their collective Karma, he looked outward and projected it all on everyone else.

    History lesson aside...
    I would pose this question for the sake of conversation and the joys of debate:
    Are we as people, and to a higher degree as Magi, meant to take this human nature and expand upon it? Or work to raise ourselves above it? Was Peter right in using a sword to strike the Roman Guard that threatened Jesus? Or are we meant to take Jesus approach and if we are to die on a cross, than so may it be? Peter, in that moment, as blessed and educated and special as he may have been, exhibited our human reactions (imho).

  9. I would like to add that in that moment, Peter was not evil, as neither was the Roman Soldier. I do not find the actions of our soldiers abroad evil or wrong either, and my heart goes out to each and every one of them and their families. My wish is not that they stop doing what they are doing. My wishes are that they were never put in the position to do what they must do, but i love them for doing what they must.

  10. "Black" and "white" magic is derived from religious definitions imposed upon magical practice by a specific historical paradigm. You'll find that most if not all folk-traditions view magick in far different terms.

    In hoodoo something is justified or it is not justified. Justified indicates that it serves a great purpose while unjustified indicates that it does not. Neither of these terms are limited to either "white" or "black" magic. If there is a rapist in my neighborhood, i'm not going to wrap his photo in some thread and hope that doesn't hurt someone. I am going to send the very hounds of hell to drive his ass to jail. Its coercive work, its harsh, and it is justified.

    Again I have no issues with people who have personal ethics that keep them from this type of work, but to generalize it all as evil is simply myopic. It boils down to doing what needs doing.

    For example, the idea that love magic is somehow wrong always intrigues me. It seems people are worried about the connotations of manipulating another person into loving, without realizing the entire courtship process is manipulation! I am manipulating people by the clothes I wear, I am subtly influencing their psyche with choice words, with certain social scripts and so on.

    The point is that magick should not be categorized so simply.

    And Hypnovatos, your point is certainly interesting about Jesus and Peter, but I am compelled to point out that Jesus was merely pointing out there was a time and place for all actions. He *did* after all take a switch to the money-lenders in the Temple showing that there are times when you bless your enemies and other times where you take a stick to them.

  11. ConjureMan, I agree with you that these terms are archaic and from a time where magic was closeted by various religions. The same can be said of the term evil. However, they cam still have a place in our lexicons as points of reference from a given outlook. You do magic to steal my wife, from my perspective that was evil and black (assuming our marriage was solid and we were truly happy). From a neutral position it was simply you out peacocking me?

    As long as were cognize them as positions based on reference they can actually assist us in seeing the situation from another's shoes.

    Your point is taken about Jesus and the switch and I have many times used the overturning of the tables at the temple to explain the need to get upset sometimes to make a point. I would point out that there is a difference between a sword and a switch, knocking over a table and blowing up a cafe.

    Oh, and I would enjoy sending a pedo or rapist to prison for life as much as anyone. I just would send em blessings so that some day, when they ready they will grow from it. Now you could say that if it was my family member they raped would I respond the same... I would like to think I could if they honestly seeker forgiveness.

    The patron saint of the island I am from is St Dionesious. He was a monk at a monastery at the north of the island and his brother lived in the city near the south. A man killed his brother and then fled from the soldiers. In his running he eventually found his way to this monastery and confessed his sins to a random monk. That monk could see that the man was truly sorry and had already learned his lesson. He knew that spending time in a cell or being killed would not better the man or the world. In forgiving this man, he sent into the world an individual that could now be a messenger of hope. He not only forgave him but helped him escape.

  12. Hypnovatos, terms like black magic and white magic may seem useful, but in reality are too simplistic, for they create a dichotomy that does not exist. Specifically they refer to types of magical practice. Necromancy, for example, is deemed a form of black magic, whether used for good, or ill. Therefore such terms are limiting by their very nature.

    Good and evil on the other hand, removed from the desire to apply them to methodology, systems, and whole traditions of magical practice, can be useful if only describing the intent of the work as well as the result.

    This is made clearer by the fact that my perspective revolves around the concept of acting justly. As you pointed out this would be the difference between a switch and a sword. The key being the appropriate response. There is an appropriate time for forgiveness and an appropriate time for righteous rage and in the latter there is an appropriate time for the use of a switch and an appropriate time for the use of a sword.

    The key is having the wisdom to know when to use what. In such an approach taking your wife away from you wouldn't be a factor for the act would be unjust. Yet, if she was in an abusive marriage then it would be a justified action.

    The approach that many magical traditions that their very core retain, is one where the magician acts as a force for power and harbinger of justice. He acts for the betterment of himself and his fellow man.

  13. I'm going to have to go with Michael on this - magick just is. It is not white, black or grey. The practitioner's intent is what can project the working onto society's morally ambiguous lines. The objections claiming we have to conform to society's laws in all things disregards that outside of magic folks will break the law and even be lauded for it at times. Your situation, context and environment can be in my opinion a valid excuse for the most socially 'evil' act. Also, what happens when the majority is dead wrong? I would find it morally objectionable to follow the socially approved behavior or activity in that case. Point is I don't intend to be boxed into a rigid majority rule. I do what needs doing according to my situation and those I value around me. To uselessly restrict my actions is I think the greater folly. I would also ask - why was magick attractive to anyone in the first place? For me at least, I wanted to be able to color outside the approved church-centric lines that dominates western culture. I'm not going to be 'guilted' into inaction and generous hand-wringing when things go south for me and my loved ones. I can see how my actions might be construed as evil (depending on the situation) but honestly at the end of the day I look to my close friends and family for approval of my actions - that's the yardstick by which I judge, and if it's shorter or longer than society thinks is acceptable, I really don't give a damn about that.