G.G. Bolich, PhD, received his master’s of divinity from George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon, and earned his PhD in psychology from The Union Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is currently a teacher at Webster University in South Carolina.
Part One: Physical Magic
First Wand: The Magic of Breath
Second Wand: The Magic of Movement
Third Wand: The Magic of Rest
Part Two: Instrumental Magic
Fourth Wand: The Magic of Music
Fifth Wand: The Magic of Sanctuary
Sixth Wand: The Magic of Time
Part Three: Imaginative Magic
Seventh Wand: The Magic of Illusions
Eighth Wand: The Magic of Spells
Ninth Wand: The Magic of Dreams
Part Four: Sympathetic Magic
Tenth Wand: The Magic of Alchemy
Eleventh Wand: The Magic of Friendship
Twelfth Wand: The Magic of Love
LOOKING FOR MAGIC IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES
Need magic? Who doesn't? Even folks who harbor dark thoughts about magic--based on an unforunate and incorrect assumption of it--covet the reality by whatever name they call it. The reason for the tremendous popularity of fairytales, myths, and modern fantasies rests in a universal human longing. We all want to experience the full power of life. We want to know that life has meaning, that problems are not insurmountable, that will and effort triumph. Whether we are accustomed to turning to science or to religion--or to both--the same longing energizes us. But what do we do if the answers we find are not enough?
We turn to magic. Even if we have to make it up, we insist on finding some basis for hope. Here is the good news: we don't have to pretend there is magic; it really exists. We are surrounded by magic. We need only to stop looking in all the wrong places.
Where are the wrong places to look? Let me answer this way: if you aren't finding magic, you are probably looking in the wrong places. Magic doesn't actively avoid any of us. If it is hidden, that is simply because it wouldn't be magic if it was obvious and ordinary! But the secret of magic rests in this very disguise.
THE NATURE OF MAGIC
Magic reveals the extraordinary in the ordinary. Of course, over the centuries, many different ways of saying that have come about, but the essence remains exactly this one simple matter: magic helps us see and use the extraordinary potential existing in ordinary matter and energy. Magic surrounds us and infuses us. It is in our bodies (physical magic), our tools (instrumental magic), our minds (imaginative magic), and our relationships (sympathetic magic). Magic resides, in short, in ordinary vessels. But don't be fooled. The slender willow looks weak beside the stout oak until the fierce storm proves it is the willow that has the strength to surive the winds. We can summarize this basic idea in a simple statement: Magic is the knowledge and practice of liberating extraordinary properties in ordinary realities.
There are four fundamental divisions of magic. That there should be four is not surprising; the number four has long represented nature (four seasons, four directions, four elements, and so on). The four divisions are physical magic, instrumental magic, imaginative magic, and sympathetic magic. They reflect the totality of nature, encompassing both matter (physical magic and instrumental magic) and energy (imaginative magic and sympathetic magic).
The divisions are interrelated, interdependent, and in some respects epigenetic (produced by a chain of developmental processes). The last quality alone will help illustrate the other two. The divisions are epigenetic in that growth and progress in magic is developmental, progressing from physical through instrumental to imaginative and sympathetic magic. Each division in some vital respects builds upon the earlier ones. Thus, a mastery of the body precedes a master of tools. One who cannot exercise discipline over the body will not show much control over mind or will.
The first two divisions include forms of magic in which the physical body plays the most prominent role. In physical magic, the body acts on itself; in instrumental magic, the body acts on other objects. It is commonly thought among nonusers of magic that energy is the basic stock of magic. But that is not so; it is physical substance.
This book begins with physical magic because it is the simplest and easiest to learn. As a general rule, this simpler the magic used, the better. The simple the magic, the more natural the order of all things. But "simpler" is not identical to "simple." Physical magic, though the easiest to learn, is not easy to learn. Like all magic, it requires time and patience.
Magic starts with matter, and the most amenable matter is that of our own bodies. Magic's first division is about working with one's own body. Perfectly consistent with the nature of magic, healthy bodies produce the best magic. However, no matter how poorly one has kept his or her own body, magic can be used to promote health and wholeness. That increases the body's strength, which makes for more potent magic. It is a reciprocal and synergistic relationship.
The second division continues the emphasis on substantial things. Instrumental magic is similar to physical magic, just as imaginative and sympathetic magic are closely related. Instrumental magic, as the name indicates, is about the use of instruments. In fantasy literature, wooden staffs or physical wands are tools of magic. In the world of human experience, instrumental magic works with both objects and tools like words or behaviors. These are products of the body. They are also tools of great power.
The third division advances to imaginative magic and is perhaps the kind of magic people are most likely to think about. In this division, we can speak of "illusions" and spells." This magic is of the mind. It involves using the mind to affect feelings and behavior--both of which are material expressions of our personal humanity. Imaginative magic demands real, concrete, visible effects. It never remains solely internal.
The fourth division culminates the sublest, most complex, and most difficult kind of magic: sympathetic magic. This magic is of the will. In the world of human experience, it is the magic of interpersonal relationships. It is that awesome magic that can occur when one spirit connects with one another. Its highest expression is love, which is the hardest, purest, and most natural manifestation.
WHY PEOPLE MISUNDERSTAND MAGIC
Because magic can be so powerful, many people are uneasy with the thought that it can all be boiled down to such simple notions. Therefore, there has been a tendency to dress up magic in mysterious language--not unlike what both science and religion have done. Also, like followers of these other disciplines, magic users have frequently set barriers and complicated sources of study to limit membership. In a way, that's not a bad idea: science, religion, and magic all possess very real power, which should be used carefully. Creating some boundaries and structuring inititation into each of these fields actually helps protect people. At the same time, the truth is that we all practice science, religion, and magic. The only ways we differ is in how well or poorly and how consciously or unconsciously we act in each area.
This book offers an introduction to magic that you can use intelligently and immediately. I suppose you can call this "modern" magic, because it dialogs with science and religion and speaks in modern words and acts. I prefer the term "circumstantial" magic, because the goal of the magic I teach is to help you better read and master your circumstances. In this way, you can successful meet life's many challenges. No matter what label you prefer, though, this magic has roots in the past.
Ancient magic, as viewed by many modern folk, seems mere superstition. For the most part, study of it has been descriptive and derogatory. But that tends to be true of most things ancient--we modern people are rich in hubris. As a result, only the popular mediums of literature and film have kept even the dream of magic in public view. Nevertheless, magic as a perspective on the universe is very, very old and has always retained some serious proponents.
Our modern word "magic" likely stems from the Magi, those Persian religious men made famous in the Christian Gospels. Like magic users everywhere, they studied nature closely, including marking the motions of heavenly bodies and speculating on their meanings. In fact, as we consider these activities, it is easy to see that the boundaries among science, religion, and magic were blurred; astrology was viewed as "science" and was used in religion by people--the Magi--we today associate with magic! Were they alone in pursuing knowledge and practices that only later sorted into three distinct fields of knowledge? The reality is that magic has roots in many places around the world.
There has never been a consensus about exactly what magic entails. Nor has there ever been common agreement on whether it is inherently good, evil, or neutral. Everybody has her or his own peculiar viewpoint. Given magic's nature, this is expected. I think a similar thing can be observed about many things, including both science and religion. These are the two subjects most often compared and contrasted with magic.
MAGIC, RELIGION, AND SCIENCE
As a way of understanding and working with reality, magic stands alongside religion and science. It rivals neither, for all three have their own unique concerns. Historically, magic has existed in the area between religion and science, sharing some commonalities, and too often receiving from both a scornful--and quite unnecessary--rejection. Why should we deprive ourselves of help from any souce? Help is where one finds it, and magic offers surprising and potent aid to meet the many challenges life presents us. But because the reaction of both science and religion has been so prejudicial--like younger siblings trying to carve out space for themsleves by denying the family resemblance to an older brother--we need to take a moment to see how these three fields compare.
Let's start with religion. Clearly, magic has some relation to it. The famous distinction made by the author of The Golden Bough, Sir James Frazer, was that religion is about relationship with the majestic personal force or forces that rule the universe, while magic is concerned with the impersonal forces of nature. In this sense, magic is the forerunner of science! Magic can become part of a religion--and sometimes does.
Magic is commonly depicted as using special knowledge, words, and rituals to bring about some desired end. Of course, that does not tell us much, since both religion and science can be described in the same manner. More exactly, magic seeks wondrous changes by using insights not generally known and causing these changes through the power of words and deeds to affect these basic forces or structures of nature. Hmm, still sound so much like religion and science, doesn't it?
So what are differences? Some people contend that magic is opposed to religion because it represents efforts to manipulate or coerce God. This criticism reflects a misunderstanding of magic's interest. In fairness, many prayers I have heard and religious rituals I have witnessed seem to have the very end for which magic is wrongly condemned. More to the point, this would be an accurate criticism only if God was regarded as one more thing of nature, or perhaps Nature as such. Nothing in Twelve Magic Wands supports this kind of conclusion.
Perhaps a better distinction is this: religion represents, within distinct communities, more structured and regulated ways of understanding and relating to the universe and whoever guides it. Magic, on the other hand, always has had a more idiosyncratic and esoteric feel to it. Magic is not what gathers large groups; at any given time, it is for the individual and a few others. While both religion and magic concern themselves with the basics of the cosmos, their focus is different. Religious center in the personal: personal dieties and individual and communal devotion. Magic, like science, is relatively indifferent to these things.
So what about science? Both magic and science are interested in identifying and affecting the impersonal forces and structures of nature. Both are concerned with understanding the "laws" that predictably guide knowledge and application. But where science relies on patient consensus building through multiple observations and trial-and-error experimentation, magic is relatively impatient. Magic relies more on the experience of highly successful individuals and the intuitive grasping of what works when it works. Yet, at the same time, magic has more confidence than science does in thinking that basic laws can be found, named, and immediately used by individuals.
So what is magic? It is neither science nor religion, though it has similarities to both. Occupying some place between these two giants, magic is more personal than science, less personal than religion. It is more individualistic than either religion or science, but also more impatient. Magic's approach to the universe is as teleological--intentional, purposeful, and meaningful--as religion and science, but the intended end is different. Religion intends fundamental relationship to the guiding mind of the cosmos; science intends fundamental knowledge of the cosmos that can be practically applied on a wide scale. Magic intends knowing enough about the way things are to make powerful and beneficial changes for the individual right now.
Magic, then, is relatively selfish. Magic presumes that because the laws of nature are really laws, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Anyone who wants to can discover what is there. It is up to each individual to do exactly that if he or she desires to prosper. The truth is, I cannot make others do what is good for them any more than I can stop them from doing harm to themselves or to me. But there are things I can do, if I will. Whether I call what I do religious or scientific or magical is largely a matter of perspective and rather subordinate to the outcome.
Now we have come to my modern take on this ancient discipline. The best way I know how to start explaining magic in a modern form is by inviting some reflection on the experience of reality. Magic attempts an understanding of reality by seeking to uncover its deepest, most basic structures and processes. These are generally understood as impersonal, but that is not crucial. Indeed, a great part of the need people have felt over the millenia to distinguish magic and religion has come from their tendency to overlap, especially when magic's interest with the impersonal meets religion's concern over ther personal. My conception does not choose between them but adopts a magic user's way to incorporate some of what a religious mind is interested in.
Ordinary and Extraordinary
Reality can be summed as the ordinary and the extraordinary together. Most of reality--both things and experiences--seems pretty mundance. Fundamental forces like gravity are taken for granted. Basic element like oxygen are hardly noticed. On the other hand, the rare and unusual forces, structures, and the things of the cosmos excite our attention by their very extraordinariness. But is the difference between ordinary and extraordinary merely a matter of their commonness or rarity? Not at all.
The root sense of the word "ordinary" is "order." Science and religion alike depend on the conviction that reality conforms to rules. Magic shares this conviction, seeks those rules, and applies them. The word "extraordinary" is rooted in the notion that some reality stands out of the usual order. Some reality is uncommon; it appears at least to defy normal rules. As ordinary reality has slowly revealed the laws to which it conforms, extraordinary reality has resisted our efforts to glimpse the laws, if any, which guide it. So our distinction between ordinary and extraordinary in considering reality is sensible and meaningful.
There is another sense in which these terms are useful when discussing reality. With most of reality we soon derive a set of expectations. Thus, for example, with water we readily conceive of it in any of three common states, as vapor, liquid, or ice. Yet we regard some states as more ordinary and others as more extraordinary for water. Our normal expectation is to encounter it as a fluid. We can press the matter further. We anticipate the fluid might present itself as calm or excited, hot or cold. We sense a continuum ranging from the most expected, mundance ordinariness through less likely appearances to those so rare and unexpected they seem to be extraordinary.
There is no need, then, to view the extraordinary as absolutely separate from the ordinary. Anything ordinary can become an extraordinary when provided with the right circumstances. As in a tumbling mountain stream, ordinary stuff can become extraordinary. In such waters we may well notice only white water, the extraordinary emerging out of the ordinary water around us. This change from ordinary to extraordinary reality is not merely perceptual, not merely assignment of meaning to things that otherwise are meaningless. The ordinary water that becomes the extraordinary rapids remains water, but is not exactly the same water as in a quiet pool. The reality of water is embedded in its circumstance. The exciting uncertainty of life is that any ordinary reality can suddenly become extraordinary given the proper circumstance. Magic aims at manipulating circumstance to let the extraordinary emerge.
Circumstance and Coincidence
As I see it, human beings experience reality as a set of circumstances, a few of which are characterized by coincidence. The word "circumstance" is exactly right: we experience life from within a position ("stance") whose elements are all around ("circum") us; a circumstance is an environment rich in facts, objects, and actions. Circumstances surround us. Everything is circumstantial, embedded in a rich and complex texture with us at the center. In this view, we inevitably experience reality with our own Self at the center.
Circumstances change constantly. Most of our efforts in life seem to be negotiating these changes so as to minimize the negative changes and hold on to the positive features as long as we can. Yet we often think good moments are fleeting while bad circumstances linger. Magic trains us to "read" circumstances by seeing them fully and unflinchingly. But there is more to magic than just that. Modern science has evidence that observing reality changes it. We learn to read circumstances, we change them as they change us. Their essence stands disclosed; that revelation alters us. As real beings, when we change, reality must change as well. The reciprocal nature of such transactions is of great interest to religion, to science, and to magic.
Inescapably, circumstances are larger than we are. Though they contain elements directly contributed by our own existence and acts, they are essentially independent of our making. An accurate statement would be, "circumstances are not made, only fashioned"; that is, we find ourselves inside enviromnents and situations not of our making, but susceptible to our molding and shaping them. Magic is all about how this can be accomplished by using the stuff already there.
Some circumstances bear a special character we catch in the term "coincedence." We have all experienced coincidences. Surprisingly, things we do not expect to do so coexist, occur together, or occupy the same space and time. Suddenly, we are aware of an order imposing itself on the normal chaotic complexity of our circumstances. The surprising sense of order suggests to us meaning and purpose. The circumstance thus acquires special significance as we ponder what we make of it.
We might attribute this sense of order to mere chance. Magic does not insist on one particular set of explanations for our experience of coincidence. Science indicates that our brains abhor disorder. Perhaps the sudden, unexpected surprise of a sense of order stems from a fortuitous bit of brain work. Or perhaps coincidence is just the inevitable outcome of some rolls of the dice as natural laws grind away. Pure chance sooner or later produces outcomes that stand out from ordinary circumstances.
Yet is is characteristically human to suspect in such things the intervention of some purposeful agent. This agent must be more than human because mere mortals are never larger than their circumstances. Thus, the possiblity of diety is raised and concidence can be conceived as circumstance shaped by some extraordinary agent. If this is the case, then we best pay attention and figure out what it all means. In this manner, magic borders on the province of religion. The possibility, at least, of some superior personal force is allowed.
We might name such an agent the Extraordinary. But we are under no obligation to do so. The ultimate value of describing reality as ordinary and extraordinary is to remind us both of the dependency of reality on circumstance and of the meaning all reality holds, at least potentially. Magic resolutely remains alive to the possibilities that any ordinary reality can become extraordinary. Also, any extraordinary reality can be used to enhance, change, or fulfill ordinary reality.
This book is all about learning magic in order to improve your personal art of meeting life's challenges in any circumstance by finding extraordinary resources in your body, tools, mind, and relationships. In this book, you will discover that magic wands really do exist. By sharing my knowledge of magic with you, I am offering you twelve magic wands, which is eleven more than my clients and students normally ask for! These wands depend only on your willingness to see them, pick them up, and use them.
MAGIC, MAGIC, WHO'S GOT THE MAGIC?
Still uneasy about the idea of magic? Then let's make a deal. Let us pretend that when I talk about magic I am just using a clever gimmick to sell this book. We can agree to engage in some as if thinking. We will proceed as if magic is real even though you know it is just a metaphor for an imaginative psychological perspective. I'm fine with that agreement. As far as I'm concerned, what I am showing you in this book is just as real and works just as effectively by whatever name you want to call it.
I am not asking you to believe in anything. Dip into any chapter and see if what I am saying makes sense. Try any exercise. If there really is something to what I'm saying, I trust it to become obvious as you offer a good faith effort. Nor will I promise you more than I can deliver. Magic does not make life easy--nothing can do that. Suffering is inevitable, defeats still come, feeling anxious and depressed are part of the rhythms of life. Magic is just one path that offers aid along the challenging journey of life. It is not a panacea, curing all ills.
The value of magic is all that helps. It offers something for us to do besides passively enduring a sorry fate. It provides ways to be better, inside even as things are growing outside. As an added bonus, it sometimes helps things be better outside too. If magic cannot do everything, what it does do is still valuable: it breathes back into our spirits a sense of meaning and purpose. What we do matters.
So who has magic? I do. And I'm not alone. Magic has yielded its secrets to people down through the ages. Whenever we stoop quietly close to earth and listen, really listen, we hear the faint whisper of life. Magic is the power of life waiting for us to use it. Who has the magic? You do.
Let's start waving those wands!