Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Spells Versus Prayers

This is not going to be a political post, but I absolutely love the graphic there from Comedy Central that they included in their piece on witches casting spells to bind Donald Trump and Christians trying to protect him with prayers. It highlights something that I think should be obvious, but which many people apparently fail to understand. The point is this - when performed in order to accomplish specific objectives, spells and prayers are exactly the same thing.

Now technically I would point out that the diagram mentions "supernatural forces," and I prefer the term "paranormal forces," because as I see it everything that exists is a part of nature. I understand that's a bit of a quibble, but I do think it's an important one. I do not believe that there's anything about magick that renders it fundamentally beyond the scope of the scientific method aside from the primitive state of our measuring instruments with respect to consciousness. I see spirits as natural, psychic abilities as natural, and so forth. So to me, "paranormal" is a better term than "supernatural."

At any rate, I think some of the confusion regarding spells and prayers comes from the fact that there are prayers that don't fall into the same category as spells, such as contemplative or devotional prayer. These practices are more similar to meditation than they are to spells, in that they are performed to uplift and expand consciousness rather than to accomplish any task in particular. The difference between this and goal-directed prayer is essentially the difference between mysticism and magick. One is performed to facilitate spiritual growth and understanding, and the other is performed to get things done.

Aleister Crowley defined magick as "the science and art of causing change in conformity with will." So for anything to be magick, it must be performed with a specific intent. So even an occult ritual performed without an intent is not magick. Celebratory rituals that are simply performed to mark seasons or whatnot? Those aren't magick. Some groups refer to them as magick, or as magical rituals, but really all they are is rituals. A ritual, in and of itself, is not inherently magical.

Now to be clear, it's not that difficult to turn a celebratory ritual into a magical one if you know even a little about what you are doing. Add on a statement of intent that, say, the ritual is being performed to increase the prosperity of your community throughout the upcoming season, and you're done. But I find that many ritualists and supposedly magical groups out there don't do that, and some don't even see the point of it. To me it seems pointless to raise a bunch of spiritual energy and then do nothing with it.


Back in 2015, I found myself in the middle of a discussion of this issue when I contended that a policy change at Etsy resulted in the banning of non-Christian magical items, but not Christian ones. The example that I found seemed to be completely obvious - they told a seller to change their "Angel Spell Candle" to an "Angel Prayer Candle" to keep the listing from being taken down. The seller didn't have to change anything else in their description, just the one word.

The theoretical justification was that Etsy was banning items that made "metaphysical claims," but they were also totally okay with "Catholics believe that prayers to Saint xxx accomplish yyy," but not "Occultists believe that spells calling on xxx accomplish yyy." With the angel candle, the seller didn't have to change what the candle was supposed to do. They just needed to call it a "prayer" instead of a "spell." To me, this was clear evidence of discriminatory bias, but a fair number of people argued that the two were somehow totally different.

Well, they are not. I rarely state anything that definitively here on Augoeides, but in this case I believe it is warranted. This is even more pernicious when you realize that with the way "prayer" is used colloquially, it almost always is the same thing as a spell. "I'm praying for xxx" means that what you are doing is magick. The specific intent makes it so. Otherwise, what's the difference? As the graphic points out, one is "good" and the other is "bad," and that's about it.

Another area this touches on is the fundamentalist Christian idea of "Satanic ritual." When you look at what fundamentalists accuse "Satanists" of, it should be clear that nothing they are allegedly doing is magick. Basically, the fundamentalists come up with the worst, most awful things that they can come up with, and then imagine "Satanists" doing all of them while wearing robes and drawing shapes like pentagrams. But where's the magick?

Those same fundamentalists never can articulate the intent behind those alleged rituals except "being evil" - and that's just stupid. Nobody would go to the trouble of setting up and performing all those depraved rituals without some sort of goal in mind. That's what I mean when I talk about how those "Satanic conspiracy" idiots don't understand the first thing about how magick works. This is also true of the various "Satanic frauds" out there who claim that they were the exact sort of Satanist that fundamentalists rail against before they converted - but still can't explain what those "Satanic rituals" are supposed to actually do.

I don't think there's anything wrong with magick, so to my way of thinking you can pray for whatever you want. But it should also be clear that anybody who prays for specific things and then tells you that magick is evil is a total hypocrite. Magical spells call upon God, or the divine, or however you conceptualize it. Many spells call upon angels. So if anybody can explain how praying for God to send the Archangel Michael to do something is any different than conjuring Archangel Michael to do something by the appropriate name of God, I'm all ears.

The main reason we do "spells" instead of "prayers" is that ritual magick is a technology that essentially makes "prayer" more efficient and effective. I think some of the resentment goes back to the idea that using a technology for this is somehow "cheating" - but as I see it, that's just as dumb as claiming people should not educate themselves because then they will know things that other people don't and somehow that's "unfair." At it's base, it's a ridiculous argument. When you want something, you should use everything you have.

I also think that there are Christians out there who are heavily invested in the notion of prayer being fundamentally different than spells because they want to keep praying for stuff, and are trying to convince themselves and others that what they are doing is neither sinful nor heretical. But given a strict reading of scripture, it really kind of is. The bottom line is that any fundamentalist Christian who prays for stuff needs to stop unless they want to be at odds with one of the tenets of their own religion.

My disagreement with the injunction against magick is one reason that I'm not a fundamentalist Christian, but if you accept that injunction, you also need to quit praying for specific things. Once you have an intent, it's magick whether you call it "prayer" or not. It also seems pretty clear to me that "magick" is a pretty common human approach to the world. While statistically speaking there are hardly any occultists in the world, if you include the number of people who pray for specific things as users of magick my guess is that magicians probably outnumber non-magicians, even here in the United States.

So keep this in mind whenever you get criticized for "practicing magick." If the person doing the criticizing is a Christian, ask them if they ever pray for specific things. If they say yes, you can freely tell them to shut up and leave you alone - because they practice magick too.

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1 comment:

Dacia Pacea said...

I don't know if this Christian practice is performed in both Orthodoxy, as well as in Catholicism, and I'm not even sure that people in other predominantly orthodox countries perform it. But in my country people usually write a note which contains their prayers. Then they take that note to church and leave it there, along with a small donation. The donation is not mandatory, but I guess people believe it will reinforce their prayer.

The note usually goes like this " prays for..., and for..., and so on. Amen!". Each note is read by the priest during a certain weekly sermon. I think it's similar to what Aaron Leitch is doing - I just remembered that :) Anyway, people mostly do this for healing, financial issues, to help someone with exams and things like that.

The stereotypical person who does this in my country is an old woman, self proclaimed to be a hard believer, and usually one who sticks to church canon and dogmas as much as possible. Yeah, the very individual who would call a teenager a Satanist if they saw them with a wacky hair style or something, not to mention a pentacle around their neck. Ironic, don't you think? :))