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Tuesday 7 October 2014

“Real Magick” In RPGs, part 666

So, I know that I said when I started this series that it was NOT going to be an instructional series on western Magick; but rather an attempt to help GMs to “fake it” credibly, to be able to imitate the “setting details” of what a modern occult campaign would like in the “real world”.

But I’ve had a few people asking me to please give them some kind of info on where they should start if they wanted to actually get into magick.   Which is weird, since you’d think that mainly what I’ve written thus far would discourage people from getting into it; but I guess there are a few who might read all this and say, “shit, its worth it”.  And in a way I have to feel that’s awesome, since you’d really have to grok it, to get the point, after the completely stark completely honest fairly brutal assessment of all the downside of western occultism I’ve been doing on here.

So this entry is to give suggestions for those who are looking to investigate some magick for themselves; mainly in the question of who would I recommend for reading.

I guess the first thing I’d recommend, above all else, would have to be the writings and magical system of Aleister Crowley.  Now, the thing is that Crowley can sometimes feel a bit intimidating to the casual reader.  So if you have no balls, you might want to start with something a bit more approachable, namely, Lon Milo Duquette.

Duquette is easily the most brilliant writer on the occult since Crowley.  His books are incredible, though he rarely treads any new ground; what he’s really good at is translating Crowley’s work into a slightly folksy, straightforward style of modern American writing that absolutely anyone could understand.  Duquette’s “The Magick of Thelema”, is probably the best introductory book to the magical system designed by Crowley.  Any of Duquette’s other books are great too, particularly his “Chicken Qabalah” (written under the pseudonym of “Rabbi Lamed Ben Clifford”).

So start with those.  Then read Magick in Theory and Practice, by Crowley.  Then Magick Without Tears, also by Crowley.  Then buy a Thoth Deck, and read The Book of Thoth, by Crowley, and after that read Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot, by Duquette.

At this point you should already be familiar with all of the basics of magick, and you should have by now decided if you think its “for you” or not; you should also have probably decided by now if you plan to be one of the 90% who read a lot of Crowley and Do No Magick, or the 10% who actually get off their asses and do magick.  If the latter, by this point you should certainly already be writing in a magical diary, performing solar adorations, meditating daily, doing the banishing ritual of the pentagram, working with the Tarot and/or the I Ching (for the latter, I recommend John Blofeld’s translation) experimenting in astral travel, learning all the magical signs and god-forms, “Saying will” before eating, and giving sex magick some serious consideration.

In other words, you’ll be well on your way to being batshit obsessed; and if you do the above you’ll also very quickly be having some initial experiences that will confirm to you why this shit is worth becoming batshit obsessed about.  Your ego will start getting little cracks, and you’ll start getting little glimpses beyond the veil that surrounds the tiny little tower you constructed for yourself that you called “reality”, into something way beyond what you could have conceived of.

So yeah, there are a few other writers I could recommend (and after getting a good solid grounding in actual magick, you might want to look at some of these crazy chaos magick types like Peter Carroll, or Dave Lee); but I don’t see the point; the above will be more than enough to get anyone who actually wants to do something to get started.


Currently Smoking: Masonic Meerschaum + Image Perique

(originally reposted June 26, 2013, on the old blog)


  1. Or you could abandon your own will, which is irreparably marred through the fall, and give in to the Way, the Truth, and the Life of Jesus Christ, and discover True freedom.


    1. A common misunderstanding of the concept of Will in both magic and christianity there.

      "Love God, and Do what thou Will" - St. Augustine

    2. The "Love God" part comes first, and is inseparable from the second part. And the capitalization of "Will" in your quotation was done by the quoter. :) If there is true love of the True God, then your will is in union with His.

      I don't misunderstand what is meant by "will", but I think in all non-christian traditions there is a lack of knowledge of the fall, which occurred through disobedience driven by lies and the desire for godhood outside the Will of God; an impossibility.

  2. Outside the christian tradition, the idea of the "fall" is irrelevant. Your statement is pretty much the same as a buddhist pointing out that within most christian traditions there's a fundamental lack of knowledge of illusion of the self.

    Within the christian tradition, unless you want to engage in the heresy of Calvinism, you have to assume that human will is not only a real thing but also an essential element of salvation. The choice to unite to god can only happen as a manifestation of human will to receive grace; without it, salvation is impossible. Thus, "Love is the law, love under will".

    1. I agree with most of that. except your first sentence. :) But that is because I am not outside the Church. If indeed it is real, it can hardly be irrelevant. But my pedantic ways aside, your point is clear.

      I would also dispute (slightly) this wording: "The choice to unite to god can only happen as a manifestation of human will to receive grace."

      Rather, the choice to receive grace is indeed a choice to lay down my will, acknowledging that it is flawed. This is why Christ "fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt."

      He said this out loud to teach us the Way.

      My answer to this is to be humble and love God, even if you don't know Him. And also love your fellow human beings, with the same humility, as creatures made in His image. Living this way is hateful to demons, and will generally keep them away from you. But it does require effort...will...if you will...;) Therefore it helps to ask God for help...Even if you don't know Him.

    2. Chris: It sounds to me like you're being exceedingly literalist, and I thought the Orthodox were more clever than that.
      Who was actually there with Christ to see him say that? Who recorded it?
      Let's consider what else that verse (which is obviously symbolic, rather than some kind of accurate recording of Jesus' words) represents:

      The type of Will that magicians talk about is what's called the True Will, which is to say the manifestation of the divine will within each being (in the medieval grimoires depicted as "the Holy Guardian Angel"). The process of a magician's work from initiate to adept is all about discovering this true Will and then acting on it. This specifically requires the magician to engage in exercises that allow one to look beyond the ordinary 'will', which is really a false collection of impressions and ideas that obscure our ability to hear and act on the True Will.
      When Jesus says "nevertheless not as I will but as thou wilt", he is expressing, in a way consistent with the Jewish/Christian framework, the very essence of the magical work: the ability to put aside the small-w 'will' of whatever you imagine to be what you want, in favor of fulfilling the True Will, your mission, role and place in the Universe, and in that way to embody that Union between the human and the divine. The very act of saying "I will fulfill the true Will" is a free choice of the human will, the only truly free choice that is possible, and it is impossible without the freedom of inclination to do so on the part of the human being. To unite to the divine will is thus not the death of human will but its fulfillment, the ultimate act of the magician.

      If I might recommend a piece of reading material to you, let me suggest that you look at a medieval grimoire called The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage. It is written from a Jewish perspective (its author being Abraham of Worms, a Jew) but it plays a very central part in magical practice to this day.

      Finally, a little lesson in religious art: do you know who this is?:

      or this?

      Or this guy?

      That's Jesus; in the earliest known depictions of him, mostly found in Roman catacombs. In these depictions, whenever Jesus is performing a miracle (other than healings) he's using a magic wand. This is exactly the same form of wand that magicians throughout the roman world used. And I didn't have to pick-and-choose for these; Jesus with a wand is so totally ubiquitous in all the early Christian iconography that this is pretty much the way that early Christians were meant to actually be able to tell that it was Jesus! ("which one is Jesus?" "He's the guy with the wand, multiplying the loaves and fishes").

      The wand is incredibly significant, to the point that the only other figure in early Chrsitian iconography shown with the wand is Peter:

      Who is distinguishable from Jesus on account of his beard (Jesus in early depictions was always shown as a beautiful beardless youth reminiscent of Apollo or Antinous). The implication of Peter having the wand after Jesus was meant to be a sign of the transmission of Jesus' authority (and magical power) to Peter.

      Jesus is depicted in early christian iconography in a way that is entirely consistent with the classical understanding of a "magician", which is to say someone who performs theurgia, the uniting of consciousness to the higher spiritual plane.

    3. @Chris Thanks for the positive sentiment. I try to live a good positive life, and if there is some sort of judgement awaiting me upon death, I hope that is good enough, as I lost my faith in Christianity a few years ago. Which to most believers makes me screwed. Hope this does not derail the main topic.
      There are enough interesting stories I have heard both firsthand from people I know and trust to consider there may be something more to the world than what can be normally seen. So I have enjoyed this series of posts as a means to experience a different viewpoint.

    4. I'm aware of the "early iconography" and the theories surrounding it as far as magic and that, although not as versed on it as you.

      As to me being literalist, well...I'm just being Orthodox. Not sure why you'd think we'd be more clever. :) We are able to see poetry in the scripture, but really what we see is wholeness. Nothing clever or un-clever about it, really, just the tradition, as passed down through the centuries. The words of Christ speak to me now, and I try and speak them to others and share my thoughts about them, which come from the context of Orthodox Tradition, which goes back to the time of the Apostles. You'll find nothing in the epistles or in any of the (non-heretical) early Christian tradition in line with what you're talking about. These are all later interpretations. As a priest of the Orthodox Church and someone who was raised in it, I can say that with a fair degree of confidence.

      Quite simply, if it's anything that says that Jesus Christ was not the Son of God incarnate who came to save us from our sins and unite us to Himself and raise up our fallen nature by His crucifixion, death and resurrection, it will be suspect as a demonic influence toward self-will. But I'm sure you knew that.

      It is quite unlikely that I'll be reading any grimoires any time soon; I've found your series on magical practices interesting and informative, but I would find the other dangerous. I know you and I see things differently on that score, and that's fine. But be content that at least I take you seriously; quite seriously in fact. Therefore I think you're quite seriously mistaken. But I also believe that you're probably a responsible and moral person who cares about truth, and that counts for a lot. And there, perhaps, is our greatest point of contact.

    5. The Buddha was once asked if there was anything an ordinary person who didn't want to become a monk could do, and he said "If you can't be arsed to actually do all the hard work to experience nirvana, then you can only fall back on trying to be a good and moral person and practicing devotion".
      I have no textual evidence for my particular translation (however, I firmly feel that the historical Buddha swore, a lot; even historical texts about him point out that he 'acted grumpy'), but that's pretty much what he said.

    6. @Harvicus, if you've lost faith in the Christianity of your youth, you may find it again elsewhere; the Orthodox Church, perhaps! If you honestly cannot find it in yourself to believe in Jesus Christ, God knows that, and you (and all of us, God help me) will be held responsible for what you know and how you behaved according to that knowledge, and no more.

      I would also bet that "most believers" do not think you're screwed. And the ones who do believe in a different god than I do.

      All that being said, may God be with you on your path, and light your way with truth.

      God desires mercy, not sacrifice.

    7. Fr. Chris: yes, I don't expect to change your mind, or even to challenge your faith, I wouldn't assume that possible. But I guess because I myself was raised in a tradition of intellectual catholicism I would suggest that the only Christianity worth hanging on to would be one that isn't afraid to observe truth in the light of both historical fact and the careful examination of the diversity of human spirituality.

      In any case, the reason I recommended Abra-melin is because it gives a very good example of just how compatible the medieval grimoiric tradition was to judeo-christian thought. In fact, to practice the work of Abra-melin as it was originally presented in that text it would be impossible to achieve the work without being a devout practitioner of the monotheistic faith.

    8. It's interesting that an intellectual Christian tradition is part of the reason you're not a Christian anymore, or that's how I read that. But yes, the Catholic tradition in general is more intellectual than the Orthodox. That doesn't mean the we don't use reason, or that we're a-historical. Nor would it be fair to say we're afraid to observe truth.

      I once again take issue with some niceties in your wording here. The last sentence of your first paragraph does a bit of a snow-job on the reader, taking it as read both that Orthodoxy is afraid of the whole truth, but also that the premise of how that truth is arrived at should be mutually understood as a combination of historical fact and the careful examination of the human spirit. I reject that premise, so therefore I reject the assertion that Orthodoxy is afraid of any truth.

      Truth is not properly observed in any light, because it is Truth itself (or Himself) that is the light by which we properly observe the world. Orthodox Christianity is that Truth, de facto, because it is the body of Christ (The Way, Truth, and Life), and comprises all of His members in particular. The Church is guided by the Holy Spirit, and speaks with the mind of Christ, Who is the new Adam, and therefore comprises everything it means to be truly human, body and spirit. While individuals within the Church can and do have failures of understanding and vision, it is the Whole Church (for Christ's body is not broken or divided) that speaks through the traditions. I could say much more.

      As to the diversity of human spirituality, I'm not quite sure what you mean, but I think you mean different religions or spiritual traditions. However that very diversity is influenced by demonic lies to draw us away from worship of the True God in Trinity. Those lies began at our beginning, and the world has been steeped in them, so I don't really hold that against practitioners of those traditions; I hold it against the demons who are the perpetrators. Because every human is an icon of Jesus Christ, and carries the Word in seed form, our desire for Truth is generally stronger than the demons can comprehend. Therefore no human tradition or practice arrived at honestly will ever be entirely devoid of truth. That does not mean that there are multiple truths or multiple paths to the One. There is only one Way, and He is both the road and our companion on that road. He is both the Door and the One who knocks and the One who opens. He is all in all.

    9. I should amend what I said; I do not reject the premise that truth can be arrived at through observation of history and the human spirit, but rather historical "fact" (a concept which I find to be suspect) and human spirituality.

    10. I wasn't authoritatively stating that the Orthodox church is afraid of whole truth; I don't know that religion's policies enough to really say (though pretty well all institutional religions are afraid of the whole truth, or otherwise they wouldn't be able to exist).

      But no, I was suggesting YOU are afraid of whole truth, because you're scared to read a book.

    11. Ah! :) Well, that's true. I am afraid to read certain books these days, and indeed have to guard myself when reading or experiencing many things. This is not because I'm afraid of the whole truth (although I am), but because I know myself enough to know that I have certain proclivities and curiosities and weaknesses, and don't wish to entertain those things overmuch. Being afraid of the whole truth is what keeps me from reading ORTHODOX books I should be reading, because I know I'll be held accountable for what I know.

      However, I'll make a deal with you; I'll read this book if you'll listen to a podcast series entitled "Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy" by Fr. Andrew Damick. It's easily available on iTunes, and explains more eloquently than do I the differences in doctrine between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, Protestantism, etc. By your own admission, much of your way of thinking, both about Christianity and other traditions, has been influenced by what amounts to medieval scholasticism. I would have you learn about us, as you would have me learn.

    12. Could you perhaps do a book recommendation rather than a podcast? Or a series on youtube? I don't have itunes.

    13. Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy is available in book form, and the audio is also available here:

    14. Father Johnson, this Calvinist heretic (thanks for that RPGPundit, I accept) is also checking out the Damick book. Enjoyed this exchange. How I wish it typified western conversations about religion.

    15. Cool! I hope you like it! I've never actually read the book, but I keep the podcast on my iPod and refer to it frequently. I imagine I should probably get the book for the same reason.

      And yes, I agree about the conversation. As much as Pundit and I clearly don't agree on some things, this has been a refreshing conversation none-the-less.

  3. Though skeptical, I find this all exceptionally fascinating and love learning about other ideas. I have no desire to learn magic myself, but I wonder if there is anything I should know as a "normal" person to protect myself from such outside forces (assuming they exist).

    1. In essence, no. Unless you want to actually learn magick, all kinds of 'charms' or 'evil eye wards' or other such protections are pretty much pointless drivel, usually invented so someone could make a quick buck.
      The good news is that they're totally un-necessary too. While I don't discount the ability of magick to be used to fuck someone up, 99.9% of the time someone is worried about "evil forces" or "bad energy" or being "cursed" by someone, it's really just their own fears fucking them up. What's more, if this blog series has taught you anything , it should be that 90%+ of anyone who claims to 'do' magick actually lacks any kind of real experience (or the wherewithal or even any actual desire to obtain said experience) to even be capable of a 'curse', and of those who do, 90%+ of any one who's actually gotten anywhere with magick would never bother to curse anyone.

    2. Thanks for the reply and information. Always curious (and perhaps a bit worried) about the existence of some hidden or lost universal laws that were necessary for survival in the greater meta-physical sense. However, the idea that there are is great fodder for a campaign.

  4. Aleister Crowley is like the brown/white box original D&D. Foundational but also archaic and unnecessary. The later stuff like Moldvay and Mentzer D&D seems more like Anton LaVey to me. And the modern retro-clones that have come out in the last few years are the chaos and post-modern magic which takes a little from each paradigm.

  5. Lavey was a useless fraud. He was like a bad crowley-impersonation that did no actual magick and got the philosophy all wrong.

  6. I don't agree, obviously. But to each their own. Nevertheless, his explanation of how ritual magic works in The Satanic Bible is 111% more concise, cogent, and confident than Aleister Crowley managed in a half a dozen books.