Upon reconnecting with a classmate from high school, he was shocked to learn that I fashion myself a witch. How could I, someone with a degree, someone who believes in the empirical, someone of generally practical mind, possibly believe in the hocus pocus of magic? What had changed between the Marietta he knew when we were teenagers and the Marietta nearing her 30’s that could have led to this? How exactly did I think magic works?
Surprisingly, this is a common question I get from witches and non-witches alike. Later this month, my circlemate Abby will be talking about how science and magic are not contradictory on WitchyWords.com. I certainly agree with her but, before her guest article makes an appearance, I would like to talk about my personal definition of magic and how I believe it works.
A reminder that this is my personal beliefs on the manifestation of magic. Your mileage may very.
Energy: Unknowable to Knowable
Before we get down to my personal definition of magic, we must first define energy. The word “energy” gets tossed around a lot like we’re just supposed to know what it means and what it feels like. Many books I read as an early witch never defined it or used the word in the definition, making it unapproachable and unknowable. Either you already understood magical energy or you were without.
The scientific field has an empirical definition of a variety of energy, from the kinetic energy of a rolling ball to the chemical energy released by a log in a bonfire. We as witches are contained by this logical world. That’s why energy in witchcraft doesn’t mean visible spheres of light or lightning bolts zapping from our wands. Energy cannot be created, as we well know (thanks Johann and Daniel Bernoulli), and thus we can’t just manifest plasma out of thin air.
Instead, we must look at energy from a more psychological point of view via Hermes Trismegistus and Hermetic philosophy. Who exactly is Hermes Trismegestus? Religious leaders and scholars alike aren’t sure. Some believe he was a syncretic combination of two gods: The Egyptian god Thoth and the Greek god Hermes. It’s true that these gods share a multitude of traits. Both were gods of wisdom and communication, of writing and magic, and both were known to guide souls to the underworld. That being said, during the Renaissance and solidifying beliefs in Christianity, it became generally accepted that Hermes Trismegisus was something of a contemporary of Moses, a prophet with foresight into religious groundwork. Whatever your beliefs are, a god thrice-great or a prophet with profound knowledge of religious, his philosophy (known as Hermeticism) has been groundbreaking in rationalizing and providing an equal playing field for all religions. And I think philosophy is exactly where we need to start when trying to define energy as it stands in the world of witchcraft.
The physical realm exists, that we know. But how do we know it? To know is to perceive, thus we experience the physical realm through a mental lens according to Hermetic philosophy. This mental realm is endless and expansive, imaginative and creative, and it is within our control. In this mental realm, we can create what otherwise does not exist. This mental realm is where energy, the kind of witchcraft lore, becomes our personal reality.
Then there is a third realm: A subconscious realm. This is a realm that exists beyond our control, a sort of spiritual realm that brings forward the unknown. It too is perceived through the mental realm. Dreams, hallucinations, visions if you will, are processed through our mental lens. I exist in all three realms and all three are linked by my mental lens. What happens on the physical realm or the subconscious realm or the mental realm is all processed through my experiences.
For example, think about a piece of furniture you have in your house that is not in the room you are currently in. Picture it in your mind. Visualize it. No matter how accurately you visualize this piece of furniture, there will always be something you miss or something you change – a scratch you’ve forgotten or intentionally fixed in your mind perhaps. You might even decide to envision it in a different color or style. This creates a version of that furniture that is slightly off from the physical realm. By utilizing visualization, we have created a version of that object that is a degree from the original. If we picture it in its place, it is a degree off from the physical version. Likewise, another other realm, such as the subconscious, is a degree off from both the physical and the mental. Imagine these multiple versions overlapping translucently at just a degree off. This creates a sort of ethereal vibration in our mind.
Thus energy is the vibration that everything exhibits as it inhabits the many realms we perceive through our mental lens. This is why the many forms of energy work, the manipulation of that vibration in our mental realm, is so imperative to magic: Because energy occurs in the mind. This is also how we can obtain energy from external sources: By sharing a mental connection, by perceiving with our mind, the source we choose to utilize, be it deitific or natural or even personal.
But Energy is Not Enough for Magic
If energy work is enough for you, then it is enough. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. However, energy work stands on its own. It is not the definition of magic but rather a component. The other?
In our early example, we attempted to visualize furniture for the sake of energy work with no real intent to achieve anything in this realm. But what if we were to utilize energy work for the sake of physical world change?
Enter intent that crosses multiple realms.
If multiple realms exist within degrees of one another, if we perceive everything through a mental lens and if we can manipulate our mental realm, then we can manipulate how we perceive multiple realms, thus changing our reality.
Let’s take a simple example of spellwork: A green candle for prosperity. We light the candle in this world and close our eyes, visualizing the candle in our mind’s eye. We have now created a link between the physical world and our mental world. We then visualize our personal energy charging the candle and sending our needs across to our subconscious. We have now traversed all three realms in our mind. When that candle burns down, we are left with our memories of that and a mindset for prosperity.
Within the context of this, we come to the definition that magic is the vibration that everything exhibits as it inhabits the many realms we perceive through our mental lens plus intent that crosses those multiple realms.
So is it just in my mind?
This is the question every witch must come to terms with on their own. For some, the Principle of Correspondence from Hermeticism, “as above so below,” means that everything that happens there happens exactly as it happens here; in other words, everything that happens on the mental plane also happens on the physical and subconscious or spiritual planes. For others, the Principle of Mentalism, “The universe is mental,” means that everything happens through the mind’s lens and thus is purely psychological. How you choose to interpret these principles is entirely up to you.
Use it as you will.