Articles by Virgil

Eclipses and Magic by Virgil

At 1:30 today, my boss, my coworkers, and I left work and walked to a nearby plaza to observe the partial eclipse occurring over our city. At 1:45, ninety percent of the sun would be concealed behind the moon. It was a cool experience. There were many people in the plaza, and eclipse glasses were passed around so everyone could take turns looking at the sun. When I wasn’t looking at the sun, I was chatting with my coworkers and random strangers and thinking about how great it was to not be working. It wasn’t a life-changing experience, but it was a fun break from routine.

A few hours later, I checked Facebook to reply to some messages sent to my page. As expected, people were talking about the eclipse. There were conversations about the eclipse in Facebook groups I belonged to that had nothing to do with magic, and there were conversations about the eclipse in Facebook groups I belonged to that were esoteric or occult in nature. Most of these conversations were initiated by someone asking questions like the following.

  • What kind of magic can I do during the eclipse?
  • How can I harness the power of the eclipse to fuel a magical working I do during the eclipse?
  • Should I work with solar or lunar energies during the eclipse?

This got me thinking about a big problem in magic. It’s a problem that I mentioned briefly in The Spirit of Magic and plan to discuss more thoroughly in a future book. However, it’s not a problem that I am the first to notice. In fact, Eliphas Levi wrote about this same problem quite a bit in Dogma et Ritual del la Haute Magie and The Magical Ritual of the Sanctum Regnum. The problem I am referring to is that it is very easy for an interest in magic to turn into an obsession with magic.

So, am I saying that anyone who tries to do magic during an eclipse is obsessed with magic? No, but I’m saying that they very well could be. Let me explain with an exaggerated example.

Imagine that, for some reason, money magic was particularly powerful if you did it during your child’s wedding. Thus, when your son or daughter decides to get married, instead of attending your child’s wedding, you stay home and perform a money magic ritual. Of course, you knew that doing this would require you to miss your child’s wedding, but you simply couldn’t pass up this opportunity to do a money magic ritual at such an auspicious time.

Wouldn’t you say that someone who made a choice like that is clearly obsessed with magic? Unless the person who makes such a choice is extremely destitute, then yeah, I’d say anyone who chooses to perform a magical ritual instead of attend his child’s wedding is probably obsessed with magic.

Now, I’m not saying that an eclipse is just as important of a day in your life as the wedding of your child is. However, it’s still a cool, neat, and rare occurrence. If you know the eclipse is going to pass over you and you begin planning the magical operation you intend to do during it without even considering the option of just relaxing and enjoying the eclipse instead, then there’s a good chance you lean toward being obsessed with magic. If you intend on becoming magician, you might want to do some introspection to figure out whether that’s the case. Magicians are serious about magic. Wannabe magicians are obsessed with magic.

So yeah, if someone were to ask me a question like “Why didn’t you do any magic during the eclipse?” I would probably explain that I preferred to watch the eclipse while hanging out with my wonderful coworkers and having a nice time. This, of course, isn’t the only reason I didn’t do magic during the eclipse. It’s just the most concise reason, so it’s the one I would give. The other reasons would take longer to explain, and have to do with the essential nature of genuine magic.

Those people who learn that an eclipse is going to occur and immediately wonder what kind of magical operation they should do clearly adhere to a philosophy like the one below when it comes to practical magic.

I do magic whenever it seems like a cool time to do magic (e.g. during eclipses).”

And hey, if that’s the philosophy that determines when and how you approach practical magic, I can definitely see why you would do magic during an eclipse. However, the philosophy I adhere to when it comes to practical magic, that is to say magical acts intended to change the world in some way, can be more or less summarized as follows.

I do magic whenever it would help heal, strengthen, or repair the Balance and the Pattern.”

This is another reason I didn’t do magic during the eclipse. As a magician, the Balance and the Pattern is always on my mind when it comes to the art of magic, and when the Balance and Pattern are considered, there was no more reason for me to do a magical working during the eclipse than at any other time today or this week.i

Josephine McCarthy is literally the only human teacher of magic I am aware of who teaches students about the Balance and the Pattern. However, despite this, she’s not the only teacher of magic I am aware of who teaches students about the Balance and the Pattern. Why? Because every single spirit you will ever work with as a magician will teach you about the Balance and the Pattern.

Now, some people might ask, what about those teachers who teach their students about the Tree of Life? Since the Tree of Life depicts the Balance and the Pattern, aren’t they teaching students about the Balance and the Pattern? Well, yes and no. For one thing, you are assuming they have a proper understanding of the Tree of Life, which few of them do. This isn’t to say that my interpretation of the Tree of Life is the only correct one, or that there aren’t multiple valid interpretations of the Tree of Life. Yes, there are multiple valid and correct interpretations of the Tree of Life, but there are also invalid and wrong interpretations of the Tree of Life. Many modern interpretations of the Tree of Life evolved from older interpretations of the Tree of Life formulated during a time when magic was seen as just an exotic form of psychology and those who studied the Tree of Life could only view the diagram through the lens whatever system of regular or occult psychology they adhered to. The image they saw through this lens was distorted at best.

Furthermore, learning about the Tree of Life by studying books or listening to lectures about the subject can only provide you with an understanding of the Balance and the Pattern on an intellectual level. It cannot provide you with an understanding of the Balance and the Pattern on what we might call a “magical” level. In magic, experience is the only reliable source of genuine knowledge and the only valid gateway to genuine understanding.

To truly understand the Balance and the Pattern, you need to become aware of and experience the Balance and the Pattern. Once you’ve done this, you then live in harmony with the Balance and the Pattern. This way of life not only further develops the magician’s understanding of the Balance and the Pattern; it also provides the magician with a sense of well-being. Compare this life with the life of the sorcerer, who thinks he can live a happy life by using rituals to banish away his problems and casting spells to acquire money, women, and power.

Human magical teachers who guide students in the process of understanding the Balance and the Pattern, living in harmony with the Balance and the Pattern, and working magic in a way that heals and upholds the Balance and the Pattern instead of disrupting it are rare.ii Like I said, Josephine is the only such teacher I am aware of. The rarity of these teachers should not be surprising given the history of modern magic and its roots. A lot of modern magic is influenced by the Golden Dawn, which taught that as long as you invoke the highest divine names corresponding to the forces you are working with, nothing can go wrong. This is incorrect. Even if you invoke every divine name you know while performing a ritual, the ritual can still seriously mess up the Balance and the Pattern. Divine names and divine power don’t work the way many modern ritual magicians think they do, but I digress…

So, to return to the topic of today’s eclipse and why I didn’t do any magic during it, one reason is because I am serious about magic instead of obsessed with magic, and therefore don’t feel a need to do some magic every time something strange happens in the sky. Furthermore, the answer (at least for me) is negative when the following question is considered.

When the Balance and Pattern is considered, is there any reason for me to go out of my way to do magic at this particular time (during the eclipse)?

i The phrase “the Balance and the Pattern” comes from Ursula Le Guin’s book A Wizard of Earthsea. I’m using it because it’s convenient and accurately reflects a magical and universal truth. The universe does have a Balance and a Pattern, as shown in symbols like the Tree of Life, Jacob’s ladder, and the scales of Ma’at. Furthermore, when magic is done in ignorance of the Balance and the Pattern, it can disrupt the Balance and the Pattern.

ii Bardon, knowing he couldn’t really do this through a book, teaches you how to develop basic magical skills in IIH. In PME, he teaches you how to apply those basic magical skills to contact and work with the ruling genii of the Earthzone and the planetary spheres. In the process of working with these spirits, you will learn about the Balance and the Pattern, after all, this knowledge is absolutely necessary for genuine magic.

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