THEOSOPHY, Vol. 52, No. 10, August, 1964
(Pages 301-304; Size: 12K)

WHAT IS MAGIC?(1)

MAGIC is as old as man. It is as impossible to name the time when it sprang into existence as to indicate on what day the first man himself was born. Formerly, magic was a universal science, entirely in the hands of the sacerdotal savant. Though the focus was jealously guarded in the sanctuaries, its rays illuminated the whole of mankind. The Chaldeans, whom Cicero counts among the oldest magicians, placed the basis of all magic in the inner powers of man's soul, and by the discernment of magic properties in plants, minerals, and animals. By the aid of these they performed the most wonderful "miracles." Magic, with them, was synonymous with religion and science.

Chaldean Magic, the science of Moses and other learned thaumaturgists, was wholly based on an extensive knowledge of the various and now forgotten branches of natural science. Thoroughly acquainted with all the resources of the vegetable, animal and mineral kingdoms, experts in occult chemistry and physics, psychologists as well as physiologists, why wonder that the graduates or adepts instructed in the mysterious sanctuaries of the temples, could perform wonders, which even in our days of enlightenment would appear supernatural? It is an insult to human nature to brand magic and the occult science with the name of imposture. To believe that for so many thousands of years, one-half of mankind practiced deception and fraud on the other half, is equivalent to saying that the human race was composed only of knaves and incurable idiots. Where is the country in which magic was not practiced? At what age was it wholly forgotten? The ancients knew more concerning certain sciences than our modern savants have yet discovered.

Magic was considered a divine science which led to a participation in the attributes of Divinity itself. "It unveils the operations of nature," says Philo Judaeus, "and leads to the contemplation of celestial powers." In later periods its abuse and degeneration into sorcery made it an object of general abhorrence. Moses was indebted for his knowledge to the mother of the Egyptian princess, Thermuthis, who saved him from the waters of the Nile. The wife of Pharaoh, Batria, was an initiate herself, and the Jews owe to her the possession of their prophet, "learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and mighty in words and deeds." (Acts, 7. 22.) Justin Martyr, giving as his authority Trogus Pompeius, shows Joseph as having acquired the great knowledge in magical arts with the high priests of Egypt. (Justin xxxvi, 2.) Magic in all ancient times had been considered as divine science, wisdom, and the knowledge of God. The healing art in the temples of Aesculapius, and at the shrines of Egypt and the East, had always been magical.

The Aztecs appeared in more than one way to have resembled the ancient Egyptians in civilization and refinement. Among both peoples magic or the arcane natural philosophy was cultivated to the highest degree. Add to this that Greece, the "later cradle of the arts and sciences," and India, cradle of religions, were and still are devoted to its study and practice -- and who shall venture to discredit its dignity as a study, and its profundity as a science?

With the Hindus it was and is more esoteric, if possible, than it was even among the Egyptian priests. So sacred was it deemed that its existence was only half admitted, and it was only practiced in public emergencies ... The Egyptian Hierophant, notwithstanding the practice of a stern and pure morality, could not be compared for one moment with the ascetical Gymnosophists, either in holiness of life or miraculous powers developed in them by the supernatural adjuration of everything earthly. By those who knew them well they were held in still greater reverence than the magians of Chaldea. ... To these men no secret power of either plant or mineral was unknown. They had fathomed nature to its depths, while psychology and physiology were to them open books, and the result was that science or machagiotia that is now termed, so superciliously, magic.

The thaumaturgists of all periods, schools, and countries, produced their wonders, because they were perfectly familiar with the imponderable -- in their effects -- but otherwise perfectly tangible waves of the astral light. They controlled the currents by guiding them with their will-power. The wonders were both of physical and psychological character; the former embracing effects produced upon material objects, the latter the mental phenomena of Mesmer and his successors ... Mesmerism is the most important branch of magic; and its phenomena are the effects of the universal agent which underlies all magic and has produced at all ages the so-called miracles.

The ancients called it Chaos; Plato and the Pythagoreans named it the Soul of the World. According to the Hindus, the Deity in the shape of Aether pervades all things. It is the invisible, but, as we have said before, too tangible Fluid. Among other names this universal Proteus ... was termed by the theurgists "the living fire," the "Spirit of Light," and Magnes ... The word Magh, magus, is derived from the Sanskrit Mahaji, the great or wise (the anointed by the divine wisdom) ... The various cosmogonies show that the Archæal Universal Soul was held by every nation as the "mind" of the Demiurgic Creator, the Sophia of the Gnostics, or the Holy Ghost as a female principle. As the Magi derived their name from it, so the Magnesian stone or Magnet was called in their honor, for they were the first to discover its wonderful properties. ... the representatives of "exact science" are unable to either explain or even offer us anything like a reasonable hypothesis for the undeniable mysterious potency contained in the simple magnet. We begin to have daily proofs that these potencies underlie the theurgic mysteries, and therefore might perhaps explain the occult faculties possessed by ancient and modern thaumaturgists as well as a good many of their most astonishing achievements.

Nothing can be easier accounted for than the highest possibility of magic. By the radiant light of the universal magnetic ocean, whose electric waves bind the cosmos together, and in their ceaseless motion penetrate every atom and molecule of the boundless creation, the disciples of mesmerism ... intuitionally perceive the alpha and omega of the great mystery. Alone the student of this agent, which is the divine breath, can unlock the secrets of psychology and physiology, of cosmical and spiritual phenomena. "Magic," says Psellus, "formed the last part of the sacerdotal science." It is firmly and solely based on the mysterious affinities existing between organic and inorganic bodies, the visible productions of the four kingdoms, and the invisible powers of the universe. That which science calls gravitation, the ancients and the mediaeval hermetists called magnetism, attraction, affinity ... a thorough familiarity with the occult faculties of everything existing in nature, visible as well as invisible; their mutual relations, attractions, and repulsions; the cause of these, traced to the spiritual principle which pervades and animates all things; the ability to furnish the best conditions for this principle to manifest itself, in other words, a profound and exhaustive knowledge of natural law -- this was and is the basis of magic. Withal, magic is not something supernatural.

White, or "Beneficent Magic," so-called, is divine magic, devoid of selfishness, love of power, or ambition, of lucre, and bent only on doing good to the world in general, and one's neighbor in particular. The smallest attempt to use one's abnormal powers for the gratification of self, makes of these powers sorcery or black magic. Arcane knowledge misapplied, is sorcery; beneficently used, true magic, or WISDOM.

To sum up all in a few words, MAGIC is spiritual WISDOM; nature, the material ally, pupil and servant of the magician. One common vital principle pervades all things, and this is controllable by the perfected human will. The adept can stimulate the movements of the natural forces in plants and animals in a preternatural degree. Such experiments are not obstructions of nature, but quickenings; the conditions of intenser vital action are given.

The adept can control the sensations and alter the conditions of the physical and astral bodies of other persons not adepts; he can also govern and employ, as he chooses, the spirits of the elements. He cannot control the immortal spirit of any human being, living or dead, for all such spirits are alike sparks of the Divine Essence, and not subject to any foreign domination.


COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:

IAMBLICUS ON MAGIC

We declare that the most perfect and dominant essences that are the causes of the celebrations in the matter of sacrifices, are closely united with the demiurgic and supreme powers. Hence, because they comprehend in themselves all the active essences, however many they are, we say that all the creative forces whatever they are, act together in concert as one; and that from them all in common, a beneficial influence goes forth into the whole phenomenal world ... to households and to every individual with an ungrudging willingness: one love (attraction) connecting all and creating this bond by an arcane communion. 


--A. WILDER: Iamblichos: On the Mysteries

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(1) NOTE.--A student's Collation from the writings of H. P. Blavatsky.
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