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alt.magick FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

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Archive-name: magick/faq
Updated: 200502
Posting-frequency: monthly or by inquiry

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
*alt.magick FAQ Part 1. General*

What is alt.magick about?

The technical and scholarly discussion of magick and related arts and
sciences. This includes but isn't limited to: alchemy, Kabbalah/
Qabalah, Western ritual magick, Hermetics, renaissance neoplatonism,
Eastern mysticism, Neo-Pagan magick, folk magick, chaos magick,
divination, mythology, and occult and magical organizations. Methods
and schools of magick vary. The general viewpoint in alt.magick is to
try for a dogma-free approach to magick, which precludes a lot of
religious discussion, although we draw religious and mystical
vocabulary in *all* the time, since we are too short-lived to reinvent
all the symbols in the world.

What is magick, and why do you spell it with a 'k'?

There is no universally agreed-upon definition of magick. One popular
definition is "the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in
conformity with Will" (put forth by Aleister Crowley). Some see it as
a change in external reality, sometimes internal reality (perception
or worldview or consciousness). Magick can also be defined as any of a
variety of life-practices that devote the practitioner to self- and
(thereby) environment- transformation.

Crowley revived the archaic 'ick' spelling that had dropped out of
fashion by the early 1800s. 'K' is the eleventh letter of the English
alphabet. The number eleven has quite a few symbolical imports. Eleven
is the number attributed to the Qlippoth (chaotic, unbalanced forces
in the Qabalah). Eleven represents the union of the microcosm
(pentagram - five) with the macrocosm (hexagram - six). On a Thelemic
note, eleven is the number of words in "Do what thou wilt shall be the
whole of the Law", the number of letters in Abrahadabra, and the
number attributed to Nuit. 'K' can also be seen as standing for kteis
(vagina - cup), the complement to the peos (penis - wand), which
directly relates to the creative power of magick and is symbolic of
the Great Work. On a more mundane level, the 'k' helps to distinguish
magick from stage magic (prestidigitation).

What are related subjects I can explore?

Any and all of the following might provide some thought provoking
material: mysticism, sorcery, tantra, kundalini, psychology,
parapsychology, chaos theory, quantum physics, OBE, spirit visions,
sex magick, talismans, amulets, charms, potions, ESP, memetics,
Satanism, Zen, Discordianism, channeling, Theosophy.

What are some good sources of online information?

Many websites come and go. The nature of the internet prevents
reliance upon any particular site's indefinite presence. Your best bet
is to use a search engine for keywords such as "magick", "enochian",
"pagan", "golden dawn", "aleister crowley" or any of the terms one
finds while lurking in alt.magick.

You can also check with online bookstores for available books on
subjects you find interesting.

What is alt.magick not about?

This newsgroup is not about specific religions (Pagan, Satanist,
Christian, New Age, whatever). It is not about stage magic. It is not
about the Necronomicon. It is not about conspiracy theories. All of
these topics have their own newsgroups already.

What kind of enquiry is appropriate here?

Specific questions are more likely to receive a positive and helpful
response than general 'teach me magick' type enquiries.

Are there any archives?

Google at maintains the most
complete archive of alt.magick.

*alt.magick FAQ Part 2. For those new to magick*

Is magick real, can anyone prove it?

Usually this question is asked by someone who thinks they already know
what magick is. Once you have made up your mind, it is difficult to
unmake it, so throw out what you think you know and try for a fresh

There are any number of demonstrations of the intentional manipulation
of reality. Aleister Crowley wrote that all intentional acts are
magical acts. Every act we perform is a mysterious operation by which
what we conceive becomes what happens, to a greater or lesser degree.
Now, usually, when we think of magick we don't think of something so
banal as twiddling our thumbs. We think of somehow affecting the world
around us directly by manipulating symbols, thoughts, and feelings.

So, let's consider the placebo effect. A placebo is a chemically inert
substance that has the power to heal or relieve symptoms entirely
because the recipient believes that it is, in fact, medicine. The
placebo effect can be and has been measured by scientific experiments,
beginning with H.K. Beecher's study, published as "The Powerful
Placebo" (1955, JADA 159:1602-1606). Beecher's methods of inducing the
placebo effect were unsophisticated and the researchers got only about
a one-in-three positive response. More recently, The Power of Non-
specific Effects in Healing: Implications for Psychosocial and
Biological Treatments. (Roberts, A. H., D. G. Kewman, L. Mercier, and
M. Hovell. 1993. Clinical Psychology Review 13:375-391), determined
that "under conditions of heightened expectations, the power of non-
specific effects (placebos) far exceeds that commonly reported in the
literature." They found that in more than 7000 cases, the healing
power of placebos occurred in almost 70% of them.

The placebo effect is a prime example of how our beliefs and
expectations, unaided by any other physical medium, can affect the way
we feel and the way our bodies act. This is magick, demonstrated

As John Dodes, author of "The Mysterious Placebo" (Skeptical Inquirer
January/February 1997 Vol. 21, No. 1), advises, "Paracelsus (Swiss
alchemist and physician 1493-1541) wrote: 'You must know that the will
is a powerful adjuvant of medicine.' It is imperative that skeptics
recognize the wisdom and warnings inherent in this statement."

To be sure, there are many claims made by people who practice some
form of magick that they can induce psychic powers, open
communications with non-corporeal entities, cause certain events to
occur, and so forth. Some of these claims are clearly specious; others
may not be. It is well to consider such claims as what they are:
claims unsupported by experimental evidence gathered in a careful and
scientific manner. It's a good idea to check things out for yourself,
carefully and thoroughly, before you make a decision on the merits of
any particular claim.

Yet, for all of that, it is a fact that magick can and does produce
some real and demonstrable phenomena.

How do I even start to figure out what to say?

Read what other people say and try to learn from the responses they
get. If you want to learn more, and want to use alt.magick as a
learning resource, that's fine. Ask a specific question. If you don't
have a specific question to ask, then go and do some research until
you have one. Displays of ignorance do not tend to be clamped down on,
however displays of laziness or stupidity do. Also, it is important to
remember that many of us come from differing backgrounds, so please do
not assume that we have terms in common. If people react to your
posting, it is very likely on the grounds of some semantic
misunderstanding. Communication is an unending miracle, which we renew
every time we read something on the net. None of us are perfect at it,
so don't worry *too* much, and never take anything personally if folks
react to it (even if they tell you so). Anyone taking himself or
herself too seriously here is missing the point... Primary prereq for
the group is a broad sense of humor.

Eny ov u doodz got eny kewl spelz?

Al ov uz doodz hav plenti ov kewl spelz. However, why should we share
them with you? If you want to participate in the technical and
scholarly discussion of magick, that's fine. If, however, you simply
want magick to be handed to you on a plate, you're in the wrong place.
Anyway, we're all basically selfish bastards and jealously guard our
Seriously, some of us doodz have found that simple repetition of what
others have done before isn't a useful way of achieving one's own
goals, and thus that simply giving someone a spell without engendering
at least that much of an understanding would be a worthless thing to

Can someone teach me a love spell?

Most of the regular posters will blankly refuse such a request. The
employment of such a spell (which would by its very nature contravene
the free will of another person) is, by many, considered abhorrent,
and anyone who would need to ask for one is often deemed, by the
nature of their asking, to be too immature and irresponsible to be
given one.

Will someone be my teacher?

Most of the regular posters are too busy to take on the role of
personal mentor. However, if you ask a specific question, the chances
are that someone will attempt to answer it. We are all learning from
each other.

What books should I read to get started?

Where can I find a group to help me learn?

Firstly, you have to ask why you would want to join a group. Secondly
you have to bear in mind that a group will teach you what the group
wishes to teach you. If you join an established magical order, it will
have its own agenda that may not necessarily best serve your purposes.
If you wish to join a group simply to have people to talk to, fair
enough, go for it, but try to keep an open mind about everything you
are told. Treat the group as you would one of many textbooks on a
subject, something that can give you knowledge you may accept or
reject. As for how to find one, lurk on alt.magick or similar
newsgroups and you'll see adverts for groups before too long. Most of
the regular posters on alt.magick would advise you to steer clear of
them, but you have to walk your own path.

How do I get started?

WORK, don't just READ. Regardless of the magical tradition you chose
to explore, it is essential that you do something; otherwise, you will
simply be studying, not doing magick. Also, be prepared to work at
whatever you start. Magick is not an easy option.
Keep an open mind, but at the beginning do not make anything other
than very tentative conclusions; do not try to ascribe "objective
validity" to any results. Keeping a record is handy. Simple,
*consistent*, and thorough application of whatever techniques your
paradigm requires, over a period of say, six months, should be a very
useful grounding.
Regardless of chosen system or tradition, there are certain practices
that will fundamentally improve your ability to do any kind of magical

#1 Breath control, i.e. rhythmic breathing
#2 Self Hypnosis (any of a thousand published methods)
#3 Committed Daily Practice

These apply to all systems.

*alt.magick FAQ Part 3. Specific topics*

What is the difference between black, white and grey magick?

In one well-respected tradition, the goal of magick can be considered
the union of the magician with the divine, the raising of the human
consciousness unto the higher consciousness. Any operation that is not
ultimately directed towards this goal is black magick. The terms arise
because "white" magick signifies the divine light, and "black" magick
signifies moving away from the divine light, into darkness.

In a more popular sense, black magick is used to describe operations
that are intrinsically selfish (usually involving harm to others). The
analogy is obvious; the above aim is to unite the individual with the
whole, to "destroy" the Self essentially, the feeling of individuality
that separates us from the divine. Thus, "selfish" operations are by
definition in conflict with this goal.

In this sense, "grey" magick can be applied to operations that,
although not directed towards this ultimate goal, are not selfish, and
arise mainly out of ignorance, rather than malice (e.g. operations to
heal others).

Are telepathy and telekinesis magick?

Telepathy, telekinesis, and any number of other so-called "paranormal"
abilities have been advanced by some as being the force that accounts
for some or all of the effects observed by people who do magical
operations. There is little-to-no concrete evidence in support of
this. Yet, it would be an error to say that there is no possibility
that such powers may play a part in any particular event.

The power behind magick is the power behind consciousness. That has
never been adequately explained and perhaps it never will be. To call
it a "paranormal" power is merely to limit the way you look at it by
imposing another level of verbiage on it.

That said, it does all rather depend on your definition of magick. If
magic is causing change in conformity with Will, then picking up a pen
and writing a letter is a magical act. If that's the case, then one
cannot sensibly exclude the willed act of transmitting a thought as
any less magical.

Who was Aleister Crowley?

Aleister Crowley, 1875 - 1947
One of the most influential writers on magick of all time. His concept
of magick entailed "the aim of religion, the method of science". Was a
member of the Golden Dawn, founded the A.'.A.'., and went on to head
the OTO. His goal in life was to establish and promulgate the "Law of
Thelema", embodied in Liber Legis, whose main thrust can be summed up
in the quote from that book, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of
the Law". He aimed to synthesize all religions and magical systems of
the world, and to free the essential internal procedures from the
misleading and varying dogmas to which other systems subject them.

Who was Israel Regardie?

Israel Regardie, 1906 - 1985
The most influential authority on the Golden Dawn system of magick.
Was a member of the G.'.D.'., the A.'.A.'., and a IX degree member of
the OTO. Was almost single-handedly responsible for the survival of
the knowledge and system of the original Golden Dawn. His book, "The
Complete System of Golden Dawn Magic" is *the* authority on the
subject. He was a qualified psychiatrist, and one of his goals was to
integrate psychology with magick, to realize the essentially similar
goal of both.

What are TOPY, LBRP, QC, KCHGA, BOTL, AA, OTO, GD, etc?

Acronyms standing for: Temple ov Psychick Youth, the Lesser Banishing
Ritual of the Pentagram, the Qabalistic Cross, Knowledge and
Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, the Book Of The Law,
Argenteum Astrum, Ordo Templis Orientalis, the Golden Dawn, etcetera.

Ok, ok, so what is the Temple ov Psychick Youth, the Lesser Banishing
Ritual of the Pentagram, etc?

ToPV: Temple ov Psychick Youth
Founded in 1982 by musicians and magicians Genesis P-Orridge and Peter
Christopherson. Drawing inspiration from both Crowley and Austin Osman
Spare, they attempted to create a set of magical techniques based on
using sexual energy. To articulate this, they wrote a manifesto called
the Gray Book. Additional to the material in the Gray Book was the
Temple convention of using a unique system on spelling. This was not
done in a random fashion, but was done to remind the reader and writer
of the hidden aspects of language. The Temple underwent a number of
changes during its existence. In 1992, Genesis P-Orridge departed the
group and proclaimed it dissolved. The Temple members continue their
activities under the name regardless and are still pursuing their
initial end as articulated in the Gray Book.

LBRP: Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram
A short ritual, including the Qabalistic Cross, aimed to "eliminate
from the sphere of the mind those qualities or sensations which the
critical ego deems unnecessary". It aims to release the internal power
of the magician from constricting mental restraints.

QC: Qabalistic Cross
A short, simple magical practice in which the magician expands his
consciousness by imagining his body growing to immense proportions,
and visualizes being the center of a vast cross of light within him.
Aim is to "bring the divine light down to the magician", or to help
him realize consciousness with the divine, to "ally the personality
with the true sources of life".

KCHGA: Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel
A lengthy operation, coined in "The Book of the Sacred Magick of
Abramelin the Mage" and subsequently used by the Golden Dawn and
Crowley, and which constitutes success in the outer orders of both of
them; all previous instructions are directed towards this goal. The
term suggests direct conscious apprehension of that which guides us
through life in the "correct way", free from all self-constricting
neuroses, complexes, influences, and self-misapprehensions; when it
has been accomplished, the Adept needs little or no further guidance
from others. There is no set method; the operation will differ for
each magician.

BOTL: Book of the Law
Liber AL vel Legis, the "Bible" of Thelema. Claimed by Crowley to have
been dictated to him in 1904 by a being called Aiwaz, whose nature he
could never explain satisfactorily.

AA: Argenteum Astrum
The magical order created by Crowley at the beginning of the twentieth
century, along the lines of the Golden Dawn, incorporating Liber Legis
and various other techniques Crowley liked (especially yogic
practices). No longer extant in its original form, though a few groups
today call themselves A.'.A.'., and claim they have directly descended
from Crowley's order.

GD: The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
Magical, Rosicrucian order founded towards the end of the Nineteenth
Century, to which a huge amount of today's magical literature owes its
existence. Valuable for the fact that it presents a very definite,
coherent, and practical system of self-development, with little
bullshit, which has influenced a huge amount of magical "authorities",
including Crowley. Fell apart in 1904, though again, many orders today
claim they have descended from the original.

What Magical Orders are there, what do they do?

Magick is ultimately an individual affair. Magical orders or groups
may have valid reasons for existence, but they will not make learning
magick any easier, you will not have to do less work, and you will not
gain any significant knowledge merely by being a member. Orders can
exist for a variety of reasons:

1. To spread knowledge. Whilst this may have been a valid reason some
years ago, the relative freedom of expression and lack of persecution
nowadays, the proliferation of books on the subject, and the internet
pretty much negate this reason. Moreover, as is stated elsewhere
within this document, the best teacher is usually the universe itself.
Many orders claim to have "secret" knowledge that they will only
disclose to "worthy aspirants". This is nonsense. If any "secret"
knowledge was in any way important, it is extremely unlikely that it
would be confined to a small group of manic wand wavers. Secrets
(within orders) exist for one reason, to attract and ensnare members.
The greatest secret of most magical orders is that they don't have a

2. To facilitate the process of finding others to work with. This
would be valid if one were to consider magick from a strictly
ceremonial sense. If not, then there are oodles of people one can work
with, all around. Yet, if such ceremonial group workings are your
wont, then seeking an order may be worthwhile, if this was all the
order concentrated on. The ego wars, and the "groups-for-groups'-
sakes" mentality can easily kill whatever value is there, however; a
mailing list could solve this problem with a lot less fuss than could
an order. Working solely with other "like-minded" individuals can also
be constricting, and can channel the magician for miles along the
wrong path; the magician should expand his horizons, not narrow them.

What is the Abyss?

The Abyss, as discussed on alt.magick, is the "next big stage" after
KCHGA in the Golden Dawn system. KCHGA implies identification with the
true self, being a part of the whole. Crossing the Abyss implies
identification with the whole itself, or to be more precise, with
Nothing. It is a *realization* (rather than a mere logical deduction;
human reason is individual and imperfect, and is not capable of
comprehending, or identifying with, the whole) that all individual
preferences, feelings, emotions, opinions, leanings and attachments
are illusions, merely symptoms of the interplay between the parts
which make up the whole of the universe. This being the case, one
state of the universe is not preferred over any other by the
consciousness above the Abyss. Death, destruction, deceit, and disease
become mere incidents in what is a rather small corner of the

This is however, a somewhat difficult term to define since
understanding of its nature is impossible without direct, personal
experience of it.

What is a paradigm shift?

A paradigm shift is a term used by Thomas Kuhn in his book, "The
Structure of Scientific Revolutions" to describe the process by which
one model of the universe is transformed into another in the
scientific community.

A paradigm is an example, literally a "model" used to organize and
understand phenomena. A theory that does not fit the given paradigm is
not likely to meet with approval from the general population of the
community and will tend to be seriously contested until the evidence
of the superiority of a new paradigm can be established. If the most
powerful individuals in their fields accept the new paradigm, there
occurs a "paradigm shift" and the new model becomes established in the
community. This generally takes a long time and is not entirely a
logical process.

A paradigm shift then is essentially a change in the primary example,
or "model", used to explain and predict events.

How does science relate to magic, are they opposites?

Magick, as we know it in Western cultures, arises from the Gnostic
religious philosophies. "Gnosis" means "knowing". Instead of simply
believing or accepting the workings of the universe on faith, a
student and practitioner of magick seeks to "know" them, to experience
them directly and to seek some consistency to their operation, and,
through this knowledge, to exert control over them. In the realm of
observable phenomena, the most refined way to do this is the
scientific method. "Science" also means "knowing".

So, science is a form of magick, refined into a high degree of
reliability where it is applied to physical phenomena. There is
nothing in science that contradicts the operation of magick. However,
since magick also addresses experiences and events not independently
observable, the methods of science do not always apply to it with any
conclusive results.
Hard science advocates a causal materialism to be the proper paradigm
for explaining and understanding events in reality. Of course, science
is not monolithic, and a great many individual scientists vary in what
degree they agree with the underlying assumptions.

Magick, with all its various schools, can be characterized as arising
from differing metaphysical assumptions. Thus, one can practice
effective magick or science with varying assumptions. Some
metaphysical viewpoints allow the practice of both without
contradiction, and in others, they are distinct.

How can I summon a demon?

The same way you summon anything; it is only necessary to call it
forth with the whole of your will.

Demons and angels are parts of the psyche, constructs of the ego
perhaps. A general distinction could be made that demons work at odds
with the will of the magician (e.g. phobias), and that angels work
along with the will of the magician (e.g. character strengths).
Nonetheless, both demons and angels can be employed in the fulfillment
of the magician's will, and demons can assume a new master, and be
converted into angels.

In this sense, summoning demons is a lot easier than summoning angels.
Demons always want to creep up on you, and mess things up. You don't
really need to summon one, you just need to let go of your hold on it,
and it will be off doing its demonic work. <insert biblical temptation-
in-the-desert analogy>

Constraining a demon to do your will is more likely to be a
constructive operation, than is summoning one. This is merely (!) a
question of authority. Demons are intrinsically weak, but have a
special aptitude at finding the weak spots of the magician, and
striking at the most inopportune moments. They also like to gang
together, and have a nasty habit of letting you think you got the
better of them, lulling the magician into a false sense of security
before bringing him down once and for all. To truly constrain a demon
requires the confidence and authority that comes from discovering the
true will.

Before summoning demons, it may well be worth considering if the
action is a wise one or not. Having the answer to the next question
would certainly be advisable.

How do I get rid of unwanted demons?

Demons are a part of the personality. To try to "get rid" of them is
to deny a part of your being, and is destructive. The correct approach
is to constrain, or exert control over them; to subdue them to your
will. The first step is to know and understand the demon. You cannot
hope to control it unless you understand its nature and how it works;
you must know your opponent before you can conquer it. You must
unconditionally accept the existence of said demon, and objectively
seek to discover and understand its name, characteristics, methods of
operation, and weak spots. To accomplish this requires a high degree
of self-honesty, courage, and discrimination.

There is a variety of more or less well known psychological methods to
aid in this (e.g. psychoanalysis, methods for treating phobias), and a
well-constructed magical system will provide for this in the banishing
stages of the magician's psyche.

Once this is accomplished, subduing the demon to your will requires no
less courage and determination. This question is one of authority
(demons, being parts of the personality, belong to the magician; the
magician does not belong to them. The magician must therefore make him/
herself Master over them), and willpower (demons are cunning; all
avenues of escape to them must be closed), the development of both
being integral parts of any valid magical system of development.

As ever, there are no set methods for this, except for the general
guidance given to the magician to *discover his/her own nature*.

*alt.magick FAQ Part 4. alt.magick as a community*

Why are you all so antagonistic to newcomers?

Much of the time people start posting to alt.magick without having
done any research or preparation of their own. This is annoying to
many of the regular posters, and an indication that the new poster is
unlikely to be sufficiently dedicated that any positive replies will
be time well spent. Furthermore, those that are prepared to persevere
in their line of questioning despite the antagonism are most likely to
be the ones that will persevere in their study of magick.

What is an idiot filter?

It is a device to weed out the idiots from the others. This often
takes the form of an antagonistic rebuttal (see: Why are you all so
antagonistic to newcomers?) This term was coined by Josh and often
took the form of a request for the possible idiot to "Shut up. Go

Why should I shut up and go away?

Of all the potential teachers you can have, the greatest is the entire
universe. However, most of us spend far too much time being loud to
actually pay attention to the universe. If you shut up for a while, it
is possible that you will learn something. As for going away, it is
not always necessary that all of you go away, just parts.

What can I do to minimize being the target of antagonism?

Firstly, wait a while before posting. Read the kinds of things other
people post. Secondly, do some of your own research. Simply asking us
to do your work for you will not go down well. Thirdly, conform to
Usenet convention. Make sure your newsreader has word-wrap set, try
not to include the entirety of a post you are responding to, but do
include at least the most recent attribution, and don't simply reply
to add "Me too." Do not post commercial adverts, binaries, or
religious dogma.

Why does it matter if I don't spell properly or if my grammar is poor?

We are discussing many abstract and complex subjects. If you have an
insufficient grasp of the basic tools of language, many will doubt
your ability to adequately understand their ideas or communicate your

Who is in charge on alt.magick?

No one and everyone.

Who is the group monitor / moderator?

The Invisible Pink Unicorn. However, the Invisible Pink Unicorn has
yet to pass judgment on any poster.

Who is worth listening to?

No one and everyone. Since magick and magical experience tends to be
highly subjective, it is best to simply lurk for a while and read
posts. Some posters will appeal to you more, not necessarily because
their work is more valid, but perhaps simply because they phrase it in
a way that makes more sense to you.

Is there a formal order associated with alt.magick?

None whatsoever.

Who is Josh and why should I care?

Josh Geller started alt.magick and has been one of the most prolific
posters over the years. He has been a big influence on many of the
regulars. Josh is not around as he used to be... he has too much else
going on. As for why you should care, you shouldn't.

Why do some people put equations that are wrong after their names
(e.g. 8=3)?

The equations signify grades in the Golden Dawn system, which range
from 0=0 (neophyte), and 1=10 (Zelator) through to 10=1 (Iipsissimus),
and do not attempt to convey any mathematical truths. The grades
signify levels of attainment within that system, and within that
system alone. However, certain grades reflect changes in consciousness
that are universal, and mark stages in development, achievable by

0=0: Neophyte - marks an awareness of a spiritual goal, an awakening
to there being "something higher". It is a beginning. "I am aware"

5=6: Adeptus minor - signifies attainment to the knowledge and
conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, identifying with the
individual subconscious which manifests the universal Will in each
person. Entails a *realization* of the individual's "place" in the
universe, and of the individual's true will. "I do"

8=3: Magister Templi, "Master of the Temple" - signifies the crossing
of the Abyss, or the identification with the universal Will itself.
Entails a *realization* that the individual is but one manifestation
of the whole, and that individual preferences, opinions, attachments
and indeed the self, are illusionary. "It does through me"

It must be borne in mind that although these grades represent the
stages described, there may be any number of reasons why individuals
choose to employ them on alt.magick, none of them worth a second


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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:11 PM