The Limits of Magick

by Mike Sententia on May 25, 2012

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When I was active in newsgroups in the early 2000s, there were regular posts on the limits of magick. I didn’t have an opinion at the time — I distrusted claims that there were no limits, but didn’t have any positive idea of where the limits would lie. But I have a few ideas on that now.

Magick seems to be particularly suited to 2 things:

  • Influencing cellular processes. This doesn’t mean instantly altering cells, but rather, increasing or decreasing the rate of processes they already have. This applies to energy healing, and also to influencing emotions and thoughts by influencing nerves in the brain.
  • Magick seems to have some access to information about the future, as shown by manifesting and psychic intuitions.

Those are pretty amazing, and you can construct a lot of really useful techniques from them. But it also gives me some ideas of what magick is probably not suited for. A broken bone? You better set it before doing energy healing, or I doubt it would heal straight. Levitation? I’ve never seen anything that makes me think magick can directly exert physical force. Shape-changing? I could imagine magick to make someone ignore you* or receive you differently, or magick to increase muscles or decrease fat over time, but not to turn you into a wolf or a bat.

*There’s a story of Crowley using magick to go unnoticed through a city. He said that he didn’t turn invisible, but rather made people ignore him. I assume it worked like this.

This all comes as a big caveat, though: It’s very hard to distinguish things that are impossible from things you simply don’t know how to do yet. And magick is a big place. So I’m probably wrong about at least some of this. But I thought it might interest you, might help you pick projects to work on, and might kick off a good discussion, so I wrote it up.

Note: I owe a bunch of you emails. I had a friend visiting this week, and haven’t done much writing. I’ll get back to you over the weekend.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

f3n1x_hvn732 May 26, 2012 at 5:14 PM

About changing how people see you, well is a simple trick (one of the first ones you learn of telepathy). In fact I have done some experiments my own, and know at least one person (a girl) that visualized herself as a big strong man, and people in the street saw over her as if she were taller.

My brother can move the psiwheel and I had the ability to move quiet water in a defined direction (even if was inside a bottle without air entrances). My grand father could change the color and intensity of a candle fire at will (he was rosacrucian, my father saw that one night he was practicing). In a forum I was, people told histories about them recharging batteries, making rain or stopped rain when they got outside and make it return when inside. That without mentioning Nina Kulagina, and others like her that could move objects with the mind. Recent experiments I have worked with my brother make me think that psychokinesis (or at least telekinesis) works by a ethereal software not direct magick.


Kol Drake May 26, 2012 at 5:20 PM

To badly paraphrase something I read somewhere sometime, if this is all you can imagine then this is all you will ever ‘get’ from it.

Since ‘magick’ is thought with intention and focus and … as humans, we can imagine some pretty impressive things (and turn that imagination into reality); then there should be NO limit to what magick can ‘do’. We just have yet to figure out the steps to go through imo.


Mike Sententia May 26, 2012 at 5:35 PM

I disagree on both points.

There have been many times where I’ve found aspects of magick I didn’t expect. Once you’re exploring the underlying mechanics, it doesn’t really matter what you expect to find, you’ll find what’s there. Sure, I’ll put more time into things I expect to be more worthwhile, which is exactly why it’s useful to have some idea of what magick is good at: To focus your efforts where there’s the highest chance of payoff. But I don’t buy that forming those expectations of what magick is good at would prevent someone from finding other things, particularly if they’re curious.

And on the second point, the thing is, I don’t think magick is imagination becoming manifest in external reality. I mean, I can see how it would feel like that sometimes, because most people use visualizations to direct their magick, but there are underlying mechanics to how the magick actually works. And, like all other underlying mechanics (physics, car engines, whatever), there are some things they can do, and some things they can’t; some things they’re suited for, or that are easy to do, and some things that are possible but very difficult. And I think we can make meaningful distinctions there, to focus ourselves on higher-probability approaches.

But, I haven’t really spent a lot of time on this. Thoughts?


Kol Drake May 27, 2012 at 8:52 PM

Yes, ‘magick’ has an underlying mechanics but, if you only see a car ‘running on gas’ you would be incorrect since a car needs gas AND oil AND water AND electricity to run properly. Take any one of those out of the equation and you got a ‘no go’ car rusting in your driveway.

Similarly, there just might be more to ‘magick’ then the view that it is ‘like’ a computer program — operator inputs to the software and lets it process some result. If one is taking a narrow view of things; one might miss everything else going on beyond the fine focus.


JP Alcala May 27, 2012 at 10:22 AM

Your points on what Magick is good at is basically what most psychics and healers actually do. And that’s only one face of Magick.

Crowley’s invisibility? You change your aura and thought signature. Want to ward off the bad guys when walking down the street? Change your aura. Want to make a crowd go abit more rowdy? Color magick does wonders. Want to summon storms? Get attuned with water and wind first.

And I was once part of a levitation experiment. We were not able to get the subject floating, but that experience taught us so many things about how the flow of energy affects weight (not mass. It’ll always stay the same for a given object).

Imagination and visualization are related, but imagining does not imply visualizing. Imagination is your mind wandering. Visualization is a controlled activity that is used to achieve a goal.

My point is that there are many things about magick that we don’t know how it works, but we know it works. We may not yet fully understand the mechanics behind each and every phenomena. However, what makes us say that our magick is sound is reproducibility.

I have to admit that there are limitations. Magick, like anything in this universe (or multiverse, whatever floats your boat), can only be good in certain use cases. Other times would be either not possible (with our current knowledge), or down right impractical.

P.S. I don’t like the word impossible. It’s a word that imposes limits.


Mike Sententia May 27, 2012 at 1:05 PM

Thanks JP.

On “shifting your aura to influence people,” I try to distinguish between what the mage thinks about and what actually causes the changes. Here, I’d guess the energy is influencing emotions by interacting with peoples’ nerves, like I discussed in this post. (It might be ethereal software, or maybe just energy, I’d have to see a particular effect to know.)

At some point, if you want to affect the physical world, your energy has to interact with atoms or cells or something physical. If the model is “my energy interacts with their energy,” it still has to explain how their energy causes changes in their body or brain that influences their behavior.

On the levitation experiment: That’s neat, though I’m not sure what you actually did. Affecting an object’s weight would be easy to test and verify, which is part of why I’m pretty sure we can’t do that — if we could, it would be a well-validated psi phenomenon. Could you share the details?

But I will have to look into weather magick, because that definitely doesn’t fit into the list of “easy magick” I have in this post. It’s been on my list for a while, thanks for reminding me.


4854374 September 11, 2017 at 4:36 PM

The concept of magick actually being only useful for specific cases feels way off. Just because a few influential authors and their readership have experienced these limitations in their practices doesn’t equate to it being ultimate truth for everyone. Magick is not like a smart phone or a wrench. Those tools have inherent limitations built in. They can do quite a few things but not everything. Magick is the medium. It’s the master tool that can accomplish anything.


Mike Sententia September 13, 2017 at 11:55 AM

There are some changes that can be accomplished easily, others that can be accomplished with difficulty, and still others that even the most skilled practitioners cannot accomplish. It seems valuable to outline what those are, and to find the patterns in them, so we might see other ways it might be effectively used.


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