MODELS OF MAGIC
Frater U.'.D.'. (Germany)
In the course of exploring the possibilities of new, more
efficient techniques of magic I was struck by the fact that a
structuralist view of the history of magic to date might prove
helpful. After all, magicians have always aspired to restate the
theory and practice of magic in the language of their times i.e.
in different models pertaining to current world views.
There is, however, some risk involved in such an approach:
models do not really explain anything, they are only
illustrations of processes, albeit rather useful ones. What's
more, over-systematization tends to obfuscate more than it
clarifies and one should not mistake the map for the landscape
anyway, a fallacy a great many kabbalists seem to be prone to.
Thus, the following five (or rather: four plus one) models
of magic should be seen as a means of understanding the practical
possibilities of various magical systems rather than as
definitive theories and/or explanations of the way magic works.
It has proved effective in practice to view magic under the
THE SPIRIT MODEL
THE ENERGY MODEL
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL MODEL
THE INFORMATION MODEL
THE SPIRIT MODEL
This is purportedly the oldest model of magic though it may very
well have come into existence after or simultaneously with the
energy model. We can find it worldwide in shamanic cultures as
well as in many religions. Its basic premise is the existence of
an otherworld inhabited by more or less autonomous entities such
as spirits, angels, demons, gods etc. The shaman or magician is
someone who can enter this otherworld at will, who has travelled
widely in it, knows its language and customs and has made
friends, smitten enemies and/or acquired allies and servitors
there. This is important as all magic is of these entities'
making. The modern German word for witch, "Hexe" (f.) illustrates
this rather neatly if we take a closer look at its etymology. It
derives from Old High German "hagazussa" which translates as
"fence rider". The hagazussa is riding the "fence between the
worlds" i.e. she is at home in the world of everyday life as well
as in the magical otherworld of spirits.
In the spirit model magic is seen as being effected by these
entities who are usually invisible, at least to the average
punter, and it is the shaman's or magician's task to make them
put his will into effect. This may be done by prayer, by barter,
by cajoling or even - vide medieval demon magic - by the
application of magical force, threats and pressure.
The otherworld may have its own geography but it is usually
considered to coexist with the world of everyday life. The key to
entering it is an altered state of consciousness, controlled
trance or ecstasy of which the shaman is an expert.
The spirit model has prevailed in traditionalist or Dogmatic
magic until today, some of its most noted exponents being Franz
Bardon and, at least to a great extent, Aleister Crowley.
THE ENERGY MODEL
The rise of the energy model in the West is marked primarily by
the appearance of Mesmerism towards the end of the 18th century.
Anton Mesmer, who was not an occultist but who was on the other
hand regarded by his contemporaries to be a "miracle worker" of
sorts, rediscovered amongst other things the ancient healing
disciplines of hypnosis and magnetism. He popularized his theory
of "animal magnetism" which he saw as a subtle force inherent in
organisms, but he also made heavy use of metal magnets for
While the French Revolution put a temporary end to Mesmer's
movement, his ideas were not lost. They were taken up by a number
of others, primarily occultists, who drew on them while
developing their own theories of magic. One of the first to do so
was Bulwer Lytton of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA),
who postulated the existence of a subtle energy which he termed
Vril, possibly deriving from Latin virilitas or "force, power,
strength". (This was actually the model for the naming of Bovril,
from Latin "bovis" or "ox", and Vril or "life force".) We can
observe interesting parallels to this concept in the vitalist
theories of biology which emerged around the same time. Other
exponents of the energy model of magic (not then so termed) were
Reichenbach with his concept of Od, Eliphas Levi and his Astral
Light and Mme. Blavatsky, who adopted the theories of Prana from
Yoga physiology. This was also the time when anthropology and
ethnology discovered the Polynesian concept of Mana and Asiatic
scholars began to concern themselves with the Chinese principle
of Ki or Ch'i (Chi). The latter two go to show, of course, that
the idea of subtle energies utilized by magic is far older than
the 18th century. In fact, we can observe it already in early
shamanic cultures. Shamanic magic is very frequently a mixture
between spirit and energy model, e.g. the shaman may call upon
his spirits or gods to give him "power" or he may, vice versa,
use his power to extort favours from them.
In its pure form, however, the shaman or magician is not in
need of spirits and other entities. The world is viewed as being
"vitalized" by subtle forces or energies and his primary task
consists in mastering the art of perceiving and manipulating
them. As all phenomena are basically energetic in nature, the
existence of an otherworld is not strictly required. Thus, the
magician is more of an "energy dancer" than a "fence rider" or
go-between. But even here the key to the perception, charging and
general utilization of these forces is again the magical trance
or, as Chaos Magic terms it, gnosis.
Theories and practices pertaining to the energy model can be
found with many magical authors but it has seen its real, large
scale popularity only since the seventies of our century when the
general influx of Eastern thinking (pace the Hippie movement)
made concepts such as chakra and kundalini work a mainstay of
most occult disciplines. Strong energy model elements can also be
found in Franz Bardon's system of "electromagnetic fluids",
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL MODEL
Sigmund Freud's theory of the subconscious revolutionized Western
thinking in general and psychology (which he did not, as some
people are wont to believe, invent all by himself) in particular.
Suddenly, man was seen as a being which was only partially
conscious and in control of itself. While psychology is still
fighting for its academical recognition as a science, it has
stamped its mark on therapeutic disciplines - and on magic.
The psychological model of magic does not purport to explain
how magic works, its only premise is that the subconscious (or,
as Carl Jung later retagged it, the unconscious) will do the job
if it is properly addressed and/or conditioned. This again is
achieved by magical trance, suggestion and the use of symbols
(i.e. selective sensory input) as tools of association and as a
means of communication between the magician's conscious will and
his subconscious faculty responsible for putting it into effect.
Aleister Crowley dabbled a great deal in the psychological
model which comes as no surprise as he not only tried to keep up
with all major academic disciplines of his time but thought
himself to be the world's greatest psychologist into the bargain.
But all considered he remained a traditionalist exponent of the
spirit model: after all Aiwass was, in his belief, a
praeternatural entity. Nevertheless he did have a knack of
explaining magic in psychological terms to make it sound sensible
to the sceptics of his time.
A more radical approach was taken by Austin Osman Spare
whose sigil magic rests on the basic tenets of the psychological
model. Spare's brilliant system is in principle an inversion of
Freud's theory of complexes: by actively suppressing his will in
the form of a graphical sigil and forgetting it, the magician
creates an artificial "complex" which then starts to work on
similar lines just as suppressed, subconscious traumas will cause
neurotic behaviour etc.
The psychological magician is a programmer of symbols and
different states of consciousness. He is not necessarily in need
of a transcendent otherworld or even subtle energies, though in
practice he will usually work on the assumption that one or the
other (or both) do in fact exist and can be utilized by his
Authors such as Israel Regardie, Dion Fortune, William
Butler, Francis King, William Gray and to some extent Pete
Carroll subscribe to the psychological model which seems to be
the primary domain of the English speaking world of magic and
which has become the prevailing paradigm ever since the seventies
of this century.
THE INFORMATION MODEL
The information model of magic is being developed since about
1987 and there is still considerable debate about the direction
it shall ultimately take. Its basic premises to date are as
a) Energy as such is "dumb": it needs information on
what to do; this can be so called laws of nature or
b) Information does not have mass or energy. Thus, it is
faster than light and not bound by the restrictions of
the Einsteinian spacetime continuum. It can therefore be
transmitted or tapped at all times and at all places. In
analogy (but of course only as such!) it may be likened
to quantum phenomena rather than relativistic
mass-energy. It can, however, attach itself to a medium
e.g. an organism or any other memory storage device.
At the start of the theoretical debate it was still believed that
the postulation of morphic (or, more precisely, morphogenetic)
fields as hypothesized by Rupert Sheldrake had to be an essential
factor by way of explaining the mode of actual information
transmittance. This, however, while still being discussed, does
not appear to be strictly prerogative though it cannot be not
ruled out that an act of information magic may create such
fields. It does seem more probable, though, that the concept of
information matrices will prove to be the most promising theory
in the long run.
The application of the as yet evolving information model has
led to the discipline I have termed Cybermagic (from
"cybernetics" or the "science of control systems"). Contrary to
the other models described above, Cybermagic does not rely on
magical trance to achieve its effects. Rather, the Cybermagician
activates either his own main memory banks, namely brain and
spine (the Golf-club chakra, so-called because of its shape
reminiscent of a golf-club) or those of the target person. The
desired information is then called up and transmitted quite
similarly to a copy command on an MS-DOS computer. The copy
command analogy holds good insofar as the information (not having
mass) is not actually "lost" in the process (as energy would be)
but rather is duplicated. This is an important point as it allows
for the magician to perform his magic even in a state of very low
physical power, possibly even when almost completely intoxicated,
as long as his basic "life support systems" are still functional
and the command syntax is employed correctly.
It is, however, obvious that this technique demands a fair
control of what used to be termed kundalini effects and practice
has shown ever and again that a good amount of Yoga and
meditation experience is a great help in achieving to Cybermagic.
Unfortunately, the full theory and practice of Cybermagic
cannot be described here due to lack of space and will thus have
to be the subject of a separate article to be published later. To
date the main experimental research work is being done within the
Magical Pact of the Illuminates of Thanateros (IOT) and some
quite astounding results have already been achieved, especially
in the field of language and knowledge transfer as well as
In spite of its very modern, untraditionalist outlook the
basic principles of Cybermagic may in truth well be the oldest
form of magic extant. For we can, for example, find a number of
reports in the East to the effect of a guru transferring all his
knowledge to his successor before his death, which is usually
achieved by an act of long, mutual meditation.
This goes to show that magic as a whole has always existed
in many, coexisting models. What has changed, however, is the
stress laid on one model or the other in the course of time.
The meta-model of magic is not a model as such but rather an
instruction on the use of the others. For its only advice to the
magician is: "Always use the model most adequate to your aims."
This may sound a bit trite but we will see that it is not quite
as selfevident amongst magicians as one might expect. It is
rooted in Chaos magic's assertion "Nothing is true. Everything is
permitted", which ultimately boils down to pragmatic
utilitarianism. Before this aspect is enlarged upon, though, let
us look at an example of the models presented here as applied in
We shall take the situation of magical healing to demonstrate how
these models differ from each other.
In the spirit model healing is regarded as an exorcism: illness
is caused by "evil" or, at least, undesired entities which have
to be neutralized and removed by the shaman or magician. In the
case of a patient with a heart condition the shaman may, for
example, "see" a green lizard in the vicinity of the heart which
must be removed. To achieve this the shaman will usually call
upon the help of his own spirits who will then handle the matter.
Properly exorcised, the patient has been freed from the cause of
his ailment and can recuperate.
In the energy model ailments are seen to be caused by energetic
imbalance. Thus, our heart patient may have too much (or too
little) "fire energy" in his heart chakra, and the magician's
task consists of restoring that balance of energies commonly
defined as "health". This he may do by laying on hands, by using
crystals and precious stones, by magnetism or chakra massage etc.
The balance having been restored, the patient is regarded as
having been healed.
In the psychological model illness is considered to be basically
psychosomatic in nature. The magician will, therefore, either do
a ritual work with the patient which enhances his stamina and
resolves his troubles (e.g. a Saturn ritual to cope with
"Saturnian challenges" the patient is seen to have avoided by
becoming ill) or he will charge a sigil for the patient's health.
Preferably he will instruct the patient to construct and charge
his own sigil.
In the information model the Cybermagician will transmit an
informational "healing matrix" into the patient's system (or
somehow create a "morphic field" of health and self-healing) and
let the patient's energies take it from there to do the job of
their own accord i.e. automatically. This rests on the assumption
that the energies are still powerful enough to get the work done,
otherwise he will either jump back into the energy model to
provide the patient with the additional energies required or
install another information matrix to create an influx of the
Following the meta-model the magician will decide beforehand in
which paradigm he will begin his operation. This must not
necessarily exclude the possibility of shifting the paradigms in
midwork or of blending them, of course. Usually, the decision is
taken on the lines of expediency, efficiency and personal
preference. Thus, I personally find healing work with patients
easier within the spirit or energy model, while I do seem to get
better results with selfhealing employing either the
psychological or the information model. Then again, cybermagical
work tends to take up to two days to show noticeable effects so
that it may be more expedient to go for laying on hands when pain
is very acute.
Another important point is the time factor. While traditionalist
rituals in the spirit model may take from half a day to weeks and
even months, operations in the energy model seldomly take much
longer than a few hours at the most. If we take Spare's sigil
magic as an example for a very fast technique within the
psychological model, the operation can be over and done with
within five to ten minutes. Information magical operations on the
other hand only take up about three quarters of a second, a time
span which can be cut even shorter by an experienced
Self evident as the meta-model may seem, in practice many people
seem to feel somewhat uncomfortable with its inherent relativism.
This is very much the case with beginners in magic. A typical
dialogue on the subject might run on the following lines:
"Are there spirits?"
"In the spirit model, yes."
"And in the energy model?"
"In the energy model there are subtle energy forms."
"And what about the psychological model?"
"Well, in the psychological model we are dealing with
projections of the subconscious."
"What happens in the information model, then?"
"In the information model there are information
"Yes, but are there spirits now or not?"
"In the spirit model, yes."
This logical loop is, of course, usually experienced as a pretty
frustrating exercise; but while the asker claims that the
magician is trying to avoid the issue he is at the same time
overlooking the fact that he himself is basically only restating
the old yen for absolute, "objective" truths - not really a
quantum magical approach, to say the least. However, the aspiring
cyberpunk magician of today cannot expect to be spared the pains
of coming to terms with the notion that freedom and dogma are
UBIQUE DAEMON .'. UBIQUE DEUS .'.
(c) copyright 1991 by Frater U.'.D.'. All rights reserved.
Frater U.'.D.'., one of Germany's leading exponents of contemporary
magic, is the author of "PRACTICAL SIGIL MAGIC" and
"SECRETS OF THE GERMAN SEX MAGICIANS" (forthcoming). The essay
above will be part of his next book, "DANCE OF THE PARADIGMS.
A CHAOS MAGICK PRIMER."
(All books: LLEWELLYN's PUBLICATIONS, St. Paul, Minn.)