What even is magick?

Do what thou whilt shall be the whole of the law.

Many have ventured to answer this question in the title and there’s been about as many answers as there are practitioners. Crowley defined magick as “…the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.” It is a similar statement to a statement attributed to Dion Fortune “The art of causing changes in consciousness to occur in accordance with the will.” Personally I find these definitions frustrating. In the case of Fortune it ignores the demonstrable external effects of magick. For Crowley, it makes basically anything you do magickal. I wouldn’t describe turning a doorknob to open a door as having performed magick and I think most don’t hold that idea either.

Scott Cunningham defines magick as “…the projection of natural energies to produce needed effects.” This is a fine enough definition but it assumes you define natural in the way Wiccans generally mean when they use the word. It’s also limiting things to just the energetic model. Not all things apply to that conceptualization of how it all works.

In Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Ceremonial Magick there’s a lengthy description but it cites the following as being how magick is often defined; “…the manipulation of spiritual forces for specific, usually material, ends.” By the book’s own admission this definition is insufficient and rather unsatisfactory.

In Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition the Ciceros describe magick as “…a spiritual science. It is a specialized system of discipline which has a spiritual rather than material goal.” That’s all well and good for a theurgic tradition like the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn but it ignores thamaturgy altogether.

The free dictionary defines magick as “In Wicca and certain other belief systems, action or effort undertaken to effect personal transformation or external change.” This definition is closer but it doesn’t include divination which is something I would.

For myself, I define magick as doing rituals to make things happen. “Make things happen” is intentionally vague as is “doing rituals”. It could be thamaturgical and be done for some practical effect like getting more money. It could be theurgic and be done to get closer to the divine. It could be divinatory and done to obtain information through magickal means. In much the same way the rituals could be elaborate ceremonial exercises or as simple as shuffling and drawing cards out of a tarot deck. To me this definition gets at the very essence of the practice and is a much better definition than any other I’ve come across.

Love is the law, love under will.