The saying that magic is not what it seems may be more prevalent today than in the past. Today when ones hears the word magic one often thinks of the tall, slender, dark haired gentleman on stage or the television screen in his black tuxedo who pulls the white rabbit out of his top hat, and juggles balls and glasses or both, and saws a thinly clad, pretty girl in a box in half. Amazingly, he always somehow puts her back together again. At best, this could be called theatrical magic or just theatrics.
But, it certainly is not serious or real magic--the magic which has been practiced and believed in for thousands of years. Such magic as this is based upon laws, if not fully believed by the practitioners, at least adhered to. These laws have been recognized as the governing structure which makes the magic at least seem to work, gaining for the practitioners the desired results, and making people believe in it.
Many have observed the acts which practitioners attempt and sometimes do perform. From such observations a classification of the types of laws used was constructed. One of the pioneers to achieve such a classification of laws involved in magic is Sir James George Frazer in his "The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion." Many others have discussed such a classification including Isaac Bonewits, to whom this writer is indebted for his brief classification of the magical laws, and Richard Cavendish.
Briefly within this article these laws of magic will be discussed and examples will be given. The reasoning for this is twofold: first to acquaint the visitor to these laws, and to give a reference from which they can be pointed out when appearing in other articles in this encyclopedia.
The most basic of all is the Law of Knowledge because with understanding comes control and power. The more the person or magician knows about a person or phenomena the more control he has over it. This is an absolute rule which applies to the human organism as well as modern technology.
By knowing a person's daily routine, if one desires to alter that person's behavior, all one has to do is change a factor or two and the person's behavior will probably change. A native may walk a certain path daily, but once he keeps seeing little manikins resembling himself which he believes are signs of danger in the path he will choose another path.
A person with computer knowledge is able to control the computer; whereas, a person without such knowledge cannot operate a computer.
Within the Law of Knowledge is a specific sublaw of Self-Knowledge or "knowing thyself." The principle which is essential in the Law of Knowledge is equally applicable and essential to the Law of Self-Knowledge. One who does not know himself, having never tested himself or his limitations does not know what he can do. Here is the example of the insecure person.
But, the reverse is also true too. The person who has trained himself and tested his abilities is the secure person. He has by knowledge and training perfected his abilities to the extent that he has control over them and knows what he can make them do. He is the person who controls the computer, or any activity which he endeavors to do. This also includes the real magician who has practiced his art until he is proficient at it. Many magicians will say their proficiency lies in their self-knowledge.
The Law of Names is related to both the Law of Knowledge and the Law of Association. The law simply states that by knowing the true and complete name of an phenomena or entity gives you complete control over it. There are two premises upon which this law is based: First, a name is simply a symbol of the definition of an phenomena or an entity. If the phenomena is fire, one simply says fire instead of describing the whole phenomena of fire. If the entity is a man, one just says a man. The names or terms fire and man convey the definitions of fire and man. Names convey definitions to others provided they are spoken in a mutual language spoken by both the speaker and listeners.
Second, the names of phenomena and entities can expand as one gains more knowledge about the subject matter. This is extremely important because the more one knows about a thing the more control one has over it. In some incidences a name of a thing can be traced to its root, even in a foreign language, which will supply one additional information about the thing.
This is when the magician combines the Law of Names with the Law of Knowledge, and when doing so he can select a specific phenomena or entity because he possesses all the knowledge he can about it. For example, the magician does not mention a fire or a man; but names a fire in a certain location, a village or town, or mentions a man named Thomas. He knows about fire and the location, as he would also know about the man called Thomas. This is why magicians have or seem to have a wealth of knowledge. Ancient magicians were called wise men.
Some occultists, particularly witches, choose mystical or magical names which many keep secret because they believe there is power in the names which would be lost if known.
Combined with the Law of Names is the Law of Words of Power. This law is greatly used today, some think its usage is over exaggerated. Words or terms like teacher, professor, doctor, technician, priest, the Pope hold some people in awe.
For example, many, especially Catholics, are just as overwhelmed by the Pope as ancient people were of the village witch doctor or sorcerer. They believe him to be holy and possess a higher power which illustrates the Pope or witch doctor only possess the power which people give them. If their authority was not recognized by the people their power would be worthless.
In the above example the Pope who is widely recognized is given respect. But, the reverse can also be true, strange and mysterious words can effect people differently. The word "abracadabra" can have a great effect on some people, especially those uneducated or who believe in magic, particularly when it is spoken by someone they respect. The word "abracadabra" has no meaning by itself; however, its significance comes from its mysteriousness to the listeners and the authority of the one saying it. It the listeners have little or no regard for either the word or the speaker then "abracadabra" loses all effect on the audience.
The power of the sound of words is demonstrated in chanting which was used by ancient peoples as it is by Neo-pagans. Chanting is the repetition of words and sounds which usually are meaningful to the ones chanting them. It is employed in religious, ceremonial and magical rites. Chanting, often combined with dancing, drumming, rattling and hand-clapping is generally performed to alter the consciousness and raise power.
The next law is the Law of Association. This law is the most commonly and frequently used of all the laws of magic. This law falls with the principle of sympathetic magic. Simply this means things react upon each other under certain imposed or imaginary conditions.
The Law of Similarity is the first of two sublaws contained within the Law of Association, the second is the Law of Contact or Contagion. The Law of Similarity states that like things produce like things, or that an effect resembles its cause.
Schematically this may be illustrated as such: thing "A" may produce something similar to itself called "C"; and, thing "B" may produce something similar to itself called "C"; and, this something called "C" may be shared by both "A" and "B".
The Law of Contact or Contagion, the second sublaw of the Law of Association, follows from the Law of Similarity. This law states that things which have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance even after physical contact has been severed.
This can be shown by the following example: the something or commodity "C" which is similar to and was shared by thing "A" and thing "B" can after its detachment from "A" and "B" affect or control either or both. The mutual, influencing effect or control these things exert upon each other is dependent upon the greatness with which "C" was shared.
From the Law of Similarity the magician infers that he can produce any effect just by imitating it. And, from the Law of Contact the magician infers whatever he does to a material object will equally affect the person, or entity, the object was once attached to, whether in the form of a body part or not.
Examples of these sublaws are seen when a hunter eats the liver of a killed lion to gain the strength of the lion and in the people's Attraction of Blood. They are also illustrated in the Hand of Glory.
The Law of Identification or imitation is where one entity assumes the characteristics of another. The more the first entity knows about the second the better the imitation. If this produces a strong association between both entities it might almost involve becoming the other entity itself. A temporary identification can be considered a divine or spirit possession. This law is used by witches when invoking the spirit of the Mother Goddess to enter the high priestess and Cernunnous to enter the high priest.
The Law of Synthesis, or the Law of Opposites, states that the synthesis on two opposing or conflicting ideas or pieces of data will produce a new, third idea that will not be a compromise of the original two.
This law is used more in mysticism than magic. It allows one to simultaneously hold two opposing ideas without feeling anxiety or cognitive conflict.
The Law of Polarity says anything can be separated into two opposite parts with each part having its own essence. This law is essential to many mystical statements and arguments. Also, it is essential in denoting characteristics of objects. Examples of these are: white and black, up and down, right and left.
The Law of Balance is simply a statement for conserving personal energy and achieving the greatest proficiency. One's energy or power level must be kept on an even keel, too much or too little will kill oneself. This energy level is best maintained by avoiding extremes in thinking and action. One must be open minded, able to consider all alternatives, but strong enough to determine one's personal course in life. This requires the right amount of flexibility to be able to examine new ideas or concepts in order to keep the ones which would improve one's life and reject those that would not. In short, one never goes off on deep ends.
The Law of Infinite Data states that there always new information for one to learn. The sources of knowledge are limitless if one wishes to tap them. This law can stimulate one to improve his capacities. It can also serve as a warning that one cannot learn or know everything, so it is best to limit one's visions at times, and new dangers can always appear.
The Law of Finite Senses states that one's senses are finite. They are limited to the amount of information which one can absorb and process at any given time. Simply put, one is pretty sure he does not have all data available on which to base a judgment.
The Law of Infinite Universes states that each person sees his universe or world a different way; therefore, no two people have identical views of the world. All people do not receive the same information or data; if they do, they view it differently, thus making for an endless number of universes.
Under this Law of Infinite Universes are two other laws: the Law of Pragmatism and the law of True Falsehoods. The Law of Pragmatism simply states, "If it works, it's true." This is a very useful law because it avoids moral arguments with oneself and others. In this case, therefore, truth has a functional value since it works properly for the person. Such a law allows different responses to the same or similar situations which is the interplay of the Law of Synthesis.
The Law of True Falsehoods simply stated, "If it's a paradox, the paradox is probably true." This law will hold until a better answer or solution can be found.
For many this article may appear to be a lot of philosophizing, but it does not seem so when the two main laws in magic are stated which are: mind over matter, and belief. Ever good magician knows that it is the mind which controls the body, if it does not, he's in trouble. This is why the magician must know himself and his art. Without such knowledge he has no art, for, as it has previously been stated, knowledge is control
The second essential law of magic is belief. One must believe in what he does, for without belief there is doubt. To use magical power one has to feel it. This applies to everyone whether one is calling down a deity in a magic circle or praying for a miracle in a church. Doubt leads to failure, belief leads to success, perhaps not always physically, but always spiritually. The above laws just place one in a proper attitude to perform magic.