Black and White: Why Morality Has No Place in Magic

Kimberly's picture

In order to understand the difference between black and white magic, we have to assume magic exists. I assume magic exists, though I would point out that just like gravity and evolution, magic exists whether we believe in it or not.

What is Magic?

People struggle to define magic. Aleister Crowley said “every willful act is a magical act”, which is problematic because it fails to discriminate or categorize the world of human actions, even though it is essentially true. My own personal definition states that magic is “those thoughts that cause real effects on the various planes (mental, physical, spiritual, emotional) without direct action being done in the physical world.”

For instance, let’s say I decide to contemplate materialism. My goal is to get a new perspective, so I make it the subject of my meditation. In my meditation, I contemplate the process of aging and death. I think about how people leave behind houses stuffed with doodads, furniture, and trash. I decide that the accumulation of stuff is not important to me in my short life. As a result of my thoughts, I become far less likely to buy stuff I don’t need. I also find new energy to appreciate what I have rather than always chasing a bunch of ephemeral future junk. I have just done very effective magic upon myself.

Some would call this “white” magic because humans love to slap binary labels on things. The problem is, like usual, binary distinctions fail to work here.

Consider the plight of a salesperson trying to sell me a new car. He’s in trouble because he’s got bills to pay. If he doesn’t make his commissions this month, he won’t be able to pay for his large mortgage. He’s got a two year old son he rarely sees because he’s constantly working extra hours to make ends meet. His wife is about to leave him because he is a horrible jerk when he is under stress.

When I do a meditation and come out of it not wanting to complicate my life by buying more stuff, it hurts him directly because it makes me unwilling to buy a new car. I may have done white magic for myself, but it was black magic as far as he was concerned. My decision not to buy, plus the decisions of people like me, are putting him out of what was once a decent job. I just took away a man’s happiness by my magical decision not to buy a car. I deprived a son of quality time with his father and contributed to the causes of a divorce. I have nothing against this man’s son, but I inadvertently robbed him of a good childhood relationship with his father because I couldn’t stand to part with money.

There is no white or black magic, even in the case of extremes like wishing that your enemy gets cancer or even wishing that someone dies.

At least in my case, I don’t get to decide if my magic works or not. I certainly don’t get to decide if it is good or evil.

Hypothetical Black Magic Example Number One:

Mark focuses a thought and wishes that a reality show celebrity known for doing dumb, attention-getting stunts dies. The celebrity dies in a freak accident a week after Mark has his thought.

If Mark sends out the thought and someone actually pops this mortal coil because of it, according to my definition of magic, he did nothing on the physical plane to directly cause their fate. He didn’t say, “you should do something so reckless that it kills you,” online or anywhere else where a bystander could receive it, yet the celebrity did the stunt and suffered the consequences, which just happened to be death.

How is it surprising that a man known for doing stupid stunts died doing what he was famous for? Did Mark cause anyone harm by speeding up the inevitable? Is the world truly all that much worse without another reality show prankster in it? It is not in our power as magicians to determine that judgement.

Hypothetical Black Magic Example Number Two:

Susan gets so angry at her boss that she has a genuine hope her boss gets cancer. A month later, Susan’s evil boss finds a malignant lump in her breast.

Susan caused it. Susan, however, does not deserve moral condemnation.

For one, Susan didn’t travel back in time to plant a genetic tendency towards breast cancer in her boss. Her boss exacerbated this tendency over many years by eating the body parts of chickens (who themselves wanted to live) and by living on an old Superfund site.

Susan simply put the thought out there and forces in the universe we have yet to understand took that leg of the relay.

In other words, Susan didn’t set up the dominoes — she just put a thought out there that acted remarkably like a strong breeze.

Where’s the evil and who caused the most suffering? If we scratch the surface, there is an entire industry that directly benefits from the ineffective chemotherapy inflicted upon Susan’s boss. By getting cancer, Susan’s boss enables an entire network of oncologists, nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists, insurance agents, drug representatives, laboratory researchers, and breast cancer charity executives who would not be able to maintain the lifestyles they have become accustomed to without the many-pronged healthcare industry. In order for the current healthcare system to thrive, there must be an ever-expanding number of patients kept in a state of suspended illness as long as possible before they die. Susan’s boss will unwittingly prolong her own suffering by opting for traditional cancer treatments.

Susan is not invited to the all-star breast cancer gala in New York, nor does she work in the medical or pharmaceutical industries. She just happened to release an ostensibly negative thought in the right place at the right time.

Besides Susan, who stands to benefit the most if Susan’s wicked boss suffers for a long time with breast cancer? How come they are not included in the judgement against Susan? Susan may have caused her boss to get sick, but what forces kept Susan’s boss in a state of protracted gullibility and illness?

When it comes to the effects you can cause using the power of your mind, it is my belief that there is no such thing as morality. There is no karma.

The thoughts you release don’t “get all over you” nor do they come back to you thrice or in any other amount unless you choose to spend most of your waking moments obsessed with them.

Mark and Susan will only be tortured by their so-called black magic if they decide to live within those thoughts. If Mark goes off the deep end and starts making grandiose claims that he can kill celebrities with his mind, he will eventually be written off as a whackadoo with a God complex. Alternately, Mark could also never utter a word to anyone about his magical success and will simply move on with his life.

Susan can go the looney route and worry herself into a self-guilt frenzy about karmic repercussions for her nasty thoughts, or she could consider that she is only a small influence in a complex hierarchy, most of which does not directly involve her and which she cannot influence. If she got lucky when she threw a curse at her incompetent, arrogant boss, it’s only on her if she chooses to dwell upon everyone’s relative guilt and innocence in their near-infinite permutations.

If the forces in the universe align to give you your magical desires, then it is not up to you to decide what parts of your magic are karmically just. The limits of what you can do magically are not set entirely by you, just as my limits as a musician are set by the fact I only have two hands, ten fingers, and a certain amount of brains/talent/time.

I can’t even give any advice because the thoughts that I call magic might not work the same way for you. I can only suggest that you spare yourself the self-stroking morality of “Ooh, I’m such a baddie, I had a thought of wanting to hurt someone!” when that urge is perfectly normal. The wrong turn is taken when you threaten people or attempt to harm them on the material plane, but go ahead and think up anything you like.

If it happens, it happens.