By Frater Acher
White magic. The term is so over used and yet ill defined. My upcoming book will be called Black Abbot ✷ White Magic, Johan Trithemius and the Angelic Mind. And as I am realising now in hindsight, over the last fifteen years my own practice and study has been dedicated entirely to restoring and reactivating a magical current that best is summarised under this term. So it seems an opportune moment to sharpen the saw on how I will be using this term.
Carlos Gilly famously called the Arbatel the first book of white magic. That of course is a tongue-in-cheek claim. For we know, nothing in magic appears out of nowhere and most things had been discovered before, only to be slowly swallowed again by the rolling tides of time. Many works of magic have paved the way to the expression of ‘white magic’ as we encounter it in the Arbatel. And yet, Carlos Gilly is precise that possibly none of these had gone into print before. So we can agree that the Arbatel fairly can claim to be the first printed book on white magic.
The relatively unknown series of manuscripts that had preceded the Arbatel only be a few decades, and that are essential to the form of magic we encounter in the latter, were in particular the writings of a cryptic author by the name of Pelagius the Hermit. It is these manuscripts and their close entanglement with the figure of Johan Trithemius that we will explore in the forthcoming book. — So as I am using the term ‘white magic’ I am standing knee-deep in this magical current that first reemerged in the early 16th century Germany. Accordingly in these current’s waters, the easiest way to define white magic is to consider it the last step a practitioner of the magical art can take, before they enter the cloud of unkowning. That is, before they become a mystic.
But I’ll make this a little easier, and a little more precise for us. For the tradition I am talking of, we could contrast black and white magic according to the following qualities. What is critical to embrace though, is that neither of these terms contain an ethical or values-based judgement. In essence, both terms relate to the non-colours of black and white and their specific qualities: For black to absorb all light on its surface, and for white to reflect all of it back into its circumference.
You see, no one of us lives their life with hands open all the time. The beauty of life is following its tides: opening and closing our hands, breathing in and out, taking and giving. The imbalance in Western magic, in my humble opinion, is that at least since the Early Middle Ages our current had turned into a (literary) tradition that was all about closing one’s hand. It had devolved into a substitute pathway towards power acquisition and economical growth. That is why until this very day, every narcissistic soul who insists that life keeps on owing them, feels naturally at home in the genre of the Medieval Grimoires. For centuries Western Magic has turned into the spiritual equivalent of the Crusades or the Spanish Reconquista: man’s feeble attempt to take back a realm they believed to be their birth right. Failing to realise that what lies behind such spiritual warfare is one’s own deep ignorance, the essential inability to understand, appreciate and co-exists with otherness. The ability - for some time at least - to walk through life, with both hands open.
That is what ‘white magic’ is to me. A cure. A rebalancing of the poison. A necessary lent and diet from the constant craving of power acquisition that has become synonymous with our Western Tradition of Magic. It is a return to work in true partnership. And for that it takes a lot of preparation. Not (only) in technical skill gains, but much more essentially in preparing and drawing out again the raw light of our heart-flame. We have to turn ourselves from the the rod that aims to direct the world as a donkey, into the the gate that is open to channel the tide wide without breaking itself. What a marvellous goal and journey! And we shall keep humbleness at our side at all times. For that is what white magic is about at its heart: the humbleness to realise that the vessel our human spirits have been poured into at birth, is one of the smallest containers in creation. Our part of the weave literally is tiny. It is true: we humans are tiny spirits, and yet mighty in our versatility. One could argue, we are the Swiss Army knifes of spirit vessels. We are unintentional utility personified, amongst a world that is born from divine purpose. We are free will. Thus, we are the best at inserting ourselves into any crack and fissure of creation, and breaking it apart for good. Without really knowing why we have done it in the first place. We are like children, feverishly excited when witnessing our own impact on the world. But different to a child, we gain the tools and qualities of a magician only as adults. White magic, therefore, is about owning our fair share. It is about walking slowly, very slowly indeed. Just to realise how much power we can unfold with each step, if only placed in true divine intent.