When I first see Frater RC, he has long hair. It sweeps past his shoulders, settling against his faded band t-shirt. His long hair, and his pentagram charm bracelet, are the only ostensible indicators of his esoteric proclivities. He’s travelling with his grandparents, and smiles toothily at me through the Facebook call screen. He’s not what I expect, when I imagine a practitioner of Magick.
Frater RC (Frater being latin for ‘brother’), by all appearances a young, well-spoken university student, who likes rock music and Asian food, is a practising member of a thriving Magickal community. While he belongs specifically to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which counted among its members 20th century occultist Aleister Crowley, he assures me there are thousands of other so-called lodges in existence, including Wiccans, Warlocks, and Sorcerers. And, rest assured, there’s more political infighting between them than in your standard stupol election.
“Magick is the art and science of causing measurable, observable, and repeatable change in consciousness and the external world,” Frater RC begins, launching into an explanation of the practices of a modern Magician.
Magick proceeds from three tenets. The first is that reality is “infinitely rich”—there’s more to it than we can observe, because we’re limited by our senses. The second tenet is that our perception of reality is determined by what we want to see and hear. We choose to filter certain information and focus on what is relevant: like talking to someone at a crowded party and ignoring the noise around us. The third tenet is that this filtering of attention is subconscious—if someone at the party were to yell your name you would hear it, without listening out for it.
The aim of Magick is to reprogram that subconscious filtering, so that we can perceive new facets of reality and become aware of opportunities we would have ignored previously. Frater RC offers the example of someone hoping to earn some more money. If you could improve your instincts in, say, spotting dropped notes on the pavement, you could achieve that goal.
Subconscious change can be achieved through the performance of rituals, governed by form and force. Form describes the goal you wish to achieve, and force is the extent to which the form can be embedded into the subconscious. As Frater RC explains, associating an emotion with a behaviour allows us to embed that behaviour in our subconsciousness; the more powerful the emotion, the better. Symbols are another way of compounding force, as your mind can often find stored information better when you’re not consciously searching for it, by being visually reminded.
Frater RC’s explanation of Magick is surprisingly cogent and scientific; it even echoes psychological advice—like mirroring a conversation partner’s body language, or sleeping enough to nurture my brain’s delta waves. It’s reminiscent of the pseudoscientific self-improvement practices adopted by the kind of corporate worker who, while spurning the esotericism of Magick, religiously reads best-sellers like Think and Grow Rich, The Secret, and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It’s interesting that while we have relegated Aleister Crowley to the past, small practices of Magick are present in our modern lifestyle. Its visualisation techniques and manipulation of deep-seeded subconscious biases converge with wellness and mindfulness practices, even ancient ones like meditation and yoga. All around us it seems people are looking for their own slice of Magick, whether to enhance their work, their world, or their dispositions: the more inspired corporate workers microdose on LSD and take nootropics in a bid to hack the brain, fitness gurus proselytise the benefits of a paleo or raw food diet, and Gwenyth Paltrow shills expensive himalayan salt lamps.
Reality is infinitely rich, and within it, there’s a flavour of magick for anyone attempting to shed their biases, overcome past trauma, and improve themselves. Frater RC signs off, sending me a picture his grandmother had taken of him in their nice hotel. The video link ends, and I am left with the impression that, even though I never received my Hogwarts acceptance letter aged 11, maybe Magick is a little real, lurking beneath the surface of the everyday.