Energy is a big theme in neopagan and New Age talk. For example, I have read a common definition of magick that says,”Magick is the manipulation of energy.”
Well, what kind of energy? And what are you doing with it, exactly?
Energy is such a vague word. Everything is made up of energy. To say that magick is the manipulation of energy implies you can manipulate anything and anyone; this explanation makes people look powerhungry or even fluffy and does not take into account the practitioner, which leads skeptics and the interested alike to not take them seriously. Reiki can also be defined as “the manipulation of energy” but it is considered more of a healing practice than a magickal one. So such a definition does not give a meaning that is unique to magick.
It also implies that magick can bend the laws of nature. While miracles of theurgy can appear to bend the laws of nature, physics, whatever, science is also behind as long as authorities in the field refuse to entertain the hypotheses of magick; today’s magick is tomorrow’s science.
Be more specific and realistic, please.
Another theme is healing herbs. Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs lists tons of herbs with the attribute of “healing.” However, almost any herb has some healing or health value, or you wouldn’t be using it in the first place. Especially the same herbs used in cooking, or are otherwise safe to consume. So this is vague as well. It would be better if it were more specific, because lavender and ginger (for example) serve two different purposes: the former is watery and Venusian and relaxes, the latter is fiery and excites.
Healing on behalf of someone else: It is my experience that people do not like to be prayed for. Personally I detest it when Christians say,”I’ll pray for you,” since I did not give their permission nor ask them to. Generally people don’t mind “sending good vibes” but when it comes to religion they will mind an imposition of a religion they do not follow (especially for the purposes of conversion which is a form of black magick) and the intervention by deities or spirits they do not believe in or worship. If people want you to pray or do a ritual for them, they will come to you. Or you can just ask them.
Skeptics have asked me whether magick is real, whether I believe in it or how can you know if magick works. And what I think is that if you are doing spells for finding a job (for example) as motivation or inspiration and also put in the effort to find one and you do, then it doesn’t matter which could be said to have “really done it.” But you do need to believe that you will find a job or you’ll have a self-fulfilling prophecy.
On the other hand if you do something specific like a skrying or other ritual for insight it is possible to test it in a scientific manner; for example, some magicians after a scrying session or astral projection will look up correspondences in Liber 777 to see if they match. Magick does not require faith here any more than a scientist needs faith to test hypotheses, only willingness. And the literal vs. psychological model discussion is relevant even regarding spirits encountered during astral projection (“the landscape of the mind”) but either way there is insight gained and transformation to be had and that is undeniably powerful.
What’s ironic in all this is that the same skeptics talk about how they don’t need faith or belief in their lives and conveniently desire hard evidence from other people but shy away from topics like love and other emotions or other subjects in which there is no hard data or objective existence that can literally be proven. We live our lives mostly based on our desires as well as reasonable expectations from information and prior experiences. Emotions are subjective but they are valid and should not be derided as somehow inferior to logic. Even intellectual or intelligent people can have delusions and cognitive dissonance.
Some skeptics also ask what can one do with magick. I know they are talking about miracles and special powers and not just practical useful everyday things. Levitation, mesmerism and stuff like that. But if I were to study magick simply to be able to do those things it would be self-defeating. There is so much self-work that needs to happen before that point and such things are not parlor tricks or done for show.
In all my reading of politics (particularly radical feminism) and how we are affected by our environment and the institutions that be, it is not a stretch to say that astrology affects us as well; if we did not have sunlight we would become depressed (along with other health conditions from a lack of vitamin D) and our circadian rhythms would be out of whack. After all, the planets and stars are part of our greater environment (sotospeak) just on a cosmic level. But the stars impel, they don’t compel us. The “mundane” parallel would be that we don’t have to be a victim of our circumstances.