Magick and theurgy are usually descriptive of two quite different things but in either case there is no such thing as self-initiation. We can try to lift ourselves by our own bootstraps but the outcome is a foregone conclusion. Magical Theurgy comprises ritual directed towards God-Realisation—solipsism is therefore a considerable bar to meaningful progress.[1] There is no ‘monadic’ intelligence in reality. Isolationism is the curse of the modern age.

Magick: The Spell (detail)It is impossible to convey any sense of what magick is to the mind of the person who lacks the will to perceive it. To explain and rationalise magick in the hope that ‘men of science’ and other worthies might achieve illumination is a mission doomed to failure from the outset. Every idea the mind of man is able to conceive breaks down when subjected to analysis. The fact completely escapes those requiring proof of reality. Magick includes many traditional sciences, including but by no means limited to astrology, divination and the science of numbers. Magick embraces the life of the human soul. While the most superficial understanding of magick explains it as mere manipulation of phenomena, if used intelligently, combining knowledge of the true principles with the concentration of the mind afforded by yoga, magick can be used as a support to real and effective initiation.

The limitation, more or less severe, placed on the possibilities for real spiritual realisation by the systematic approach used in neo-spiritualism today means we had to revise our approach to the subject quite drastically. Since computers became the dominant force in the world for shaping the minds of men, the urge towards classification and tabulation has by now been taken to the extreme where systems analysts produce popular books about magick. Those who produce these—and there are very many of them—usually have university degrees they are proud of but no real knowledge whatsoever. Most of them are even atheists and among these, a degree in psychology is considered a ‘qualification’, whereas in fact that kind of mentality automatically disqualifies a person from any real initiation or spiritual realisation. These always emphasise a kind of artificial ‘psychism’, where visualisation techniques are used along with the ubiquitous auto-hypnotism. As a consequence we now have book-learned ‘adepts’ claiming high degrees of initiation and whose knowledge extends no further than the ordinary man in the street, though that does not it seems prevent them from pretending to teach and even initiate others, sometimes through the convenient means of internet video links and even social media—which is a kind of oxymoron as anything ‘social’ automatically discounts esotericism.

Magick and its Governance

For all this mania for selling delusion to the masses—who already accept the most fantastic lies from governments, corporations and ‘official’ science—we now place much greater emphasis on theoretical knowledge, by which is meant traditional cosmology and ontology, and the practice of yoga, than at any time before. According to René Guénon,

Of all preliminary means, theoretical knowledge alone is absolutely indispensible, and that later, when one passes to actual realisation, it is concentration that matters most and that leads to it in the most immediate way, for it is directly bound up with knowledge.[2]

We have always, right from the veriest beginning, insisted that one works from the highest principle. While that is no certain guarantee that heedless fools will not come unstuck, the Hermetic axiom ‘As above and so below’ has far greater import than is afforded it by today’s postmodern ‘experts’.[3] Magick, if not torn wholly asunder from its governing principles in the natural and supernatural order, can be very efficacious as a support to the path of true knowledge, and in the times we now live we need all the assistance we can get.

Practice of Magick

It is seldom realised that many rituals in our older works are fully adaptable to different needs, and that their use can sometimes go much further than the necessarily brief descriptions afforded by such a book.[4] The ‘Ritual for Psychic Self Defence’ provides an example of a ritual where the practical operations can go further than as is implied by the titles and brief description given in the textbook.[5] Cases of actual psychic attack, where the antagonist intentionally takes their malice to the Hermetic level, are rare. While there might be many persons in the world today who would indeed use magical means to harm others, given the availability of the rituals and methods in the public domain, few would be prepared to go to the painstaking lengths necessary. It is well indeed that few persons now have the expertise and knowledge necessary, even if that kind of knowledge is relatively ordinary. Anyone that had real knowledge would never consider such a thing. It is more likely that such an attack would be unintentional, arising from anger or some other affliction.

It must also be said that whatever the real source of  a psychic attack, there must be a sympathetic response from the victim, who is more alike the attacker than they care to admit in so far as they have retained harmful mental impressions that lead to what are called kléshas in Sanskrit, ‘harmful afflictions’.[6] Thus, in understanding the ritual of Psychic Self Defence, it becomes apparent that whether a cause is seen as external or internal, there is a need to loosen the bonds of attachment to harmful sense impressions that, when retained (through the faculties such as memory), amount to serious obstructions to the goal of yoga. The Ritual of Psychic Self Defence can be taken further than that, as we have indicated, but to explain that we need first to refer to the way the ritual is constructed:

The ritual begins as do most rituals with a general opening of the temple that orders the sphere of the practitioner as according to cosmological principles. Every Zelator has a ritually consecrated dagger to symbolise the whole realm of Air, and this is then used to perform a thorough purification of that realm in the name of its various hierarchical names and powers, making the appropriate pentagrams and so forth around the place of work.

It should be mentioned that the ‘realm of Air’ corresponds in this Hermetic schema particularly to Yesod, the ninth sephira called the Foundation in Qabalah. However, the etherial designation is really inclusive of the whole domain of the individual ruach or mind-intelligence.

There then follows a general purification (by holy water) and consecration (by incense perfume) of the person and the place, in all four quarters. Following purification, the element is re-invoked and an Egyptian deity is called in to assist in linking the elemental sphere with higher and divine forces, as well as to place a seal upon the sphere of the practitioner to strengthen it against all malefic influences. Even this very brief overview should be enough to show that the ritual is far more than being about ‘getting rid of’ things, or even of nullifying some external aggression. The deity Anubis is heard to say here,

I stand between the invisible and the visible.

But more than that, as Guardian of the Threshold he crosses the bridge from the unmanifest to the manifest and so is able to return the way he came:

My mother is darkness and my father the night: thus do I come forth, bearing the Ineffable Light!

Anyone that has passed through the Neophyte ritual will recollect from this that Anubis guards the temple outside with a sword and also appears within the circle, as the bearer of the Lamp of Light by which the Candidate is conducted around the new world in which they have entered.[6]

Such a ritual as has here been described also corresponds to traditional magick lore, involving a ‘moving of the air’, or ‘changing of the winds’. We think that enough has been said here regarding the adaptability of rituals.


1. Our book Magical Theurgy—Rituals of the Tarot combines magick with theurgy.
2. ‘Conclusions’, Introduction to the Study of the Hindu Doctrines.
3. Indeed, one of the latter went so far as to reverse the axiom to imply that the higher could be magically forced to change in accordance with the low and very ordinary intentions of the magician. That is a typically ‘satanic’ inversion of the natural order and while it could certainly effect results in the sphere of the practitioner, such results, owing to the inversion, could only increase ignorance and delusion still further.
4. For example Ritual Magick—Initiation of the Star and Snake.
5. Ritual Magick [ibid].
6. See Part Two of Thunder Perect Gnosis, which includes a study of the Vedantic science of the mind. In particular, ‘Yoga of the Mind’.
7. See The Phoenix and other Stellar Rites of Initiation.

The illustration is from the painting The Spell, by William Fettes Douglas (1822–1891), which is held at the National Galleries, Scotland. The full painting can be viewed here.

© Oliver St. John 2023, 2024
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Yoga means ‘union’ (with God or true Self). In modern times yoga has become separated from its spiritual purpose. All focus is then placed upon the physicality of the yoga postures (mudras), breathing techniques and so forth. These were only added to Hatha Yoga when the sages wished to make a complete science of yoga, and were never intended to be separated from meditation or the goal of yoga, which is identical with its meaning, ‘union’.

Yoga: Sekhmet in Godform postureThe Egyptian Goddess Sekhet in the Godform seated asana for Yoga.

In the subtle human body, tradition has it there are two forces at work, often symbolised by two serpents called ida and pingala in Sanskrit, or personified as Isis and Nephthys in Egypt.[1] These are likened to the solar and lunar force, the Sun and the Moon. Through their interactions we are able to perform all functions. We can live, breathe, eat and think, for example, by virtue of them. At various times one or the other force is dominant. When they are equilibrated, through yoga for example, it becomes possible to raise consciousness up through the chakras or ‘wheels’, centres of power, to the higher or supra-human states. This is brought about through the means of a ‘central canal’ called shushumna in Sanskrit, which has its equivalent in the central column of the Tree of Life or the trunk of the world tree in various cultures. This is described as the passage for a certain kind of fire and is otherwise called the Serpent Power. The vital force or Kundalini, that which keeps us alive, is said to be coiled sleeping at the base of the spine in the occult anatomy; the dream of existence arises therefrom. The Shakti or living power, which is personified as a goddess of the same name, is able to rise upward along the path of the shushumna. This is facilitated by pranayama or inward and outward breath in the yoga practice, combined with upward aspiration and sometimes the use of various images (yantras) and sounds (mantras).

The primary aim of yoga is withdrawal of the senses from the physical body (and mind) to the subtle realm. The gross and subtle senses are then withdrawn so that true meditation and yoga union is possible.

This article is adapted and abridged from the book Thunder Perfect Gnosis—Intellectual Flower of Mind.

Origin of Yoga

Everyone imagines they know what yoga is, but the notion commonly rests on the misconception that yoga is all about postures and breathing exercises. In fact, the development of postures and breathing came at a relatively late time and only forms a branch of Hatha Yoga—a branch that is not in any way a sum of even that specialised knowledge. Yoga, which is linked etymologically to ‘yoke’, includes both the goal and the means. The ‘union’ that is implicit is also mistaken for a uniting that takes place between two distinctly separate things, whereas it is really more of a return to one principle that has no second, so is more in the way of a fullness of realisation or total knowledge that involves the destruction of all ignorance concerning the true state of affairs.

The origin of yoga is far more ancient than is usually supposed. There are two darshanas or points of view within the Hindu doctrines that are closely linked, these being the principial cosmology of Shankhya, and the Yoga Sutras attributed to Patanjali. Modern scholarship always insists on attributing traditional knowledge to an individual author, whereas names like ‘Shankhya’ are not the names of a personage but descriptive more of a specialised knowledge or science not in any way comparable to conventional scientific theories. Shankhya literally has the meaning of ‘category’, which is meant in the sense of synthetic knowledge of true principles (tattvas). Patanjali, who wrote down the aphorisms (sutras) of the yoga theory and practice, based on the Shankhya cosmology, does not refer to one person; it is a family name, indicative of a school of thought as a collective entity.

Furthermore, the great antiquity of yoga is made clear in the Sanskrit source texts and the commentaries on them by the ancient sages. Yoga practice is inseparable from the Shankhya teaching and that is attributed to Kapila, who is identified with Hiranyagarbha, the Lord of the Universe in the present cycle or Manvantara. It is written that Kapila had acquired the sum total of all knowledge of the Manvantara previous to this present one, of which according to Hindu cosmology we are now at the end of the final phase called Kali Yuga.[2] Owing to the degradation that takes place at the end of a cosmic cycle it thus became necessary to write down the theory and practice of yoga about two thousand years ago—before that it was not necessary as knowledge was passed down through oral tradition.

It is not recommended that anyone should attempt Kundalini Yoga, Raja Yoga or any other form of the science without knowledgeable guidance and supervision. See also our article and commentary on The Eight Limbs of Yoga, Patanjali.


1. The chakras in yoga do not in any way exist in the physical anatomy as such. When they are ‘located’ in various parts of the body the placement is only to serve as an analogy, not literal fact.

2. See ‘Cosmic Cycles’, Nu Hermetica—Initiation and Metaphysical Reality.

© Oliver St. John 2021, 2023
Adapted from the book Thunder Perfect Gnosis—Intellectual Flower of Mind. The book has ten chapters exclusively concerned with the theory of yoga  and the practices of discrimination and concentration of the mind.

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