by Christopher Penczak, edited by Tina Whittle
When I began in the Craft, the connection between magick and science was both groundbreaking and completely natural for the time and place, an idea championed for me by Laurie Cabot and her Witchcraft as a Science classes. Later I studied the Indian guru Yogananda, who described kriya yoga to the Western world as a form of high technology. The idea of magickal techniques and structures being a form of technology is one promoted by many magicians today.
Today, in an era of ever-growing religiosity around Paganism and Witchcraft, many either don’t understand the connection or seek to break the two, looking at science as science and religion as religion, each separate, neither requiring the validation of the other. Due to growing—and often valid—concerns around culture, identity, history, and language, Witchcraft and Magick are being divorced from occultism.
Why should someone involved in Witchcraft explore scientific theories like quantum physics? Such knowledge is not needed, they say, and it confuses things. Yet those seeking connection, or even validation, between science and the esoteric are aligning with the ethos of the older traditions where science, art, and religion were all unified, as they were in ancient Sumer and Egypt among other cultures. It is in lands such as these, lands now occupied by very different people and traditions, where the ideas of many of our occult traditions are rooted.
Even until fairly recently, science and esoteric philosophy were entwined, with most doctors and scientists also being alchemists, astrologers, and magicians. Many of those we credit with the greatest discoveries of science would also be considered occultists. While we have divided them in our minds and blamed any superstitious views (according to our contemporary understanding) as being a product of their time, their esoteric ideas led to a more cohesive worldview than the products of their science alone would have. One could argue this division, this lack of the sacred in our modern science, while producing amazing technologies has also led to the problems of industrialization and the sheer damage we have done to the planet and each other in recent centuries.
While this division might be currently necessary for the secular and all-embracing society of equality and justice we envision but have yet to manifest, the reunion of science, art, and religion occurs within the being of the practicing occultist and Witch. Witchcraft is not simply a religion as most define it today, but an experimental practice of consciousness, of evolution. Like the various old alchemical sayings best summarized as “separate, purify, and reunite,” the division of science, art, and religion was necessary, just as their eventual reunion in our future is also necessary. Occultists are laying the experimental groundwork for that undivided future.
Magicians grasp at quantum physics, one of a number of cutting edge theories, because it is one of the first ideas straight from the scientific community that points back into an esoteric direction. While it’s quite true metaphysical teachers have bent it to say things that physicists are not saying, the key implication is that the observer has an influence on what is observed. Physicists are saying this effect happens only on a quantum level, not on the level of everyday events. Yet metaphysicians argue that everyday events, objects, and people are made from particles on a quantum level. To the occultist, this understanding goes back to the idea that consciousness has a role in creation. For the occultist the first consciousness, the first cause, creates everything, and we are all expressions of it, endowed with a measure of consciousness, continuing to create.
Magickal people, perhaps unlike dogmatic fundamentalists, don’t deny science, but realize things are occurring on more than one level. The argument comes at the point of origin: random chance evolving into the perfect patterns of our universe, solar system, and planet? Or patterns of consciousness on some as-yet-uncharted level guiding the process? Occultism is somewhat of a bridge between the intelligent design of the fundamentalist and the random chance and uncertainty of current science. Yet the occultist uses it not to stop exploration, but to expand it. The occultist can understand that in a science class, ideas of intelligent design are inappropriate due to the criteria of modern science. However, the occultist also wants to be educated, to have a worldview and live in a society with a worldview that includes art, philosophy, psychology, theology, and those who are exploring how those things are deeply connected in us.
We don’t live in a world of occultists, but if you are a practicing magician and have truly experienced magick, you are living the link between consciousness and manifestation. You are participating in the conscious unfolding, communicating with the land, spirits, and gods all around us. While you can behave appropriately for each circumstance in our current society, where such realities cannot be accepted, you cannot divide yourself internally. Magick is not just for the circle, the altar, the woods. If you are actually doing it, magick will permeate every aspect of your life and give you a cosmological worldview where science is speaking to only a fraction of your reality. An important fraction to be sure, but the art of your life is truly the balance and unification internally of all your experiences, progressing you forward on a path of evolution. If your magick does not permeate every aspect of your life, then you are simply emulating the Sunday Christians, the Christmas and Easter Christians, whose Christianity does not inform their every thought, word, and deed. Any act of true religion is linking, expanding, and connecting, and as such, should utterly transform. Witchcraft should change us even more, because Witchcraft is the art, science, and religion of change.