Everyone who practices magic (of the occult variety) needs a definition of what they mean by that term. We are often moved towards magic by desires and attractions which don’t exactly fall within the bandwidth of the rational (as with many important things in life), so it is good to get clarity on what we mean.
A very commonly cited definition is that provided by Aleister Crowley:
Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will
Magick in Theory and Practice
I used this as a fall back for many years, but it is so general as to include every volitional transaction which a person makes in life, and while this makes a case for the universal scope of its magic, it’s not so helpful as a meaningful definition of the things that magicians normally consider magic (as opposed to say the act of walking, or drinking a cup of coffee).
In the introduction to “The Left Hand Path” (by Tapio Kothavori) Michael Aquino quotes a number of definitions, eg:
“The change in situations or events in accordance with one’s will, which would, using normally accepted methods, be unchangeable”*
“The manipulation of harmonic forces which may lie outside sensory perception and are therefore beyond the pale of possible measurement”**
Marion Weinstein defined magic as “the work of transformation”, ultimately relating to the self, though she wrote a lot of context and illustration into that very simple definition. I remember Israel Regardie referring to the necessary components of magic being imagination and will, while others have noted a need for a “factor X” to bring about a magical union of these two faculties, eg techniques that bring about an altered state of consciousness, such as trance work.
I think you should write your definition of magic from your own experience, understanding and orientation. You might not arrive at a universal definition of what magic is to all practitioners, but if you don’t get your hands dirty in what you actually experience, understand and believe, yourself, then you will not make it conscious, and you will not contribute that little something to other people. Living in Aleister Crowley’s (or Israel Regardie’s, or Dion Fortune’s) shadow will not make you Aleister Crowley, and more importantly, it will get in the way of your being yourself.
My working definition of magic(k)¹ is:
the bringing about of intended change through communication between different worlds, at different levels of perceived existence, or levels of wholeness of a system
This is the definition that I derive from my experience, though it does build on Crowley’s definition as a starting point. It highlights the act of communication which I have found to be central to magical work, indeed it is the forging of a relationship. It also highlights that the communication occurs between different worlds. Someone who is materialistically or exclusively psychologically inclined might view this as communication between the conscious and the unconscious. I see this more in terms of communication with the invisible, with spirits, gods etc, and the relationships we make with them. Communication between levels of wholeness, or between levels of a holistic system, is another way of seeing things, and has relations to how we navigate the experience of being, and how we relate to the intelligent environment.
If I phone the plumber to come fix the pipes, and pay him for his services, this is not magic for me because we are of the same order of creature, existing within one world. If I make an offering to a god or spirit, or have some other kind of congress with them, and a wished for manifestation ensues, this is magic for me, because the congress has occurred between worlds. In fact the congress itself is the reward in devotional practice.
If I walk to the post office and post my letter, then go to the supermarket, then come home, I might find magic in this (it could be anywhere, in anything), but when I go into wilderness I am probably more likely to find it (and potentially benefit from it), as I am approaching the edge of a greater holistic system. We can see from this that magic is not just a verb or a transaction, but also a presence and a relationship, and the intention may be explicit or implicit.
Because being is deep, interdependent and complex, magic will always have a poetic fuzziness to it, spilling into epiphany, prayer, experimentation, craft, and love. A great deal of love.
But intention is also important, for intention makes conscious, and itself traverses worlds. One could view the whole universe as run by magic in a sense, the magic that draws our breath, that moves our muscles and limbs, that lights our minds and senses, ignites stars and turns planets. This is all very real magic, not less so for being familiar, for we fundamentally have no idea what it actually is.
But our magic is something we explore and discover consciously for ourselves, in the meaningful context of our own lives.
** René Schwaller de Lubicz
¹ The spelling with a “k” is something that Crowley revived to distinguish occult magic from stage show, illusionist magic. I have come to associate it with “New Aeon” magic in a Thelemic context, which could have a number of meanings to different people, while others simply use it as a name for “real magic”. I am personally quite happy to use either spelling. “k” is the eleventh letter of the alphabet, and 11 is the “number of magick”. I find the number 11 fits my definition also, as it reflects for me the communication and congress between different levels, whether illustrated as 10 + 1, or 5 + 6.