The way that magick is generally conceptualised changes as general paradigm shifts in thinking occurr. Until fairly recently
(in a broad historical sense), practitioners of magick subscribed to the 'Spirit' Model of Magick, which basically states that the Otherworlds are real, and are inhabited by various pantheons of of discrete entities - elementals, demons, angels, goddesses, gods, etc. The task of the magician or shaman is to develop (or inherit) a route map of the Otherworld - to know the short-cuts, and make a few friends (or contact relatives) over there. Having done this, they have to interact with these spirits in a given way, to get them to execute your will. So clergymen pray, shamans stuff sacred mushrooms into their orifices in order to meet their ancestors, whilst demonologists threaten entities into submission by thundering out bits of the Old Testament.
By the Eighteenth Century, and the rise of Science, the idea of 'Animal Magnetism' arose in the West, being the first manifestation of the 'Energy' Model of magick. This model places emphasis on the presence of 'subtle energies' which can be manipulated via a number of techniques. Along came Bulwer Lytton and his idea of 'Vril' energy, Eliphas Levi and the Astral Light, Mediums & ectoplasm, Westernised 'popular' accounts of Prana, Chakras, and Kundalini, and eventually, Wilhelm Reich's Orgone energy.
The next development came with the popularisation of Psychology, mainly due to the Psychoanalytic fads of Freud, Jung & co. During this phase, the Otherworlds became the Innerworlds, demons were rehoused into the Unconscious Mind, and Hidden Masters revealed as manifestations of the 'Higher Self'. For some later exponents of this model, Tarot cards were switched from being a magical-divinatory system to being 'tools' for personal transformation, just as the gods/ goddesses came to be seen as not 'real' entities, but psychological symbols or archetypes.
The current up-and-coming paradigm is the 'Cybernetic' model, as we swing into being an information-based culture. This model says that the Universe, despite appearences, is stochastic in nature. Magick is a set of techniques for rousing a neurological storm in the brain which brings about microscopic fluctuations in the Universe, which lead eventually to macroscopic changes - in accordance with the magician's intent. See Chaos Science, the Butterfly Effect, and all that. Another manifestation of the Cybernetic Model coming to the fore is the new age assertion that crystals work 'just like' computer chips. There are signs that the Cybernetic Model dovetails back into the spirit model, and in 'Chaos Servitors: A User Guide', you will find a reasonably coherent argument to support the idea that localised informationfields can, over time, become self-organising to the extent that we experience them as autonomous entities - spirits.
Each particular model has its own attractive glamour, with exponents or opponents on either side. Many occult textbooks contain elements of the Spirit, Energy, and Psychological models quite happily. It is also worth noting that should you ever find yourself in the position of having to 'explain' all this weird stuff to an non-afficiando or skeptic, then the Psychological model is probably your best bet. These days, people who ascribe to the Spirit model, if they are not of a Pagan or Occult persuasion themselves, tend to think that they have an exclusive copyright over the use of Spirits! If the person is a computer buff or Fractal phreak, then by all means go for the 'cyberpunk' paradigm. Scientists only tend to accept something if a scientific 'rationale' can be wheeled up to slot it into. A good example is Acupuncture, which up until recently
Phil Hine was explained using the Energy Model, and poo-poohed by the scientific establishment until someone came up with Endorphin stimulation. Now most hospital physiotherapy departments have a set of needles.
Whilst some magicians tend to stick to one favourite model, it is useful to shift between them as the situation befits, as some models have a stronger 'explaining' power for accounting for some aspects of magick than others. The Spirit model, being by far the oldest, can account for just about any aspect of magick. The Psychological model, whilst being useful for looking at magical as a process for personal development, has difficulty with aspects such as tribal shamans cursing Westerners who (a) don't believe in magick (b) didn't see the shaman squinting at them yet (c) still break out in hives or boils anyway. If you narrow yourself down to only using one magical model, then sooner or later the Universe will present you with something that won't fit your parameters. When you are spending more time defending your models, rather than modifying them, then you know it's time for another spot of deconditioning ... report to Room 101.
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Magick is the art and practice of moving natural energies to effect needed or wanted change. Magick is natural, there is absolutely nothing supernatural about it. What is taught here are various techniques of magick for beginners. Magick is natural and simple and the techniques to develop abilities should be simple and natural as well. What is taught on this site is not only the basics of magick, but the basics of many things.