You hear it a lot, don't you? "Watch out, don't do that spell; It's Black Magick!" and "Oh, I'm a pleasant witch; I work with 'erbs and White Magick!" My question has to be; what is "Black" or "White" Magick?
I've wondered this since my beginnings in the Occult. In fact, the first site I ever visited on the subject is called "spellsandmagic", which primarily educates people on the "how and what" of Black Magick in particular. Going into this, I had a general idea of what "Magick" was, but I never really thought about what the "Black" title referred to, or meant. The word, much like the word "White", is commonly seen in Magickal circles, but a clear definition has never been established for what the word truly means when paired with "Magick".
There are many different concepts, ideas and views about this; many people tend to associate "Black and White" with "Good or Evil"; that is, Magickal Rituals, Spells and Acts that benefit that which is around the caster (people and the Earth in general) or benefit the caster in a way which does not worsen anybody else, are seen as being White spells, and spells that cause destruction to those around the caster, or otherwise benefit the caster are seen as being "Black" spells. Some view this slightly differently, in that White Magick can only be beneficial to others, and no such beneficial spells can be cast upon oneself, even in the case of, say, a healing spell, as it is viewed as being selfish. In such a case, even the healing spell that would appear beneficial and non-harmful is viewed as Black Magick for its otherwise selfish nature (self benefit). There appear to be some problems with both views in any case; the main one comes in the form of a question; "What is Good, and what is Evil?" Ultimately, the answer will change from person to person, as there appears to be little-to-no objective moral standards within all peoples.
Even if we can set up objective standards for Good and Evil, the next question would be; "But what of the act?" For this, I set up a scenario for you to ponder over; I know of a man who is planning to bomb a school full of children, a week from now. I perform a ritual, a ritual which ultimately influences the events which transpire within that week, which ends up with this man being run over by a bus, and killed. My ritual ended up in a man?s death, but at the same time, it ensured that the school bombing never took place; did I perform Black Magick or White Magick? Furthermore, was it Good or Evil? In such a case, although the immediate result of the ritual was death, it prevented much greater death, and appears as the lesser of two evils. This brings in another view on the subject; White Magick is done to benefit something, and Black Magick is done to destroy/worsen something, but both can be used for Good and Evil purposes. In this point of view, Black Magick isn't necessarily evil, and likewise, White Magick isn't necessarily good.
While there are many other concepts surrounding the Black and White arguments, one that is rarely seen, or at the very least, rarely mentioned, is the concept of "Grey Magick". What is Grey Magick, I hear you ask? Well, much like "Black" and "White" Magick, there doesn't appear to be any objective definition, though there are generally two opposing views on what it might mean. While most tend to simply ignore the concept entirely, those who do pay it attention generally fall into these two views; one, is that "Grey Magick" is Magick that is neither harmful and destructive, or beneficial and helpful. This might fall under, say, Magick that changes the weather from rain to sun, from clear skies, to foggy hills, and so on. This doesn't have any real benefit or helpful attribution, but 'nor does it have the opposite. What is it then? Some say it is "Grey Magick", the "in-between" stage, Magick without any Moral impact. The other group is generally one that puts under "Grey Magick", that which is beneficial and destructive at the same time. It is neither black, 'nor white. Good, 'nor bad. It is a mix of the two. Take for instance my earlier example of the school bombing; this could be considered "Grey Magick", as, while it saved the lives of many people in the school, it still took one. It isn't an act of Evil, but it still isn't fully an act of Good.
Finally, some view "Black/Grey/White" as being a possible "scale" for a Magician. Based off that which I have read from the works of Donald Michael Kraig, when one starts out in the Occult and their own Magickal path, they begin at point 0, the centre of the grey scale, a scale which ranges from 100, down to -100. Based off the types of Magick that one performs, and given the exact intent of that Magick, one will move up and down in the scale; 100 being a purely White Magician, -100 being a purely Black Magician. One is advised to never go too far on each scale, and to try and maintain *some* sort of middle ground, particularly in the Black scale. By viewing your Magickal practices with this type of scale, one can decide what type of Magick to focus on, and can begin to see just what type of Magician they truly are, though there are surely many who would prefer no type of scale at all. (and once again, you would have to ask "What is Black and White Magick?" to base the scale off of on the first place)
In an update from my previous edition of this article, I forgot to mention another concept that I found through reading "Modern Magick" by Donald Michael Kraig. He gives a viewpoint towards Magick that I haven't seen before; he gives the definition of Black Magick as being Magick that is used in order to affect negative change in somebody, something or yourself, or to damage and destroy. He gives the description of affecting positive change to something, somebody or yourself to Grey Magick, whereas most would place it upon White Magick. For White Magick, he gives the viewpoint I have seen nowhere else. To give an exact quote from page 16 of the Third Edition of "Modern Magick", he states;
"White Magick is the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will, using means not currently understood by traditional Western science, for the purpose of obtaining the Knowledge and Conversation of your Holy Guardian Angel."
I find this statement rather perplexing, as I simply don't entirely know what he means; using Magick to obtain knowledge from what is essentially your "Spiritual Guide" is something I have never truly heard of before this, and given that it is defined as being "White Magick", does this suggest that obtaining the Knowledge and Conversation of your Holy Guardian Angel is put above all else in terms of importance or do you set your own level of importance for such a task, if indeed such a task is ever pursued in the first place?
Having seen various ideas and concepts about Magick, I have to say that I generally fall into the final "Black/White" argument as being my primary view as of this moment. That is, I look to the final outcome rather than the immediate outcome to judge what is "Black/White", or "Good/Evil". I would still consider things like Death, Destruction, Selfishness, Dismay, etc. to be "Black Magick", but I do think that such things can be used for an ultimately beneficial (or "White") purpose, and that, ironically, "Black and White" Magick isn't quite so "Black and White" after all.
My question to all those who have had the displeasure of reading this; Is there an objective definition for "Black Magick" and "White Magick"? Is there any sort of objective standard for our morals? Do morals play a part in defining the words, or is it down to the act? Does the act play into defining the words? What do you think of "Grey Magick"? Is it a useless term to include, or does it have its applications? Do you view different things as being "Grey" rather than "Black" or "White"? And finally, is it useless to argue over "Black and White"? Is it nothing but semantics? Should such terms be thrown out, only giving us an overarching "Magick" label, or is it wise to have these separate columns?
I'm not sure if we'll ever get an objective definition for Black and White Magick, in my opinion it will always be up for individual, subjective interpretation and meaning; in the meantime, I'm happy with how I view it, and the freedom it gives me within my own Magickal workings and practices. I hope you may have learned something from reading this post, or at the very least, it may have given you some food for thought. I promise to do better on my next post. ;-) Thanks for reading.