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Magic (from the Greekμαγεία mageía "sorcery, jugglery, illusion" - derived from the Old Persian magush, the name of the Medean priests), which of course must not be confused with the magical art of the illusionists, is generally defined as the purely spiritual influencing of external objects, events, people and possibly also other spiritual beings. In late antiquity, magic was widespread in the form of theurgy. Magic also plays a special role in hermeticism.

Initiates and magicians

In contrast to the initiate, the magician not only strives for spiritual knowledge, but also wants to intervene directly in the world by means of spiritual powers. To this end, he uses a wide variety of spiritual techniques such as meditation, the recitation of mantric texts, knowledge of the secret names of the spiritual beings called upon to act, or certain ritual cultic acts. Word magic, verbal magic or word spells are the terms used to describe magical effects intended to be brought about by spoken or merely thought words, i.e. spells. In a jokingly derogatory form, one also likes to speak of meaningless hocus-pocus.

„The followers of magic were of the opinion that a substantial extension of the human sphere of action could take place through the training of the imagination. The man who is able to bring his imagination to a certain degree of perfection penetrates into undreamed-of secrets, and he can bring about by his will what seems to most men only conceivable as the effect of nature or of a supernatural being.“ (Lit.: GA 1d, p. 163 note 5)

Often magical practice is associated with medial states of trance, that is, with the dullest form of consciousness. A magician, on the other hand, who is able to work consciously into his physical body and draws from it the powers to work into the outer physical world, may with some justification also be called an adept.

„Precisely because the physical body is the lowest member, it requires the greatest effort of the human being to get this body under his own control. With the transformation of this physical body goes hand in hand the attainment of power over forces that flood the whole cosmos. And the mastery over these cosmic forces is what is called magic.“ (Lit.:GA 100, p. 43)

White and black magic

See also: black magic

Depending on whether the magical acts promote the general welfare and salvation of humanity and are in accordance with the true aims of the spiritual world, or serve only self-interest and the adversary powers, a distinction has always been made between legitimate white magic and the deeply pernicious black magic.

„The magic, the gods use it, but the difference between white and black magic is only that in white magic one intervenes in a moral way, in a selfless way, in black magic in an immoral way, in a selfish way. There is no other difference.“ (Lit.:GA 317, p. 40)

„When occult powers are used, it is absolutely necessary that the connection with the central spiritual powers of the world should be maintained, and it is absolutely necessary that spiritual powers should not be delivered up to anyone who does not wish to seek this connection. This is connected with the fact that in all real occult schools secrecy reigns over the communication of spiritual forces, and that no one who does not undertake to maintain the connection with the leading spiritual beings is handed over such secrets. Only with the "central government" of the earth is there the possibility of knowing what is involved. And one must know this if one is to use spiritual powers. If one communicates anything to another in an unauthorised manner, by which this other person can place himself in opposition to the great plan of earth evolution, then one commits the first kind of black magic act. Therefore, the following principle applies: The first act of black magic is the betrayal of occult secrets. The gossiping and divulging of occult secrets is the first case of black magic, for there you deliver the occult secrets to those who place themselves in opposition to the central direction of earth evolution, because you do not know the connection. Where does this occur, where does it become real? It becomes real wherever occult secrets are put into operation, not in the service of the whole earthly leadership, but in the service of some limited body which does not wish to have any connection with the earthly leadership which is in the service of humanity. So, for example, if man receives those things which he is only allowed to use when he is over all national and racial prejudices, delivered to him earlier, if he uses them before he is over these prejudices and before he has any idea of what it means to be a "homeless man", then exactly the same thing which is otherwise white magic passes into the service of black magic. Exactly the same thing. When that which should serve humanity is used in the service of a separate race, for instance, in order to give this race supremacy over the earth, then this is black magic on a large scale, for it does not happen in harmony with earthly leadership. It is the first requirement: to be beyond that which connects us only with a part of humanity. For a present-day white magician, this is the first principle. Man cannot strive for selflessness, but he can strive for love for all humanity. He can expand the field of his love. That he can do, and that is what it is all about.“ (Lit.:GA 101, p. 128f)

The actual initiator of black magic is Sorat, the sun demon, the beast with two horns indicated by the number 666 in the Apocalypse of John:

„In order for people to be seduced into mere immorality, into what they already know as normal people, there was no need for this monster, which appears as the sun demon. Only when that which in a good sense characterises the beings who bring salvation to the human race, only when spiritual elevation is transformed into its opposite, when spiritual power is placed in the service of the lower ego principle, then it can bring humanity so far that the beast, which is represented with two horns, attains power over it. The abuse of spiritual powers is connected with that seductive power of the beast with two horns. And we call this abuse of spiritual power black magic in contrast to the correct use, which we call white magic. Thus, by dividing itself, the human race will prepare itself, on the one hand, to reach ever more spiritual states and thus to enter into the use of spiritual powers, into white magic, and on the other hand, that which abuses spiritual powers will prepare itself for the wildest power of the two-horned beast, black magic. In the end, humanity will split into beings who practise white magic and those who practise black magic. Thus in the secret of 666 or Sorat is hidden the secret of black magic. And the seducer of black magic, of that most terrible crime in the evolution of the earth, which no crime can equal, is represented by the apocalyptic through the two-horned beast. Thus, as it were, the division of humanity enters our horizon in the very distant future: the chosen ones of the Christ, who will ultimately be the white magicians, and the opponents, the wild sorcerers, the black magicians, who cannot get away from matter and whom the apocalypticist represents as those who fornicate with matter. Therefore all this activity of black magic, all that arises in marriage between man and the hardening in matter, is brought to his view before his visionary soul in the great Babylon, in the community which unites all those who practise black magic, in the terrible marriage or rather wild marriage between man and the forces of degenerate matter.“ (Lit.:GA 104, p. 230f)


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: URL:
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.