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A Magician’s Testimony

Oluwatoyin Vincent Adepoju

Comparative Cognitive Processes and Systems
“Exploring Every Corner of the Cosmos in Search of Knowledge”

This essay is an effort at stock taking in the quest for understanding that
defines my life. This stock taking involves thinking through what stage I
have reached in the journey and the vistas ahead I am able to perceive. It
can be seen as a continuation of the concerns demonstrated in my "Roots,
Routes and Roofs: Images of Dynamic Unity at the Convergence of Personal
and Cosmic History: Engaging the Toyin Falola Reader"and in other
autobiographical writings engaging my life as a cognitive quest.

I am beginning to think the best way to see myself, in terms of my
philosophical and spiritual orientation, is as a magician.
Not a magician performing actions that are considered entertaining twists
of reality, such as revealing a rabbit where the person was seen holding a
fruit or sawing a person in half only for the sawed person to be shortly
after shown to be whole. Neither a magician understood as a person
associated with effecting spectacular changes in reality or with revealing
fantastic aspects of existence, although this view of the world I am
developing approaches existence itself as something wonderful.
I am referring to a way of relating to reality in general and to one’s life in
particular, in terms of unfolding possibilities beyond the horizon of
expectation, of seeing the universe as alive with meaning and potential
beyond full human grasp, a subtly luminous and quietly numinous reality in
which one may participate.
The term “numinous” is, for me, one of the most important in this world
view, intimately related to the idea of enchantment I discuss below.
Adapting Rudolf Otto’s description in his Das Heilige, The Idea of the Holy,
“numinous” is described by Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of
the English Language as “an invisible but majestic presence, inspiring both
dread and fascination and constituting the non-rational element in vital
religion”, a perception I have entered into in relation to particular places
through contemplating nature under the inspiration of Western magical
theorist Dion Fortune. I adapt this definition, however, to also refer to a less
spectacular but also stirring sense of qualities of reality that suggest a
compellingly glorious but mysterious depth.
This conceptualisation of magic is derived from the idea of enchantment,
which has its roots in descriptions of particular locations as imbued with an
unusual force or presence that enhances already existing qualities or
enables the entry of new qualities, the most striking image of this for me
being descriptions of enchanted forests or woods in Western literature,
such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s depiction of Lothlorien in The Fellowship of the Ring,
the first book of his novel The Lord of the Rings, a perception also
demonstrated in accounts of the world as experienced through mystical
vision, as in Thomas Traherne’s Centuries of Meditations and Henry
Vaughan’s “I Saw Eternity the Other Night”, these three figures being
British writers.

Western and particularly British writers in imaginative literature and non-
fiction have been my point of entry into this mode of understanding reality.
Having first come across these insights through books encountered in my
native Nigeria, I have adapted them to the Nigerian environment with
compelling success and carried over these perceptions into engaging with
environments outside Nigeria, facilitating an integration of philosophical
and spiritual theories and practices from Asia, Africa, Europe and North
and South America and other locations.
Why refer to this approach to reality as magic?
Doors opening into another universe, encounters with entities outside the
conventionally understood sphere composed of humans and other forms in
nature, demonstrations of strange powers, these are some of the points of
convergence between magic in imaginative literature and magic as a means
of expanding mental perception, reshaping reality and gaining contact with
unconventional forms of being.
These are magical goals, which, adapting the ideas of Dion Fortune in such
works as The Training and Work of an Initiate, Applied Magic and Sane
Occultism, and of Caitlin and John Mathews’ in The Western Way: A Practical
Guide to the Western Mystery Tradition: The Native Tradition and The
Hermetic Tradition, updated as Walkers Between the Worlds: The Western
Mysteries from Shaman to Magus, I would describe as operating through
two major approaches to magical technique, these being natural magic,
magic using natural enablements, from non-human nature to the human
mind and body, and artefact magic, magic employing forms constructed by
the human being, rough distinctions that often overlap, as in the use of
instruments created from natural forms and the employment of
imaginative forms, abstract human creations which may be employed in
both forms of magic.
These terms adapt to a global categorisation an idea derived from the
Western tradition, keeping in mind the challenges of adapting a
characterisation from a limited though broad cultural and geographical
range to the breadth of diverse contexts represented by a global scope. I am
doing so because my best exposure to theories in this body of thought
comes from practitioners in Western magic, who are some of, if not the

A magical image about Peter Jackson’s film of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The
Lord of the Rings, the greatest work of magical fantasy known to

richest practitioner theorists in the field, as evident from the 19th-20th
century effervescence represented by the work of such thinkers as Eliphas
Levi, to the Golden Dawn and the figures associated with that magical
school to Chaos Magic and beyond, superbly narrated by Neville Drury in
Stealing Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Modern Western Magic.
How do I practise this kind of magic?
Through meditation, prayer, writing and how I relate with people and with
At the core of this practise is what I describe as my commitment to what I
understand of my vocation, as that term is described by Webster’s as “ the
orientation of a [person’s] life and work in terms of their ultimate sense of
To what degree is such a discipline different from religion or philosophy as
they are generally understood, and thus deserving to be known in terms of
another philosophical/spiritual subdivision described as magic?
In responding to this question, I draw upon the famous definition of magic
often ascribed to Aleister Crowley, “the art and science of causing change to
occur in conformity with will”. As demonstrated by his elaboration of
related ideas in his autobiography, change in this context refers to change
in consciousness, deliberate changes in his or her own state of mind by the
magician’s activities, change meant to place the magician in touch with
aspects of their internal universe or the external cosmos, not readily
accessible otherwise, if at all.
In referring to “will”, Crowley’s formulation may be seen in relation to
both the human will in its everyday operations and human will as an
operation of an ultimate orientation of the self within a cosmic framework,
this ultimate orientation being the fundamental axis of the self the magician
needs to cultivate as an ultimate goal.
The various activities of change or modulations of consciousness the
magician engages in should therefore have as their prime objective the
cultivation of an orbit of activity dramatizing a particular path that is the
individual’s progression through the cosmos, “every man and woman is
star”, Crowley declares, a cosmic entity tracing a path of possibility within
the dynamic tapestry of being and becoming.
Within this context, I commence my magical activity from the moment I
begin to wake up from sleep either at night or at any other time of the day. I
understand the moment of waking as a great gift, a magnificent opportunity
to experience a blissfully contemplative state of mind, rich with
inspirational potential less readily accessible in the course of the day, the
activity of the fully awakened mind and body during the day making entry
into such a quiescent state challenging.
I rise slowly from sleep, savouring the zone between full alertness and the
fuzzy indistinctness in which ideas can be mused upon without urgency, a
magical land between the reality beyond the self in which the self is
immersed and the self’s internal universe, contemplating plans for the day
and beyond as well as the grander configurations of possibility that
constitute the overarching direction of my life as I have been able to
understand it, concluding with a prayer to God for guidance and protection,
an orientation simply identifying the idea of a creator and sustainer of the
cosmos without fixation on any school of thought beyond that basic
conception, my understanding of the idea itself having been enriched by
travels around various ideational and belief systems about ultimate reality.
Entry into and through liminal states is central to the magician’s craft, a
fundamental purpose of his activities as a magician. A foundational liminal
state for me is the state of rising from sleep. I often try to maximise the
value of the contemplative state thus reached by proceeding to do
something inspiring and creative, often writing, making sure I do nothing,
such as talking, that will disturb this quietly potent state. Since I often wake
up quite early, my ideal waking time being between 3 am and 5 am, I am
able to milk this time period significantly before entering into the day’s
activities taking me beyond interaction with myself alone.
Among the magical texts that have touched me the most are Ursula Le
Guin’s Earthsea novels series which develop a tension between attitudes to
magic, specifically between magic as spectacular display of power and
magic as subtle alignment with rhythms that underlie the cosmos, the
central character moving in the progression of the series, from the more
dramatic styles of magic to what would be described in Taoism and Zen
Buddhism as acting without acting, achieving significant effects without
seeming to do anything extraordinary.
My current magical practice operates along such latter lines. There was a
time I would conduct invocations of forms of the divine from the Yoruba
Magic at times is explored through images embodying one’s aspirations.
This is a collage made from images from the website of the Institute for
Advanced Study at Princeton, evoking my vision of an ideal professional life..
origin Orisa cosmology, engage in Tibetan Buddhist meditation and one
other system I can’t recall now, one each of these practices at each stage of
the day, morning, afternoon and evening. I also used to start the day with a
m , ritual from the Western magical tradition, the Lesser Banishing Ritual of
the Pentagram, imaginatively unifying self and cosmos through a basic
elaboration of the sign of the cross. I also used to spend my mornings, even
before going to work, in an enchanted forest in Benin-City, so described by
me because of the magnificent numinosity of the forest. These practices
reconfigured how I perceive the universe by enabling what Dion Fortune in
The Mystical Qabalah describes as a demonstration of definitive progress in
spiritual practice, "a permanent extension of consciousness", as well as
startling but fleeting openings into hidden realities.
I don’t have access now to natural spaces of such power. I am not much
motivated by rituals beyond the most basic.
I am seeking, however, through this essay and other efforts, to unify and
move beyond what I have gained so far in my journeys around the triangle,
my movement round the circumference of the calabash, my progression
between the perimeter and centre of the Sri Yantra, these being symbols
that inspire me from AMORC Rosicrucianism, Mazisi Kunene on classical
Zulu cosmology and from Hindu Srividya, images either so understood
within their originating systems or adapted here by me as cosmological
forms, symbols of totality.