I’m Bridget Owens and you're listening to the Waxing Soul podcast. Join me on an exploration of mindful modern magic, a journey towards deeper understanding of self and transformative individual spirituality. It's May 20, 2021, and today's episode is number three of a special seven-episode series on the Basics of Magic, all about how magic and spirituality come down to energy and what that really means. Are you ready to grow your soul?
Welcome to episode three of this series on the basics of magic and episode 30 of the podcast! So far we’ve talked about how we are the magic, it comes from within us, and we’ve talked about how the ability to do magic is something we’ve evolved as humans because it’s an ability that benefits us and helps us thrive in our environment.
So I’m sure there are some of you who are going, “But what about all this stuff I’ve learned about how to work with entities and energies and whatever from outside myself? That’s the whole basis of my understanding of magic!” So, yeah, that’s where we’re at today. Magic is all about energy.
But let’s step back for a minute and really dig into how magic can be personal and internal and still be all about energy, which is not entirely personal and internal. It’s really kind of like art. A lot of people think of and talk about art as if it’s all about the product. The paintings, the films, the music, the poems, the books, the performances, the drawings, whatever. The end results.
A lot like we look at magic sometimes and think of it in terms of the product. The spells. The potions and medicines. The healing treatments. The readings.
When we treat magic as something completely focused on the products, the skills, the ability to do an effective spell or do an accurate tarot reading or whatever, we reduce it to… well, we commodify it. We make it about “how good are you at this,” and if you want to dig into all that’s wrong with that kind of thinking I’ll refer you back to episode 6 about discipline in spirituality and episode 22 about whether we’re obligated to use our spiritual gifts. But the crib notes on all that comes down to, you know, when we make our spiritual and magical practice about mastery and skillbuilding, it also becomes about competition and the extent to which others value the skills we have to offer.
And that’s so not what magic is about.
The point of magic isn’t to get good at magic, just like the point of art isn’t to get good at art. Art isn’t about the ability to create a painting or write a play or design a dress. We only make it about the value of the end goal because we make everything in modern society about the ability to make a living. But as much as I could easily take up time talking about the evils of capitalism, that’s not really the point here.
The point is that the point of art is expression, not production. And the same is true about magic. The point of magic is manifestation, not achievement.
Art is personal and internal just like magic. This is stuff we do for ourselves, and our ability to do both comes from within. Artists create because they have ideas and vision and things they want to communicate or express, and to do that they have to work in some kind of medium. Paint. Words. Sound. Light. Whatever. But paint isn’t art. Art is made with paint. A plucked string making a note isn’t art, art is made with the sound of a plucked string. And that’s what energy is to magic. Energy isn’t magic, magic is worked using energy. Energy is the medium.
So yeah, magic is all about energy of all different types, but the point of magic isn’t to get really good at working with those energies. Magic is about using the ability to work with energy in order to manifest your intentions.
The artist’s ability doesn’t come from the pencils or the piano or the film in the camera, it comes from within. And that’s the super important thing. Our ability to do magic doesn’t come from the energies we work with.
I’m going to say that again. Our ability to do magic doesn’t come from the energies we work with.
Which I know is a huge shift for some practitioners of magic. That is so often how I see magic taught and talked about. Like it’s all about whether you can tap into certain energies. But it’s like Dumbo’s feather, right? We’ve all had the magic in us all along. The energy is just our medium. We paint with it, we sing with it, we dance with it. Not to get overly metaphorical on all this, but yeah. It’s a medium to be worked with, a source of power but not ability.
It’s super important to separate this process of mastering skills, mastering the ability to work with whatever types of energy are our preferred media, from the root purpose, the primary function of our magic.
But that’s not to say that it’s not important to learn to work with energy. Knowing how to work with fabric or watercolors or whatever doesn’t make you an artist, but it’s very hard to bring your artistic vision to life without learning to work with your materials, your media. So, knowing how to raise energy or transform energy doesn’t make you an effective magical practitioner, but it’s pretty well impossible to master your magical ability without learning to work with energy.
If you're enjoying this episode of Waxing Soul, subscribe to the show! Each week we will dive into a different part of the world of spirituality, magic, and self-evolution. Check out last week's episode where we discussed how our magic not only comes from within us, but exists to help us thrive. And come back next week when we will continue the series and talk about the everyday nature of magic and how it's woven into the very fabric of our lives.
Energy is the medium with which we do magic. But magical energy isn’t one thing, one type of thing, and it’s not different from other types of energy.
If we’re dipping into misconceptions, let’s start with this idea that magic is energy, magical energy, and that doing magic is tapping into some special thing, special form of energy. But when you begin practicing… So, here’s the thing. I came into this practice with an expectation that I would be tapping into something completely different from what I’d experienced before, that when I experienced “magic” that it would feel significantly different or unusual. And I’m definitely not going to say that I didn’t feel anything or that I didn’t feel anything different.
But magic isn’t IN the energy, magic is in you, and it involves energy. Just like everything else we do involves energy.
And it’s the exact same energy. It’s not a matter of magical energy versus, you know, more mundane or even scientific types of energy. And to kind of talk about what I mean by this, how this can all be the same thing, I’m going to go back to where I started in this whole world of magic.
The first thing I got into that could be considered magic-related was feng shui. I got this book at, um… I actually think it was, when I lived in Chicago my apartment was just down the road from an Urban Outfitters, and I randomly came across this book called Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life. And feng shui, to be really simplified here, deals with the flow of Qi through a space. Now, if you do a little bit of digging for discussion of what Qi is, it’s invariably described as energy. Some sources refer to it as an imagined thing, the way magic is talked about a lot of the time. But some of the more well researched and reasoned discussions of Qi point out that those unseen things, the energy that flows through a space actually involves all the mundane forms of energy that weren’t well understood in a scientific sense when things like feng shui developed. So Qi involves airflow, heat, sound, smell, light, and mental or emotional energies, all the things that impact how you feel within a space, how you react to a space.
So, you know, the same stuff that interior designers work with, but ultimately the difference isn’t that Qi is special or different, but what a feng shui practitioner’s purpose is, what they’re trying to accomplish by working with those energies is very different from what an interior designer does.
Or consider this. We often talk about Alchemical Mercury or spirit or life force in magical contexts. In reality, what keeps us alive, what defines our life force is, in part, electrical energy. Chemical electrical impulses from our brains which drive the function of the rest of our bodies. It’s thermodynamics, burning fuel and creating heat. Kinetic energy. Pressure and sound and light. We don’t yet know, really, what makes all of it happen in terms of where does life come from, but that doesn’t matter. We know enough to know that living things are animated by, you know, chemical reactions and electricity and whatnot. Down to our atoms, even, held together by and a potential source of various types of energy.
So when you get right down to it, life force is made up of scientific types of energy. It’s all the same thing. Our thoughts are electrical impulses in a lump of chemical goo. When we feel or touch something, it’s our meat suit generating electrical impulses that cause a chain reaction in that lump of chemical goo.
Bottom line, though, it’s our thoughts that are the core of magical work. And we can think of that energy as mental energy, we can think of it as magical energy, we can think of it as chemistry and electricity in a gelatinous blob… Ultimately it’s all the same thing. The mental energy by which we do magic is really the same energy that runs our computers and lights our houses. The sound waves we generate when we speak an incantation or a mantra is really the same as the sound of our alarm in the morning or our favorite song. The difference isn’t in the type of energy, the source of energy, whatever. The difference is really in what we do with it. How we treat it.
Now, when we are learning to do magic, we don’t have to break this all down and think about the energies we deal with in terms of scientific principles or whatever. But the important thing here is to not exclude the more mundane ideas about energy from the overall concept of energy work and magical energetic manipulation.
And since everything is energy when you really break it all down, that means just about anything is or can be brought into our magical practice if it fits our intentions.
Just like if we go back to the art metaphor, anything and everything can be an artistic medium depending on the artist’s vision. Even, you know, a banana and a piece of duct tape. And all our efforts to define what kind of use of energy is “good” magic and “bad” magic or “real” magic and “fake” magic is just about as useful and constructive as our offhand criticisms of art. In the end it’s only about the intentions of the creator, the magician and whether or not it lives up to THEIR expectations.
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Let’s go back to the feng shui thing.
Thinking of mundane, basic scientific energy types differently, in a different context and to a different purpose, isn’t just semantics and perception or whatever. Saying that the way light and sound and whatever moves and exists in a space is Qi when talking about feng shui but just light and sound when talking about interior design… that’s not an insignificant thing. Thoughts are energy, right?
The final thing about energy and magic is that the real key to this whole thing is mental energy. Our mental energy. Our thoughts. Intentions. A thought isn’t just a lonely energetic impulse in our brains. It makes us do things. It gets transformed into other energy: kinetic when we move and act, sound when we speak, etc. And those energies cause other things to happen, and onward, chain reactions, until we kind of lose track of how much a little spark of thought energy impacted the world.
And vice versa. Things happen which end up causing us to react and feel and perceive which is all just more energetic impulses in our brains. When we have thoughts about something, that has an effect on that thing, at least when it comes to our perception which is everything. Even if we can’t measure the impact scientifically, it’s undeniably real.
In the same way that, you know, you could have two baseball cards, tangibly very similar, made of the same kind of card stock and printed with the same types of inks and nothing physical, measurable which makes one more valuable than the other other than the fact that one is incredibly rare and desirable. Our attitudes towards the rarity, the significance, that changes everything about that card even if there’s no, like, measurable change in it. It’s literally our goo brains and their electrical impulses syncing up in a way and us all agreeing that there’s something special about that one card over the other, and it causes people to act accordingly.
Our thoughts are energy, that energy is powerful, and that’s not something imagined or not real. Well, it’s not something not real. Imaginary isn’t bad. Imagination is thoughts, too. It’s mental energy.
So while there isn’t one kind of special magic energy that is different from all the other mundane types of energy in the universe, I would say that mental and emotional energy is the closest thing. It’s the main medium of magic, and it’s even the most mysterious and magical in nature of all the types of energy. How chemicals and electrical pulses bouncing around in gelatinous goo in our skulls can make and store and retrieve memories, cause physical sensations and effects, cause us to hallucinate and theorize and dream and imagine…. Sounds pretty magical to me.
All those forms of energy that we can’t see that has been called things like spirit and Qi becomes magic through the way we think of it. It becomes magical when we add intentional mental energy to the mix. We give things power via our mental energy. We give things worth via our mental energy. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure because of our thoughts and feelings. What’s fun for one person is torture for another because of our thoughts and feelings.
Our mental and emotional energy is so incredibly potent, so it’s the most important form of energy to learn to work with as we’re mastering magic. Not just in terms of, you know, wishing for things, thinking really hard about something you want to manifest. But those intentions and learning to change the way we think about and react to things, that’s the foundation of magic. The thought itself doesn’t do magic any more than just having a candle does magic. Energy has to be applied. It has to be used, put in motion.
So thank you for joining me on this series, and I’m looking forward to gathering all your amazing quesitons to talk about on Monday! See you there!
Thank you so much for listening. New episodes of the Waxing Soul drop every Thursday. All materials and resources except the music are copyright Bridget Owens. Many thanks to my readers, listeners, friends, mentors, inspirations, and my framily for riding with me into season two. Until next week, blessed be and be good to yourself.