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Black Magic Vs. White Magic


When talking about magic, sometimes spelled "magick," thanks to the creativity of Alister Crowley, people throw the terms "white," and "black" around a lot. Some people who believe all magic is evil and Satanic will tell you it's all black magic. Some people differentiate between magic done for good (white), and magic done for evil (black).
The fact of the matter is that magic doesn't have any color, despite the colorful descriptions that we give it. All magic is energy- not unlike electricity. And not unlike electricity, it is neither good nor evil. It can help us, or it can harm us. It depends on how we use it.

Think of it like this: a hammer can be used to build houses for the homeless, or bash someone else's head in. Does that make the first hammer good, the second hammer evil? It would be silly to consider a hammer good or evil, and so is it silly to consider magic good or evil.

Better terms may be "constructive" or "positive" magic, and "destructive" or "negative" magic. However, even those terms have people, in this age when we watch too many movies and learn so young that there has to be a hero and a villain, begin to use the terms to neatly file it in their minds under "good" or "bad." It's just not so, anymore than constructing a house is a "good" job while demolition is a "bad" job. Both have their uses, for good or for bane.

Constructive magic, for example, can be used to help your friend find a job. You are constructing something, taking an action to create something useful that someone needs. However, constructive magic can also be used to make some poor sap fall in love with you. This is not a beneficial outcome- what you are constructing manipulates someone against their own will and essentially holds them in emotional bondage to suit your whim. Therefore, constructive magic can be used with good intent, or with mal intent.

The same is true of destructive magic. True, you can use it to try and destroy your ex-husband's relationship with his new girlfriend, or to ruin your neighbor's crops because you are having a dispute over the property line. In these cases, it is obviously mal intent. On the other hand, you can use destructive magic to destroy a disease that your mother has, or to break you of a bad habit. This, of course, would be using destructive/negative/black magic for a good reason.

While we may throw around the terms "black" and "white" in order to respectively differentiate between magic that is used with the goal to harm someone in some way, and magic that is used to help someone in some way, we shouldn't get hung up on these colors being a representation of good and evil in magic as if they were two separate entities, or as if they come from different sources.

They are one and the same entity, and come from the same source. Magic is imbued in all of nature, and the same principles used to apply magic to doing something really nice for someone can be applied to doing something really mean to someone- just as I can use a megaphone to broadcast beautiful inspirational poetry, or hate speech. It is the same megaphone, it is the same voice, it is the same person... what differs is the intent. And that, at the heart of it, is what differs in magic: the intent.

Intent itself is not a clear-cut, black-or-white thing. For instance, that job I'm trying to get my friend- okay, so my friend benefits from it, but what about the other hopeful applicants? Most people doing magic are not doing either "white" or "black" magic. They're just practicing magic... and whether they consider it good or bad largely depends upon their personal moral and ethical stances.

Most people who practice magic also practice a religion, or were at least raised in a society to ideally be law-abiding citizens. This plays a large part in the person's world view about what is "good" and what is "bad" or "evil" behavior. For the most part, there are things we would all agree on- murder is wrong, stealing is wrong, destroying a relatively innocent person's life is wrong. It is a small percentage of people who would attempt such things, and few people would applaud them for it.

But there are so many areas when it is easy to question ethics. This is true in all aspects of life- is abortion a right, or is it just wrong? Is spanking beneficial to children in the long run, or detrimental? Should we never lie, ever, or are there some instances when it's acceptable to tell a lie? Different cultures and religions and people of various beliefs can argue for years over such issues.

It's the same thing with magic. While there are some things that most people would say is clearly wrong, and a few things people would agree is a good thing to do, may issues are ethically debatable. For example, is it wrong to use magic to try and pass a test? Some could argue it is indeed wrong as you should have studied, it's not fair to the other students who worked hard, you shouldn't try to help yourself earn a grade you don't deserve, and getting a higher grade won't help you in the long run when you put what you should have learned to practice. Others could argue that it's perfectly fine to do so- that some people, no matter how hard they study, don't test well, that there's nothing wrong with doing everything you can to help you achieve your goals and give yourself an edge, and that ultimately you're not cheating because it is you getting the answers right; the magic is just helping you pull them out of your subconscious somewhere. In the long run, a clear-cut answer is not going to be written across the sky, and the spell caster is going to have to mull it over and decide for himself if he thinks it's the right thing to do or not.

When it comes down to it, the "black" and "white" terms are harmless, though not very meaningful. The problem is that they do help perpetuate some common myths about magic, as well as people who use magic, that are not entirely accurate- mainly the myth is that there is a strict division between people who use magic, or magic itself, as if it all has some part in a great picture in a battle between good and evil. In reality, the majority of it, just like so many other things in life, is that there are more shades of gray that pure black or white.