Terms – Magic(k) – Sunai Institute

Sunai Institute

Terms – Magic(k)

“There seem to be almost as many definitions of magic as there have been scholars writing about it”, so Hanegraaff informs us, quoting Pasi, in his cornerstone work “Esotericism and the Academy – Rejected Knowledge in Western Culture”. And yet, we are offering you one more perspective to join the melee. Perhaps some of it will be familiar to you- after all; Karl Valentin aptly points out- “Everything is said, yet not by everybody[1]Es ist schon alles gesagt, nur noch nicht von allen”.

Given that the Sunai Institute concerns itself with the intersections of sexuality and spirituality (in vulgo: Sex Magick) it appears to be good practice to offer a definition of terms before using them – hence this definition of Sex and these definitions of Magick.

Before suggesting our own working-definition of Magick in general and Sex & Magick in particuluar in a future post we’ll look at three arbitrarily selected, chronologically aligned high profile voices of the canon to contextualize the term and its intellectual history.

Magick in Edward Alexander – Aleister – Crowley

Without touching upon the plethora of controversial topics around the person, oeuvre and heritage of Crowley we’ll accept his definition of Magick (alternative spelling introduced by him as a means to differentiate the occult from stage performances in the late 19th century – a spelling practice that is followed on this page and respective publications) as follows “…the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will” to be useful for our purposes here. A closer look at the concepts used in that definition seems necessary – quoting Wikipedia:


Science (from the Latin word scientia, meaning “knowledge”) is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable (!) explanations and predictions about the universe (!).


Art is a diverse range of human activities involving the creation of visual, auditory or performing artifacts (artworks), which express the creator’s imagination, conceptual ideas, or technical skill, intended to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. In other words: (all?) human activities that are not closely linked to survival.


From a Western perspective: Change / Becoming the possibility of alteration in a thing that has being, that exists. In short: a different status / condition of the object ex post.


Will, generally, is the faculty of the mind that selects, at the moment of decision, a desire among the various desires present; it itself does not refer to any particular desire, but rather to the mechanism responsible for choosing from among one’s desires.

Magic in Ralph Tegtmeier / Frater U.:D.:

While not necessarily subscribing to all of Tegtmeier‘s statements it safely can be stated that he is one of the most influential contemporary authors in the German as well as in the English speaking world as regards the understanding and practice of Magick. In his 1986 work “Secrets of Western Sex Magic” he suggests the following three basic ingredients / skills of which any Magick is composed of – here understood as a means to attain the practitioners very own goals, whatever those might be: Statement of Will, Skill of Visualization and [being in / making use of] an Altered State of Mind.

Appreciating the overall focus on pragmatism and applicability in Tegtmeier’s oeuvre it seems not to be completely absurd to state, that he proposes a comparatively easy to follow methodology on how to implement / materialize Crowley’s definition which is quoted above.

Magic in Wouter Hanegraaff

As demonstrated in our struggle around our proposed definition of Sex, some terms are rather hard to sharply define – particularly when applying the rules of scholarship. Hanegraaff put’s this rather on-spot in his introduction to the 2016 “Cambridge Handbook of Western Mysticism and Esotericism”:

Magic is a wretched subject. Perhaps no other concept in the study of religion has caused so much confusion and frustration among scholars, because it seems to resist all attempts at defining its exact nature, thus causing serious doubts about whether it refers to anything real at all – or if so, in what sense. In spite of all the trouble that the concept has caused, nobody has seemed capable of exorcizing it from the academic vocabulary. Like the monster in cheap horror movies, “magic” always keeps coming back no matter how often one tries to kill it.

While a scholarly discussion of Hanegraaff’s proposition, that on closer scrutiny most definitions of magic turn out to be variations of a few extremely influential theories, is beyond the capabilities of the author of this post it still seems of avail to quote these theories as follows:

Intellectualist – defining magic based upon “the error of mistaking ideal analogy for real analogy” (i. e. the erroneous assumption of “primitive man” that things associated in his thinking must be connected in actual fact).

Functionalist – defining magic focusing on ritual action “… any rite that is not part of an organized cult: a rite that is private, secret, mysterious, and ultimately tending towards one that is forbidden.”

Perceived Contrasting Worldviews – where magic appears in “a mentality grounded in ‘instrumental causality’ (which assumes the presence of secondary causes or mechanisms that mediate between causes and effects) and one grounded in ‘participation’ (where causes and effects are seen as associated, or merging, to the point of identity […], without assuming the presence of mediating links)”.

Regardless of these theories which seem to suggest that all magick is magic, the key point to be taken away for our purposes here is, that since the early 2000s – e. g. the year 2002 saw the foundation of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism, which Hanegraaff served as first president – the academic world is gradually opening up and accepting the research of Magick as a legitimate subject for scholars.

A fact that will hopefully help to move Magick out of the shabby corner it has been put in for centuries if not millennia in the past; allowing it to be discussed and researched as a means to extend the boundaries of the conditio humana.

The Sunai Institute concerns itself with the research of Sex and Magick in their combination of Sex Magick. Doing so in an effort to explore and make available to a greater public the beneficial effects its practice can yield on the individual(s) involved with it.

Picture: Sunai Institute


1 Es ist schon alles gesagt, nur noch nicht von allen

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