Positive Magic is another of those witchcraft related books that 'found' me. I never intentionally went out looking for anything in particular in mind, and I always came home with a gem or two, Interestingly enough, I found this book in the self-help section of a used bookstore in NYC when I was doing my undergrad studies and I needed something to cite for an abnormal psych class. Any book with reviews and recommendations by Margot Adler, Merlin Stone and Elizabeth Pepper automatically get my vote! And although it is going on nearly 40 years after it's publication, there is very little I have found to anachronistic between the covers, although the edition I own is very clearly a product of it's decade.
That's a sure sign of usefulness and power...and this book is exactly about that-power...personal power that anyone can achieve and master by putting the elbow grease required behind it. Very much a 'do-it-yourself' project, the sage advise in this book blends common sense with the occult mysteries. It contains one of the best definitions of magick (The 'k' is my one concession to Crowley's excess, because for me, it does separate the Universal Power of Nature from the kind of slight-of-hand used for entertainment purposes.) Like all books, the author has her own take on things, and you nor I have to take everything she says as gospel. Positive Magic is written on a very intimate, personal level, which I appreciate. Marion Weinstein wrote from her background as a Dianic Witch, and her knowledge at the time was up-to-date as possible nearly 4 decades ago.
Magick is experiential. It's transformational. Both those statements make it difficult to define because magick is different for everyone. My personal definition is that the individual's will works in concert with the Power of the Universe and Nature, which puts me back to Scott Cunningham's theory that because nothing exists outside the realm of Nature, which is the normal state of being, nothing is supernatural or paranormal. To believe this is to know there is an explanation for everything in the Universe: we just don't have all the answers. Magick allows the individual to seek those answers...and a lot of those answers will enrich who you are and assist you in achieving the type of spiritual integration most often explored by another of my personal heroes, Carl Gustav Jung. Magick is basically what it is miraculous within your own framework...Personally, I think flipping a switch in the wall and having the combination of subatomic particles and magnetic field turn into electricity that turns on a lamp is pretty freakin' magickal. A little over a century ago, the simplicity of turning on a lamp would have been labeled as a form of sorcery ( and probably black magic, at that!) Because we know the cause and effect of the act of turning on a lamp in a scientific manner, that knowledge is no longer occult, but an accepted part of a normal life everywhere except in certain isolated third world countries. However, just because we know, that doesn't mean the magick has gone out of it; all that's changed is the way we view the action.
Wish-fulfillment is a sort of magick. I'm not talking about the fantasy type of daydreams that are manufactured by our mind as a sort of mini-vacation, but about the desire that can be fulfilled by the mastery of the will. Occultists are not an insular group who is privy to magickal secrets. We are a group of individuals who have learned to effectively use the natural power within each of us to focus our will into manifestation...and the truly wise among us know this also requires working in both the realm of Mystery and the Realm of Reality. It's my experience that you simply cannot wish something into being. While it's true you can set the achievement of form into motion through magickal workings, you also have to put out the effort to getting what you want...or the former is nothing more than wishful thinking.
So, how can magick fall into the category of self-help? Marion Weinstein points out that,"All occult work is the very essence of creativity; occult work is the deepest expression of the self." [Practical Magic, pg. 7] Creativity originates in the right hemisphere of the brain. Despite popular belief, it is far more difficult to label properties as simply 'right brain or 'left brain', because actions are compartmentalized within areas of the brain and incorporated with other functions. For the right brain, processing is nonlinear and non-sequential, intuitive, thoughtful and subjective. My personal thought on this goes one step further: the logic and organization of the left brain is also necessary to make magick into something truly workable. While the inspiration for ritual comes from the right brain, surely the necessity to put spirituality into a context and form comes from the left, rational brain.
Further reading on this subject: