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General description

According to H. P. Blavatsky there are two kinds of magic, generally called "white" and "black", depending on the object of the magical operation:

Occultism is colorless, and only when used by man for the one side or the other is it good or bad. Bad Occultism, or that which is used for selfish ends, is not false, for it is the same as that which is for good ends. Nature is two-sided, negative and positive, good and bad, light and dark, hot and cold, spirit and matter. The Black magician is as powerful in the matter of phenomena as the White, but in the end all the trend of Nature will go to destroy the black and save the white. But what you should understand is that the false man and the true can both be occultists. . . . Occultism is the general, all-inclusive term, the differentiating terms are White and Black; the same forces are used by both, and similar laws, for there are no special laws in this universe for any special set of workers in Nature’s secrets. But the path of the untruthful and the wicked, while seemingly easy at first, is hard at last, for the black workers are the friends of no one, they are each against the other as soon as interest demands, and that may be any time. It is said that final annihilation of the personal soul awaits those who deal in the destructive side of Nature’s hall of experience.[1]

MAGIC is a dual power: nothing is easier than to turn it into Sorcery; an evil thought suffices for it. Therefore while theoretical Occultism is harmless, and may do good, practical Magic, or the fruits of the Tree of Life and Knowledge, or otherwise the “Science of Good and Evil,” is fraught with dangers and perils.[2]

Now, since the difference of primary importance between Black and White Magic is simply the object with which it is practised, and that of secondary importance, the nature of the agents and ingredients used for the production of phenomenal results, the line of demarcation between the two is very, very thin.[3]


Mme. Blavatsky wrote:

For the study of theoretical Occultism there are, no doubt, a number of works that may be read with profit, besides such books as the Finer Forces of Nature, etc., the Zohar, S‘pher-Yetzîrâh, The Book of Enoch, Franck’s Kabalah, and many Hermetic treatises. These are scarce in European languages, but works in Latin by the mediaeval Philosophers, generally known as Alchemists and Rosicrucians, are plentiful. But even the perusal of these may prove dangerous for the unguided student. If approached without the right key to them, and if the student is unfit, owing to mental incapacity, for Magic, and is thus unable to discern the Right from the Left Path, let him take our advice and leave this study alone; he will only bring on himself and on his family unexpected woes and sorrows, never suspecting whence they come, nor what are the powers awakened by his mind being bent on them.[4]

The Tântras read esoterically are as full of wisdom as the noblest occult works. Studied without a guide and applied to practice, they may lead to the production of various phenomenal results, on the moral and physiological planes. But let anyone accept their dead-letter rules and practices, let him try with some selfish motive in view to carry out the rites prescribed therein, and––he is lost. Followed with pure heart and unselfish devotion merely for the sake of the latter, either no results will follow, or such as can only throw back the performer. Woe, then, to the selfish man who seeks to develop occult powers only to attain earthly benefits or revenge, or to satisfy his ambition; the separation of the Higher from the Lower Principles and the severing of Buddhi-Manas from the Tântrist’s Personality will speedily follow, the terrible Karmic results of the dabbler in Magic.[5]

White magic

Black magic

It is comparatively easy to learn the trick of spells and the methods of using the subtler, but still material, forces of physical nature; the powers of the animal soul in man are soon awakened; the forces which his love, his hate, his passion, can call into operation, are readily developed. But this is Black Magic—Sorcery. For it is the motive, and the motive alone, which makes any exercise of power become black, malignant, or white, beneficent Magic. It is impossible to employ spiritual forces if there is the slightest tinge of selfishness remaining in the operator. For, unless the intention is entirely unalloyed, the spiritual will transform itself into the psychic, act on the astral plane, and dire results may be produced by it. The powers and forces of animal nature can equally be used by the selfish and revengeful, as by the unselfish and the all-forgiving; the powers and forces of spirit lend themselves only to the perfectly pure in heart—and this is DIVINE MAGIC.[6]

Damodar K. Mavalankar wrote:

The powers of black magic are due to the will-power engendered by a concentrated form of selfishness. This is possible only when the Manas — the fifth principle of man, as the occultist calls it — resides very firmly in his lower principles. A careful study of the Fragments of Occult Truth and other literature on Esoteric Theosophy knows that these lower principles are destructible and must therefore be annihilated. Of course, the greater the powers of a black magician, the greater must be his selfishness. The energy of cohesion being thus very powerful, it must take a very long period before annihilation is complete. For aught we know, it (not his physical body which cannot live so long) may extend over thousands — nay a million — of years. The tendency for evil is there; the desire for mischief is strong: but there are no means for the gratification of sensual appetites: and the miserable being suffers the throes of dissolution for a very, very long period until he is totally annihilated.[7]

Magic in the West

Most of the major figures in the modern development of Western magic since the end of the nineteenth century were or had been members of the Theosophical Society. Some of the names include William Wynn Westcott, S. L. MacGregor Mathers, William A. Ayton, Florence Farr, J. W. Brodie-Innes, A. E. Waite, and Dion Fortune.[8]

See also

Additional Resources



  • The Truth about Magic by Richard Smoley. Presented on April 15, 2021 at the Theosophical Society in America.


  1. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. IX (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1974), 400-F.
  2. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XIV (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1985), 59.
  3. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 604.
  4. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XIV (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1985), 59-60.
  5. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 606.
  6. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. IX (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1974), 156-157.
  7. Damodar K. Mavalankar, "White and Black Magic," Supplement to The Theosophist vol 5 (February, 1884), p. 42.
  8. Gregory Tillett, "Modern Western Magic and Theosophy," Theosophical History XV:3 (July, 2011), 19.