Know Thy Ego

I’m not as tough as I like to think I am.

Apparently the gods interpreted my last article as a challenge. [1]  In response, they faithfully designed a lesson for me and delivered it via three inches of rain, which dropped upon my most recent ritual campout.  As our camp site was inundated and our gear washed away, I became very aware of the difference between a willingness to engage the severity of nature and actually being able to do so.  I had assumed that being a magician equipped me to cope with and endure such a display of nature’s wrath.  I was wrong.

When dealing with magic, it is very easy to let the fact that you are manipulating unseen cosmic forces go to your head.  When one can call upon the powers of the gods to do one’s bidding, the assumption that one is capable of doing anything through magic takes little effort to reach, no matter how little experience or skill one may actually have.  It is also very easy to assume that because one can cast spells, that one can do anything in “mundane” life as well.  At this point, our magician has slipped into one of the major psychological hazards of magic.

A good friend of mine fell into this trap.  Upon his initiation as a wizard, he became so self-impressed that he disregarded the input of those he had considered his friends.  He began to look down upon non-magic users as “mere humans” who existed only to be manipulated by him.  This extreme arrogance and superiority led to a complete disregard on his part of the few social skills he possessed, which naturally made people avoid him.  His reaction — assuming that other were jealous because they could sense his greatness — was but another symptom of his condition.

The problem worsened when he picked up a similar attitude with other magicians.  He very quickly decided that other magicians felt threatened by him, and assumed that they were working against him magically.  Succumbing to massive paranoia, my friend began casting spells left and right, convinced he was fending off and punishing would-be attackers.  The results of this are best not discussed here, but suffice it to say that his ego was eventually broken, and he is still recovering years later.

Occult author Phil Hine describes this phenomenon as “magus-itis.”  In describing the potential pit-falls of magic, Hine defines magus-itis as “the syndrome for people who, despite what their peers think of them, feel themselves to have reached some exalted state, which is usually synonymous with behaving like a complete arsehole.”  In short, this is when a magician has become so convinced of his ability that he views himself as superior to everyone else, and boasts of being able to achieve or handle anything because of his supreme ability.  In almost all cases, sufferers of magis-itis demonstrate little, if any, of their claimed ability, and when recognized as the egotists they are, generally become targets of scorn and ridicule. [2]

A recent article by Mistress Ravenfyre also discusses this phenomenon of magicians boasting of extraordinary ability and superior knowledge, while showing a lack of the humility, skill, and discipline necessary to master magical techniques. [3]  Mistress Ravenfyre focuses on the massive egotism that is the hallmark of magus-itis.  Whether such egotism a symptom or a cause of magus-itis is not certain, and maybe not important, but what both Ravenfyre and Hine agree upon is that it prevents the sufferer of magus-itis from listening to and heeding the advice and observations of his peers.

In my friend’s case, his remaining friends were able to intervene, but only after great effort.  Due to his assumption of superiority, he was not very receptive to the input of others, and adamantly denied his egotism.  Eventually more manipulative means were employed.  This is not an easy way to stave off magus-itis, especially since it increases the chance of psychological damage.  It also depends highly upon how well those intervening know the sufferer and whether they can determine what will speak to him, and if need be, what will break him down.

A more effective way to deal with magus-itis is to prevent it before it happens.  A good way to do that is to be fully aware of your actions, your image, and your motivations.  Hine describes many techniques of ego-magic and self-examination, but these are only useful if the magician takes the time to do them and is completely honest with himself.  Exercises such as writing a third person account (such as for a resume), compiling lists of strengths and weaknesses, keeping a diary of negative and embarrassing events, and listing internal motivations and drives can prove highly effective in allowing the magician to keep a more realistic perspective on himself.  Magical journals prove vital to such endeavors, and detailed records of failures are just as important as accounts of success to a magician seeking to establish and expand his boundaries and capabilities. [4]

Interactions with others are also invaluable to self-analysis.  I’m not suggesting that a magician needs to live his life based upon the opinions of others, but observing how others react to you can give a good indication of how you are acting toward them.  Hine describes magic as a way of more effectively engaging the world, and if people are reluctant to interact with you, there’s a chance you could be doing something wrong. [5]  My friend found out how a monstrous ego can easily drive people away — his problem was that it didn’t occur to him that if everyone was avoiding him, the problem might actually rest with him.  It was a similar realization that led me to examine myself, and while I still have my moments, most of my friends will agree that I’m much more tolerable now than I was in the height of my own egotism.

Using magic necessitates a great amount of responsibility.  One of those responsibilities is to keep yourself aware of what your abilities and limitations truly are, and not to assume you can handle anything just because you’re a magician.  Such bravado can prove annoying at the least and dangerous to everyone involved at the worst.  This is most likely the reason so many magical schools de-emphasize the ego and discourage magical work for self-gain.

The motto of the Eleusinian Mysteries, “Know Thyself,” is some of the best advice a magician can have, and is sure to aid anyone who hopes to avoid the traps of egotism and magus-itis.  It is the duty of the magician not to overestimate his abilities or overstep his boundaries, for to do so is foolhardy and invites hardship.  It is a foolish magician who assumes that because he is capable of magic, he is capable of anything.  I am fortunate in that it only took a flash flood to show me how foolish I was.


[1] Chirotus Infinitum. “Fair Weather Wicca,” The Witches’ Voice. 23 April 2006. http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usks&c=words&id=10707

[2]  Hine, Condensed Chaos. Tempe; New Falcon Publications. 1995. p 46

[3]   Mistress Ravenfyre. “Are You Magically Insecure?” The Witches’ Voice. 23 April 2006. http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usin&c=words&id=10157

[4]   Hine, 133-134

[5]  Ibid. 45

&copy 2006 Chirotus Infinitum
First Published on The Witches’ Voice June 2006

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One response to “Know Thy Ego

  1. Pingback: Superman and Clark Kent | Blacklight Metaphysics

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