A Magical Perspective on Parapsychology

Luke, D. (2006). Parapsychology as a science of magick: An occult perspective on psi.

            Abstracts of papers of the 30th International Conference of the Society for Psychical

            Research, 34-35.



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Parapsychology: Magic and Science:

A Magical Perspective on Parapsychology

A Parapsychological Perspective on Magic


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Death and the God of a Thousand Eyes 

Death, and the God of a Thousand Eyes

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DMT Entities: Deities or Delusion?

Research in Parapsychology: Academic Studies of Magical Phenomena

Superstition, Magic and States of Mind

You Never Know Your Luck: The Psychology of Superstition

Parapsychology as a science of magick: An occult perspective on psi.

Within the large and growing population of neo-pagans, Wiccan’s, and occultists, occult practices such as divination and spell casting represent a practical, intentional application of ostensible psi, comparable to that studied by parapsychologists in the laboratory (Willin, 2000). In one survey 91% of occultists reported a belief in psi (Roney-Dougal, 1984), and these practitioners of the esoteric arts have hundreds of years of established doctrine to draw upon in their pursuit of their aims. Yet, despite this great repository of occult wisdom, there has been surprisingly very little overt scientific investigation of the traditions and lore of ‘magick’ (so spelled to differentiate it from stage ‘magic’), and Roney-Dougal (1984) has lamented the lack of exchange between these two disciplines.

Roney-Dougal (1991) endeavoured to address this lack by building a bridge between these unjustifiably disparate areas in her book ‘Where science and magic meet’, in which she detailed much of the unstated overlap between traditional occult approaches and parapsychological approaches to psi. In particular, parallels were drawn between notions of magick and the psychological model of psi put forth by the parapsychologist Rex Stanford (1974a, 1974b), termed ‘psi-mediated instrumental response’ (PMIR).

The present paper extends on the work of Roney-Dougal by drawing distinct comparisons between the supposed psychological action of psi, as it is conceptualised by Stanford, and one particular philosophy of magickal operation, which has recently been very prominent among occultists and neo-pagans, termed ‘chaos magick’. Specifically, attention is given to the work of the early 20th century British magickian and artist Osman Austin Spare, who is recognized as one of the most influential predecessors to chaos magick, and who once deeply impressed the SPR’s Secretary at the time, Everard Feilding, with a demonstration of his apparent magickal/psi ability (Grant, 1972).

Between 1905 and 1927 Spare wrote and beautifully illustrated five books on his unique doctrine of magick, yet remained largely unrecognized for his talents as either an artist or a magickian until after his death in 1956 (Grant, 2003). The philosophy of chaos magick officially began with the publication of SSOTBME by Ramsey Dukes in 1974 (Illuminates of Thanateros, 2002), the same year that Stanford published his first PMIR papers. Following on from the lead of Dukes, chaos magick grew to fully incorporate Spare’s (e.g. 1913, 1921) doctrine of magickal manifestation and perception, which, it will be shown, has a direct correspondence to both expressive psi (psychokinesis) and receptive psi (ESP) as they are conceived within the PMIR model proposed by Stanford. Nevertheless, the striking similarities between the thinking of Spare and the later Stanford, who was quite unfamiliar with the former’s work, have so far gone apparently unnoticed (Luke, in preparation). In making these comparisons it is hoped that parapsychologists may find something of relevance to their research in the writings of occultists, and recognise that there is an unnecessary and limiting gap in the dialogue between science and magick.


Illuminates of Thanateros (2002) The book: The truth. London: Self


Grant, K. (1972). The magical revival. London: Muller.

Grant, K. (2003). The images and oracles of Osman Austin Spare.

London: Fulgur.

Luke, D. P. (in preparation). The science of magic: A

parapsychological model of psychic ability in the context

of magical will. Journal for the Academic Study of Magic.

Roney-Dougal, S. M. (1984). Occult conference questionnaire.

Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 52, 379-382.

Roney-Dougal, S. M. (1991). Where science and magic meet.

London: Element Books.

Spare, A. O. (1913). The book of pleasure: The psychology of ecstasy.

London: Self published.

Spare, A. O. (1921). The focus of life: The mutterings of Aâos. London:

Self published.

Stanford, R. G. (1974a). An experimentally testable model for

spontaneous psi events: I. Extrasensory events. Journal of the

American Society for Psychical Research, 68, 34-57.

Stanford, R. G. (1974b). An experimentally testable model for

spontaneous psi events: II. Psychokinetic events. Journal

of the American Society for Psychical Research, 68, 321-356.

Willin, M. J. (2000). Witchcraft: Conceptions/misconceptions at the

start of a new century. Paper presented at the 27th

International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research.



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