Heres an excerpt from the Second Edition
of Authentic Thaumaturgy, my book on magic and
religion for players of fantasy games such as Advanced Dungeons
& Dragons®, G.U.R.P.S.®, and Magic: The Gathering®,
etc. A.T. is published by Steve
Jackson Games and is available from them, from Amazon.com,
or from your local game store. Those of you already familiar
with my discussion of the Laws of Magic in my first book, Real Magic, may find the new
material here (especially the new version of the chart) interesting.
The Nature of these Laws and vice versa
We are now ready to go into a description
of the basic ways in which magical phenomena seem to behave.
The Laws of Magic are not legislative laws but, like those of
physics or of musical harmony, are practical observations that
have been accumulating over the course of thousands of years,
with remarkable similarity in almost every known human culture.
Those of you who prefer to remain skeptical as to the reality
of psychic phenomena and the systems of magic developed to control
them will at least find these Laws an interesting and detailed
guide to what psychologists and anthropologists so patronizingly
refer to as magical thinking.
Those of you who play magicians as characters
will find these Laws a remarkably concise guide to the ways in
which most magicians, at least on this world, believe magic to
work. Most of the technical motivations of magic-using characters,
before, during and after using magic, will be based on these
laws. Because I really cant rewrite my first book all over
again in this slim text, Im not going to give the long
explanation of each law. You can consult the works in the Bibliography
(especially Real Magic and its Bibliography) for
details if you wish.
Along with each Law listed, Ill include
key words to help in memorization. These phrases
are gross generalizations, but have the advantage of being brief
and easy to remember.
Its entirely possible that there are
other Laws of Magic, however, Im currently unaware of any
that are held to by most magicians on this planet. Individual
game designers and referees are free to invent new ones for their
game universes, but they will probably give the most accurate
magic simulations if they are congruent to these ones listed.
The Law of Knowledge
brings control; the more that is known about a subject, the easier
it is to exercise control over it.
Law is so fundamental that hardly any work on magic has ever
been published without mentioning it. The comments in Chivalry
& Sorcery are quite appropriate here: The Magick User
might be compared to a combination philosopher-sage-research
scientist only those activities which directly aim at increasing
ones mastery of Magick itself can give the magician any
experience worthwhile to him. These comments
are most accurate for intellectual magicians of the theurgical
sort but are more or less true of most other magic users as well.
The Law of Self-Knowledge
most important kind of magical knowledge is about oneself; familiarity
with ones own strengths and weaknesses is vital to success
as a magician.
magicians quickly discover their own flairs and flaws. After
all, this is a large part of what Apprenticeship is all about.
This is also why Evil Magicians are comparatively
rare in the real world (especially in the higher ranks)
because a dedication to Evil for Evils sake
is almost always due to a lack of introspection and self-awareness.
The Law of Cause & Effect
exactly the same actions are done under exactly the same conditions,
they will usually be associated with exactly the same results;
similar strings of events produce similar outcomes.
have at least as much belief in cause and effect as modern physicists
do they just know that a good ritual, like a good poem
or a good bread recipe, isnt always absolutely predictable.
every variable and you control every change lotsa luck!
The Law of Synchronicity
or more events happening at the same time are likely to have
more associations in common than the merely temporal; very few
events ever really happen in isolation from nearby events.
you manage to pin a professional debunker against a wall (be
careful, they get nasty when cornered) youll find that
the word coincidence is a Scientistic
term of exorcism, used to banish the demons of non-material,
and therefore unscientific, causality.
is seldom mere.
The Law of Association
any two or more patterns have elements in common, the patterns
interact through those common elements, and control
of one pattern facilitates control over the other(s), depending
(among other factors) upon the number, type and duration of common
is probably one of the most important of the magical Laws and
is directly connected to most of the others.
The Law of Similarity
are liable to have an outward physical or mental appearance
similar to their causes.
an accurate image/sound/smell of an object or being facilitates
control over it or them.
The Law of Contagion
or beings in physical or psychic contact with each other continue
to interact after separation.
your character has ever touched has a psychic link with him,
though it is (probably) pretty weak unless the contact was intense
and/or repeated frequently. Naturally having a part of someones
body (nails, hair, spit, blood, etc.) gives the best contagion
link. Almost as good are objects of clothing, handkerchiefs,
bedsheets, etc., that have absorbed sweat or other bodily fluids
from the being your character wishes to magically influence.
The Law of Positive Attraction
attracts like; to create a particular reality you must put out
energy of a similar sort.
Law is often used in attraction spells, by saturating the aura
of the magician or client with symbols and energies similar to
those wanted. Its also commonly cited for moralistic purposes
to discourage unwanted magical behavior (see Chapter 11), on
the grounds that behaving badly will attract evil or bad luck.
This Law may refer to morphic resonances; the tendency
for energy shapes to complete themselves, or perhaps wave
entrainment, which is the ability of particular vibrations
to set up matching vibrations in nearby energy patterns. If either
of these phenomena happen with psychic energy fields, they could
easily cause the effects usually referred to by this Law.
which is sent, returns.
The Law of Negative Attraction
attracts unlike; energy and actions often attract their opposites.
say that like attracts like, but they also say that opposites
attract. This paradox can be reconciled by contemplating the
classic yin-yang symbol. The two halves of the yin-yang
are opposite in color, but they are identical in shape; thus
opposite and similar on two different levels of reality (or universes
of discourse). Yet the two halves both attract and repel each
other in an eternal circular dance (see the Law of Polarity below).
Any phenomenon more complex than a bacteria
can be viewed on several levels, so you can usually find ways
in which any two phenomena can be seen as either opposite or
similar, depending on which of these Laws of Attraction you are
interested in emphasizing.
The reason this hasnt been clear before
is that Western Dualism usually picks one aspect of existence
that two phenomena have and insist that it is the only important
aspect as far as judging the phenomena to be similar or opposite.
[Special note for webviewers: these two
laws were not included in previous writings and lectures I have
done over the years, precisely because I couldnt reconcile
the conflicting reports about magical attraction until I understood
that this area overlaps the Laws of Perversity, Polarity and
Attraction in the complex ways symbolized in the new chart of
The Law of Names
the complete and true name of an object, being or process gives
one complete control over it.
works because a name is a definition (yes, even Harold,
Marie, Xunte, and Jasmine
were at one time) as well as a contagion link. Perhaps more importantly,
it works because knowing the complete and true name
of something or someone means that you have achieved a complete
understanding of its or his nature. This is why, in most pre-industrial
cultures, people are given secret names as well as
public names, and why the sharing of a secret name
is such an act of trust because the secret name is considered
to be very close to, if not identical with, the persons
in a name? Everything!
The Law of Words of Power
exist certain words that are able to alter the internal and external
realities of those uttering them, and their power may rest in
the very sounds of the words as much as in their meanings.
words are names and most have known definitions. Barbarous words
of power are (currently, if not originally) nonsense words that
nonetheless can release certain psychic phenomena and states.
Very many magical tools require words to be in-scribed upon them
and/or to be said over them during their creation.
word to the wise is sufficient.
The Law of Personification
phenomenon may be considered to be alive and to have a personality,
that is, to be an entity or being, and may be effectively
dealt with thusly.
Law is based on fundamental human thought processes and does
make doing magic, especially with abstract concepts, much easier.
Most magicians who do weather magic, for example, personify the
winds and the clouds, and thus find focusing their APK upon the
atmosphere much easier.
can be a person.
The Law of Invocation
is possible to establish internal communication with entities
from either inside or outside of oneself, said entities seeming
to be inside of oneself during the communication process.
Invocation or Evocation can control the spirit communication
processes known as inspiration, conversation, channeling (mediumship),
and temporary possession.
The Law of Evocation
is possible to establish external communication with entities
from either inside or outside of oneself, said entities seeming
to be outside of oneself during the communication process.
is the Law that controls most summonings.
The Law of Identification
is possible through maximum association between the elements
of oneself and those of another being to actually become that
being to the point of sharing its knowledge and weilding its
is the Law that controls most lengthy or permanent possession
can become another.
The Law of Infinite Data
number of phenomena to be known is infinite; one will never run
out of things to learn.
best possible example of this is the Internet. You could spend
24 hours per day, seven days per week, and still never see 1%
of the information thats out there and most of human
knowledge isnt on the Net yet (as of 1998, anyway).
always something new.
The Law of Finite Senses
sense mechanism of every entity is limited by both range and
type of data perceived.
real phenomena exist which may be outside the sensory scanning
ability of any given entity.
can see everything, or Just cause its invisible
dont mean it aint there.
The Law of Personal Universes
sentient being lives in and quite possibly creates a unique universe
which can never be 100% identical to that lived in by another.
reality is in fact a matter of consensus opinions.
There is no single Reality that exists whether people
like it or not that odd idea is popular due to monotheistic
theologies and the Scientism they spawned instead there
are multiple and frequently contradictory realities all existing
simultaneously. This Law may or may not be the same as the Law
of Infinite Universes.
live in your cosmos and Ill live in mine.
The Law of Infinite Universes
total number of universes into which all possible combinations
of existing phenomena could be organized is infinite.
people consider this Law to refer to the alternate probability
worlds of science fiction, however, it has a much wider
things are possible, though some are more probable than others.
The Law of Pragmatism
If a pattern of belief or behavior enables a being to survive
and to accomplish chosen goals, than that belief or behavior
is true or real or sensible
on whatever levels of reality are involved.
If it works, its true.
The Law of True Falsehoods
possible for a concept or act to violate the truth patterns of
a given universe (including an individuals or groups
part of a consensus reality) and yet to still be true,
provided that it works in a specific context.
Remarks: A data
pattern may be true on one level of reality and false
on another, depending upon the circumstances involved. For example,
on the normal scholarly level of reality the Thunder Gods are
parts of the quaint mythologies of our ignorant ancestors
and therefore false, but on the level of reality
involved in magical Rain-Making They are very real indeed.
its a paradox its probably true.
The Law of Synthesis
synthesis of two or more opposing patterns of data
will produce a new pattern that will be truer than
either of the first ones were, that is, it will be applicable
to more realities (or levels of reality).
new pattern will not necessarily be a compromise but may be something
The Law of Polarity
pattern of data can be split into (at least) two patterns with
opposing characteristics, and each will contain the
essence of the other within itself.
should not be confused with dualism, a mistake that Westerners
have been making for four thousand years and which has quite
possibly led to more all-around misery than any other theological
concept in history (see Chapter 11). Dualism assumes that opposites
are at war with one another; polarity assumes that they embrace.
The creators of D&D did the game world a major favor when
they made neutrality a part of the political and
moral alignments in their game. The Law vs. Chaos
and Good vs. Evil alignment systems so common in
fantasy games are dangerous oversimplifications but the addition
of neutrality and amorality (not to mention
the new alignments that have been invented by players and referees,
such as hungry, weird, or whimsical)
have added far more creativity in character creation and play.
contains its opposite.
The Law of Dynamic Balance
survive, let alone to become powerful, one must keep every aspect
of ones universe(s) in a state of dynamic balance with
every other one; extremism is dangerous on both the personal
and the evolutionary levels of reality.
to the music.
The Law of Perversity
known as Murphys Law, Finagles
Law, etc.: if anything can go wrong, it will and
in the most annoying manner possible.
associations sometimes operate in the reverse of what was wanted;
meaningful coincidences are just as likely to be unpleasant as
they are to be helpful (especially if a lot of emotion goes into
the related situations). Even if nothing can possibly go
wrong, some element of the universe may change so that
things will go wrong anyway.
This Law is probably based on the use of countermagic
by ones own subconscious mind, for whatever devious or
even neurotic reasons it may have. My guess is that it also ties
in with the Anti-Psi talents. This Law explains why some peoples
magic seems to work backwards. Emotionally healthy magicians
have less problems with this Law than unhealthy ones do, and
once a magician has reached the Master/Mistress rank his klutz
factor tends to go down accordingly. The klutz factor (or
fumble factor) is used by many referees to dampen
down the effectiveness of high-level magicians who are unbalancing
their game universes, but it has a basis in fact as well as in
can only be, If anything can go wrong, it will.
The Law of Unity
phenomenon in existence is linked directly or indirectly to every
other one, past, present or future; perceived separations between
phenomena are based on incomplete sensing and/or thinking.
Additional Notes on the Laws
Several of these laws are obviously a part
of the metaphysical background of magic rather than part of its
day-to-day techniques. Some, such as Invocation and Evocation,
or Infinite Universes and Personal Universes, may actually be
the same principles seen from different viewpoints. A few of
the Laws usually seem to be subsets or intersections of other
laws, as the chart clearly shows.
Similarity, Contagion & The
best known of the laws in Western literature are Similarity and
Contagion, both of which are subsets of Association, and both
of which are famous thanks to the writings of Sir James Frazer,
especially the multi-volume Golden Bough. The one-volume
edition, edited by T. Gaster and published under the name The
New Golden Bough, is well worth reading if you havent
the steam to go through all 10,000+ pages of the original
but youll miss a lot of good stuff. Many fictional and
nonfictional works in occultism, fantasy and science fiction
(not to mention anthropology) published since Frazers time
blithely assume that these two are the only laws involved in
magic despite the fact that ample evidence for the other laws
is often present within these works themselves. Apparently, few
scholars care to credit ignorant savages and primitive
ancestors with being able to organize their observations
into coherent systems of thought, let alone into complex philosophies.
It should be remembered that similarities
do not have to be visual ones, in order to use the Law of Similarity.
Sounds, smells, textures, tastes, etc. can certainly be used,
as well as abstract similarities that exist only in the mind
of the magician. As for Contagion, the phenomena involved do
seem to have falling-off patterns, or half-lives.
The longer it has been since the contact was last made or used,
the weaker the contagion link will be. But these sorts of half-lives,
unlike the ones we will discuss in Chapters 8 and 9, represent
far too delicate of a variable to worry about in game magic,
unless an individual referee may care to wing it on such judgements.
These Laws combine frequently. Blood from
an aardvark can always be used to control more aardvarks than
the original donor, because aardvark blood will always be very
similar to aardvark blood. Control spells will work best on the
original source of the contagion sample (and parts of the body
are usually the best samples) but a body sample can always be
used to boost the efficiency of a spell done on any entity with
a similar body (and this body does not always have to be organic
a magician having problems with technological devices
might choose to carry transistors or wiring samples around).
Invocations & Evocations
The Law of Invocation is the main law used
by Shamans and other Mediums because it deals with various types
of possessions. The Law of Evocation, however, is used by Goetic
Magicians and Necromancers to summon various spirits,
human or nonhuman, many of which may be parts of the subconscious
or superconscious minds of the magicians themselves. However,
the various spells used in roleplaying games for Summoning Monsters
have nothing to do with evoking them. These spells actually seem
to be methods for seeking out (via Telepathy or the Clair-Senses)
the nearest monster of the sort desired and of either
helping or forcing them to Teleport to the summoner.
The Law of Infinite Universes could be used
by magicians attempting to send an object or being (including
themselves) to another universe, or to retrieve something or
someone from another universe, as in various gateway spells.
While it is not mentioned by name, this law is actually the one
used by the protagonists to universe-hop in the (In-)Complete
Enchanter series by Pratt & de Camp (who may have been the
first folks to suggest using symbolic logic equations to describe
the Laws of Magic).
The Law of Polarity can be used for tactical
purposes in magical combat, since every target is going to have
a weak spot of some opposite characteristic
hidden deep within. Even the most stalwartly Good
magician is going to have a spot of Evil somewhere
inside, though the higher his rank and the better his emotional
health, the weaker that spot will be (not only will it be harder
to get to, but it will be less useful to exploit).
The problem in most cases is to figure out
just what constitutes the opposite of a complex object
or being. A Northern Fire Giant would have spots
of Southernliness, cold and dwarvishness inside his physical
and psychic structure, but only the cold spot would make a good
flaw to concentrate upon in most cases unless you could
amplify his Southernliness to make him more hospitable!
Perversity & Wishing
The Law of Perversity can provide a number
of amusing and infuriating incidents in both real and game magic.
In the occult community, one of the most popular sayings around
the world is Always be careful what you ask for
you may get it! This leads into the subject of backfiring
wishes, but wishes themselves are such an irrational and absurd
gimmick to throw into game magic systems that it isnt even
worth discussing them. They seem to be used mostly as a way to
cheat Fate and thus the game. The only magical excuse, explanation
or plausible reason for postulating the reality of the wishing
phenomena is to assume that there exist gigantically powerful
mega-gods (probably of the Whimsical alignment) Who
are contacted through the wishing devices and Who delight in
performing full-scale miracles for (or to) stupid mortals. For
those who insist on wishing their characters out of every mess
their bad play has caused, I have only an old occult blessing:
may your every wish come true.
As a matter of practical use, the Laws are
seldom if ever applied in isolation. Usually two or more are
combined. For example: a party of travelers is going through
the wilderness when they come upon a hostile dragon. Their only
mage, Belinda the Befuddled, decides to try a Command Dragon
Spell, so she reaches into her pouch and pulls out a wand made
of dragon bone (Similarity) which is carved with the likeness
of a dragon (Similarity) and with several runes (Words of Power).
One end is capped with a dragon scale (Contagion, since she found
it in the woods the previous night and it actually belongs to
the dragon in question, but it also works as Similarity) and
the other end is tipped with a crystal carved into the likeness
of a dogs paw (Similarity, to the deity about to be invoked).
Calling upon the divine name of Mighty Manfred the Dragon Slayer
(Names, Invocation) the magician pulls in extra mana from her
deity, which she then sends forth with several Words of Power
in Auld Wurmish (a dragon language, and therefore more Similarity),
Mesmerically sending her commands to the dragon. Snarfblatt the
Mighty promptly forgets about his intention to eat the travelers
and instead flies away. to look elsewhere for lunch. With great
dignity, Belinda faints from relief.
How the Laws Affect Spell Success
There should be a way to add to a characters
chances of success, when the magician uses one or more of the
Laws of Magic in the spell design. One way of doing this is shown
in Table 6.1: Effects of the Laws of Magic on PoSS, in
which particular uses of laws add Possibility Increments
or P.I.s to any spells Possibility of Spell Success
or PoSS. Using that system, Belinda the Befuddled got
quite a bit of improvement in her chances for success, with credit
for using Similarity five times, Words twice, and Contagion &
Invocation & Names once each. Even though shes only
using a single Psi Talent (Mesmerism) and probably couldnt
have done it without help from Mighty Manfred, still her multiple
use of the Laws could easily boost her success possibilities
to her Magical Luck Limit for her rank. See Chapter 9 for a copy
of her spell recipe.
Table 6.1: Effects of the Laws of Magic on PoSS (Possibilities
of Spell Success)
1: For every usage of a Law of Magic (except those
listed below) in the casting of a spell, add 5% to the PoSS.
If the same Law is used more than once, add the appropriate percentage
for each usage.
2: For every usage of the Law of Similarity: add 3-8%,
depending upon the degree of similarity involved.
Example: attempting to cast a spell on a gnome. Having
a crude drawing of a dwarf (another type of small humanoid) is
barely worth 3%. Having a coffeetable Book of Gnomes is worth
5%. Having a realistic painting of the gnome in question is worth
8%. If photographs are possible in the game universe involved,
one might push the bonus up to 10% for having a photo of the
3: For every usage of the Law of Contagion: add 5-12%,
depending upon the degree of contagion involved.
Example: attempting to heal a damaged comrade from
a distance. Having shaken hands with her several times is barely
worth 5%. Having an item of her clothing or weapons is worth
7%. Having a lock of her hair is worth 10%. Having kissed her
a lot recently, or having had more intense contact, may well
be worth 15-25% depending on just how friendly you got!.
Being able to touch the target of a spell during the casting
period will usually add 8-10%.
4: For every usage of the Law of Names: add 5% for
using the targets public name, add 10% for
using the targets childhood name or adult pet
name, add 15% for using the targets secret
name, and add 30% for using the targets true
name. Target beings will usually know their own names in
the first three categories, but only a supernatural entity is
liable to know their own or someone elses true name.
Note: an Invocation or Evocation bonus cancels out any connected
5: For every usage of the Law of Invocation or the
Law of Evocation: add 1-15%, depending on ones own Piety;
1% for low Piety, 5% for average Piety, 10% for high Piety, 15%
for highest Piety. Some referees may prefer to use the characters
State of Grace for this. Note: this bonus is only
to the PoSS, not to MPs.
6: For every usage of the Law of Perversity: add 15%
if and only if Negapsi is one of ones Talents. Otherwise,
subtract 15% or crock the results of the spell. If
the referee or the player determines that a given magician is
suffering a streak of bad luck, expect the Law of
Perversity (at referees option) to start making things