In one of the first shamanic classes I took I learned that there were two types of spiritual practitioners– the shaman and the sorcerer. If you did anything (and I mean anything) that was against the will of another person, that could be considered societally “bad”, or that ethically was questionable, or worked with anything that was not “light” or “compassionate” you were a sorcerer. If you were light, and love, and worked with explicit permission and in the highest regard of everyone involved you were a shaman. 

Obviously, as a “shaman” or “lightworker” the thought of anything to do with “sorcery” or “black magic” or even anything with the slightest hint of grey was to be looked down on or even ridiculed with clucking of tongues, gossiping, and generalized animosity towards the practitioner or source of such “sorcery”.

Sounds simple, right?

If you have read some of my other blogs you will know that for the most part I think that much of spiritual work these days has been sanitized, stripped of its essence and power, and presented as “safe” to make it palatable for the general public. This is typically done by a process of over-intellectualization, an adding of the wounds and misunderstandings of the “creator” of the spiritual system (what is a spiritual system anyway?), insertion of new-age memes and select words to make it appear exotic yet “safe” enough for a public that is wanting to be anyone other than themselves (such as the repeating of words like “apus” for mountains or even “namaste”), with added on layers of typically Eastern mysticism with a skewing of specific “rules” such as a misunderstanding about the general nature of karma (such as the threefold rule in Wicca).

Some of this sanitization and these rules are necessary, especially for beginners. If some people did not believe that if they did something “bad” that it would come back to them three-fold there probably would be more mental, if not spiritual issues to clear up. A lot of people come to spiritual healing as a way to heal themselves. They are attracted out of their own trauma. For some people this can be a deeply healing journey where they discover themselves and heal. For others it causes them to stagnate in their trauma and stay in their state of spiritual immaturity, insisting that other believe, think, and act exactly as they do. Anyone who can take any sort of step forward in their lifetime, however small, is to be deeply admired. Anyone who is willing to take workshops or seek in order to heal, no matter how stuck they may be is to be deeply admired. But many people come to spiritual work because it is the proverbial “other” and they are feeling “other”– meaning wounded, less than whole, or possible mentally and spiritually very ill, not fitting in with general society. And I do recognize that these people need rules and training wheels so they do not injure themselves or the people around them.

Now, back to Sorcery.

When we say that anyone who is not “ethical” or “white light” or “for the highest regard”- or whatever words or phrases we choose to distinguish ourselves as being “right and light” and others as wrong, or dark, or sorcerous, we must ask ourselves some questions.

First, whose ethics? Our own? For most people this means that their own sense of ethics and morality, coming from their own background, their own spiritual system/religion (typically Judeo-Christian, even if they are saying they are “spiritual and not religious”– they just do not recognize the influences that have been given to them). It means our own sense of what is “right” based on our own trauma, our own layers of sleep (the ideas, thoughts, and understandings given to us by our family, our ancestry, our community), our own race, religion, caste (in American this would equal if we are poor, middle class, or upper class), and more. 

If we come out of ignorance about other cultures than our own, we find that many spiritual paths have to do with the highest good (meaning divine will), communing with the spirits directly, righteousness, and justice. In most modern paths we are deeply concerned about what we as individuals think is “right” (everything else being sorcery) and since most of our spirituality is a mental construct and we invent a whole slew of angels and spiritual allies that are within our same cosmology, we do not have anyone (any spirits or deities) to consult who actually have different cosmologies, ethical understandings, or beliefs than we do. 

If we are on a spiritual path that consults our ancestors, a deity, or any sort of spirit or angelic presence who is separate from us it would be rare that they have the same ideas and thought patterns as we do. It would be odd if any sort of spiritual ally we met, if we were not self-constructing them, to have the same ethics that we do. I know, personally, that when I meet a spirit who agrees with everything that I say and that tells me what I want to hear and is singularly compassionate that I have made them up, typically.

The idea that spirits, or any spiritual path can be singularly “compassionate” or “white light” is an extraordinarily false construct. Anyone who does intensive work with the archangels can tell you that many of them present as fierce, or harsh, and can “blow you out”- meaning cause headaches, fatigue, dizziness, even blackouts. This happens with a lot of presences that are of a higher vibration than us, by the way, until we get used to their energy and presence. But if we did not know any better we would call even the highest archangel a “sorcerer” because they can cause a lot of chaos in our lives that we (at least on the surface) did not want, they are not “cuddly”, they do not tell us what we want to hear, and they have a different cosmology than us. 

Similarly, the idea that any work is singularly compassionate is also a false construct. If a spiritual worker is calling someone a “sorcerer” that is not compassionate. If someone is dealing with a spirit or being by banishing them or dealing with them in fear, that is not compassionate. If someone is a spiritual worker who doesn’t know what they are dealing with or what they are doing, or takes work that is out of their league that is actually the least compassionate and ethically wrong… the worst kind of “black magic(k)” that I can imagine. 

And what is a Sorcerer anyway?

People use this term because they do not know anything about the culture that they are dealing with. It is a magical realist term for the most part. This means that at this point I know a lot of people who are involved with all sorts of spiritual work and many different magical/occult, spiritual/shamanic paths. Not one of them worth their salt, even if they do practice a “Left Handed Path” (basically meaning “black” magic, although it actually is more complex than that) would call themselves a sorcerer. It is sometimes a word used by people who are playing just as many “shamans” and “white lighters” do who are playing in the spiritual realms. Basically, people with any type of power and understanding level are not going to go around saying what they do is sorcery. If they do, it is for the PR and advertising and type of energy it attracts to them as being a “badass”.

Most really “advanced” spiritual workers recognize that true spiritual power is a balancing act– and that the amount of light you grow the amount of dark you are able to work with. And the more you work with your darkness and understand it, the more light you grow. They are able to see the spiritual forces at work and work on balance, which may not be a singularly “compassionate” act. 

What is a Shaman anyway?

If we look at the other side of this false construct, and get into real (as in non-magical realist) spiritual work, it is not singularly compassionate. It can sometimes be dangerous, and often is difficult, and there are situations that come up where the many sides and layers of a situation are not fully appeased. In most actual spiritual healing sessions, if we are truly compassionate (meaning we are compassionate towards the people, the spirits, the beings, and all of the energies involved, not just the humans involved) it is a negotiation process. One of my favorite terms for shaman is “spirit lawyer” because that is essentially what a great deal of the job is. You negotiate with spirits, with spiritual realms, and with people to make peace, to heal, to let go, etc.

There is an inherently human variable to this work. One of the funniest things that has happened in my spiritual practice is the realization that I often get along better with the non-physical energies involved. They are easier to deal with. Humans are often messy, fragmented, and sabotage their healing process if they are unable or not yet ready to move forward with their lives. We get used to getting stuck, and it is a rare and admirable person who is willing to heal, in whatever amount…to get unstuck, basically.

So basically, a Shaman cannot be singularly “good” or only deal with “white light” because the Shaman or spiritual worker is intended to be compassionate and a voice for all sides. A spiritual worker, at its heart, is a rebalancer of the Universe. If a Shaman is stuck in the “white light” only sort of magical realism play-acting, they cannot effect real change, because they are fearing and generally not being compassionate to anyone involved, but especially the darker elements of the practice.

One of my teachers said to me once that “if you cannot curse you cannot heal”. 

I find this to be true. If you do not know anything about the darkness, you cannot be the light. So many use the term “sorcerer” because they do not know anything about the spiritual path of the practitioner and are not compassionate towards it. They are stuck in self-righteousness, they do not understand that another practitioner may have done work (that they view as not compassionate) by asking their ancestors, their deity, and even for the opinion of God through petition and prayer. They may have done divination or any number of things to determine what type of spiritual work to do. They may simply be doing work based on their own ethics and understandings of the universe not based on your cultural upbringing, ethics, or individual thoughts on “compassion”.

More than this, the term “sorcerer” is a bit of a cop-out. What did the person do? What tradition are they from? Are they a Santero? A Ceremonial Magician? A folk magician? Palero? Aghori? What tools did they use? Dolls/Poppets? Words? Dirt? Spirits? What type of Spirits?

Without the above understandings, which some spiritual workers are unwilling to understand or learn about, we are stuck in this place of ignorance, calling everyone who does something that we don’t understand or personally agree with a “sorcerer”. We are stuck believing that magic, the occult, and spiritual work is like a big game of dungeons and dragons, complete with groups of sorcerers (from no particular spiritual tradition) planning world domination like in a bad movie with “bad guys” that you would never find in real life.

So much of how I have learned to help people is by studying, understanding, and spending time with people on a variety of spiritual paths. Paths that I would never follow, work that I would never do personally. I have learned to have compassion for them, to understand them, and to have a deep level of respect for them– especially for those paths that require a great deal of study and initiation to be a part of. The knowledge in some of these paths is truly astonishing.

I have also learned to heal and to understand what I am working with through these paths. Prior to doing this I was shrouded in the type of ignorance that plagues many modern-day spiritual workers. I would participate in the polarity of thinking that anyone that did any type of work not to my liking was a “black” magician, or “sorcerer” that must be dealt with. I moved away from the magical realist thinking that “if I just focus on the light” or “if I just ask my spirit helpers” about a situation that it could be healed. I moved into actually learning how to work with spiritual forces rather than just engaging in mental constructs about them and creating illusory “sorcerers” that were out to get my clients.

By learning about curses, about spirits, about workings through people from many paths I also learned to heal them. More than that I learned to have compassion and respect for many of these paths. I am in full recognition, after studying and interacting with people from many of these paths, that there are people that can and do facilitate actual harm against others. The more that you delve into spiritual work the more you realize how much magic, spiritual energies, beings, etc. are real, and the more you can work with them. At a certain point there is no more play-acting or thinking that if you just think of white light you can chase something or someone bent on harm with actual spiritual power/abilities away with mental constructs, thoughtforms, and white light. It just doesn’t happen.

I continue to tell spiritual workers that work with me to study, respectfully, and read about many different paths. To learn about the spirituality of other cultures. To expand their horizons beyond their personal thoughts of what is “right” or “wrong” and what in their personal opinion is singularly “compassionate” or “white light” or “shamanism” versus what is “black magic” or “sorcery”. To question the idea that there is one path that is singularly compassionate, to question when they may not be abiding by the illusory ethics that they create for themselves or the “white light” credo that many ascribe to. By doing this we can evolve, we can understand, we can re-balance ourselves and the universe, and we can have compassion, respect, and understanding for many different cosmologies and the myriad spiritual workers who are out there. You can go beyond the surface, beyond ignorance, beyond the mental constructs, beyond the play-acting magical realist type spiritual work that is so pervasive out there. You just need to give yourself permission to, and be ready to evolve.