I’ve been reading and talking magical technique a lot, lately, so I’ve been re-exposed to the notion of “lust for results” and it’s been driving me up the wall.
Let me lay it down like this: I was once a presumed-male 16 year old with even more lust in my heart than I possess today. I know precisely how wanting something too much can screw it up for you, and I honestly believe that it’s this memory that Carrol and Spare and even less douchy chaotes are holding in their hearts when they speak of lust of results. But here’s the thing: it’s not the wanting that’s the problem, it’s the being an inconsiderate and creepy fuckwit part that screws it up. As a magical principle, the destructive power of lust of results just doesn’t hold water.
Historically and socially minded magicians talk about this a lot: there are three things that people turn to for magic before all others: money, sex, revenge. As such, folk magic, the grimoires, and even the PGM are all thick with spells to bring you those things. They are things that people want desperately, things that people can’t think rationally about. They are results that people lust over. And, quite frankly, if they were things that magic couldn’t bring people just because they wanted them too badly, books of magic would be a lot thinner, and the pockets of magicians and sorcerers across time would be a lot dustier. More to the point, the desires for money, sex, and revenge, are the things that get people into magic in the first place, and if wanting them bad enough to enchant for them were a guaranteed failure, then no one would keep practicing magic long enough to pursue more enlightened goals.
Put another way: blaming magical failure on “lust of results” is a fucking cop-out. Although I can think of a couple notable exceptions, most of us aren’t calling upon the Gods Above and Below to protect and grow our existing wealth.
You don’t call upon the forces of the cosmos to bring you things you can get just by walking out your door. By the time you’re enchanting for money, you’ve probably been stuck in your shit job (or unemployed) for a while, and you’ve already probably put out a hundred or so resumes and applications. By the time you’re enchanting for sex and love, you’ve probably got a few failed relationships under your belt and some serious emotional baggage on your back. By the time you’re enchanting for revenge, you’re probably up against forces that you cannot face on an even field of battle.
That is to say, for the most part you don’t enchant unless you’re lusting for results. Also, take some time to talk to some witches: we know what great spell-fuel lust and fear and hate can be. Thus, we must look for another, more meaningful explanation for spell failure.
Generally speaking, modern Chaos Magick operates under the assumption of a probabilistic universe. (I single out Chaos Magick, here, because Chaotes are the ones having interesting conversations about how magic works behind the curtain, and because Peter Carrol and Gordon White and Andrieh Vitimus are the people I’ve seen talking about this in print). So, to reframe the debate in those terms, it turns out that most of us don’t start enchanting for results until the odds are already stacked against us. Again: we lust for results when our magical goal is objectively more difficult to achieve.
From this probabilistic perspective, then, the “lust for results” argument is completely non-sequiter. Lusting for results is only a problem if causes you to act against your own interests.
Why then, can a skilled magician, witch, or sorcerer find themselves in a position where they can happily enchant their friends and clients into new carreers but cannot do so for themselves? Frankly, I would turn to non-magical explanations, first. Stress and trauma reduce cognitive function and creative capacity: it’s harder to come up with good magical solutions to your own problems. Moreover, speaking now only of American mages, thanks to the poison of prosperity theology in the cultural waters, we may well blame ourselves for our circumstances, further reducing our ability to see solutions to our problems.
If we must find a magical explanation for the failure of a skilled magician to adequately alter the probabilities of their situation, I propose a different metaphor: leverage and angles. It is easier to do prosperity magic (or many kinds of magic, for that matter) for another than for ourselves because we do not have the best angle of attack on our own problems. Although I cannot explain why this may be, based on my own observations I believe that this is particularly true of sympathetic magics.
In summary, I believe that “lust for results” is rarely if ever a satisfactory magical explanation for failure to manifest one’s desire. I believe that it has survived so long by playing into the worst parts of where mainstream and magical cultures overlap – victim blaming, “u mad bro?”, caring isn’t cool – and by virtue of its pedigree. I propose that any time we are tempted to use “lust for results” as an explanation for a failed enchantment, we reassess the actual probability of success on the one hand, and the material action nesscessary (vs. taken) to back up the enchantment on the other.