Conventional: The use of supernatural power to do something that is impossible according to the laws of nature. This something can be either real (as in sorcery) or illusory (as in stage magic). In sorcery, a mere spell, which should be powerless according to natural law, can (supposedly) exercise power over a person. In stage magic, an illusionist can seem to cause an impossible effect (e.g., causing someone to disappear), when actually he has produced only an illusion of that effect.
ACIM: Any power that purports to produce an effect that is impossible according to the real laws of the universe—God’s laws. God’s laws cannot be broken, and so this power, like stage magic, can only produce an illusion of that effect. More specifically, magic is the power to save (or heal) that we ascribe to our own separate self, to certain special people (see T-7.V.3-4), or to various external things, such as physical medicine (see the list in W-pI.50.1:3). These powers have no real power to save us, for salvation is of the mind and comes from a change of mind. Like the stage magician, all these devices can do is rearrange illusions and thus produce an illusion of salvation. Somewhere inside we know this, and so we only turn to magic when we believe that healing is impossible. From the Course’s standpoint, a doctor using medicine to cure the body is a magician using magical powers and potions to produce an illusion of healing—an illusion because what has been healed (the body) is illusory and what is real (the mind) remains unhealed. However, turning to such magic can sometimes be the best approach due to our high level of fear of true healing (see T-2.IV.4, T-2.V.2:5-6). One can divide magic into roughly two kinds
- Using external agents (such as physical medicine) to rearrange external conditions (such as the condition of the body).
- Using the mind itself to directly rearrange external conditions, but without a real change in perception. The Course contrasts magic with the miracle. Whereas the miracle is the power of God circumventing the laws of this world, magic is the power of the ego trying—unsuccessfully—to circumvent the laws of God.