Magic is unusual in Bleak World because it operates on multiple levels and is understood differently by different people.

In essence, magic is nothing more than creative visualization: if you believe that something will happen and imagine it vividly, it will come to pass. The problem is with the belief aspect: people don't know how to believe in something. Too many doubts and uncertainties about one's ability to perform a magical act, about whether or not they should perform it, and about how exactly to carry it out results in failure for the vast majority of people the majority of the time, reinforcing a person's belief that they can't perform the magic.

In order to perform a magical act, a person's consciousness must be perfectly focused: there can be no doubt, no hesitation, no conflicting goals, no moral uncertainty. Any kind of uncertainty at all will ruin the casting: at worst, causing the caster some mischief, at best, producing weak and ambiguous results.

In order to circumvent these doubts, uncertainties, and wandering thoughts, wizards must undergo years of mental discipline and moral and ethical education (for good or evil ends). They are trained to focus on producing specific results, often following cookbook-like formulas (rituals) which have been designed to maximize the effectiveness of the casting, using ritual objects which have been imbued with power. Religiously oriented casters call upon their gods, demons, and angels to assist them in the casting, relying on faith in their deity's goodwill toward them and their perceived goals.

More technical occultists describe various types of forces as energies that operate at specific frequencies: earth, water, air, fire, and spirit form a continuum of energy which can be traversed by the knowledgeable mage, who can summon, control, and dispel these energies at will. A healer uses the natural energies of the body to heal his patient; the necromancer operates in a different plane of energy, establishing contact between the world of the living and the world of the dead.

Divination is a little different because it relies on a diviner's ability to perceive other times and places and to establish the likelihood of a direct cause/effect relationship between their vision and the present circumstances. Occultists describe this kind of clairvoyance as the ability to 'resonate' on a higher or lower frequency and thus perceive the 'present' of the past or future.

Conjurers create portals between worlds by creating a 'bridge' between the different frequencies at which different realms resonate, making it possible for beings of one frequency to inhabit the realms of a different frequency. The elaborate contracts which they create with these beings rest on the conjurer's ability to reverse the gate and banish the being to its home realm. In order to win the reward that the conjurer offers, they must perform the duties, but either may break the contract at any time: the result is usually that the conjurer immediately dispels his servitor (and usually punishes them at the same time) but occasionally a more powerful spirit will exact his revenge on a foolish conjurer and remain in the alien world for a time.

Alchemy is similar to chemistry, but depends on the alchemist's ability to derive the 'essence' of the reagent and on his or her understanding of how two or more different energies will interact.

There are also dreamers: people who engage in astral projection and lucid dreaming. This people are highly in tune with their own inner essences. The most powerful dreamers can also tap into the essences of others, causing their fears and desires to materialize before them.

Illusionists are similar to dreamers, but consciously manipulate the expectations of their targets. They do not directly tap into other people's inner essences but have a profound understanding of human nature and desires and are highly skilled at reading people. Illusion and fraud are easy bedfellows, so it is not unusual for people to treat illusionists as little better than con men, though many of the greatest poets and playwrights in Bleak World are accomplished illusionists.

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