Most of us are probably familiar with the quotation generally attributed to Dion Fortune “Magic is the art of changing consciousness according to will,” but what is consciousness? The Oxford Dictionary defines consciousness as: ‘The state of being aware of and responsive to one’s surroundings.’ John Locke in 1690 defined consciousness as “The perception of what passes in a man’s own mind”; but within Mystery circles it means much more than this. It is generally understood that most people have an intuitive awareness of what consciousness is but would be hard-pressed to explain it. Recent psychological research on consciousness has focussed on understanding the neuroscience enabling our conscious experiences. Consciousness appears to emanate from the brain through the action of the synchronous firing of neurones creating an electromagnetic field which can be measured. This may show that we’re alive and what state our brain is in at any specific moment but it doesn’t explain how our thoughts and memories arise and why, if all brain activity permanently ceases, so does life, we are dead. It therefore correlates that consciousness is life-force. This is a very broad statement. We know there are different levels of consciousness that affect our level of awareness: there is awake and sleeping; unconsciousness due to anaesthetics etc; there is the sub-conscious over which we seem to have little control; automatic consciousness governing such activities as breathing and digestion; then there is elevated consciousness that we strive for in the Mysteries. The theory within mysticism is that this elevated level, together with normal awake consciousness, is subject to our will under discipline and practice.