I'm just about done reading a great book by Christopher Penczak, Buddha, Christ, Merlin: The Three Wise Men of our Age, two of them historical figures, the third a legend. The title caught my eye. I was raised Catholic although I'm also drawn to Buddhism, and from a "what if" point of view very drawn to magical traditions. This book is about how we can blend the three for a more balanced and inclusive approach to spirituality. It's funny because all along, I had an image of a three legged stool in my mind, each leg representing the teachings one of these traditions (Wisdom, Love and Power) and how we topple over if one of these is missing. Imagine my surprise when Penczak used the same metaphor in his conclusion!
The most obvious and potentially worrisome dysfunction would be the use of power without a conscience or concern for others, whether it's magical, economic or political power. I think this is where Buddha and Christ come into play. The first teaches us to be happy with less, following the middle road and separating ourselves from our ego/mind. Whereas in theory, Christianity teaches you to love others and not to be so harsh or judgmental. See here for my earlier posts, Buddhism 101 and Christianity 101. Once we've assimilated both of these lessons, we can work our magic in a responsible and compassionate way. Penczak also suggests that magical workings are most effective when they are aligned with the Highest Good of All (Divine Will). This reminds me of a line in the Lords Prayer: Thy Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. We can frame our Intention this way to ensure that we're working for the Highest Good, whether it's a healing session, a visualisation or practical magic. I'm interested in learning to use magic for healing, where you use personal alchemy to shift your energy into a more balanced and harmonious vibration. I had a taste of it this summer at The College of Psychic Studies, when we worked with the planets to shift our energy. You feel the effects for days or weeks and then it settles.
I haven't read Penczak's more witchy books but I would definitely recommend this one, or Magick of Reiki. Otherwise Brandy William's Practical Magic for Beginners is also great, from Llewellyn Publishing. I know they say not to judge a book by it's cover, but trust your Intuition and go with the one you're drawn to.