Monday, April 2, 2018

Regarding "Experienced Practitioners"

Last week it was pointed out to me that a lot of magicians online tend to say things like "practice xyz should only be done by experienced practitioners," without any real frame of reference as to what an "experienced practitioner" might be. As I see it, there are a number of reasons people say things like this, and some simple benchmarks you can apply to your own work to see if you "qualify."

First, there is a lot of nonsense in the magical community with people trying to one-up each other to show how "hard core" they are, and this is generally a recipe for disaster - or at least a whole lot of bullshit. You should pay attention to your own work and where it is getting you rather than trying to compare yourself to what others say they do. This is an important point - social media is full of people who exaggerate what they do, and how successful their magical work is. In fact, there is a tiny percentage of the population that are interested in magick at all, and the majority of those folks don't really practice. Also, there is a talent for magick like there is a talent for everything else, and a really tiny percentage of people get great results on their first or second ritual.

Second, anybody who has been a magician on the Internet for any period of time has run into "dark fluffers." Sometimes this is a variant of the previous case, but other times it consists of people who immediately gravitate towards the "evil" parts of magical systems and ignore the others. Enochian cacodemons are a classic example of this. The cacodemons are actually kind of a pain to work with not because they are "evil," but because they are stupid. They are less complex and less intelligent than basically every other class of entity in the system. That means that you are a lot more likely to run into a "monkey's paw" situation when working with them if you are not entirely clear with your injunctions and limitations.

Finally, some people just throw stuff like that around to make themselves sound superior, and that's just stupid - even more stupid than the cacodemons by my estimation. Magick is not entirely safe. The "monkey's paw" effect is real, but it can largely be mitigated by working with more intelligent and/or friendly spirits that can more easily discern your intent. I generally don't see the point at all in working with spirits that are actively hostile to you, but fortunately that is usually easy to avoid. Spirits are just like people, and they respond to the treatment they receive. Approach them with respect, and they generally will return it.

Even though magick is not entirely safe, it also is not exceptionally dangerous. We do more dangerous things all the time, like, say, drive cars. The idea that "magick will put you in the psych ward" is basically nonsense. Hardly anybody with serious mental illness "caught it" by doing magick. If you do have a serious mental illness to start with, magick can be a problem - it can feed existing delusions and under some circumstances increase cognitive stress, which is one of the main mental illness triggers. But you are a lot more likely to get into trouble by giving a spirit an injunction without a well-defined limitation, so that you get the result you want but by some undesirable means that causes you greater difficulty in the long run.

If you see me use the phrase "experienced practitioner," this what I mean. First of all, I expect an "experienced practitioner" to know the basic ceremonial rituals and how they work. You should be able to do a Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram and a Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram, or a Star Ruby and Star Sapphire, from memory. You should be able to do the same with the Middle Pillar or Elevenfold Seal or some other form of basic energy work. You should know how to do basic mindfulness meditation. And, you should have practiced all of that every day or close to every day for a sustained period of time, at least a couple of months. If you can do all that, I consider you "experienced."

No, it doesn't take years before you can do anything. No, I don't expect you to have accomplished the Holy Guardian Angel invocation before you do any practical magick at all. Practical magick is great, especially for magicians who are just starting out. When I teach people magick, I try to get them to the point that they can decent practical results, work with spirits, and so forth as quickly as I can. If you're willing to do the work, it doesn't take a whole lot of time to get to the point where you can work with most spirits and most forces. As you keep up the daily work, you'll get better at it and your magick will become more powerful. Magick and mysticism feed each other, so for example keeping up a solid meditation practice will make your spells work better.

My one word of caution is that this is not a race or a contest. I have in the past come across students who have really bought into case #1 above. They figure that if, say, twenty minutes a day of meditation is good, three hours must be better - and they try to push themselves to do just that. Inevitably, they either figure out that's not how quite it works or they get frustrated and abandon magick. Don't do that. Twenty minutes a day is fine for meditation. If you can do thirty, that's better. But you start to hit diminishing returns around that point, or at least I do. There are some exceptions, such as extended Buddhist meditation retreats that take place under the direction of experienced meditation teachers, but those are completely different than trying to keep up something similar as a solitary practitioner.

What you need to keep in mind is that very few people even spend 30-40 minutes a day doing magick, which is about how long it takes to run through your ceremonial forms and keep up a daily meditation practice. When people who don't do anything like that start going on about "experienced this" and "experienced that," they really don't know what they're talking about. You're never done with this work. You don't get to the point where you invoke the Holy Guardian Angel and then you can stop, or Cross the Abyss and then you can stop - even if you get really good, if you want to stay that way you have to keep up the work. You can't be the spiritual equivalent of a professional athlete if you stop doing the spiritual equivalent of keeping in shape.

So that's about what I have to say on the subject. Being an "experienced magician" doesn't mean studying this stuff for years without doing much of it. It doesn't mean keeping up a sophisticated meditation practice without doing any ceremonial rituals. A person like that may be a great meditation teacher, but just because meditation and magick can reinforce each other, being a good meditator doesn't make you a good magician (and, it should be noted, vice-versa) or make you an authority on ceremonial rituals. It's all about doing the work, and that's where I think that every practitioner's focus has to lie.

Technorati Digg This Stumble Stumble

No comments: