Peeling the Onion

During the first few years of magical training and practice, the magician is often young and still forming in terms of character and personality, so habits laid down during this phase of magical development can pay major dividends further down the line.

In the previous post I raised the subject of want and need, and the self examination of these two emotive dynamics in the early part of a magical path. In truth, the questioning of ‘want and need’ never truly ends – it deepens until you think you have ‘got’ it, and then it comes back to bite you in the butt. This is a good thing as it keeps you fresh; it keeps you on your toes and stops you from becoming a total asshole.

People come to magic in all sorts of ways. Some people sign up for a course or attend a workshop. Some people get books and begin their own path, some find mentors, and some just wander blindly into magic without even realising it. I was one of the latter and to be honest, I was completely clueless. I was driven by sheer curiosity and was very much a passenger of impulse. The questioning of want and need came to me later on when I started teaching, but if I had opened that door of examination earlier, I think it would have helped me a lot more.

There is nothing wrong with wanting and nothing wrong with needing: the key is to know which is which and what is driving you. That in turn helps you to become a far more plugged in magician: it helps you develop properly and is a very good fail safe when dealing with beings, powers and power crazed nutjob ‘magi’s. If you know your true needs, you also know your weaknesses and strengths. If you know your wants, just simply knowing what is a desire and not a true need is fifty percent of the battle into not being driven, but to being the driver.

So here is an example of that early dynamic (and it is only one example…there are many different scenarios as there are people) A person is fascinated by magic. They want to learn, they want to understand. They need a teacher. So they desperately start casting around for a teacher and become despondent because they cannot find one. Although today with the internet and the glut of super duper power magi’s/adepts on every webstreet corner, the need is probably going to shift to ‘I need a proper teacher who will not rip me off’.

Magic is not like learning chemistry. You cannot just sign up for a course and off you go: work hard, study and you will get your paper. Magic is like water, it finds its own way when it is ready and will not be controlled by humans, however much they think they can.

So the ‘twenty something’ person, who we will call the seeker, is casting around looking for a teacher. They NEED a teacher and without the teacher they feel they will not achieve magic. That is the point for the person to stop, think and examine. Is this a need or a want? The answer will reflect back to them where they are in their own internal development. They will not see that reflection at that time, but if it is written in a diary and looked back on in years to come, the magician will be able to see where they were and what it was they were not getting at that time. You become conscious of your own increments of power development.

The seeker in fact may need or may just want a teacher. From the outside there is no real way to judge as each path is truly individual. The key is to question oneself. It begins an internal dialogue with oneself that in turn opens deeper doors over time: the pathways opened up through self examination can be used later in magic for all sorts of things: the act of self examination privately, to oneself, is a critical tool. It is the first exercise that an art foundation can be built upon.

At this point in the game it is easy to fall into the jaws of the energy hungry psychologists: turning the self examination into a psychological counselling exercise with accompanying ‘analysis speak’. There is no need to do that. Keep it simple.
Do I really need a teacher at this point? Is it because I am really ready to learn or is it because I want someone to take charge, to guide me, hover, pat me on the head, be in control of my path so I don’t have to worry about it?

You cannot extinguish ‘want’ and to try to do so will tie you in knots. Better to simply recognise it…’ ahh yes, I know you’… and then not act upon it, or at least be the driver, don’t be driven.

I desperately felt that I needed a teacher in my teens and I called out to the universe for a teacher. Ha. Looking back that is what I ‘wanted’ even though I felt it was a need: I wanted it to be easy, predictable and governed. No teacher turned up at that time. But magic did not ignore me. Instead of giving me what I wanted, it gave me what I needed, which was two small children, a husband I was in conflict with, a mortgage, a job, a degree study, all at once.

I felt abandoned by the inner world but in truth it was spot on for what I needed at that time. And even though I felt abandoned, looking back, there were inner contacts at my elbow every step of the way and when I had toughened up, gotten over my personal pity party (kids will do that you real quick) and was really ready for real magic, then the teacher appeared. And the saying ‘when the student is ready the teacher appears’ is truly spot on.

She appeared at exactly the right time and I found her the usual magical way, by accident. Since that time many people have taught me and these ‘teachers’ have changed as I have changed and most of the time they were not obvious teachers; rather they were people who forced me back onto myself.

Occult ‘teachers’ and books only pass on technique. True learning comes from within yourself: the teachers and books are the car, but you and the inner worlds, and your relationship to the inner worlds (the magical inner realms, not yourself) are the drivers. How you are with yourself and how you operate within magic is where magical development comes from, not from study, lodges or teachers.

And finally, a few words on this subject for lodge leaders. Many ritual initiations have challenge questions that ask the neophyte or initiate why they want to learn. Of course they will try to come out with the ‘right’ answer that the adept or teacher wants to hear. That serves no one as it becomes a stage act.

It is better that such questions are posed as a self assessment that is written down, never seen by anyone and re examined in the years ahead. Self truth to oneself, to the inner worlds and to Divinity is the greatest cornerstone of magic: it is the first octave of the ancient magical challenge, “Man Know Thyself”. You cannot bullshit yourself forever and you cannot bullshit the inner contacts. Learning the skill of self truth, and it is indeed a skill that has to be learned and practised, is the rod of the magician.Image

About Josephine McCarthy

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4 Responses to Peeling the Onion

  1. Chris says:

    Cool to see you blogging. I look forward to reading your posts. 🙂


  2. Very helpful. I’ve often felt driven. Need to drive more often. I’m already putting the “need vs. want” continuum to use in my practice.


  3. the ultimate test of the adept is to identify if chocolate is a ‘need’ or a ‘want’….:)


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