Choosing a Magical Path – Truth and Consequence

I am currently writing a book of the process of choosing a magical path. The book will be put up on the net as a free download, with additions from other writers, magicians and teachers. It will stay on the web indefinitely as a free resource and will not go into print; this ensures it is free and stays free (publishers are not to keen on authors giving away on line books when they are also up for sale… fair enough).The book goes into depth on various issues that are often not looked at or talked about in regards to magical training and being a magical student. Until it is ready to go online, I will post the occasional snippet on this blog. If any of you have issues on the subject that you think should be addressed in this book, just let me know and if it is relevant, I will cover it.

This extract is about truth, truth to oneself and looking for truth in the teacher. Honesty is a foundation tool in magic and can be one of the hardest and most misused aspects of magic, both in training and practice. If you can be honest with yourself and you find a teacher who can be honest about the training, then you have already succeeded in navigating the first hurdle that confronts a magical student.

When one first starts magical training with a group, school or teacher, the sense of euphoria, joy and sense of ‘going home’ can be very powerful as one finally feels they have found a way forward.  It often does not take long though, to find oneself confronted with aspects of the training that makes a person feel uncomfortable or inadequate. Most students react to this by either feeling isolated and useless, or by becoming very evangelist about the path, as if to block out the aspects that do not sit well with them.


Hypatia teaching – film depiction (Agora)

The evangelism is a common stage that can hit for a variety of reasons, not just from a place of inadequateness: when a student finds a home, they will defend it vigorously, and conveniently ignore the failings of the group. We see this play out on a regular basis in social network forums with students from various schools bashing it out in ever increasingly aggressive tones. Such a display of misguided loyalty reflects the immaturity of not only the student but also the school.

To be fair though, there are some societal manners that will dictate we defend those we love and are connected to, even when they are wrong. A student will blindly defend a stance, person or philosophy not because they understand it, but because of loyalty. Add to that the very common attitude that many grow up with: an adult must never admit to a student or child that they are wrong: it is perceived as a weakness. This way of operating flies in the face of magical development: the first maxim of magic is ‘to know thyself’, which is about honesty. Such necessary honesty is firstly about ones self, and then about everything else around you.

This translates for a magical student, as the first lesson to be learned: everything and everyone has limitations, weaknesses and strengths. Every magical path and teacher has their blind spots, dead ends and imbalances. Why? Because magic is a structure created by humans and as such has all the inherent issues that every human has. To flower as a magician you first need to know that wisdom, and then it must be acted upon through your life, your magical training, and your own personal development: magic will only evolve if we as humans evolve

If the path a student is on begins to display its weaknesses, it is important to recognise those weaknesses and decide if the path still holds enough learning for the student to develop. Most do, a few don’t. From that understanding, the student learns to be respectful of the path and teacher without clothing them in the glittering aura of power: never ever put your path or teacher on a pedestal. Understand the workings of human nature and understand that while everything has its weaknesses and down sides, it also has its strengths and gifts.

If the teacher or course you are consideImagering demands unbridled loyalty or legally bound secrecy, then that is not a good teacher or school. You can be loyal to a group or person, without glossing over the bad bits. It is all about seeing the balance. If the group or teacher has good that balances the weakness and that the teacher or path is open and upfront about the weaknesses, then you have a path or teacher that can help you along the steps of magic that you need to take.

If you perceive the magical path you are walking upon as all wonderful, as the best, the only true path, then you are not learning and understanding, you are simply following. To simply follow is to not learn magic; it is merely to be a member of a magical club. There is a difference.

On the other side of this is the issue whereby a student does not understand the deeper aspects of a magical action or path, and does not understanding why a particular stance is being taken: they will argue with the teacher or with other magicians, but that argument comes from a place of ignorant opinion. Never argue magic from an opinion or theory – it is better to stay silent until you have direct experience and then you have a valid voice.

ImageOverall, if you see a magical school that you are considering studying with, and that school has many factional spats with other opposing schools, and lots of the students are busy verbally launching personal attacks upon the opposing side, think very carefully about handing over your magical training to that school.

You would expect some of that behaviour from the early beginners as they defend their ‘family’, but if any magician who is beyond the very basics is also behaving that way, it is a sign that the school is either badly unbalanced or is not actually operating with any depth of magic. Such behaviour falls away quickly from a person as they step into real magic: it challenges your own truth and holds a very clear mirror to your face.

This in turn helps you to reflect more deeply upon the behaviours of those upon the path. Disagreements are normal and are a part of everyday life: we all see things in a slightly different way. But any magical path that holds a dogmatic stance and encourages such dogmatic behaviour from its students is a path worth steering clear of.

A good school or teacher can be measured by their ‘offspring’ – students or initiates who have stayed the course with a teacher should display a good amount of maturity, self analysis, independent thought and the glimmerings of wisdom from experience. If instead you see ego posturing, power games, bickering and one up manship, then you see a course that has done nothing to help the student evolve.Image

A good school chooses their students with care, or uses inner filters that allow inner contacts to steer appropriate students to a school while filtering out ones who will not be able to cope with the training.

If a school accepts its students by way of financial decisions, i.e. if you pay you get to join, then it is a fair guess to say that a good percentage of the students will not be good training material. That does not mean that such a school is not worth considering, it simply means that you will have to wade through a lot of shit to obtain the training that you seek.

Before you sign yourself up for magical training, think carefully about what it is you actually seek and why. Research the school you are interested in, check out their initiates in discussion forums, and have your bullshit meter turned on to full power. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. If it promises extraordinary powers, they are most likely full of shit and will be happy to take your money with a smile and a stroke of your ego.

Magic is hard and demanding, it is messy and it is complicated. If you find a school or teacher that is willing to tell you this, and it’s students don’t act like morons in a public forum, then chances are you may have found yourself somewhImageere to train.


About Josephine McCarthy

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40 Responses to Choosing a Magical Path – Truth and Consequence

  1. Brian says:

    Thank you for blogging this. I have been reading and observing from the outsides for a few years now but have never taken the step forward to learning because finding a teacher or ‘class’ appears to be an impossible task, it is almost as though you need to be within a click to find a genuine person willing to teach someone who wasn’t born into it or have close friends who can verify them in some way.


    • hey, yes, a lot of people have asked me various questions around this subject for a while now, so I thought it would be an idea to put a survival guide together for folks. There are so many issues, so many things to think about and so many scams and bad places to look out for. its pretty sad really 😦


    • Brian says:

      Maybe you could help set a magical ‘trust a trader’ type website for us? 🙂
      I can’t wait to read the online book in full. Cheers


  2. Janet says:

    This is will help a lot of people. Great idea for a book! I’m looking forward to reading it too.


  3. Chris says:

    A very little discussed topic, that definitely deserves a book. Whenever people are looking to find a path and ask I usually advise a few simple things:

    Know and understand what your looking for and why…..
    Trust your intuition
    If you have a resonance with a God, Goddess or any kind of spiritual being from your cultural upbringing (Jesus, Allah, Mary, Muhammad, Familiar Spirits, HGA….etc)then make a connection with that spirit and ask for guidance on your path. Be receptive and sincere in your prayer and things will start to happen.


  4. lancemfoster says:

    I don’t know, Josephine, about those publishers. Greer basically writes his books in his blog, gets feedback, then refines it all and repackages his blog into books. So at least one person does put up free stuff that publishers publish.

    Another route is to write your book online, but for the published version, add art and additional content not in the free version.

    Choosing a magical path is a great subject, because most people fall into one, or they confuse a religious pagan path with a magical path (sometimes overlapping but not the same thing of course, but many beginners don’t understand this at first).

    Are you mainly limiting this to the WMT, with its side-journeys into Kabbalah, Egyptian, Greek, etc. sources? I hope you not only address picking a path in light of the WMT/hermetic (and its associated traditions), but also the other Eurasian magical traditions (Germanic-Norse, Slavic, Celtic, etc.), the eastern major paths (Buddhist magic, Taoist magic, etc.), African Diaspora, and the lesser known indigenous ways like Native American, Pacific Islander, Australian, etc. I know those may not be your path, but I know you know enough about them at least to let people know they exist, that some are more open than others, issues of cultural appropriation, etc.

    I have myself wrestled with how to talk to people about our NA ways, walking the line between saying it is ok to learn about NA ways but not became a plastic or wannabe. That is a topic I think about a lot. Here are these folks in our Old Country, who are staying, and merging over generations, and the implications of that…


    • Hi Lance,
      better known writers with a large readership can get away with having stuff both in print and on line, but when you are small fry (I don’t sell thousands of books) it is not fair to the publisher as they also put so much work into a book. Its a short book and I think it needs to be easily available for youngsters to find: leaving it up there is the best way for that to happen.
      I put the health book up for a couple of months for free/donation before it went to contract, and then took it down once it started to go into production. What was interesting with that wee experiment is that 2,700 people downloaded that book, only 30 chose to use the button to donate $3 (a couple of folks paid more). Seeing as the amount was the same price as a cup of coffee, it became an interesting indicator of potentials in the population. I do hope a decent amount of ppl still buy it even if they downloaded it, simply because it will allow me to be able to justify to publishers that it is ok to give freely for a couple of months and that books for sale still sell. We shall see.

      With the subject of different magical paths, I did think about going into detail about the different paths but I found myself swimming in very dangerous waters when it came to trying to be detached in opinion for some of the ‘neo’ magical/spiritual paths. It is important for a book like this that I do not express an opinion of a particular style or brand of magic – people need to be able to choose for themselves without prejudice. My job is to point to the problems and gifts in the whole process, what to look for, what to avoid, what to think about, how to think about it, what magical ABC looks like and why…so many young people walk into a magical school expecting to be safe, protected, and for it to be a place of honour, wisdom, knowledge etc… what they don’t expect is the racism, sexism, abuse, ignorant behaviour, bullying, ripping off etc.
      If I can arm beginners with a tool box of observations and information, it will have been worth it.


    • lancemfoster says:

      I think you are doing a service 🙂 Someone needs to do basically the same thing for a whole bunch of things, like when people try to learn about Native American ways. But those are indeed dangerous waters lol


    • lancemfoster says:

      PS. I always buy at least one copy of any of your books not only because they are great but also because I hope you keep writing.


  5. Still accepting any helpers for this project? I might like to.


    • Absolutely would be lovely to have you on board. I am just putting together information, outline etc to email out to folks, and you are right there on the list… im a bit behind… sick kitties have been keeping me busy….. but thanks Andrieh and I will be in touch! xx


  6. hey Lance, yeah, I think AIM have got the whole ndn appropriation thing under control, don’t want to get in their firing line !!


  7. Just to echo what Lance says… I’ll be buying a copy of The Health book once its in print.

    The thing with John Greer’s blog is he’s not writing about magic most of the time, so the number of people buying his books is going to be larger, just because of that. On the other hand, the more you put your work out there, the more it will be in demand by people from all magical communities and sub-cultures. That is what is great about how you’ve stripped down the techniques, etc. It really is applicable to many paths.

    I wish I’d had a guide like this when I joined my first lodge, and right after the initiation that start bashing other groups. The caliber of your service is great and inspiring.


  8. Lisa Louise Calyore Buckhannon says:

    As a solitary practioner who heard the Goddess when she chose me to recognize, truth is my foundation, healing, slider, guide, light, power, and source.I have only physically me one other stron healer, a pure Christian healer.I just do not want to taint my power with corruptions struggle.


  9. Lisa Louise Calyore Buckhannon says:

    I love your view.beautiful indeed


  10. Two things – I love where you are going with this book; I agree people really need a guide in weeding out the path that suits their own personal needs as versus paths that merely propagate drama and dogma. But my second – I have to argue with your statement “Because magic is a structure created by humans and as such has all the inherent issues that every human has.” I agree that our PRACTICES are structures created by humans. However magic itself is inherent in the Universe (or Multiverse should that theory prove out) and our ‘systems’ are merely our way of attempting to understand and participate in that aspect of life. Just my opinion mind you 🙂


    • HI LInda, yes you are right, but for a beginner to separate out the idea that magic (that you do) and magic that exists as a universal power (but can be called the same thing)can be a bit complex or confusing. Maybe I could find a better way of phrasing it – the patterns, rituals, actions and behaviours that we call magic is man made, We made those patterns in order to interact with the universe power.. but we didn’t make that universal power.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Fred says:

    I recently found a bunch of good teachers. I got here by following my intuition and experience; know yourself! i also found a very good teacher four years ago by dumb luck and having no other options. In my experience if it hurts, scares you but your intuition isnt going off then you are probably on the right path. you have to ask yourself what do I really have to lose ?

    here is what happened when pursuing a teacher did not work for me. I feel this may help those seeking a magical teacher in their journey. Warning, there are a lot of words.
    There was a full moon out, really it was. I went to pursue a tarot card reader after hanging out with a friend at a tea shop then heading to a bar for a few Macallans. This reader once offered to help me align my chakras and life coach me. On my bike ride to see her that evening my “spidey sense” went off. My intuition alarm manifested in the form of deja vu like I have been here before in a dream and in the dream I confront death or die in the dream. I decide to go anyway, you only die once.

    I parked my bike and sat down. I had been studying up on the Tarot before hand and negotiate a price for a reading. while shuffling I nearly dropped ALL the cards on the floor, probably looking back, i probably should have read the cards left on the table. if i had to guess the only cards left on the table would have been something like death, devil, fool, 7 of disks, chariot, moon. Translated save your money this is a waste of time get on your bike and ride through the moon light home.

    But when I rode home, 50 bucks poorer, the 7 of disks taught me a valuable lesson. Wrong advice from bad intent is equal to good advice from good intent. Or whatever information the archons are trying to bury can be equal to the information that the good guys try to share )like josephine).

    If you want to laugh, at my expense, I coughed up $50 USD to have her reveal the following:
    -I said I really would like for her to teach me about the tarot. her response to me, I have no psychic ability. In my experience we all have a bit just some are more inclicned then others.
    -she invoked the imagery of the dying god, Jesus. I feel she was trying to guilt me. She said i should be home and not learning tarot and in church praying tomorrow (sunday).
    -She had a script from last time i met her, and she didnt difer much from it. A fairly street smart kid from queens doesnt need magick to spot a con artist, especially a bad one.
    -This next part really seemed important to me for some reason, I thought carefully before choosing my words after this question. She wanted to really know what my wish was. She asked me this last time but this time her hand was on my knee and was really trying to play some sort of NLP sympathetic magick on me I feel. I responded I have everything I need.
    -When I kept responding I want to know myself, she invoked Jesus name and reminded me he died for all of our sins. and she would pray for me.

    After the fifth go around of me saying I just want to know myself. I stopped myself and looked around and changed up my perspective. I took notice of all her art and her location from a financial perspective. I had a woman telling me I was on the wrong path who:
    was shilling for a mega church in times square
    she was operating with a desirable store front next to some wonderful restaurants in greenwich village. I make decent money and I could not afford the rent on this place. I would estimate AT LEAST $8000 USD a month in rent.
    she was pretty shitty at reading cards, or playing shitty. didnt even do a spread or use a query
    there was also a ton of egyptian art and esoteric symbols on the wall, she was also wearing a star of david around her neck.

    -I then inquired about her art, could she tell me anything about it. While I asked I looked at her hexagram on around her neck. She stonewalled me.

    After that I thanked her for the time and wished her a good night. I left with purpose knowing that failure can offer more insight at times then success in certain, possibly earthly matters, situations. Or in Tarot 7d>6d.


  12. Priscilla says:

    Right timing as I’m taking the journey to navigate through schools and lodges. Scary and a lot of work especially for a newbie like me who doesn’t really know what to look and what to avoid. I am mainly going with my “gut” feeling and applying common sense. I can’t wait to buy this book too (I have all of your books!) as I’m sure it will shine some light into this messy project, please hurry up, (no pressure).


  13. Priscilla says:

    @Chris: I checked out your blog, interesting stuff that kept me reading probably for 20 mins.
    @Fred: I’m usually on the slow side so things like using Tarot to explore these paths doesn’t occur to me naturally. Thanks for your input.


  14. gary says:

    I find this subject of great-concern and interest. The issue I’ve seen (re the title) is the “choice” (one has a choice? only ‘sort-of’ tongue in cheek- feet first and all that).

    [not only int’l driving, but to the degree that one is following “subcon” programs as well as assumptive/interpretations… how much of ‘decisions’ are not so much ‘cutting-away’ but continuing the billiard-ricochet, ala dominos-in-a-line…. not that this, in any way, alleviates the concern of making the presencing, more a question of one’s capacity to do so (as follows)… which develops (look back upon and re-eval- and yet that shows a greater deepening of awakened/perspective)

    So in short- I see there are three “subjects” or areas: ie techniques/systems to systematically-approach what is referred to in the Blog-post as “maturity”,

    vs Secondly: magickal (magical-sorcery, “inner” or how-ever termed) initiation as well as actually Patterning.,

    and finally/Third: what is colorfully referenced as Bullshit detector (and yet seems to have even more than the recognizing of Con-artist(s) , but more seems to include “Spidery-sense” (danger-vibe: intended by or not… intuition, but like getting an answer to a question you didn’t even know to ask).

    My perspective is becoming that these three are often combined (or even confused-muddled), such that should one have (#1) a maturity prior to entering “the path”, or should walking the path bring one a maturity? (one could say both- but a matter of prerequisites as well as what is “in scope”) Further- does one choose “the path” by knowing/recognizing/evaluating Aspects that are only familiar “later”? (using #3, not only Bullshit evaluator, ‘street-smarts, spidey-sense.. and divination, plus Luck- as a skill… and yet “the path” might be thought to be how those are developed?)

    [ let alone the complication of- this could be a “fourthly” #4 social graces, how to get an introduction, how to get a “read” on a group (not crash in- etc), eval. either meshing or not prior to “joining” (whether a Magical System, or any sort of a “fellow”-ship Association). Which should include the concept of how to Read-beneath the surface, how-to Study.. etc. (a few other groups, I’ve seen so many skim a reading and clearly not apply the Chinese maxim “one is shown one corner and they go and find the other 3 corners, to then grasp the whole-cloth” (in ref to a student of depth).] is this (#4) subject something to be taught, or should be already known? (as ex stories of Masonic Groups, but also just Business-Culture, where these things are seen-experienced, and yet one needs already know them to enter/be invited?)

    And the downside, one having been on such a path (in years prior to modern rehash/simplifying summary attempts, there were only the previous “classics” which just figuring out the “gist” took re-read and re-read, let alone practice… deepening breathing, increases sentence length… and think/conception in gestalt-chunks result in many words needed to say, rather than just a few… in short 🙂 could result in comments that go-on like this one of mine.
    (not having developed out a self-narrative and body-of-ref, this comment may seem to be tripping over its own shoe-laces,in addition to stretching the noospheres edges, to say what is nearly spoken (as is we have a “succinct phrase” for something, that “concept” is in the midst of the known.. but to point in the Horizon’s-shadow and reach, either point&hint or…..

    one might have the skills&capacity to EnLiven one’s Words and Text as M. McCarthy does so well…)


    • gary says:

      ie not intended-emphasis… I hope the meanings might translate


    • HI Gary, thanks for the comment and it is a complex issue with so many variables. What I am trying to do is lay down advice for those who wander blindly, and for those who have some experience, leave crumbs for them too. For example the issue of maturity… it is a paradox, you need maturity to choose wisely, but the path itself brings maturity. But hopefully, if a young budding hopeful reads that, it may make them stop and think about that glittering school full of fake promises, and nudge them to step back and think like an adult and not an excited child. For some reason folks seem to drop all of the life experience and common sense they have acquired in everyday life when it comes to magic… but the same rules apply and the same skills also apply. It is a work in progress and hopefully it will help someone somewhere!


    • gary says:

      Hello- thx and I agree, to be explicit I support that and re- “What I am trying to do is lay down advice for those who wander blindly, and for those who have some experience, leave crumbs for them too.” yeah- a work in progess (this too is a ‘great’ work- to have avail).

      As I found (and i believe is mentioned in your writings), when one hasn’t yet experienced ‘significant’ experience (classical Immanence perhaps), then “Candy-shop”/candy-floss (or “witchy-poo-stis-es as another writer terms 🙂 can loom large, then an Encounter with something Significant (whether that means a Power, or just an Event appropriate to a time/place fit- vs an action for its one sake, that sense of clicking in to a greater whole)- then one can re-evaluate and see.. but prior to that (at least in mine, and other’s exper I’ve been told) what seems to be “big” is Ideas-Symbols-‘names” that are sort of one a pedestal
      (if an Energy seems to arrive and it feels like a “known” XYZ.. ‘oh wow its that big and mighty” even if the Energy is not that intense… vs until one has experienced an Energy that may have the sense of a Mtn or Tidal Wave (or like being “looked-at” by the Planet or even a Star) yet with no quality to it- just Size or something unqualifed… thus then not a sense of “importance” as social ~rank.. but just scope and immensity (thus our scale as people…..)
      but until having experienced a depth Beneath-behind the surface.. then that is all there is. – and yet I wouldn’t promote just tossing one in “the deep-end” to encounter (and then pull-out and dust off)… just a recognition that “until they know.. and yet how prepare to…”

      Anyway- just actually sensed a Nudge to check your blog (which I hadn't in a bit, so I saw this post), and it clicked with the narrative of my last few days (reevaluating perspective and all that- "if I only knew then.. etc." )  and then it started gnawing at me to make a comment; even though I acknowledge the ideas are presented don't flow as well, I didn't intend them to contrast nor contradict your proposal.   -rather, if it might in some way seed that idea: of the breadcrumbs-advice you mention (good stuff, good onya)

      (just having watched a few groups, questions in one about how-to to practice Viz, how-to develop concentration, to learn to meditate… but on probing them, I recognize they aren’t really seeking those skills, but rather how to focus the mind, and engage with an ideation (which might have been developed through classic-education- at the greatest extreme Tesla’s imagined-machines contructed in “mind” which became self-sustaining ideas, or even Einstein’s thought-experiments… I supposing that the action of mind crosses a critical-mass pt where the focus of attention no longer is being sustained, but endures a bit as well as draws your attention and interest/curiousity to it..

      Long ex, but just that skill might have been learned elsewise- but if it hadn’t been (thus it may be a skill used in “magical work” but not purely.. sort of like the skill to experience “walking through the Inner Lib” moving and Seeing/interacting with, while one is aware of and present to the “phy-concrete” room, making notes, as well as moving items (that may or may not ‘bridge’ via intersect/overlaps).. that involves familiarity with the skills your writing mention/teach.. and yet to combine them seems to also rely on having a “larger-mental-space” -which is developed in different ways

      anyway- I hope anything in the above doesn't snarl-up whatever I might have previously contributed into a big mess (and I hope neither this, nor the prior, comment derails any other thoughts- but I hope any reading might see a way to relate/elicit exper to help expand the framework you so well started in the above blog-post.


  15. gary says:

    gee I’m not sure why the formating did that- intended just normal text


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