Having just sent off Quareia’s module five for formatting, I am taking a day off from course writing so I can tell y’all how it is going, and let you know I am still alive and kicking. The course itself seems to be taking on a life of its own and it is certainly challenging me every step of the way to ensure that what goes in is necessary, and that magical dead wood, dogma, etc is thrown out.This module, more than any so far is the one that has made me stop and think every step of the way: is this truly necessary? Is this still valid? Are we still magically head butting walls up a dead end?
Every aspect of the magical tools has had to be re examined in light of what I know, what I have experienced, what has worked, what has not, and what I have discovered over the years to be blaring magical mistakes and misunderstandings.
The result of that re examination is that lessons I had planned to write or was half way through writing had to be tossed in the bin and ones that I had not planned to write, demanded to be written. This in turn made me stop and look a lot closer at the methods and techniques I had not planned to write about, but blurted themselves out. Some of these techniques are ones that are not well known in popular magic, but are ones that draw on deep and ancient roots, and ones that I did not initially think were suitable (or even understandable) for apprentices. It was not until I got to the end of the module that it all clicked into place in my head and I had one of those…. ‘ohhhhhhh that is why’…. moments.
In some western magical styles, tools have developed into orthodoxies, have become accessories, psychologised exteriorisations, or have become the extension of the ‘magicians will’. Instead of the tools being vessels for beings which in turn work with the magician in a powerful way, they have in some areas of magic devolved into tools that allow the magician simply to wield a limited control (or even worse, just look good). That has become so much of a dogma that it has developed an endemic flaw in magic which serves only to limit the magician and ensure that the same mistakes are repeated over and over.
By wanting to do that, I set myself a bigger challenge than I initially realised and I was surprised by how many times I allowed magical dogma to creep in (and be subsequently tossed out), dogmas that have no real magical function: someone at some time just thought it was a good idea and we all followed along blindly.
The biggest lesson in this module, besides the actual details of the tools themselves, is for the magician to learn how to get out of the way in order for magic to flow. Over the generations with magic, it has slowly moved from being an act whereby the magician works in tandem with everything around them, to an act where the magician is in control of everything and subsequently has to do everything. It is akin to a company director firing all the staff and attempting to do all the production, packing, distribution, accounting, etc, for themselves.
This over control and isolation manifests itself as over ritualisation, particularly in respect of working with the elements and tools. Most of that aspect of magic developed in the late nineteenth century with the more active forming of groups – where there is a group, there is an audience, where there is an audience, there is always a pompous drama queen or at least a need to dramatically express ones role within the hierarchy. So everything becomes over stated, externalised, and has to have lots of additional ingredients: bells to ring, incense to burn, speeches, robes, gaudily painted tools, laurel sprigs, deity names when not needed – the list is endless.
While this is all well and common in religion, in magic it serves only to limit and clutter the magic.
Eventually this clutter, which was dressing, slowly became the orthodoxy of how magicians thought the magic worked: the real magic got lost under the weight of the dressing. To challenge such orthodoxy, is to also challenge the need for all of the dressing, which makes some magicians uncomfortable and defensive: it is heavily interwoven with the identity that the magician steps into.
But it is also important to recognise what works for people and to respect that. So this issue becomes a knife edge that has to be walked with common sense. This was the root of the issue that I was struggling with when I first started module five: how much is necessary to leave in, what needs throwing out, why, and what needs a different approach that is also affective and proven.
I came to the conclusion that it is best to train an apprentice in the roots and branches of the magic without extra dressing, and to teach them where in magic they need to step back and let other powers do their bit without interference.
Then if they wish to fully dress it in the future, that is their own choice, but will be a choice made in gnosis. They will understand what it is they are doing, why they are doing it and will not confuse the lines between what is magic and what is dressing that allows you to operate in a way that works for you.