Today I read a great blog post by Alan Joel entitled, “The Day You Stop Believing is the Day a Little More Magic Dies.” In it he writes,
“It is not unusual for magical practitioners, especially beginners, to lose faith in magic…
“Maybe you cast a magic spell and your life hasn’t made the 180 degree turn you were hoping it would make…
“So maybe you start losing faith in magic, miracles, impossible dreams. Maybe you start thinking that ordinary life is all there is, the daily grind, day in and day out.”
Joel believes it’s a “crying shame” when you stop believing in magic.
“Why? Because every time someone (that’s you) stops having faith in magic, stops doing daily magic rituals, a little more magic dies in the world. A little magical flame gets blown out. The critical mass of belief that allows magic to exist on this planet shrinks a little more. Magic becomes harder for the other beginners out there to practice.”
That’s pretty strong stuff, and really very poetic. I would like to add that there is another major cause that results in people losing their faith, belief, and knowledge that magick really does work. It’s called “logic.”
When I got my BA in philosophy from UCLA, a major focus in the philosophy department was what’s called “formal logic.” Formal logic is a method by which you “translate” the words of a philosophical problem into mathematical symbols and then use certain rules (with names like modus ponens and modus tollens) to manipulate the symbols. This is called a “formal logic argument.” At the end of the argument you reach a conclusion that is translated back into common language, giving you a solution to the philosophical problem.
Or at least it’s supposed to.
It turns out that an argument can be figured quite correctly, following all the rules, and the result can be in error. Likewise, the argument can be faulty and the conclusion can still be correct. Formal logic itself is a tool, not an answer, although many logicians might disagree.
Further, the rules can be misapplied by people of even a scientific bent. Here is the example I like to give:
Chemistry Student: “Professor, my chemistry experiment failed. I didn’t get the expected result.”
Chemistry Professor: “Well, you must have made an error in the way you worked the experiment.”
Chemistry Student: “Professor, my experiment in magick failed. I didn’t get the expected result.”
Chemistry Professor: “Well, that proves magick doesn’t work.”
I see this attitude, this “illogical logic,” all the time. There are two reasons for this. First, the metaphoric professor felt fine in his logic because he didn’t realize that he had a predetermined mindset that prevents him from believing in magick. Â He only believes what he knows and, perhaps surprisingly, doesn’t realize that this predetermined mindset has the result of keeping him closed minded to other possibilities. Time and again I see people who claim to be open minded suddenly close their minds to anything that really challenges their belief system.
Are you such a “professor?” Do you have doubts about the reality of magick? It’s not just losing faith in magick that prevents it from working, it’s also not accepting as a fact that magick works.
Does this mean that magick is really all subjective and that it’s all in the mind? Not at all! If you have an ailment and are treated by a doctor, if you don’t believe his or her knowledge, drugs, and skills can help you, it can delay or even prevent your healing. Having the right mindset is a part of healing and a part of magick.
The second common reason for disbelief in magick is not understanding a basic scientific principle: actions (magick) should always produce the same results under identical conditions. With magick, those conditions are far more varied (and temperamental!) than in mere chemistry demonstrations. For example, you also have to consider such things as the phase of the moon and the weather.
Why Does Magick Have to be so Darn Difficult?
Magick really isn’t difficult. It can be complex because of all the variables going in, but if you think linearly (what are the beginning variables, control them, then move step by step, etc.), it’s not that complicated at all. The variablesâ€”especially before performing a ritual or spellâ€”are greater and more subtle because you are dealing with more than just the physical plane. You don’t worry about the weather for most chemistry experiments.
Plan ahead and take your time. Even go so far as to write down the order of everything you want to do so you don’t leave any step out. Magick really isn’t that difficult.
But because magicians aren’t aware of all the variables, it’s not uncommon for a ritual or spell to fail or only partially succeed. At this point, follow the obvious logic (the experimenterâ€”you, the magicianâ€”must have made an error) and not the illogical logic (that magick doesn’t work).
This is where your ritual diary comes in. Record what you did, including all of the subtle variables: Do you have a lot of energy? What’s your mood? Where’s the moon? What is the time? What day of the week is it? etc. This record becomes your true Book of Shadows, your personal grimoire. As you record your successes and failures over time, and then later review your observations, you’ll learn how best to work with all of the variables. For example, are you more successful when it is raining or dry? You can only answer this by performing magick several times under both those conditions and judging your success rate after the desired result occur (or fail to do so). That should give you one clue as to the best weather conditions to perform a ritual or spell.
Finally, another problem is that people often don’t put a time frame on their work. By what date, specifically, do you want something to happen? If that’s not a part of the ritual or spell, how will you ever know if it is working?
As Alan Joel writes:
Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle happens.