In my previous blog post I presented the idea (for those of you looking to sources, it comes from Neuro-Linguistic Programming) that there is no failure, only feedback. If something doesn’t work it doesn’t mean that you’ve “failed.” Rather it gives you feedback on what you need to do to achieve success in the future. Of course, some of you might joke about this, wondering why you get so much darn feedback?
The simple answer is that while feedback is wonderful, it won’t do you any good at all unless you learn from it. Every week I receive questions from people asking if it’s “okay” to do something in magick. Just today I received an email from a person wanting clarification as to the position of banners that represent the elements within a magickal temple. They want my approval as if I were a biblical authority on what should be allowed.
As the title of this post indicates, magick is not a religion. There is no book that is the ultimate authority when it comes to magick, and that doing anything else is a sin that will result in a trap door immediately opening beneath you and forcing you to fall directly into some demonic hell!
To the best of my knowledge, Modern Magick was the first modern popular book to include an actual photocopy of an original page from an ancient grimoire, the Goetia. Although the information is the same as in published versions of that grimoire, the appearance is quite different. It looks like a student’s sloppy notes.
Do you really want to make some student’s notes your magickal bible?
Are you really going to say that you can’t change anything in those notes?
I wouldn’t! Dion Fortune, who wrote that there is no room for authority in occultism, would certainly agree with me on this.
This bring up the very nature of magick and magick books and teachers. None of the books or teachers (most assuredly including me!) are bibles or religious authorities who, like Ayesha in H. Rider Haggard’s classic tale She, must be obeyed. Magick is not a religion. Teachers and books are only guides. They share what has worked for others and, one hopes, has worked for them.
So what is magick? It is an experimental science. You base your experiments (rituals, spells, etc.) on what went before (which you learned from teachers and books). If what you learned works, use it. If what you learned doesn’t work, modify it until you discover what does work. As a scientist (magickian), you plan out your experiments (rites), perform them according to plan, and take notes about what you did, what happened and what were the results (in your magickal diary).
I give workshops all over. Next month I’m scheduled to give a brief talk at Chaffey College in Southern California. In May I’ll be giving workshops for the Pagan Unity Festival near the town of Burns in central Tennessee (not too far from Nashville). Usually, I begin my workshops with the letters:
T F Y Q A
This stands for Think For Yourself. Question Authority. I explain that just because I or some other book or speaker says something does not mean it will work for you. That’s not to say we’re lying or misleading. We’re trying to express the truth of our experiences the best we can. I urge people to try things out. If they work, continue to use them. If they don’t work, examine them and determine what you can change so they will work for you.
If teachers and books are not Bible-like authorities, how does a person who wants to be a magickian know what to do? Begin by using those resources as guides. Remember, they’re describing what works for others. But ultimately as Crowley (or Aiwas) wrote in The Book of the Law, “Success is your proof.”
As a magickal scientist, if what you do works, use it. If what you don’t do doesn’t work, use that information as feedback so you can modify it and discover what does work.
If all you can do is copy what others have done, you’re not being a magickian, you’re being a hero worshipper. As I always say, “Magick isn’t something you do. Magick is something you are.”
I would urge you to be a magickian and practice science not religion, magick not hero worship.
But I’m only a guide.