As a fairly visible and accessible writer, primarily of non-fiction, I get questions about what I’ve written. In fact, I get lots of questions. I used to get stacks of snail-mail letters. Now I receive lots of email. While many of the questions are not connected, it seems like I’ll go through periods where I’ll get questions from different people that have similar themes. Here are a few of the ones I’ve been receiving recently and my responses to them:
1) Author X wrote something that disagrees with what you’ve written. What did that author mean? Who is right and who is wrong?
I have been giving Tarot readings for decades so I can get a grasp on potentials for the future. As an NLP master practitioner, by observing a person when he or she is speaking, I can sometimes get an inkling about where that thought is coming from and whether that person is telling the truth or making something up. What I can’t do is simply read minds. At least, I can’t do it in depth and regularly.
So I have no idea what that other author was thinking when he or she made that statement. I can tell you why I think what I’m presenting is accurate and works. I don’t know why that other writer is disagreeing with what I’ve written. Besides, the other writer may have changed their opinion. As Aldous Huxley wrote,
Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are dead.
Even if I knew what that author meant when he or she wrote something, that person may have a new or updated opinion.
Therefore, I can’t answer your question about what another author thought or meant unless that author has explained it. If you have a question about another author’s writings, please ask that writer!
2) Is it okay if I do a ritual differently? Can I use a different ritual tool or one that has a different design than you described?
Look: I am not the god of rituals. I am not the arbiter of how your tools should look. You do not need my permission. I am not authorized to give you any such permission. You have to determine the asnwer to these questions for yourself.
Further, all books, including mine, are written on paper, not stone. Someone wrote a ritual. Others, hopefully as a result of training, knowledge, experience, and skill, modified that ritual. Why do these people create rituals and share them? Why do people modify them? Well, someâ€”even though they haven’t performed the ritualâ€”think they know what should work. I have a lot of books by forgotten authors who wrote that way. On the other hand, the best writers, in my opinion, shared the rituals or shared modified versions of them because they worked.
That, in my opinion, is the one thing that matters. When you make the changes, does that improve either the success rate or quality of your magick? If it does work for you, use it! If it doesn’t work for you, discard it.
So if your personal experience is the ultimate arbiter of what you can use, what good are all the books? They are records of what worked for others. They give you ideas and directions. They are a great fallback if you go through a period of failed magick. Here’s a story that might explain it better.
My Life as a Telemarketer
When I sold products over the phone, we didn’t have a fancy name for what we did. It was just telephone sales. I sold all sorts of stuff, from office supplies to magazine subscriptions. Sometimes I was very successful. Sometimes I was only moderately successful, and sometimes I wasn’t successful at all.
When you get into telemarketing you aren’t just taught about the products you’re selling and told to go and sell. You are given a script to read. A trainer, perhaps the head of the company, will go over it with you and you’ll stumble through it for a day or two. Eventually you’ll be able to recite it very well. The best marketers say it with sincerity. If you’re not good at it you are usually let go within a couple of weeks. In each telephone sales job I had I saw hundreds of people come and go.
I would start out reading the script, word for word. My trainer would frequently say, “Just read the script.” The script I received at each company was considered to be magickal in its power to produce sales. After a few days, I’d start to make sales, and the trainer would stop listening and advising me. “Just read the script,” the trainer would say, “and you’ll do fine.”
The problem is that the script is universal. It’s not me. So I’d start to make small changes. As I slightly altered the script to make it more individualized to my personality, my sales began to climb. So I’d make another small change. And another.
Eventually, my sales began to drop. And drop. The trainer would come over and ask to listen in. After an hour of listening, the trainer had just one bit of advice: “Don, just follow the script.”
I came up with all sorts of reasons why my changes should work. “It must be something else,” I’d respond.
The trainer didn’t yell or disagree (the good ones never do). Instead, he quietly said, “Just follow the script.”
So I did. And my sales started to come back.
At each company I worked at this progression was repeated by me and by others in the sales staff, sometimes several times.
Try your changes. If they work, use them. If they don’t work, abandon them. If they work for a time but then seem to lose their efficacy, go back to the script. Go back to what works. Go back to the tradition. Go back to the books.
3) I’ve practiced this ritual a hundred times and it just doesn’t work. What am I doing wrong?
I wasn’t there. I can’t tell you. And if you write 20 pages telling me everything you did, chances are still high that you’re not including the problem because you’re unaware of exactly what it is. What I can tell you is that there is a myth that practice makes perfect. It’s a lie. The truth is that only perfect practice makes perfect. If you practice something the wrong way a thousand times all you will end up doing is learning the wrong way perfectly.
I don’t know who said it first, but there is a saying that insanity is doing something the same way and thinking you’re going to get a different result. If you perform a ritual well and don’t get the desired results, why do you think that just repeating it will give you a different result? That’s kind of crazy.
Instead, try breaking the ritual down into identifiable sections. This is the way musicians learn a piece of music or actors learn their parts. Practice each section so that you get the desired result for that section. If you don’t get the desired result, modify it. Change it. Try something else.
When each section is working, put them together. When you practice it so that you get the desired resultâ€”that is, when you are doing the ritual so it is effectiveâ€”you are doing it at a level that is perfect.
And perfect practice results in desired outcomes.
Suggestion For the Week
Many years ago I went on a date with a very beautiful young woman. At the end of the evening we came back to my apartment and she looked around at all of my books. “You’ve got a lot of books,” she said. “I love books. They make great decorations.”
That was my second date with her. First and last.
Whether you have one book or 10,000, I would strongly urge you to not let them become decorations.
I’ll often go back through books I read years ago and am surprised to discover new things I didn’t know were in those books. The words on paper may not change, but our memory of them and our understanding of them changes and evolves. You may discover that books you thought didn’t have much of value in them are actually filled with great ideas. Or you may discover the one bit of information or advice that helps you move to a new level just waiting for you in a book you initially read years ago.
What book(s) do you re-read every few years?
What bit of wisdom did you get from a book when you re-read it
that you didn’t catch the first time you read it?