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Practical vs. Armchair

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on October 21, 2013 | Comments (3)

When I was very young, I loved to watch and listen to baseball games. I’d fall asleep listening on the radio to Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett* call the Dodgers games. I started playing little league baseball, and in my last year I had the highest batting average in the league. Today, I find listening to baseball or even watching it incredibly boring. For me, there is just no way sitting on your behind and being passive can compare to actually playing the game.

When I first started studying magick and occultism, I didn’t know anyone who was actually trained in the subjects. As a result, I did a lot of study out of books. Some of the books were really good. Others, I came to realize, were simply invented from the author’s imagination, and I would salvage from them what I could.

There came a time, however, when I realized that simply reading about magick and occultism wasn’t enough for me. I had to actually do something.

The Curse of One More Thing

By the time I was ready to start working magick, rather than simply read and think about it, I had made a lot of friends with interests in the occult. I noticed, however, that virtually all of them suffered from what I now call The Curse of One More Thing. They kept telling me how they were going to actually start practicing magick as soon as they had one more thing. That thing may have been a book or a wand or a dagger or an altar or something more specialized. But even when they obtained it, they would discover that they still needed one more thing. I started to actually do the work. Some of my friends also either had started doing the work or began to do so. Most, however, did not.

For me, this clearly indicated the difference between the armchair magician—someone who talks about magick, theorizes about it, and studies it—and the practical magician, someone who actually practices the techniques and performs the rites. It was a clear division, and whenever their are such clear divisions, there tend to be disagreements.

Over time this developed into almost an us vs. them, good vs. bad attitude. The practical magicians looked down on the armchair magicians.
          They were all talk and maybe afraid to actually practice what they were studying.

The armchair magicians looked down on the practical magicians.
         They didn’t know what they were doing, went against all the rules, were likely to make
         mistakes and have dangerous problems.

Over time I observed that these attitudes had resulted in a war-like attitude between the factions. They were speaking to each other less and less. The armchair magicians (perhaps calling them “theoretical magicians” might be more appropriate) were advancing new concepts and the practical magicians were ignoring them. The practical magicians were making new discoveries and were being ignored by the theoretical magicians because they didn’t follow the “rules” of magick.

End the War

A couple of theoretical magicians criticized my Modern Magick because I had dared to suggest that if something in the tradition didn’t work for you it made sense to alter it until you were able to get the desired magickal results. The ultimate problem with accepting this concept is that the rules the theoretical magicians held so dear become less standardized. They become guidelines rather than laws and are written on paper rather than hewn into stone by the finger of God.

A couple of practical magicians criticized my Modern Magick for being old school. It’s just the same old stuff, written by an old codger, who doesn’t get what practical magick is all about. Of course, they’ve made up their minds and aren’t even looking at the section in the 3rd edition on Chaos magick and other leading edge magickal systems and techniques.

I guess if you’re criticized by both sides you must be doing something that has had an effect on both of them, so I’d say I’m doing pretty well.

The truth is, I believe it’s time to end this silly, invented war. Occultists of all kinds are on the same side. The theoretical magicians have ideas to share and knowledge to share that can help practical magicians on their paths. The practical magicians can test out the theories and see what works and what doesn’t, allowing the theoreticians to correct and clarify their concepts. By working together rather than being at odds we can move magick and occultism forward.

Where are you now?
Are you a theoretical (armchair) magician or a practical magician?
Do you want to move into the other camp or stay where you are?

Or do you want to be part of both camps?

Or do you want to avoid both camps completely?

*     *     *     *

Do you live in Los Angeles?
Come to Llewellyn Week at
Mystic Journey Bookstore!

Wednesday–Saturday, October 23–26, 2013
Llewellyn Week at Mystic Journey Bookstore
1624 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291
Information: LINK

Celebrate Llewellyn Week at Mystic Journey Bookstore, the favorite metaphysical bookstore on the Westside of Los Angeles. There will be four nights of fun with Llewellyn authors. Come hear them talk and meet them in person. Here is the current schedule with their topics and times:

• 10/23, Wednesday, Tess Whitehurst – Magical Fashionista 7-9pm
• 10/24, Thursday,  Lon Milo DuQuette – Low Magick 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
• 10/25, Friday, Karen Page – My Life Across the Table 7-9pm
• 10/26, Saturday, Donald Michael Kraig – Modern Magick 7-9 pm

I’ll be talking on Saturday night, but be sure to attend all four evenings. I may pop in to see my friends! I hope to see you there, too!





* If you’re a fan of the “X-Files,” the creator of the show, Chris Carter, admitted that he picked the names of agent Dana Scully and later, agent John Doggett, as an homage to the two announcers whom he, like me, had listened to while growing up.

Reader Comments

Written By Morgan Eckstein
on October 21st, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

I am actually a hybrid (a little bit of a theorist and a little bit of a practicing magician). Part of my time is spent doing ritual work, and part of my time is spent researching areas that I might not ever work in practice. And I think many of the famous magicians of history were also hybrid magicians. For me, the division between the two camps has always been silly–they are more like two sides of the same coin, with the hybrid magician being able to flip the coin as needed.

Written By Michael Lloyd
on October 21st, 2013 @ 7:21 pm

My (tongue-in-cheek) definition of a failed chaos magickian is a person with a good job, nice house, and loving family.

Scholastics and practicum both have their place. Ultimately, however, the best system is the one which works for the practitioner.

Written By David
on October 21st, 2013 @ 11:36 pm

Personally I don’t see their really being any division.

Sitting down and reading a book and having knowledge on a subject does not make you a practitioner of it, just like going to university lectures (and skipping all the prac work) does not get you a job as an engineer.

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