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The Llewellyn Journal
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Magic: Acquiring the Basic Principles

This article was written by J.F. O'Neill
posted under Magick

The idea for Foundations of Magic first came to me some years ago when I was standing in the checkout line of my local supermarket. I was amusing myself by looking through a copy of one of the many tabloids on display and was as struck by the number of advertisements for magical pyramid key chains, lucky Irish fairy charms, and similar tawdry-looking fetishes. Many people on the outermost margins of literacy, it seemed, were attempting to use magic to improve their lives; but such ineffectual and superstitious magic it was! As I waited my turn in line, a scan of some of the more respectable magazine covers revealed that the use of ineffective magic was not just limited to tabloid readers. Popular weight loss methods, treatments for chronic illness (including aspects of modern medicine), schemes for playing the lottery, new-aged self-help methods, religious rituals, political policies and beliefs; all employed magical thinking and magical practices. And by my reckoning, much of it was bad magic.

Following this grocery store epiphany, I found myself wondering what could be done to introduce the public to good magic. Writing a book on the subject was one obvious solution, but how to do this? Spells, rituals, and procedures are all easy enough to describe, but effective magic is not based on recipes. It is the state of mind, knowledge, skill, and preparedness of the practitioner that imbues a spell with its magical potency. To become adept at practical magic—magic that works—normally takes years of discipline, study, and practice and includes much mental and emotional preparation. Needless to say, most people’s lifestyles do not allow them the time, means, or inclination for immersion in such rigorous and lengthy study. How could a book attempt to overcome these demanding requirements for learning and preparation?

A bit of family lore eventually provided me with the answer. My dad’s older sister Betty was an artistic child, and among her many accomplishments was virtuosity on the piano. My father, on the other hand, had little interest in music. Nonetheless, he recognized the attention and admiration Betty’s playing garnered for her and reasoned it would do the same for him, particularly with the girls in his neighborhood. One day he realized that there might be a way to reap the benefits without enduring the discipline and boring routine of learning to master a musical instrument. He chose a piece of music that was popular at the time (the specific piece has been lost in the telling) and had his sister instruct him in exactly which piano keys to press and in which sequence in order to perform the piece. Once he had completely memorized each keystroke, Betty instructed him on timing and tempo. As he progressed, she helped him with continually subtler refinements. Within about two weeks he became wonderfully proficient in this one score. When visitors my father deemed worth impressing would come to the house, Betty would start playing the piano. After a few tunes she would then ask my dad to play, demurring that he was so much more talented than she. He would protest in mock irritation exclaiming, “You know how much I hate to perform in front of others.” She would persist and he would eventually give in under the condition that he would only play one song. My father would then sit down in front of the piano and, to the astonishment and admiration of his guests, play beautifully. My father mastered playing one piece of music on the piano not by studying and practicing music for many years, but rather by quickly perfecting only the very specific elements required for mastery of that one tune. It seemed to me that the same principle could be applied to the swift mastery of a limited number of specific spells.

Before I could begin writing, however, I had a decision to make: from which magical perspective—which school of magic—should I approach this? After pondering this for a while, I realized that the answer was obvious. As with my own practice, I would write my book from the perspective of no school and of all schools. I would stick with the fundamentals—the foundational pieces of all magic. I intended that Foundations of Magic accomplish what no other work on the subject has: to instructs the reader in learning and using all of the skill sets and essential knowledge required to cast the particular thirty-three spells contained between its covers, be they beginner or adept. Enjoy the magic.

J.F. O'Neill
J. F. O'Neill (California) has been in pursuit of magicl knowledge and skills for most of his life. A student of both Richard Bandler and Bethal Pahaigh, the author has incorporated these pursuits into his own private practice involving Neuro-Linguistic...  Read more

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