I am writing this just a few days before the supposed Mayan Apocalypse on Friday, December 21, 2012. The belief that the “end times” are here is nothing new. This LINK will take you to a page that lists over 200 dates where experts and religious leaders said the end of the world was coming. They all have one thing in common: none of them have worked out as their promoters stated.

And I will hereby fearlessly predict that the so-called Mayan Apocalypse will also turn out to be a dud. Some Mayans in Guatemala are denouncing the way the government is turning this into a “folklore for profit” giant party, with an expected 90,000 money-bringing suckers believers coming for the show. NASA has a web page showing where this prediction originated and why it’s not true.

Griffith Observatory
[Photo by Matthew Field, http://www.photography.mattfield.com]

I live in Los Angeles, not far from the famed Griffith Observatory. They have a page dedicated to this entire myth. To prove they’re correct and that the world will not end on the 21st, they’re going to be staying open until 12:01 a.m. on December 22, so everyone can see that they lived through the day.

In actuality, many Mayan elders, and most of the new age theorists are stating that this is not the end of the world. Just because your desk or wall calendar ends December 31, 2012, doesn’t mean there won’t be a 2013. The same is true for the Mayan calendar on which this is all based. [And by the way, if you haven’t obtained your Llewellyn’s 2013 Astrological Calendar, Llewellyn’s 2013 Witches’ Calendar, Llewellyn’s 2013 Moon Sign Book, Llewellyn’s 2013 Sun Sign Book, or any of our annually-updated titles, you should order your copies now before they’re unavailable. We’re already planning the 2014 editions!]

Some people have been claiming that this isn’t going to be the end of the world so much as spiritual change. The “energies” will change. People will become more spiritual. Actually, the last time I heard this story was in 1987 for the harmonica convention Harmonic Convergence. Did that work? Well, have you been standing in circles, holding hands and singing Kumbaya with all of your friends and enemies lately?

Me neither.

Change is always possible, but it’s not going to be due to some world change based on misunderstood predictions from hundreds or thousands of years ago. Change occurs when you will it. Change occurs when you create it. Change occurs when you stop looking for simplistic outside solutions, take responsibility for your actions, and work to manifest change in your life. And that’s where magick can help. And to use magick you need to learn its techniques.

The History of Occult Training

The training of magicians and occultists is evolving at a furious rate. Ages ago, if you wanted to learn magick, you learned in person from someone who would train you and who had been trained in the same way himself or herself. And then came books.

Books were an incredible advancement over rare and unwieldy loose manuscripts. However, to copy your teacher’s books took an arduously long time, and copy errors could creep in. And then came the printing press.

Now books could be mass produced with all of the notes and ideas of the creators. Groups formed to share them as they were still very expensive. With the rise of groups you could see many people performing rituals, talk to different people, and learn through observation. Universal public education in more industrialized countries started to grow. This format dominated occult training until WWII and the growing popularity of the inexpensive book that was bound in paper. And then came Carl Llewellyn Weschcke.

Weschcke purchased a tiny publishing company that only had one book, The Moon Sign Book, that was making any sort of profit. He took chances and republished the out-of-print works of Crowley. He republished Regardie’s classic books including The Golden Dawn. He published the first new books on astrology and the first genuine Witch’s Book of Shadows. At this time the structure of occult and magickal training was still primarily group work with book study. Weschcke told me his goal was nothing less than the Democratization of Magick. Making the truth and techniques of magick and occultism available to anyone who wanted them has been, in my estimation, an incredible success. However, it has also had a side effect that may not have been expected.

With the easy availability of accurate books, the beginning of the breakdown of the importance of occult groups—including magickal orders and covens—began. It was speeded along by Scott Cunningham’s Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner and Silver RavenWolf’s Solitary Witch. Slowly, the structure turned away from groups and more toward the individual studying by herself or himself. And then came the internet.

Cunningham’s book appeared just as the internet began to explode in popularity. The combination of books and internet resulted in the rapidly decreasing primary importance of groups and the increasing importance of information. Do you want to know how to make a magickal tool or the words of a spell or ritual? You don’t have to find a teacher or group or book any more because Google is your friend.

But the internet has traps. Anyone can post anything, and it’s just as likely to be inaccurate as it is to be accurate. In fact, the phenomenon of internet bullying and the discovery of ways to get your web page to the top of search results lists can turn a know-nothing, power-hungry egomaniac into a supposed authority. This is sadly common. In the past, for people to read the claims of some sociopath, the crazy person would have to get his or her works published. Publishers were loathe to chance their money on wack-jobs, although it did happen. Today, any nut case can splatter his or her words on multiple web pages, making it look important or accurate.

Perhaps it is the apocalypse for occult training. Maybe the Mayans were right!

The Future of Occult Training

Recently, I’ve been having email discussions with Mr. Weschcke on the possible future of occult and magickal training. His idea is that the internet has not yet been exploited to efficiently further the education of occultists and magicians. I agree, but I wouldn’t rule out the traditional Order and coven structure just yet. I’ve seen outright sociopaths and mere egomaniacs claim to be the head of groups. While that has always been possible, now their insanity can be spread around the world in seconds to people eager for information and not having the ability to discriminate between psychism and psychosis.

Sweet oranges can’t grow on a bitterly sour lemon tree. But the only way you would know this is by comparison. Likewise, if you’re studying online with someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about (I call them IROBs “I Read One Book” and now I’m an expert!), unless you are actually around this person’s other victims students, you’d have no way of knowing the results of this person’s teaching.

So if you are alert, working with people in person can help you avoid bad situations. And, there are other benefits to working with groups. You learn by observing. You can talk with people who know more about an area than you do. You can crystalize your knowledge by sharing with those who know less than you do. You get energy from the people you are working with. You are no longer alone.

Learning magick only using books or the internet is like learning sex only from a book or the internet. There’s a big difference between reading about something and actually practicing with others.

[Have you ever noticed that the “social media”
like Twitter and Facebook actually keeps people away from being social?
Sitting at home typing on a computer keyboard
is not the same thing as being with friends and actually socializing.]

I’m not the only one, nor is magick the only area, that notices the important of energy and sociability. The great creator of method acting, Constantin Stanislavski, said that actors had to emit “rays” of what they believed as a character, otherwise, the audience wouldn’t believe. I contend this is true. If you ever see a play and a movie of the same play, it is the live theater that is always more affecting and moving. That’s because you pick up on the energy of the actors and the emotions of the people around you.

You can’t do that over the internet.

Recently, Nick Farrell posted on this same issue, the direction of occult training. He points out how for training, the workshop has replace longer periods of in-person training. I’ve noticed this, too. I used to teach classes that could continue for 12 consecutive weeks. Now, I rarely teach workshops that last more than a weekend. In our MTV speeded-up world, people want their enlightenment now and they generally won’t do work outside of class (you know, “homework”) or anything that lasts for a full three months. This is not a complaint; it is merely recognizing the way things are today.

Mr. Farrell believes “it is better to go back to the old ways, of master and student.” I take a position that is slightly different than either his or Mr. Weschcke’s. My idea is based on two presuppositions:

  1. The internet has not been well exploited for occult and magickal training. A combination of lessons on the internet with supplemental books—or perhaps the study of books with supplemental internet lessons—combined with on-line teaching of a group (webinars) or through individual live instruction (via FaceTime, Skype, etc.) or email interactions, may be the future of getting information into the hands of the individual.
  2. People are naturally social animals and need in-person, social contact. Not having such contact regularly, with its interplay of energy, is detrimental to anyone. For the student, having a chance to get together with other students and teachers, to observe them and learn from them first hand, is simply irreplaceable. However, unlike the past, this does not mean “our secret group only meets together and only allows people who know the secret handshake and password (“Is it swordfish?”) to participate. Instead, people of like interests will come together for a short period to meet, greet, laugh, learn, observe, share, and actually be social instead of sitting alone pretending to be social. A model of this was created by Hakim Bey in his classic book from two decades ago, T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone. Already we have seen the manifestation of large, occasional get togethers in events such as the Rainbow Gathering, Burning Man, and “Pagan Festivals” ranging from Starwood to Pantheacon. (I’ll be at “P-Con” in February of next year along with many other of your favorite teachers and authors. I hope to see you in San Jose, California.)

So that’s where I think the future of occult and magickal training is headed. I’m working toward the further manifestation of that path. As an example, the bibliography of the next book I’m working on is so large I’m only going to include a small amount of it in the book. The entire bibliography, good for further research and study, will be made available, for free, online.

What do you think?

Where do you think the future of
occult and magickal training is headed?

Where would you like to see it go?

If you could make it any way you want
(sorry, no The Matrix probe inserts into the back of the neck!),
how would you like to see this type of training in the future?

And would you prefer it if people on the internet didn’t use obnoxious colors?
Written by Donald Michael Kraig
Donald Michael Kraig graduated from UCLA with a degree in philosophy. He has also studied public speaking and music (traditional and experimental) on the university level. After a decade of personal study and practice, he began ten years of teaching courses in the Southern California area on such ...