Although many scientists are loathe to admit it, the basics of what is known as “the scientific method”—essentially the ability to reproduce experimental results under identical conditions—were based on the practices of magicians and medieval alchemists. Sir Isaac Newton, who codified modern physics, wrote more on alchemy and religion than he did on physics. Most of the founders of modern astronomy saw the observation of the skies as a minor part of what really consumed them, astrology.
Looking at the records of the alchemists we can easily see the foundation of modern science. The records show what was done, for how long, and the results. Not getting the desired results (the Philosopher’s Stone which provided perfect health and longevity or gold from a base metal) was recorded and changes were made to the experiment in order to obtain the desired conclusion to the experiment. These, too, were recorded.
Unfortunately, among many magicians today this process has not continued. As a result, magick for many has retreated from its scientific past. We have no way of knowing if our experiments/rituals were successful, what changes can improve or lessen the impact of the ritual, or if any success is merely fantasy and serendipitous chance.
The solution, in my opinion, is not to return to the past as if we were trying to get back into the womb. Rather, I believe we should take the best of the past and adapt it for use today and for the future. One way to do this is to start keeping complete records of your experiments/rituals.
In Modern Magick I proposed a design for keeping such a record or diary. I think I was strongly influenced by my recollection of the James Mason movie version of Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” At the end of the film he tells his admirers that he will not claim that he traveled to the center of the Earth in spite of having several witnesses because he lost the diary of the adventure. Keeping such a record became important to me, and if you practice magick it should be important to you.
Making a Magickal Diary
In Modern Magick I wrote this about a proposed model for keeping such a record:
All of the data listed is important, and you should include information for each aspect every time you make an entry. In the future you will be able to see what conditions give you the greatest success when doing magick. Some people are most successful when they are happy and it is a warm night. Others have their greatest success when they are depressed and it is raining. Together, your ritual diary or magickal diary and dream diary become your own personal secret magickal text which is really only good for you.
By “Phase of Moon” I mean Full, Waning or Waxing… By “Weather Conditions” I mean rainy, cloudy, hot, muggy, warm, cold, etc. By “Emotions” I mean happy, sad, depressed, etc. By “Performance” I mean was it done well? fair? poorly? etc. By “Results” I mean how do you feel? What did you experience? etc. You may also want to add comments to this section at a later date, in which case you should date the addition.
… If you do rituals in the morning, at noon, and in the evening of the same day, you’ll have three pages like the ones below in your ritual diary. [Emphasis Added]
RITUAL DIARY ENTRY
DATE: DAY: TIME:
Phase of Moon:
Name of Rituals Performed:
Merely because I didn’t include something here doesn’t mean you can’t include it in your record. For example, I would suggest adding the category “environment” so you could discuss where you performed the ritual. If you performed a divination before attempting the rite, what cards did you get and how do you interpret the cards?
Although more and more scientists are acknowledging that merely observing an experiment can have an effect on the results of the experiment, most of the variables in scientific research are highly controllable. In magick, many of the variables, such as internal emotions and the intensity of those emotions, are more challenging to identify and quantify. By recording as much information as honestly as possible, you can, over time, discover the situations and practices that will result in the greatest magickal success.
What do you include in your magickal record?