I'd like to share what kindergarten and magick have in common—and why this is such good news.
When it comes to drawing, I am not naturally skilled. I still remember my kindergarten days and my early experiments with art. We used bright tempera paints and brushes that would have been more appropriate for painting walls than attempting illustration on the sheets of grayish-white paper attached by bulldog clips to easels. My paintings generally consisted of a house made of a large rectangle, another rectangle for the door, squares for two windows, and a triangle for the roof. A rectangle served as a chimney and a spiral that looked like the chimney had swallowed a pig head-first, leaving only the tail showing, was supposed to be a plume of smoke from an imagined interior fireplace. In an upper corner, a yellow semi-circle with straight lines extending from it was my image of the sun. Poorly formed stick figures were in the yard and could have been confused with a tree except that the tree was armless and legless and had a green ball representing branches and leaves at the top.
I spent a lot of time doing that piece of art and was pleased with it until I saw that a few of the girls in class had created incredibly realistic houses. They were so real I wondered if they were tracings of photos. They weren't. Disappointed in my lack of perceived ability, I didn't do much art for decades.
One day, a friend told me he could teach me to draw in one afternoon. Following some of the techniques from the book Drawing On the Right Side of the Brain, he showed me that if I worked at it, I could actually do some great drawings. I was surprised, shocked, and very pleased. I now knew that I could draw if I practiced and put my mind to it.
What Does This Have to Do with Magick?
I imagine that several of you reading this will have had similar experiences. Perhaps you were the simple house painter or maybe you were the horse-drawing artist. But here is another thing I discovered: If you have the right training and practice, you can become a great artist. However, even if you are naturally talented, if you do not practice you will not develop your skills.
The very definition of magick is that it is an art and a science. That means even if you are a naturally talented magician (an artist), someone who studies and practices (a person who becomes a "magical scientist") can end up becoming a superior magician, even better than the natural image. This is great news! It means that you can be a great magician. In Modern Magick I wrote that you need to do three things to become a great magician: practice, practice, practice. That's still true.
Does Practice Make Perfect?
I'm sure you've heard the adage that "practice makes perfect" dozens of times. But the person who invented that saying and the people who endlessly repeat it are completely wrong. Practice does not make perfect.
Imagine, for a moment, that you are learning a piece of music. You practice it dozens, maybe hundreds of times. Then you play it in front of your teacher and are shocked to learn that you're playing it wrong. What you practiced was incorrect. All you did was perfect your errors.
The old saying should be, "perfect practice makes perfect." This leads to two questions concerning magick: what should you practice and how should you practice to assure that you're doing it right?
What to Practice
There are three things that are required for success in magick. They are the ability to raise magical energy, the ability to manipulate and direct the energy you raise, and the knowledge of what to do with that energy. Let's look at them one at a time.
One of the basic techniques for learning to raise energy involves making yourself aware of it. This can be done by rubbing your hands together quickly until they become warm. Separate your hands by about eighteen inches and slowly bring them together until you feel a bit of resistance. It may be a few inches across or significantly larger. It may be just a slight sensation. Feel around this resistance until you can sense its edges. Perhaps it is a sphere. Maybe it is irregular. With each exhalation of your breath, feel this energy object getting stronger, more solid, and perhaps even larger. Do this until you get it perfect. You want it to be a firm sphere at least nine inches in diameter. Once you have it, practice this exercise repeatedly until it becomes second nature.
Unfortunately, most books on ceremonial magick do not go into depth on how to raise energy. But for some real, in-depth information, I'd like to recommend two books that can help you. The first is Wheels of Life by Anodea Judith. Unfortunately, many of the teachings you'll find on the chakras today are very superficial. It would seem that they do nothing more than repeat generalities taught by people who knew very little themselves. Wheels of Life is different. It gives a thorough analysis and discussion of the chakras from ancient and modern sources, including how to work with the chakras. Chakras deal with the same sort of magical energy, so the exercises in this book can help you on a variety of levels.
Another great book on this subject is A Chakra and Kundalini Workbook by Dr. Jonn Mumford. It is filled with exercises that can help you develop your magical energy. It is virtually a complete magical and spiritual system in itself. And if you're just interested in learning a bit more about the amazing magical or kundalini energy, a great place to start is with Ravindra Kumar's Kundalini for Beginners.
Directing the Energy
When I went to college, one of the popular buzzwords was "relevance." We wanted to know how any particular subject was relevant to life today. One of the things I discovered was that the more things were relevant to my needs, the greater their study held my interest. Simply learning how to direct the energy toward goals is not really enough to hold my interest for practice. Rather, I want to direct the energy for purposes that interest me.
One of the great and practical ways to practice directing energy is to use it for healing yourself or others. You can learn techniques for this purpose in Ted Andrews' The Healer's Manual. You'll learn how to "run energy," sending it out through your palms ("laying on of hands"), and other healing techniques.
Another way you can learn to direct energy is through the use of talismans. In Modern Magick I point out that a talisman is just a lifeless, inert object until you energize it. For those of you who are adventurous, I give some more explicit techniques for energizing talismans in Modern Sex Magick. If you're looking for a book on working exclusively with talismans, I can readily suggest Making Talismans by Nick Farrell. It not only includes information on energizing the talismans, it shows you how to make them for a wide variety of purposes, covering Wiccan, Pagan, and ceremonial traditions.
If you are looking for more generalized information on directing the energy, then I highly recommend Israel Regardie's The Middle Pillar. This technique is one of the most used methods for directing energy, and the notes and additions by the Ciceros make this book better and more valuable than ever.
Once you have learned how to raise and direct energy, and practice these skills until you're as perfect at them as possible, all you need to know is what to do with these skills. This part of magick does not require practice so much as the ability to get information and put it to practical use. If you want the granddaddy of all modern occult books, you should look no further than Three Books of Occult Philosophy by Henry Agrippa, edited and annotated by Donald Tyson. Much of the wisdom and practices of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn are based on this book. If you want the source, this is the book to have. If you're a student of ceremonial magick, this is a standard for your collection of books.
Another book that is more modern is Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero's The Essential Golden Dawn. Filled with information and rituals, it can help you find the footing on your path of ceremonial magick.