I’ve lately been on a bit of a simplicity kick with my magical practice, and part of that has involved going back to basics. It may seem odd that a magician with 20 plus years experience would go back to basics. After all, don’t I already know this material? And the answer is yes, and yet also no. You see, I think one of the traps I see magicians fall into is one where you take for granted what you know. And actually this happens outside of magic. If you meet an “expert” in a field they know what they know and they sometimes take it for granted. So I want to share with you 5 reasons for going back to the basics and how doing that can help you become a better magician.
What you know becomes its own prison.
There’s two ways to challenge what you know. One is to venture into the unknown and use what you don’t know to challenge what you know. But the other approach is to recognize that what you know brings blind spots with it, and so revisit what you know, but with a fresh perspective. I employ both approaches in my magical work.
Recently I started reading Tao of Letting Go. It’s a fairly basic book on Taoist meditation. You’re probably thinking to yourself, “But Taylor you already KNOW this stuff. Why aren’t you focusing on the more interesting intermediate and advanced material.” Yet in reading this basic book I found a couple of basic exercises I’d never done before and I tried them out. I didn’t get caught up on how basic the book was…instead I used it to challenge what I know, because in doing so it allowed me to revisit what I know and understand it in a different way.
The different understanding I arrived at helped me deepen the internal work I’m doing, and also develop a closer relationship to my body and what it can teach me.
Knowledge unexamined becomes dogma.
The problem with knowing something is that it becomes assumed. And eventually what is assumed becomes dogma, wrapping you in rote messages and rituals, but never expanding your horizons. If, on the other hand, you revisit what you “know” you provide yourself the opportunity to examine it and test it. You rediscover it and often that rediscovery shifts what you knew in favor of what you didn’t know. It’s on the edge of what we don’t know that we find the dynamic power of change that keeps us from becoming too rooted in the status quo. Yet when we come back from the unknown and revisit the basics of what we know, we invite ourselves to change what we’ve known into something else altogether.
Your Foundation is never completed.
No matter how much magic I’ve practiced or experimented with, something I always come back is that the foundation is never completed. And when you do advanced work without the right foundation in place, it quickly becomes shaky. I’ve been rereading books I’ve read a few times over of late because in coming back to them I’m bringing all the experiences I had since I first read those books. And yet I’m applying what I’ve rediscovered to what I’ve experienced and the puzzle pieces come together differently as a result, but there’s still a click in place that makes sense in its own way. Revisiting the basics cements your experiences and inspires you to build on them even further. That inspiration isn’t found by just charging into the unknown…
Look to the future, but remember the past.
I think it surprises people sometimes when they discover that while I’m a magical experimenter, I actually advocate for developing a well-rounded education in magic. But what those people forget is that you can’t effectively experiment with magic until you actually understand what you’re doing. And if you don’t understand it…well what you don’t understand can be dangerous. So sometimes a return to the basics is really an opportunity to make sure you’ve dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s. But revisiting the past is valuable because it gives you context to draw on. Every magical working I do is informed by the past knowledge and experiences I have. And revisiting all that information and experience provides perspective to the other workings I might do. Much of your inspiration will come from what you’ve done, as much as what you could do.
Finally, you also discover what to let go and what to bring with you.
When you revisit what you already knew, it provides you an opportunity to assess what you learned and then decide if you’ll keep it or let it go. Sometimes you’ll let it go, because you know it no longer fits with what you’re doing, and sometimes you’ll hold on because it makes even more sense than it did before. Revisiting the basics puts what you know into perspective, and that perspective frees you from holding onto anything that isn’t useful while also emphasizing what works for you.
Revisiting the basics helps you become a better magician because it provides you the opportunity to fill in the gaps, challenge what you know and inspires your work in different directions. When we revisit the foundation of our practice we bring back our experiences and go forth inspired into the more advanced work, but with a greater awareness of what we bring with us and how it can serve us in our spiritual work.