The balance between tradition and experimentation

Posted on September 27, 2010
Filed Under Magic, Taylor Ellwood | Leave a Comment

I’ve always been a big believer in experimentation when it comes to magic, but I’ve also always believed that you need to have a solid foundation in order to experiment. The person who experiments without a firm understanding of magical principles won’t get very far, and I don’t know even know if you could call the magical work experimental, if there isn’t a firm foundation in work.

The magician is someone who has made the effort to learn how other people have practiced magic, and incorporated those practices into his/her life, but has also decided that just relying on tradition alone isn’t enough. S/he recognizes the value of experimentation and innovation as a way of advancing one’s understanding of the world, and also one’s spiritual practice and how it applies to the world.

In my own spiritual practices, I’ve always tried to find a balance between experimentation and tradition. While I definitely think experimentation is important, experimentation without foundation won’t get you very far. This is why it’s important to do the research, to learn the skills, and then look at how you can improve on them, or what new directions you can take them in.

I don’t believe in mindlessly adhering to tradition for the sake of tradition. Such dogmatism leads to fanaticism, and also ends up causing a spiritual tradition to stagnate. This doesn’t mean practices should be disregarded or tossed aside, but if a person never tries to innovate or experiment at some point s/he will stagnate. I see this occur a lot with people who try to emulate the life of someone else or only do magic the way the book tells you to.

The magician is someone who tests the magical practices s/he performs and looks for ways to improve on his/her practice. It’s not about cutting corners, but about being methodical and revising your process in favor of improving on it.

Learn from tradition and what others did. Build a firm foundation, and then…challenge it, experiment and evolve. This is my approach to magic. It’s not the stumbling of the fool, but rather the measured pace of the magician who recognizes that magic isn’t about repeating what others have done, but learning what others have done and improving on it. But remember the fool has intuition and sometimes will find something the magician wouldn’t…so take a risk sometimes and try something different…the experience will definitely teach you.

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