I totally agree with the idea of doing internal work as the focus of magic(k), which if we look at what that really means: conforming circumstances to will - the proverbial mirror can only bring us the reflection of what we are, and to be angry with the mirror when we need to fix something is rather pointless, right? I look at the task of will (inside) and circumstances (outside) being brought together in a healthy balanced expression too, but all too often, as mentioned, people wish to change circumstances not knowing they are only a reflection of something inside them that needs to be examined (and changed) - and ofttimes, this will automatically correct the circumstances ;-) In my case, I studied astrology, but there is quite a bit of psychology principals within this art/science. Through astrology, I was able to see things that were an imbalance (usually due to incorrect understanding) and then learn to balance these expressions, where this energy thereby became a physical expression (yes, circumstances), and while it is not easier, it is more effective to change yourself, rather than to change the world. In fact, in my experience, when you change yourself, the world changes too, all by itself it seems! ;-) Thanks for a great post during Mercury going Retrograde for all to contemplate!
Jason recently posted about some of his thoughts on where psychology fits into magic. He and I share a similar opinion about the perspective of treating magic as just a psychological phenomenon, but I agree with the point he makes: There is a place for psychology within magic. In Magical Identity, I discuss different psychological methodologies and how they can be applied for magical work, especially for internal work.
One of the areas that I personally feel is neglected far too much by magicians is internal work, i.e. working with your internal values, beliefs, attitudes, and dysfunctional issues. Meditation is one method for doing internal work and when it’s combined with psychology, it can be truly dynamic. I’ve made some amazing breakthroughs using meditation as well as working with a therapist, and applying psychological perspectives to my work, which in turn has allowed me to achieve greater clarity and focus in my life, making the living of it much, much easier. I’ve actually found that the need to do more overt acts decreases when you do internal work.
Before I did internal work and underwent therapy, I was a mess. I could practice magic as effectively as any of them, but my use of magic was mostly reactive, used to solve a crisis or problem, but with little thought put toward understanding my role in that crisis or problem. Choosing to do internal work freed me from a lot of unhealthy behaviors and provided me the opportunity to become much more proactive and focused in my magical work.
Aside from that psychology can provide a useful avenue of exploration in terms of understanding your magical process and how specific techniques work. It’s fair to say that my background in social sciences informs my magical process and some of that background is related to psychology. Where I make a key distinction is recognizing the limitations of using psychology to describe magic. It’s a different discipline and where there are insights, there are also limitations.