Why I think there isn’t more experimentation in magic

Posted on October 31, 2011
Filed Under Experiments, Magic, Taylor Ellwood | 2 Comments

In response to this post I wrote, another post was written which commented on the lack of experimentation. I think the author was dead on in his assessment, but it also prompted some further thoughts on my part on this subject.  I agree with the author that magic is a highly personal journey in some ways. I’ve certainly seen that with how people have taken some of my techniques and personalized them. I advocate for such personalization and my point that people should be able to explain how magic works really comes down to being able to explain to other people how they approach magic, with an understanding that is developed based off experience and a willingness to explore the mechanics of magic as it applies to their use of it. Will I get the same result as someone else does if I copy his/her technique? Maybe yes and maybe no. What I know is that if I take a person’s technique apart and reassemble it into a process that I understand, I will get results. That’s how its always worked for me, and in my books I have advocated for a similar approach on the part of my readers. I’ll provide you exercises you can do, exercises that have been tested by myself and other people, but I’ve always urged people to make any such techniques their own, to personalize and experiment and tinker with the techniques until they have a thorough understanding of the technique from personal experience, which also fits their definition of magic.

I don’t know that there is a universal theory of magic. I do know that I find certain models of magic don’t work for me because they seem counter-intuitive to my understanding of the world, but those same models work for other people just fine. What I object to however is the tendency of many occultists to not critically examine their process of magic. One of the reasons I think experimentation doesn’t occur as much as that there’s this focus on obtaining results, with an attitude of, “If I got it, why should I care about my process”. We see this attitude echoed in the works of occultists such as Grant Morrison and Patrick Dunn, both of who have stated it doesn’t matter if you don’t know why or how magic works, as long as you get a result. We’ve seen it echoed in chaos magic, where it’s all about results. If it doesn’t matter, then why even examine your process?

However it DOES matter, and the magician who aspires to do more than just get results cares enough to explore his/her process in order to understand and cultivate their magical work more effectively, as well as to pass it onto other people. If the magician understands his/her process and can take the time to explain it and provide opportunities to both try the techniques as well as personalize them, there should be no problem in passing on the how and why of magic.

Another reason few occultists share their experiments is because there has been and is a tendency for many occultists and pagans to be judgmental of the people sharing their experiments. Since the late 90’s I’ve experimented and shared my ideas, and for the majority of that time, I received more contempt and insults than people actually interested in what I had to offer. Even with that kind of obstacle, I persisted and found people to experiment with in groups, in order to try my concepts out. Even now, I have a small group I work with and in that group everyone is encouraged to share ideas and experiments so all of us can try them. But finding such a group is rare. I’ve had people call me too open-minded, fluffy, etc. I’ve also had people react because they feel if magic isn’t done a particular way, it’s not real magic. Obviously such infantile behavior has never stopped me in my work or in publishing it. In fact, one of the reasons I founded the non-fiction line of Immanion Press was to make sure that books that didn’t fit conventional or traditional ideas of magic would have a chance to be published. Such traditionalism isn’t confined to occultism. I’ve also seen it in academia. The reality is that in any given field of study there are few pioneers and many people sticking with what’s tried and true. The pioneers have to be willing to take risks, and try and find like minded people who are willing to advance the evolution of magic by thinking beyond what has already been presented to them.

Recently, I had a conversation with the editor of a Pagan magazine. We were trying to figure out which themed issue we could do an interview of me. She mentioned that her readers wanted material that was grounded and practical, essentially material that fit what they knew. We came to the understanding that I didn’t really fit her magazine in a conventional sense, and we decided we’d have the interview for the spell casting theme issue. I remember writing her and explaining that I’m out there on the edge, experimenting with magic, trying ideas out, fitting other disciplines to magical theory and practice. I am out here on the edge and there aren’t many of us here, because to be on the edge is to go where the dragons roam and the angels fear to tread. It’s to experiment beyond the tried and true, to defy what is considered known in order to bring the unknown into manifestation. And really, truly, I’ve been out here on the edge for most of my magical practice, experimenting on magic, trying things out, going with ideas that might seemed half baked and talking about them, because I don’t care if its heresay…it won’t become more than that if we don’t share, if we don’t publish, if we don’t challenge what’s known in favor of exploring the unknown.

I’m out here on the edge. Won’t you join me?

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