Why Practice informs the development of Theory

Posted on December 17, 2013
Filed Under Magic | 1 Comment


In my most recent article on Pagan Square, I discussed part 2 of the literacy of magic. I also gotten into an interesting discussion with a commenter. He argued that it was possible for a person to be a theorist in magic without actually practicing it. My response in kind was:

And I disagree with the notion that you can be an armchair theorist and know magic. You may¬†know of¬†magic, but that’s different from actually knowing it. To know it is to practice it, to make it a meaningful part of your life, as opposed to just an intellectual understanding.

Having met all too many armchair magicians in my life, I can safely say they weren’t even theorists, because all they could really talk about was what someone else had done. To be a theorist involves practicing magic because you necessarily need to have experience working magic before you can develop theories of your own on how magic works. Theorizing without practice isn’t theory…it’s speculation by a person too afraid to commit to the necessary rigors that any practice brings to any discipline.

Practice is an integral part of theory for the reason I explained above. Without practice, you cannot know magic, and you can’t effectively develop a theory either. Any theory is defined by the practice and work that has gone into the theory. A theory is based off practices that are done again and again to obtain the same results. When we “theorize” without practice, then we are speculating. We don’t know one way or another if our “theory” is correct or incorrect.

Practice brings with it a necessary rigor that allows the practitioner to challenge his/her own preconceived notions. that function, more than anything else, is why consistent practice is important. When we consistently practice magic, what we are are really doing is consistently applying ourselves to doing the necessary work that comes with any discipline, and consequently developing theories that are informed by the work we do.

I feel compelled to write about this this topic because what I see occur sometimes is a muddying of the distinction between theory and speculation. Anyone can speculate and many do to their hearts’ content, but speculation doesn’t make you an expert or prove that you know what you’re talking about. It just proves you’re good at bullshitting about magic. But I want more than that from someone who wants to talk magic. I want someone who can point to their own experiences and explain how those experiences informs their awareness of what magic is or how it works. Then I know the person knows magic, as opposed to knowing of magic (and even that can be argued). As I mentioned above, what I’ve encountered with armchair magicians is not a comprehensive knowledge of magic, but a lot of pontification, speculation and knowledge of a given occultist (usually Crowley) . It doesn’t impress me. They don’t know magic, no matter how much they might believe otherwise. Knowing magic demands much more…it demands practice and a willingness to put yourself out there and test what you can do. Not everyone can or will step up, but you’ll always know who the real practitioners are , because what they’ll speak of demonstrates how they’ve applied magic to their lives.

Book Review: Make Magic of Your Life by T. Thorn Coyle

This book is a useful guide for doing internal work and connecting with what you desire. The author provides exercises to help the reader work on him/herself, as well illustrating concepts with anecdotes. If you are someone who feels like you’re out of touch with life or unhappy with the direction your life is going, pick this book up and do the exercises. You will certainly obtain clarity as a result and be better able to manifest what you truly want because you’ll have worked out the internal tensions stopping you from being successful. The author will challenge you to be authentic with yourself and will help you take the steps to reach that goal.