Occasionally, I get an email from someone who wants me to teach them magick. They either want to be an affiliate in the Order or somehow to get me to teach them more directly. I usually shy away from such requests because I believe that the only way that you can really and effectively teach someone how to work magick is by doing it in person. Allow me the opportunity to work with someone in my temple, and I could probably teach even the most stubborn dullard how to work magick. But, the key to this kind of magickal mentoring is getting face time with me, and experiencing magick in a shared environment with plenty of “hands on” experiential work. In my honest opinion, this is the only way that I can effectively teach someone how to work magick from scratch. It would require someone to live in proximity to me in order to establish this kind of relationship, and it would depend on how much spare time I had to devote to such a task. For those who live far away, the possibilities of working with me are greatly diminished.
What I don’t have at my disposal is a program for learning ritual magick from the very beginning that I can give to long distance students. Some other magicians have this kind of program, such as the redoubtable Jason Miller, who offers an online course in magick, which I would recommend to any beginner. I suppose if I had the time and wasn’t saddled with a full time career, then maybe I might assemble something together for those who want me to teach them magick. What I do have is four books in print, and these should help either the experienced beginner or the intermediate student develop and build their own system of magick based mostly on the energy model.
However, I don’t have any books or materials for the beginner who doesn’t have any real experience or is ignorant about how to work magick. The reason for this is because I believe that the first steps in learning to perform ritual magick should be accompanied by someone who is experienced and who knows how to do it. Analogous to a medieval guild, I think that someone who really wants to master magick will need to be an apprentice to an experienced magician for at least a couple of years. Otherwise, attempting to learn magick without the help of an experienced sponsor can be quite difficult. You can spend decades reading all of the available material written on the subject, and even watch videos of people working magick, but at some point, you have to actually get some experience or forever be an “arm-chair” magician.
Doing magick is the only way to learn it, and there is no replacement for that kind of experience. Without an experienced teacher, the first steps will be awkward and will likely fail to produce the desired results. This often stops the erstwhile magician in his or her tracks, because the awkwardness and the failure would seem to bring about two lines of thought, both of which would likely end all but the most steadfast student’s experimentation. Either the would-be magician will believe that he just doesn’t have what it takes to be a magician, or he will decide that maybe magick consists of far more fantasy than reality.
Certainly, real magick doesn’t operate as it does in the movies or TV shows. As an experienced magician, I can’t tell you how insulting such TV shows as “Supernatural” are to everything that I know about magick. Our culture is steeped in fantasy, hype and misinformation in regards to magick, and attempting to get the very first spell to work can actually be quite underwhelming. Very quickly, a student who is on a successful track to learning to perform magick will realize how subtle and seemingly unremarkable most magickal phenomena appears when it does happen. It seems to operate under most people’s ability to sense and comprehend. Indeed, for the beginning student who hasn’t sharpened his or her sensitivities, magick can seem to be buried amongst the mundane occurrences of the lives of nearly everyone, including those who are avidly looking for signs of it.
Where are the rays of sparkling magickal light blasting from the finger tips or emitting from the eyes? Where are the plethora of demons, angels and other spirits miraculously manifesting in material form? Where are the miracles and the astonishing destiny-laden events? Real magick, to the beginner, seems so subtle and barely there that it could be chalked up wholly to one’s imagination. Later on, as the senses for magick and the corresponding sensitivity for occult patterns kicks in, the very world itself seems to literally change before one’s eyes. But that event occurs slowly and gradually over time, and sometimes it almost seems to arrive completely unheralded. Since magick is very subtle and requires an earnest effort at mind control and sensitivity training, an experienced teacher can more ably show a beginner what to do in order to see, feel and observe the occurrence of magickal phenomena. An inexperienced beginner might even successfully produce a profoundly magickal effect and not be sensitive enough to realize its significance.
So what can a beginner do if they don’t have an experienced teacher to guide them along the first steps of learning to perform ritual magick? Perhaps the most important thing any beginner can do is to be consistent, stubbornly persistent and to start doing rituals or something magickal every day. At some point the student has to actually begin performing magick in order to “break the ice” and start getting some real experience. Inertia is a terrible force, and it often keeps the beginner from engaging in any experimentation. They can be equally afraid of success as they are of failure.
First thing that any beginner needs to do is to assemble the basic set of magickal tools. These are the four elemental tools of wand, dagger, cup and dish. In addition, having an incense burner of some kind, candle holders or oil lamps, an altar, a robe and rope belt, charcoal, incense, spring water, sea salt and perfumed oils should round out the needed supplies. Yet the most important item is to have a room dedicated to the work. The more permanently dedicated the room, then the better the results of the magick performed within it. It is important to be able to work rituals in privacy and a quiet environment. If that means working ritual at odd hours when the rest of the household is asleep or away, then that fact will have to determine the available time slots for a magickal working. Assembling the materials isn’t particularly difficult, but dedicating a room and being sequestered for an hour or more is often one of the more problematic sticking points.
Second thing is to choose and adopt a specific tradition and then to assemble the books or materials on that tradition. What is required is to study and examine this material until it is completely familiar. Then extract some of the ritual activities and write them up in your own hand. You will need a set of rituals to perform a quick daily exercise, and then others to perform more elaborate operations. Get a blank book and begin to write up journal entries about anything that might be important, from dreams, thoughts, insights to any experience that might be achieved while working ritual. My first published book, “Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick” might be ideal for someone who is seeking to put together their own discipline. The rituals contained in that book are useful and can be modified to function at the level of the student magician. You can purchase a copy of this book here, but there are a lot of other useful books as well.
Third thing is to learn to meditate, and develop a meditation regimen that is performed daily, at around the same time, every day, without fail. A meditation session should include breath control, visualization, mantra intoning and assuming a comfortable seating posture (the basic Asana, Prana-yama, Mantra and Mandela disciplines of Yoga). In addition, learn to perform the discursive meditation technique. This methodology is from the Catholic technique taught for many centuries and was called the “lectio divina.”
- (Discursive) meditation - reflective reading of sacred texts and other material.
- Affective Prayer - spontaneous reaction in response to these reflections.
- Contemplation - reduction of meditation and affective prayer to a state of quiescence.
Perform a combination of the fourfold Yoga techniques mentioned above to establish the baseline of consciousness, and then use the discursive meditation technique to examine and reflect on strategic passages from one’s study regimen. This operation should be performed every day without fail, so it becomes the foundation for any and all magickal work. This discipline will also cause one to become far more sensitized to magickal and occult phenomena.
Fourth thing is begin to perform magickal experiments. Start out doing something small and minor every weekend. Just setting a magickal circle and meditating in sacred space can achieve some interesting results over time. However, it is important to establish some small goals and to seek to achieve them with the aid of magick. Over time, these goals can become more elaborate and concrete.
Fifth thing, learn more than two forms of divination. I would recommend that any student worth his or her salt should master the Tarot and astrology. Learning Runes, the I-Ching or Geomancy would also be helpful.
Sixth thing should be adopting a spiritual discipline along with the magickal discipline. Making the magick become more aligned to one’s religious and spiritual perspectives gives it a greater importance and significance. If you are a pagan, then working with the cycles of the earth, such as the Lunar and Solar cycles, becomes an important element of your magick.
Seventh and the most important thing of all - once you start this regimen, then don’t give it up for at least two years. If you stop performing your regimen of daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal activities, then you will have to start them all over again just catch up to where you were before you stopped. It takes around two years of doing this kind of constant, periodic and consistent work before anything dramatic starts to happen. If you have a hands-on teacher, then this period of slowly growing and evolving happens a lot faster, of course. But if you are alone, then you will need a couple of years before all the parts of this spiritual and magickal discipline start working together to produce the effects that could be considered dramatic and profound. Keeping a journal will certainly help you figure out that certain patterns and other phenomena are happening and are in fact, quite real (since you have documented them). At some point, you will have to perform some kind of self initiation and truly dedicate yourself to the work of ritual magick, and when that has happened, then you might be able to call yourself a ritual magician.
One final thing that I would like to advise any beginner who is seeking to become a ritual magician is to never attempt this work in any kind of social isolation. Make certain that you have available friends and associates who are also seeking to work magick or involved in some kind of occultism. It can be very important to have someone to talk to if something strange or weird happens and you need to objectify it. Being completely socially isolated is, in my opinion, highly undesirable.
Learn about what is going on in your local community in regards to occultism or paganism, and then seek out individuals of like mind. Do engage in social activities and make certain that you can cultivate some close friends and confidantes. Having a community of occultists to talk to could help you keep your mental balance at a particularly difficult time in your magickal career. Who knows, you might even find amongst your acquaintances someone who is an experienced ritual magician, and who might share some ritual space with you, thereby giving you leg up on your own evolving magickal process.