My favorite quote from Aleister Crowley’s very quotable Magick Without Tears is from the forty-fifth letter in which he addresses the “Unserious Conduct of a Pupil.” After listing what he sees as specific failures in his student’s drive to actually be a magician, he writes, “To advance—that means Work. Patient, exhausting, thankless, often bewildering Work. Dear sister, if you would but Work! Work blindly, work foolishly, misguidedly, it doesn’t matter in the end: Work in itself has absolute virtue.”
There’s a point in many a magician’s life that the question of “Should I have a daily practice?” is answered with a swift and resounding “Yes!” Another, more difficult question arises soon thereafter: What should I practice daily? Luckily for us we have a seemingly limitless number of daily practices, techniques, prayers, rituals, devotions, meditations, lessons, visualizations, and more at our fingertips, all tailored to fit our particular cup of magical tea.
It can get confusing, however. Many books and websites say we should meditate at least once a day. But this book says a Vipassana-tinged mindfulness practice is more-or-less a necessity, and that website over there says Zen’s the way to go, listing many convincing reasons as to why this is the case. However our friend says we don’t need any of that and we’re just wasting our time doing it, and instead refers us to Rudolf Steiner’s Calendar of the Soul, saying if we stick with it for a year then wonderful things will happen. Oh, but our friend also says we’re doing ourselves a disservice if we start at any time other than Easter Sunday, which is unfortunate because that was two weeks ago.
After some time lost in this void of endless opinions we stumble upon some advice that says in big bold letters JUST START WITH SOMETHING. Such a simple notion, but perhaps the best advice we’ve gotten so far. So we choose a meditation practice, do it every day, but then remember we’ve read from several reliable sources that we should banish every day. Or wait, was it invoke every day? No, it was invoke in the morning, banish in the evening. But we read on a forum that we should banish in the morning and invoke in the evening. We choose to start this daily ritual by banishing just once a day, and we’re content for some time. We now have a daily practice! But then one night we read about people just like us who experienced some very distressing side effects after doing our chosen banishing ritual daily. We also read that if we’re not experts in the Qabalah then we’re just fooling ourselves by doing this specific banishing. So since we’re no experts in Qabalah, considering how confusing it seems to us, we might as well quit, right?
I’m sure this string of dilemmas is common to many no matter if they’ve been involved in the occult for decades or just stumbled upon Modern Magick last week. We’re told one thing and we’re told another and get lost some place in the middle. The internet, along with its unlimited access to solid information, also provides us with snooty experts, arm chair magicians, and various degrees of trolls that serve no good to our magical and spiritual journey. This is where a good teacher, experienced and educated in a field we’re interested in, comes in handy. However many of us early in our magical lives don’t have access to any real teacher, so the responsibility is on us to seek out information. It’s a paradox: we need to learn from some source, whether digital or physical, but everything seems contradictory. It can be a bit disheartening and overwhelming, but mostly because all this chatter only serves the purpose of distracting us from our goal of learning Magic.
But that right there is the key: purpose. What is our purpose? What is our reason for doing all this? Let’s take performing a daily banishing ritual as an example: are we doing it to banish all the negative energies surrounding us, or are we doing it to simply get better at banishing? Neither is in itself a foolhardy goal, but the key is to have a reason for doing it other than just for the sake of doing it. This purpose is the armor that protects us from the loud and ubiquitous stream of information that flows into us on a daily basis.
For those wishing to develop and embark upon a daily practice, I’ve noticed the word “daily” seems to outshine the word “practice.” “Yes,” we may think, “I need to do something, the same thing, every day, and that is how I will become an elite magician.” That word “practice” holds ugly connotations to many, particularly those of us who endured years of piano lessons or sports classes growing up. When something grows from being a mild interest to an unavoidable calling, however, the only way to advance is to work hard at it.
Perhaps the most important practice is making mistakes. We heed the advice of some people and ignore that of others, then we set out on our own and learn what sticks, what doesn’t and what makes us lose our jobs and significant others. We travel upon supposedly promising trails that disappear right under our feet, or we discover that the most well developed plan leads nowhere at all. But whatever happens we learn because that was our purpose from the start. If our purpose is to learn and to grow then it’s very hard to get waylaid by the constant influx of knowledge and advice we receive, both good and bad, because everything becomes a learning experience. The world of magic lies within us, and all the various outward accouterments aren’t what create rock solid magicians. So work! Work hard, work consistently, work on something, and you’ll see that once vague path growing more vivid, leading to new and exciting places.