What it Takes to be a Serious Mage

by Mike Sententia on June 20, 2012

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Simon recently said:

I don’t know whether i’m a ‘serious mage’ as i’m not that experienced but I guess the ‘serious’ intent is there!

I’ve been throwing around the term “serious mage,” but what does it mean? I don’t even have a clear definition in my head. I know it when I see it, but that doesn’t help you much, does it? So, this post is me figuring out what I really mean by that term.

First, a few things it’s not:

  • Serious doesn’t mean experienced. Sure, an experienced mage who’s learned many styles properly and generates good magickal results is a serious mage, but it’s not required.
  • Serious doesn’t mean traditional. Sure, if you know all the correspondences and sigils and so on for Enochian, you’re probably a serious mage. But, again, not required.
  • Serious doesn’t mean “produces results.” Again, if you’re producing easily-noticeable results with magick, and making sure it’s not placebo or coincidence (twice), you’re probably serious, but you don’t have to be that accomplished yet to be serious.

I think Simon’s take on a “serious intent” is on the right track. A serious mage wants to learn effective magick, and is willing to put the work in to do it. They understand that magick doesn’t “work like magic,” and that it requires daily (or at least weekly) effort and lots of failures before you get it working. So, the first part of serious is effort.

I’d also say that a serious mage can isn’t overly credulous. They don’t believe something just because it’s in a book, and if something sounds too good to be true, they’ll be more dubious, rather than more eager. Really, that’s what got me wondering, “What are all the steps between doing a ritual and seeing a change in the world?” — doing a ritual and directly causing a change in the world seemed too good to be true, like there had to be intermediate steps involved.

Along the same lines, a serious mage understands placebo, and works to make sure the changes they see aren’t placebo or coincidence. They’d rather get real data and debug their techniques than falsely believe they’re a great mage when really, they’re just lucky. And, as a result, a serious mage isn’t threatened when people ask how they know that a result isn’t just placebo or luck. This is a really good way to identify a serious mage, actually: Ask non-pejoratively how they know their results aren’t placebo. A serious mage will have a rational, interesting response. A non-serious mage will be dismissive or defensive.

And, eventually, a serious mage will notice when the model they’re working with has holes. They’ll keep asking why for each step, and see where they don’t have a good answer. And, possibly most importantly, this hole will make them uncomfortable enough to push their model forward, until they understand just a little bit more. So, I’d say, that’s how to spot an experienced, serious mage.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Simon June 21, 2012 at 1:19 AM

Only thing i’d contest is that for me i’m not always looking to eliminate the placebo since the placebo is effectively the mind having an effect on the body. In that sense i’m often looking to make the placebo more effective and focused not eliminate it from the equation – ok also i’m aware of what i’m doing rather than in the traditional sense of a placebo where someone believes its a drug when its just a sugar pill. But you get my point?

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Mike Sententia June 21, 2012 at 7:23 AM

I get what you’re saying. I think it’s a question of goals.

If you want to solve a problem this one time, then add to the placebo effect. For example, a doctor ought to be confident, so the patient gets the benefit of both the treatment and the placebo effect. That’s better than giving an effective treatment, but acting so as to prevent the placebo effect from also taking hold.

But if you want to develop a technique, then work to avoid placebo, so you know that the actual technique you developed is doing the work. In particular, effective magick should have a noticeable result on someone who doesn’t know you’re doing any magick, simply because the energy signature / connections / whatever you did caused a change in the physical world.

(Whether you actually do the magick on an unknowing person is a different ethical question. The point is, if you do, effective magick should still work.)

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wsa June 21, 2012 at 8:42 AM

I’m with Simon about harnessing the placebo effect. It’s huge! Some studies say as much as 65% of all healing protocols *including surgery* and no side-effects (which actually don’t exist BTW, only *effects* exist: unwanted effects and wanted effects; but that’s a different comment.) I might actually go so far as to say it may be unethical NOT to harness the placebo effect when treating patients.

On the other hand, if you want to see if a technique works without any of the patient’s spiritual/mental self-healing abilities kicking in, then treat animals. I have learned more about my various protocols by treating animals than in any other educational program I have chosen to undergo. It’s very rewarding to relieve suffering in children and animals, although it’s also all the more frustrating and depressing when you fail.

Important Caveat: Should you choose to do this professionally, once again, you must consider your various risks. Interestingly, veterinarians usually have an even stronger lock on their practices than do MDs, so it’s necessary to explore your local state’s statutes to see what exactly would be defined as the practice of veterinary medicine so you do not find yourself in unknowing violation.

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simon June 22, 2012 at 4:36 AM

Yes- I think its a question of goals. Clearly your focus is on healing work. This field traditionally views the placebo as ‘the enemy’.

My own modest efforts, for now, is on doing ‘self change’ work- which veers more towards the psychotherapy pigeon hole. There the ‘placebo’ receives more of a welcome. which i think is telling.

For instance changing habits – mal-adapted thought patterns seems to involve using the phenomenon that underlies the placebo effect. As does Self image work (‘I am this kind of person’ etc).

In other words I see the the underlying phenomenon that the placebo illustrates as more substantial than ‘just’ the doctor appearing confident which might increase the patient’s healing a bit more. There’s something real going on there.

Of course your ‘conscious integration’ methods sound much more advanced than my efforts at self change but i’ve not been able to really grasp much about that as it seems to require a lot of knowledge of what you call ‘connections’.

i.e – I look forward to your book so I can work through your approach at some point!

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Mike Sententia June 22, 2012 at 11:09 AM

Really good points, both of you. I intellectually agree, but still feel like placebo is a dangerous tangent to learning magick. I explore that in this post:

https://magickofthought.com/2012/06/why-i-avoid-placebo/

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