Learning Magick: Freedom to Play

Friday, April 16th, 2010

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My past three posts were about deliberate practice.  Setting goals, measuring progress, and focusing on technique.  Working to learning magick.

I believe all that is important.  But I also believe this: Play beats work.

Play Beats Work

I started magick to play.  Because I was curious.  To understand the energy I felt.  To understand how reality and thought are connected.

Curiosity and exploration drive me.  Without them, magick isn’t worth learning.

Never lose the joy.  If you do, you’re done.

Play beats work.

Freedom to Play

American* society is so serious.  We dedicate ourselves to hobbies the same way we dedicate ourselves to jobs.  We’re not driven by curiosity and joy, but by competitiveness and insecurity.

*Apologies to my foreign readers.  Like most Americans, I’m poorly informed about other cultures.  Mea culpa.

Learning magick requires serious study.  But not seriousness.

Some days I set goals and practice deliberately.

But some days I just wonder around.  I find a new piece of my mind, or a new layer between energy production and physical reality.  I poke at it, try try understand it enough to work with it later on.

To me, exploration is play.  Sometimes I forget to do it.  Forget enough times, and I get burned out.

Finding Balance

All exploration and no practice, and you won’t develop the skills to understand and use what you’ve explored.

But all practice and no exploration, and you’ll wind up like the mages with 20 years “experience” who’ve repeated the 4th year 16 times.

All work and no play doesn’t just make Johnny a dull boy.  It robs him of new insights, new ways to grow, and new questions to answer.  All work and no play is for automatons, not mages.

Next time you play, find the part of your mind that feels guilty.  Listen to it.  Learn where it came from*.  And then ask it if exploring for one day, to find new things to learn, is really so bad.

*For details on this, read Havi Brooks.  Her blog taught me this technique.

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Learning Magick: Focus on Technique

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

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This week is about the skill of learning magick. Read the previous posts on goals and feedback.

Today, the third part of Ericsson’s deliberate practice:

Focus on technique, not just immediate success.

I love that philosophy.  Learn the building blocks first.  Worry about outcome later.

Learning Technique = Asking Questions

I started learning direct magick with one question: When I build energy, what really happens?

Like a toddler, with each answer I repeated the question.  “What really happens?”

Eventually, I had unraveled how the body produces energy, how the mind controls it, how systems are involved, and how to use all that to perform magick.

Deriving Magick

Established styles like Golden Dawn, Enochian or Reiki come with systems: magickal structures that connect to you, read your intent and perform the magick.

Think of systems as magick computers.  You don’t need to know how the magick works.  You just need to use the right software.

Direct mages do magick, well, directly.  Without systems.  You do each step yourself, constructing your own effects from what you understand of magick.

Using a system only teaches you about that system’s commands.  Learning how that system works, and how to do it yourself, requires the un-mediated, direct experience of magick.

Exponential Learning

Creating your first useful effect requires a broad understanding of magick.

For example, energy healing requires recognizing energy states, altering the body’s energy, and changing energy signatures from magickal domain to physical domain.  Miss a piece and you’ll spend a lot of effort forcing the other pieces to compensate.

Once you have the broad understanding to create one useful effect, creating another is easy.  Eventually, you can use magick to improve your ability to do magick.  It’s an exponential learning curve.

Exponential Curve


I started practicing magick as a kid.  It took a decade to learn any useful effects.  It takes most adult mages 2-3 years.

I didn’t think about useful effects, though.  I was just curious about how reality worked.  So I asked questions and figured out the answers.

These days, I love the tactile experience of doing magick.  I want to see the magick work, understand all the steps, and explore new pieces every day.  You don’t get that doing magick with systems.

Focus on technique.  Not immediate success.  That’s the recipe for learning direct magick.

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Learning Magick: Feedback and Honesty

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

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Anders Ericsson researches “acquiring expert performance.” The secret? Deliberate practice. Here’s his recipe:

  • Set measurable goals
  • Get immediate feedback
  • Focus on technique, not just immediate successes

This week is about the skills involved in learning magick.  Yesterday was Goals, Paths and Detours.  Today is feedback.

Get Immediate Feedback = Be Honest

In magick, there’s no coach telling you if an effect worked, no test at the end of the semester. There’s just you, teaching yourself magick.

It’s easy to lie.  Counting as a success a healing session where you feel a little better afterward, or an intuition that you could have guessed.  It feels good.

But fake successes will hold you back.

A friend in high school claimed to use magick to make his car get better gas mileage.  He said the needle seemed to go down less, but never measured his miles.

Another said she could make red lights turn green. It sometimes didn’t work the first time. But then she’d wait 30 seconds and tried again. It always worked after a few tries.

Neither became good at magick.

Avoid spells for luck that don’t specify a timeframe or outcome.  Avoid healing techniques that only result in recovering 5% faster than normal.  Make your goals concrete, even if they’re less cool that what you wish you were doing, and be honest about what works.

Like everything else, honesty gets easier with practice.

Freedom to Fail

Failing sucks.  Failing makes honesty hard.

But really, failing is good.  It means you’re pushing yourself.

It’s the self-doubt that comes from failing that sucks.  Punishing yourself because you learned somewhere that good people don’t fail.  Or because you’re keeping score on magick, trying silence the magick atheists in your life.

Once you figure out why you’re punishing yourself, you can begin to heal.

My parents are magick atheists. They don’t think magick is evil, just that it’s silly.  For a long time, I absorbed their reflexive doubts into my thoughts.  Every week I’d have to re-convince myself I was doing something worthwhile.

The only thing to do with atheists is let them go.  Avoid the subject.  Avoid the person.  You’ll find your own confidence long before you can demonstrate the kind of magick that will convince someone determined to doubt.

Next time a failure gets to you, write your stream of consciousness.  Read it a few days later.  Figure out why you’re punishing yourself.  And do whatever it takes to stop.

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Learning Magick: Goals, Paths and Detours

Monday, April 12th, 2010

You found my old blog. Thanks for visiting! For my new writing, visit mikesententia.com.

Of everything I’ve taught myself, magick is the most complicated.  It takes a deep understanding that’s hard to fake.  You can’t watch a video or get an example online.

Learning magick is a skill.  There’s no one recipe to exploring how reality interacts with your thoughts.  It takes experience to learn how to learn magick.

This week is about improving your skill of learning magick.  I’ll have specific things for beginners, energy healers, psychics and ritual mages to learn, too.  It’ll probably take more than a week to cover everything.

Today: Goals, paths and detours.

Good Long-Term Goals

Good goals create paths.  Paths give you the context to measure your progress.  Without a goal and a path, it’s hard to inspire yourself with small victories.

Paths should be short enough to manage in your head.  You need to intuitively understand your path to gauge your progress.

Close goals create good paths.  Your current abilities plus a little more.  The path should be obvious and easy to revise.

“Obvious and easy to revise” will change as you get more experience making paths.  A few weeks to a few months feels good for me.

Concrete goals also create good paths.  Don’t try to “be more lucky”.  Try to “make money with roulette,” or “get a warning when I’m about to say the wrong thing.”  Concrete goals create specific, unique paths.

If you have vague goals, daydream.  See what you’ll do with the ability.  Those specific actions are your real goals.

Take Detours Often

No one person can make a cup of coffee.  It takes bean growers and roasters, someone to make a stove and coffee pot, a potter to make a mug, and so on.

Magick is much more complicated than coffee, and we don’t have the means to specialize.  You have to understand everything.

Understanding everything requires detours.

You still need goals and paths.  Those drive you forward.  But your first path will never take you to your goal.  The real skill of paths is knowing when to abandon them.

Recently, I was learning communication.  I had the basic technique, and I had the right magickal structures set up, but it just wasn’t working.  I’d also had “Learn to use smaller signatures” on my list for a while.  It took me a few weeks to try it, but using smaller signatures was the key.  It let me pull thoughts from my brain precisely enough for someone else to read them.

Before that, a few mages were able to locate me much more easily than I wanted.  I improved every shield I knew, but it didn’t work.  Then a friend taught me more about physical effects, and me how to use the connections for physical effects to access a person shielding.  My shielding worked once I also protected those physical effect connections.

As you explore, some things won’t make sense. Trust that. Pause the big goal, spend a day exploring the question.  Sometimes the new understanding will create a new path.

It takes experience to recognize good detours.  I’m not an expert yet.  I don’t know anyone that is.  But it’s a valuable skill.  And the only way to get better is to practice.

If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at mikesententia.com.