Friday, August 13, 2010

Does it work? That should not be the main question.

My entire career in magic people have been telling me "Did it work or not? That is the main question."

When I questioned the efficacy of OTO initiations, people told me: "well they work. Something definitely happens".

When I question whether Scroodge McDuck is as effective a wealth god as Dzambhala, people told me: "but the ritual worked!"

When I question whether it is important to be so traditional that there is no room for creativity or improvisation people tell me: "but it worked"

That used to be the question for me, but I got over it.

See, the way that magic is, just about anything will "work". You can stick your thumb up your ass and dance on one foot while chanting for a result in pig latin and it will work. And yes, I know this from experience.

I assume that when just about anyone does magic, some magic happens. My questions are:

1. Did it meet the stated Goals?
2. How well?
3. How fast?
4. How applicable is it in most situations?
5. Can I do it anywhere?
6. Can I do it anytime?
7. Is it repeatable?
8. How strong was the result?
9. Were there any side effects?
10. Does this work for everyone or just me?
11. Do you need any particular gifts to work this?

Etc, etc.

So when people leave Chaos magic, its not because they think that Chos Magic doesnt work. Its a matter of how well it works vs other things. When people leave the OTO, its not that there is nothing happening at the initiations, its that they are not producing the results in people that is worth continuing on for, When people loosen up about tradition, its that they realize that they arent getting measurably better results using thread spun by a virgin than they were when they were using embroidery thread.

As practical magicians we need to ask ourselves tougher questions than we usually do.

13 comments:

Rufus Opus said...

The "How strong were the results" question is what keeps me pretty tightly in the "traditional" camp. There's all kinds of room for creativity and improv, you just do it within traditional guidelines. Agrippa teaches how to determine the plants that have Solar properties, for example, and you work within the framework to create your own solar talisman that has the traditional elements, but is a unique creation.

Virgin spun wool does bring measurably better results though. It works cause it works.

Mehet said...

I will state clearly I have been only studying for a few years magic. So not an expert at anything.

Tradition or not the results are the measure I would be impressed by. It is as hard to come by virgins these days as it is engraved gold sheets to place on the top of an square alter that is navel high too... from my recent reading of course. Then room to do all this in. So I am thinking my results will very, but I won't know it!

My aim is to see what arises from what I can do as compared with what others say they gained from the traditional approach (and supplies). I am of the mind that what will work best with me is found in developing experiences and an attempt to follow the recipe as it were as best and closely as I can.

What is worrisome is the virgin spun thread verses plain thread results. Will I miss necessary experience that I need? I am thinking the plain thread will work too. It will have to. Not necessarily winging it just making due with what I have as in resources and knowledge .... for now.

What should a person be looking or watching for? What is the measure?

M.

Jason Miller, said...

Now see me, it is exactly the How Strong are the results question that keeps me from falling into either the "Create something new for every event" OR the "Stick within the Tradition guidelines camp".

The art grows by pushing the boundaries of tradition. If we treat Agrippa, as truly magnificent as he was, as the pinnacle of the source that must be adhered to, I just think that results dwindle because of lack of evolving with the times.

I have seen amazing things come from groups that are going WAY outside the barriers. There is a group of magicians in Japan for instance who are all Video Game designers and are doing magic based on some of the principals of Game Design. Sounds crazy, but these cats impressed the hell out of me.

Jason Miller, said...

As for virgin spun thread... I wouldnt worry about it Mehet,

Jow said...

It's totally true. It is only natural to want to get the most for your work, and as a point of continuing tradition into the future, that has to be paired with accessability. Great post dude.

Frater EH'e, said...

Great post Jason. As usual, you break it down in a way that truly helps enlighten us all.

The Professor said...

While I almost entirely agree, I think that there's an analysis of cost to be made as well. "Quick and dirty" methods usually do produce inferior results, but sometimes that's all that's needed. If I can get half the result with 1/4 the work, then that's actually a win, even if though the result was less. That being said, there's also a big aesthetic component, and I enjoy doing/making things well.

Jason Miller, said...

@Professor:

Those are two more questions to add to the list. You do not need a bazooka to kill a fly.

We are in total agreement

Matt said...

Magic based on video game design? It's reassuring to learn that somebody out there is doing stranger stuff than me!

Dr. Raven said...

I think the difference between asking questions like "does it work" versus questions aimed at things like efficacy, repeatability etc, is that the individual has moved on from a flimsy grasp of what magick is and moved into a deeper understanding of magick. At this point they aren't wondering if something works, they are looking at the very building blocks of what goes into the rite.

Its a whole another level of thinking.

Hieronimo said...

As intelligent as everybody's comments have been no one has commented on the following. Pardon me as I have to take a pill before the laughter-induced seizure begins...

"You can stick your thumb up your ass and dance on one foot while chanting for a result in pig latin and it will work. And yes, I know this from experience."

Christopher said...

Personally I believe that the difference lies in the levels of reality/consciousness contacted via different methods.

If doing a silly ritual (such as some of the chaos magick cartoon character rites) or doing the "stick your thumb up your ass and dance on one foot while chanting for a result in pig latin" type of spontaneous magickal act you are working purely with the power of the personal subconscious mind, the power of the microcosm.

Rituals and practices that have been used over a long span of time by myriad individual practitioners, in my opinion (intuitive sense of things based on experience),tap into energy on a higher level, closer to the macrocosmic level that deals in some cases with primal archetypal forces.

Workings that tap into deeper forces than the personal subconscious mind, tapping instead into a transpersonal level of consciousness will have greater power because the energy of the macrocosm has greater level of impact than the energy of the microcosm.

Macrocosmic work can have effect whether or not you believe it. Work on the level of the microcosm requires belief because it is powered by the subconscious mind.

I think I'll talk more about this on my blog...food for thought here.

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