Pagan Studies

Experiment with your magical practice by learning how to apply art, pop culture, neuroscience, psychology, and other disciplines to your magical work, as well as exploring fundamental underlying principles of what makes magic work. You'll never look at magic in the same way!

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Doing the Work is where Learning Occurs

In the Process of Magic class, one of the expectations I lay out there is that people taking the class will ideally do daily work. I feel that daily work is an essential part of magical practice, and not something which can be ignored if you are really serious about studying magic. However daily work is only part of the equation. Another part is making sure that the core skills of magical practice are developed. You need to build a foundation that supports the magical work you do. This means spending some time learning those core skills, which may not be glamorous, but nonetheless are important because of how such practices provide the necessary experience to handle more advanced work.

Still the question that may arise is this: Is it is possible to make magic more accessible, to teach it in a way that makes it possible for anyone to pick it up? The answer to that question is both yes and no. It's yes, in the sense that it is possible to write about magic in a way that strips away the esotericism and focuses on the technique, but it's no in the sense that unless the person is actually willing to do the work, willing to apply what is read into actual, experiential practice, it is very hard for a person to get a lot of meaning out of magic. The student must do the work. Without doing the work the magic is just a concept, and the student is just an armchair magician. In the process of magic, one of my goals was to explore the fundamental process of magic by examining how techniques work. I feel that if you can help someone understand how a technique works, understand the principles that inform the actions, then what you do is make magic not only more accessible, but you also show a person how to personalize magic.

The personalization of magic is where you begin to see the more advanced aspects of magic come through. With personalization, the practitioner demonstrates an understanding of a given technique and more importantly adapts that technique to their needs. The adaptation of the technique brings its own experiences with it that further educate the magician. You can learn a technique, but it doesn't really become your technique until you adapt it through your understanding of it and your need for it in your life.

The challenge for any teacher of magic isn't just making the material accessible, but also challenging the student to actually do something with the material. Reading about magic simply isn't enough. As Yoda wisely points out, "Do or do not. There is no Try." You either do it or you don't do it. You can do it badly and learn from it, or not do it all and never really get it. To get people to do something involves devising exercises, but even then you have no guarantee that someone will do the exercises, unless you are working with them directly.

With the Process of Magic class, I've gradually refined the class. While the lessons are fundamentally the same as they were when I wrote them, I've included teleconferences because I realized that just reading the content and doing the exercises wasn't enough to really provide the necessary help that a student might need. When you teach any subject, you have to maintain a balance between holding the hand of the student overly much and just sending the student off on their own to figure it out. You want to be available to provide enough guidance for anyone who wants it, but also provide enough space for the student to actually try something out and learn from the experience. I suppose this also reflects my philosophy of teaching, which is that a teacher is ultimately a facilitator, helping the student where needed, answering questions, but also trusting the student to recognize something essential to the learning process: The student is ultimately the best teacher for the student. The teacher is a guide, a mentor perhaps, but if s/he is a good teacher, then at some point s/he steps away and lets the student fly.

I write my books with the same philosophy in mind. I'll provide ideas, exercises and guidance, but in the end I trust that the readers will teach themselves. They'll read the material, engage it or not, and then derive their own understanding of the material based on the experiences they have using it and integrating it into their spiritual practices. My goal as a teacher and author is to make sure that what I write makes sense to reader, but I also recognize I have limited control over how the reader engages or even understands the material. The writing needs a reader and the act of reading brings with it the subjective biases and interpretations of the reader. Add in the experiences that necessarily must come about and what we come away with is this understanding: The reader/student must do the work. It's not enough to read...it's not enough to discuss or hypothesize. You've got to do the work. When you do the work, what is read and studied becomes an experience and that experience is where you learn magic.

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Taylor Ellwood is the author of Pop Culture Magick, Space/Time Magic, Magical Identity and a number of other occult books. He posts about his latest projects at Magical Experiments. He is also the managing non-fiction editor of Immanion Press. Taylor lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and two kids, as well as 7 cats.

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