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Is Intention Everything?
When I progressed on my journey into magick, I had several teachers who said something similar to “intention is everything.” For the longest time I agreed and, on some level, I still do. Though perhaps not in the way I once did.
I do believe in the power of intention, of aligning your will with the will of the universe to manifest your magick. Without intention, you magick doesn't seem to work, either in terms of tangible results or the more nebulous, but arguably more important, self development that can come from it. On any of the magickal paths, will is a requirement. In fact, when teaching about the basics of a spell, I teach that you must have three things: Clear Intention, Strength of Will, and a Method to Direct the Energy of the Spell. Will without clarity usually ends up backfiring, intention with no desire behind it is lackluster at best, and you can have both, but if you cannot direct the energy into the proper channels, through ritual technique and/or real world action, you will still lack results. You can even cause harm.
While many teach magick as the option of last resort, I learned it as the first, as setting the intention before any endeavor. The more long-term your intention, the more time the universe has in gently bending its motions to your plans, rather than working solely on the material plane without any energetic preparation, getting frustrated when it didn't work, and then resorting to last minute spellcraft. For example, I find a long-term weather spell, say casting in March for a moderate, sunny day in July, not too hot, yet clear and dry, much easier and more gentle than seeing the forecast for rain and pouring a lot of juju into shifting it within three days, or even three hours, as some do.
I think my evolving hesitancy to teach “Intention is Everything” is observation over the years of friends, peers and students who use that as an excuse to lack in technique. As long as I have the proper intention, all is well. I do believe that Clear Intention, Step 1, trumps all, because it is the building block, but you need more than that to be successful.
I can have the intention to shoot the basketball into the net from center court, but I really suck at basketball, so it's not likely it’s going in with just my intention. I never practice. I have no real natural skill. It’s just not my thing, even if I had the intention. If I had the will to do it, I would probably practice or play on a team in order to get better.
Likewise, I have the intention of playing a Mozart piece well, but I just got a piano and haven't played in many years. Just having the intention doesn't work. I need to practice more. I'm rusty.
I can have the intention of a clean environment, but if I don't educate myself on how I can contribute to that in a meaningful way, and act upon that education, and instead don't recycle, renew, or make my home energy efficient, then my intention won't result in anything.
Too real world for you? Are you thinking, well, yes that how talents and skills work, but not magick! But isn't magick a skill to be learned and practiced? Is not magick described not only as a science, but an art? Don't all artists, no matter their natural talent, also practice, be it graphic, writing, music, or dance based art?
Modern healing is a wonderful example. Many people send all sorts of energy, all sorts of ways, without being in tune with the recipient, without an awareness of what others are doing energetically, and without a system of safeguards to protect them and the recipient when they are not. Some very popular systems of healing, such as Reiki, have those safeguards built-in it, but you must be an initiate of the system, and actually be using the techniques of Reiki. Many simply call what they have intuitively created “Reiki” because its a safe and easy word, but their methods lack the safeguards of traditional Reiki. Many other systems do not have specific safeguards. Older occult traditions of healing made the default assumption that you (or your coven/lodge collectively) were the only ones doing magickal operations for healing. They didn't count on multiple Facebook and Twitter requests for “energy.”
Practitioners, myself included, adapted and changed the system of Reiki, but many adapt without basic metaphysical principles or occult knowledge, with the idea that intention is everything and principles don't matter. Nothing can go wrong. Yet they are using techniques that are not Reiki based, and often lack the safeguards. Reiki is based on flow and surrender, so when you use it in a very active way, you might no longer be doing Reiki. I've known a number of people to get worse, and not just simply enter a healing crisis, before they recover, due to the wide range of techniques, practitioners, and healing being “sent” their way. Some are actually feeding the illness, rather than the patient! Even if all the techniques are sound, having too many divergent techniques without safeguards going on at once would be like having ten surgeons trying to operate at the same time, without an awareness of what the others are doing. Many occultists never publicize illness or put on a mass call for energy unless they have a strategy, as they have seen both healing and harming effects of such sendings. I know when my own mother was very ill, we did a spell to guide all the healing being directed by her higher will and her own guides, for her highest and deepest healing good.
Healing is a skill. Some people are naturally better at it. Some are better educated and practiced at it. While I think everyone can do it, not everyone is great at it. Like car repair, if you don't know what you are doing and get too deep into it, you can cause some harm. Intention without proper technique, even if that technique is simply aligning with Higher Will and programming a safeguard, won't help you. Early on in my practice, the intention of everything, including every magickal thing, being “for the highest good, harming none involved” was imprinted upon me. Yet there are a lot of times in real life I might cause harm, even unintentionally, so why wouldn't that hold true in magick? The best of intentions can fail us, even when we try to imprint these programs upon our psyche. Can they help? Certainly. Are they foolproof? No.
A group I belong to did an outdoor ritual, in New Hampshire, in the evening, not far from some swamp water. The mosquitoes were out in droves. My intention, which I've used quite a bit over the years, is a protection shield to protect me from all harm on any level. Yet I am still bitten by mosquitoes. It seems to work with most other things. My intention was not enough, though at times I am not bothered by insects when others are. Was it simply critical mass? Do creatures of nature with no malice have free reign to pass through magickal barriers? Or are there certain circumstances, certain mechanisms of biology, chemistry, and physics— like a hungry mosquito—that generally trump our intentions, no matter how strong our intentions might be? Real world follow up, my will and method of directing energy might have been some Deep Woods OFF, as the natural repellent, which was used by the group also seemed to fail.
Next month, same group with an intention to do work outdoors again, planned better. Better repellant for those who needed it. Citronella torches by our host. Started earlier so we would not be in the peak wave of mosquitoes. And it appeared that no one was bit or, if so, not so much to mention it to the group. The group leader for that month, after many complaints for the previous month, also held the intention starting a month prior, for an easier night with the bugs.
Magick in the Witchcraft traditions is to bend and shape, both the universe and the self. We learn to flow with what is already happening and work with it, not fight against it. Intention must be allied with this flow, and the proven practices of the past, along with the effective innovations of the present in terms of technique, will guide us. We must learn to prepare ourselves beyond intention, and wield this important tool, this force, with our will, common sense, technique, and discipline to forge our future.
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