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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The never ending process of Internal Work

A lot of the magical work I do and have been doing for the last ten years is focused on internal work. Internal work is a combination of inner alchemical techniques, energy work, meditation, ritual magic, and psychology. The focus of internal work can vary, based on the particular purposes you apply it to. For example, internal work can be used to help you develop a better understanding of your body, or can be used to refine your internal energy, while also releasing emotional and mental blockages (also known as dysfunctional behaviors). Internal work can also be used to deepen your connection to the spirit world, or it can be used to cultivate your creative resources. Ultimately, the purpose of internal work can be boiled down to it being used as a catalyst for change.

I use internal work for all of the above purposes and have been doing internal work for ten years, as I mentioned above. I woke up, one day in March, in 2004, with the realization that if I didn't change my life I'd end up in a bad situation. I'd been living my life reactively and I suppose I had a glimmer of realization about that reactivity, which consequently led me to start doing internal work. I realized I didn't want to live a reactive life, constantly responding to what came into my life. When you live life in that way, you live in a chaotic environment, with little control over yourself, let alone anything else, because you are letting what happens to you dictate your life and the choices you make in life. You are living a life of reaction instead of a life by design.

Internal work is a catalyst for change, which allows you to develop a life by design instead of a life by reaction. However this is not an instantaneous process, and it requires you to make a very hard choice. You need to be willing to face your traumas, dysfunctions, issues, etc., and work through them so that you can decondition them. And that's just the start of your journey into internal work. Once you've done that work and broken down the various reactions, issues, and emotions that support all of the above, then you start to plan by design.

Planning by design is really about figuring out what you really want from life. In my experience and opinion, you can't be an effective magician until you know what you want. Sure you might be able to sling some magic around and solve some problems with it, but you're still reacting at that point. Planning by design asks you to understand what calls you in this life, and also asks where magic as both a spiritual and practical practice fits into the manifestation of what calls you. Define what calls you and then build your life around it, defining what and who you need to help you accomplish that calling. When you figure all that out, then you start taking action to make changes happen in your life.

However even this work of planning your life by design isn't the final aspect of internal work. Rather it's just the foundation which supports the even greater work that needs to be done, which is not merely using magic to benefit yourself or to change your life, but also to figure out how you will contribute to society as a whole. Internal work, consequently brings with it a greater awareness of your life in context to other lives, human and otherwise, and challenges you to examine the effect you have on those lives as well as what effect you could have, if you so chose. 

And even after all that the work doesn't end. The work never ends, because internal work is an ongoing process. Really that's what it should be, because internal work demands a commitment from you that recognizes that change stop doesn't stop until your life ends (and even then change doesn't stop). There will always be reactions to deal with because you can't control everything in life, but you'll learn how to plan those reactions by design. There will always be issues to work through, blockages to dissolve, and connections to be made. And the more you pursue your calling, the more you will feel it transform your life, and that transformation will bring with it many changes from who you have in your life to what you are doing and why you are doing it. Internal work is really an understanding of magic that acknowledges that magic starts from within. It starts from you, your beliefs, values, issues, etc., and to really employ magic means you need to know yourself so that instead of working magic from a place of reaction, you work it from a place of design, for yourself, as well as for what calls you.

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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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