Experimental Magic: The Evolution of Magic

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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How to experiment with magic

I've experimented with magic from almost the beginning of my magical practice. When I've tried techniques that other people have developed, I've always had one question in the back of my mind: How can I improve on this technique? Even with my own techniques, I am always interested in experimenting with them and improving on how the process of magic works. I thought it might be interesting to share on here how I experiment with magic and how you can, in turn, also experiment with magic.

 

The key to experimenting with magic, and really to understanding how magic works in general starts with process. Magic is a process. Indeed, it's fair to say that any activity, magical or otherwise, has a process which describes how that activity can be done. However what's most important about any given process is that it can be changed. A process describes how something is done, what steps are taken to do it, and what components are needed to do the activity. It also describes the principle underlying dynamics that inform why the process works. All of this information can be used to tweak or change a technique, provided you understand how the technique works. And knowing all of the aforementioned information is quite helpful toward understanding how the technique works.

Ultimate understanding of a technique only occurs when you've actually done the technique and experienced the results, and to really achieve that understanding involves multiple repetitions of the technique, done in order to fully grasp and understand how it works. For example, when I first started practicing magic, I diligently worked with a specific technique, learning and practicing it daily for months before I'd experiment with it. Even to this day, I still take a fair amount of time and practice to really learn and understand a technique before I start to experiment with it. I want to have a solid foundation so that when I do experiment with it, I can compare my changes to the process with the original process.

Once you have a solid understanding of the process of a given technique, then you can experiment with it. There are a few factors to consider when experimenting with a given technique, which when taken into consideration, can make your experiments more efficacious.

The first factor is what underlying principles (rules) are you drawing on when you do a technique? For example, with the technique of Invocation, you are dealing with the principles of association, resonance, naming and defining, to name a few. Each of these principles needs to be considered, in whatever experimentation you are going to do with the technique of invocation. When I developed a technique of invocation where I invoke myself into an entity/person I used the principle of naming/defining and the principle of resonance as part of the experiment.

The second factor to consider is what are the components of a given magical technique. You'll find that the components are probably the most optional part of a given technique. I tend to think of them as the window dressings of a magical working. Nonetheless some components may be essential to a magical working. For example if you are working with a plant spirit, working with the actual plant will be more effective than just visualizing it. At the same time you may find that you don't need the ceremonial robe, sword, staff, etc. After all they are just tools that symbolically represent the actual forces you are working with. If you know those forces, you'll be able to draw on them without the tools.

The third factor to consider is the actual steps of the magical technique. What steps/actions will you take? Which ones can you change and how will you change them? With the invocation technique, what I changed was the activity of the invocation. Instead of invoking something or someone into myself, I invoked myself into something or someone. I used the same principles of magic, but explored the possibility that a person could invoke him/herself into something else, drawing on the idea that if invocation is about connection, then the connection can go both ways.

The final factor to consider is yourself. You are the one constant in any process of magic, and yet to fully take advantage of that you need to know yourself as well as what you truly want. When I experiment with magic, I am doing it for specific purposes, to achieve specific ends, as well as to refine what I do with the magical work. Understanding your motivations and what drives you will help you factor that into your magical work and use it as potent tool.

When experimenting with magic, take your time and test the technique multiple times until you are satisfied with it. Don't hesitate to make changes, if you think those changes will better serve your efforts. Keep a record of what you do and make sure you understand the changes you've made to the technique. Don't share it until you feel you understand it. Then share it and see if other people get similar results. A group of people may find ways to to improve on your experiment, so keep yourself open-minded to what they share with you. And most importantly...have fun. Experimentation is an opportunity to test yourself and your understanding of 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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