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 Recognize I can't in your Magical work

Sometimes what I find most fascinating about magic is what limitations people build into it. In other words, a person will say to themselves, I can't do this in magical work. They'll have various reasons for that " I can't" which can range from moral/ethical reasons, spiritual "laws" or personal hang-ups that tell them they can't do x because of y. I do believe in the value of limits, and I think limitation, as a principle can be very effective for magical work, but when I talk about limitation I'm not referring to the "I can'ts" which are ultimately subjective, but rather to natural principles that structure, organize, and scaffold how magic can work. And its important remember that such limitations can be worked with quite productively, provided we understand them. The "I can'ts" on the other hand are wholly subjective, developed for various reasons that tend to be more harmful than useful in most situations.

When I was young, I was often told what I couldn't do. I'd tell a family members one of my ideas and be told it would never work and that I couldn't do it. Fortunately I never believed them, and if anything when I heard such discouragement, it encouraged me to prove them wrong. It's fair to say that up until my mid twenties most of what I did was inspired by a desire to prove people wrong, to prove that what I couldn't supposedly do, actually could be done. Even to this day, I still find that when someone says that something can't be done, it gets me curious to see if in fact they are correct, or if it can be done. 100% of the time I find it (whatever it is) can be done provided you have enough motivation and willingness to experiment and try various possible solutions. What this indicates to me is that many times the only limitation people deal with is the one they impose on themselves or accept from other people.

So how do you recognize I can't in your magical work or your life? You recognize it when you refuse to try doing something. You recognize it when you tell yourself that x will never work. You recognize it when you give up and believe what other people tell you about what you're trying to do. So hat is the solution to these "I can'ts"? The solution is simple. Recognize and reject these "I can'ts" Use them to motivate you to do what you need to do instead of accepting that you can't do it. If you believe you can't do something, you'll always stop yourself from doing it, but if you believe you can do it, you'll keep trying until you find a way to do it. It may not happen right away, but you won't stop yourself because you'll know that you can do it.

I can'ts are different from limitations, because a limitation doesn't stop you from doing something so much as it provides you specific criteria that will effect what you can do. That criteria can be worked with and limitations can be overcome or changed. For example, consider flying. Human beings can't fly on their own power. Our physiology is limited in that capacity. Nonetheless humans have found ways to fly. They have worked with the limitations provided and yet discovered a way to change the parameters. The original limitations are still in place, but the parameters have changed and so now we can fly. The ultimate reason for that is because people didn't accept the argument that you can't fly. They accepted that there were limitations, but they used those limitations to challenge their thinking and find a solution.

What are you telling yourself you can't do in your life? Why are you telling yourself that? What's really stopping you from doing it? What can you do to work with what you've got and find a solution? And as this applies to magic, Why can't you do that in magic?

When you tell yourself what you can't do you create a self-fulfilling prophecy. One of the reasons so many people come to magic is they want a sense of control and empowerment and they feel magic can give them that...which makes the notion of what you can't do a form of sabotage to that empowerment. If Magic is to be effective we necessarily must be willing to challenge our own "I can'ts". If you tell yourself you can't manifest something, then its time to lay down the challenge and actually confront that I can't by doing the magical work and testing what you think of as an absolute. What you'll discover is there are no absolutes that aren't made absolute by a person's belief in them. Test that belief to discover if you really can't or if you've just told yourself you can't because you were told you couldn't.

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Taylor Ellwood is the author of Pop Culture Magic Systems, Space/Time Magic, Magical Identity and a number of other occult books. He posts about his latest projects at Magical Experiments.


  • donna
    donna Monday, 22 September 2014

    This is really good. I do get caught up in the "I cant's" that I've worked on for years. I have to remind myself that I do have the power. It's amazing how much negative feedback can still stay glued to our egos even after years of work.

  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood Monday, 22 September 2014

    Thank you Donna. I think it really is important to operate from a place of thinking big instead of thinking in negatives. The people who think in negatives create self-fulfilling prophecies sometimes, if that's all they think in.

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