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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The Difference between Concept and Experience

One of the issues that I notice comes up a lot in the writing I see on magic is that the conceptual aspects of magic tend to be emphasized over the experiential aspects of magic. Now part of the reason for this simple could be due to the fact that writing about a topic inevitably moves that topic toward concept. However when we leave out the experiential aspects of a practice, the concept itself is diminished because what it presents is the theory without the grounding of practice. Experience necessarily grounds concept and provides the context to turn a given concept into a reality. It's important then to make a distinction between concept and experience, in order to make sure we're utilizing both in our spiritual practices.

A concept is not, in and of itself, a theory, so much as it is an idea. A concept only becomes a theory when we bring it into an experiential level. A concept attempts to describe how something ought to work as well as what the various variables are that effect the concept. A lot of the writing we see on magic is concept focused because the writer is trying to share how something ought to work with the reader, as well as providing the necessary background information that informs the concept.

An experience is the actual application of the concept. It is the instructions that provide you information on what to do, how to do it, etc. Obviously until you choose to follow those instructions, nothing happens. But once you perform the practice, then the instructions help to provide an experience. As a reader, you can modify those instructions, which can be helpful, both for personalizing your magical practice and for discovering discrepancies between the practical instructions and the conceptual explanations.

We can talk about concepts until we are blue in the face, but I find that the most productive discussion occurs around experiences. In my books, I build in exercises, because I feel that until the reader has tried out what I'm conceptually discussing, it only exists in the realm of thought. Once the reader has done the exercises, then they have brought the concept into an experience that informs their own awareness and understanding of the concept. They may come away with a completely different understanding of the concept after they've turned it into an experience, because the experience moves them past just thinking about it, and instead asks them to engage it as a meaningful activity relative to how they live their lives.

This distinction between concept and experience can't be emphasized enough because magic doesn't become real until you actually do something with it. Until then it is all in your head, but once you apply a concept to a practice, you experience it and the magic becomes lived, part of your life that changes not just your consciousness, but the way you relate to the world, both overtly and subtly. Experience is what makes a concept into something meaningful, allows it to become a theory and practice that can be shared with others and used to manifest change in your life, and in the spiritual communion you have with your inner contacts and the universe.

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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.


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