Process of magic Tag - PaganSquare - Join the conversation! Mon, 22 May 2017 12:39:55 -0700 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb How process and creativity work together in magical work

One of the reasons I apply process to my magical work is because with good processes in place, it makes easier to innovate and experiment with magic. I learned that in the business world and I've applied to my spiritual practices over the years to great success. You can actually learn a lot by taking the practice of one discipline and applying it to another discipline. In business, processes are used to solve problems, design and implement solutions, and to encourage creativity. Process encourages creativity by cutting out extraneous busy work, to focus on what really works, but in order to discover what works you necessarily need to work the process.

A lot of times creativity is treated as a chaotic experience, which occurs when a person is inspired. But in my experience, creativity is quite structured. Process provides the necessary structure for creativity to flourish in. Whether I'm writing, painting, or practicing magic, having a process in place allows me to work with my creativity as a resource. I'm not just waiting for inspiration to hit me...I'm actively cultivating it as part of my process.

When you think of process, you might think of it as a linear series of steps, but process is much more than just that. Process is a non-linear way of thinking. Process examines the variables in a given situation and looks at what is needed to bring everything together in order to do whatever you are going to do. It doesn't always move in one direction or lead to one result.

When I experiment with magic, I use process to provide a baseline I can work with. I know that there are fundamental principles of magic and I account for those in my process. Anything else can be applied as part of the process that works with those principles to achieve specific outcomes. Let's take the act of invocation as an example.

The process of invocation works with the principle of connection. You are invoking an entity for the purposes of communion, connection, communication, possession, etc., and all of it boils down to connection. Now what you'll do as a result of the invocation may differ from person to person, but the principle is the same regardless of what technique you are using. That's where process comes into play and along with it creativity.

Your technique needs to employ the principle of connection, but other than that, its up to you. You can go with something classic and true for your invocation, or you can get creative, based on whatever will help you employ that principle most effectively. If, for example, you are invoking a deity, you might try to create a specific costume that embodies that deity. You might also research the culture and then use culture specific items, food, etc., as part of the process of invoking the deity. If you are invoking a person, you might draw on what you know about the person, pictures, style, favorite food etc. The point here is that this process of invocation is customizable based on what you are invoking, and whatever you want to bring to the process. What stays the same is the principle being drawn upon, but beyond keeping that principle in mind, the process you work with can be as creative as needed. The reason is because the principle provides the foundation for the process to occur. What fleshes out the process is your creative approach to manifesting that process as a reality. 

I recommend getting creative in your magical work because it will help you learn magic in a way that goes beyond anything you read or learn from anyone else. When you get creative with your magical work, you make it your own, and you understand how it works in a much more intimate way than you'd ever encounter otherwise. To really know your spiritual practice is to make it your own, to learn the fundamentals and then get creative and personalize what you do.

Read more]]> (Taylor Ellwood) Studies Blogs Wed, 25 Mar 2015 19:31:26 -0700
How the Death Gate Cycle inspired my Process approach to Magic I've just finished re-reading the Deathgate Cycle, a 7 book series published in the early 1990's and one of my favorite fantasy series. One of the reasons I like the series so much is the appendices, which the authors created to explain various aspects of the series, including how the magic in the series works. Although neither author is a magician, so far as I know, the detailed explanations they share provide a lot of insight into not the magic of their series, but magical work in general. For example, one of the concepts they talk about is the importance of definition in magic, and how definition shapes the raw possibilities into something that a person can understand apply to the world around him/herself.

I read the Deathgate cycle when it first came out, before I started practicing magic. It's fair to say that reading those appendices certainly had an effect on how I thought about magic, once I started to practice it in earnest. The concepts presented provided a way to understand magic that made sense to me, because what was presented was a very methodical approach to magic that made sense. That I would find some similar approaches in actual books on magic only confirmed to me the value of looking outside of strictly magical texts to find inspiration in my magical work.

This 7 book series inspired my process approach in several different ways. First, it taught me to think of magic in terms of possibilities. I came to recognize that the results I was seeking in magic were essentially possibilities I was bringing into reality, using magic as the means to do so. By understanding this about magic, it helped me understand that the work I did would always, to one degree or another, be situated in possibility. Second, what it taught me is how important it is to define what you are doing. While my understanding of the principle of definition would really come into focus much later as a result of reading Defining Reality, its fair to say that the Death Gate Cycle illustrated how important defining your process is. The appendices in the book presented a clear, defined, explanation of how the magic in that series worked, and when I applied that approach to my magical work, I found that it helped me put everything into the right context, because I defined what I was doing and used the definition to fully explore the actual work being done in a way that could help me take apart any magical working in order to learn what was actually happening, and then put it back together with my own personalizations, designed to make the working more effective.

Finding inspiration for magical work in the appendices of a fantasy series might seem ridiculous, but if you can find effective explanations and expressions of magic and implement them, then it doesn't matter what the source is. What matters is that your magic works, and that you understand how it works. When you have that kind of understanding you are able to see the process of your work for what it is and change it as needed. That's what I learned from reading those appendices and every time I reread that series what it shows me is how important it is to keep myself open to non-traditional resources to continue inspiring my magical work.

What are the non-traditional sources that inspire your magical work?

Read more]]> (Taylor Ellwood) Studies Blogs Fri, 05 Dec 2014 17:33:33 -0800
Why I write about my mistakes I've noticed that the majority of books on magic and indeed even the online writing I come across is mysteriously devoid of the mistakes practitioners make when practicing magic. I'll admit I find this to be puzzling and less than useful for purposes of magical work, because in only presenting the successes a person has had with magic, what is missed out on is the process of trial and error, the refinement of technique and the recognition of the opportunity to learn. In both my books and blog articles, I share my mistakes in magical work because I find it useful to keep a record of what hasn't worked, as much for myself, as for the reader. A record of my mistakes helps me keep track of what hasn't worked, so that I can work on such processes further. It helps the reader see the process of evolution that a given technique undergoes as well see where mistakes were made. It also teaches the reader that mistakes are a natural part of the magical process and should be embraced as opportunities for learning.

No matter how skilled you are, inevitably you'll make a mistake. It's important to recognize the mistake and acknowledge it. This may be hard to do, especially if it brings up hard questions for you such as wondering if magic really works, but asking those questions are important and when you hit that moment of doubt, it actually is an indicator that your approach to magic is starting to deepen. A mistake challenges us to be honest with ourselves about our magical work and its relative meanings in our lives. If we only ever have success we don't really know what we can be capable of, because that success limits us from discovering what we really need to improve on.

When I make a mistake in my magical work I use the mistake to look at my magical process and determine what actually went wrong. Sometimes what went wrong was a failure on my part to account for an internal value or belief that conflicted with the desired result. Self sabotage occurs as a result, when such a conflict occurs, because if some part of you is against what you are trying to do, then that part will find a way to sabotage your work. Sometimes what went wrong is a failure to account for an external variable that effected the magical working. We won't always be able to account for every variable that could effect the working, and so if such a variable enters into the equation its worth noting what it is and planning for it the next time you do a magical working. Sometimes the entire process just doesn't work and you need to look at what you are doing and figure out how you aren't utilizing the principles of magic effectively. It may be that you haven't adequately understood what you were trying to do or how the magic should work and that lack of understanding can create mistakes because you're not fully understanding what you are trying to do.

Whatever the reason for the mistake, embrace the mistake for the opportunity it is. It is an opportunity to learn about your magical work, to learn about your process of magic and how you conceptually and practically connect to the world around you. If you can embrace your mistake in that way, you will learn a lot about magic and yourself and become a better person and magician for doing so.

Read more]]> (Taylor Ellwood) Studies Blogs Thu, 23 Oct 2014 10:10:04 -0700
How I've learned to let Magic Move Me A while back on Pagansquare I wrote several articles about my work with elemental magic (you can find them here and here). I'm currently in a process of transition from the element of movement to the element of stillness. I've been working with movement for almost two years and will fully switch over on the 2nd year anniversary of my work to stillness. However, even before that date, the transition is beginning. Elements of Stillness have been showing up in my work for a good part of this year and are becoming much prevalent in the time leading up to the change.

When I first started the elemental balancing ritual, I chose the element. The very first year, I chose Water because I knew I needed to get in touch with my emotions and water represented that to me. The next year I chose Sound because I needed to work on connecting with people. The third year I chose Earth because I wanted to ground myself where I was living. After that though, the elements started choosing me. Or rather incidents occurred in my life that spoke for the need to work with a specific element to help me find balance. In the Earth year, the element that came up was Love. I'd made some bad choices in handling relationships and it became clear to me that I needed to work on love and what that meant to me. In the middle of the love year, I had an experience that demonstrated to me that I needed to work with Emptiness as an element. And so on and so forth.

What I've discovered is that anywhere from 6 to 4 months before I transition to a new element, the element I need to work with makes itself known to me. Events in my life line up to reveal what I need to work with. The working has taken over the process of choosing the element, and as a result has become a meta magical working. What this means is that the magic has evolved to a point where it's directing the process and providing the needed experiences in order to make sure the right elements are worked with. I find this to be quite fascinating and helpful in terms of the direction my spiritual work should take, in the sense that I'm letting the spiritual work set up the necessary changes that need to occur, trusting the process to help me work through whatever needs to be worked with and at the same time putting my all into the work to grow as a person and a magician.

In my experience, magic isn't something that should just be done to change the world around you. It's something that should move and change you. And as such to really work with magic, the magician must be open to letting the process of magic take over and play a role in scripting what the magician experiences. In Western culture, many people like to buy into the belief that they have control over their lives, but a careful examination shows that while we may have some control of our choices, we live in a dynamic environment that shapes us just as much as we shape it (if not moreso). Being open to this realization can be helpful because it allows us to recognize opportunities for growth as well as opportunities to connect more meaningfully with the powers we work with. We choose not to limit our understanding of our connection to what were working with, choose not to limit it or categorize it, but instead embrace it and open ourselves to being moved.

In my elemental work, what this means is that I recognize that I'm going to have experiences I couldn't anticipate beforehand and instead of trying to categorize those experiences, I'm going to accept and work with them and be open what they reveal to me, instead of trying to analyze them to death. This applies both to working with the current element and whatever element I transition to. By opening myself to the elemental energy or spiritual force I'm working with, it sets up the experiences I need to have in order to really learn from the element and balance my life in the process. It's not always easy work. in fact, much of the time its quite hard because it involves coming face to face with what I need to change within myself, but as I make those changes my life gets easier, both in living it, and in what comes my way in terms of opportunity.

Sometimes what we, as magicians, need the most is to stop controlling so much and start experiencing more. Think about some of your own magical work. How could you give yourself over more to the process, to experiencing what needs to happen and what needs to change? How might you use that change to not just try and manifest a desired result, but also manifest a new you? I think if more people could do that, they might just see how much magic can really move them and their lives, as well as manifest the desired results they are looking for.

Read more]]> (Taylor Ellwood) Studies Blogs Tue, 12 Aug 2014 13:10:18 -0700
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.

Read more]]> (Taylor Ellwood) Studies Blogs Sat, 07 Jun 2014 23:38:06 -0700
The Literacy of Magic Pt 1 Recently Ivo Dominguez Jr published a thought provoking article where he discussed the lack of the literacy in magic in today's Pagans. While I found myself nodding in agreement with a lot of what he had to say (I've observed in the past that there is an increasing amount of emphasis on removing magic from Paganism because it makes Paganism less acceptable to the mainstream*), I also found his use of the word literacy problematic, and by extension it caused me to re-examine his article and some of my agreement with the article in a different light. As a result, I think it worthwhile to examine the concept of the literacy of magic, both in relationship to the word literacy and its variety of meanings, and also in context to the practice of magic vs the "literacy" of magic, which I'll argue are not one and the same (in part 2 of this series). In fact, part of the issue I have with the use of the word literacy is that conjures up the armchair magician, a person has read a lot of books on magic, but has done little, if anything, with that magical knowledge. I would locate the armchair magician on the opposite end of the illiterate Pagan (at least as that illiteracy applies to magic). However, as we'll see, it's simplistic to categorize anyone as literate or illiterate, because literacy itself is a loaded term.

Read more]]> (Taylor Ellwood) Studies Blogs Fri, 22 Nov 2013 23:27:09 -0800
Why the question why is important to your magical practice The other day a student from the Process of Magic class told me that she was working on the first homework assignment, which asks the student to tell me what their definition of magic is and why they've chosen that definition. She'd answered the first part, but asked me: "Why do you ask why?" I quipped "Why not" but then proceeded to explain why the question why is so important not only in magic, but in any subject you are trying to learn. In my opinion, if you can't answer the question why it indicates that you don't understand what you would be explaining to the person. For example, going back to the question of why a person has chosen a particular definition of magic, simply offering the definition isn't enough, if s/he can't explain how s/he arrived at that definition of magic. When you define something like magic, you are either defining it based off your personal experience, using someone else's definition, or a combination of the two, wherein your experiences seem to confirm the definition that someone else has offered.

One of the problems I have with how the average occultist or pagan defines magic is that all too often the definition offered is someone else's. Crowley's definition of magic, for example, is often used to explain what that person conceives of as what magic is. The problem, in my opinion, is that there is a tendency to accept this definition without asking why. The same applies to any other definition of magic that is offered up without the person questioning the definition. A definition of magic, or anything else for that matter only really becomes relevant when you can explain why that definition is important to you, in context to your own experiences. Simply expressing what something is doesn't demonstrate true understanding of it, until you can explain why the definition is meaningful to you.

Another reason to ask why is that why necessarily helps you to uncover the positives and negatives of a given definition. Any definition brings with it the baggage and agendas of the person who created the definition. Thus when we use another person's definition we are also using all the associated baggage and agendas that come with that definition. Asking why allows you to examine a given definition carefully and explore what makes it what it is, and ask whether that really fits your needs. Definitions are ultimately words used to describe how something ought to work and/or exist, and as such they are far less tangible then we sometimes think. A definition of magic is ultimately just words used to describe how you think magic ought to why not ask why and actually test the definition to see if it has any validity to it. By doing so you can determine if the definition really applies, or if you need to develop one of your own that better fits your experiences.

Now what I write above exposes the weakness that all definitions have. A definition is a subjective statement about what it defines. This can bother some people, because definitions tend to be treated as objective statements, but remember that any definition is something that a person defined not even so much as to describe what something is, but rather to provide his/her own take on what something is. By recognizing this "reality" about definitions we can test them and will because we no longer buy into the idea that they are truly objective statements that define reality. Instead we recognize that by asking why we are acknowledging that they are subjective statements used to describe subjective experiences. Ask why that you might discover your own definitions and consequently use them to navigate reality. For further reading on this topic I recommend the excellent book by Edward Schiappa: Defining Reality. It explores the concepts I've mentioned here in much further detail and will prove enlightening as a way of exploring the value of definitions in our culture.

Read more]]> (Taylor Ellwood) Studies Blogs Fri, 30 Aug 2013 11:46:53 -0700