Thursday, June 19, 2008

Quit's Taxonomy of Magical Training

A friend of mine asked my recommendation on getting started with practicing magic. The first thought that came to mind was in recollection of an educational tool known as Bloom’s taxonomy.

Bloom’s taxonomy structuralizes learning into eight levels, the highest of the levels the most difficult level of competent thought. This taxonomy isn’t rigid and more or less just a general overview of the difficulty of certain types of thought processes.

My own taxonomy isn’t meant to be anything spectacular but rather a general overview of how to initiate one’s self into a study of magic.

Knowledge: A magician should

a) first learn about basic system of magic, at least the existence of these basic systems. The general level of study should be to learn what magical beliefs are out there, so that if someone mentions Discordianism, you can say, oh, yeah, I’ve heard of that. The goal here isn’t to know everything about all magic but to be exposed to a basic acknowledgment of what is out there. You want breadth over depth.

Make a list of at least two dozen magical concepts to help develop your basic knowledge. Take your list and summarize each magical concept on you’re a) list into one sentence like you were pitching a movie concept.

b) After acknowledgement should be introspection and decisions on different magical paradigms. This is pretty much Wikipedia research, browsing through the breadth of magical topics to get a better understanding of them. At this point you are looking for familiarity, not necessarily depth, but a deeper understanding of important magical principles. You are also looking for what interests you to focus on deeper knowledge.

Take your a) list and develop each summary with greater detail, at least 100 – 300 words per list item.

c) Penultimately, you want to focus on particular areas of knowledge. This is the second to last level of knowledge because at this level there are certain areas of magical theory that you should at least develop a deep understanding. My recommendations would be Western Astrology, Tarot, Chaos magick, and possibly Shamanism and Kabbalah, along with an understanding of the Hero’s myth and important mythologies. You can add in your own interests as well. You should take the time to read important magical texts, including the works of Joseph Campbell, Aleister Crowley, William Frazier, and others as selected by your research.

d) Generally, the ultimate step of the knowledge level would be the equivalent of dissertation work: an extensive in-depth study of a particular area of magic. I don’t agree with this. As Robert Anton Wilson commented, specialization is for insects. Magical paradigms are useful only in their ability to be effective, so your chosen path of magical pursuit should be malleable and fluid, changing as necessary to fit your needs. You use a screwdriver for a screw, a hammer for a nail.

Knowledge should be constantly updating and will snowball and adapt as your improve your Knowledge. In making my lists, I dropped some concepts, changed others (affirmation magick into Neuro-Linguistic Programming), and added new concepts (Thanatology).

Reception and Perception: The magician must be willing to open herself up to the universal phenomena of magic. Part of this experience is belief but part of this is also non-belief. Too much belief creates a naïve fool; too little belief creates a hopeless dreamer.

The active steps of the reception stage must be practiced because they are not inherent in many individuals. A magician must learn to listen to others with respect even if initially disagreeing with the speaker’s statements. This active listening also means paying respect to others, remembering important details as if they were a lover. How can one know the universe if he can’t even remember his mother-in-law’s birthday?

Part of reception also means being open to communication from non-human means. Dreams, synchronicities, and symbols are all messages from the universe that the magician must learn to pay attention to. The devil is in the details.

A magician should keep an active log of any synchronicities or unusual events.

This log should also include artistic sensory details that impress the magician.

Lastly, this log should function as a dream diary.

Working back to knowledge, the magician is responsible for understanding basic semiotics and dream interpretation. Dream interpretation, psychological archetypes, mystic symbols and the like should be intimately known.

Similarly, human communication involves a variety of often ignored values. Communication is typically associated with the air signs of Libra, Aquarius, and Gemini. These signs focus on socialization, verbal expression, artifactual communication (clothing-based), and storytelling. However, water signs rule non-verbal communication, particularly body language, while fire signs master anti-social forms of communication (force and politics). Both of these elements communicate in alternate ways. Technically, although water signs are non-verbal communicators known for their secrecy and passive-aggression, 70% of communication is non-verbal. Considering differences in communication styles, understanding the taxonomy of communication is important.

Consider creating a section of your magical journal specifically for communication skills, including research on non-verbal communication, political theory, and “social skills.” The Sixth Sense and the works of HP Lovecraft are good sources on magical communication.

Comprehension: Similar to Knowledge, Comprehension involves not only an understanding of magic but rather a personal understanding and relationship with magic.

My goals in studying magic are partly intellectual, me wanting to have a greater understanding of my role in the universe or how to conduct my life. Magic is part philosophy and part practice. The philosophical parts are designed to set up the magician with a proper mindset in order to work the magic. Magic is not for everyone.

When you c) above, you are looking for magical paradigms that help you understand yourself existentially. We often call these epiphanies, sudden insights into who you are and what you are supposed to do. For example, I got into astrology after a horribly traumatic relationship which I could not explain or come to terms with through any mundane means. Looking at his sign (Aries/Taurus cusp) and my sign (Cancer/Leo cusp), I immediately saw reflections of both him and me. I understood what happened in our relationship! On my third reading of Joseph Campbell’s Hero of 1000 Faces, I finally understood the hero’s journey and mythology as a psychological metaphor for the individual’s journey in life. There’s a psychology behind mythology that I could apply to my personal life. Studying Chaos magick showed me how my sense of self is an illusion, fragmented and mutable; my beliefs, my identity are tools to be changed according to circumstances and my desires. You use a screwdriver for a screw, a hammer for a nail. Aleister Crowley’s metaphor of the imaginary mongoose in itself was an indescribable epiphany which I am still trying to reconcile.

At the Comprehension level, take the time to make connection between what you have studied in the Knowledge level to your own personal life. Too many religions and belief systems force beliefs on the individual that are not compatible with the individual’s life, or human existence at all. Magic is about your life.

Write down any epiphanies that you might have during your lower level exploration of magic. Seek out epiphanies by writing about any connection between your magical Knowledge and your personal life. Consider this an autobiography of the magical you. For example, in Knowledge c) you explored Astrology, Tarot, Chaos magick, mythology, and other systems. Consider, for example, writing about your personal experience with different zodiac sign personalities and specific people in your life and the psychology of their signs. Ask yourself, how exactly does tarot play a role in your life. Do you use it just to tell the future or does the archetype semiotics have any greater meaning? What gods are important in your life, present or missing? How might you connect yourself better with the divine? If you’re interested in Shamanism, do you live near the wilderness or are you stuck in the city? Is there such thing as urban Shamanism? Etc…

As part of Comprehension, you might also want to balance personal and professional knowledge. Ask yourself: is the information you put together in earlier research actually researched information or simply philosophical musings? If you are contemplating black magic, are you simply rambling self-centered philosophies or embarking upon a valid authoritative authentic Thanatological study? BS or knowledge?

Response, Adjustment, and Set: I grouped these three ideas together because of their similarity. At the response stage, the magician begins to respond to received and perceived stimulus.

Instead of passively taking in information, the magician interacts with external stimuli making changes in the environment. Part of the RAS stage is to begin anticipating reception and perception. For example, a magician who is engaging in reception of synchronicities should begin noting patterns and scheduling of synchronicities; RAS anticipates these opportunities by noticing patterns even in chaotic events.

Part of RAS, however, is to anticipate and respond to events.

For example, the duration of my sigils rarely extends beyond three days. If I cast a spell on a Sunday, by Wednesday, the magic begins to wear off. In response, I had to re-organize my sigils into three day patterns, for example, sigiling for success in a new work out plan focused on a three day work out plan anticipating the wearing down of the sigil and instituting a “recovery sigil” afterwards.

I have also noticed a particular pattern in my occupations: I generally change jobs every 18 months or at least a threatening presence occurs within a predictable period. Last year, when I had become settled into a job, I felt the 18 month threat approaching and was able to nip it in the bud, i.e., lie through my teeth and get someone else fired in my place.

Similarly, if you are studying astrology, a predictive understanding of zodiac psychology is important. A magician can spend a lifetime studying the behavioral patterns of a particular sign but these behavioral patterns must eventually be applied. For example, if you are dating a Cancer, you need to be on guard for the Cancer shit test (especially the second and third rounds); if you are dating an Aries, you need to predict and manage the Arian temper tantrum.

Perception is a call to action that requires participation on the part of the magician. When a synchronicity occurs, what is the universe communicating and how is the magician to respond/act? What plans do you make when the chaos of the universe aligns in your favor? Will you be prepared?

A life diary is important, even if it simply means making a record of your daily experiences. Writing in reverse chronological order the days events before going to bed will help develop your self-reflection as well as give your material for any artistic endeavors. Take notice of patterns, magical and otherwise and begin projects on dealing with noticeable events. Create magic files: for example, when I go on a job interview, I have my resume, my background info, a void check, phone numbers, a multi-media CD presentation, mints, deodorant, and a whole bunch of stuff prepared from my bad and good interview experiences. This is my interview file. Create project files for synchronicities, zodiac dating secrets, etc…

Organization: Once the magician begins delving into various systems of magic, he or she will find him or herself with just a whole shit load of information, useless facts and trivia and all-important transcendental knowledge; however, what the hell does the magician do with all of this information?

Sorting through learned information to ascertain the quality of ideas is important before a magician more deeply analyzes and applies her magic. The magician is creating a value system, eliminating the useless, recycling the still usable, and keeping what works. But it is possible for a magician to get stuck in hordes of useless items. I was that way, having amassed over a dozen boxes of comic books, literally thousands of CDs, and hundreds of DVDs all in some self-indulgent collection. My computer files had hundreds of pages of notes with which I never did anything.

Magic can quickly lead to obsession and even ritualistic lust for results can turn magic in madness. Many an orgasmic sigil can lead to a sex addiction ,or lust for results turn into frustrated impotence, or magical consciousness into paranoia.

The magician must get organized. Organization will typically follow into three suits:

a) Balance: balancing the freedom of the magical world versus the responsibility a magician should have in using magic. A magician shouldn’t have an Enron scandal. A magician should develop an ethical system and abide by these rules. Also, a magician should learn to balance the magical world versus the real world. Banishing rituals should be emphasized and practiced.

b) Systematic planning: A magician should set magical goals and routines to implement and use learned knowledge. What are you using your magic for, whether it is developing artistic ability, financial gain, social gain, etc. Color magic is good for guiding a magician into different routines. One color, at a time, however, is recommended to avoid dilution of effect. Make a list of 8-10 goals, starting generally and moving into more specifics with time tables and break downs of plans and methods. Systematic planning is a whole new ball park in itself so I will outline it in more detail at another time.

c) Taxonomy and philosophy: At some point, every magician has to put together a philosophical text on her experiences. This is an explanation of how the world works according to the magician.

Analysis: This is the heavy shit. Part if not all of magic is about placing doubt in the minds of people about reality itself. The magician must initiate her own musings and analysis of what reality means.

The Analysis stage partially incorporates lower levels in the taxonomy. The magician must make an orderly or rather organized system of reality around her. This involves looking at the basic components of reality and understanding their form and function. How does the universe function is as important question as why it functions the way it does.

The important first step in Analysis is for the magician to understand what is true and what is fiction and how to set up boundaries between the two. While nothing may be true, that doesn’t mean that everything may be permitted and that every function will perform.

The magician must look for cracks and flaws in any system important to her. For example, the educational system is important to me, as are mating and marriage rituals. This could likewise apply to any magical concept that you have studied. The purpose is to create cracks to seal them up, like breaking a bone for it to heal stronger. A magician who creates too many cracks will find herself drowning when the dam bursts.

Analysis is part of Application below and Comprehension. The magician tests her theories and in amending her theories to reality, formulates new theories. Analysis comes from experimenting and gathering the results into old theorems or a new postulation. With each experiment, new tasks and applications are put together.

Consider your focus: Education, government, sociology, psychology, relationships, art, etc. Create a list of bugs within the system. Consider yourself as the primary target and study your own flaws. Consider the flaws within your magical studies and muse on your failings. Implement new plans of action to fix these bugs. Do your analysis on paper or in some tangible form, whether a poem, a blog, or a sigil you bury in your garden.

Application: This is the level that people always want to skip straight to. The results will always be more disastrous than fascinating.

In my early experiments with magic, I went crazy. I was entering another world sink or swim with no real understanding of how to swim at all nor of the rules involved in navigating the other world.

In the Application stage, the time has come to first look over your knowledge gained from the previous levels and to plot out how to use and apply that knowledge. How is the knowledge gained applicable or useful? All too often philosophy is impractical with no real world applications.

You might think Application should be the first step, but no. In some ways, you have already applied your knowledge in smaller does of Comprehension and Response. Now you are going back to the original desires and intents that brought you into magic and asking yourself, how will the knowledge learned help you implement your goals and desires. You may need to re-evaluate the knowledge you learned. The Organization stage is important for developing Application.

As part of Application, you pick your tools and study them. You analyze the need for rituals and test what rituals work the best effect. You learn the capability of your medium and what mediums have the best capabilities for your intent. Are you a poet, a film-maker, a teacher, a dancer, etc. Experimentation is important: some tools like Tarot or wands and athame are standard (I don’t use the later two) while learning new tools may help develop repressed parts of your personality. I’ve recently taken up charcoal drawing just to help visualize my goals better and created a new bedtime ritual to focus my creative writing.

As part of Application, you construct your tools but also modify the tools or philosophies of other in connection to the practice you conduct.

For example, I use sigils as a total health overhaul where I am working on a step-by-step process of binding my demons – working on my emotional flaws – as well as focusing on other detrimental parts of myself. I use summoning to enhance my creative writing skills. I use astrology particularly as a platform for my dating adventures.

Magic should not be useless.

How should you plan your Application stage? Look back at your Organization stage and your systematic planning. As mentioned there, systematic planning is too big to summarize in this blog and tangential to the purpose here, but in quick steps:

  1. Figure out your intent and put it into writing
  2. Research your purpose
  3. Make a realistic plan, broken down into manageable steps
  4. Set a time limit
  5. Gather your resources
  6. Develop your skills
  7. Do something, no matter how small, each day to implement your plans
  8. Succeed or fail
  9. Reflect
  10. Repeat
Synthesis: A more complex form of analysis, synthesis is putting everything together. Scientists are trying to find a Unified Field Theory; should magic follow the same suit?

I have had a couple people ask me what my religious denomination – Syncretic – means. Syncretic means that one religion doesn’t work for me. My religious beliefs are a hodgepodge of beliefs from different religions all blended together to fill in those cracks in any one particular belief. My religion takes in beliefs from Catholicism, Chaotes, paganism and wiccan, Taoism, Buddhism, and others I have picked up along the way.

The magician has a responsibility to create a blend of beliefs systems; otherwise the overuse of any one tool will wear down that system and render it inapplicable. Catholicism simply cannot provide all of the answers or fulfill the necessary emotional needs but neither can Chaos magick or Discordianism ever be a widely accepted belief system because they are too inherently ludicrous.

Thus a magician must select multiple systems of beliefs, multiple magical paradigms. These systems could be blended into one syncretic belief or be used as appropriately to circumstances. There are never any contradictions in beliefs, any more than a hammer contradicts a screwdriver.

Origination: The most advanced form of synthesis, Origination occurs when the magician creates a new system that is recognizable as more than the sum of its parts. Most magical and religious systems have origins in earlier systems but evolve beyond their roots. Christianity in general is an Origination, as are its various sub-sects like Protestantism. Chaos magick and Discordianism are their own Originations and all the other Transmetropolitan religions that pop up. Name it, brand it, sell it, worship it, in some type of order. Origination most often occurs as an adaptation in order to fit pre-existing systems into new cultures.

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