When considering occultism as an art within itself, the non-magician looks to the vast world of opinions and beliefs and dogmas and doctrines and faiths and reasonings that exist and, rightly so, is dazzled with confusion. What is one to make of all these different and conflicting ideas? For one, the difference between occultism and religion is often intensely blurred. I'll make a quick clarification on the difference here so that the rest of the information provided here is put into context. Religion is belief in supernatural things based on faith. Occultism is belief in unseen mechanisms based on results. With this in mind, let's keep a few facts about the real world in mind while examining occultism, since these will all crop up again as you continue your studies.
If you are starting into the world of occultism, there are a few things to keep in mind and a few assumptions that will be made about you as material is presented:
It is essential that you have a basic understanding of the laws of physics, of the new theories out there concerning dimensions and energy exchange, and are capable of reading into scientific or scholarly articles without losing focus of the meaning. Science and magic are inextricably intertwined and a failure to understand science will cause a failure to properly understand the limitations and upper boundaries of magic. A decent understanding of psychology and philosophy is also assumed to be part of the common knowledge of one who is considering entering into the world of occultism. Psychology is important for a few reasons, but the prime of these can be summed by a quote by Francis Crick from The Astonishing Hypothesis (1994): "The single most characteristic human ability is that we can handle a complex language fluently. ... This ability leads to another strikingly human characteristic, one that is seldom mentioned: our almost unlimited capacity for self-deception." Humans can convince themselves of nearly anything, and when you approach such a seedy subject as occultism it would be wise to already have a base understanding of what is common in human nature. Occultism, as with every other branch of epistemology, has been riddled in errors throughout history because people are willing to swallow whatever someone else says solely for the fact that it was said. This trend carries on today with the "It's in print, so it's true" mental reflex. Everything you hear must be given the proverbial 3rd degree or else knowledge is reduced to simpleton dogmas and popularity contests. For this reason, philosophy is also a very important study for the beginning magus. It allows you to remember argumentative algorithms used in other debates and transmute them to occultist rationale quickly and cleanly so that otherwise complex matters can be handled with reasonably little trouble. This is also the reason that history, sociology, or anthropology is helpful. From the social sciences we gain the ability to stand on the shoulders of intellectual giants and learn from their knowledge, thus turning it into our own wisdom. We learn and build from what the great minds before us have said and become great thinkers ourselves if we learn from them. If someone disagrees with something, fine, but question why. See why they say what they do, where their ideas come from, and what the foundational principles behind them are.
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it really is not. The rest of this site assumes you know how to define energy. The interpretation and implications commonly used in society are conceptually easy, which is why they are used at all, but when that kind of definition carries over to a more scientific forum, such as occultism, it leads to a great deal of misconstruance. People have been known to make it through highschool and even into the lower levels of university without having a real grasp on what, exactly, defines "energy". The societal stereotype tends to treat it a lot like water though its true properties are vastly different. It is not malleable, its base traits remain the same at all times (though we have found many creative uses for them), it is not "collectable" or stagnant or created or destroyed and, most importantly, the human mind is not solid-state machinery. We have inefficiencies in our body and in every energetic operation that exists. There is no one-hundred percent efficient system, there is no "energy conversion" in the sense that the energy itself changes properties, there is no such thing as force-fields or changing energy, etc, etc, etc. Sitting down with a "Physics Made Easy" type of book makes this entire debate a non-issue. Let the uneducated spew whatever they want. Real answers come to those that diligently seek by proper extrapolation of founded principles.
It will be assumed that one who is studying occultism at all believes there is something to be learned through study. This preemptively eliminates ideas such as relativism, existentialism, and subjective reality hypotheses. The post-modernist scherade is politically and socially very pleasant but utterly worthless when it comes to getting real answers. Occultism is a scientific endeavour buffered and interpretted by extensive knowledge of the humanities. It does not rely on blind faith, nonsensical mystic spookiness, or vague riddles. You will find, upon reexamination of most paths and occult disciplines out there, that most of them are not fit to be exposed to anyone with even a vaguely critical mind. They break down in the cipher of logic yet practitioners flourish because they are more concerned with the illusion of intellectual freedom than they are with truth. All current knowledge is valid consideration when looking at occultism. We will not ignore the laws of science, nor will we discard the utility of logic. Occultists will likely look at modern academic theories with more skepticism than the average person, since we know of an aspect of life (magic) that is not yet adequately addressed within these models, but it will be assumed that the occult student is not interested in turning occultism into a flimsy little egocentric religion.
All discoveries of science and all revelations of philosophy (occult or otherwise) are given consideration, as most occult and religious paths do, but they are then to be evaluated for validity. This surprises many people, unfortunately, but the sad truth is that there is such a thing as a "bad idea" and there is such a thing as something that is "wrong". Far too many occult paths successfully get away with reproducing an "A=B and A≠B" mentality in those that want to know how to work with magic and it turns them into confused muddles of contradictory philosophy. The standard occult student is often swept up by the first liberating surrealist philosophy they find and feel great about themselves because they have found this ego-boosting psychodrama that, in the end, leaves them no more skilled than when they started. Related to this point, the assumption will be made that people are interested in furthering their knowledge and that practical power will follow real and diligent study. People that enter occultism to fulfil their crazy fantasies or who consider it nothing more than a philosophical game will be better off looking elsewhere.
It is assumed that people understand that this is a long journey, a difficult one, and that muttering a few words from a dead or incomprehensible language and swinging around some tools does not produce magic. Magic is a highly technical, involved, difficult, complex, and utterly frustrating process sometimes. Diligence, effort, hard work, long nights, and terribly knotty enigmas will be a routine part of the occultists life. These should, ideally, not be because of the information from other occultists, but because it is part of the complexity of life itself. As with all knowledge, the acculmulation thereof only makes life more difficult. It presents more options, more choices, and will place greater onus on the caster. Foggy notions of simplistic magics with blanket responses or equally hazed self-glorification notions flat out deny the fact that we live in a complex world where factors interchange and compete constantly to produce illusions of balance and whatnot else. Conceptual frauds slip into magic as though they were intellectually valid all the time, and many people bite for it without question. Stop, think, and question. Be sure to give pause and think, "Is this possible? What examples do I see to support or deny this?".
There will be a general understanding, as you read these pages, that you know the difference between "Gullible" and "Open-Minded". Being Open-Minded is good; it means that you give all possible theories fair consideration after hearing all sides of all contending views as much as is practically possible before evaluation. If "Open-Minded" is misunderstood to be "Accept Everything" and leaving it at that, it becomes synonymous with "gullible". Once again, it can not be stressed enough -- we can not make progress with a post-modern mentality if there is no evaluation afterwards. In the study of occultism, as it should go without saying by now, you will need to be mentally sharp. You will hear many things about occultism that are false -- due either to impossibility through extreme improbability, or because the mechanics and presumptions of the information are unreal (this is common in aimless/illogical magics or tradition/fable/myth-based magics). Please do not underestimate the importance that one's own intellect will play in the performance and study of magic. Collecting facts is simple. Children learn to do it from an early age. Analysing and comparing these facts, however, then evaluating them based on other pieces of known information is a skill that some people never master. Be sure you are a capable and fit mind for the task at hand if this is something you really want.
Beginning Magic 1 - The Basics of Practice
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