I've had requests to start explaining things from the standpoint of someone who hasn't practiced magick or even read books on it. If you want to practice magick, here is how I recommend you begin.
Decide that you want to do this stuff consciously instead of unconsciously.
Every single human being is a Mage. The question is whether or not you are going to choose to be a conscious one in this life or not. Everyone does magick when they make anything from a simple choice to trying to face down life and death situations.
One of these days pay attention to how many times you have the opportunity to die. Literally hundreds of times a day we walk deaths line, from driving too close to the meridian and swerving from a protrusion at just the right time to stepping 2 inches to the left and avoiding a nasty fall. Do this and you will start to notice miraculous moments every day around you. Those miracles? Magick. We choose our reality and sub-consciously do magick to effect that choice.
The choice to "practice Magick" is the same as deciding to practice running... It's something we already do, but we're going to study to see if we can learn to do it better.
Study and practice
Now you can study from lesson plans, books and teachers. You can also study by merely paying attention to life around you. Magick is ALL around us. Nature can teach you so much if you will open up and listen.
I advocate that the best teacher you will ever find will be spirit... Not a spirit, but spirit (aka Source/God/the holy spirit). For most people it takes years to get to the point where they are willing to have Faith. (OMG... did Mr pseudo-science mage just say FAITH?!) I read an awesome description of faith recently in "The Book" by Alan Watts. "Faith is, above all, open-ness - a trust in the unknown."
Meditate on this. Faith is a trust that it is safe to reach past what's comfortable, safe and known, to experience things new to you and maybe even, new to others. As your faith grows you will be willing to stretch further and further. You will step from trying a new thing recommended by a friend, to a new thing on the menu, to a new thing you heard about, to a new idea composed by merging ideas, to just acting from the perfect loving quiet of the universe.
Imagine a time when you will walk down the street and for no reason other than faith, stop, walk up to the nearby door, knock and help the person who answers with a problem there is no way science thinks you should have known about. THIS is faith.
I said in the introduction that magick is Holistic. One of the most important parts of that whole is faith. The willingness to trust the unknown. If you practice magick and don't have faith you will find that only the most tried and tested spells work for you. You'll have to wait until someone shows you something again and again until it has been proven to you beyond a shadow of a doubt.
However, you can also build your faith. Only the insane or desperate can have complete faith without learning to trust it. Start where you are and try things that are more and more unknown to you.
Years ago I felt that it was time for an initiation. I felt that the initiation I should do was to build a large bonfire and go stand in the middle of it. I planned it, and then one night went out to a nearby lake shore and built my fire. I let it burn for about 45 minutes to get a good bed of coals from the hotly burning pine logs I purchased for the event. Then after building it up until the flames were about shoulder high I stepped in. I probably only spent about a minute in the fire. I wasn't burned although my shoes did melt and I had to peel the rubber off of my socks. Since then even if I burn myself on hot metal or in fire it heals within minutes as long as I don't concentrate on the burn.
This year I decided it was time to recreate this event. I took even hotter wood this time, dried boards mixed with pine logs. This time I heated the bed for a couple hours and built up the fire before I stepped in. Oddly, this year was a disappointment. My shoes didn't melt, and the fire pretty much went out the moment I stepped into it. The most disappointing thing however, was the realization that this was no longer an initiatory experience for me. It didn't require much faith. I wasn't really stretching my trust in the universe because I knew I'd be ok. I stood there in the the fire that licked barely up to my knees now, and felt normal, safe and disappointed. I know I can stand in fires for short times. If I want to grow I need to stretch myself; Stretch my trust and faith.
If you want to practice magick powerfully you need to stretch your trust and faith. It might be a while before you are ready to express faith enough to stand in fire, enspell water to get people at a party you're holding drunk like wine or any of the other "showy" examples of magick. Honestly, that stuff is scary. You'll have to get to the point where your faith is stronger than other people's disbelief.
Who to practice with
Intense Magick needs solo practice. The more people you have involved in a working the more disbelief you have to overcome. If you can find a powerful group of faithful mages, witches, prayer warriors or whatever name you want to use, it's amazing how much you can accomplish. However, if you practice with persons who don't really believe in magick the way you are trying to practice it... well, prepare to be disappointed. Even worse, prepare to deal with people who want to explain away failure and keep doing the same thing again and again because they don't want to admit that they never thought it would work anyway.
I RARELY attempt showy magick with persons who aren't even open to the idea, partly because my fear of failure is amplified. If I'm playing around with friends and we don't really care if it works then I'm free to try wholeheartedly. If I/we fail (which happens more often than success) that's ok. Let's learn from it.
I can try the same spell 5 days in a row and only one of those days have it work. Now imagine having someone whose opinion you value watching you... I'd be willing to bet that under their eyes you fail 5 out of 5 times.
The masters get to the point where those eyes don't matter because they are confident enough to do it anyway. I'm confident I can stand in fire for short periods, so I'd be willing to do it in front of people. But I've only gotten a party of 10 people drunk off of enspelled water once. The other time I tried I failed and was ridiculed. Not as confident there...
Some people will try to convince you that magick isn't real if you can't reproduce the results every single time. However, even our cars don't start every single time. They are a well understood holistic system. Compare that with a poorly understood holistic system that is affected by confidence, faith and disbelief... I strongly doubt you will get to the point where you will be able and willing to regularly perform magick in front of disbelieving persons. I've practiced for 10 years of an arguably insanely intense level of faith growth and I'm still working toward a method that I could perform in front of hostile groups regularly. This is a goal for me however, so expect to see me doing something clearly magickal, repeatedly in front of closed minded persons within a couple years.
Don't underestimate peoples willingness to ignore their own eyes if what they see opposes what they believe in. Telekinesis is actually relatively common, you might one day TK something in front of someone else. HOLD onto that memory and any other miracle/magick you experience. 9 out 10 times the other person(s) will either not admit having seen it or within minutes to days will have explained it away. Pretty universally people won't want to talk about it for more than a couple minutes.
A lot of witches believe in a malignant force trying to keep magick secret. They believe that a large spell causes people to ignore the magick in front of their eyes and or explain it away. I don't think we need such a force. Herd mentality accounts for everything I've perceived. People who disagree with the herd are shunned. Most people would rather be limited than be separated from their chosen group. We are all smart enough to limit ourselves if it means acceptance.
If you choose to practice magick you are going to need to come to terms with your choices. You are going to need to figure out how to deal with your current herds. Are you willing to separate or are you going to hide your deviancy? Are you willing to find a new herd in which your practices are not considered as deviant?
Technique and Teachings
This article is the beginning of a many part series which will be able to be found as "Magick Primer" under the "Blog" button. I am going to challenge myself to teach concepts and techniques from the ground up. 2 weeks ago I started writing an article for an exercise called "The Fountain" that I was taught years ago. It took me a bit to realize that there were prerequisites for this Technique. My goal will be to organize new articles in this series so that the reader has been exposed to all of the prerequisites involved if they have been reading along. I am probably going to write about an article a week in this, while I continue to sporatically update the "Things are going great in my absence" blog and post a general "advanced" article every week or two. Little by little this series will catch up to the "advanced articles" until those articles are absorbed into this series. Hopefully in a couple of years this series will be a relatively thorough primer for magick.
Power Before Wisdom