This post was inspired by a meandering thought tree started in my head at Jason Miller's blog.
A post about Path and Symbolism, turned to cultural symbols v. universal symbols in my head, and then to Omnimancy where everyone just about has their own personal symbol set that they work with, and then to when i was a baby mage and could barely work magic at all.
See, I have a theory, that many practictioners of the occult who look down on practical work do so not because of any actual moral outrage, but because they have a terrible struggle, and perhaps even a total inability to change things outside of their own mind with magic. If you suck at something it is waaaay easier to point out the failings of that thing, and how you didnt want to do that anyway, rather than actually bother to work your ass off to get good at it.
At least that was the case for me, looking back.
I had my share of wyrd happenings when I was a kid, saying/doing/surviving/knowing things I shouldnt. Then I hit puberty and that train stopped. I devoted myself to dogmatic catholicism and still studied magic and paganism and alternate religions to better convert the heathens.. Truth be told I studied magic because I couldnt NOT study magic. It's been the one over riding obsession in my life.
I breifly flirted with Buddhism in high school after I became obsessed with my own mortality to the point where I couldn't think of anything else. As a result I stopped eating, couldnt sleep, couldnt keep food down, and was constantly focused on the fact that in a reletively short period of time I would indeed be eaten by worms. Medical attention got me back to my fighting weight and I soldiered on.
I had a falling out with the church after I couldn't dogmatically double think anymore. Appropriately enough this was in college. After that I studied a bit with a friend's parents who started teaching us punk ass kids meditation.
But for the life of me I could NOT get magic to work. At all. Nada. LBRP was like the magical hokey pokey to me. It felt akward, and silly. And other than akward and silly I felt nothing from it. No protection, no angels, nothing. I was too self conscious, and too full of lust for result.
I joined the Angelic College of Damkar in hopes of learning something magey and awesome. I got more rituals that I didn't really get a lot out of. Others on occasion felt the effects of my workings, but for me, I had nothing. It was like shooting blind. The rituals and practices were telling me, "Put your hand on the desk, move it to the left until you feel the pistol, bring the hammer of the pistol to your nose, then down to a 90 degree angle from your nose, now change that to an 80 degree acute angle and squeeze the trigger." I could hit bulls eye, but I couldn't quite suss out what I was doing other than following the directions on the back of the box.
Then at the encouragement of a friend, I ordered Initiation Into Hermetics by Franz Bardon. It was wierd.. when you read the Hagiographies of Tibetan saints you hear about them weeping, their hair standing on end, and the overwhelming urge to find their guru the moment they hear the Guru's name. That's what I felt when I held IIH in my hands. An overwhelming sense of "This is very important." It is still the most complete system I have ever worked with. Dealing directly with mechanics and exercises designed to let you fiddle with reality directly, and each exercise having a minimum requirement to move to the next. Marvellous!
Some of my most fruitful work has been directly or indirectly because of Bardon and his Work.
After that I discovered Omnimancy, which is where the fun started. The thing I loved and still love about Omni is that it is completely non dogmatic. It's the most scientifically minded magical practice I've yet.. well.. practiced. There are no beleifs. Grab or generate some energy, weave it into a spell, and then record the results. Through Omni I learned to sense and direct energy. Advanced spellwork, and I learned a lot about not taking anyone's word for anything magically. Thanks to Omni i was actually able to effectively DO magic on the regular with a bunch of people in the same system I could bounce ideas off of.
With this under my belt, I was able to go back to my cerimonial work with renued vigor, a questioning, scientific attitude, and confidence in my abilities as a mage.
Oddly I learned to appriciate Hermeticism more by studying Vajrayana and traditional Taoism. (I'd totally be a Taoist priest if I were raised in that culture.) Through Vajrayana I fell in love with being a Yogi in every sense, and still consider it a primary path of mine even though I am guru-less. I think the most awesome thing EVER would be to be a householder Mahasiddha.
If you are going to shoot a long distance, best aim high.
The next big click came recently, as I started studying Denning and Philip's magical philosophy series. I was inspired to do so from some work I've been doing studying inner and outer alchemy in both the east and west and seeing where they overlap. Still on book two (only started it in Jan.) and such a wealth of information is there.. especially the most accessable explanation of magical symbolism and how it works that I have ever.. EVER read or heard. The gist is, symbols work from the higher to the lower. I've heard that before, but in the reading something clicked and I understood how to use those symbols to touch those things they symbolized because they shared the same essential nature.
And of course there stemmed an all new appriciation for western magical practice, hermeticism and neoplatonism in particular, and all that goes with it: traditional astrology, even more love for alchemy, theurgy, philosophy.. etc.
Which all in turn enriches my cerimonial work, my omni work, my arabian ruhaniat work.. and on and on and on.
And then the dreams.. experiences where I've had the fullness of logic and intuition.. I was mentating from that place, and had even a bit of it when i woke, and then it slipped and faded some. That also drew me to yoga. A dream where I was led into the underworld, slapped the God of Death and Magic in the mouth and was torn apart.. Woke up understanding and feeling magical energy and spirits far better, wordlessly understanding far more..
For me it's been a path of: "Ora, lege, lege, lege, relege, labora et invenies" - "Pray, read, read, read, reread, work and you will find."
Magic works. I've used it to get jobs, give healing, find lost things or people, and otherwise enrich my life. If it came easily I am sure I would not be this obsessive over it. It just takes hard, constant work to get good, and a good sense of humor to see what an utter prat you can be along the way.