Magick is an extremely precise art and science.
However, you'd never be able to tell that by looking at the thousands of New Age and occult books that give people all kinds of lurid and fanciful ideas about what magick is like. I'm sure you've seen them: The books with airbrushed dragons or angels on the cover, or the edgelord-y occult "grimoires" with demonic seals all over them, or whatever. Or maybe you've even been attracted to the personal glamour of some individual magician, and become convinced that their personal wyrd—their way of interacting with the world—is inherently magical, and that emulating it will grant you some semblance of the same skill, instead of understanding that this personal charisma or talent is simply the by-product of the practice of magick.
Want to get good at magick? There are no short-cuts. It's something you have to practice day-by-day, and just like with any other skill, the day-to-day practice can often be pretty mundane.
In my previous blog entry, I discussed how to draw out a road map to guide you through practicing magick for a year, and where that can take you.
In this article, however, I want to discuss how to structure practicing magick on a daily basis. If you don't sort your daily routine out, and stick to it, you're not going to get very far. It's exactly like going to the gym—you've got to do it every day (or, you know, five times a week) in order to get yourself in peak condition.
And this is actually a really good way to look at magick. You might have read some of the records of the famous exploits of the magicians of the past—the big rituals or "Workings" that people are still talking about decades or centuries into the future—but you don't get there without training yourself first. The mind has to be prepared before it can handle that kind of thing.
In my early days studying magick, I came across Carlos Castaneda's concept of the tonal and the nagual, which he took from Toltec sorcery. The tonal is the material world, and the material life of the magician in that world. It's the mundane world, the work-a-day world. Many magicial and religious systems look down on the material world, or regard it is a trap or snare. (For instance, Hinduism dismisses the illusory world as maya, Buddhism as samsara, Gnosticism as a prison constructed by "archons," and so on.) This, of course, is in contrast to the nagual, the immaterial world. The one you zip around in during dreams, magical trances, psychedelic experiences and so on. (Forgive me if I'm bastardizing Toltec philosophy, I probably am, and Castaneda probably did so in the first place, too.)
Castaneda's teacher Don Juan hammers into him that he has to get solid in the tonal before f'cking with the nagual, and that's something I took to heart. Magical experiences can be weird, destablizing, even profoundly rattling to the ego. For that reason, it's critical to master the real world, and develop a solid footing in it. This means working a day job, building relationships, eating healthy, exercising and in general not being a f'cking loon that scares children and small animals.
It also means getting the fundamentals of magick down pat, and that's where the daily regimen comes in. This should consist of some version of the following.
1. Meditation. Honing the mind into single-pointed focus is the beginning and ending of all magical discipline. Even if you do nothing else, this is a critical facet of not just magical training, but life training. In many ways, this is the central discipline that the rest of the exercises of magick are meant to either support or help collect the benefits of.
This tends to be true of many disciplines, actually—a few activities do the brunt of the work, and everything else is mostly warm up and support. Consider lifting weights—most of the real work is done by a few core lifts, like squats, deadlifts and benching, while the rest of the lifts are there to support that work by warming up, building arm strength and so on. It's the same with magick. Meditation is where the real work gets done—the work of learning how to focus, the work of self-understanding, the work of seeing through your own bullshit and thereby demanifesting your own bad internal programs instead of trying to manifest them outside yourself using sorcery.
Practically, this means you should aim for 30 minutes to 1 hour of meditation every morning, before going about your daily tasks. That's a big ask, and it's not always possible. That doesn't mean it's not critical.
Your style of meditation will likely begin simply and progress into more technical forms as time goes on. There's tons of styles, mostly drawn from the yogic and Buddhist literature. Start simple, get the basics down, and worry about branching out later. Just get your mind to focus. You can decide what to focus on later.
I teach everything you need to know to start a serious meditation practice here.
2. Opening and Closing Magical Space. This can be accomplished by the invoking and banishing rituals of the pentagram and hexagram, as outlined by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Unless you're innately empathic or psychic, these rituals can seem a bit "dry" at first. Don't let that stop you—regular use will train you to look for the subtle but perceptible changes in the "emotional atmosphere" they produce within your own subjective experience and, as time goes on, that of anybody who might happen to be doing magick with you. You open a space by invoking, and close by banishing. Or you can banish first and then invoke at the opening (and then banish again at the close) to make sure any lingering psychic or emotional BS is cleared before proceeding to work. Experiment. Try different combinations.
At first, you do this to help open and close a meditation space. It really helps to psychologically delineate a space that will aid mental silence—significantly so, and this is an important first lesson to learn. Why would this be so? Meditate on this ;)
Later, you can progress to more complex modulations of magical space, but for now, focus on opening and closing, and then simply meditating in that space.
I explain the technical details of banishing and invoking rituals here.
3. Recording Your Experiences. Any ritual you do not record is lost forever. Why? Because you won't remember it. And you won't learn anything from it in the long term.
Magical experiences tend to give you little insights, drip by drip. Record those into your journal, and look back at them after months or years of practice, and you'll be awestruck by not only the progress you've made but some of the insights you previously overlooked as unimportant. When you're just in the day-to-day of practice, you're usually zoomed in way too close to fully appreciate what you're doing—building the pyramid of your life, brick by brick, day by day.
A critical second part of recording your experiences is keeping a dream journal, and writing down your dreams every morning upon awaking. This is what opens the gates to the "astral," the nagual, the magical dimension. You need to get control of it—and by control I mean the ability to be keenly aware of your dreams and not forget them in the AM—and in order to do that, you need to write them down every morning. There's no way around it. This is what sustainably opens you to the astral—not psychedelics, by the way.
Putting it All Together
With that said, what should a daily routine look like? It's fairly simple, actually.
- Wake up and write your dreams down.
- Shower and groom yourself. (Don't eat, but drink water and go ahead and have some coffee or tea if it helps.)
- Sit down to meditate in a pre-arranged space. Invoke to open the space (or banish and then invoke). Give it at least 30 minutes, then banish.
- Write down a record of what you did and what you experienced.
- Go about your day.
Simple enough, but stick with it every day and you'll start getting somewhere. As you build this core of practice, you can start adding more precise and complex practices, like sigil magick, deity work or the more technical rituals of the Golden Dawn. You can begin learning all of that stuff, in addition to the details of the above practices, in the online courses at Magick.Me—get that routine solid!
Good luck with your practice, and see you in class!
– Jason Louv