Choosing your Magical Path - Adepts in their own words.
Whenever the topic of magical titles or grades comes up I felt pretty divided. On the one hand I couldn't care less about symbols of hierarchy invented by humans and labeled onto other humans. At the same time, the way my mind worked for the first decade of magical training I really needed something that acted as milestones to map out the magical path I was following. At IMBOLC we used the classical 10° system mapped onto the Tree of Life. I remember the first three years, practicing daily for at least an hour and probably having done about 16 practical and theoretical exams before I was granted the grade 1°=10 Zelator... -- So what does it mean to me today, if someone calls me an Adept? Is this a title I should accept or refuse?
The truth is, at some point in our journey we need to stop hiding from taking on greater responsibilities. If we aim to do this too early there is a good chance we are narcissists, megalomaniacs, simply dumb or all of it - and either way will probably end up physically and mentally unstable and in social isolation. If we do it too late, on the other hand, and continue to shy away from facing what we owe to others, the risks are nothing less. Understanding where we stand in our magical path, at which phase we are in following the eternal spiral of student-to-teacher-to-student-to-teacher is one of the hardest things. Why? Because we are too close to ourselves - and most of us hang on to either memories of their past-selves or visions of their future selves for too long. We either imagine ourselves to be more fragile than we actually are, because of fragility we might have experienced in our youth. Or we believe to be stronger than we actually are because of the power we envision to hold in the future. Unfortunately, often we oscillate between both extremes like flickering lights - frustrating the hell out of people around us who wish we were just plain normal or simply grew up.
So when someone calls me an Adept these days this is what it means to me: I am a tree to some and a blade of grass to many. I am a link in the chain that connects divinity with creation. And as a link in this chain this is what you do: you accept things from above and hand them on down to below. Now, don't confuse 'above' and 'below' with geographic points on a spiritual map, such as 'celestial' and 'chthonic'. Instead what these terms refer to here is the level of power we became able to hold, to filter, partition and to pass on to others.
The day I was formally granted the title 'Adeptus minor' at IMBOLC was also the time when I decided to leave the school. It marked an important transition in my life - from being shown the path to finding out each step for myself. And I embraced this new stage of life by accepting the title, changing my magical name to 'Frater Acher' and leaving my old school. Since then I have traveled on and feel comfortable now holding this title. For one, because it quickly lost its weight and importance once I began to do all my work in even greater isolation. Secondly, because I began to realise the stretch of the way I had left behind me was indeed significant. Not necessarily because of the hardship and difficulties that came with it, but more because for a strange reason so few others followed?
So when Josephine McCarthy asked me to contribute to her page of Adepts and Teachers describing their magical upbringing, I was happy to support by sharing a piece of my own. I am copying the first paragraphs below with a link to continue reading on directly in the document on choosingyourmagicalpath.org.
I also want to take this opportunity to point to the wonderful story Paolo Sammut is sharing on the same page. The value of these stories really lies in reading all of them - and then to mediate about the vast differences you find in them, and the few things they all hold in common. I guess at the end of day magic will always be a very simple, straight forward thing once you figure it out. Just as the few connected dots that you will find holding all of these stories together - and making them part of one bigger tradition in the West. If you focus on these, the invisible gates that connect, rather than the colourful stories that distract, chances are you found a great path to follow your own magic in life...
The Path of the Ritual Lone Practitioner by Frater Acher
Here is a rough outline of the path I have been working in for the last 15+ years. In order to keep things simple and focussed, I’ll concentrate on five aspects that in my eyes stand out from amongst most other paths of magic:
- You always work on your own.
- You begin with waking up.
- You challenge your fears.
- Then you walk towards the stars.
- Lineage & ancestors.
You always work on your own: You will walk this path well, if you don’t feel alone when you are on your own. When approaching a magical path this is one of the most fundamental questions anyone encounters: By working within a group, perhaps even leveraging inner group contacts you will be able to tap into the existing pool of the group’s energy.
In such scenarios working ritually alongside an experienced adept will not only significantly accelerate the type of experiences you are able to make early on, but it will also accelerate your own magical development. It’s like learning to run with constantly strong tailwinds coming from behind. In fact the nature of these magical types of tailwinds will not only accelerate your learning curve, they will also begin to determine how you run and - even more importantly - what you are running towards.
By accepting the advantages that come with an existing magical group pattern, you also accept the disadvantages that come with it. The main one being, that such energy pattern will strongly influence the type of magician you are about to become. Therefore the price you pay for the speed you gain, is the freedom you lose. It is not only the freedom of how you want to approach magic, but also when and where you want to perform it and most importantly why and what for.
If you choose to learn magic within a group setting, you accept becoming a link in a chain of humans. If you decide to learn magic as a lone practitioner you decide to become a link in a chain between yourself and the world. Don’t misunderstand me: there truly is no right or wrong here. That’s why choosing your path matters so much. However, do not underestimate how much you will be shaped by the experiences you make during your first five years of magical practice.
While you might think of yourself as a fully grown adult, you are wax in the hands of the magical forces you will come in touch with. Therefore it is a significant decision whether you want to deal with these forces 1:1 as a lone practitioner, or accept mediation of them through other people and adepts in a working group.
In the path I am describing here, people walk the long route, the slow route. People value freedom of choice as well as the authenticity of their own experience above all. It might take them years to experience the amount of magical energy a Neophyte in a group setting can experience on their first rite. But when they finally get there, all of the energy has been generated, mediated and directed by themselves. Call them purists or control-freaks, think of them as one-woman-powerhouses or just unable to blend into a group. Finding your path is not about judgement; it is about being true to who you are, rather than who you want to be.
Example: During the ten years of training I spent with my first teacher whenever I had finished working with a lesson, I would come to his house to perform a written as well as practical test. The written tests lasted between two to six hours nonstop and quickly became more demanding than my studies at university. The practical assessment was exactly that: me performing whatever techniques the lesson had come with and my teacher rigorously assessing how I did.
They easily lasted another two to four hours. Thus completing a lesson and moving on to the next, would always be marked by one or two days of examination at his house. Early on I asked him how was able to tell whether or not my magic ‘worked’ as he simply sat next to me and silently watched. His answer was: ‘I cannot judge whether your magic works, nor can I see your intent. All I am doing is to examine and build up your technique; what you do with it later on is completely up to you.’
This quickly brought me to my second question, which I kept repeating for probably the first three years like someone banging his head against a brick-wall. I asked him why he would never show me how to perform certain techniques? Despite all the years we spent together he wouldn't even show me how to vibrate barbaric names or hold a wand; nothing.
His only answer was: ‘There is a magician inside of you that we are trying to pull to the surface. By me giving you ideas of how things should be done, we dilute your growing sense of the magician you ought to become.’ And that’s what I mean when I say we walk along on this path. It certainly doesn’t mean we need to isolate ourselves from others. But it means that only in silence will we find the voices that want to speak through us.
... or visit my old teacher Agrippa by clicking the banner below. Unfortunately introduction and training at his school is in German only - and clearly nothing for people who are undecided about their commitment to magic.