The Far Away Centre
Teaching the Esoteric and Occult Arts and Sciences for Today
Courses & Training in Magick, Ritual, Witchcraft, Kabbalah, Tarot and Alchemy + Magickal Retreats & Apprenticeships
Our Vision of a Magickal Life
Magick is "the art and science of causing change to occur in conformity with will". This is the definition given by the occultist Aleister Crowley, who was one of the most influential occultists of the early 1900's. It basically means that any act that you undertake, so long as it conforms with your will, is a magical one. To begin with, it sounds like a loose description - surely it means that everything is a magickal act, and everyone is therefore a magician? This is partly true - the Universe has to be a magickal place for magick to work - but as you will see as you undertake your studies and work, few people understand their own will and the nature of the universe around them. In that sense, we begin ignorant and only through our enquiries do we uncover our own nature and begin to perform real acts of Magick in accord with that nature.
Crowley also introduced the spelling of Magic with a "k" to distinguish it from stage magic - if he were developing his system now he would have done the same again to distinguish what he was talking about from the popular collectable card game, Magic!
So, if we are to understand our Will, surely this is just psychology then? There is a whole school of Psychology, "Psychosynthesis," dedicated to the discovery and use of will. Is that not enough? Well, most magicians begin by studying psychology to gain a deeper understanding of their psyche, and this is recommended before further study is undertaken to ensure that later work does not overbalance the person and turn them into a stark raving lunatic. This is probably the worst danger to any occultist - and those around them! It is like building a house of cards; you have to have a nice solid foundation, as wide as possible, before adding anything else on top of it. It doesn't stop you (witness the hundreds of 15 yr. old wannabes on the newsgroups asking how to summon demons), but it damn sure makes life easier later on!
Everything we do is an act of enquiry - the Magician simply takes this further and says, "what sort of Universe is this where I can do this?" and tries to influence events, foretell the future, change himself from one form to another, but always using such experiments to test the nature of the Universe - this is the science of magick. As time goes on, the Magician finds himself in a very strange Universe that is far deeper and more complex than first he imagined, and at this stage begins a stage of enquiries more suited to Mysticism than Magic.
Well, the first thing to do is be clear on what you want to be. Like any subject, that of Magick has its divisions and overlaps. Most Magicians have dabbled in Philosophy, Religion, Psychology, Science, Theology, and much more, so you are likely to find references to many other schools of thought within each other. When I first picked up an occult book, I soon realised that I would have to learn about something called Kabbalah first, because that was the language being referred to. I then picked up Tarot because that was referred to, and Tarot seemed to be partly based on Astrological principles, so I had to learn that ... and so on! If you have an artistic, creative approach to the world, and like nature, then you might naturally incline to Witchcraft. If you have an enquiring, scientific approach, then Magick might suit you. This is very simplistic - start anywhere and you will soon come to find where you are suited.
Web Sites like this can assist, as can books. Starting with a few self-practice books (see list below) is no bad way to start, so long as you don't try anything too advanced. Don't run before you can walk! Find your local shop, where others of a like mind might congregate, look for discussion groups, mail order courses, anything to start you on your way. Don't immediately jump into joining a group until you have at least some solid grounding and practical experience all by yourself. You will know when it is time for you to join a group. Also, ask others - on the Internet or elsewhere - before getting involved in a group, as there are some that are better than others.
Some suitable techniques for your first year as a Magician include dream-journals, keeping a magical journal, Tarot, Astrology and Alchemy, the lesser banishing ritual of the Pentagram, meditations and pathworking, and theoretical study of as many traditions as you can manage!
Here's a useful site to visit next - the AvatarSearch Engine, which specialises in Occult Sites.
The best way to become a Witch is to spend time outdoors! Watch particularly the way the seasons change and the way their ebb and flow reflected in human activities. Learn the phases of the moon and observe the eight festivals, even if to begin with it is only by lightly a particular-colour candle. Witchcraft is at heart an individual pursuit, although coven-work is challenging and can broaden your outlook. Choose a God and Goddess form that appeal to you, such as Pan, Artemis, Herne, Hecate, and find out about their rituals. By opening yourself up to these Gods and Goddesses, you can soon attune to a very basic and strong current that runs in our very bodies, and this can lead your practices onwards. Tree Magick and divination could form part of your first year studies, as well as one form of healing. Aromatherapy is a fun place to begin, if you like getting scented and messy!
Here's a great site to go next for Witchcraft - a guide to creating your own Book of Shadows.
Contemporary occultism is fractured into a variety of sub-groups most easily categorised by the general system of thought being worked with (although even within each category one might find a variety of shades, approaches and heresies!). Several popular areas are:
Thelema, Chaos, Wicca, Golden Dawn, Ma'at, Alchemy, Kabbalah ...
Thelemic groups such as the Ordo Templi Orientis (two main versions of this group exist; the Caliphate and the Typhonian) work with the systems developed by Aleister Crowley in the early 1900's. The main focus of thought is contained in Crowley's "Liber Al" ("Book of the Law").
Chaos Magicians work with systems of thought influenced by notaries such as Robert Anton Wilson and Pete Carroll. The approach is more free-style shamanism mixed with eclectic techniques and modern science (although the latter point is debatable). Some groups, such as the Pact and the Z-Cluster, have significant Internet presence.
There are a variety of generally nature-based, often magickal-thinking, often polytheistic (or pantheistic) religions; Wicca, Paganism, Witchcraft, Shamanism, and many other forms. They are religions which often honour both a God and Goddess in multiple forms. There are an incredible range of variants, many covered in "Drawing Down the Moon" by Margot Adler (ISBN 0 8070 3253 0).
Golden Dawn groups work a system based on a masonic synthesis of esoteric thought which draws together ceremony, initiation, Kabbalah, and Egyptian lore. There are a number of public groups and a number of private, closed groups.
Ma'at Magick is a system building from Crowley's Thelema and is of particular interest at present in that it postulates various ideas dealing with the future of society that are positive and can be seen developing across the world. It's main proponent is Soror Nema, whose book "Ma'at Magick" (ISBN 0 87728 827 5) collects together most of the current thought in this system.
When I first started practising Witchcraft, I only knew two schools of thought, which were the Gardnerian and the Alexandrian. As time moves on, other forms will emerge. To be frank, there should be a form that suits your own way of working out there, and it is best to find out what that is first, then find a group that accomodates it, rather than the other way round.
Alchemy, Kabbalah, Christian Mysticism, Divination, Astrology … there are many other approaches to the Great Work, and groups or individuals that pursue them. In the end, it is up to YOU to choose the most appropriate for YOU.
What do you need to be a Magician or a Witch? Well, forget about the Cloaks, Cauldrons, and Magic Wands. At least, to begin with. To be a magician you need to have an attitude of open enquiry, and to be a Witch you need to be able to open to nature. With those tools under your belt, you can enter the labyrinth! Patience, to grapple with the obscure, and Honesty, to deal with the experiences that enquiry will open within and without you are also valuable tools in your kit.
Eventually, you will need a place set aside to work in, even if it only the one room apartment you already live in. This can be transformed into a Temple by your imagination if need be. When you are ready and undertand their use, you will need a set of ritual tools, as per your path, and these can be bought or created by yourself depending on your skills and resources. Just be careful with Athames or Ritual Swords, and Candles - the stories I could tell you about circle dances ending up at the hospital or indian robes going up in flames, well!
I created this table by imagining that you could only afford three books, otherwise there were too many to choose from, and not every book can hope to cover all aspects of a subject. These books are the three then that I believe give a reasonable introduction and entry point into the subject. This list has been modified (with thanks) in discussion with the alt.magic newsgroup. As always, buyer beware!
From me, if you have immediate questions or comments on anything on this site.
Why do things have latin titles, why do folk wear robes and do weird things, and what else do I need to really know?
Occultism and Esoteric thought has a long history, but much of its current manifestation in modern western society is drawn from the works of Renaissance and post-renaissance scholars such as Barrett, Agrippa, and Dee. As well as that, a lot of esoteric thought developed in small groups who were to some extent at odds with the society around them, and therefore developed a view that sought to work towards a better future or who harked back to some prior "golden age". Such work was hence very eclectic, drawing from other ages, philosophies and languages as appropriate, sometimes without too much discernment, at other times with spectacular insight as to hidden connections between independently derived systems. That is why the western ritualists of the Golden Dawn practised a little understood form of Egyptology, mixed with Dee's Enochian Squares, but also had influences of spiritualism and freemasonary in their teachings.
The use of robes, titles and paraphernalia is partly by requirement, partly by design, partly for the theatrics, and in part to separate one's esoteric work with one's mundane life. This division is artificial, but useful to the beginner; when you plug magical forces into the mundane world, you can achieve spectacular results, and so you have to work from a reasonably secure position before you can get away with wearing your robes to work and blessing people in the street! Once you have studied occultism for a while, you will soon understand that in some cases the experiences and processes being described have no other language than that of weird symbols, and that those weird symbols and ritual activities express and reflect your experience precisely. Then you will know, and things formerly obscured will become clear!
© Far Away Centre 2006