On the weekend I posted an article outlining what I feel as the pre-requisites to taking on the practice of evocation. The response has been mostly positive, from such lovely practitioners as Kenaz and Galina, with some predictable critiques from others such as Frater RO who favor a different style of working. This, in turn, has resulted a bit of lively back-and-forth between St. Balthazar and Frater RO.
I would summarize all those posts for you here, but I'm feeling lazy since we spent the better part of last night managing an allergic reaction that our Boston Terrier had to what has best been guessed was a spider bite. His face swelled up such that he looked like a sharpei with mumps, and when Benadryl didn't calm the reaction we had to take him to the veterinary ER. He's fine now, by the way. But, all this means that you'll just have to take a few minutes and read through those posts yourself. It shouldn't take too long and there are some good points and perspectives presented.
I just felt it appropriate to write a small response here, which is more or less a summary of my responses on those blogs with a bit of further explanation.
I will agree that my use of the word "mastery" was a bit off the mark in regards to all the different skills one should acquire before moving into an evocational practice. What I was actually trying to communicate was much closer to competency. I absolutely stand by my perspective that cultivating competency in these skills will ensure a safe and effective evocational practice.
I would be remiss in falsely communicating that I feel that I am a master of all of those arts. I do not, and I am the first person to admit that I am not an occult master. I am competent in a good variety of magical skills, and certainly the ones which I speak of in the post. By becoming competent in those skills - some of which I procrastinated against for a good long while in my magical career because they didn't come as easily to me as other skills did - my practice reached a new level, and many spiritual doors opened for me. My spellwork and spirit work become very reliable and nearly always garnered positive results. When it did not, I was able to figure out what went wrong, and remedy it.
One of the main critiques from RO of the plan of study which I outlined was that it requires too much time, and students will become frustrated thinking that they MUST gain all those skills before venturing into spirit work. I can see that point, although my personal perspective is that if one wants good results then you're going to have to WORK for it. We live in a very instant gratification-oriented society in which people want everything for next to nothing. This goes hand in hand with a sense of entitlement which runs rampant in the West. So many people are simply handed good things, that they develop an arrogance about that that communicates that they feel that they deserve all these good things simply by being who they are. The true work of EARNING good things becomes more and more a foreign concept for many. This attitude flows over into the magical world, just as it does the more mundane areas of our society.
Now, I am in *no way* saying that every occultist or every aspiring occultist has such an attitude. Nor I am implying that those practitioners who look for more efficient ways of achieving magical ends are guilty of trying to get something for nothing. I personally LOVE finding new expedient ways to do complex magics. However, I do feel that if you approach your magical training and practice with shortcuts as a priority and general laziness as your modus operandi, well, then, just keep in mind the programming axiom 'garbage in, garbage out'. My evocation article was actually written in response to a question online from someone displaying the arrogant entitlement that really grinds my gears, and I was trying to drive home the point that evocation is not like playing D&D, and you don't get something for nothing.
RO knows and understands this - he is a very hard working magician. His personal magical path just functions very differently than many other people's, and so my article was not geared towards those who are already working hard within a system that works well for them.
St. Balthazar says that perhaps my outline is a "tad overcautious". I can agree with that assessment. It is my nature to be overcautious. I've always been like that in all my endevours, whether mundane or spiritual. If you'd look at my astrology chart, it would be pretty clear. I'm Virgo-Virgo rising, and all my other planets are in Air. I like to gather hoards of information in preparation before making any moves. I not only want academic info, I want to hear anecdotal experiences from others (both failures and successes) that I can glean tidbits from that are often absent from instructive texts. I like to be as prepared as possible for any extenuating circumstances, so that should something unexpected occur, I will be capable of handling it. I like to have experiences under my belt that draw from the same skill-set, so that I feel confident that I have proven my ability to do certain operations when facing a situation that may be more of a challenge. Generally, I like to have all my bases covered. Can I still be surprised, and still make mistakes? Certainly!
Yes, I am pretty anal retentive in that department, and while I have learned to be a lot more flexible in my mundane life, I prefer to err on the side of caution when it comes to spirits.
I fully acknowledge that most people aren't exactly like me in this respect. One of the most amazing magical practitioners that I know is pretty much my polar opposite. He likes to have the practical hands-on experiences first, because that then makes the academic information make sense to him. His stories often leave me with my jaw on the ground when he tells of the ritual operations he just jumped into with practically no preparation or foreknowledge of possible outcomes - and yet he is a fantastic magician. He's also one of the most, if not THE most naturally gifted magicians I've ever run into. I imagine that this plays an extremely large role in his successes. He was born seeing and interacting with spirits, having a strong connection with the Divine and with protective spirits, and with amazing divination skills. His life-path resulted in him learning to be self-observatory early on. Basically he was born ready to Work - and when he finally came to form magical practice as an adult, it was all second nature to him. Most have to do go to school for a while first to get to where he was starting from. My article was intended for those who wish to have a really solid idea of what skill will help them safely and effectively embark on evocations. I don't think anyone can argue that the skill that I listed would NOT be helpful.
In a response to one of my comments RO says that I should stand by my opinions, no matter who disagrees with them. I absolutely do stand by them. I'm not wavering on my advice. I am saying that competence is the key in the skills listed, not "mastery" as I did write; there is a difference and I acknowledge it. While I don't wish to discourage earnest people from working evocations with my very conservative perspective, I wouldn't be upset with discouraging inexperienced-yet-entitled people who really had no business doing that kind of work from doing it if they feel that it's too much work to prepare. Fine by me. Having those skills will only help you and ensure that you have the best possible chance at success. Really, in my view, if you're going to be working with spirits which Kenaz would call "hot", being over-prepared is miles better than being under-prepared. Though, as St. Balthazar says mistakes are fantastic teachers, as well. I, however, would still rather avoid having my life turned upside down by a spirit if I could!
Finally, why did I choose to use a picture of an 80's sitcom to head this post? I was just feeling cheeky.