Training - Yes, No Or All Of The Above?
Article ID: 10712
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: April 30th. 2006
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I’ve been reading the essays on the subject of training for ritual and magic here on the ‘Vox with a lot of interest and appreciation. I’m throwing in my two bits, as a follower of the school of “All of the Above” as a system of training.
After thirty years of study and practice on and off, I’ve seen a lot of learning methodologies in the neo-Pagan and related fields. I have come to believe in the very basic idea that what is right for any particular individual is whatever feels right for that individual – if they are being honest with themselves, their teacher, and their community.
But especially if they’re following an autodidactic path; in order to do that people need to be able to self-analyze clearly and honestly – which can be extremely difficult for beginners (and tough enough for all of us more days than not). That is one reason why I do believe in some form of formal training for people starting out if they can find the right teacher. However, I also believe that self-taught is better than badly taught.
My own path has included just about every form of learning – including allowing myself the fallow times of not ‘learning’ and simply digesting new facts, forms, and experiences, be it for days or years. Here is a partial list of some of my experiences in this area, and the conclusions I choose to draw from them – take from it what you will. Your mileage may vary.
I started studying Thelema my senior year of high school after doing an honors lit class book report on Aleister Crowley’s autobiography (even more unusual back then than today, trust me). I am glad to have had that early intensely formalist training, which has given me a map for working in virtually any ritual form, and a deep reservoir of useful knowledge and internal discipline (often not externally obvious, admittedly). I also had the salutary experience of learning about the Law of Returns in a deeply meaningful way, which led me to put further studies on hold for a while.
I first encountered Wicca through reading “Drawing Down the Moon” in the early 80’s. After I found a coffee shop run by members of a local coven and began talking with them, I became drawn to a path that was based on the Rede instead of the Law. In order to ward of incipient self-Fluffydom, however, I still use the full version of the Rede that includes, “Lest in self-defence it be…” But then, I’m a crusty old curmudgeon.
Since then, I’ve done individual reading both from personal interest and of works specifically recommended by teachers; studied with “Book of the Month”-type reading groups; and have trained formally in the Alexandrian Tradition as well as in Eclectic (several stripes) and Reclaiming Wicca (well, I don’t think ‘formally’ is the appropriate term for my time studying Reclaiming, but I found it both enjoyable and conceptually useful – though I still draw the line at doing the “Hokey Pokey Ritual”) – oh, and a few other things en passant.
I’ve followed the way of Mescalito and other deliberate derangements of the senses both chemical and behavioral; tried Tantra (it still needs more work, so I better go practice); worked with various meditation practices and none at all; and have had mystical experiences both induced and accidental - once quite literally.
I have both sat in on and taught Internet classes, individual and group; done the bookstore group-meeting thing; at festivals and gatherings I’ve attended classes ranging from a single one-hour session to full one-week intensives and in turn have taught at places like PSG; and, in a new twist to the old-style epistolary friendship, had a marvelous, incredible correspondence by both chat and long emails for a couple years with a 'famous Pagan author, ' who acted common as dirt on line, but was never common in anything. Sadly, I never had the privilege of meeting her in real life before her passing, though I still consider her my single greatest influence in the Craft.
I’m only going into all this to explain how I really have tried just about every way to learn in our area of knowledge, and found pros and cons to every variant of technique and methodology. I know a lot of people much better read, more ‘advanced’ and/or with more “mojo” than myself. Frankly, these days I’m happy just to be a theurgist with a mystical bent in practice and could really give a tinker’s damn for thaumaturgy in and of itself - no offence meant to those who do!
I won’t get into why here, because that’s easily another thousand words just to outline. But, be that as it may, I really have had a much more varied experience with differing Occult training practices over a longer period of time than most folks likely to be perusing this. Or maybe I just have a really bad case of Magickal ADHD – I’m not sure…
But after comparing notes afterwards with fellow students in most of these different ways of learning, they often most appreciated what I liked least about a class or particular teaching method - and visa versa. So perhaps the best advice I have ever gotten from a teacher - even though I still struggle to follow it at times – is, “If it feels right, it’s usually right. If it feels wrong, it’s ALWAYS wrong!”
That’s it, in my opinion – just learn to trust your heart and follow it, wherever it may lead. And never forget that you learn far more from your mistakes than your successes, so don’t get discouraged no matter what you run into. All the rest is just details.
"An it harm none...!"
Brightest blessings to you all, and may the way be open for you!
Location: Stone Mountain, Georgia
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