One of the earliest definitions of magic that I came across is one that I still like the best. Crowley’s definition states that it is:
[T]he Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.
This means that magic is all-encompasing to one who acts deliberately and mindfully. To one, in Buddhist terms, who is Awake. This is a common theme when looking at occultists of various practices: the emphasis is not, truly, on what people think of as “magic” but rather is focused on what many would consider mundane. Bear Heart talks in The Wind is my Mother about the importance of essentially mindfulness and paying close attention to all that happens around you. Dion Fortune in Trance-Portation relates an exercise in paying attention based on Kipling’s Kim’s Game, working with mundane objects. Crowley goes on to emphasize in Magick, Libra ABA, Book 4 that “Every intentional act is a Magickal act.”
One of my continual frustrations with modern occultism is our focus on the spectacular and people’s seeming belief that magic really must mean something fantastical. That they are an Elven Princess, that they have numerous past lives with this one person, that they can
send energy to help a situation remotely, that the shared feeling in the pit of their stomach indicates “trouble brewing in the Force.” Admittedly, any of these things may be true, but that’s not the point: it doesn’t need to be for magic to be a real and potent force in our lives. Bear Heart talks about fantastical things, but his process of getting there talks about many things that don’t involve throwing balls of energy around.
Really, what should you focus on to get better at magic? As the koan goes: Drinking tea, eating rice.
Meditate, work on visualization, work on mindfulness, work on memory. Work on seeing the world as it is, and trying to understand what you see.
That is magic.
This isn’t, of course, meant to deny the working with energy or spirits. That is all part of it too. Techniques such as pathworking, journeying, and energy play are valid and useful mechanisms as well. My point is not that these are not valuable, but that they are not the whole of magic and that the basic skills–such as learning to pay attention–help augment those abilities in incredible ways. That in the process of learning to pay attention, learning to pay attention to energy is a natural extension.
That these are, in essence, the fundamentals that we should return to again and again in our study of magic, the things from which everything else derives.
There is more that I want to write about later, but I want some more time to put my thoughts in order around it first.