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Toolful and Toolless Practice

To: alt.occult.methods,alt.paranormal.spells.hexes.magic,alt.magick
From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: Toolful and Toolless Practice (was: Re: Beginning Discussion (was New Group)
Date: Wed, 18 Jul 2001 15:16:16 GMT

neil  wrote:
> I have always focused on magick as being an act of will.

I have not aways done so. I have sometimes seen magic as the asking of a
boon from a more powerful entity. I have sometimes seen magic as an
extension of medicine, cooking, or even interior decoration (certain
plants, for instance, having medical, magical, and aesthetic qualities). 

What follows in your post below is very interesting to me. Before you
read my responses, i want you to understand that i am not echoing a
portion of your post to mock it -- i am stating the truth of my

> In the past I went through a period of being unable to openly study 
> occult practices (but that's another story) so did all my work through 
> meditative visualisation. I constructed a temple, objects, artifacts, 
> symbols, everything I felt I needed and had a great deal of success 
> working purely within my own mind.

In the past i went through a period of being obsessed with collecting
the ritual paraphernalia of magic (ritual tools, containers,
altar-cloths, herbs, candles, etc.) so did all my work through physical
means. I contructed several altars, with objects, artifacts, symbols,
everything i felt i needed, and had a great deal of success working
purely within the physical unverse. 

> Could I have had greater success working in the 'real world'?
> Maybe, particularly at first as it was hard to remain fully focused on 
> the task without extensive practise.

Could i have had greater success working "within my own mind"? 
Maybe, particularly at first, as it was hard to remain fully focused on
the task without extensive practice. 

> There is often a preoccupation with the use of genuine objects, but 
> even what might be perceived as the most powerful symbol is entirely 
> inert without an act of will. The symbol does aid in focusing and the 
> use of a traditional symbol certainly prods at the subconscious to 
> extend will in a particular direction, but with practise this can be 
> overcome.

Ah. Here we diverge and the counter-parallelism breaks down -- not to
the point of obstreperousness, i hope, but significantly. 

You did not make it clear whether you STARTED with meditative
visualization (e.g. when young and living in your prents' home) or
whether this "period" of mental working came AFTER a few years of
conventional training (e.g. because you had joined the Army or were
incarcerated). I am going to assume it was the former, but please
correct me if i am wrong. 

It seems to me that your early training and continued emphasis of
will-based magic resulted in your possible (?) belief that many
traditional tools of magic (herbs, roots, symbolic glyphs, candles,
incense, aromatic perfume-oils, etc.) are little more than props for
those of insuffficient mental imagination to pull off an operation
entirely in their minds. I'm not knocking this viewpoint, just trying to
set it to one side to clarify its logical opposite: 

Natural magic -- as a major division of magical practice -- holds that
mental-work alone is not as powerful as work in which the proper natural
artifacts are employed. To a natural magician, say a conjure worker or
root doctor, mental work of the will-based type is said to be kinda like
hoping to stay alive by visualizing a steak. 

I fall in between these two extremes (and i expect that by now, you do
too) -- i started at the opposite pole from you -- that is, i started
from the viewpoint of natural magic, working exclusively with physical
curios, and gradually found (when i was jailed briefly and had no acess
to ritual tools) that i could work mentally. However, in my case, let it
be noted that my visualizations were primarily accomplished through

I then went on to work more extensively with visualization -- especially
"architectural" visualization as a place to "deposit" complex
symbol-systems, as outlined in Frences Yates' book "The Art of Memory"
-- HIGHLY RECOMMENEDED for occultists!). At this time i certainly do
find much of value in the construction of a semi-stable visualized
"temple" or sacred space that i can enter at will, and where operations
can be performed, no matter what my exterior circumstances may be. But,
due to personal inclination or early training, or both, i still prefer
to work with ritual tools and objects, and i still feel that i get my
best results that way.  

Your testimony leads me to the question: Without a physical memory of
working (and let's not get into the possibility of "past lives," because
that is a religious debate in which i have no interest), how strong do
you think one's imaginative work can become? 

The analogy of sex comes to mind: When we are young, many of us envision
sexual encounters with another person (even going so far as to have an
orgasm, which is analogous in a certain way to the successful outcome of
a magical spell) -- but most of us find that when we finally experience
sexual union with a living partner, it blows our preconceptions out of
the water (and, for many, the orgasm may be stronger, too). 

So, without trying in any way to denigrate your experiences with
imaginatively visualized operations that were performed without ritual
tools, i would like to ask you this: When you began to use actual
objects in your work, did you sense a real difference in the quality of
the expereince and/or in the results? If so, what was it? If not, how
far did (or have) you moved toward the use of tools during magical
operations, and why did you bother to do so? 


cat yronwode 

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