It amazes me how often in a conversation about magick, regardless of talking with practitioners or non-believer, how often the comment “That makes sense” or “That seems obvious” comes up. Sometimes magick is filled with subtle and complex factors and it takes years of study or practice to understand why something is the way it is, and other times it is so obvious that you either feel foolish having to say it or having to be told it. When I talk with people about magick and goals this is often how I feel.
Recently I encountered an old friend from high school at the store and in the process of catching up she posed the hypothetical question “What is the point of getting tens of thousands of dollars in debt with student loans to get my Master’s degree, when all I’m qualified for is the same job I had in high school?” I asked her gently in the conversation what job she was expecting with her degree and she gave the worst answer possible: I don’t know.
This comes around to a problem that affects magickians and non-magickians alike, but I feel it is more central to the path of the magickian to conquer this. To me one of the purposes of magick is becoming functional and content within your life. Disagree if you like, I’ll probably write more on this topic later, but for this entry just accept it as a hypothetical purpose. This functionality is inhibited by a lack of planning revealed in my old friend’s comment “I don’t know.” She went for her Master’s degree and achieved it, a laudable accomplishment, but it had no follow up. I see the same thing with magickians but to avoid appearing to pick on any one in particular I’ll use this friend as a non-magickal example.
If I were to talk about goals I’d say some goals are ends, some goals are means, most are both, and some –the worst of the bunch– are goals specifically lacking either an end or mean. For example when I set the fitness goal of being able to do 100 consecutive push ups this was a goal as an end in and of itself. No path or life change presented itself because I could do 100 push ups, that was my goal and it was achieved, there need be no more. On the other hand when I decided to go back to school this goal was a means, I wasn’t simply going to attend University and have that be all I wanted. By attending University this allowed me to work toward one degree, which then allowed me to enter a selective program for an additional degree, which will in theory allow me to get a job in my chosen field in four more years. Going back to school and getting into the more selective programs were goals that were means, they work as stepping stones to a goal further along, but merely accomplishing them isn’t enough for they are means not ends.
Now the push up goal was an end with the means, I did a program of successively increasing push ups for a few months and reached the goal. Going back to University and then getting into the specialized program were means to an end. Some goals are ends without means, and some are means without ends, and these are generally flawed goals. My friend went for a Master’s degree and expected the world would just have a job waiting for her when she was done, because that would be nice and convenient to have a job perfectly suited for her very specific education. This goal was a means without an end, she expected the degree would lead her to a job, but she admits to not knowing what job her education qualifies her for. If she had of worked for her Master’s degree out of love for education or the topic, then she would have achieved something just for the sake of following her desire with no expectations, and that I could have respected. She would have followed her heart for something she loved and expected nothing from it. You can also have goals that are ends without means; these tend to be concrete goals with no known path for them to occur. A cliché example would be becoming a millionaire, it is a specific goal but without means and that makes it extremely unlikely to be achieved.
Magick has the beautiful ability to do the unbelievable at times, to turn statistics and probabilities on their ear, to glitch our understanding of reality, but in spite of all of this magick functions best with a Path of Manifestation, a way for the goal to occur. I fully admit that magick sometimes happens without any known Path, in ways that really challenge our world, these are great experiences when they occur but we shouldn’t rely on them for all success. Magickians need to think and magickians need to plan, this is another part of the “Goals and Magickian” conversation that seems to be too obvious to require saying, yet constantly I see magickians with just this issue complaining either about life or magick, and honestly I get caught up in on occasion too. Magickians need to work within our reality, and need to set practical goals. You can set your sights on lofty goals and work your magick toward it but really you’d be better off applying your efforts a bit closer to home. Trying to conjure up a house and cottage is a nice dream, but if you’re pulling in $20,000 a year it isn’t very likely. Your magick should illuminate stepping stones to your goals. If you want the house and cottage don’t simply try to magick them into your life, use your magick to improve your job, get a better job (and the work that could be required there such as more education or social connections) so that you have the financial foundation that will allow your goal to be achievable. If you have the means work on the end, if you know the end then create the means.
Some may think I advocate thinking small, but I don’t, I believe as magickians we should constantly push ourselves and test the world, but I advocate thinking realistically and in Paths of Manifestation, at least for the majority of the time. Magick is the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will, so Uncle Al said. The art is the dreaming the lofty goals, but part of the science is realizing when you can’t get to a goal from where you are without taking specific steps. Art is the inspiration, science is the process. Magickians need to plan, if they are to achieve.