Efficient Practices: The Shadow of Use What Works

I jog semi-regularly (since New Year’s not so much) generally each time I’m out is about 30 minutes. I also used to stretch the way I was told to, which took 20 minutes before hand. Then I read a study referencing the Tarahumari who are really the world’s greatest runners, they don’t stretch at all, when they need to run, they just go. Also despite what people believe those who stretch before running have a higher injury rate (also the more expensive your runners are, the more likely you are to get injured, but that’s irrelevant, just amusing). So I cut out the 20 minute long stretching, and my runs stayed the same, then got a bit better in regards to knee pains. What does this have to do with magick? Simply put: stop doing useless shit.

The axiom “Use what works” gets tossed around a lot, but less emphasis is placed on its double-negative twin “Don’t use what doesn’t work.

I’m a big supporter of daily practices and magicking from multiple angles, but sometimes they are done wrong. The Law of Diminishing Returns applies to magickal practice just as well as anything else. Most people will recognize this, but most don’t think to apply it to daily practice. Simplified the law states that at a certain point what you put into something does not equal what you get out of it, and can even lessen it to an extreme. The common example is farming. A plot of land can yield X amount of crops in a year, with Y units of fertilizer is may yield 110% X, with 2Y it may yield 120% X but with 3Y only 125%X. Eventually fertilizer can only do so much, and too much fertilizer actually burns the soil and crops and you end up with less than initially.

Magick is often the same way. There reaches a point where you have done pretty much everything you can, and anything more will not do as much as you think, or will even work against your goals. Daily practice is the same way, maybe it’s time to cull what you do. This is where “Don’t use what doesn’t work” comes into play.

This is part of my two week period between my birthday and New Years, I evaluate what has worked, and doesn’t work, what practice is useless, or does not do enough for the time and/or effort involved. If you spend all of your time and energy on stuff that does little or nothing, then you’ll lack the time and energy to do what you need to be successful. If you’re magickal focus is scattered between all these practices then your results will be just as scattered.

I wish I were making this example up. I know someone (not a friend) who is a member of the OTO, the Golden Dawn, studying with a Tantric Yogi, attending a Buddhist Temple, working his way through Initiation into Hermetics, while keeping up a personal practice of Energy Work. While his commitment is to be admired, as a magickian he’s not successful. Simple reason; he’s doing too much, he can’t grapple any of the systems with the depth they deserve, and is doing so many different daily practices that he’s pulling his etheric body in twelve directions at once (as well as probably spending too much time in magickal practice and not enough in real world action).

Not to say multiple practices and traditions are bad, but there is a point of diminishing returns. Take a look at your daily practice, what isn’t serving you anymore? Do you really need three different types of meditation? Do they support each other, or conflict? How many Pentagram/Hexagram rituals do you really need in a day? Are you really getting results from three different methods of strengthening and invigorating your energy body? I’ve recently cut about thirty minutes from my daily practices, and I’m still trying to prune more that I feel is more superfluous than effective. (Of course in my case it doesn’t help my pruning that my lama keeps giving me something else to do for a few weeks or months, but that’s the danger of studying under someone.)

If you’re not sure try cutting something out for a month, and see how you feel. Does your life fall apart without your daily Middle Pillar? Does your monkey mind reassert itself if you drop that third short session of meditation? Find out if what you’re doing is actually serving you, or if you’re getting an appropriate return for it. If not, maybe it is a time to let it go. Sometimes the greater commitment or devotion to a few practices can give you far greater results than spreading your time and energy too thin.

The trouble is we’re creatures of habit, we do what is familiar, we do what we’re taught, and we get locked into these patterns. If you’ve never seen the video of chimpanzees and kids learning how to open a box it’s a great illustration. Compare how the children get locked into the pattern they’re taught, but the chimpanzees (with their monkey minds) don’t have that problem. (There is also a possibility of obedience and performance in this test…just ignore that variable to take the point)

It is more difficult to point to, but the same problem can occur when trying to achieve a magick goal. Sometimes you can over-magick a goal, and instead of getting a few forces working to the same end, you get a clusterfuck where nothing can happen and things interfere with each other. The most clear example of this I had was a goal several years ago and my working failed, so when I called up the spirit to see what went wrong they said to me “You summoned someone else to do the same thing, so I thought you wanted them to handle it.” By using two spirits, perhaps because they were from the same system, and not telling them to work together, they both did nothing assuming I wanted the other to do the work.

Of course it’s not just spirits in this sense that can begin to conflict with each other. Sometimes it is hard to predict what will conflict, what spheres and forces and spirits just won’t mesh. If you’re going to try enchanting for an end from multiple perspectives take some time to perform some divination first and see if each successive method will help or hinder.

Moral of the story: Stop doing useless shit.

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7 Responses to Efficient Practices: The Shadow of Use What Works

  1. nightfire says:

    “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

  2. MrBlack says:

    not many people can let go of “their” things…..it’s just sad that people will hold onto things that are hindering them just because.

  3. Gordon says:

    The law of diminishing returns most definitely applies to magic, in the same way addicts require increasingly high doses. Your brain gets used to it.

    Similarly, there’s no measurable uplift in psychological health beyond 12-15 minutes of daily meditation and, say, an hour. Think about that… there’s nothing in between 12-15 minutes a day and… at the other end of the ocean, enlightenment.

    Great post. More please.

    • Kalagni says:

      I never thought about it in relationship to addiction, that’s an interesting thought.

      As for the meditation bit, do you have a source on that? The Buddhist in me is curious/concerned, heh.

  4. Very smart stuff. With the wide breadth of occult lore we now have at our fingertips, it’s easy to become a dilettante and master none of them. I stick to my traditional Craft work and the chaos magick work I do and focus on bringing more depth to that, but I do have such curiosity for all things arcane that it’s hard to not want to wander.

    • Kalagni says:

      Thanks. I totally agree about wandering. I read constantly about different occult systems, and occasionally toy, but there is a fine (but abstract line) between curiosity and clutter. I’m all for (intelligent) adaptions, inclusions, and synthesis, but there is a point when they can and do overwhelm your practice if you don’t keep it in check.

  5. […] posted before about dropping non-benifical practices or “Don’t use what doesn’t work” but it’s hard sometimes. This is where The Unlikely Mage’s technique comes in handy, read his […]

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