Your Tradition Can’t Beat Mine

“It is folly to suppose that the Black or the White Mass is of greater importance, it is but the Power enslaved in them that must be freed –the Power of their Belief that must be utilized and aligned unto Our Path.” ~Chumbley

Came across this quote again, and it resonated with something I’ve been thinking about off and on lately. Another potentially controversial statement: Your tradition isn’t better than mine.

Okay, not too controversial depending on how you read it. By which I mean to say what I feel is fairly obvious, and mostly true; that magickal systems in and of themselves aren’t superior to one another. Most of the time it’s the person working the system that makes the difference, not the system itself.

TLDR: Good sorcerers, not traditions.

I got thinking about this for a few reasons, but most evidently when watching a friend, who recently converted magickal traditions, talking about how amazing their new system was, that it was far superior than the last one they were a part of (or the one before that, as the middle tradition was superior to the first) and just worked so much better. She might be right, but to an outsider it doesn’t look like it. Why? She’s always been good at what she does, and even if the first two traditions she studied in were shitty, she made them work for her. I say in this case it isn’t so much her new tradition or initiation did anything, it’s the fact that she is a wise person (with her blind spots like us all) with great focus and discipline. It wouldn’t matter if she was studying Neo-Wicca, Khemetic Reconstructionism, Santeria, Buddhism, or whatever. As long as she is in a system that has room for magick and flexing willpower, I think she would be a good sorcerer.

Now, don’t get me wrong, some traditions have different advantages and niches. Want to evocate a spirit, I think Ceremonialism is the route, want to invocate a spirit, I think Buddhism has that down, want to be ridden by a spirit, get thee to a Santero’s house. The thing is these advantages are only there for people who have the capacity to use them, some hypothetical good sorcerer. Just because you work with the grimoires doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get spirits appearing, just because you have an empowerment doesn’t mean Vajrayogini is going to come dance in your mind, just cause you made Ocha doesn’t mean Oya is going to take your body for a spin. All systems have the potential for training and growth and magick, but it’s the person that does the work, not the system. Though again caveated some systems are better suited for different people and bringing out the desired traits.

The second thing that got me thinking about this was seeing someone automatically assuming that someone from a certain tradition couldn’t hurt them magickally because it was an inferior system. Two things can happen here, either your disbelief works wonders on your personal magick and deflects stuff, or more likely, you’ll leave yourself open because you assume that Goetic spirits or animal fetchs have nothing on your protective angel/spirit/Chihuahua and get your etheric ass handed to you. Again, some traditions have different advantages, some might have better offence, others better defence, but that is no reason to discount them. As much disdain as I might drip on the newage movement, if think a whitelight newager can’t curse you, you haven’t crossed many of them, cause some of them wield the most potent hateful energy you’ll ever encounter. I see with pagans a lot of disregarding Christians and their prayer/magick, but I know a Catholic priest who works as an exorcist. He’s the sweetest man, but magickally he is a force to be reckoned with. He’s nearly thrown a friend of mine out of body (and said friend is well trained and not exactly “fragile”) and I had him bless an object for me so I’d remember this lesson, and when he blessed it I felt like someone was crushing my heart in a vice, just from the pressure and type of force/energy he called upon.

Granted most of the time this isn’t an issue in the occult community, we get along for the most part. I’m a Buddhist ceremonialist and my closest friends and my magickal allies are everything from newage neo-Native shamans, to vampires, to strict Solomonic practicitioners, to Santeros, to atheists (they can do magick too), Cambodian shamans, witches, and whatever else I’m not thinking of. We learn to talk across the differences, and learn from each other, but the thing is, the traditions we follow, the techniques we learn, they’re not what make us good sorcerers. It’s the fact that we’re people of devotion, intelligence, focus, and drive.

The flip side of this is look at yourself and your practice. Is your magick not what it should be, do you not get the results you need or want? Is the problem the system you’re studying, does it lack the technology for the result you want? Or could it be the fact that you don’t have the Strength/Wisdom/Compassion to wield it? You might be better off working on your discipline and focus, redoubling your effort than adding in another tradition or technique. Crowley said “About 90 % of Thelema, at a guess, is nothing but self-discipline” (Magick without Tears, Chapter 70) but I think much the same applies for all magick. Magick, techniques, spells, and visualizations, they’re tools, and can be phenomenal, but if you don’t have the skill to wield them, then the world’s best written conjuration won’t really change that.

I’m not saying don’t try new things, I’m not sayin learning techniques from other traditions is useless or bad. I’m just saying that no matter how many spells you know, no matter how many meditations you’ve been taught, how many magickal techniques you have, or how many initiations you’ve taken, you’re the sorcerer not these tools. If you don’t have the focus, discipline, and drive, if you don’t have the Strength, Wisdom, Compassion to utilize these tools, then they’ll never be truly effective.

“Sorcery uses Will, Desire and Belief with such precision as is permitted by the talents of the Individual Practitioner.” -Chumbley

5 Responses to Your Tradition Can’t Beat Mine

  1. Andrew says:

    Important lessons here. My lady and I attended an event in a town renewed for its “spooky”/Woo/magical leanings in Massachusetts recently — won’t say its name but rhymes with “Fail ’em” — and I was genuinely surprised how much of the ritual work essentially relied on the ‘good name’ of the place where the ceremony was held, rather than on the personal capacities of the leadership. Alternatively, maybe the ceremonies lacked punch because these folks were tired from putting so much energy into self-protection and defensive work, as opposed to community building… and given the ‘wars’ this town went through in the 1970s through early 1990s, maybe that was and continues to be wise.

    I can’t say I’m surprised; all the same, I saw a trio of “hippie chick” witches walk by one store, and I heard one say, “we’re not going in there… bad mojo.” And outside another store, a trio of goth-industrial kids (kids? They had to be in their late 20s. Gods I’m getting old. Hey you kids, get offa my lawn!) muttering about not going in there, bad vibes and con artists.

    But as my lady pointed out, there comes a point in one’s practice where those tools, the materials, the spells, the systems, all of that — is of very little use. You could see it in the elders, who didn’t much care whether the right implements were on the altar or not; and you could see it in their next generation of disciples, who were concerned about the right tools, the right implements, and showing off — still attached to outward and visible signs. And you could see it in those “kids”, unwilling to shop in certain stores because of disdain regarding particular traditions or a belief that some traditions were better or worse than others.

    How strange to be in one shop, looking around, and realize that in the window display were not one, but *three* Rainbow Wands from right out of the Golden Dawn books, and that they had been there so long, there was dust in the lotus blossoms! At some point, the tools become irrelevant — the wand trains the wizard, perhaps, but sooner or later the wizard remains a wizard regardless of whether he or she has a wand at all.

    • Kalagni says:

      You final line really sums it up. “the wand trains the wizard, perhaps, but sooner or later the wizard remains a wizard regardless of whether he or she has a wand at all.” Just with the caveat, that the wizard has to actually work with the wand to be trained with/by it.

      • Andrew says:

        It’s an appropriate caveat. Hard to learn wizardry without a wand — and I don’t metaphorically mean something else.🙂

  2. Nyctophilia Raven says:

    Reblogged this on Nyctophilia Raven and commented:
    I have to say, this idea cannot be stressed enough – it’s not the system, it’s the practitioner. If you don’t have it in you, no system is worth a damn. Good post.

  3. Rose says:

    Reblogged this on Weaving Among The Stars and commented:
    Fabulous insight!

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