Last week I talked about how most of the time it’s the practitioner and the practice, not the tradition that makes for a good occultist. I’d like to build on that now, with part of what makes a good occultist, dealing with the plateaus and moving beyond.
Hrafn from the Weaving Wyrd (who needs to post more) wrote a good piece on The Okay plateau and the Occult. Now I recommend you read what they wrote, but I’ll give you the Abyss Notes Version.
With any skill -physical, mental, or magickal- we practice and train up until a certain point, and then we tend to slow down or slack off. We often think that we’ve gone as fair as we can, that we can’t improve, but really there are a lot of factors to why we stopped improving.
Anyone who has been doing magick for several years probably knows this feeling. You feel like you aren’t progressing, or you can’t progress. Maybe you feel like there is nothing else to learn. Perhaps it has become so normal in your life that you’re no longer enamoured with your Arte. We go through the routine daily practices, but go nowhere.
Hrafn suggests four great ways of dealing with it
• Keep a Journal
• Back to the Basics
• Attend a Periodic Workshop
• Find a Group
I would give a resounding yes to all of them.
I’m writing this because I feel I’ve been at an Okay Plateau for several months, and it’s only in the last month that I’ve gotten through it. (Dread Lords of the Abyss have I gotten through it…)
So without trying to copy Hrafn’s plan, I did all of the above. During my Saturn Retrograde hell I stopped journaling. Journaling is tedious, and boring, but it’s also magickal accountability. Any magick that didn’t work during the months I didn’t journal, I don’t remember, so I can pretend everything went awesome. Now that I’m journaling if something doesn’t work, I can’t forget it, the record exists. This forces me to face it, reevaluate it, and figure out why it didn’t work, and thus improve. (Also, reread your magickal journals every once and a while, you’d be amazed as the wisdom you’ve forgotten.)
Under orders from my HGA I’m not allowed to buy new books (something about apples and fields and trees) so I’ve been rereading old books, like Magus of Strovolos and Hands of Light, and it’s refreshing to touch base with old important books, much like your journals seeing the wisdom and skills you’ve forgotten.
I attended and presented at the same occult convention Hrafn mentions, took great classes, and spent a weekend talking shop with great occultists and experimenting.
I found some nifty new occultists online to talk to. Personally I’d rather a group in Toronto to work with, but I’ll take what I can get.
That all said, there are a few things additional ideas I’d like to suggest for the Okay Plateau.
• Different directions/model
• Work a system/book
• Combine systems
When I was working on my physical fitness I plateaued at being able to do 120 pushups, just couldn’t break that point. So what I did was I started changing my hand positions, sometimes I did pushups with my hands touching, or father apart, or unevenly spaced with one farther up than the other. These new pushups sucked! I couldn’t do nearly as many, because they were hitting a lot of different, but related/connected muscles, that I didn’t use. After a few weeks of toying around like that, I went back to normal pushups and beat 120. In some ways the models are like that, and when we shift our model work, just for a while, you work magickal muscles you rarely use, which in turn strengthen and support the muscles you have, letting you break your plateau.
Work a new/old system or a book. The rational here is pretty much the same as the above. Pick a book, or a system, old or new, the less related/connected to your system the better, and work through it. I recently did this with Christopher Penczak’s Inner Temple of Witchcraft. That book is frankly and politely not my style in the slightest. But I read it, and performed every exercise in the book, albeit in a shortened period of a week and a half when he suggests a year and a day. So I tried all his meditations, called the Goddess, did some candle magick, wrote petitions, practiced basic energyballs. It’s a 101 book for his version of witchcraft, completely different from what I do, and what I like* so it was perfect. It forced me to do new things, different things, and the basics and while there may be only one thing in the book that I go back to (which was ironically one of my first energy techniques I stopped using), I found it useful to work through it. It flexed my muscles in new ways, and over that week and a half I felt my daily routine pick up steam it hadn’t in a long time. Or if you’re a tarot reader for instance grab all those little white books that you hate that came with your deck. Most decks have a unique/cheesy theme spread, work your way through all of them, use the book to re-reference the meanings, see how that goes.
*I find it odd, most interviews with Christopher I adore his stuff, and he’s a friend of a friend, and the friend vouches for what he can do and what he knows, but his books just don’t cut it for me.Combine systems and practices. More of same rational, do something old in a new way. Plateaued? Combine two of your practices. Ceremonialist who reads tarot? Summon the spirit of a card they way you would an Angel. Rootworker and Mindfulness practitioner? Sit on the cushion with an herb, breathing it in and out, see what it does. Maybe you’ll find something awesome to teach and share, maybe you’ll feel like an idiot for the attempts, but it both flexes though related muscles, and has you experiment, the best way to do magick. Mix traditions, mix practices, meditate on the Name of your patron god, invoke an herb spirit, use your kitchen witch baking for divination, whatever.
110%. So obvious, so cliché, so true. We plateau because we think we’ve hit the limit, shift the limit. It’s easier with some practices than others, but you can always push harder. If you pray for 10 minutes a day, make it 15. If you meditate for 20 make it 25. If you perform offerings for your spirits include something new on top of the usual. If you say 400 mantras a day, make it 500. Whatever you do, just do it a little bit more. It has to be enough that you notice (10 minutes of meditation becoming 11 does nothing, 15 is noticeable) and it pushes you. Again, you don’t have to stay this way, just do it for a week or month and it will help things come into place. (Also, yes, those are not literal 110%, the point is increasing your effort)
Having just broken through an Okay Plateau, I know they’re one of the most frustrating periods you’ll go through as a magickian, but it happens to us all. The key is as a good and wise practitioner, we know this, and we know how to break through. Keep going, Work harder, Work smarter, Work more, and you’ll break through the plateau, and oh from there the places you’ll see.