The work described in the practicum for Magic 1 for Priests, as well as the work done in Magic 2, have both helped to inform my understanding of why self-knowledge and introspection are critical for working magic. They have helped me consider how I approach magical work, what methods I use, how I determine what magical work to do, and how my work reflects on how I am perceived by others.
Self-understanding and introspection are essential for every person who practices magic, whether or not they consider themselves a magus or magician. For me this becomes a discussion of ethics, and a discussion of ethics within my practice turns towards the Delphic Maxims. Personal introspection falls under maxim #8 “Know Thyself” or perhaps “Be Yourself,” depending on the translation. This requires a person to examine their personal values, and determine why they feel the way they do, and how to best act in accordance with those values they have come to own. Many other values are accounted for within the maxims that help to guide who that “self” is that you should strive to know and be.
In the work described in the practicum, I looked at what type of magic would actually be useful to me and to those who were attending the rites where that magic was performed. Part of the introspection was setting aside ideas for workings that would be ‘cool’ or ‘flashy,’ but not necessarily be the best way to accomplish the goal of that work. This required me to deepen my understanding of myself. An understanding of yourself requires that you know who you are and continually exploring who you want to become. It requires an understanding of how your actions and inactions affect yourself and others, and your view of yourself and how others perceive you. This does not require you to cater to or be afraid of how others will view you, but at least have an understanding. This understanding as you grow will help you to distinguish the role that magic is taking in your life. I believe there is always a danger that hubris can overtake a person, and in the case of magical work, this hubris can be more devastating as the magician breaks from reality. One of the guiding maxims that I think helps to curb hubris is to “Be (religiously) silent.” It is more important to do the work than talk about all the work you have, or could have done. One of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve done the work for the initiate path as well as the beginning work for the clergy training program (including the practicum for this course), is that my view of myself will affect the way that others view me, and the best course of action for me is to let my work speak for itself and let others determine their view of me from my actions.
An understanding, and continual drive for better understanding, of how you view yourself and how others view you will help to keep hubris from taking root and destroying both the self and any relationships that may exist. You should like who you are, and act in such a way that you continue to do so. If you don’t like yourself, then you should be able to take steps to fix that. You should also have an understanding of how those around you view you, and be able to accept that view.
Ways that I pursue a course of self-understanding are first by examining (and re-examining) my biases. It is important for everyone to know their biases so that they can account for the ways that may pre-dispose them to a certain belief or outcome. I do divinatory work to consult the divine on whether or not an action (magical or not) is called for. I meditate on how my actions will affect myself and others. I work to determine what I view as right and wrong, and where my line is that I won’t cross. I do my best to stay honest with myself and true to my gods, because in the end, I have to answer to my conscience and my gods.