Before answering this question it is really necessary to understand what magick is, where is derives from, and get clear on what it is that you, the question asker, actually want.
In brief, magick (magic) derives from an Old Persian word magus referring to members of a priestly caste of Zoroastrian religion. It is believed that the three wise men in the New Testament story about the birth of Jesus where Magi. It is from this word that we have the term Magus and Mage, which has become synonymous with a wizard, sorcerer and magician; one who practices magick.
In modern usage, the word magick (with a ‘k’) usually takes it’s definition from Aleister Crowley, who suggested the use of the ‘k’ to differentiate it from stage magic. Crowley offered several similar definitions of magick including:
- Magick is “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.”
- “Every intentional (Willed) act is a Magical act.”
- “Magick is the Science of understanding oneself and one’s conditions. It is the Art of applying that understanding in action.”
Digging a little deeper, back to the etymology of the word, it is believed to derive from the Indo-European root magh– meaning “to be able” or “have power”. There is also some linkage with the root me- or meg- meaning “great” – seen in the name Hermes Trismegistus (Thrice Greatest).
If you consider the word’s origin, along with the more modern and commonly accepted definition, then magick may be considered to be a power by which one manifests change through usage of their Will. It is the ability to have power, which comes through the understanding of one’s Self (microcosm) and the natural world (macrocosm), indicated by the hermetic axiom “As Above, So Below” (or “That which is within, is like that which is without”) and coupled with the age old commandment to man, “know thyself”.
It is within these two hermetic sayings that we begin to find the root of magickal and mystical knowledge. Firstly, we must develop a process of learning about our Self (Self-knowledge). This will lead on to the development of understanding that the changes we create internally (the “within” or “above”) via a Willed act can lead to changes in the physical (the “below” or “without”). This is the foundation for all magickal training, behind all the forms and physical representations expressed by various schools of thought.
This needs some serious consideration, and regular reflection on what this actually entails. The ramifications of not understanding this leave the magickian and his attempts at magickal acts impotent – performing hollow actions and mumbling meaningless incantations.
All external performance of words and actions within a magickal act is of a symbolic nature, a kind of meditative act to aid in focusing attention to direct the Will, and creative forces within the magickian. There is no inherent power in the words or actions themselves – and as such there are no “lost names of God, which if uttered will bring about the destruction of the World”.
Another important clarification of learning magick is that the intention or goal is not to learn fancy party tricks. Any suggestion of using magick to perform impressive feats (levitation, fireballs, transmutations) is a flight into fancy. Unless it is performed to truly empower the magickian it is a distraction or flight into fantasy. Impressing someone has no real value, and is easily left to stage magicians, illusionists, and special effects (SFX) artists. This is not to say that all manner of “impressive feats” cannot be performed. It is the usefulness and value of these things that is questionable, along with the understanding that a preoccupation with the development of special abilities and flights of fancy are generally indications of avoidance of the necessary work of magickal training and development. Any “special powers” developed may be considered a side-effect of effective training, and evidence of true wisdom and understanding of the application of magickal knowledge.
So, in answering the original question, to learn magick requires the development of one’s inner powers, and knowledge of one’s Self. All magickal activity either expresses and manifests the knowledge of the magickian, or is to aid the magickian’s personal evolution to further develop his skills, knowledge, wisdom and understanding.
The activities are many and varied that can be used in magickal training. As previously mentioned these articles are aimed at providing techniques that can be used within the urban environment.