My first adventures into magick and the occult were via a handful of Carlos Castaneda books when I was 9 or 10 years old. It has only been recently I discovered there is credible evidence Castaneda got most his material from the university library. Interestingly, though that may well have been the case I was getting results. One might argue a pre-teen should be getting some guidance when adventuring into wizardry of any flavor. Regardless, there I was as a pre-teen having my own drug-free magickal encounters.
Much later I learned there were somewhat organized approaches to magick. Even more recently, 40 years later have I started to practice an actual ceremonial approach to magick on a daily basis.
Over the course of the intervening 40 years I followed a completely intuitive, essentially unguided, path. Fittingly, a few years before starting a ceremonial approach I worked with chaos magick. Which I suspect acted as a kind of bridge between the unguided intuitive and highly organized approaches of my path.
All to say I have experienced some fundamentally different approaches to magick and the occult path. What I think is most interesting is how highly personal a magickal path is while at the same time there are common elements of an approach which one can find in many paths across cultures.
Here is a short list off the top of my head of categories of magick systems. Note how different each can be from another. Of course, this list is hopelessly incomplete. In fact, each of the points are broad categories containing a multitude of systems themselves.
- Intuitive Approach
- Highly Structured, Ceremonial
- Ancient Magick
- Modern Magick
- Eastern Systems
- Western Systems
- Natural Magick
Here is another short and vastly incomplete list of actual magick systems, each of which has its own subset of systems:
- Golden Dawn
- Natural Magick
- Astrological Magick
- Taoist Magick
- Witchcraft in all its variations
- and on, and on.
When I look over the field of possibilities for studying magick I come to one conclusion about what direction to pursue.
It doesn’t matter.
The reason is that magick is an apparently universal phenomena in humans. The various systems are created by people to pass on to others and serve to help you develop your potential. Where people have the most trouble is in sticking with a system long enough to learn what it has to teach.
Study and practice whatever system or non-system feels right. There is not really a best or more powerful system. Age or pedigree doesn’t make much difference. Along the way you may learn some approaches are more effective than others. Some approaches might even be unexpectedly hazardous, resulting in very unintended consequences you will want to avoid. You won’t necessarily be able to make a good choice though without some experimenting.
I do think one can make educated guesses based on other people’s experiences with and the reputations of various system. For all the variety we see in people we are alike enough that the likelihood someone is doing something which would work well for you is pretty high. A little upfront research can save decades of wasted effort in this life.
So find an interesting system. Work it exactly as the author writes if you are using a book. After a year, re-evaluate. Adjust. Keep going.