I said in my recent post Shake It Up that it’s good to try something new to stretch yourself. I also said I’d make a post contradicting that, and that would be this post.
One piece of advice from my magickal training that always sticks with me is : Deep, not wide.
So simple and unassuming, but really good advice if we bother to apply. We live at a time with unparalleled access to information on magickal and religious traditions the world over. This is such a wonderful opportunity, but also a trap we can too easily fall into.
I’ve talked before about how “Your Tradition Can’t Beat Mine” That it is good sorcerers, not traditions. “Now, don’t get me wrong, some traditions have different advantages and niches. Want to evoke a spirit, I think Ceremonialism is the route, want to invoke 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.”
Sometimes we, and I’m included in this, spread ourselves too thin between traditions and practices we are trying to learn. We get a breadth of knowledge our magickal ancestors could only dream of, but to an extent we sacrifice depth to get there.
It’s easy to jump from tradition to tradition based on what we’re trying to learn, and again there is a benefit to that. On the other hand, each magickal tradition is more or less a complete system of magick and probably has a way to do everything you’re learning in another tradition, it’s just not as emphasized or specialized.
The advice “Deep, not wide” is specifically about depth of practice and understanding. Test yourself with two limitations for a while, and see how that changes your understanding.
First if you’re thinking of learning a technique from another tradition; stop and try to figure out how your main tradition would do it. Does it directly have a similar practice? If not how can you make such a practice that fits in the model of your tradition. Instead of learning how the other tradition does it, think about how it should be done in your tradition, what would a similar practice look like in your tradition? Once you’ve learned that go back and look at other traditions, but looking for it, and analyzing it gives you a much better understanding in general than you would pick up from another tradition’s take. Since you understand your system, you’ll be able to see a depth and nuance that would be lacking if you just learned a technique from another tradition.
The second is try limiting your practice for a while to one practice, regardless of what your goals are. This can require some thinking, it might be hard to think how your work with a wealth deity could be used for defense, or how an offensive spirit might be used to assist in healing. There is usually a way around these things. Again, it makes you think about the practice in a deeper way, giving you more insight in general and to your tradition than you would have picked up doing other practices. Both these limitations serve the same purpose, forcing you to think deeper and differently about your practices.
Go out and learn as widely as you’d like, but every once and a while test yourself, restrict yourself, and see how much more you understand by the time you are done.