How to be a Sorcerer: an Overview

Every now and then, a perceptive reader writes to me and says, “You say anyone can do magic. If that’s true, why should I pay you to do it for me?”

My response is usually along the lines of: “Everyone can do it, but not everyone wants to. That’s why professional sorcerers, ritualists, Reiki masters, tarot readers, shamans, witches, and conjure doctors exist.”

Today, I want to expand on that response by providing an overview of what I’d teach you if you came to me as a student of these mysteries. Think of this as a syllabus for an introductory college-level course in practical sorcery.

Still, before I get into that, I want to add one thought. In a perfect world, everyone would be so highly self-realized that magic would be like brushing one’s teeth, something people do as a natural and accepted part of life. There have been human cultures where this has been more or less the case. But over the centuries, as religion and philosophy have separated mind and body, heaven and earth, god and man, magic has come to be regarded as supernatural—above and beyond what we think of as normal in our everyday existence. So it takes effort for us to learn it. It usually takes a spiritual quest. And only those who are sensitive enough to recognize its faint call and brave enough to investigate begin the journey. So if you’re thinking to yourself, I’m not magical, psychic, or naturally gifted, I suspect you’re wrong about that. You just have to work at it and develop your latent (natural, human) abilities.

Now for the overview: all practical magic comes down to 5 steps.

  1. Sense energy.
  2. Raise energy.
  3. Put the energy you raised into a container.
  4. Send that container from the subjective world of your consciousness into the objective world beyond your consciousness.
  5. Recognize the effect(s).

Who knew it was that simple? It is, on the surface, that simple. The catch is that each of these steps takes a lot of work to get right.  And each of these steps has its “specialists”; though, all should be considered magicians in the broad sense of the term.

Sensing Energy: this is the psychic ability to feel “energy.” But what is energy as I’m using the term here? It’s a kinetic or potential force in the physical world; it’s an emotional force in the astral world; it’s a conceptual force in the mental world; and it’s a spiritual force in the divine world. In order to do magic that will cause “change in conformity with will,” the practitioner has to learn how to sense energy on all of these levels because magic (like everything else) functions on all of them simultaneously. Every culture has a different name for this multi-faceted energy: reiki, chi, prana, ki, ashe, juju, mojo, the force, etc. I like to use the old-fashioned western term, aether (not ether, which is a physical vapor). Whatever one decides to call it, sensing it is the first step to working with it.

Developing this sensitivity might involve learning a divination system like tarot or the pendulum, taking classes in psychic development, joining a magical society and practicing basic energy rituals, learning the spiritual side of yoga, tai chi, or chi gong, learning Reiki, or any number of other practices that focus on inner development.  Those who specialize in this step become psychic healers, Reiki masters, professional tarot readers, spiritual advisors, therapists, clergy, and often go far in corporate culture (whether they know they are tapping into these abilities or not).

Raising Energy: once you can feel it and understand it on multiple levels, you need to be able to raise it when necessary. Aether is everywhere, in everything, and I believe along with many venerable occultists that aether is everything. But in order to put it to a particular purpose (instead of simply acknowledging its existence in and around us), we need to concentrate it. Of this, Benebell Wen writes in The Tao of Craft that making a magical Taoist “Fu” sigil “consists of pulling desirable metaphysical energy and channeling that energy into a concentrated space” ( It is the same with any magical operation. But how do we “pull” or summon this energy? Every culture and tradition has its own methods. If we’ve developed ourselves using one or more of the “sensing” approaches mentioned above, then we’ve probably acquired a technique for raising this energy as well.  Those who specialize in this step may become psychic healers and Reiki masters but may also become artists of some kind, performers, martial artists, and even politicians.

Putting the energy into a container: here’s where the “bells and smells” come into play, the ceremony, the sigil-crafting, the shamanic dance, the use of the hoodoo materia, the linear pentagram ritual, the drawing down of the moon, the formation of the reiki symbols, and the calling of the quarters. The reason some magic fails is that people think working with these outer forms is the first step. They forget that sensing and raising energy have to come first. If we have the energy at our disposal, then such forms become containers for that energy.

A container can be an image, an item, a word of power, a mantra, a barbarous name of evocation, even a persistent idea. When people laugh at revivalist Christians for speaking in glossolalia, they do not understand that they are witnessing a magical act in which energy is being put into a container. Glossolalia, not unlike the famous Enochian Calls, is part of the magic, part of the ritual, part of how the energy enters the form.  In magical communities, this step is sometimes called “the magical technique” or “the method.” It’s the steps found in recipe books called “grimoires” or, among some modern witches, “books of shadows.”

The magic is not just the structure of the container itself; it’s what gets put into that container–form and function existing symbiotically as a dynamic process of deliberate, highly focused change.  Those who specialize in the crafting of magical containers tend to make a lot of graphic sigils, amulets, talismans, written hypersigils, radonics machines, and complex multi-part hoodoo tricks.  You also find a lot of visual artists, architects, photographers, designers, and computer industry people with these magical skills.

Sending the container off to do the work: when we put the energy into the container, our intention goes with it. Some magical people will say that everything is intention and, in a way, they are right. This is because, as the psychic Debra Katz has said, energy follows focus. The object of your focus receives your energy and the intentions you hold in your mind. Learning to concentrate on our goal when we put energy into a container is difficult for a number of reasons. But we must be able to do this in order to “send it off” to do our work. When we finish the spell or ritual, we release this focus and send the container along the trajectory of our intention to the goal. Where it once only existed in our subjective world, now it crosses into the objective world and may enter the subjective worlds of others.

How it does this is mysterious.  Some magical schools refer to this “crossover point” as the “Magical Link,” but its exact function and nature remain a matter for speculation.  However, merely learning how to release a magical container without ruining the work (aka “lust of result”) takes practice and experience. Ideally, it takes instruction from a teacher. But, like all of these steps, it can be self-taught through trial and error (to a greater or lesser degree of inevitable self-sabotage and pain on the part of the learner).  This is the specialty of the “sorcerers” we think of when we hear the term–also ceremonial magicians, witches, and other explicitly magical sorts.

Recognizing the effects of the work: this can be just as challenging as any of the other steps. Sometimes, our work emerges sooner or later than we expect. Sometimes, it’s very powerful and obvious. Other times, it’s so subtle, we hardly notice. Keeping a magical journal helps us remember to check in with the outcomes, but this, too, is a matter of discernment and adepthood. It doesn’t come easy and takes development, even for those who feel they are “naturally gifted” in these areas.  We find the few competent parapsychologists and forteans specializing in this area, along with so-called “armchair magicians,” popular occult authors, and New Thought success gurus.

In a more mainstream sense, high-end mathematicians, physicists, philosophers, and theologians tend to hone their abilities to recognize improbable and subtle causality.  We should also remember grandma, who used to cross herself whenever the milk curdled before its date.  We may have laughed at her for being superstitious, but she might have seen things we couldn’t imagine.  You never know.  A true adept can consider grandma’s superstitions and probabilistic mathematics together and derive meaning from the synthesis.

And so, as you can see, it is possible for anyone to engage in this praxis, given the right amount of personal dedication. However, not everyone wants to devote the time and energy to this. Added to all the work is the reality of living a magical life. Most people don’t appreciate how painful it can be to lead a double life, to always have to run the risk of being misunderstood and judged by the ignorant multitudes who have not taken the time to understand these arts. Personally, I have no regrets. But I have known many who have suffered greatly because of their magical pursuits. It is something to keep in mind.

Therefore, the question, If anyone can do it, why should I pay you? really does have a simple answer: because I live the life. Pay me or pay the price of developing these skills for yourself. As with anything else, nothing comes for free. The deciding factor should be whether the magical life is something that speaks to your soul. If that is the case, I encourage you to begin.


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