Those who’ve discussed my beginnings in magic with me are well aware that my first acts of magic were of a very aggressive nature, launched with full intent, and never with one regret to follow. The rest of you reading this now know as well. The reason that I mention this fact up front is to illustrate the fact that not only am I no stranger to that kind of magic, I’ve also used it with success, much to my satisfaction at the time(s). That being said, I would like to say that I approach such magic in the same way that I view any other form of martial arts skills that I have gained a level of proficiency in: I won’t curse someone over a personal slight such as being called a name or having a nasty argument with them anymore than I would shoot somebody or break their neck for slapping me across the face or spitting on me; notice that I don’t say that I “can’t,” I say that I won’t. I don’t even bother pranking people who I don’t like with Fart Runes these days, because really, that’s a waste of time & resources better spent elsewhere (besides, with my nasty verbal skills, I can leave a lasting impression on a jerk without investing too much in them…a good magician knows the wisdom of investing only the necessary amount of energy into any goal, and the follies that come with overspending.)
Before I left the Rune-Gild in 2003, I risted a Gandr (Wand) specifically for battle-magic, just in case I experienced any attacks from my former teachers & compatriots in the Gild: I was never forced to use it. I was never forced to use it when I seceded my House from the Wolfbund in 2005. To this day, I have not used the Gandr to engage in battle; I guess that when it really comes down to it, you could say that magicians who’ve gotten to a certain level in their development view non-productive magical combat as wasteful if the target is not a genuine & serious threat to them somehow. Mind you, simply because I don’t have a hair-trigger on my temper doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy a good fight once it’s clearly inevidable. If I have to, I’ll engage, with a big smile on my face, and mirth in my heart, just as if somebody had forced me into a physical confrontation: there is a certain kind of ecstasy that comes from victory in battle that those of faint hearts will never partake of, although battle is not a thing to be entered into lightly.
The initial motivation behind writing all of this is really unfortunate: an old acquaintance of mine (via the internet only) began exhibiting odd “behavior” online, posting comments to his Facebook page that ranted of hidden enemies and conspiracies reaching back decades; he turned his attention to several people listed as friends on his account, verbally berating them, and accusing at least one of being involved in one of these “conspiracies.” He eventually turned his attention on me, interpreting my attempts at lightening his mood as veiled threats against him. He ended our 12 year association in a two-line Facebook instant message. Let me stop here and say that I don’t hate this guy: he obviously has some deep-seated issues of some kind that I am far from qualified to diagnose. I have no resentment towards this guy, and actually respect him for his many talents. The problem with people who have such issues is that they actually believe that they are surrounded by enemies, and sometimes develop a “First Strike” mentality towards them. It is bad enough if the person has access to anything that could be used as a weapon, or is a trained martial artist; it is even worse if that person is a trained magician of some skill. In roughly the span of a week, I repelled more magical attacks than I have in the past decade. I haven’t retaliated, but it really annoyed me.
This brings me to the next subject in this discussion: you really need to be a reasonably stable human being if you intend to practice magic. I’m not kidding. Personal stability takes at least two forms:
1. Mental fitness is a necessity in magic. If you’re just starting out in magic, or thinking about starting out in magic, take an honest & personal inventory of yourself: do you have any emotional issues that have gotten in the way of you living your life? If so, you had best start taking steps to put your issues in order before going further. Even if you’ve been practicing a while and have neglected putting some of your issues at order, those unresolved matters in the basement are going to coninually interfere in your ability to view yourself & the Multiverse with anything but an emotionally warped perspective, which could manifest in all sorts of twisted ways. Some schools of magic say that when you start practicing magic, that you have “energized your karmic seeds” or something similar. I say that when you start practicing magic, you awaken certain things in yourself, and if you aren’t stable, you could get chewed up rather nicely somehow, including losing your mind, which is something that I have actually seen in at least a few cases. The thing is, you’re not the only one who gets to suffer: every single person who is close to you is going to suffer as well: they get to watch you degenerate, or they even might become your victim. For that matter, you might become someone else’s victim if they perceive you as a mad dog who needs to be put down for everyone’s sake.
2. Ethical fitness is a necessity of magic. Yeah, I know that you’ve heard the whole bit of being “beyond good & evil”…I’m talking about something else here. I’m talking about survival, and the quality of that survival as well. How do ethics help to secure survival? I could go into some of the more esoteric examples, some that you may or may not buy into depending upon your perspective on things “spiritual,” but it’s most pragmatic to focus on how it applies to your “everyday” life, and I’m not writing this to sell anyone on a particular paradigm. Your behaviors, be they deeds or words, determine to a great extent how you’re perceived by the world at large, and are the predominating factor in determining how others will respond to you and ultimately treat you. In short, ethics help keep you from unnecessary bullshit that you might bring upon yourself: People with reputations for dishonesty, unpredictability, criminality or other undesirable behavior not only become targets of abuse or legal action in time, but also cut themselves off from potential sources of income, information, or inspiration (a simple background check these days can close a lot of doors that may never open again.) Beyond this, having a reputation as a piece of garbage cuts you off from the kinds of people who would truly contribute to the quality of your life. A magician cannot truly depend upon the loyalities of people of quality unless he or she has developed the character that would warrant the presence of such people in their lives; truly worthwhile companions, be they friends, lovers or allies aren’t going to put up with some piece of shit who blows up in their face simply “because they felt like it.”
Still not convinced that personal stablity is a Necessity for Magicians? Fine. There’s actually one more thing for you to consider: magicians who stir up enough shit through mentally unstable or unethical behavior eventually draw the attention of the last people in the world that they want to piss off: other magicians. Ever hear the saying “There’s always someone a little better out there that can kick your ass”? This is where that saying easily applies. Where an unstable magician’s concerned, the chances are high that they’re going to eventually try to throw their weight around among other magicians somehow. Most magicians will probably ignore it, and let the guy off with a salvo of verbal abuse, if anything at all. Then there’s that one magician who for whatever reason decides to teach the punk a lesson, or is just having a bad week: I once spoke to a magician many years my junior in the “trade” who conveyed to me that he’d shot his mouth off to a Master-level initiate within the organization to which he belonged; the Master apparently responded by placing a form of Constraint which had the effect of overwhelming pain upon the junior whenever he would become infuriated, the very state of mind he was in when he finally went too far with the Master. The result? The junior was given ample time and plenty of context to consider not only the Necessity of mental stability, but also the fact that it’s a good idea to speak to other initiates with a more civil tone…he is an intelligent person, and I respect the fact that he had enough humility to recognize this, and enough pride in himself to want to change for the better (Note: since the original writing of this, the junior in question has lost his mind, intoxicated on delusions of greatness, paranoia that he’s being constantly magically attacked (as in the instance of claiming that some Master constrained him), and a fantasy that he is the new Yrmin-Drighten of the Rune-Gild…I guess that some people just shouldn’t play with magic.)
Therefore, strive with all of your faculties and resources to develop or reinforce your personal stability. If you determine that you have some emotional or psychological issue, get to work on it somehow. Do some research, get some tools for yourself to work with. Find somebody who you can trust, talk to them, and get some feedback. Magic will not eliminate these issues if you ignore them, magic will magnify them and bring them back to your door as monsters. Magic tends to make us more of who we really are, including the nasty parts, and so you have to learn to work around them (or with them) if you aren’t able to rip them out by the roots, or cut their heads off so to speak. Strive to establish ethics in your life. Examine the moral codes of your ancestors or warrior fraternities and ask yourself why these things were important to them in a practical way. Don’t simply adopt a code. Understand how it serves your happiness, prosperity & survival. If a magician hopes to walk a long and productive path, a stable set of legs are needed, else they hobble down the crooked path on twisted legs that are further broken by the road. It’s your choice.