In the pursuit of esoteric, magical or shamanic training, there is something that must be explained to all prospective and interested students. It’s a condition created in our instant-gratification society by movies such as Harry Potter or “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” In these movies the high arts of advanced sorcery, magick and wizardry are taught from the beginning. Harry Potter goes to school and is immediately taught alchemy, transforming objects from one form to another. He can fly on a broomstick right away. In “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” almost all the characters know some form of Kung-Fu, and can levitate and fight with a great degree of skill. While all of this makes for great movies, it seriously misrepresents the learning process for esoteric knowledge. These movies portray in two hours what can take decades to learn, if at all.
Having said all that, let’s now talk about esoteric kindergarten. There is a kindergarten for esoteric learning just as there is a kindergarten for public school. In every form of learning, you must master the basics before you can move on to more advanced techniques. Many fantasy novels do a much better job of portraying the process of learning than current movies. For instance, in a fantasy series like “The Belgariad” by David Eddings or a novel like “A Wizard of Earthsea” by Ursula K. LeGuin, the period of early learning and apprenticeship is spelled out in more detail. In both of these books, young magicians-to-be balk at having to learn the fundamentals of magick before being able to cast spells, shape-shift or levitate. But in all cases, the masters force their young apprentices to learn the fundamentals, sometimes for years at a time. In this early process, they are teaching their apprentices the skills of seeing, stalking, will and control. A person’s knowledge can only be matched with his level of being, and all of these skills contribute to the level of being. You can have a person with a lot of esoteric knowledge and no being (a powerless magician), or a person with a very high level of being but no knowledge (a stupid saint). In either case, neither will be very effective in the worlds of magick and shamanism.
So if and when you embark on a journey to learn the arts of magick and shamanism, be patient with the process. Learn the fundamentals well because you’ll need to know them instinctively later on. If you are going to do a banishment and you encounter a being who could be either a ghost or an archetype, you’ll have to know immediately how to distinguish them because you won’t have time to think! A ghost can be banished with a blast of electric blue, but an archetype will fight back and send 10 times the blast of electric blue back at you. It sometimes takes years before you understand the implications of the knowledge that you already have, and this is a rightful part of the magical journey. An author who does a great job describing this path is Tom Brown, Jr. His books include “This Vision,” “The Tracker” and “The Journey.” If you want to get a real sense of what esoteric kindergarten looks like, read his books, then add about 15 years to it, since he started when he was 8 and most of us don’t start this journey until much later.
Does the thought of esoteric kindergarten sound boring and interminable? It is in some ways because we don’t get to satisfy that need in us to do something really big and glorious in the magical realms. At the same time, though, remember that kindergarten was a lot of fun. In kindergarten, you get to play a lot, and you’re not required to do much. As you take this journey, the path keeps getting narrower and narrower, so enjoy the path while it’s big and wide. Kindergarten is kindergarten, whether you’re 5 or 50. Enjoy!