I personally had two teachers who taught me magic. I’m very fortunate in that my teachers were both very good at what they did and also very ethical. I now take on students of my own and have been doing that for some time. Personally I’ve never gone through any magic system. I’ve never needed to, I had teachers. I have however looked at a lot of systems and I’ve known a lot of people that have gone through them, so I’m familiar with how they work.
I want to go through what it’s like to have a teacher, what it’s like to go through a system, and what you, as a prospective student, should expect. There is, of course, a third route to learning magic, which is self-learning, but I’m not going to spend much time going into that.
When I say teacher I’m referring to a spiritual mentor who has an intense one-on-one relationship with a student where they work on learning magic together for a period of time. I’m not referring to people who are teaching classes or running workshops on some aspect of magic or spirituality, and I’m not referring to teachers in the broader sense in that we all have things we can teach each other in regards to magic and spirituality.
What Age Should You Start
I usually work with students in their early to mid-twenties. I’m willing to work with students up to their early to mid-thirties, and I’m open to working with a teenager if it’s an exceptional student, but usually teenagers aren’t ready for a teacher (I’ll talk more about that later).
If you’re older than mid-thirties, I would turn you away as a student, because I’m not the right teacher for you. I’m sure you can still get a lot out of spirituality at an older age, but you need a teacher who is a good fit for older students, and honestly you’ll probably be better served by a system. If you’re just getting serious about your spirituality and magic at that late an age, it’s pretty much certain that spirituality isn’t going to be a focal point of your life this time around, and there’s going to be a relatively low ceiling to how far you can develop. If it was meant to be, you would’ve found a teacher or system much earlier in life.
That isn’t to say spirituality isn’t for you if you’re older, or that there’s nothing to gain by exploring it further. I’d definitely encourage you to practice magic, and take your spirituality as far as you can, however if you choose to go with a teacher, you’re going to need a teacher that has experience working with older students and has a knack for it, and that’s not me. Likewise a lot of the information in this article will still apply to you, but some of it may not. Your spiritual path is going to have a very different trajectory than a younger student, and I don’t have a whole lot of experience with what that looks like.
Are You Ready Yet?
The #1 reason I don’t take on a student is because I don’t have time at the moment. Teaching is very time consuming and unfortunately I only have so many hours in a day. The #2 reason is that the person is not ready to be taught.
If you’re just now starting to get into spirituality, it might seem like the best next step is to find a teacher or find some group to join that offers a system to teach magic. That’s what I personally would assume the next logical step would be.
However before you can be a student you have to go through a phase of spiritual discovery. This phase is all about exploring spirituality, seeing what’s out there, and discovering what it means to you, and if you want it to be a focal point of your life going forward. If you’re at this point, read books, go to meetups, maybe take an intro class if someone’s offering it, engage with the community, cast some spells, do some energy work, meditate, astral project, evoke demons, whatever. Just be spiritual, do magic, and figure out if this is for you and what direction you want to take it.
It’s hard to say how long you should stay in this phase before you’re ready to be a student. Some people get stuck in this phase forever. You’re going to need to spend at least a year doing this, probably a few years. The amount of time you need to spend on this has a bit of a converse relationship with age as well. If you’re really young you’ll probably have to spend more time in this phase, but you have more time anyways.
24-26 is sort of the sweet spot to get a teacher or enter a system. If you get there before 24, you’re ahead of the pack no matter how long you spent exploring spirituality before hand. If you’re already in your mid-twenties, you’ll probably want to pick up the pace so you can get where you need to be before you get too far past 26.
If you have a teacher willing to take you on as a student before you’ve had time to fully explore spirituality on your own, that’s a huge red flag.
Systems are a little bit different because they usually aren’t very discerning about who they take on. Some do have a minimum age, but many don’t. The better systems will usually have an introductory level where people who aren’t quite there yet can continue to explore their spirituality both inside and outside the group before committing to the system and doing serious work. Systems however take much longer than working with a teacher, and it’s usually much easier to choose the pace you go at, so it’s not such a big deal if you’re not ready for a system.
What Is The Point of Being Taught or Following a System?
Different teachers and different systems approach things in different ways, they all have their own methods, and they’re based in a wide variety of different beliefs and spiritual systems. However all of them break down to helping you reach two major spiritual milestones.
The first is merging with your higher self, or your mental body. This is what the Golden Dawn calls knowledge and conversation with your holy guardian angel or HGA. There are a lot of other names and terms for it.
The second is merging with your lower self. Although it isn’t required, you should definitely do them in that order.
It’s very common to have two teachers, one for each milestone. Most teachers specialize in one or the other. I specialize in the first milestone, although I can teach the second if I have to. A lot of systems only teach how to get to the first milestone, and expect you to figure out how to get to the second one, possibly with the help of peers who have also completed the system. It’s actually not as hard to get to the second milestone through self-learning. Doing the higher merging should give you the tools you need to figure out the lower merging.
There should also be a break between the two milestones. Once someone does the higher merging they need time to develop as a magician and find themselves on their own. A teacher should cut a student loose at that point, and a good system should have some method for the student to self-develop.
Once you reach the second milestone, going forward there aren’t really any teachers or systems. For one, not many people manage to get past that second milestone, and among those that do fewer make it all that much further. Once you get that far you’re among a select few, so it’s not like there’s a whole lot of people out there qualified to teach you or run and develop a system. Secondly once you do the second merging you should have enough tools to push yourself forward spiritually if you choose to. You shouldn’t need a system or teacher to continue to develop.
Why You Don’t Do The Milestones Backwards
The second milestone is hell. Literally. And by that I mean you have to go to hell. It’s fucking horrible. I hate that place. And it sticks to you and comes back and permeates through all aspects of your life. I love magic, I love being a magician, I think spirituality has enriched my life in so many ways and I encourage everyone to be spiritual and do magic, but parts of the preparation for the second merging were some of the worst experiences I’ve ever had, and the only time I ever regretted being a magician.
The theory is that because you’ve done the higher merging, you’ll be strong enough to survive and withstand hell and will be able to do the lower merging and become more powerful still.
If you haven’t done the higher merging, you’re just you going into hell. However there are methods to go this route. Hell has a certain dichotomy. Like attracts like, and hell isn’t just a place for bad people (or spirits or whatever), it’s also a place for people who have had bad things happen to them. Hell is a place of predators and prey. Abusers and victims. Rapists and rape victims. There is a hierarchy there, and some are on top and some are on bottom.
All that said, if you have to go to hell, it’s better to be one of the people on the top. These are the sorts of systems that promote things like racial supremacy (typically white supremacy), committing violent crimes like assault, murder, and rape, and human sacrifice, among other things. The goal is to mold yourself into the sort of thing that will be a predator in hell, and not the prey.
I of course have a lot of moral issues with that spiritual philosophy, but it also isn’t that effective. It’s pretty much just a roll of the dice if you’ll be able to pull it off, even if you do everything you’re supposed to, and then a lot of people who do get that far get stuck there and never manage the higher merging. This is all assuming getting thrown into hell doesn’t just absolutely destroy you.
It’s the more difficult path because it was designed for things that are on the tree of knowledge, and we’re on the tree of life. It’s easier to just do thr higher merging first.
How Long Is This Going To Take
Whether you go with a teacher or a system they should be open about how long they expect things to take.
When I take on students I give them an estimate of 3-14 months to do their higher merging. I don’t want anyone to feel pressured if they aren’t getting there fast enough, but I consistently get students there in about 6 months, and I managed it myself in about 6 months. I always tell students in the beginning if they aren’t there in a year, it’s because I failed them as a teacher, and at the one year mark we’ll have a talk about how I failed them and what we’re going to do going forward. I’ve never once had to have that conversation.
If you go through a system, because it’s one size fits all and is usually much more open to whatever pace you want to work at, it takes much longer. Average time is 3 to 9 years, with most students managing it in around 6 or 7 years.
After a student reaches the first milestone they need to take a break from working with a teacher or within the confines of a system. The student is going to have a lot more power after merging, and they need time to explore that and discover their gifts and they need time to develop themselves as an independent magician. It’s going to take at least a year, and that’s really the bare minimum for the student to realize what they’re capable of now. Typically it will be a few years before the magician is ready to start on the next milestone. And honestly a lot of magicians who get this far get stuck and never make it to the next milestone.
With the second milestone the teaching is a lot less hands-on and there’s a lot more independent study. Even within a system there’s usually not a lot of structure. The timeline is pretty variable and it really comes down to the magician. Some are able to manage it in a matter of months, and for others it can take a few years. There isn’t really a big difference in time between having a teacher or using a system or even being self-taught. The biggest difference is that people who have teachers for the second milestone reach it most of the time. Although it’s definitely possible to do in a system or being self-taught, you’re less likely to succeed.
How Much Money Should This Cost Me
A teacher should not cost you anything, and there are reasons for this. If a teacher is asking for money for their services, that’s not just a red flag, that should be a deal breaker. Walk away and find yourself a good teacher.
And it’s just not money. It shouldn’t cost you anything of value. You shouldn’t have to work in their store (for free or for some bullshit wage). You shouldn’t have to run errands for them, or drive them around if they don’t have a car. You shouldn’t have to have sex with them or anyone else (and yes, it’s normal to talk about sexual topics with your teacher, to discuss how they fit into spirituality, and it wouldn’t be inappropriate to discuss your sex life and how to practice sex magic if you’re comfortable with that, but you shouldn’t be having sex with your teacher and they shouldn’t need to demonstrate any of this with you).
There are arguments that teaching students takes a lot of time and a lot of specialized skills a person has developed over their lifetime, and people deserve to be compensated for their skill and time. It’s a bullshit argument and I’ll explain why.
First off when you become a student to a teacher you do owe a debt, but you owe the debt to the lineage. You get your teaching for free, at least for now, and in exchange you pay back the lineage by teaching others when and if you’re ready, and you teach them for free, and they in turn incur a debt. In this way the lineage survives and continues on.
Secondly the student-teacher relationship isn’t as one-sided as it seems. When you’re a student, it seems like your teacher is giving you this great gift and helping you develop your spirituality while getting nothing in return. In actuality though you’re also helping your teacher develop their spirituality and move forward. As a student you won’t see this process or really understand how it works, but once you become a teacher you will. Believe me, in terms of spiritual advancement, I get as much out of the relationship as my students do.
All of that said it is appropriate to ask you to pay your way. You should expect to pay for things like your magical supplies or books your teacher may recommend you read. You also might have to pay for things like money to attend a meetup or event (although you should only be expected to pay for yourself, not for your teacher). On the other hand it isn’t inappropriate for your teacher to cover these costs (and a lot of times teachers will), but it shouldn’t necessarily be expected.
With systems there may be a cost. Ideally these systems would always be free, and there are people out there running groups who work really hard to offer these systems for free. However systems typically have overhead and someone has to pick up the cost, and a common way to cover cost is through dues.
There isn’t really a typical amount you can expect to pay in dues. Things are going to cost whatever they cost, and a lot of times if you’re paying higher dues you’ll benefit from it.
The big thing you want to look for is transparency. If you’re asked to pay dues you should also be told what that money’s going towards, and they should be able to break it down so you can see about how much money is going towards what. They should also be forthcoming with receipts to prove they’re spending the money how they say they are.
You also want to watch out for the magic pyramid scheme. This happens when groups focus the majority of their resources on their higher ranking members. These groups try to pad out their bottom to pay for all the stuff the people at the top are getting. Then whenever anyone moves up in the group, more members need to be brought in at the bottom to pay for them.
This works fine as long as the group is growing, but eventually growth will start to level off. As we know from pyramid schemes, there’s not going to be an infinite number of people to keep filling the bottom. If it goes on long enough eventually you’d need to recruit more people than are currently alive.
After their initial growth period groups like this will usually start trying to restrict people from advancing through the system too quickly, and they’ll start trying to create a permanent underclass that never advances. They need a pool of members who are financially contributing to the group but not directly benefiting from it to sustain themselves.
Red Flags and Teachers
You shouldn’t go with just any teacher, or anyone who will take you. Your magical teacher should be someone who fits you. That said, the best advice is to trust your gut. You should have a very strong feeling that this person is your path forward, and if you don’t have that feeling, or if you have any doubts, it’s probably not the right fit for you.
As I stated earlier, if your teacher asks you for money, or asks to be paid back in any other way, that should be a deal breaker.
Your teacher should be open with you about how they learned, and who they learned from. After all this is going to be your lineage too once they take you on as a student. Note however it’s not uncommon for someone to never ask their teacher who taught them, so there would be nothing odd about your teacher not being able to tell you who their teacher’s teacher was, but they should be able to tell you who taught them.
I would be wary of anyone who is a teacher but has never had a teacher themselves. They may have learned what they needed through a system or self-learned, and they may still be a great teacher even, but it’s still a red flag. Someone whose never had a teacher doesn’t know what it’s like to be a student, and there is a portion of magical teaching that involves giving the student the information they need to be a teacher themselves.
Make sure your teacher sets appropriate boundaries. A teacher isn’t a friend, or a significant other, or a parent. A teacher-student relationship is a very specific type of relationship, and it’s the teacher’s responsibility to set boundaries for what is appropriate and inappropriate in that relationship. Be wary of a teacher who wants to be your friend or lean on you for emotional support. That’s not appropriate for the relationship.
A teacher should be able to give you a timeline of how long it should take to teach you and when they plan to cut you loose, and it should be something like 3-14 months for your higher merging. One thing I see a lot of is people who’ve been with the same teacher for years, and the students always talk about them in such high regard. Those teachers are failing their students. They aren’t giving them what they need, helping to push them forward, and then cutting them loose as teachers are supposed to. They’re feeding off the emotional rush of being superior to their students, and they’ll try to keep them as students as long as they possibly can.
Red Flags and Systems
Systems are usually involved with groups, and groups can get really messed up and then act like an echo chamber that amplifies everything. I could write books about the red flags you should look out for in groups. It isn’t just the horrible abusive shit some of them do, but there is a level of unimaginable stupidity I’ve seen in groups.
If you’re doing a system in person and not online or something, look into the group leaders running the system and the local membership. The system can be very good and effective, but bad leadership can ruin it for you.
Ask the group leadership for their qualifications. They should be open about where they learned and how long they’ve been running things. Often, with some legwork, you can even verify their qualifications.
Watch out for group leaders who don’t actually answer questions. If you ask them a simple question and they direct you to read a book, or tell you that you aren’t ready for that information, that probably means they don’t know and they aren’t willing to admit it. If you’re asking them a basic question, that’s even worse.
A good, well-developed system will lay everything out, so the group leadership doesn’t have to do much in terms of creating material, but they should still have some basic skills. They should be able to comprehend new information. They should, at the very least, be able to develop basic exercises, and also simple rituals and spells if those are part of the system. If they aren’t able to do even that, either the system is broken or the leadership is unqualified.
Ask around the group and see how long it takes to merge with your higher self. You should hopefully see a lot of people who hit it in the 5-7 year mark. If there’s a lot of people who managed it earlier that’s fantastic. If there are a lot of people who have been there 7+ years and they still aren’t there yet, that’s an issue.
Why Even Bother With A System
If you’re reading this article, you might be wondering why anyone would even bother with a system when teachers seem so superior. I personally feel that teachers are better, and I’m grateful that I didn’t have to go through a system..
Good teachers adapt their teachings to the student focusing on exactly what they need to work on to get to the next stage of their spiritual development. It’s a method that not only gets goods results, but gets them quickly. So why even bother looking into systems?
For one being taught is intense. It requires committing a lot of time to learning magic. Being broke, single, and having trouble with steady employment, as upset as I was about it at the time, is what gave me the time to learn with my first teacher. All of my students seem to find themselves in a similar situation when they find me. For whatever reason they have a lot of time on their hands just then. It isn’t just the time spent being taught, but all the other stuff that happens around it, and all of the magic you end up doing when you’re away from your teacher.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have that much free time to pursue their spirituality. A system is usually structured so that you only have to dedicate a small amount of time to it every week. Also if you need to slack off or take a break, you can do that, and the system will be waiting for you when you come back. A system gives you a lot of freedom to pace yourself, and to move forward at whatever pace you can manage.
Systems are also pretty open, and almost anyone can get a spot in one. Finding a teacher, meanwhile, can be very difficult. Most teachers are very picky of which students they take on, because it’s a huge investment of time, if they even have any free time to teach. Even if all I did is teach, I still couldn’t take on more than a handful of students every year and still be able to dedicate enough time to each of them. And I’m not in a position where I can do nothing but teach.
Systems are designed so a small number of people can teach a very large number. That’s kind of the beauty of a system.