I grow weary of students who seek to make everything as complicated as possible. Firstly, I find the need usually arises out of pure ego, the desire to make oneself seem like hot shit; and secondly, magic isn't really all that complicated. If you need to make it excessively complex, dependent on any number of material items, you're doing it wrong.
Part of the problem arises, I believe, because novices don't have the experience that would allow for purely theoretical instruction combined with praxis. Instead, of necessity, emphasis is put on various tools and equations, charms, and mantras.These focus the mind, open up the energy channels, and, if used correctly, help develop the necessary psi-talents for sensing/seeing and interacting with the planes of power. That takes time, however, and it's all too easy to become fixated on the tools themselves. You see this with many ceremonialists who must have the perfect ring, or a breast plate that is just so, or this robe, or that crystal. that isn't magic. Magic isn't worked by way of any of those things. They are at best tools and conduits of the will and they can be helpful in focusing the mind.
I've yet to come up with an effective way of teaching magic without going through a phase where one uses all the tools. It just takes time to learn to see, interact with and effect the magical plane. it's a hard leap for a student to make. For most, the tools are meant to bridge that gap and siphon off some of the mental strain. It's way, way too easy, however, to become overly tied to these tools and fancy ceremonies and i haven't come up with a way to avoid that in students. But I digress. I want to turn for a moment to what magic really is, the why of it, and where it's worked.
All magic is about negative space. It's about the space between things. Science teaches us that everything is energy in motion, whirling atoms. Everything is in flux and flow. Magic affects the flow. It alters and shifts the space between realities, between things, the place where a thing rests. We're used to focusing on the concrete physicality of objects and this corporeal bias gets carried over naturally, into our magical practice as well. It's very limiting. To truly affect the flux and flow of power, to cause a thing to happen, or block a thing from occurring, to create opportunities or take them way and any number of other actions, all one has to do is work with the negative space. It takes much less raw power and much, much more focused skill.
Basically, it's about attractions: of one thing to another, of a thing to its shape, energy to its path, the relation and inter-relation of things. Attraction is all about covalent bonds. Magic has the power to affect the bonds. It can shift the rhythm of a thing. One need not have a tremendous degree of power to do this. There's a lovely quote by Balzac that i learned long ago: "Power is not revealed by striking hard, or striking often, but in striking true." This is absolutely the case with magic. What it does take is an understanding of the power of negative space and a developed ability to see and work within it. it's not the thing itself that's important. what's important is how it's connected to every other thing, and the spaces around it where it is not every other thing. What's important are its weak spots, and how easily they can be influenced. A magician must know where one is able to push the hardest for best effect with least amount of resistance and effort. Basically, don't focus on affecting the person or thing, focus on affecting everything around that person or thing: every relationship, every bit of space, every connection. Do that and you own the situation. You can do what you like. It's all about that shift in focus, of where to focus.
Magic is all about how things react to each other. The magician is a chemist, bringing about specific reactions. It's not about affecting a thing itself, but about affecting the way it's connected to every other thing. Essentially, magic is a combination of quantum physics and string theory (my teacher looked at string theory and dryly commented that science had finally discovered wyrd). When training, first a magician must accept and know that this is possible, that the negative spaces are there; then with training he or she learns to sense or see those connections and negative space, the flows of power. Finally, with training and lots and lots of practice (and usually a good percentage of trial and error too), the magician learns to manipulate them. the hardest hurdle is often accepting that we are not at all limited by what we think of reality. Physicality is only one means of engaging with the world. There is so much more that we do not see…like the negative space.
Think on the spaces between the physical world and all the others. That's where power flows and where it can be accessed to best effect. It's all chemistry and physics. The magician has to know those spaces are there, has to be able to tap into them, and then, having established that awareness and connection, has to be able to animate it. Half the point of magical training is becoming a person on the planes of power. Power is the coin of those realms and we are judged by how neatly and well we are able to wield it. That is worth remembering, before cracking open the first book on evocation.