A collection of ConjureMan Ali's thoughts about magic, the occult, and spirituality.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mages, Chefs, and the Secret Ingredient

Have you ever come across a culinary dish that was just ambrosial? It could be a common dish, but for whatever reason it was just the best of that dish you’ve ever tasted? I know this one place near my house that makes these absolutely delicious kabobs. Now, I’ve had my fair share of kabobs in my life, but this place blows everyone else out of the water. How could that be though? It is a simple dish with skewered meat that is grilled and served up with the usual. Yet, something is done differently that makes a subtle, but profound difference in the taste of the dish.

This is the effect of the secret ingredient. The term “ingredient” may be slightly misleading because the phrase, as I’ve come to use it, refers to not only an additional physical component, but can also refer to a technique. The secret ingredient is that something extra; that secret element in the process of making a dish that takes it from being ordinary to something extraordinary. Now, the secret ingredient isn’t any old thing that is tossed in, but rather is a creative addition that works in a complimentary fashion with the tastes of the dish to give it that extra oomph.

This type of personalization of a dish is usually the sphere of the chef. While a cook can be anyone with decent enough skills and a sturdy enough grasp of the kitchen to follow a set of recipes and therefore produce an edible meal, the chef is an artist whose grasp of the principles of cooking is so masterful that they are able to work with their meals on a creative level. For the chef, each dish is more than the product of a set of ingredients, but rather is an artwork that is given birth by skill and creativity. What really makes a chef stand out is that their creativity is tempered and focused to a knife’s edge by an understanding of the very principles of their craft. It is this understanding that allows a chef to masterfully take their dishes to the level of artwork by using their creativity in a fashion that compliments the taste rather than muddies.

In comes the secret ingredient. This is that extra something that the chef does that amazes the taste buds. It can be as simple as adding an extra pinch of this, or as complex as altering the very method that the dish is prepared by. Whatever the case, the chef works within certain principles while using the original recipe as a guideline. In other words, when they take things to the creative level they do not mix and match the styles of food. You don’t want to combine things in such a messy fashion that the food goes from art to junk.

A skilled mage is like a chef. Unlike other practitioners who simply follow rituals and rites as if they were recipes, the talented magician understands the principles behind the formulae and uses that understanding to add that extra oomph to their work. Like a chef, these magi don’t mix and match by adding something from one style or tradition to another simply because it seems like a good idea. No, these magicians work in a fashion that does justice to the principles of their tradition, while taking their magical work to the creative level.

Again, enter the secret ingredient. Skilled magicians have that extra something that they add to their work that allows it reach the level of art. It can be anything from the inclusion of a specific herb or root in a mojo hand, a particular way they enter a prayerful state, or a clever technique. These secret ingredients transform what they are doing from merely rote practice of a recipe into something truly magical.

If you’ve ever studied with a truly talented magician you’ll see that the idea of a secret ingredient is accurate. They almost always have a unique addition that they add that compliments the overall style, tradition, and practice of their work.

This is something I do, many of my colleagues do, and something our elders do. More than just a personalizing element, the secret ingredient works on a creative level with the magical working that takes your results to a whole new dimension.

Whether chef or magician we find that both are able to produce wondrous results by:

1. Having a strong grasp of the work that they are doing on a fundamental level.

2. Sticking true to the principles of the tradition they are working with in order to produce consistent and clear results.

3. The personalization of what they are doing via the secret ingredient, or that extra something that allows them to take part in the creative process.

Unfortunately in today’s occult world everyone things they are the equivalent of a chef even before they’ve bothered to really understand the fundamentals of what they are working with. It is here we see such confused mix-matching of ideas and traditions that it completely muddies up the “taste” of the results.

Just as there will be a distinct difference between the food prepared by a chef and the food prepared by an amateur, so too will someone’s magic and their results show you if they need to go back to school.

So, to really start taking magick to a new level of power, I think it’s time we start thinking like chefs and not cooks. Heck, most of us magician’s already have the ego of a chef, might as well emulate their ability to transform craft into art.

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