Success: Outcome Versus Direction

Yes yes yes results magic: know what you want, express it clearly, do the magic, log the result. SWOT analysis, SMART goals, yada yada yada. All very scientific and businesslike with sharp suits and forward-facing haircuts.

Except that real life is often nothing like that.

Yeah, you can cast a spell to attract a partner. But there isn’t a spell for a healthy relationship. You can enchant for a new job, but not for a satisfying career. Your servitor may find you a house, but it can’t make one into a home. There are two reasons why this is so: time, and you.

(in case you wanted to know: SWOT analysis — Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats; SMART goals — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-deadlined)

You can see here where time begins to change simple outcome-based magic into direction-based magic. Those three-day spells, those novenas, those waiting-for-the-universe-to-click-into-place spells, those short-term Metamorphosis projects — shade into consequences much harder to quantify.

What’s a direction, as opposed to an outcome? Well, with an outcome you know when you’ve achieved it. Enchant for job — get the job. Healing prayer — medical all-clear. Invoke deity — deity appears. And so on. With a direction you’re more likely to be developing a skill such as Divination by oracle, or an attribute such as mental poise under pressure, or a current such as whatever magical maguffin you’ve conceived an interest in lately. And you won’t necessarily want to stop at some arbitrary benchmark.

Outcome scenarios are static, one-off situations. In direction-based scenarios, the rules of the game are changing even as you play it, and the longer the game, the greater the changes.

You can to some extent get around this by creating long-term goals and enchanting steps on the way — the Spear of Odin method — but there is a problem with this.


Firstly, as General von Moltke said, “No campaign plan survives first contact with the enemy.” The winds of Fortune and Chaos rip your careful plans to shreds, and it’s back to the drawing-board. Right in the middle of my plans for Europe, the world coughs up a Brexit and ruins the currency exchange rate for me. The cosmos dumps a Trump and the USA goes into uproar. And these are just external circumstances.

Secondly, as far as longer-term projects like self-transformation (major Metamorphosis or Ego Magic) and Illumination go, you couldn’t possibly predict the outcome. That’s the whole point. “I will open myself up to wholly new experiences” doesn’t fly as an Intent if you’ve already decided what those wholly new experiences have to be. If you know what they are, they’re not new.

This brings us to a major feature of both self-transformation and Illumination: the person who begins them is not the person who evaluates the success of the project down the line. That means that any ideas you had about the project previously were hopelessly misinformed.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As I wrote here, the main obstacle to change is yourself. We will die for the familiar. We tend not to want to jump until we have some fantasy requirement called ‘sufficient information’ that will relieve our discomfort with the unfamiliarity embodied in the future. Information, we think, reduces risk. But as Justin Mamis points out in The Nature of Risk, by the time you have collected ‘sufficient information’ the time has passed when you could profit by it. And from lost opportunity comes opportunity cost. You can waste your life waiting for ‘sufficient information.’ It is in fact a less risky and potentially more profitable strategy to go ahead with whatever information you’ve got and keep your eye on how things unfold, ready to respond to whatever the world coughs up next. Adventure is made of this.

Adventure is made of this

Some practical upshots, then?

Well, for one, long-term projects for changing your world clearly involve changes in yourself. So take charge of them. Decide what changes you want to see in you and Metamophose your way through, understanding that you do so from a position of insufficient information which comes as standard.

Metamorphosis can be difficult to measure. ‘More money’ can (and should) be quantified, but ‘greater capacity to enjoy wealth’ is a bit harder to put your finger on. You can begin by recording current signs that you enjoy your wealth, but they will become useful only some time down the line when you can compare with your future current signs of enjoying wealth. Of course, by then, your whole outlook on wealth may have changed. Heh.

Likewise, ‘a loving relationship’ is impossible to quantify but you have some idea what it looks like, yes? Pro tip: the mere act of trying to work out what a loving relationship is can change the way you think about relationships radically. The analyser is part of the phenomenon being analysed. Who knew?

Even Illumination has its recognisable features as the initiatory process so it makes sense to be aware of them.

Considering your direction as a process, it helps to be sure you enjoy each step of the process as far as possible. If you don’t you will tend to ignore your present, which bodes ill for if and when you actually arrive and worse for those journeys which are without end, as you will have entrained yourself not to be present at the time. Secondly, having an unpleasant journey creates the temptation to cut corners and ignore risks and problems. I wouldn’t. Especially not with Illumination. Thirdly, a horrible journey is one you’re most likely to give up. So stick to the game plan, go gently over the speed bumps and make it fun, eh?

None of these considerations are to legitimise the common cop-out of ‘working towards’ some dream future condition. You know, where I want to feel I’m doing something about my shit life/overweight/overspending/whatever while not actually making any changes to lifestyle/spending habits/company/etc. so I do magic rituals instead. I buy a special thingy, invoke all the gods, summon all the helpers, charge all the sigils- well, the Fairy Godmother isn’t coming and even your own magic wand won’t substitute for you knuckling down and making visible changes to your life to support your new direction.

Having said all that, we can now agree on the value of penetrating self-examination and divination to discern and set our course, of invoking and calling upon allies human and spirit to aid us in our endeavour, of casting enchantments to nudge the odds our way at each point, of patient progress and conscientious logging of that progress in journal, of watchfulness for those cosmic cough-ups and the flexibility to alter course in response.

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