The following are more of my observations. They probably will not make me many friends. Nonetheless, these are the conclusions I have drawn after decades of experience. I am not singling out any particular individual or group here, so if you think I am talking about you, then you better dig yourself.
Many a book on magickal, Heathen and Pagan subjects is redundant. It has been my experience in the esoteric world that 90% of the literature is unnecessary. (We are not alone. For example, martial artists say the same of martial arts books. This is also true of history books on subjects such as the Civil War and World War 2..) Most are rehashes of earlier, better books. Many of these are watered-down and filled with a few insignificant observations of the authors. Too many books are diatribes by authors who use a lot of words and pages to say very little. I had always found it best to get to source material when possible, including reliable translations when necessary. Secondary materials are questionable.
Frankly, I think a lot of authors clutter the field with their airhearded New-Agey tripe and their sappy opinions. We have heard all this before. Just because someone thinks he has something to say does not mean it needs to be heard. As Heathenism goes, we can read the Eddas and all the other wonderful source materials for ourselves We do not need someone to interpret what we can read ourselves.
One example of hot air in print illustrates my point well. For people who practice Ceremonial Magick, Aleister Crowley’s work is a prime source of materials. I read a lot of it myself years ago. Crowley was a mixed bag, sometimes factual and sometimes mischievous. He was a good writer and his work is very readable. Most of his material is available in PDF format on the Net, by the way. The man states his case in his own words and his message is usually very clear.
There are hundreds of books written since Crowley’s demise that purport to divulge his teachings. A very few are written by former students of his. Most are written by people who never met the man. Most of the latter type books are redundant crap, watered down, misunderstood, and rife with the new author’s ego. They do not say anything new and they do not give good information. The writing never comes anywhere near the quality of Crowley’s wordsmithing. Why write them and why read them if Crowley’s own work is available? I think of an old saying: “Why go to the priest when the Pope is right here?”
I stopped reading other peoples’ works on magick, metaphysics, Paganism and Heathenism in the early 1990s. I have all the source materials on my bookshelves. These include the books by the folks who originally wrote on these subjects. Yes, I have Crowley’s materials, too. There is no need to read someone else’s new take on old stuff. As for Heathenism and Heathen magick and Runes, I stick to the system I have used all these years. I had looked at all the “new” stuff back in the 80s: Thorson, Aswynn, von List, etc. Nice, but no cigar. Everything people have written since then have been predominantly rehashes of materials from the older books. ( I stick to my system and only write when I have some new insights to share. There is smug satisfaction that my work is original.)
People read too much and work too little. Insight comes from doing, not reading. Pick a system, pick a source and start working. Stick to it. Instead of scattering your efforts all over the map, focus yourself. Study deep, not wide. The right person with the right attitude and the will to work can get more out of a simple booklet on the Runes than others get reading every book they can find. Books are like a road sign. Books only point the way. Reading the sign is not the same as making the journey.
The actual effort should be more than 90% working and less than 10% reading.
A person does not need a wide repertoire of methods in order to excel at this. If he has a simple method of meditation that works for him and he develops his concentration a little, he has a good basis from which to work. The best thing is to break it all down to bare-bones principles. A student can appreciate the mechanics and essences when they are presented clearly, without embellishment. A teacher can give him everyday-world examples to show how they manifest themselves.
Everything else comes from practice. Energy-passing and loading are simple methods which can be learned in minutes. Developing skill with them, controlling the force and increasing power come with persistent effort over time. Spellcasting itself is relatively simple. The entire procedure can be written in a few paragraphs. The real work is developing the magickal mechanism within oneself. The ability to contact, control and direct force comes with consistent practice over time. A person can read those paragraphs thousands of times, but without the effort to develop the skill, they mean nothing. Books full of stories and lengthy explanations and all sorts of gimmicks tend to obscure rather than illustrate the point clearly. Be it a whole book or a few paragraphs, the instructions are nothing without effort. Reading about it is nothing like doing it. The only way you can ever do it is to start working at it. Put down the instructions and get to work.
When given basic instructions like those in the above paragraph, there are many who say, “I knew that!” They may have known it, but knowing is not doing. For every twenty-five people who say, “I know that,” only one has actually done anything.
These things were taught for thousands of year without books. Books are a luxury. The thing that counts is work.
As an aside, there are some individuals within esoteric religions who treat occult shops as religious centers. I have not been in a occult shop since the 1990s. Aside from a couple of shops back in the 80s that were good sources for obscure and out-of-print books, I never had much use for them. Many people think that the shops are the one and only authorized sources for magickal supplies and everything else. They tend to treat the shop owners as important esoteric personalities who have great wisdom and influence. Of course, this is rarely true. Most of those who have this kind of thinking are new Wiccans and generic Neopagans. People ought to ask themselves how folks managed to excel at magick for all the ages when there were no occult shops.
Here are a couple of examples that come to mind: Over thirty years ago, the owner of one New York occult shop approached an acquiantance and asked to be initiated into Wicca. He was refused. The shop owner had been involved in Crowley “O.T.O.” magick, but wanted to get on the inside track with the Neopagans and Wiccans. Some twenty-five years ago, a couple opened a Wiccan shop and tried to make a go of it. The shop lasted until their relationship imploded. The fallout was not pretty. These are the benign types. There are shady characters who open occult shops. The shops are a source of suckers and screwballs for the shady people to cheat. Do you want to trust your spirituality to people like this?
The only people who ought to open a shop are people who want to make a profit. Occult shops are a business and the best owners are those who know how to keep their shops profitable.
All the tools, books, gadgets, incenses, formulae and other things they sell in shops are all eye candy. The magickal arts have been practiced for ages without shops or supply houses. You can make your own tools and gadgets. You can blend your own formulae, be it incenses or whatever else you have in mind. Shops are suppliers. They are not spiritual centers. The owners are not gurus, masters or the oracle of Delphi. Time spent hiding out in an occult shop does not equal time working on your own spirituality.
If you want to get really good at what you do, then make yourself independent. Part of that is learning to live without occult shops and the like.