Preliminary Steps
by Simon Jester

    Before attempting to perform magical rituals, you need to first gain at least a rudimentary knowledge of the theoretical concepts employed by practitioners of the Magical Arts in the Western Esoteric Tradition. You should begin by reading and studying. I assume you already have a rudimentary knowledge of esoteric subjects, which is why you are checking out this website. In order to really learn Magic, you will have to deepen your knowledge-base. There is a lot of memorization ahead of you. At the very least, you should begin by committing to memory the following:

The letters of the Hebrew alphabet
The Names of the Ten Sephiroth on the Tree of Life

The names of the Four Qabalistic Olamot, or Worlds (some texts list Five Worlds) and their correspondences with the Four Classical Elements (Fire, Air, Water, Earth) and the letters of the Tetragrammaton.

The Four Divine Names Associated with each Sephira (i.e., the God Name in Atziluth, the Archangelic Name in Briah, the Angelic Name in Yetzirah, and the Planetary Name in Assiah.)

The Hebrew letters/numbers associated with the 22 Paths on the Tree of Life

The Tarot cards associated with all 32 Paths.

Naturally, while you're memorizing all of these things, you'll simultaneously be learning the esoteric meanings and correspondences for each of the Sephiroth, Paths, Olamot (Worlds), Hebrew Letters, and Tarot Cards. You will also be memorizing the steps of various rituals so that you can begin to perform them. As you progress in your study of the Qabalah, you will notice that your ability to memorize seems to improve.
    Second, you must begin a course of exercises to strengthen your willpower. The best way to begin strengthening your will is to abstain from indulging in enjoyable things that actually diminish willpower, such as recreational drugs and alcohol. You can't get something for nothing, so be prepared to make changes and sacrifices in your lifestyle if you are sincere about becoming a student of High Magic.
    The relationship of drugs to ritual magic is long and complex. Throughout history, certain potent psychoactive substances have been used to intensify religious, mystical and magical experiences. Historically, these chemicals were employed within cultural contexts significantly different than our own which managed to structure and control the experiences induced in ways that made them meaningful. Our culture, however, has transformed such drug usage into a form of self-indulgence that breeds addiction, mental illness, and serious social problems. By transforming the "Food of the Gods" into a party snack, our society has devalued a tool that could, under other circumstances, be put to good use on the spiritual quest.
    Drugs really do open doors onto other dimensions. The only problem is that you're too stoned when you get there to do anything of benefit with what you might discover. You need to enter higher dimensions with a clear mind—one that is capable of analyzing its perceptions and maintaining control. Magical practices can teach you how to do this. They induce experiences that are like getting high, but without drugs, alcohol or other things that adversely effect parts of the mind. And a magical course of study is designed to take you there gradually, so that you learn how to handle what you encounter at one level before swimming out into currents that may still be too powerful for you. Taking drugs is like jumping into an ocean. If you're not already an expert swimmer, you'll either wash up somewhere you won't like...or drown.
    Take an honest look at your life and see the other kinds of things in which you simply let yourself indulge. Junk food, casual, meaningless sex, tobacco; unnecessary luxuries like cable TV, the latest automobiles, and all those gadgets that fill American kitchens, game rooms, and dens. Look in your closet and check out your wardrobe. Do you really need all those expensive outfits? Check out your psychological wardrobe and peruse all the lying, dishonesty, insincerity, materialistic/social greed, and manipulative tendencies most people find there. If you really want to be a sincere student of Magic, you have to begin by eliminating your dependency upon all this worldly clutter. To strengthen willpower, begin by learning to live without some of the perks that keep humans trapped in a lower state of consciousness. Show yourself that you don't really need all the crap that society tells people they must have in order to be happy and successful. There are other ways to strengthen willpower, but start by denying yourself some of these things first.
    Simultaneously, you should begin to adopt a daily discipline of study and magical exercise (which will culminate with the regular practice of rituals.) Sticking to a disciplined magical routine will also strengthen willpower. Set aside a certain time every day to study, meditate, perform exercises and rituals, and do your best to stick to it. Follow your routine even on those occasions when you're tired or simply do not feel like doing anything. Even if you're exhausted and half-heartedly go through the motions of a daily discipline, getting little in the way of magical insight while plodding through a ritual or a visualization, you will still be exercising your will and helping it to become stronger.
    One major hurdle faced by beginners in the study of Magic is this: they have to be prepared to go through the motions and still get no rewards for a long, long time. This is difficult for most people in today's pampered, contemporary world to accept. Immediate gratification has become the standard by which the value of anything is measured, and everyone wants the Quick Fix. But there are no quick, speedy ways to learn Magic. Learning to tune the human mind so that it can pick up higher frequencies and wisely apply the data thus gained takes time (some would even say several lifetimes!) The discipline required is identical to that demanded of the student of oriental martial arts. But if you work hard, sever your unnecessary connections to false needs, practice strict discipline, and enhance your willpower, you will be making a valid First Step toward acquiring skill in the Magical Arts.
    The third preliminary step beginning students of Magic must take is the training of a faculty much neglected by our modern society: Imagination. More is written of this in the Meditations section of this website.