Simplicity vs. Complexification

Here’s another Inominandum Memorandum – this one a couple weeks ago but obviously eternally applicable:

“Earlier this week on Facebook, Jake Stratton Kent stated: ‘Conjurin’ was always complicated, time consuming and specialized; simplifying it for modern times is at best a well meaning error, more usually something else.’

“Some people that know me as a lover of streamlining might be surprised to find out that I agree with his statement. Streamlining is not simplifying for the sake of making something easy. It has to be done in a way that does not jettison important aspects of the work. You only know what’s important after actually doing those parts. Lots of mis-steps are made when people assume that purification is “just moralistic Christian rubbish”, that “the tools don’t matter, only the inten does”, or that compelling spirits is “imperialist and unnecessary”. I might have drifted into that last error myself a few times.

“I am not afraid of complexity. My Sorcery of Hekate class is after all a single ritual (with variations and exchangeable parts) that takes 7 months of training to learn and use well. I get that simplicity for the sake of making something easy is indeed an error, but so is unnecessary complexity, and for as complicated as magic is, some things are unnecessarily complex.

“There are a few things that I have learned from economics that I find apply in all sorts of other endeavors. One of them is Parkinsons Law which states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. If you set aside a few hours for a ritual, chances are you will write a ritual that takes that amount of time. If you set aside less time, there is a chance it can happen in less time. This is why, I think, some people got results doing Abramelin as a six month operation as listed in Mathers translation, rather than the 18 month operation detailed in the German sources translated in the Dehn edition. FWIW I left mind open ended and it took me 9 months.

“Sometimes tasks expand to fill the money available for them as well as the time. Anyone that has ever run a club in college or a non-profit that is funded by a grant knows this well – if you do not use all the money that you have been given you will get less next year, if you use it all, you might get better funding because you showed need. There is zero incentive to streamline or create efficiency. Well, when you have a church or a large a amount of disposable income available – the task tends to expand into the funds and materials available. Doubly true if you are getting funded by a benefactor or charging clients. Once you establish that you used expensive kit, or oodles of time, you start to view it as necessary rather than as simply elaborate.

“Once when I gave a talk at Bryn Mawr Professor Radcliff Edmonds remarked that the PGM contains several rituals that are all done to achieve essentially the same ends, but some are exceedingly elaborate, while others are fairly simple. Are the elaborate ones better? I don’t know, but it is possible that the magicians who performed those more elaborate workings either simply had more things and time available, or wanted to justify expenses to clients that were paying them for the work.

“I want to be clear, there is nothing wrong with elaboration. There is a lot of value in coming up with elaborate versions of things as well as the streamlined versions. Sometimes its is that extra time and elaboration that unlocks things, but sometimes its not.

“Since we are talking about economics, its worth keeping in mind that gratuitous complexity is not only unnecessary but can be harmful. The Global Simplicity Index from 2011 found that companies lose and average of 10.2% of their profits from unnecessary complexity. The same can be true in magic. There is a certain point where the long conjuration you have to speak might actually be blocking you from sensing the presence of the spirit and the accumulation of ever more occult “stuff” is keeping you from using a few simple tools effectively.

“So I guess my point in writing this is, whether in magic or any other endeavor, be wary of people selling you fast and easy solutions, as they are often not solutions at all. But don’t be afraid to streamline something or experiment in an effort to improve or achieve greater effect and impact. Just be sure that you really have an understanding based on experience what it is you are replacing, rejecting, or resolving.”

and because it’s not fair to just take and not give back, we’d like to point out that Inominandum has opened registration for his latest series of Strategic Sorcery classes: “Strategic Sovereignty: The Intersection of Business and Magic.”


Frater Lux Ad Mundi

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