In Magical Identity, I discussed at length the importance of internal work to the magical process, and to creating an empowered identity for the magician. I also noted that at least in Western Magic there seemed to be a tendency to gloss over the internal work in favor of achieving practical results. Or on the opposite end, the focus would be on a model such as the Tree of Life, but with little focus on doing internal work. I've found a couple of exceptions, and one of those is R. J. Stewart's work. Actually reading him, in some ways, is like reading William G Gray's work, which makes sense when you consider that Gray was one of Stewart's mentors. But I think the difference I see is a much more articulate focus on internal work.
In Living Magical Arts, Stewart discusses the following about transformation: "Magic begins by changing yourself, but eventually it changes the whole world if enough selves partake of it." He goes onto to note the following about magical symbols (which would includes physical tools such as your cup, rod, sword, wand, etc.: "The main, indeed the only, real function of magical symbols is to transform the magician." This is where he reminds me of William Gray, especially in Magical Ritual Methods, because Gray discusses at length that for the magician to master a tool, s/he ultimately needs to make it part of his/her consciousness.
Now on an aside, one of the reasons I favor a paintbrush as a magical tool is because there is a level or practical work that can be done with it that goes beyond being a symbol. A paintbrush or pen for that matter is a more potent tool and symbol precisely because it offers a level of transformation that goes beyond the symbolic. There is something very magical about touching a pen on paper or a brush on canvas and consequently transforming something into something else. In fact, there's a level of internal work that occurs in such artistic expressions (more on that in a later post).
But getting back to the original topic, I think that magic becomes truly effective when you understand that it fundamentally involves change through intentional transformation, and when you also realize that the most effective magic works by changing the internal reality of the magician first, and then changing the environment around him/her. Results based magic that doesn't factor in the needed internal work is typically reactive magic, done more as a reaction to a problem and as an attempt to solve said problem. Results obtained through a reactive approach to magic don't last long. The magician will sabotage him/herself because some part of his/her internal reality doesn't agree with the obtained result.
To truly understand transformation and change, you must be willing to shape yourself as well as shape the environment around you. It might even be argued that you need to be willing to be shaped by the magic, in order to truly benefit from it. Fundamentally what is being asked is: "Are you truly ready and willing to handle the responsibility of changing your reality?" You can only answer yes when you've done the internal work that allows you to critically examine your place in the universe and willingly change that place by changing your internal reality. Place, or space isn't just a physical placement...it is a metaphysical, emotional, and mental place as well. It is the embodiment of your relationship with the universe. To change your place, work from within, and let it manifest without.
In the majority of the magical work I currently do the focus is on embodying the magic, starting from within, or bringing the desired possibility into my space, and choosing to become it and letting it move me accordingly. Genuine transformation is the understanding that you are moved by the magic and by your own commitment to doing the necessary internal work that paves the way to the new expression of reality that expresses your connection with the universe and the space you embody.