This last weekend I gave a talk on the 7 Faces of Alchemy ritual at the Northwest Alchemy conference. At one point, one of the people attending the talk asked what the statement of intent for the ritual was and if I'd had a specific result in mind. I explained that my intention, at the time of the working was that it would function as a purposeful catalyst for change in my life, but that I didn't have specific results in mind because I felt that defining the result too much would have taken away from the efficacy of the working. I wanted to have an experience and I recognized then as I do now that when you have an experience, you necessarily give up some control to have it. You can't have an experience if you aren't open to it showing up in your life in ways you don't expect, that nonetheless brings change to your life.
My answer to that question also prompted me to note something else about that ritual: I didn't want to define the result too much because to do so would have sanitized the working, made it safe in a way that didn't allow for genuine change to occur. Life isn't safe (despite what illusions we provide ourselves to that effect) and I don't think magic should be either. Now I'll admit I've stated that it is useful to define the result and that when you develop a process of magic, it can actually be very useful to define the desired result so you can work backwards. In practical magic, defining the result is very useful because it provides a measurable outcome to shoot for. But there's always exceptions to the rules...
Sometimes you want to do magic to change your life, but you recognize that you need to be open for the change show up in ways you can't anticipate. You recognize that you need to be pushed in order to grow and if you try to control that process you'll just keep yourself stuck in a rut. Sometimes you need magic not to be safe and defined, because when its safe and defined it keeps you where you are...predictable. Sometimes you need to let go of control and be open to the experience, to letting it change and push you in ways you didn't expect could happen.
Magic isn't always safe. It shouldn't always be safe. When I did the 7 Faces of Alchemy work, it wasn't safe magic. It changed my life in ways I couldn't anticipate and pushed me to change and grow. I had a lot of illusions about myself stripped away and I had to come face to face with my decisions and look at what my life really was as opposed to what I thought it should be. It was hard work that humbled me and helped me change in a way that ultimately benefited me. It wasn't safe work though because if it had been safe I wouldn't have faced those issues or been humbled in that way. It was dangerous work that challenged me as a magician and person. By opening myself to the experience and allowing that experience to become part of me, I allowed myself to give up control and accept whatever came my way, with the understanding that it would change in me in ways I didn't expect.
Whenever I do magical work with an eye toward creating major changes in my life, I do so with the understanding that I won't be safe. My life will change and that change will necessarily require some sacrifice on my part that will likely be hard to give at the time I make it. Yet I also know that surrendering to change will bring with it opportunities and if I am open to those opportunities I will end up where I need to be. It may be uncomfortable and painful, yet what I learn as a result will challenge me to grow.