This is an old draft of the Neuromagick journaling system. See Journaling and Assessment for the updated version.
Keeping a journal is a common recommendation in modern magick literature. The magician's journal usually includes when, where, and how information for ones magical activities, performance notes and descriptions of interesting observations (thoughts, feelings, etc.) during magick workings, and sometimes outcome information appended at some later time. The benefits of having a record of magical activities should be relatively obvious, but beyond the record, how the magician journals, when done well, can be a valuable developmental tool. The system presented here is therefore more comprehensive and developmental in nature than what you're likely to find elsewhere, with a great deal of emphasis on what do to and what not to do when recording information, along with a basic philosophy of what to record and why.
This journaling system requires you to maintain 3 independent journals, one for the details of your magick workings and what happens during their performance, one dedicated to dreams, and one to record the major events of your life. As introduced above, how you journal matters at least as much as what you journal, so it should not be surprising that there are specific reasons for keeping three independent journals rather than one comprehensive journal. One such reason is the avoid, or at least minimize, illusory correlations or other kinds of faulty associations between magick acts and other events that co-occur but aren't necessarily causally related, which can give the aspiring magician false impressions about all sorts of things. This is not to suggest that there will be no meaningful relationships to be found in the magician's experience, but merely indicates the level of caution and healthy skepticism this method is designed to foster. In general, the attitude is that nothing should be taken at face value, and that there is no harm in reserving judgment, and waiting awhile to decide what events might mean; in all cases, waiting to decide is preferable to being mistaken. The separate journals approach reduces the temptation to crystallize an apparent relationship in the mind on any given day.
The Magick Journal
The magick journal is a record of your magick-specific activities, including daily developmental work as well as any specific, goal-oriented workings you perform. Generally speaking, entries should be terse and factual.The following is an example of list of the kinds of information that might be recorded along with the work performed:
- Date, day of the week, and time of day
- Moon phase (waxing, full, waning, new)
- Planet ruling the day
- Zodiac sign
- Element and Mode of Sign
- Place of event
- Weather conditions
The date/day/time information is useful as a historical record and for analysis of development over time. Furthermore, that same information will be recorded in all three of your journals, which allows for assessment of patterns and correspondences between magick activities and other events in your life, during periodic reviews (see below).
Recording the Moon phase, Planet ruling the day, the Zodiac sign, and the Elemental and Modal associations is optional but preferable if classical astrology figures into your magick practice at all. Information of this sort serves two purposes: to have a record of them during periodic reviews for sorting/grouping purposes, and foster basic and personalized astrological assocaitions/astrological awareness.
The place and weather conditions are useful during periodic reviews, as is your personal mood. In recording your mood, keep your entities brief, and devoid of explanation for why your mood is what it is. One or two words is usually sufficient: relaxed, tense, angry, happy, anxious, excited, etc.
Procedures need not be detailed each and every time if they are performed the same way each time. You may refer to a previous entry, or a procedural manual if you are keeping one. If you are doing something different, however, the procedure you are using should be written out in its entirety, either in your journal or procedural manual.
Recording your observations about the working is the trickiest part of keeping this journal. Your goal is to record the facts without interpretation. If you experience certain feelings during a particular part of the working, describe the feelings but resist the drive to explain why you think you experienced those feelings, or what you think they mean. This is to be a factual recording of what happened and nothing more, and is explicitly not the place to record your inferences, no matter how sure you feel, no matter how strong or certain you are about why they things happened or what those things mean.
The Dream Journal
Keeping a dream journal is another common suggestion in modern magick literature. The reasons for doing so vary, but usually include the idea that ones dreams can reflect unconscious currents in and around ones life. And while the old Freudian notions about dreams and their informativity is now known to have been wildly overblown, it is not uncommon for dreams to reflect a person's hopes and fears, and/or to bear some relationship to current events. This seems to be particularly true when a person commits to an important endavor, magick development for example.
The reflective nature of ones dreams is indeed a good reason for keeping a dream journal. Dreams images can later be compared to magick workings and life events during periodic reviews. There are two additional, essentially developmental, reasons worthy of note. The first of these is learning to record facts without interpretation, in keeping with method in general; dream interpretation is such a common idea in modern culture, resisting the urge to interpret dream images tends to feel quite unnatural, but the benefits of learning to do so cannot be overestimated, and will generalize to other facets of the aspiring magician's life.
The other additional reason for keeping a dream journal stems from the nature of some kinds of magick-related experiences, particularly those that involved an altered state of awareness (some kinds of meditative or ritual work, astral travel, etc.). Experiences of that nature tend to have dream-like qualities, and like dreams, the memory of what happened can quickly fade, become confused, obscured, or otherwise contaminated by intruding thoughts from a more typical state of awareness. Learning to record your dreams, faithfully, accurately, and without interpretation directly translates to capturing a faithful record of the important events that occur during such magick workings.
Retaining memories of dream images is usually the biggest challenge at first, but it does improve with consistent practice. All one really needs to do is try to write down whatever they remember each day. There are some tips that seem to help some people. For example, upon waking, avoid moving around. Also, it's usually easiest to start with the most recent dream image and work backward. So as much as possible, lay still and grasp onto whatever image is in your mind as you were waking, and then try to recall what preceded it, then what preceded that, and so on. Of course, if you use an alarm to wake you, it's probably not good to leave it running while you try to do this, but then you'll have to move to turn it off, etc. Each individual will have to face and solve such problems on their own.
However you approach it, retain what you can from your dreams and record something in your dream journal every day. If you don't recall anything at all, record that. Another problem people have with the dream journal is that once they get into the swing of it, they begin recalling so much detail that writing it all down takes too much time in the morning. A recording device can be used, but one has to really commit to promptly transcribing their recordings into written entries every day, or they'll end up with many hours of transcribing work to do, and may find excuses to not do it.
The Life Journal
This journal is for recording the major events in ones life, not considered in light of any particular magick working(s), etc. The entries in this journal should include decisions that are likely to have a lasting impact (i.e. to take a job, to move out of state, where to go to school, to get married, etc.), and should also include the events (the wedding day, the first day at the new school, etc.) on the days when those occur. Unexpected events with the potential for lasting impact should also be recorded, as should anything else that you feel is important enough to record. These entries should be terse and factual, not overly detailed (e.g. I got married today, I was having sex and the condom broke, I decided to take the job in New York). As with the other journals, you are to explicitly avoid interpreting events or assigning meaning to them. Just record the facts.
The difficulty with keeping a life journal in the context of magick development is the urge to immediately relate the events of ones life with specific magick workings. The most important developmental feature of this method is to learn to overcome that urge, to describe events (and thoughts and feelings) just as they were experienced in the moment, without embellishment, without interpretation, and without deciding what they mean in the context of your life. The long term effect of this training is a perpetually open mind as to what things might mean, which creates a mental posture that is most conducive to learning and growth.
The Periodic Review
Twice a year, on average, you should review your journals together. This is the time to look for correlations among your magick workings, dreams images, and life events, but in keeping with the spirit of method overall. Finding what looks like interesting relationships should be acknowledged, but tempered with the overall skeptical attitude the method is intended to cultivate. That is, notice what there is to notice, but resist the urge to assign a lot of importance to what you observe, especially for the first few years of practicing this method. When you find that patterns and relationships tend to repeat time after time, year after year, then you'll know something important is going on. For the first few years, however, interesting relationships noted during periodic reviews should primarily be used to formulate useful experiments for the next journaling period.
Your separate journals can be compared in a variety of ways, by date, by Planetary or lunar correspondences, etc., by Planet + lunar influence, by mood + whatever, etc., and perhaps it's best to try to relate them in as many ways as occur to you. There is no harm or penalty for taking a unique point of view and seeing what you can see. Keep your journals as described, and review them as directed, and you will end with much more than a record of your magick and your life; you'll reshape the way you approach both, as one and the same thing.