Taylor Ellwood is the proprietor of magicalexperiments.com and in my opinion, one of the most unique and forward thinking minds in the American magical community at large. Author of numerous books, he possesses a plethora of knowledge, much of which he shares via his website and podcasts. It is a true honor to share this interview with you today.
Q: What do you consider your greatest magical achievement?
A: My greatest magical achievement is living my life on my terms, by my rules. For me that’s a magical act, because it wasn’t always that way and magic has played a role in helping set my life up the way I like to live it. I think an often overlooked aspect of magic is magic done proactively to set circumstances up in your favor. Too often magic is done by reaction to solve a problem that comes up, and I’ve certainly done a fair amount of that, but when I switched to a proactive approach to magical work, I found that my life became much easier and much more fun.
I’d say my other great achievement was the development of a meta-system of magic (pop culture magic) and the development of my own space/time magic system and the system of internal work with the biology of the body.
Q: Who are your personal hero’s, those who most inspired you on your own journey?
A: William G. Gray for his methodical and experimental approach to magic. William S. Burroughs for his for writing and media experimentation. R.J. Stewart for his experimental approach to magic. B.K. Frantzis for his work on Taoist breathing meditation. Each of these people have inspired my work in their own way.
Q: Do you have a “go to” or favorite spirit to work with?
A: No. I work with a variety of spirits for a variety of purposes. I don’t think it’s a good idea to limit yourself to working with a “favorite” spirit. Instead look at the situation or what you want to achieve and determine if you even need to work with a spirit and then if you do pick the spirit best suited for the situation.
Q: What importance, if any, do you place on full visual manifestation of a spirit during evocation?
A: None. What’s important is that the spirit accomplishes what I need it to accomplish. I haven’t often seen a spirit manifest before me in a visual manner. However my evocations have always gotten the specific results I’ve wanted them to achieve, so that’s what really matters. People obsessed with manifesting a visual manifestation of a spirit aren’t effectively applying magic. Instead they are caught up in the glamour of magic, the image…but what good is image? What matters is that the spirit is willing to help me accomplish a specific result and if the result manifests that’s really the only proof I need to know the evocation works.
Q: What was your first “oh fuck, this shit is real” moment in your personal magical practice?
A: The first time someone told me about their experience on the astral plane. He was trying to freak me out, but what he didn’t expect is that I would want to learn. I told him to bring me books and I started reading and trying the exercises out and I felt something. I knew then that magic was real and subsequent experiences confirmed that for me.
Q: What is one piece of magical tech you could not live without?
A: I don’t have a piece of magical tech I couldn’t live without. While I’ve used and invented magical tech, I’ve always focused on ultimately divesting myself of the need to use the magical tech. My feeling on magical tech is that it helps you understand or meditate specific powers or forces or concepts you want to work with, but at some point you should be able to integrate your experiences into you so that you can have direct access. The tech, at best, should be an intermediate step to help you connect with the spiritual powers you are working with.
Q: What effect does pop culture (fantasy and science fiction, primarily) have on magic?
A: SF has had 1 primary effect on magic (and the world in general).
The first effect is predictive, in that fantasy and SF predict and to some degree focus the superconsciousness of humanity on what can be manifested as a possible reality. A lot of the technology we have was first written about in SF before it existed, but what SF did was tell us what could be possible and focus our efforts. I feel some of this predictiveness also applies to magic in terms of showing us possible ways magic could evolve.
The primary effect Fantasy has had on magic is that’s a gateway that encourages people to find out if magic is real. I likely wouldn’t have practiced magic if I hadn’t read fantasy and wanted to find some way to actually practice magic.
Q: What is your advice to the young aspiring magician just getting started today?
A: Develop a well-rounded foundation for your magical practice. What that means is that you want to explore a variety of magical traditions and practices from a variety of different people and cultures, but don’t just limit yourself to magic. Focus on also learning other disciplines and seeing how those disciplines can be applied to your magical practice. For example, while I’ve learned a lot about magic from reading and practicing hermeticism, chaos magic, Taoism (to name just a few spiritual traditions I’ve studied), I’ve also learned a lot from literacy and linguistic studies, pop culture studies and biology (again just a few of the disciplines I’ve studied). Don’t let your interest in magic stop at the obvious topics of magic…instead ask yourself how you can learn about magic from every discipline and subject. By cultivating an insatiable curiosity you will discover a lot about magic and yourself that you’d miss out on otherwise.
Q: Of the books you have written, do you have a personal favorite? If so, which one?
A: I have three personal favorites at this time: Space/Time Magic, Magical Identity and Pop Culture Magic 2.0
Q: How do you respond to Christian evangelists knocking on your door at dinner time?
A: They never come around. I suppose if they did come around, I’d just tell them I wasn’t interested and send them on their way.
Q: What effect and focus do you think magic should have upon politics and world events?
A: None. I think it’s more important for people to figure out what they stand for and what causes they want to support, without necessarily resorting to magic to figure it out. And while you can certainly apply magic to a cause you support, I think it’s best to show up and make your voice heard. I personally don’t apply magic toward politics or world events, because I think my magical effort and work is better focused elsewhere.
Q: What are your current projects?
A: I just co-wrote and published Grimoire Ulani with Storm Constantine. It’s the second book about the pop culture magic system Dehara based on her Wraeththu series and is available this week from Immanion Press. The current books I’m writing are Pop Culture Magick Systems and Learning How to Fly (my superhero novel) and I’m currently doing research for Alchemy of Life, which is a grimoire for working with microbial life in your body.