I posted this in my coven a while back, and with the influx of new people of late I thought it might be useful here as well.
Alright, so this isn't really a new perspective but perhaps a reiteration and emphasis of old concepts and their qualities.
The basics, as they are known on this site, are not so dramatically necessary to the practice of magick as most people on this site will tell you. They are numerous magical traditions from a wide range of cultures that entirely ignore meditation, energy, and other such concepts as we know them today. They simply use age-old methods to focus their intention and will and achieve remarkably similar results. Hebrew traditions of Kabala (or its many other spellings), Native American spirituality, Norse Asatru... These traditions, while influencing modern practice in their own ways, each have little use for the creation of a psi ball or shielding, or the chakras. The magic at their core is still effective however, and is as said, provides influential roots to all modern practice that we now share and experience.
So why then are the basics so stressed in modern practice? They are, generally speaking, a culmination of many different spiritual paths throughout the world, and the stepping stones to finding a deeper understanding of yourself, the world around you, and the higher realms. It is not so important that you can meditate. It is, in my opinion, even less important that you can create a ball of energy or shield yourself. However, if through discovering these "basic" arts you develop a truer sense of self that allows you to grow spiritually, and fully fathom the concepts you will delve into within the study of Magick... ah, well that sounds useful.
That being said, I will be taking some time to explore the various concepts at the core of mystical study.
For now, let us begin by discussing the claims that magic can craft drastic change in the world around you. Magic, as a practice of the mind, spirit, and body, can certainly influence the physical world. It can alter and stir emotion and the perception of others, and through great effort it is frequently believed capable of even effecting environmental changes to one extent or another. This does not mean, however, that you will be able to control flame and summon wind. It does not mean that the ripples you observe in water are the result of the exertion of your willpower. It does not mean that you can otherwise master and manipulate the elements more than any other man or woman. Why?
I will not say that it is always utterly impossible to do these marvelous feats of magick. But it is not only impractical and potentially dangerous, but far more demanding than any person evangelically proclaiming his or her miracles will admit.
Magick, though extraordinary and largely unexplored by modern science, is still rooted within the physics of the world around us. Sure, it may bend some of the rules that most people take for granted. That is merely because of our understanding of these rules is not absolute. Magick may offer slight changes on all levels, but at its core are the simple concepts of inertia and energy. All things forces have an equal and opposite force. Energy cannot be destroyed or otherwise eliminated, it can only change form. This means that to lift an object through telekinesis or manipulate flame through elemental magick or "pyrokinesis" you must somehow supply the same amount of energy such a feat would require in the physical world. Can you lift a car? Imagine how exhausted you'd be if you channeled enough energy to do so merely through willpower. And why bother with smaller objects? You can simply get up and move them yourself, by hand. Sounds a lot easier, more practical, and even wiser to me. For many, this simply means that the physical manipulation of the world through magick is not reality. I say anything is possible but things aren't worth the time and energy.
If such extravagant magickal craft is what you are seeking, it is my humble opinion that you should probably look elsewhere. Higher Magicks is about the exploration and expansion of the self, and through this the improvement of one's magickal abilities. Parlor tricks and lazy short cuts to physical exertion do not expand the mind or spirit.
Often within the public chat and forums I feel as though I am a broken record, stressing the importance over meditation and offering it a solution to complex matters in answer to the common request for spells.
On this site and within most magical practice meditation is commonly regarded as one of the "basics" to learn. Most frequently the view is that through meditative exploration one will develop focus, willpower, and perhaps open pathways to magical power. All of these facets are true, and important to one's magical studies. They are all also detailed repeatedly elsewhere, with many different views on the examination of chakras, energy flows, and other such methods of mystical and spiritual exploration.
What often gets left behind, in my opinion, is the examination of both the internal and the external. What I mean by this is that meditation offers not only an opportunity to examine and improve the flow of energy, but to examine and analytically explore the world outside of yourself as well as the world within yourself.
Within magic, there are many forces at play that can readily alter your state of mind. There are forces at play that will affect emotion and personality. These range from spirits that will intentionally seek to get you riled up, upset, or afraid, to energies that leave you unnaturally content, to those that will leave you numb. But they also encompass the individual psychology of "mastering the forces of nature." Often it will lead to an arrogant, almost megalomaniacal view of one's own ability and power. This is often found within the stages of development where one truely first taps into the energies of the world, and realizes most fully how to manipulate them with one's will and prior to understanding one's true place within those energies, and the subtleties involved within seeking balanced growth (both within and without).
Using meditation to explore "within," or the world within yourself, will help you better understand your own psychological process. It can help you understand the difference between that surge of anger and frustration or fear and anxiety that negative energies might invoke and the true, underlying emotions that are at your core. Knowing your true self will provide you with the confidence and understanding of nature to eventually realize and progress down your path within the world around you without either delusion of grandeur or fear of inadequacy.
Using meditation to explore "without" will similarly allow you to interpret better the world at large. It will help you discover and develop your intuition and otherwise unlock the unconscious senses that eventually result in the ability to "see" and otherwise sense auras, energies, and so forth. It will aid you in exploring the true mind and emotion of others, and therefore see through falsehoods of situation, people, and spirits. It also allows you to see through your own desire to succeed within magic, and know the difference between circumstantial evidence of magic (the flicker of a candle flame being your will... or the breeze created from the natural air currents created by your house's heating system) and the true result of spiritual enlightenment.
Humility and Courtesy
This brings us to the concepts of humility and courtesy. While frequently regarded as simple virtues of the physical world which, unfortunately, seem to be widely disregarded in this day and age, it is my opinion that both have rich heritage within metaphysical tradition.
Humility, born of looking "inward" through meditation and contemplation, is the result of an honest view of one's self. It is the realization that while you really know a great deal, you are likely ignorant to just as much. It is the true assessment of your own strengths and the honest ability to admit when you are wrong. Obviously, this has many positive social implications. But the implications in magic are just as great; true humility provides you with the honest ability to learn, grow, find balance, and honestly interpret all that you sense.
Similarly, viewing everything without through meditation cultivates a sense of respect for all things that exist, as everything has its necessary place within the balance of the multiverse. Good requires evil. Light requires darkness. Creation requires destruction. Chaos requires Law. And so on. The result is courtesy... A standard in etiquette that you will discover to be most profoundly useful in the dealings of all intelligent forces. Men and women respond more favorably to please and thank you than they do to "give me now." A dog will instinctively react with anger or fear to hostile intentions and overt lack of respect. A spirit, in turn, will see you as fair game if you cannot treat it with calm courtesy. The examination of without brings us, through necessity, to the realize that it is far better (and easier) to simply cooperate and work with the world and entities around us than it is to force it all to our will. This is courtesy.
These concepts, I feel, are vastly important to the young magician, witch, or spiritual practitioner. They are far more valuable than any semantics in color magic or any exploration of herbalism, chakras, or spellcraft. These concepts, at the core of mystical study, provide you with a solid foundation upon which to build spiritually. And perhaps possessing an equal value, they provide you with a firm foundation for developing your role among all that lives and currently exists.