One of the most common suggestions on this site I see for beginners is that I have to believe in magic in order to use it. That if I don't believe I'll never get real proof if I didn't believe to begin with. The problem I have with that is I understand the power of belief. Believing in something isn't the same thing as having an open mind, what a person believes actually matters. An example is the placebo effect, if a person thinks something will make them better then it will to a degree, the same thing if they think doing something makes them worse. My point is that I have to be careful about what I believe, because even if the magic behind it is completely false the belief itself can still affect me. So I want to know if other people had this problem, and how they got over it? Or is that all magic is, manipulating yours and other's belief systems?
I put everything magick to the test. If it doesn't show itself to be true then I throw it out. Common sense right? If you practice magick in any form expecting a result your believing to an extent or else you wouldn't bother. They say believe because it's easier to put your energy into a thing you actually have half a chance of getting or at least you think you do. Thats why there is in my opinion no belief system that is really wrong or right in everything.
I like your thinking. And quite frankly, I wouldn't call this a "problem to get over." Understanding the possibilities of a situation and not wanting to delude yourself are good traits to have. Even when one has a well-developed opinion on something, it is always good to analyse it logically and rationally,
I believe that portions of magick are real. However, simply saying that carries no more weight than a Christian claiming their god's existence. Thus, you should test it until you have confidence in its existence/nonexistence.
The issue with belief is that you can't force yourself to believe in something; beliefs aren't really conscious decisions. You don't consciously decide about every single thing you believe or disbelieve, and you can't automatically say to yourself "OK, I'll believe this now", because you'll still have thoughts in your head and an overwhelming feeling of "No, I don't think this is true."
I do what Dillon does; it's almost like a scientific approach. If I try a ceremony, or a ritual, or whatever, and there's no noticeable effect, then I'll make changes, and see how they impact upon it. That's why there's such an emphasis on keeping a journal specifically for your occult practices, just as you'd do with dreams.
For me, I don't neccessarily believe fully that magick, in one form or another, is definite and fully exists or anything of that sort; I don't have the evidence to make such a claim. However, I don't fully throw it out, or find it silly, or anything like that. I hold the view that there's at least potential, and that it's a possibility, and I'm exploring and experimenting and studying in order to find out what works for me and what doesn't, among other reasons.
Me not fully throwing it out, and accepting and approaching it as being a possibility and something to be explored seems to do the job for me. I don't really like the whole idea of "believing is seeing", not only because I just can't force myself to believe things for no good reason, but also because I don't think that and yet I can still see some sort of connective results and effects; that then brings up the "scepticism of ones own experience" thought, and, further, questions whether it was an external experience, psychological, etc.
Even if spells/rituals/whatever's effects *do* turn out to be fully psychological, and applying the placebo affect, among other affects, then so be it; if it works, it works. It doesn't make it any less awesome and inspiring to learn more of it and to keep going deeper down the rabbit hole, in my opinion.
Terry Goodkind in his book Wizards First Rule has an exceptional wizards first rule. "People will believe anything, either because they want it to be true or they are afraid it might be." I don't see how one can force themselves to believe in something. In some ways I see it as taking something at face value and rolling with it till there is no longer a reason to do so. When you skip a rock across a pond 50 times you take it at face value that you will always be able to do it no matter wether you create 10 ripples or 100. It all comes down to perception and is therefore always personal. But I also believe that just because you disbelieve in something doesn't make it unreal. I can believe that I Superman all day but I won't shoot myself to prove I can stop bullets lol!
Thanks for everyone's replies. I've been thinking it over this last week and what I think I learned was I shouldn't accept anything on face value. Each idea should be tried and tested before I move on to the next, especially the "basics". I still think belief is an important part of magic, but I don't think I should suspend my disbelief till an idea has proven it's worth.