Browsing through any number of online witchcraft message boards or visiting a variety of pagan chat rooms, it quickly becomes evident that that the current "party line" on magic is one of limitation. The newcomer's questions are typically met with warnings away from magical endeavor until a sufficient amount of "learning" has taken place. The "learning" appears to be reading from a list of books offered.
For the most part, these books are about
modern, Western witchcraft or Wicca that may have small parts dedicated to the repetition of warnings regarding the "Threefold Law" or vague statements about not being "ready." Rarely are any books specific to magical technique or theory suggested. The beginner may be informed that they should forget about pursuing magic for the time being, but should learn how to "shield", "ground" and "raise energy." Again, a list of books often follows and
perhaps a few links to articles on websites are offered. This is akin to warning someone away from ever trying to pronounce a foreign word until they have read enough books in and about that foreign language.
Another typical scenario is that a query for particular spellworking ideas is met by responses saying, "Magic doesn't work that way. You can't just do a spell and something happens out of the blue." A recent example I noted was a request posted to a message board in which someone asked for help getting a career in songwriting started, after several years of complete failure. Some of the responses informed the querent "Magic doesn't work like that.
You can't just do a spell and suddenly get your songs published. Magic isn't a "pill" that changes things, it aids in self-improvement, and it uncovers opportunities. Magic won't make a street musician into a paid professional musician." This is a classic example of viewing magic from within a limited Sphere of Availability.
A Sphere of Availability refers to a range of goals and outcomes which are probable and "reasonable" given an individuals particular abilities and resources. The thought that magic does not reach beyond each individual's Sphere is pervasive. The general view appears to be that while magic and spellcasting may broaden the Sphere, there are still firm and uncrossable limits which confine magic always and only to the role of potentiator. In other
words, magic sets the stage by "uncovering opportunities" which are then pursued by mundane means. This perspective reflects a rudimentary and limiting understanding of magic and spellcasting.
The effectiveness of magic is, indeed, constrained by the level of skill of the spellcaster. Some of the factors determining the skill of the spellcaster are, ability to clearly and specifically define the desired outcome of the spell; ability to focus Will and ability to direct Will in order to achieve the desired outcome. Magic need not be limited to a Sphere of Availability only slightly larger than what is reasonably attainable via mundane
means. As an individual flexes their magical "muscles", their Sphere expands and becomes elastic and, with enough practice and skill, becomes quite penetrable. The keys to reaching beyond the Sphere include not only developing the skill areas identified above, but in deliberate and conscious stretching "reasonable" limits and probabilities. Regular spellwork aimed at achieving outcomes, which are less, and less probable given an individuals
mundane limitations and resources is needed. A benefit of becoming able to easily pass through the Sphere via magical means is that the mundane Sphere becomes larger and more elastic.
Magic can, indeed, be an "aid to self-improvement." Applying the limits of linear thinking stunts te possibility of that happening.