What’s more important knowledge or skill? A former teacher of mine used to ask this on a regular basis. Though it took me longer than I thought to really value the wisdom in this question, or its answer.
Growing up my family valued intelligence above most other things, often more than skill or sometimes even first hand experience. So it’s not surprising that most of my life I’ve thought knowledge was a thing to be coveted. Since I do still think this, though maybe now to a different degree, it’s not surprising that for quite a while my answer to the question was knowledge. But how does that compare in value to the application of skill? One can certainly have read a book on a subject and probably be able to relate what was learned from it, but how can that information become applied without the addition of skill?
I can learn a ritual, its words, its gestures, how it works, what its intended purpose or even ultimate goal is, and have it memorized perfectly. However, if I have never performed it or have only done so once or twice, other than intellectual facts, what have I really gained? New ways of thinking can be, though often temporarily, wonderful. But aside from that, what change has really taken place? If a person were to read over a hundred books on rock climbing, buy all the correct gear to climb, speak online to dozens of other rock climbers, and hang out with a few climbers in real life – Would that then, by anyone’s standards, make this person a rock climber?
Now please don’t misunderstand me. I have learned a lot over the years from armchair witches and magicians. Particularly where to look for new and interesting styles of magick, and I have at times been guilty of being one myself. But folks, this doesn’t change the fact that knowledge of a thing differs vastly from the experience of a thing.
I’ve seen elephants on t.v., I’ve read about them, and I’ve seen them on the internet. I’ve even seen them first hand at the circus. But let me tell you the lifetime of knowledge I have accumulated about elephants pales in comparison to the one time I actually met and rode on one. If knowledge was all that was required I’d be a black belt now, because I trained with black belts and watch a lot of martial arts movies. I’d be a NASCAR driver, because I can drive a car pretty fast, I’ve driven for a living, I’ve seen a lot of races, and I’ve even ridden in a race car. I’d be chef, because I’ve been cooking my whole life, I’ve eaten some fancy food, and seen lots of cooking shows. You probably get my point.
The inconvenient and often unpopular answer here is skill. There is just no substitute for practice and the experience it brings. Persistence beats talent. A teaspoon of skill kicks a bucket full of knowledge’s ass. Now slowly step away from your computer, put down that book, and go practice!