I suppose I would say that theoretically any magic that can be worked with ritual and/or tools can also be done without. The caveat with this is that most of us (self included) don't have the skills, knowledge and/or power to do without the ritual/tools for certain complicated powerful working, IMHO. Though perhaps if we worked without tools or ritual more often we'd get better at it... ;) Seriously, though, I'm not advocating dropping the tools or ritual --- they're useful. And I think it's better to do what's useful than to work until you're ninety before you finally get good at it!
Tools sometimes mean much more than just a focus, more than just a way to get to where you are going. Oft times the tools themselves are invested of the very life necessary to work the magic.
You're speaking here of tools which carry energy or intelligence, I assume? I was referring to tools which are made by the worker or by another worker for the purpose of someone else using them. In my understanding tools are more useful if they carry energy or intelligence. If they do, it's because the worker put it there. I differentiate these from tools which acquire energy or intelligence through a process other than human intervention.
Shamanistic paths use tools in this way, as an example of one. There is soul invested in the very wood and in the nature of the stones, and in the casting of the light, and in the movement of shadow, and in the rippling shudder of sing-song rhythm. Without these, with only a wo/man alone and reft of surroundings, how much are we depriving ourselves of?
It sounds to me like in that circumstance we are depriving ourselves of the opportunity to work with another intelligence. When you use the word "soul" I presume you mean "entity" as well, to which I attribute some level of intelligence.
Any tradition that believes in the vesting of power down through the centuries, in the passing of knowledge, known or unknown, unto it's heirs, fits into your definition of the use of tools to enhance personal power.
Not tools. The vesting of power and passing of knowledge is through (as I comprehend it currently) the partnership of human and deity. As I see it, the process of initiation (which many workers use, including all of the shamanistic paths that I know anything about) does several things:
1) charters the individual with membership in the group with all the rights and responsibilities involved thereof.
2) Passes power or knowledge from the initiator to the initiate (sometimes the power or knowledge is seen as coming from elsewhere, such as a deity).
3) Formally introduces the initiate to the energy and/or deities of the tradition.
4) Creates a new personality for the initiate which sometimes supplants the old one.
I'm sure there are points I've missed and not all initiations do all these things.
Not necessarily or entirely; I don't consider the ambient power of the universe a "tool" per se. I differentiate between energy and a tool.
What, precisely, is a tool?
Good question! Does this fall into the same kind of discussion as "what is a witch", perhaps? :) IMHO a tool must be an object, either physical or an astral representation of a physical object. If it's not an object, if it's an entity, energy, intelligence, spirit, or whatever, it's not a tool, it's a partner (or servant in some circles).
What, precisely, is personal power?
I think of personal power as the ability to exercise one's abilities. To whatever degree you have the energy, skill and knowledge to do so, you have personal power. This includes the energy, skill and knowledge to draw on power from outside your physical/ astral/whatever being.
Are the gods a tool, or power, and can we cast without them?
The gods I deal with are real entities with minds, thoughts, feelings, histories and agendas of their own. They aren't psychological constructs, or sheer power, or tools. If by "cast" you mean what I mean by "work", I say yes.
Is inherented knowledge passed through the centuries personal power, or a tool, and can we cast without it?
I think of power as energy, but perhaps the power passed by initiation is both information and energy (thus including knowledge). I conceive of the power of an inititiatory line (of whatever flavor) as a stream, a line of connection to which all members of that line, living and dead, connect. We can draw on the knowledge and energy of the line, or we can work without it. I don't think of it as exactly personal, as it belongs to everyone in the line.
Are the spirits that surrounds us a part of us and a power to be used, or some separate entity and a tool to be cast aside?
Spirits are entities, as near as I can figure, and that makes them neither powers nor tools. There's a difference, for example, between drawing on the energy of the moon and making a connection with the spirit of the moon.
At times, the definitions of tools and power become too intermixed to separate. Perhaps, we are nothing without our tools. Perhaps, there really are no tools. Perhaps, we are the tool. I challenge that what we are comes from without and that there is nothing that we do today or any other that will increase or refine our power one wit *unless* we reach outwards. What we become will pass to the generations. What has been is within and a tool as surely as any other.
I have real difficulty accepting that all I am comes from without. That makes me too much defined by that which surrounds me, and binds me to be what the outside (parents, friends, society) says I am. I don't believe I am a tool, even of my deities. I do agree that without input from that which surrounds us, we don't have any opportunity for growth and development. That is where connections are so important, and why it is so important for us to connect with that which nourishes us, rather than that which stunts or devours us. What we pass to the generations depends on the quality of our lives and works.
And when an oak is dead or felled to earth
By one to whom a tree is but a tree,
Where is this treasury of loveliness?
I think it passes to another birth.
The rugged pine that overlooks the sea
May know the charm the desert palms confess.
This was too gorgeous to omit. :)
Suggested ebooks:Howard Phillips Lovecraft - Cool Air
John White - Toward Homo Noeticus
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