Filan says: "In a self-led spiritual quest, we may never find our way outside our comfort zones and may never account for difficult questions."
Excellent observation! Having spent the first decade of my own occult work in a purely self-directed search (or directed only by conflicting advice in print...), and working with a number of other self-directed occultists. I came to a similar conclusion. A big risk in a self-constructed, ad-hoc approach to spiritual work is that you will only manage to affirm the self you already were when you began, with little growth except perhaps in size. You might become a bigger, shinier, more powerful person of the sort you have always been, but you can also miss the opportunity to balance your natural tendencies against their complementary things. Worse, I've seen folks exaggerate and empower characteristics that might reasonably be discarded, if their goal was a productive and happy life. (If for some reason - artistic soulfulness or some crap - you don't seek a productive happy life then I haven't much to say to you...) This exaggeration of tendencies is, I'll repeat, a real trap of the 'do-what-feels-right' approach to spiritual self-training.
I generally counsel those who take up a new mythic system, or who are just investigating the deep and powerful myths and symbols of the Old Ways to be sure to take careful note of the parts they don't like. What parts repulse and confuse, what Gods or spirits are scary, or even just boring? Those portions of the myths, or symbols, should be given special attention and careful work. There's an old Pagan song that says "Where there's fear there is power." I knew Pagans who, being confused by that, changed the lyric from 'fear' to 'love'. Both things are true but they're very different lessons. When we notice a part of ourselves (or the spiritual world) that frightens us, we should be aware that we've noticed a knot of tension, a reserve of stored energy, busy keeping us tense around our fear. We can get that energy if we can learn the lessons the fear has for us.
The advantage of a well-balanced systematic approach is that it should provide a structure and direct lessons in how to do all of this. I think it's safe to say that not every system intends to balance dark and light, comfort and fear. However every system that has lasted and produced wise people does in fact develop mechanisms for both leading students into the scary places and for coping with the experiences. To me this is one good argument for taking up a formal system. If one rejects a formal system I can only strongly suggest paying careful attention to what you prefer to ignore.
Suggested e-books:Howard Phillips Lovecraft - Through The Gates Of The Silver Key
Aleister Crowley - Liber 046 The Key Of The Mysteries
Paul Foster Case - The Life Power
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