Just what is mastery? What does it mean to become so adept at something that you could consider yourself at the top of your game?
When I bring this up it is in relation to magick and also music, but I guess the concept could be applied to pretty much any field. A while ago during a discussion with friends it became apparent that the popular opinion was that mastery of an instrument meant that you where fully aware of each of your actions, each slight movement of your fingers and each change of note in all it's entirety. Whilst this would indicate to most a high level of competence and understanding of your instrument, for me personally this is not mastery of it. For me, mastery of an instrument is when we have surpassed the mental processes of form and structure, when we have moved on from the physical process itself, when all that is left is the flow of awen (inspiration) and nywvre (energy). The physical process of playing an instrument is just that - a physical process, it has an end - that point where anyone can reach with the right time, training and skill. Yet there are those who go beyond this, those who mesmerise a room with the simplest of tunes played just the same as anyone else. There lies the clue - they practice the physical process the same as any other musician but they have mastered it to the point where they do not need to consciously think on it at all, only the flow of awen.
The same I find is very true when it comes to magical practice. When we create a circle, call on elements, raise our athame and call upon the various forces of nature, what we are doing is a physical process. The calls come not from our lips but from our intent - the physical process is just a distraction, a means of occupying that most annoying of human functions, the conscious mind. That niggling element of your brain that will have you pondering if you unplugged the phone when you are trying to raise energy. Those who have mastered this process, this physical distraction, can reach the point of not needing it any more. Essentially a ritual can be held deep within the mind of the master without walking the circles edge or spending time painting pictures in our mind to try and help "imagine" an element. The functions work to a limited degree but they should only serve as a means to an end not the end product itself.
Mastery is fulfilling ones complete potential. Beyond that envisaged by the people around you or what is expected or governed from the pages of a book. In martial arts there are many coloured belts that you work through, white, yellow, blue, brown etc. until you get to black. It is said that until you reach black belt you are not learning karate, you are preparing yourself to learn karate. Only once you have mastered the physical processes can you really begin to master the spiritual process and subsequently the whole process. This applies to everything we do from music to magick and everything in between.