I recently came across an article about an incredible document – Leonardo Da Vinci’s to-do list. Written in 1490, the list enumerates a variety of tasks Da Vinci set out to complete (i.e. “Draw Milan”).
What struck me the most about this list, though, was how many times Da Vinci writes “Ask X to show you Y.”
Ask Benedetto Potinari (A Florentine Merchant) by what means they go on ice in Flanders.
Ask Maestro Antonio how mortars are positioned on bastions by day or night.
Get the master of arithmetic to show you how to square a triangle.
Over and over, Da Vinci states that he’s looking for people to teach him things. Keep in mind this list was written in 1490, when he was about 38 years old and well into his professional life.
Here we have a man who, by most anyone’s estimation, was a genius and a master of a truly amazing number of trades, crafts, and disciplines. One would think that he would be the source, the person everyone else came to for answers. Yet he never stopped looking to learn from people who knew more than he did.
There’s a common pitfall among black magicians, wherein we convince ourselves that other people are unnecessary or can’t matter to our Initiation. Because, if I am a god, why would I need someone else? There are two outcomes to this scenario, and neither one is pretty. First you have someone who lives a completely isolated existence, a legend in his own mind, convinced of his divine power, but with no real world mastery to show for it. Second, the guru who surrounds herself with an echo chamber of yes-men, who never question, challenge or teach her anything.
Photo by Jay Cross
For me, the purpose of the Temple of Set is to provide its students with an honest and effective feedback loop. We seek each other out to ask for advice and share references. But it’s also immeasurably valuable to have a group of people who will help you understand when you’ve failed, or call you out on your own bullshit. It takes courage to ask for that kind of feedback, to put yourself out there knowing that you might very well get an unpleasant answer. The ability to overcome failure and withstand scrutiny are a vital part of how we prove ourselves, how we come out of the other side a stronger person, and a better magician.
Setians often refer to Isolate Intelligence – that spark of consciousness which is uniquely and singularly our own. Yet there is a galaxy of difference between “isolate” and “isolated.” Isolate intelligence may, at will, interact with and enhance itself from interacting with others, whereas an isolated individual would not.
Photo by ideacreamanuelaPps
Ultimately, we’ve chosen the left hand path because we want to be challenged, and made stronger for it. What am I learning from my interactions? What can I gain from my shortcomings? What can someone else’s perspective show me?
If you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.