The young magician is generally the responsible sort, I have always found. Most seem to disagree with me, citing examples of kids who run around after reading one book and trying to wing fireballs down the street. I think that we overstate the issue here.
A young magician will find two things: first, that magic is hard; second, that magic is not what he thought it was. This leads to a notion that understanding the potential of magic is somehow beyond their grasp, and causes them to be careful and to study harder, or else to abandon the practice all together.
It is the sudden realization that neither of these things is as straightforward as he initially thought that leads the magician to the freeing epiphany that indeed, magic is what he makes of it. Here, the concept of "Will" becomes confused with the concept of "want", and as the magus becomes more deeply involved, the distinction can become less clear. Part of being a magician, after all, is a certain level of narcissistic hubris, and this can play out in some frightening ways (with frightening impacts not only on the magus, but also on his community).
Introspection is something that the magician must cultivate from the beginning. It must grow with your skill, or else the skill will eclipse the introspection, and only the hubris will shine. The worst part of this, though, is that the magus who moves beyond introspection, who leaves it behind, will be unable to adequately recover it.
The development of a magus' skill and his introspection must like an athlete developing his skill and a knowledge of his body's limits. An athlete who knows the limits of his body can push his body further and with more safety (and confidence) than the
athlete who does not know his limits. This knowledge prevents injury, which can often occur when an athlete pushes beyond the limits of his body without realizing it.
Though Crowley says that all magicians should undergo regular psychoanalysis, I do not think that is a positive route for everyone. Magicians certainly have their problems (not the least of which is the constant, conscious breaking with reality in order to reshape it), but the individual magician is also the best to
recognize when he has stepped outside the bounds of acceptable reality.
Daily devotions play a major part in my own introspection. The process keeps my mind on the gods, and it also ensures that I retain devotion first, rather than magic first. It builds a trusting relationship with the Gods, and a relationship of reciprocity.
I also pay attention to the words of others about me, and try and keep their opinions in mind as I advance in my studies. I have, for instance, recognized that my work with Cthulhu was causing others to question my sanity, and I recognized further that this is because it goes outside the bounds of what is probably acceptable to do on a regular basis, and that the lack of acceptance is there for a good reason.
But by far the most important aspect of my introspection and self-understanding is my own voice. Like the athlete who knows his limits, so too does the magus, and as I learned my physical limits while a varsity athlete at Ohio State, so too did I learn my magical limits over years of study. I know where those limits are (I have glimpsed them on occasion and reached them once, but never passed them) and I know how to work within them.
Divination also plays a role in this. I do divinations relating to my path often, and these keep me honest with myself.
I have also learned to look in the mirror. There is a Jimmy Buffett lyric that has always stood out to me when it comes to introspection:
"A mirror that lies, a mirror that lies / That couldn't be me in the gorilla
This lyric presents one of the greatest and most central lessons of Buffett's music: you must take responsibility for who you are, and for what you have done. In this case, it is obvious that mirrors don't lie: that is, indeed, you standing there. You see only yourself, no matter how much you try to deny it.
I know that if I don't like what I see in the mirror, it is time for a change. And this is probably the most important lesson I have learned about introspection: love who you are, because if you don't, it's your own damn fault.
¹ - "This Hotel
Room", Jimmy Buffett