The modern Magus faces a significant number of challenges to the full development of their Soul. The entire current of modern life runs against the idea of transcendence. On top of that, we live in a psychic environment filled almost wall to wall with media which not only distract, but in the case of the audio-visual media, can also mimic the superficial brain states that Theurgic practice relies on.
Our biggest problem is that our modern and postmodern society has been “flattened,” to borrow the terminology of Ken Wilbur. That is, we are told, most times without realizing it, to consider only the surface of our existence. To think of the things that we can play with, get hurt by, or drive, for example, as the only “real” things.
It does not good to simply deny this epistemological chauvinism. Since we were born in this society, with these concepts and this bias, denying on the cognitive level and leaving it there leaves the unconscious side untouched. In fact, it can tend to exacerbate the problem. It uses the master’s tools to tear his house down.
It may be no accident that we have more armchair occultists than actual practitioners. People raised to think of the Ego as the only valid point of reference will tend to rely on it even when exploring notions of realities beyond. This is the real impact of modernity on the occult: the reduction of phenomena to what can be rationally justified according to scientific or pseudo-scientific models.
Those interested in actually developing their Soul must take a leap into territory that is poorly mapped and not taken seriously by the society around them. This will seem to many of their fellows as an “escape from reality.”
After all, we have many such trapdoors to fall into. Television provides a totalizing picture of reality that nearly everyone accepts at face value. While they may recognize fiction as fiction, it is rare to view the “news” in the same terms.
The nature of audio-visual media: the montage, the sophisticated use of sound and color, all produce a light trance state in the viewer. This trance is all that is needed to imprint the basic symbol set into the average modern psyche. By the time a person is eighteen, they are effectively a robot programmed to respond to certain signals in a positive or negative way.
Worse, the light trance of media also encourages emotional identification. People begin to experience the actual neurological responses of the characters they are viewing, the stories they see on the news.
We can also begin to experience the epiphenomenae of transcendent states when engrossed in a truly inspiring story. Enough exposure to what amounts to spiritual pornography and the modern potential Magus can decide that they need not do any real work. They don’t have to detach from the main interests of the society around them, because they have already “been there.” They just need to consume the right things, and they are “spiritual.”
Sorry to say, I think limiting exposure to the distractions of the Panopticon is necessary for real development of the Soul. Not total abandonment, but a downplaying of the centrality. This will likely help one awaken from the Trance that keeps them from the Inner Temple.