Didn't find any threads that address this so hopefully this noob question will be fine
Is it nessesary to be initiated into a tradition by a master to attain a higher level of magical proficiency?
I am only a beginner and have no need to find a teacher yet, but I ask this because I have a friend who is a Zhengyi Daoist priest who studied under a master for around 5 or 6 years, and is capable of many feats that other sources claim takes decades to master or even are impossible. For example, while his main job is exorcism, he is currently praciticing a type of 水法, water magic, called 药王水 (medicine king water), that turns a bowl of water into medicine (it instantly smells bitter to others and tastes like chinese medicine when drunk) by simply pointing at it.He says that this is considered a "medium-level water magic" and takes a long time to perfect, but The twist here, is that when he says "longer", he means simply 1 month, as opposed to 7 days. For me, to reach this level of ability is crazy! I would not dream of accomplishing this within a decade, and yet only after 5 years of training, he is capable of easily learning this.
However, he says that even if he were to tell me the secret instructions for this magic, it would not work because one MUST be initiated and "given the magical bloodline" of a Daoist sect. The many sects of Daoism, as I understand it, apparently have century old pacts with deities to ensure that their magic is powerful. To illustrate how important this is to the system, in Daoism there is a practice called 下阴, or going to the underworld (for the purpose of rewriting people's fates), and apprently the most distuinguished sects all have their own departments and security forces in the underworld.... According to him (while I trust him, I must take his words with a grain of salt), the common meditation and neigong known as the "Golden Light Body" used for training foundations (builds chi, allows you to see auras, etc) requires the layman to practice it at least thirty minutes a day, but with his master's secret intructions as well as his "bloodline presence", he needs only to meditate for half a minute a day.
This, to be honest, frustrates me a bit. One of the reasons I liked Daoist systems, as well as magic in general, is how it is a personal and individual quest of seeking truth and exploring the self, and to hear that knowledge and hard practice alone does not matter compared to having a master, is ... quite irking. He himself admits that he knows little about, say, occult anatomy and healing, and relies heavily instead upon evoking gods to do the work for him.
I must, of course, take his words with skepticism. He could simply be boasting and lying about the short time he took to train, or perhaps the whole "only with a master can you git gud" is a lie told by Daoist masters to keep people at their feet. His ability, is, however, something I cannot doubt. I am not saying he is lazy or a bad person who simply got where he is with a master, but it does seem like having someone to guide and initiate you makes the road much, much easier. Ultimately I practice magic for understanding myself, gaining knowledge, and helping others, and I do not really mind that much about magical proficiency without spiritual growth. What use is shooting lightning out my fingers if I am not even a good person?
So, what do y'all think? Does one need to be in a tradition to see gains after a certain point? Can one still accomplish the same results through other means?
Sorry for the long wall of text :p it is a bad habit