There are two ways people can get psychic abilities. They're born with them or they develop them. Some have natural psychic abilities and also develop them further, while others block out any inkling of a sixth sense that might hint that there is more to life than the physical.
The problem for those with natural psychic abilities is that it can be extremely difficult to control them. They are not a skill that has been learned, but something that just is and just happens. Some, through their struggle, learn to control their abilities, while others find them slipping out of their hands at every grasp.
Developed psychic abilities, on the other hand, usually bring a level of control, depending on how gradually they are developed, how much work the student is putting in, and what system they are using. In fact, it's less of an "ability" and more of a skill, a tool that can be taken up when needed and locked back in its box when not. This is important, because sometimes we need to block ourselves off to the other. We need to be able to switch things on and off when needed. Many people with natural psychic abilities do not have this luxury.
As magicians, it's important to develop these skills, not only because they enhance our magic and give us greater insight and connection to ourselves, the world, and God, but because a magician is, by his or her nature, an active player in the universe, who creates and guides his or her life.
The often chaotic nature of natural psychism can mean that the individual is being pulled along against their will, drifting on an ocean that does not answer to them. This lack of control can be detrimental to the well-being of the person, as they are often unable to close the psychic doors when needed.
This is not to say that there's anything wrong with natural psychic abilities, as there's plenty right with them. Individuals with natural psychism can often become powerful magicians who can tap into forces that other magicians can barely touch upon, and see, hear, taste, smell, and feel things beyond the strain of the developed skills of another magician. These people make particularly good additions to Golden Dawn temples to help see what the others cannot.
Within the Golden Dawn system we learn many techniques that stimulate and heighten our psychic abilities, as well as help us control them. For example, the most "basic" Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram is particularly useful. In its invoking form it brings in the Light, which, over time, opens us to that something other, that part of us that is more than human. In its banishing form it can remove negativity and astral "junk", but it can also seal our Sphere of Sensation when we need to take some time to assimilate and process what we have experienced, or to prevent causing damage when we are taking on more energy than our spiritual vessels are ready for at this time.
I recently had a discussion with someone who cited Blavatsky's teachings regarding techniques to develop psychic abilities. It was suggested that these techniques are dangerous, as it is forcing the evolution of a being who is not ready for it. While I agree that it can be dangerous to begin this process, that does not mean people should not develop their psychic abilities.
In fact, I personally believe it is more dangerous to be naturally psychic than it is to develop these abilities over time, due to the aforementioned lack of control. I have experienced this to some degree and I know many others who have also. I've also seen the effects of learning to control and enhance these abilities on these people. Their life becomes better as they being to master what previously mastered them.
For those who are not naturally psychic, of course it is risky to open the floodgates, especially if all doors are opened at once and the individual is not taught how to close them again. A careful, slow and steady process will not only provide a safer route, it will produce much better results and will enhance the magician so that they are not simply reading speeches and walking in circles around the room.
Indeed, it is important to think about what exactly we are developing. We're not tacking something onto ourselves that is alien; we are not getting a bionic arm that can do wondrous things. We are tapping into that which always is. We are accessing that which was always there.
When a child comes into this world they are much more psychically attuned. Over time this weakens or becomes dormant, because they are discouraged from employing it. Society numbs the child and dulls their imagination, and they become conditioned to fit into the little boxed lives that we are told we are supposed to live as an adult. Some people never lose this, and some people channel it through the medium of art, but the vast majority lose the connection with what is really important beyond the veil.
Therefore, we are in many ways undoing the social conditioning as much as we are enhancing our psychic abilities. Everything is already there. We just need to access it. This is where my beliefs and knowledge as a Gnostic come in, as Gnosis is about the knowledge of the divine that lies within us all. We just have to tap into it. We don't learn - we remember what we already know. This is what we are doing with our psychic abilities.
Of course, it can be dangerous to remember, which is why humans are so good at forgetting. We have built many survival mechanisms to hide memories that might hurt or destroy us. This is a good thing for our safety, but sometimes in order to grow we need to become vulnerable, just as we do when we open ourselves to love.
It is dangerous to begin the process of maturing, to leave home and enter "the big bad world", to fend for oneself, to make and learn from one's own mistakes, and to experience all that life has to offer, both good and bad. Should we discourage people from embarking on this road of discovery simply because it will involve difficult times? Should we equally discourage people from accessing and enhancing their psychic abilities just because change is a painful process?