Thanks for the A2A. This is a fairly complicated question to answer, IMO. So first I'd like to reframe it a bit....
Would you ask a Christian, "Hey, so how does God serve you when you pray?" Wouldn't that be a little presumptuous? And wouldn't it be better to ask something along the lines of: "What do you feel is actually happening when you pray? What is the mechanism? Who or what do you believe you are communicating with? Do you feel there is some sort of connection occurring? And how does it work for you...?"
In the same way, it might be a more appropriate question to ask of someone who practices magick, shamanic rituals, divination, Wicca, or who contacts the spirit world as a medium: "What do you believe is actually happening when you engage in these practices?"
If you asked the question in this way, I think you will likely receive both higher quality answers, and also very diverse answers. This is because folks who engage in these practices have many different beliefs, and even within the same tradition or mode of practice you will find a wide array of takes on what is "actually happening" during these rituals and disciplines. You could, I suspect, spend a lifetime collecting responses to such a question, and have a very tough time generalizing about the answers. Even if you restrict the question to "people who practice witchcraft" as you have, you will encounter variation, contrasts and sometimes what appear to be complete contradictions in the answers you receive.
So I will offer a few thoughts out of my own experiences, observations and beliefs, as just one tiny, insignificant data point in your inquiry.
It has been my experience that people who try to control events, people, outcomes and so forth through "supernatural" means are generally pretty immature and ultimately counterproductive in their approaches. This applies equally to people who pray to a deity for intervention, or who invoke power through a ritual, hoping for the same. Attempting to persuade or command the Universe, natural forces, or spiritual entities and energies to bend to our individual will is exceptionally childish. Why? Because it either presumes that we little humans, with our tiny brains, simian impulses and limited lifespans, have the slightest inkling of what the wisest course is in a given situation - or, perhaps even more appalling, that we are entitled to have a say in how things unfold. So to command the service of spirits, natural forces, gods or anyone for that matter is really just evidence of excessive narcissism, megalomania, anthropocentrism, or a mental illness operating in an apophenic delusion. As such, this kind of "testing the limits of personal power" is normal for little children...but you would expect adults to do away with childish things. Even when disguised as things like synchronicity, the power of positive thinking, or "The Secret," this egocentric impulse is still pretty immature.
So what is the point of interacting with the "spiritual world," if such a realm exists? For me personally, my life experiences have demonstrated to my satisfaction that there are entities, modes of perception and consciousness, structures, and patterns of energy that operate outside of what conventional science has as of yet measured or defined. I say "as of yet" because I'm confident that what we now call "paranormal" or "supernatural" will be scientifically understood...eventually. Perhaps these are quantum events that are quite ordinary, or evidence of multiple realities/universes, or realms of energy that function on different principles than our own, and yet still intersect with our perception and consciousness. But again, what is the point of interacting with a world of "spirit" (if we choose to name it this way) at all? Well...what is the point of interacting with anyone or anything? Why do we make certain friends, or explore certain places, or seek out advice from certain "earthly" authorities in our life? We do these things out of a sense of adventure, a desire to connect and share with others, out of love and excitement for life itself, and to perhaps receive guidance that will aid us in choosing the wisest course for ourselves and those we care about.
And, frankly, I think these are the same impulses that inspire and sustain connections with the spirit world. To seek friendship, new experiences, insight, sound advice and so on. And if we do have a "spiritual" dimension to our being - a part of ourselves that operates and expresses itself via spiritual energies - then wouldn't it make sense that that spiritual Self is hungry for spiritual nourishment? That this aspect of our being desires interactions with others in a spiritual way, and indeed to consciously connect with spirit as deeply and regularly as possible? Most people who pray or meditate with a group will report a deepening of their experience, and begin to rely on it as a profoundly nourishing and supportive practice. So whether this connection is "real" or not is kind of irrelevant, because those who are participating have the felt experience that it is real. Even if it is a "placebo" effect, it has for centuries demonstrated pronounced benefit for a majority of the people involved. In the same way, another person might feel an intense connection with Nature when they meditate in the wilderness, and another person might feel united with the Divine when they are in prolonged solitary meditation or prayer. Are all of these experiences an illusion, or is something actually happening here...?
Well, in conclusion, let me put it to you this way: when two people are "in love," is anything actually happening between them, or are they just deluded? I think if you believe that such deeply felt passion is just individual and biochemical, and that each person is just projecting their own fantasy of what "love" is on the other person, and has no real connection with that person, then it will be difficult to believe that people have any real connection with the spiritual realm either. But if you are willing to entertain that two people who are in love are sharing an authentic, deepening connection, and are intermingling their being, psyche or energies in some way, then it will be easier to entertain the idea that people can have "real connection" with spirits or the spirit realm.
I suppose there is just one more thing I would offer, and that is what guides me in my own spiritual interactions. I am mainly concerned with discerning the wisest course for my own thoughts, choices and actions, so that I might contribute in some small way to the greatest good, for the greatest number, for the greatest duration. I rely on this intention to filter and focus my connections and relationships, so that I am acting (and thinking, and choosing) in harmony with a greater good. I hold this up as both a guiding light and a shield, as an invitation and invocation for any spirit (or person, or energy, or structure) for whom such intention resonates, and a ward or persuasion to anything or anyone who isn't yet operating according to what I would call (for lack of a better term) "a loving frequency of light."
I hope this was helpful.
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