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It started around 1994 with this question:
Why does magick change the physical world?
Not “This symbol means this, therefore you’ll get this result.” That’s how to use a ritual, not why it works. I wanted all the moving parts that make magick function.
Not “Your unconscious responds to symbols and makes magick happen.” That just names the black box. I wanted to understand how it “makes magick happen.”
Not “Magick works by influencing quantum probabilities.” Even if that’s true, it doesn’t explain the steps that connect a particular ritual to its results.
I wanted a thorough explanation of all the moving parts that make magick work, so I could reason about using them in new ways to do magick better — heal more effectively, get instant results, receive clearer psychic intuitions, etc.
I wanted the science of magick.
17 years later, I’ve made a good start. This series is about where I am, where I’m going, and where I hope you’ll go with me.
Science = Scientific Method
Science isn’t technology. It’s not a microscope or a computer.
Science isn’t the knowledge of a scientific field. It’s not physics, chemistry, or psychology.
Science isn’t in the words you use — trusting science-y terms like “quantum” and distrusting mystical ones like “spirit.”
Science means distilling what works, and discarding what doesn’t, through the scientific method: Systematic explanation, reliable observation, and tests that can disrupt our expectations. I’ll explain how each applies to magick in its own post.
I don’t like science because it’s fashionable or professional-sounding. I like it because it works.
How Science Can Help Your Magick
When someone asks you “how does the internet work?” they might want to know to search with Google, click links, and don’t trust anything promising “a monster in your pants.” Basic user skills.
Or they could want to know how to connect their cable to a wifi router, configure its password, and connect to the network. Advanced user skills.
Or maybe they want to know how to program a website, how movies get turned into electrical signals, and how cookies track you — the technologies that make the internet work.
Now imagine the internet doesn’t exist yet. Or it does, but in the 1994 AOL-era form, before youtube, google and facebook. Which kind of understanding helps you create today’s internet?
Hint: It’s the 3rd kind.
Moving to magick:
Knowing how to visualize energy moving won’t build tomorrow’s magick.
Knowing the symbols of Thelema, Enochian and Kabbalah won’t either.
To build tomorrow’s magick, we need to understand the technologies that make magick work — each piece that helps turn your intent into changes in the world. And science is the best tool to build that understanding.
If Science Isn’t For You
If, as you read this series, you feel like science isn’t for you, that’s fine. Lots of my posts are one-off tips — techniques I’ve developed that you can use without understanding the inner-workings of magick. Click here for a list of those posts.
And you can always come back here later if you want to try science again.
Outline of the Series
How to explore magick through science: Systematic explanation, accurate observation, and tests that can disrupt your expectations. (3 posts, read them in order).
Phases of science: How fields advance from philosophy to mature science, where magick is, and how to move forward.
Getting started: The nuts and bolts of exploring magick through science. (Probably its own series).Other posts in this series:
- Exploring Magick Through Science (May 12, 2011)
- Modernizing Magick (June 2, 2011)
This is an amazing concept.
Welcome to the blog. Glad you’re enjoying it. Best -Mike
Wow! This is indeed quite cool, and I am very interested in exploring it with you, translating whatever I need to in order to make it workable for me, and empowering others to do the same. I think it is important not to reinvent the wheel, or even to re-label the wheel. For example, what you are calling ‘Direct Magic’ (doing magickal works without rituals), is often called ‘Sorcery’ (though many think that Sorcery is just identifying a change that you want in a target, and throwing energy at that target until it changes in the way that you want,, so I guess it might need the re-labeling, but I would have called it ‘Scientific Sorcery’.)
Never-the-less, I feel that this journey you have undertaken is amazing, delightful, and has the potential to bring about great changes and accomplishments!
Thanks, Random! Sorry for the slow reply. Glad to have you on board, and I hope you enjoy the blog.
This kind of question has always been a sticking point for me. I have a fairly solid scientific background (doctorate level) and remain convinced that science has a “hard ceiling”. I’m of the opinion that there are some things that are by their very nature unquantifiable or qualifiable by anything vaguely scientific. One could use terminology that sounds “sciency” but that does not mean that science has actually occurred. There is much more to actual science than “do an experiment and observe the result”. Experimental design itself is a huge pain in the butt that can take years to resolve and limit confounding factors.
At some point the seemingly “scientific” principles start to collapse under their own weight and look more and more like philosophy and mysticism.
Which is fairly cool.
Thanks for writing, Brian. I think this is a case where we’ll just have to wait and see. I think that magick follows mechanics that we can eventually untangle and understand, and that systematic models driven by experiment are the best way to do that. But we can agree to disagree.
One point where I do agree with you, though, is that it’s a mistake to focus on scientific-sounding terms. Real science is in the insight and predictions you can derive from a model. On StarTrek, When Geordi talks about Tachyon Fields, that’s no more scientific than someone talking about sending their belief out into the universe.
Yes! Thank you; I’ve been hoping magick would become more scientific.
Btw, what’s your take on the classical elements? I’m of a mind that they don’t exist, or rather, that mentally invoking their essence (which I believe is a largely psychosomatic effect) isn’t any more special than invoking another entity, such as electricity, or gravity.
Also, I find their parallels with the states of matter interesting (assuming you leave out things like superfluids).
Anyways, I’m definitely looking forward to the series! :)
Excellent. Welcome to my blog, glad you’re eager for scientific magick.
On the elements: I think various ancient people noticed energy (or something similar) and needed some metaphoric way to label energies. In the same way that people talking about red vs blue auras know the aura doesn’t actually interact with light, I think people talking about fire and water elements know that the energy isn’t actually fire or water. But you need some language to talk about these things, and they went with what was familiar to them.
(I’m no historical scholar, so I don’t know how accurate that is. But it makes sense to me, and it resolves the apparent conflict between ancient magick and contemporary science.)
So, no, invoking a classical element wouldn’t be likely to do anything more than invoking the concept of gravity or electricity. But, if there’s some particular type of energy that you find particularly useful, and you decide to call it “fire energy,” then you will indeed find that “fire energy” is particularly useful. But it’s not because it’s “fire energy,” it’s because it’s a useful energy signature, so you decided to name it, if that makes sense.
“Science means distilling what works, and discarding what doesn’t, through the scientific method”. Absolutely! This is the only approach that yields results. In fact, once one accepts this as a basic epistemology, any practical method whatsoever becomes acceptable as long as it yields results.