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Most mages never see the unconscious forces that drive magick. Which makes understanding impossible.
Magical Experiments and The Razor’s Edge, have been asking “Why don’t people do more experiments in magick?” Their answers focus around science being hard and testing being not fun / socially discouraged.
Neither of those gets to the heart of the matter. It’s not that I disagree with them (I don’t). But there’s a deeper, systematic flaw to how we do magick that’s preventing us from reaching the level of science:
Mages don’t experiment because we ignore 2/3 of how magick works.
I’m going to explain that, and what we should do, but first we need to discuss what science really is.
Science = Systematic Explanations
People think of science as “Hypothesis, experiment, accept / reject hypothesis.” It’s what we’re taught in high school. But it’s simplified to the point that it’s not even useful.
99% of the effort is identifying a hypothesis that’s worth testing. You don’t just pick an idea at random, test it, then pick another. No, you observe a lot of events (without any particular hypothesis in mind), develop a good model, and only then test it.
Before Copernicus realized planets orbit the sun, he observed planetary motion. That lead to a model, which led to a prediction, which lead to the tests.
But not just any model. “The planets move because God blows on them” doesn’t count. We need a systematic explanation: A model that steps through the process, explaining how all the moving parts behave and interact, so you can simulate it in your thoughts. You don’t just stumble on systematic explanations. You build them by studying observations.
If you’re not sure about systematic explanations vs fake explanations, try this: Think about something you’re good at. Baking a cake. Climbing a wall. Building a spice rack. Whatever. Just imagine all the steps, walk through the process, and see how you can easily imagine what would happen if you altered one of the steps.
Now pick something you don’t know — your computer requesting a web page, say — and try to do the same thing. You’ll have some high-level pieces (your computer, the internet, the message), but no idea what any of them do at any given step. You can’t zoom in on a step and explain its substeps. That’s how you recognize a fake explanation.
For me, those are reversed. I can give a real explanation of retrieving a web page, but have no idea how baking works. (It involves soda, or yeast, or something, right?) And that’s part of the point: The systematic-ness isn’t in the world, it’s in the model in your head. There are no mysterious phenomena, only phenomena we don’t understand.
Making Systematic Explanations
Copernicus couldn’t have modeled planetary motion if he’d never seen the sun.
If you only have part of the process, it’s much harder to make a systematic explanation. Especially when the missing parts behave in complex ways for reasons you don’t understand.
Imagine someone like me, trying to understand baking a cake. If I have the whole recipe, I can make a decent cake, then try out different ingredients, experiment some, and figure out how it all works. (“Figure out how it all works” = “Make a systematic explanation.”)
But now imagine I have half the recipe. You’re doing the other half. And to mess with me, you randomly change some ingredients. Sure, I might figure out what’s going on eventually, by doing a ton of trials and finding averages, but it will be a lot harder. And if I don’t realize there are missing variables? Hopeless.
A (Quick) Systematic Explanation of Magick
Now you know what we’re trying to do. But before I can show you how mages fail, and how to fix it, we need an overall model of magick. Here’s mine:
- Your conscious mind uses some form of symbolism (either traditional or personal) to signal your goal to your unconscious mental muscles.
- Your mental muscles act on this goal, usually by sending instructions to an external force (a “system”).
- The system shifts probabilities, produces energy, or does whatever else to make the magick happen.
For details, see this series.
You can also do magick without a system once you awaken your mental muscles. But that’s a detail we don’t need right now.
So, 3 steps. First, a “do-anything-you-want” message creation, then an unconscious process, then an external force that does the actual work.
Where do you think most books on magick focus?
Focusing on Recipes
If you guessed “The first step, where you signal your intent any way you please,” you’re a winner.
Everything you’ll commonly read in books, from rituals to visualizations to correspondence tables to “belief as a tool,” is primarily about communicating that intent.
Traditional rituals also get systems to contact you. But again, an unnecessary detail for this discussion.
Why? I can’t be sure if this is the reason, but it’s roughly a thousand times easier to explain a visualization than to explain how to make an unconscious process conscious, and roughly a million times easier to do that than to understand the internal workings of those forces that do the actual magick.
Focusing on the conscious step is like reading a recipe out loud, but letting someone else mix all the ingredients. If they’re anything like the human unconscious, half the time they’ll say “That’s nice, but instead of the baking soda you asked for, I’m adding milk, because milk is awesome.”
So, you say “1 cup flour, 1 cup water,” but don’t see any of the other steps: Which ingredients actually make it in, in which quantities, how long they bake for, etc. You just see the end product, which probably didn’t work right. Then you try again, and the same recipe produces something else. Do you think you’d ever get a systematic explanation? Or even reliable results?
In this analogy, the force you channel (the “system”) corresponds to the kitchen. It doesn’t matter how insistent you are with your unconscious, if the kitchen doesn’t have honey, you’re getting sugar. (Or if your unconscious is less cooperative / skilled, you might wind up with cinnamon or table salt). And since most mages aren’t aware of which systems they use, you won’t know when someone else is working with different ingredients.
And what if you only visualize the end goal (“I want a chocolate cake”), not the individual steps? Or if you only do traditional rituals, where the entire recipe is set out and you aren’t supposed to change anything? Well, then you can’t even experiment with different ingredients — you can’t even try to figure out what’s going on.
That’s what’s going on with magick: By ignoring the forces that drive our results, we’ll never figure out which physical changes correspond to which symbols, let alone reliably bake a cake.
Exploring Magick Through Science
So here’s what we know so far:
- Science requires systematic explanations.
- You make a systematic explanation by observing all parts.
- Mages focus on communicating intent to the unconscious, ignoring the other parts.
This, I believe, is the heart of why mages aren’t doing scientific experiments: We never even get the systematic explanation.
The solution? Observe the other steps of magick, and build a systematic explanation worth testing.
Of course, it’s not as simple as just believing you can. You need tools to observe magick, in the same way biologists need microscopes and physicists need photon detectors. Creating them yourself, before you have a whole picture of magick or even know which techniques matter, takes decades. (It took me about 15 years). Which is probably why most people aren’t exploring these parts of magick.mikesententia.com.