Renaming “Systems”

by Mike Sententia on November 24, 2011

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“Mental muscle” is a memorable term. “System” is not, because it could mean anything. That’s why I’m picking a new word. Help me pick a good one.

In the comments on some recent posts, I’ve seen the confusion caused by my term “systems,” referring to the forces a mage channels. Even Ananael, a long-time reader was confused. And when a term confuses multiple readers, the problem isn’t them, it’s me.

So I’m choosing another name for “system.” I don’t have one yet, but this post is my attempt to figure it out. Can you give me a hand?

The Origin of “System”

I’d like to say the name was because the forces themselves process information, and seem to be intelligent but not sentient, just like a computer system. (They are, but I didn’t realize that until later).

But really, it was just sloppiness. I started exploring the concept of systems around age 14, and the “system of magick” that meant “specific rituals and the beliefs behind them” became a “magickal system,” meaning “the forces those rituals invoked.” I didn’t read many magick books until college, and by then, the term was set.

So I can hardly blame you for being confused about the term, when I wasn’t exactly clear on it myself. And that’s why it’s time for a new one.

Egregore

The most obvious choice is “egregore.” It also refers to forces a mage channels, more or less. I’m not that well-read on it, so let’s turn to Wikipedia:

Egregore is an occult concept representing a “thoughtform” or “collective group mind”, an autonomous psychic entity made up of, and influencing, the thoughts of a group of people.

This sounds pretty aligned to my previous understanding and my recent discussion with Kat. So I’ll treat that as the standard definition.

Pros

“Egregore” is a widely-used occult term. Most serious mages will understand it, and get the gist of what I’m saying. Good for bringing in new readers.

I did some manifesting, and it said exactly that: Using “egregore” will make it easier for newcomers to start reading my blog, and once they decide to explore magick with me, then they will learn the details of my definition.

Cons

The standard definition has little to do with my use. I’m not talking about “collective thought forms” or “group minds.” I tried replacing “system” with “egregore” in a few sentences, and it just sounds off.

But the real test isn’t whether the term sounds good to me. I can adjust. What matters is how it sounds to readers. So let me ask you: Do these sentences sound natural?

  • The psychic egregore you use is configured for emergencies and physical danger. Let me connect you to another egregore that’s better for finances.
  • I traced the connection from the attacking spirit to the egregore it uses, aligned my communication to the egregore’s signature, and sent the egregore a message to stop connecting to me and de-authorize the spirit, making it stop responding to the spirit’s commands.
  • Doing a ritual triggers the egrigore associated with that ritual style to connect to your mind. The egregore is takes the ritual actions, along with your thoughts, as instructions, and performs the magick you requested.
  • When the egregore writes ideas into your thoughts, it projects the image of a deity you’re familiar with to ease the communication, similar to how a robot might have a human face to make people more naturally talk to it.

Do those sound natural? To me, the ideas are similar enough at a distance, but up close they clash, like wearing two shades of green.

But I can adjust myself more easily than I can adjust the rest of the world, so if they sound natural to you, maybe “egregore” is the way to go.

Metaphors

The other option is to make my own term.

“Mental muscle” conjures a good metaphor. You need it defined once, but after that, it’s easy to remember. (Or so I believe. If I’m wrong here, please let me know). But “system” doesn’t suggest a metaphor, so it’s hard to remember.

I’ll start by describing systems. They are:

  • Intelligent but not sentient.
  • External (as opposed to mental muscles, which are part of your mind).
  • They drive magick, providing information or energy, shifting probabilities, etc, based on your instructions.
  • They handle the details. You need to know the instruction, but not how to implement it.

From here on, I’m going to think as I write, because maybe something I discard will turn on a light for you.

Something focused on driving magick, like “energy engine,” isn’t good because systems aren’t the primary driver in direct magick. That’s mental muscles.

“Channeled intelligence” sounds too much like a spirit that talks through a psychic.

And I realize, those names are more explanations than metaphors, which is probably why they don’t work.

Computers are a natural analogy for systems. They’re intelligent, but not sentient. Computer programs are build for a particular task, in the same way that systems are specialized for a particular type of psychic information, energy healing or other task. They’re external, and primarily process information. They respond to instructions, and you don’t need to know how software works in order to use it. (Do you know the algorithm to turn the a sound file into an MP3? Does that stop you from ripping a CD?) And they can be hacked.

Also, I know computers well. I’ve programmed them, built them, hacked them, and pretty much everything else.

Reality’s software? I like “software,” both the specificity and the way it the contrast with hardware, suggesting how systems aren’t physical objects. But “reality’s” is throw-away word.

Spirit software? Alliterative but kind of silly.

Sentient software? Sounds great, except systems are intelligent but not sentient.

Psychic software? Psychic systems are a particular type of systems, they handle information about the future rather than energy healing or Thelemic rituals. So “psychic software” would refer to that subtype, not the overarching category.

But “something software” sounds like a good match to “mental muscles.” Any ideas?

Or if my use of “egregore” above sounds natural, I might just go with that.

Thanks for the feedback.

If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at mikesententia.com.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew November 26, 2011 at 12:07 AM

How about “magical operating systems”. It’s a metaphor that is easy to understand, works on multiple levels and relates to programming in way that draws the reader to thinking about things in that light, even if they aren’t particularly teck savvy.

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Ananael Qaa November 26, 2011 at 11:55 AM

Given the definition of “system” that you have here, I would agree that “egregore” is not really correct. The thing is, I’m not convinced that what you’re describing as a “system” even exists, let alone is relevant to magical work. I think you may be conflating several different phenomena together that aren’t all part of the same “thing” that should have its own term.

The first of these processes is what psychologists call Assimilation. When you are first learning to do any sort of coordinated action you need to think in terms of every individual step, much like what you describe as “direct magick.” However, once you’ve learned the pattern your brain essentially “files” it so you can do it in a coordinated fashion. So when you’re first learning a Tai Chi posture, for example, you start out having to think of each movement, but once you know it well you can just “tell” your brain to do the posture and it will happen. There’s nothing external going on here, it’s all happening within the brain.

The second of these processes is what Rupert Sheldrake calls Morphic Resonance, the idea that the tendencies of nature behave to some extent like habits or conditioning loops. According to the Morphic Resonance hypothesis, an action that gets repeated over and over again becomes easier to perform – so, for example, a ritual that has been used for a long time like the LBRP should work more efficiently than something new that you just throw together. I think that this is the source of several of the key ideas that go into the concept of “egregore.”

The third of these is spirits. While a spirit can behave sort of like what you call a system – you give it a command, it does a lot of magical work for you – in my experience most spirits are sentient in addition to being intelligent. Your description of “system” might fit the very lowest orders of the spirit world, but for more complex entities I think it’s grossly oversimplified.

You could maybe get someplace with a term like “schema” if you’re talking about a body of practices and rituals that references particular spirits and godforms. It fits better with your examples above than “egregore” does, but again, I really think that your definition still needs some work in terms of describing what really is going on in the natural world.

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Mike Sententia November 27, 2011 at 1:38 PM

Thanks Andrew. I’m not sure that’s quite right, but it’s helpful getting some new ideas.

Ananael, I’m glad we agree that egregore isn’t the right term. That means we’re getting closer to the same page.

About “Is this something important for magick,” that’s fair, I haven’t shown you enough yet. And if I hadn’t seen systems, I’d probably assume they were some of the mechanisms you propose, too. Let me go through each, then ask you for some help.

I’m familiar with Assimilation. It happens as you practice a technique, where you first consciously step through it, then later your unconscious takes over and the actions become automatic, right? That often happens as I practice a technique with my mental muscles. But it requires that you’re initially able to do the technique consciously and slowly (which, again, is typical of techniques driven by mental muscles). Techniques driven by a system are different: From the start, it’s based on an instruction and a symbol, not on knowledge of how the technique actually works.

Most mages use systems unconsciously. The mental muscles are unconscious, and the messages they give the systems are unconscious. The mage is only aware of their instructions to their mental muscles, which can take the form of symbols, visualizations, focusing on intent, etc. The system is 2 levels removed from conscious knowledge, that’s why it’s so easy to miss. But back to assimilation, those instructions you give to mental muscles are a skill, and directing your mental muscles does get easier over time. But there’s still a system in the background, driving the actual magick.

I haven’t read about Morphic Resonance, but it sounds a lot like Phlogiston. There are no moving parts, just an observation about what tends to happen. Does he explain how to modify the behavior, like how to link a particular symbolic action to the outcome, make a particular action wear grooves into reality faster, etc?

On spirits, I work with them too, and as you say, they’re not systems. The main difference I notice is that spirits are sentient, while systems are not. There are more differences once you get into building systems, too.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to get someone to find a system. I found them 10+ years ago, and don’t remember the details. When I work with a mage who doesn’t know about systems, I can show them easily enough, but that doesn’t scale to a blog or book. I’ve just posted a guess at how to find them that should take about 10 minutes. Could you try it and let me know what happens?

Also, I’m probably going to go with something like “Ethereal software” for my metaphor-term for systems. Is there a term from and established style, like “kether” or something, that would be a better match than ethereal? Thanks.

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Ananael Qaa November 27, 2011 at 10:30 PM

I did receive your e-mail and I’ll see about testing it out when I get the chance. I’ll say in advance having read it that I have done similar things and what you describe really doesn’t match my experience, but I’ll give it a go anyway and let you know what I find out.

I probably shouldn’t be trying to explain the current state of Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic resonance model because I haven’t read his latest book on it that came out in 2008, only his earlier ones. I will say that he treats the phenomenon scientifically, with ideas for experiments and proposed procedures for working with the principle. It’s far more involved than some sort of “phlogiston” and can’t be easily dismissed on that basis alone.

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Mike Sententia November 29, 2011 at 6:43 AM

Thanks. I didn’t know Sheldrake had developed the idea into experiments, I’ll have to check out that book.

On trying similar things: My first troubleshooting idea was “You need to explicitly find the system first, then issue it the commands. Just focusing on the commands won’t work.” But then I thought: Why? Why couldn’t you just focus on the commands, let the system pick up those instructions, and do this without consciously knowing what a system even is?

Today I have an initial (though untested) answer. The normal sequence is conscious instructions –> mental muscles –> system. The mental muscles interpret the intent into an actual procedure, and their procedure may not match my procedure. But once you consciously find the system, you’re guiding them into a particular procedure (“Send this instruction to this system”), which helps make sure all the right steps actually happen.

The upshot is: Finding the system is an important step for a lot of the techniques centered around issuing a specific command to a system. I think.

Thanks for testing, let me know how it goes.

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Adam December 9, 2011 at 11:36 AM

How about the term “interface” or “magical interface”? From my understanding (and please correct me if im wrong) but systems are how most mages “interface” with magic. Those who study/use direct magic bypass the “interface” or are considered high-end users. Seems like a decent term to me at least. Feel free for any input, im happy to hear it.

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Mike Sententia December 10, 2011 at 7:25 AM

Thanks Adam. Yes, you’ve got the right idea about direct magick. Good to get some new names in the mix. Thanks!

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