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Ananael had a couple good posts on consciousness and science recently. Something is messed up with the captcha on the site, so I can’t leave comments. So instead, I’m posting them here.
Consciousness Isn’t Special
This is something I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain: Consciousness isn’t special. It feels special because it’s the subjective experience of how our minds work. But trying to understand magick by understanding consciousness is like trying to understand running or driving or baking by understanding consciousness. It’s just the wrong entry point.
At some point, once we understand all the steps that connect your thoughts to a change in the world, understanding consciousness might help. But that’s so far from when we are now, that at this point, consciousness is a red herring.
Should Brain Scans Show Consciousness?
In response to a comment on that post saying that, if scientists could ever understand consciousness, they would have already because of all these awesome brain scanners we have (MRIs, fMRIs, etc):
Brain scanners see brain regions, not individual nerves. It would be like trying to understand a computer program by seeing which disk sectors were accessed, but not being able to see what data was being written. Everyone agrees consciousness emerges from neural behavior — it’s the subjective experience of this information-processing object called a brain — but you won’t be able to understand just how it emerges unless you could see how each nerve behaves. And we can’t.
The Path to a Mature Science
I wrote about this quite a bit a few months ago. I’ve realized, you can’t force a field down another field’s path. You can’t explore psychology the way you explore physics, or computer science like chemistry, or economics like biology. They’re too fundamentally different.
I think the key to exploring magick as a science is trying to get to the underlying reasons behind the results you get — find all the steps that happen between “I do this ritual” and “This result happens.” Which is really saying, you need to unravel cause and effect, which is the broadest question that all the sciences try to answer.
But beyond that, I think it’s better to explore and experiment a field on its own terms, than to worry about following a particular science’s path. Each field has to take its own path to a mature science, and you can’t see the path except in hindsight.If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at mikesententia.com.
But states of consciousness are important to magick work. The “essence”of consciousness maybe not, but the states of it are essential, because you need to be in a specific state to do magick.
About the fields of science, there are certain patterns in nature that are multidisciplinary (they can be applicated to weather, economic structures, biology, particle physics, etc.). In fact they are studied by systems science and nonlinear sciences. All because they behave (under certain conditions) the same way (or at least very similar).
I´m just saying that maybe some approaches are more “holistic” than others, it depends on the “level” of the system you are exploring. (if you study heart attacks, you may want to study them on the level of genes and genomes, or on the level of tissue regeneration, or on the level of metabolism, or the circulatory system etc.)
In terms of states of consciousness, I think we’re basically in agreement, just using different terms. I think what you’re calling a “state of consciousness,” I call a “mental posture”:
And interesting idea about patterns that keep cropping up in sciences. I’ll have to think about that more. Thanks.
Seeing as these were in response to my article, I’ll address them in order.
(1) Let’s go ahead and say that what I asserted is that what we really need to study magick directly is an objective tool that measures “mental posture.” I don’t want to get hung up on the terminology. If we’re testing your model, it would be useful for our tool to measure “mental muscles” as well. Such a tool is necessary for determining objective repeatability, one of the key characteristics of the scientific method. What I would be testing for direct magick is (A) mental posture, (B) mental muscles, and probably (C) whatever you call the magical link. Then you correlate the degree to which each factor is engaged and relate it back to the probability shift. This methodology would hopefully account for individual differences between practitioners, which is one of the biggest problems in trying to study magick scientifically.
(2) That’s pretty much what I would say too. The overall functioning of the mind appears to be much more than the sum of its individual parts.
(3) I actually think the history psychology is a pretty good model for studying magick because psychology had to deal with a lot of the same questions related to subjectivity, since much of what psychology studies is going on within the mind. If you look into the differences between Structuralism and Behaviorism (or maybe Functionalism, which preceded Behaviorism), you pretty much get the same arguments that you and I have had here about results versus mechanics. Also, the scientific method is the same regardless of the science in which it is applied. That’s what makes a science a science.
You know what, I actually agree with pretty much everything you said. Which is kind of weird :) Must mean we’re getting past the language barrier and talking about actual ideas now.
Can you elaborate on using psychology as a model for studying magick? Any specific insights or recommendations? If you post about it, feel free to leave a link.
The one thing I think you left out is the ethereal software. When you use the symbols and rituals, or send your intents or concepts out, the ethereal software is what executes those commands. It takes that link and uses it to perform the actual changes, whether it’s influencing events, healing the person, or something else. So, the full model should also include the particular piece of ethereal software used (which, for ritual practitioners, is tied to the ritual style — your Enochian rituals use the Enochian ethereal software, Thelemic rituals use Thelemic ethereal software, and so on), and the particular command used (for ritual practitioners, the ritual).
I can see how, if you mostly do ritual magick, the ethereal software kind of drops out, because once you know the ritual you’re doing, you know what command you’re sending to what software, too. But if you’re doing non-ritual magick, you’ll need to take those items into consideration when modeling the total result.
Then, for a magick theory is necessary to know how a ethereal software do changes on reality? Following the idea that the ethereal software make direct magick of another kind.
Yes. That’s, in fact, the exact idea of direct magick. That you would do the magic directly, using only your mental muscles, without the aid of ethereal software. Doing each step yourself makes you understand how the magick works at a deeper level than just reading about it, or even seeing it. Same as doing anything yourself makes you understand it better than reading about it.
That understanding lets you design better techniques, test them out, debug and refine them. Then, you go to the ethereal software and program the command into it, so you can run the command any time you want, with less focus required then doing the magick yourself, and so friends can run the command, even if they don’t understand all the details of the implementation.
I haven’t done a good job of explaining this in the past. That’s something I hope to change going forward. Thanks for reminding me.
There is another level of how: How does energy interact with cells? You don’t need to know that in order to change energy in a way that reliably heals, And you can make a lot of useful techniques without knowing it. But my feeling is that the more you know of how magic works, all the way down to cells, the more you’ll be able to develop better techniques. Understanding this is one of the things that I think will make magic a mature science, though were not close to it yet.
@Mike: I realize that there are other factors besides the ones I listed in both our models (yours has “ethereal software,” mine has spirits, and so forth) but what I was talking about there are the factors that are internal to the individual. Technically only certain types of magical links are included as well, such as visualizations, but in general measuring those three is what we would want a consciousness-measuring tool in order to assess.
If we assume that “ethereal software” exists, then I have no idea what sort of tool we would need to measure it. It would almost certainly be something completely different than what you would use for consciousness. The same thing goes for spirits. I’ve played around with incorporating an EMF detector into evocations, but so far I don’t have nearly enough data to draw any firm conclusions on its effectiveness.
Got you. I didn’t realize we were still talking just about measuring the parts of magick internal to the individual. Then yes, it makes sense to exclude ethereal software, spirits, etc. Thanks for clearing it up.
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