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One last update: Ananael filled me in on some backstory of the quote. Apparently, it was intended to be satire. Looks like I’ve fallen into the trap of taking a satire seriously and railing against it. My bad. I’m leaving the posts up because (1) I believe in owning up to mistakes, not covering them up, and (2) these posts might be useful someday, when I have some legit word games to call BS on.
Note: Read this post first, it explains why calling BS matters.
I’d written this a few weeks ago, but never posted it. The experiments on quartz will resume tomorrow.
Sometimes, bullshit is a perfect example for showing how fake wisdom works, so you can recognize it quickly in the future. That’s what today’s post is about.
If it meant, “Magick is just placebo and personal growth,” I’ll disagree, but I wouldn’t call BS. But the person who originally said it meant something like, “Magick only changes you, but we’re all one, and we’re all part of God, so really, you are everything around you.” Which is, like, totally deep, man.
Wait, no, sorry, not deep. The word I meant was bullshit.
Neither Frater SeA or Jason of Strategic Sorcery made the initial statement, and Jason discussed how it was a bad model, but they both treated it more seriously than it deserves. So, allow me to call BS, and show you why, so you can call BS on fake wisdom, too.
When you hear “Magick only changes you,” it sounds like the person is making a strong, concrete statement about the limitations of magick. No external changes.
Then you hear the re-definition: By ‘you’ they mean “Everything around you.” Now it sounds doubly-deep. Because you’re not just you, you’re, like, everything, man.
Specifically, it sounds deep because of the inconsistency between the standard definition of ‘you,’ and the re-definition of ‘you.’ Because humans don’t immediately replace words with definitions. No, when we hear the sentence, we react to the standard definitions of all the words, and only later does the logical mind kick in to do the translation.
Here’s a more obvious example, so you can see how replacing a definition works: Let’s say my friend, Bob, wants to give a futuristic-sounding talk, but he doesn’t really know anything. So he re-defines “car” to mean “Vehicle that transports people.” Then he talks about “water-faring cars” and “flying cars” and so on. It requires a conscious step to translate “flying car” into “airplane,” so you imagine a Jetsons car every time, even before you really process what he said. Translating into normal English takes effort, and dispelling that futuristic feeling takes effort, so most listeners don’t bother. And Bob gets to sound like he’s talking about a futuristic world, when he’s really just discussing 747s.
Try this: Replace the word with the definition. “Magick only changes your body plus everything around you.” Yeah, not so deeply-mystically-wise anymore, huh?
And that’s why it’s bullshit: It sounds deep and meaningful, but once you sort through the word games, it’s not really saying anything.
If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at mikesententia.com.
After writing this, but before I posted it, others weighed in too. Ananael does an excellent job of analyzing the “you are everything” model, though I think taking it seriously in the first place is a mistake. RO takes it seriously, disagrees with the idea, but doesn’t quite call BS. And Patrick Dunn makes a nice rimshot, which I think is roughly the right response.