Could Doubt be an Excuse?

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Wednesday, I discussed how doubt affects your manifesting. But, to be honest, that’s all speculation. I don’t have experience with doubt affecting my manifesting, because I always use that other technique that’s unaffected by doubt. Is it possible the conventional wisdom is wrong, and doubt really doesn’t affect manifesting?

I don’t think so. In particular, Ananael says he’s collected data, and I believe him. But part of exploring magick is learning to be honest with yourself about what you know vs what you simply believe, and part of that is learning to generate alternative hypotheses.

So, today: What if doubt doesn’t affect manifesting? How would we get so many practitioners warning you to eliminate doubt, anger, and other thoughts from your mind?

To answer that, let me talk about an interesting post on Ananael’s blog, discussing the idea that magick can backfire:

I’m not a big believer in the idea that if you do a spell wrong, the result is some sort of “backfire” or “slingshot effect” or whatever it is folks feel like calling it on any particular day. In my experience the reality is that magick either works or it doesn’t, and when you make a mistake the most likely outcome is that nothing at all happens.

Here’s my take on it: By counting “I got the opposite of what I wanted” as evidence that magick is real, you can count up a lot more evidence that magick is real. Which is pleasant, particularly for beginners wanting reassurance that the art they’re learning actually, you know, exists.  I can see how that idea would catch on.

Similarly, blaming doubt might have started as a polite way of excusing failures: “It’s not that you haven’t learned to do manifesting effectively, it’s just that your doubt fouled up your otherwise-perfectly-good magick.” Then the idea catches on and becomes part of the collective wisdom we all repeat.

Personally, I think it’s more likely that doubt really does affect manifesting, particularly given Ananael’s testing. But not 100% certain. And I want to be honest with you, dear reader, about what I know vs what I simply believe, and to show you alternative hypotheses, so you can make up your own mind. Ultimately, I hope you learn to generate your own alternative hypotheses whenever a teacher makes a claim, so you’re always making up your own mind, even when you’re not being led to do it.

Tomorrow: Back to the main thread of this series, with an introduction to the technique I use that I know (though experience) works regardless of doubt.

Other posts in this series: If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at

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6 Responses to “Could Doubt be an Excuse?”

  1. Dark Arckana says:

    Obviously, “doubt” is just an excuse. No one raised in Western Culture just jumps head first into believing in Magik. If they try, chances are, it’s not going to be genuine belief but what they would like to believe at some point. Most devotees started off with ritual Magik and exeperienced a dynamic case of “beginner’s luck”. Prior to this time, they have varying degrees of belief and doubt. Some have Magik users use Magik to heal them or give them luck so they can say “it didn’t work”, only to be surprised. Magik users work with real forces. Generally, belief and doubt make the most difference in an altered state of consciousness, the more intense the altered state, the more it makes a difference. Belief is actually important. It affects technical application and intensity. It frees up your mind to allow yourself to focus rather than being distracted by your own thoughts on the matter. Obviously, if one practiced Magik at all, they already believe it works.

    • I’m not sure I followed all that. I agree with some of it, don’t think I agree with all of it. Realize that a lot of what you say isn’t quite obvious. But that’s an interesting idea about people developing an initial belief in magick through mistaking coincidence for actual results, and using that mistaken belief to bootstrap themselves into real magick. Neat idea.

  2. Ananael Qaa says:

    That’s a good point about unwanted results being interpreted as the magick doing something, just not what you want. Years ago in parapsychology a similar thing was done with the idea of “psi-missing” – that is, keeping track of Zener card trials that came out both significantly above and below chance as proof of psychic abilities. When using such a methodology, all you need to do is find a test methodology with a lot of statistical variance and you’ll have plenty of “proof,” because you can count both high and low trial results, even if your full data set averages out to chance.

    Doubt is certainly not the only factor that can account for magical failures. Incidentally, I would put forth anybody who puts anger and doubt in the same category in terms of messing up magick doesn’t know what they’re talking about. It’s very possible to cast a quite effective curse when you’re angry. What I’ve found is that the key to successful magical work is what I call coherence – that is, your mind must be fully focused on the desired result without any ambiguity. Doubt divides the mind against itself, as do mixed emotions of whatever sort. Essentially, in order to access its full power the mind must be able to direct its full attention on whatever is being manifested.

    • Very cool. I didn’t start manifesting until well into my magickal career, so I missed a lot of these experiences. I lump anger with doubt because I hear teachers warning new mages about both of them altering the results of magick, but you’re right, doubt is usually seen as preventing any results, while anger would cause the results to manifest in a malicious way. Thanks, the way you explain it is helpful.

      And that’s neat about the Zener cards. It makes me want to teach an “Experimental methods and statistics for magick” course. Which might be a good blog series, actually. Any interest in collaborating on that? Anyone else want to help?

  3. Ananael Qaa says:

    I’d have some interest in doing something like that, because I think one of the main problems occultists have with probability testing is that they don’t understand statistics very well. On the other hand, I’m up to my neck in other writing projects these days and haven’t even had a lot of time for my regular blogging aside from the weird news stuff.

    I think that what anyone who wants to understand statistics better could do is to study how they are used in psychology. Psychology runs into a lot of the same problems as magick – statistical rather than deterministic experimental results, problems with self-reporting, issues with internal mental states, and so forth. That’s how I was educated and it’s served me well over the years.

  4. […] has posted some interesting thoughts about doubt in magical works. You can find them here and here. When I think about doubt and magical workings, I think that if doubt is entering into the […]

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