The Dangers of Eliminating Doubt

by Mike Sententia on April 12, 2012

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Mages are really down on doubt. Taylor of Magical Experiments wrote recently:

Doubt is a sabotager…its that little voice that says, “You don’t deserve this.” […] those emotions will present themselves in your working and undermine your results.

I think that sums up the standard view pretty well, and I mostly agree with him.

But with all this hating on doubt, it’s easy to forget that doubt is natural. Healthy. Sane, even. If you train your mind to never doubt, you’ll wind up believing everything: That magick can solve every problem, that what you visualize actually happens, or that vampires and werewolves are real.

We need to explore doubt a bit: The different types of doubt, different ways of dealing with it, and the tradeoffs involved. That’s what I’d like to do today.

Edit: Holy cow, 1500+ words. I had no idea I had so much to say on doubt. If you just want the punchline, skip to the last two sections, “Focus” and “Believing in Magick.”

2 Kinds of Doubt

We need to distinguish “Do I want this” from “Will this work?” Here’s an example of each:

Do I want this: You’re considering  moving to a bigger city for better career prospects, but you keep putting it off. You miss your friends, and who knows if you’ll be happy in the big city. You know you could physically move, but you’re not sure about it, so you keep putting off.

Will this work: You’re using manifesting to find a new job. But you’re new to magick, have never seen a successful manifesting yourself, and none of your family believes in it. You’re going to have a hard time putting your full focus into it.

Another “Will this work” situation that comes up a lot for me: You’re trying a new energy healing, using a new technique. Will it relieve the symptoms? For how long? Based on personal experience, I can tell you that the first technique I try is often less effective than I’d like. In general, I doubt that the healing technique will work until after I’ve used it about a dozen times.

Think about one of your doubts, and try to figure out which type it is. Remember, at this point, we’re just naming different types of doubt. Don’t worry about whether it’s helpful or unhelpful, healthy or unhealthy. Just try to recognize the category.

3 Responses to Doubt

I see mages handle doubt in three broad ways: Introspection, doublethink and focus.

Introspection

Taylor (and many others) advocate exploring your reasons for doubt. “Why am I unsure I want that new job?” It’s hard to argue with the idea of exploring your inner conflicts.

For me, introspection works well for “do I want this” doubt, because at the end of the exploration, I’ll have figured out what I actually want, even if it’s not what I thought I wanted at first.

But it doesn’t work for “will this work” doubt. My doubts about energy healing, for example, are a logical conclusion drawn from past experience. Introspection will confirm that the doubts are, indeed, the logical conclusion to draw from those experiences. It will confirm the doubt, not eliminate it. And honestly, most peoples’ doubts about magick are also rational, and probably won’t wither from introspection.

In other words, when the doubt is an internal conflict, introspection is great. When the doubt is a rational response to past experience or insufficient evidence, introspection isn’t the right tool. But don’t worry, there are two others.

I’ve also used introspection to have a crisis of faith: I’d gathered enough data to have a firm belief in magick, but was having trouble eliminating doubts caused by my childhood and our culture. I’ll write about it at some point. But for today, the point is, introspection won’t work for rational doubts.

Doublethink

I’m not a fan of doublethink, but I see it used a lot, so I want to name it and discuss it.

Doublethink is where you simply ignore your doubts, and act as if you don’t have any. You train your mind to look somewhere else every time a doubt comes up, and willfully pretend to believe until your magick works. It’s useful for getting yourself to do things, but it’s also dangerous: As you practice believing things you know aren’t true, you’re training your mind to ignore that sense that things don’t quite add up. If you get really good, you won’t be able to tell the difference between real belief and forced belief. That’s scary. One of your greatest strengths in understanding the world is that sense that something doesn’t add up, and training yourself to ignore that sense can’t be a good idea.

So, if I can’t use introspection (because the doubt is rational), and I won’t pretend to believe, what do I do?

Focus

This is the main one I use. Instead of focusing on the end result (recovering from the injury, for example), I just focus on each step of the healing technique: Altering the signatures of the various energies, connecting them to the right pathways, and so on. Kind of like how an Olympic swimmer might just focus on his swimming technique, and not think about whether he’ll win or lose the race. Just focus on the steps, and trust that, if you get the steps right, the end result will take care of itself.

It works because I know I can change the signature of their energy, and I know I can alter the pathways that energy flows through, and all those other steps, because I’ve done them dozens of times before. So doubt isn’t a problem there, because my experience shows me that I can do all of those individual steps.

If you drive magick with belief, you’re probably wondering, “What about overall expectations?” Here’s where we need to separate internal ideas from external magickal structures. Ideas are in your head. In your ideas, what you expect to happen, will happen. It’s all in your own mind.

In contrast, magickal structures exist outside your mind, independently of your ideas. Energies, pathways, mental muscles, ethereal software, and most of the other things I talk about are magickal structures, rather than ideas. The continue existing and working even if you ignore them, and even if you expect them to stop. (Magickal structures are non-physical, though, so it’s easy to get them confused with ideas.)

For anyone wondering how thought directs magick: Your mental muscles connect to your mind and brain. They respond to your thoughts. Ethereal software does, too, sometimes. But that’s because those things go to the trouble of reading and responding to your thoughts — other magickal structures that don’t go to that trouble won’t respond to respond thoughts. OK, back to focusing.

So, magickal structures exist outside your thoughts, just like physical objects like computers and baseballs. And just like it doesn’t matter what you expect a baseball to do when it’s thrown (it will always follow the laws of physics), it doesn’t matter how you expect a particular energy signature to interact with a person’s cells, once that energy signature is set. It will just follow the laws of… whatever this art is we’re developing together, and either they’ll recover or they won’t, regardless of what you expect to happen. You just have to stay focused on setting the right signature and not get distracted by doubts in the big picture, the same as an Olympic swimmer needs to stay focused on his technique and not psych himself out by thinking about the other racers and where he’ll place.

If you read the series on how doubt affects manifesting, you know it’s a bit more complex than just not psyching yourself out. But not that much more complex.

So, that’s my general response to doubt: Focus on the steps, not the outcome. It works both for doubts that a particular technique will work, and for doubts about whether you want to do something. (Though it is a good idea to explore “do I want this” doubts, in case you don’t actually want it.)

Believing in Magick

What if you can’t quite find a belief in magick in general? Well, you don’t have to do it all at once. Just work through the first exercise, which is usually an energy meditation. Maybe will yourself to believe just that much of magick — that energy is real, that visualizing it will create it, and that it will make you feel something. Then do the exercise, and see what happens. The reslts will probably confirm that belief you willed yourself into, and you’ll develop a genuine belief in energy, and the tingly feeling it gives you. (Don’t worry about other properties of energy you haven’t experienced yet, you shouldn’t believe in those until you see them for yourself.)

What if you don’t feel tingly after a bunch of tries? Then you should adjust that belief, and stop believing in magickal energy. But I have a bunch of comments from folks it did work for, and I’m pretty confident it will work for you.

Now, use that belief (in tingly energy) for the second exercise, possibly willing yourself to believe in just one more piece of magick. Keep focusing on the one thing you’re trying to do, rather than trying to believe in all of magick all at once. Just build up one belief at a time, naturally, as you experience more magick. That way, you can develop a healthy belief in magick, know why you believe each thing you believe, and still keep your rational doubts around to protect you. That, I think, is the best approach.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Taylor Ellwood April 12, 2012 at 8:45 PM

I actually think that internal work does work for the Will this work doubt because it allows you to explore the doubt about why it won’t work. It can even help you refine your magical process.

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Mike Sententia April 12, 2012 at 9:08 PM

I doubt that a new healing technique will work because, in the past, new healing techniques have not worked. (They required tweaking and refinement before they became effective.) How will internal exploration change that doubt?

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Taylor Ellwood April 12, 2012 at 9:25 PM

From my own experience, internal work allowed me to examine the doubt and explore what I felt doubtful about, in regards to the process I was developing. It allowed me to see where I needed to refine and tweak the process. I used internal work to explore the process and where the doubt fit into that process and then explore multiple iterations of other possible avenues to change the process. Basically using meditation to map out the process a variety of ways and once something was found trying it out.

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JP Alcala April 17, 2012 at 10:46 AM

It’s been proven that doubt really affects our use of magick. And even the proven systems and techniques can fail miserably when it has been poisoned by doubt from the caster.

Focusing on the steps work well when the task at hand is relatively simple. In your example, healing an injury involves several steps, and a session can be done in a few minutes.

But what about more complex manifestations like using magick to help you get the right job? For things like this, focusing on the steps would be too tedious and taxing. Unless you have that much energy and endurance, falling back to introspection and doublethink would be the more practical alternatives, then let a system support you in achieving the task.

You don’t need to become delusional to eliminate doubt. And I believe this is where chaos magicians excel: believing in something temporarily to achieve something. Part of that process is eliminating doubt.

A chaos magician I met once told me his motto: fake it ’till you make it. LOL

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Mike Sententia April 17, 2012 at 11:08 AM

You said: “But what about more complex manifestations like using magick to help you get the right job? For things like this, focusing on the steps would be too tedious and taxing.”

I think this is where a sigil-based approach (which I’m guessing you take, as a chaos magician) differs from direct magick. To manifest for a job, I would:

-Contact the ethereal software I use for manifesting.
-Send the following message, one concept at a time: “Influence my decisions to cause me to find a job that will lead to long-term success for my goals.” (There are other variations I might use, too.)
-Receive a confirmation from the ethereal software.
-Disconnect.

The whole thing takes 1-2 minutes. While doing it, I’m focused on sending the message (which I’m quite confident I can do), not on the overall result of the manifesting. Once I’m disconnected, I’m not sending messages to the ethereal software anymore, and I can go back to doubting whether the manifesting will work or not.

By the way, that was my approach with the manifesting to find an apartment:

https://magickofthought.com/2012/03/manifesting-an-apartment-in-san-francisco/

I didn’t have particularly high confidence that I’d find a place very quickly. For example, I looked at some apartments not recommended by the manifesting, which shows that I had some doubt about the magick. But I sent the message and let the magick work, and wound up finding a place in less than a week. (It was a place that the manifesting guided me to see, and the ad didn’t have photos, so I probably wouldn’t have seen it without that guidance.) That’s what I’m thinking of in terms of “successful manifesting despite doubt.”

So, based on your comment and Ananael’s, I’d say that it’s been shown that most styles of manifesting are impacted by doubt. But I’d also say that direct-magick-manifesting seems pretty resistant to doubt:

https://magickofthought.com/2012/03/how-doubt-affects-manifesting/

Maybe you’ll find something useful in these techniques to help your magick work despite doubt, too.

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Jeff December 18, 2014 at 12:03 PM

Hi,
I know this is an old post but I wanted to respond as well. One of the things that every person says to do is to create a magick diary. This is very useful cause you can write in the spells that you do, whether it was a success or fail and if it failed it can allow you to search as to why it failed. Did you doubt it would work, if so what caused that doubt. etc. Plus when you run into doubts about learning new techniques of Magick, you can go back over your success and see why they succeeded. Doubt will most likely be the cause of your failures and have you doubting magick and your abilities, going back to the beginning would be a great start to release your doubts. I have never done this over the years that I have done magick spells. A majority of them have worked and some haven’t mainly cause of my own doubts or depression etc. But I do remember a majority of them have worked so I try to remember that.

Also, as you pointed out Mike, and something I think all people who do Magick should do on a daily basis is to run through at least one daily ritual and not an elaborate one, something as simple as the energy meditation which would help to release doubts and beliefs.

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