Renaming Energy & Signature

by Mike Sententia on May 13, 2012

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My original terms were universally bad. Before I had “ethereal software,” I called them “systems,” conflating a style of magick with the intelligent force that drives it. Before I had “mental muscles,” I called them “mental areas,” which is about as non-descriptive as you can get.

Now, I’m wondering about energy and signature.

Energy isn’t great, and continuously implies a correspondence between magick::energy and other types of energy, like “the ability to do work” (physics::energy) or “glucose in cells” (bio::energy)*. And “signature” is about as meaningless and non-sequitur-ish as you can get. Surely, I can do better.

*Actual experts in the fields will probably tell me that my definitions of energy are wrong. Mea culpa. You know what I mean.

I’ve been thinking about “signature,” so I’ll start there.

First, the other common term is “vibration,” which I associate with non-serious practitioners (sometimes called “fluffy”) wanting to “raise the vibration of the planet.” Not that no one serious is allowed to use the term, but I’d just feel awkward. Is it worth getting over that feeling? Maybe, because if you just look at the metaphor, it’s actually pretty good. If you imagine a radio wave, it correctly suggests that:

  • The vibration is the information content of the wave / energy.
  • There are scales of vibrations, such as the carrier signal vs the radio program.
  • That the energy will transfer its vibration to the structure, which it does.

And yet… it still doesn’t feel right. I keep hearing “raise the vibration,” which is a seriously misleading way to describe “aligning the injured tissue’s energy signature / vibration to a normal, healthy signature / vibration for your body.” Also, it makes me expect energy to feel like a tuning fork or an overly-loud stereo, but it actually reminds me much more of a Jackson Pollack painting. None of this is fatal, but it all makes me feel like I should search a little harder.

Perhaps “signal,” as in “radio signal”? Because no one talks about “radio vibrations.”

Then we have “energy.” I’m tempted to keep it because it’s a fairly standard term for “the thing that makes you feel tingly.” But then again, egregore is a fairly standard term for “external force you channel,” and I tossed it aside for my own metaphor, so I should at least explore my options on “energy.”

I’ll do that tomorrow. Today, I want to ask you for any other standard terms you know of for energy and signature, or any metaphors you’ve found particularly helpful in thinking about these parts of magick. Feel free to discuss “connection,” too, as the term feels decent but not great. Thanks!

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

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Dark Arckana May 13, 2012 at 2:41 PM

“Resonance” is one that I’ve heard.

Personally, I think it’s best to coin your own terminology, make up your own words (that aren’t in the dictionary) and give them literal definitions of what you want to communicate. After all, Magik users have been vouching for the whole revamping of Magikal Vocabulary.

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Mike Sententia May 14, 2012 at 12:30 PM

Thanks Dark. I’d forgotten that term, but I am familiar with “resonance frequency.” Either of those words could be useful. And thanks for the encouragement to explore new terms, too.

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Kol Drake May 13, 2012 at 3:23 PM

Have to come to some kind of ‘consensus’ terminology. AND, heck, make a new term if you have to get away from all the ingrained ‘not so good’ terms. But.. calling it Orgone or ectoplasmic or electrowavicles… somewhere in all that you have to hit a term that your readers can connect with……… even if you have to write a paragraph or three on why ‘energy’ is not energy but…. that’s the best you have for now.

words is words… results will define them.

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Mike Sententia May 14, 2012 at 12:32 PM

Indeed. I just want to make sure the words convey the right meaning, rather than a similar meaning that I don’t intend. Thanks for commenting.

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Simon May 14, 2012 at 5:17 AM

Chi or Ki or even Kia- of course. Although I don’t full understand your model of it – ‘signature’ sounded OK actually.

I have to agree there is a case for using completely unfamiliar words- then defining them fully so that everyone can then orientate themselves. Fresh start. After all this is why in Botany they went with the dead language of Latin and Greek so as to try and avoid emotional associations or confusions.

But its interesting that you have the ‘official’ Latin name of a plant like Melissa officionalis and then the common name like ‘lemon balm’ which is used by the ‘laymen’.

Maybe the question is who are these terms for? Is it to gain some respectability so that ‘non magicans’ might look into this stuff and take it seriously? Or is it to orientate people who are already interested and just need a consensus term to use as shorthand. Because it seems those are fairly different objectives and you will struggle to have a term that achieves both:

For instance its recently come out that Carl Jung considered himself to be communicating with ‘spirits’ and used such terms privately within his circle. But he developed the terminology of ‘archetypes’ and ‘complexes’ so as to appear more acceptable to his sponsors.

To an extent ‘words are words’ but language also powerfully affects our perception and ability to access something. For myself- I wouldn’t have even got into ‘magick’ without first going through Jung’s psychological model. It gave me an access point.

I wouldn’t give yourself too hard a time over this- After all people have been stumbling for an alternative name to the arcane and silly sounding ‘magic’ for a century and the furthest we’ve got is to add a K on the end. It seems that the term magic is rather like democracy – the only name worse are all the others. Probably best to accept that situation when defining terms – least awful rather than ideal.

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Mike Sententia May 14, 2012 at 12:38 PM

Thanks Simon. I hadn’t heard of Jung being an entry point for magick before, but it makes a lot of sense. I may wind up with 2 sets of terms eventually, also — one set for talking with scientists, another set for talking with friends.

I’ve thought about Latin terms a few times. I prefer 2-word metaphors (ethereal software, mental muscles), but it provides a nice backup.

I’ve also thought about renaming “magick” a few times. The term is great for attracting other practitioners, but terrible for talking to the public at large. I’ll probably tackle that after the book. It’s a much bigger project.

And great question, “Who are these terms for.” My reply is in today’s post.

Thanks for writing.

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Yvonne May 14, 2012 at 8:49 AM

First, the other common term is “vibration,” which I associate with non-serious practitioners (sometimes called “fluffy”) wanting to “raise the vibration of the planet.”

The arrogant (?) tone of this statement deeply disappoints me. Because after a PhD, two academic books, and forty years of serious practice, this comment describes me perfectly. Although “Fluffy” is a new term for me, I do not consider myself non-serious by any means.

I think that by self-consciously trying to rename terms and categories, you are engaging in an intellectual project that is both oppositional and largely self-referential. You approach this with ontological assumptions that remain unexamined and hence, as discursively formed objects of inquiry, your terms and ideas may one day bite you in the metaphorical ass. Finally, from your writing I assume that you assume that “magick” possesses a general or “real” essence that can be identified through disciplined investigation, categorization, and experimentation, so as to be ultimately generalized. But what if some of us, including the fluffy bunny New Age types, insist that that magick is a historical phenomenon that “exists” only under particular circumstances and in specific intellectual contexts? “Magick” then, becomes epiphenomenal, and what good is that?

It is something to consider. But I won’t be back for a bit, Mike. I have better and more important things to do, like raising the vibration for myself and the planet, which is so much more worthwhile! See ya!

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Simon May 14, 2012 at 10:41 AM

Uh oh…sacred cow time again!

I think this is a good example of how powerfully language can affect us. And your comment perfectly highlights why Mike is right to focus quite a bit of attention on getting these words right.

All we have are some words: “vibration” “non serious” and “fluffy” and “planet”. And all it has taken is for Mike to arrange those words in a certain sequence to set off a strong emotional reaction in you. I think you’ve mis-read the intent behind the sequence of words though.

It wasn’t some attack on people who want to ‘raise the vibration’ of the planet. I took it as acknowledging that the term “vibration” has been co-opted by all sorts of people and had many vague and unhelpful notions associated with it.

However I think your other comments are really important: about the degree to which ‘magick’ is a culturally mediated phenomenon that poses problems when trying to subject it to a strictly reductionist scientific analysis.

And yet, at the same time I find the direct magick approach can still be extremely helpful

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Mike Sententia May 14, 2012 at 2:06 PM

Hi Yvonne, I’m sorry to have hurt you with my post. I sincerely didn’t mean to, and definitely didn’t have you in mind.

Simon is right: It wasn’t my intent to attack you, or anyone else. When I think about the term “vibration,” I have a negative association with it. In order to figure out which term I want to use, I need to understand that association, see if it’s accurate, and decide what to do about it.

In practice, most of the people I meet who talk about “vibration” and “raising the vibration of the planet” also happen to be non-serious. That language is popular in those circles, and is not popular in other circles I’ve interacted with. That’s why I associate it with non-serious mages.

Are you non-serious because you use that language? Hardly, and that’s not where I was going at all. Serious people can use whatever language they like — this is the third time I’m redefining my terms, after all. All I’m saying is that I feel awkward saying “vibration” because of the associations I have with the term, and that other mages who have the same associations would perceive me differently depending on which terms I use. Is the metaphor good enough to be worth those costs? I don’t know, but the only way to figure that out is by exploring my reaction to the term. I’ve updated the post to try and make this clearer for future readers.

Sorry to see you go. I always enjoyed your take on things, and I know other readers enjoyed it, too. I hope you find the community you’re looking for. And you’re always welcome to come back here.

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Kol Drake May 14, 2012 at 1:15 PM

Words… have meaning — both to define something and how it has ‘meaning’ to us personally. If I post something about ‘God’ that is a very real trigger in everyone’s mind — either the stereotypical C/christian ‘old guy with a flowing white beard on a throne’ — or for some, C-God is just a Zeus make-over — or, let’s take out the emotional bits and call it ‘the Force’ or ‘All-That-Is’.

I can understand wanting to have a unique ‘name’ for what Mike is working with and trying to describe but, so far, we and he have yet to find the exact ‘word’. I think it would almost be safer — especially when trying to speak to the general populace — to do the old “chi, ki, prana, etc. — and yet it is all what is bundled under the word ‘body energy’… which is not energy ‘like’ that which goes along wires but…” it is cumbersome but gets the point across. Pick a ‘word’.

If you are trying to create a definitive ‘magic(k)’ dictionary, you are burning a lot of time for little effect, imo. Getting it precisely ‘right’ is not what you should be presenting as much as acknowledging that many have touched it and you are presenting ‘another means’ of, more scientifically, approaching the subject matter and it’s application.

heh…. but hey, I’ve yet to publish a book I’ve noodled on for over a decade so… go with what works for your master plan and style.

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Mike Sententia May 14, 2012 at 1:50 PM

It is a fair amount of effort. Less effort than writing a book, but not a trivial task. The term “mental muscles” took me probably 20 hours of effort, spread over a month or so. Same for “ethereal software.” I expect to spend 3-5 posts figuring out a good metaphor for energy and signatures. Is it worth it? Depends on what you want to do with magick and writing. But if it can get my ideas across more clearly, I think it’s worth the effort.

Not to get overly philosophical, but there’s an art to accepting that you won’t make a perfect term, but doing a little work to make something better than you have now. Where do you put the bar? Which terms make the cut and which do you leave as they are? For me, some terms just feel overly sloppy, and the time to mull them over is now, before writing the book. (Because the terms are metaphors, you can’t simply do a “replace all,” since then you’ll be using the wrong metaphors to explain everything.)

What’s really happening is, you’re seeing me think through the book here on the blog. Which isn’t something you normally see, I think, even from other bloggers writing books. So it seems like a lot of effort, and like I would be better off just writing the thing. But it’s getting all these things right that makes the difference between an OK book and a great book, and spending 3 days on terms isn’t much in the scheme of a 6- to 12-month writing effort.

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