Weekly Comments Round-Up (May 20)

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Here are the top comments of the past couple of weeks. Again, I’m focusing on comments that could almost be their own blog posts. And there were a lot to choose from, so I apologize if I missed yours. Enjoy.

Remember my post about how, if we lived 300 years ago and had to do physical labor every day, we wouldn’t have enough energy left over to learn magick? Simon (a new commenter) demolished my logic. I have never been so soundly refuted. You should all read it.

In my series on the Enochian spirits, Yvonne asked how talking to spirits feels, and what changes when you get the angelic visions they can project. I considered answering in a post, but instead answered in this comment.

Reviewing the past couple weeks’ comments, I also revisited the “talking to trees” series. I didn’t do a great job on explaining my reasoning in that series, and while it wasn’t fun to revisit, it was good for me as a writer to see where I need to improve. I think Simon hit the nail on the head with his comment here. Also, I want to highlight a discussion about the different versions of Occam’s Razor I had with Andrew — this isn’t the basics, this is for people already familiar with the concept.

And, since one of the joys of blogging is doing things better the second time, here’s a better discussion of where I am with tree spirits:

Before doing the testing, I more-or-less believed in tree spirits, because of two pieces of evidence: My own experiences as a teen, and the fact that shamen widely believe something along those lines. It wasn’t a belief I acted on, so I didn’t examine it that closely, but I expected to find spirits when I did the testing — I was wondering what type of spirit it was, not whether I’d find one or not.

Are there other reasons to believe in tree spirits? Maybe. This isn’t really my field, so my not knowing any other reasons doesn’t mean there aren’t any.

When I did the testing, I saw my error as a teen. And I saw how others could easily make the same error, especially if they live in a culture where people commonly talk about spirits in trees, fires, animals and the like. In other words, the testing broke both of my reasons for believing in tree spirits.

The testing also added one piece of evidence against tree spirits: I’m generally good at detecting spirits and their connections to physical objects, and I went looking for them but found zero tree spirits. Not definitive evidence, but enough to satisfy my curiosity. Could some tree somewhere have a spirit? Sure. But if it were common, I’d expect to have found one in 10 attempts across 4 cities on 2 continents.

For me, all of that was one logical step. I went from surprised (at not seeing a spirit) to revising my models in basically one breath, then did some more testing to confirm the observations, then posted. And like most people, I unconsciously assumed other people would think the same way I do, and reach the same conclusions in the same number of steps. For me, that’s one of the hardest things about writing: Understanding where my readers have different backgrounds, and where you need smaller steps to follow a path. It’s a skill I’m learning, but it’s hard.

OK, enough introspection for today. Coming up: An overview of the technique I used last month to become psychic, and more chapters of my book. Thanks for reading.

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


3 Responses to “Weekly Comments Round-Up (May 20)”

  1. Simon says:

    Ha! Funny to see my own name appearing in your blog. I feel special :-)

    Instead of littering your blog with comments i’ve been actually studying your practical instructions and will probably bother you with several questions soon.

    About the ‘magic is a modern luxury’ thing. I know this kind of ‘sociology’ discussion isn’t an immediate priority what with you trying to get a book together. Nonetheless it flagged something up for me- as I had come across a book by parapsychologist George P Hanson some time back and realized your post had stimulated my memory of it.

    I’ll just drop a chunk from his book because its worth contemplating I think:

    “psi, the paranormal, and the supernatural are fundamentally linked to destructuring, change, transition, disorder, marginality, the ephemeral, fluidity, ambiguity, and blurring of boundaries”

    “there are subtle but pervasive pressures that conspire to keep the paranormal marginalized and scientific investigation at a minimum. This does not require a consciously organized human conspiracy. It is a direct property of the phenomena. Psi interacts with our physical world, with our thoughts, and with our social institutions. Even contemplating certain ideas has consequences. The phenomena are not to be tamed by mere logic and rationality, and attempts to do so are doomed to failure. These notions are undoubtedly anathema to my scientific colleagues in parapsychology. To their chagrin, I will demonstrate that deception and the irrational are keys to understanding psi.”


    He goes into much more detail about all this but- basically he’s arguing that your vision of the scientific study of magic becoming a respectable and mature discipline is a doomed hope (arrrrgh!). Interestingly enough the internet – the medium which allows this blog to exist is often categorized as an essentially disruptive and ‘anti-structure’ phenomenon. And western society is often considered to currently be in a very volatile phase. And so we see a temporary resurgence of magic right now…

    It kind of chimes in with some of my suspicions that the future of magic isn’t in trying to develop some centralized ‘magic institute’ and going for the fame and glory – rather ‘lean and agile networks’ that continue to remain slightly in the substrata of society but quietly filtering into it.

    Of course I love the idea that ‘science and magic’ will finally be unified and the world’s most prestigious universities will have professors of ‘magic’ (or whatever culturally sanctioned term replaces it) Harry-Potter style. I just think that, unfortunately Hansen is probably right that this doesn’t work – or that it doesn’t work for very long.

    Hanson’s book is a bit long and there may be plenty to disagree with in there- but there is food for thought on the task of actually getting a model like direct magick out there. Maybe worthwhile investigating at some point if you have the time.

    • Thanks Simon. That book looks neat. I disagree with the premise — in the 1600s, everyone felt we’d never understand why living tissue moved (they called it “elan vital,” and praised its mysterious quality), but today biology has good answers in nerves and muscles. Before modern psychology, we felt the mind was a great mystery, and the stars were a great mystery before astronomy, so feeling like something is a great, unsolvable mystery is pretty common at the dawn of a new field. But I always enjoy being exposed to new ideas. Thanks for posting the link.

  2. Simon says:

    Thing is he’s not arguing that the phenomena CAN’T be studied or understood at some level. In fact he points to an impressive body of paranormal (or ‘psi’) research that has been done over the past 2 centuries. He’s arguing that attempts to bring the research into the mainstream always fail. Or the organizations that attempt to do so invariably end up collapsing in on themselves.

    And he puts this down to an aspect of the phenomena themselves. Its a tricky argument but I actually think he may have a point…

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