The Many Faces of Serious Mages

by Mike Sententia on June 18, 2012

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Today, I’m thinking about what’s common among the many different types of serious mages.

I think every serious mage loves exploring how magick works. They’ll feel dissatisfied with incomplete answers, or with answers they can’t build on. And they’ll care more about accuracy than about being right, because so much of developing accurate models is admitting you were wrong, then fixing it.

Those things are the heart of science. But when you talk about science, people think of flux capacitors and quantum dilation and other star trek phrases — things that sound like science, even if they don’t explain anything. In other words, most people conflate genuine understanding with the language of particular fields of science, and the technology that comes from those fields. But science is in the insight and testing, not in the vocabulary.

When I write about magick, I borrow the language of computers and engineering. That’s just the way I think, and the fields I’m familiar with. But I know serious mages who prefer biology for their terms and metaphors, and I could imagine others who prefer abstract math, or chemistry, or even something like sculpture or painting. I don’t think the basic language matters, as long as you’re developing detailed models, then testing them well.

I think that exploring other metaphors will make me a better mage. Both better at teaching (which is what got me on this post), and better at exploring magick from different angles to develop more robust models. And so, I want to keep some other metaphors in my back pocket, to work with when I want to explore.

So, a question for you: What fields do you use for metaphors and terms as you explore magick? Thanks!

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

mrblack June 19, 2012 at 1:41 AM

I tend to use computer terms to explain magick at times, especially to n00bs – it’s so much easier and we’ve all seen the Matrix (lol).

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Simon June 19, 2012 at 3:28 AM

I don’t know whether i’m a ‘serious mage’ as i’m not that experienced but I guess the ‘serious’ intent is there!

I tend towards biology and ecology metaphors because ‘nature’ has always been the original inspiration for scientists and most of the great spiritual figures throughout history. And really, in the broader sense- ecology is what we are talking about – just parts of the ecosystem/cosmos that are not explored by conventional science.

Perhaps there’s more potential to convey the ‘majesty’ of it all whilst still being specific. At least in my mind cell division or photosynthesis is specific but still deeply mysterious. Computer terminology by contrast seems arid, overly narrow in focus/depth and associates in my mind with mundane things such as offices, poorly organized IT departments and the company server crashing AGAIN at lunchtime.

Also the language of computers is inherently binary (on/off) which very often does not reflect the processes found in nature. I’ve come across a few software engineers who have spent so many years in their field that they have trouble thinking in terms that are not binary – the terminology affects the parameters of their awareness and its reflected in the fact that they’re often not very good at dealing with people or paradoxes.

What i’ve been wondering lately is why does magick even need to have metaphors? I mean when you study biology or chaos theory or even such abstract rarefied areas as string theory you just use the terminology not metaphors….You use the terminology of biology to explain biology!

Of course the the map is never the terrain so we are always ultimately using metaphors but it makes me wonder…why so much trouble in ‘magic/k’ over terminology? I mean we can’t even really agree on the overall name of the bloody thing!

Is it just because, in a scientific sense, magic is an ‘immature’ discipline and the proper terminology set has not evolved and stabilized yet. I’m not so sure this is why….

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Mike Sententia June 22, 2012 at 12:19 PM

That’s a really good point about the majesty of nature. I hadn’t thought about the emotional impact of my metaphors. Thanks!

Why does magick need metaphors? A few reasons. First, as you say, it’s an immature field, so we’re trying to borrow concepts from other fields to bootstrap. But there’s 2 other reasons:

1. You can’t point to things. In biology, I can draw a dissected frog, point out organs, and you can dissect your own frog and see what I mean. In contrast, with magick, you have to get the concepts first before you can easily work with the external structures.

2. Students are willing to spend a year memorizing terms for biology and physics, but no one will put that effort in for magick yet. Using metaphors helps reduce this spin-up time.

Both of these are related to magick being an immature field. If we had a degree program and jobs waiting, students would put the time in. And if they were willing to put that time in, we could simply give some exercises and say, “That thing you just saw, that’s this technical term.” But we’re not there yet.

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JP Alcala June 19, 2012 at 10:39 AM

When I explain, I try to keep everything as simple as possible. And when necessary, I use metaphors that most people would already know.

It’s quite rare for me to explain magick in detail, primarily because most of the people I know avoid the subject. And I can’t blame them…I live in a predominantly Catholic country.

If you want to see how I try to explain things, head over to my blog and try to read my explanation on The Pillar of Light.

http://heuristicmagick.com/post/25301733824/an-in-depth-explanation-of-the-pillar-of-light

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Mike Sententia June 22, 2012 at 12:20 PM

Living in a country where you can’t talk about magick must be hard. I hope the conversations on your blog and elsewhere help. And thanks for the link, that’s helpful to see how you explain it.

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f3n1x_hvn732 June 19, 2012 at 12:05 PM

I think is true about serious mages. But then when some came to an age, they refuse to change its system because it works so well for them and they are too old to start with something new. Its something that comes with age, but I think that it depends on the person, the bad thing is that is almost inevitable for the most of us.

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Mike Sententia June 22, 2012 at 12:22 PM

That’s kind of depressing, but I can see some truth to it. Hopefully it doesn’t happen to anyone here, at least, not for a long time.

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