Magickal Structures and Dark Matter

by Mike Sententia on December 10, 2012

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I’ve previously said that mental muscles, ethereal software, and other magickal structures are “non-physical,” to convey that you won’t find mental muscles on an MRI, and you won’t find magickal connections with a microscope. Most people accept that logic, and when I do get questions, they’re always asking for clarification, not questioning the reasoning.

But recently, a physicist friend, S, asked about the underlying logic. Then she smashed it, and taught me about physics and matter and magick in the process.

I started by explaining my logic: These magickal structures don’t have a physical location, and they don’t take up space. They don’t push objects, cast shadows, or otherwise interact with the physical world unless a skilled mage gets a lot of these structures working in very precise ways. Clearly, they’re something different than physical matter.

Then S brought up dark matter. You see, dark matter doesn’t push objects, cast shadows, or otherwise interact with ordinary matter. It affects gravity, but that’s about it. In short, dark matter interacts with ordinary matter even less than magickal structures do.

And yet we don’t call dark matter “non-physical.” We call it a special kind of physical matter, which obeys a set of physical laws — perhaps one set of laws for interacting with other dark matter, and another set of laws for interacting with ordinary physical matter, but it obeys physical laws.

And this, S explained, is what “physical” really means to a physicist: That it obeys regular, predictable, mathematical laws, even if we don’t know exactly what they are yet. Also, that it can be modeled as interacting with atoms or quarks or whatever level of physical thing it interacts with. But she said that dark matter is physical, and light is physical, and gravitons are physical, and magickal structures should be physical, too.

I thought for a minute. I tried to come up with a counter-argument, but couldn’t. Then realized she was right, and that I’d just learned something about magick from a non-mage. Which kind of made my day.

So, I’m revising my original statement. Rather than saying that all those magickal structures are non-physical, I’m calling them magickal matter. Similar to dark matter, they’re physical, but a special kind of physical matter, different from ordinary physical matter, and only interacting with ordinary matter in certain limited ways. Hopefully this will make my writing clearer, at least to the physicists in the audience.

And, if I’m lucky, maybe this thinking will lead to a more public-friendly term for magick, like thought matter or solid thought or something like that. Thoughts?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Ananael Qaa December 11, 2012 at 7:36 AM

You could always note that since the counterpart to dark matter is dark energy, it stands to reason that by the same logic you could describe processes that act upon “magickal matter” as “magickal energy.” But isn’t that where we started? ;-)

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Simon December 12, 2012 at 4:22 AM

I have to agree i’m not exactly sure where this gets us apart from possibly becoming more acceptable to materialist philosophers.

Yes, in this very broad definition then anything that observes predictable laws is ‘physical’. Anything that we consider could, in theory, obey predictable laws is ‘physical’ (even if we have little hope of ever finding out what the laws are)

To me, though, this is a clever way of saying ‘everything’. So everything is physical and anything ‘nonphysical’ ,by definition, doesn’t exist. Kinda circular.

The great Eliezer Yudkowsky has stated that:

“the important categories are the ones that do not contain everything in the universe”

And that’s the point- this is really about a philosophical position and belief that EVERYTHING in the universe obeys predictable laws- without exception. No matter how apparently random or utterly incomprehensible a phenomenon gets they could, in theory be understood as predictable laws and- most crucially – controlled. To argue otherwise is to succumb to willful mystification and superstition.

But there is no amount of evidence that could convince a materialist that something does not obey predictable laws – because there’s always the argument that we just haven’t found it yet. It seems like a matter of faith to me.

So calling it ‘magical matter’ isn’t necessarily more scientific, its aligning yourself with a materialist philosophy. To be clear – its not that I necessarily disagree with the materialist position – its just that I don’t find the quest to define everything as ‘physical’ that useful or enlightening.

I’m half borrowing Yudkowsky’s metaphor here: If you have floor cleaner and mouthwash then it may well be true to say that both are liquids – just that floor cleaner is a ‘special kind’ of liquid that shares some similarities with the mouthwash. This way we get to keep in with the ‘liquidists’ who are most interested in arguing that all cleaning products are ultimately liquid based (never mind that some cleaning products appear to be crystalline- if we were able to look close enough we would see they are ultimately liquids.)

That’s all very nice but it doesn’t help us much if we try to drink the floor cleaner….the important categories are the ones that do not contain everything in the universe.

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Mike Sententia December 12, 2012 at 12:21 PM

I don’t have anywhere specific that this gets us. But it brings my terms closer to the scientific community’s, which helps me communicate accurately with readers who are scientists by trade. I don’t know where that leads, but it seems good to me.

So what’s outside the “physical matter” category? Freedom, sin, and other abstract concepts. Also, processes like evolution, algorithms like quicksort, and other actions you can take on physical matter. There’s a whole world of ideas out there that aren’t physical. That’s why the scientific community has been using the concept of “physical matter” for centuries.

What I’m really saying is that magickal stuff doesn’t get its own unique category. It’s in the physical matter category, as a special type of matter.

(By the way, if you don’t like the category of “physical matter,” I’m the wrong guy to talk to. You probably want some physicists, or philosophers or something. I’m just using everyone else’s category.)

Hope that helps.

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Simon December 14, 2012 at 7:32 AM

OK thanks but that’s not what I meant. I did not explain myself very well at all. I won’t put us through the pain of trying to explain it again just now. Maybe I’ll have the ability to express it clearly later.

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Dark Arckana December 13, 2012 at 10:43 AM

Good call, Mike. I’ve been advocating that Magik was physical, but not necessarily cellular. I’ve been exploring it scientifically and even learning the secrets of nature from Majin Daemons (my race of Daemon) who have actually have been observing it and using their mastery of Science (which includes Magik as a major branch of study) and figuring it out. Check the most recent post on my tumblr for more information, we’re working on materializing thought forms.

Believe it or not, the physicality of Magik has been talked about for the longest time. From the days of Ancient Egypt in fact, the idea of a purely immaterial existence was something the Ancient Egyptians would have never been able to wrap their minds around. This is evidenced by the attempts to translate the meaning of the word “Kaa” into English. They couldn’t use the word “soul”, so they had to borrow the Greek word “Psyche”.

It’s also been talked about in older books, most notably, “A Wandered In The Spirit Lands” by Franchezzo:

“….They have, in fact, no earthly material in them, yet they are none the less material in the sense that all things earthly or spiritual are clothed in matter of some kind. The number and variety of degrees of solidity in matter are infinite…” — “Faithful Friend”, from A Wanderer in The Spirit Lands by Franchezzo

Aleister Crowley even hints at it in “Magick Without Tears”:

“God is just as much a person, an individual animal, as we are; as such, he appeals to all our senses exactly as if he were “material.”

But everything sensible is matter in some state or other; how then are we to regard an Angel, complete with robes, weapons, and other impedimenta? (I have never known a god thus encumbered, when he has been “materialised” at all. Of course, the mere apparition of a God is sub- ject to laws similar to those govering the visions of angels.)” — Aleister Crowley, from Magick Without Tears

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Mike Sententia December 13, 2012 at 4:15 PM

Thanks, glad you agree. Though be careful about saying you’re exploring magick scientifically in one breath, then saying you’re channeling the secrets of nature from spirits in the next breath. Those methods don’t really square with one another — nothing wrong with using both, but it doesn’t sound really coherent.

Neat quotes, though. Especially Crowley’s. Thanks.

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