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Excellent post on the Strategic Sorcery blog recently on The Usefulness of Doubt. A few quotes:
I think that occultists could use a little more doubt in their practice. Even notice that you don’t see a lot of blog posts about spells and magical experiments that don’t work out? […] Very often I see occultists taking synchronicity and gematric coincidences as proof of their work and direction. I do not often see occultists question whether they might be buying into a texas sharpshooter fallacy or suffering a confirmation bias.
Doubt has served me well in my practice. In the 90′s I did a series of enochian workings that sparked a fairly intense and detailed spiritual communication. The spirit had apocalyptic information, it insisted that I write it and share it, it insisted that I was a prophet. I was all kinds of excited to have my ego stroked and to join the ranks of people that were channeling Thelemic Libers, but decided to take a step back and take a look at it in a month with a cooler head. I asked myself, is the information useful? NO. Is there any chance that this might be incorrect? YES. I decided not to do what the spirit said, which is good because all the predictions were wrong.
I couldn’t agree more. It’s tempting to see something that might be the result of your magick, and decide that it is the result of your magick. We all like feeling successful. But if we’re ever going to get magick to the level of a modern science, we need to separate luck and placebo from real results, which means doubting ourselves a lot more.
Here’s the good news: The more you practice this, the easier (and less painful) it becomes.
Recently, I tried a healing technique for a friend’s cold. It didn’t work. She started making excuses — maybe she would have been even worse without the healing session, maybe she had both viral and bacterial infections my technique helped with one but not the other, etc. Looking back, I think she was just being polite, feeling awkward appreciating the effort I put in while telling me it didn’t work, (and she confirmed this just now), but at the time, I thought this was her honest reasoning.
A decade ago, I would have needed those excuses. Failure would have been painful, and it wouldn’t be just this one technique I doubted, it would have been all of magick. Am I any good at magick? Is magick even real? When the doubt generated by a single failure can flood your world, it becomes too painful to doubt anything.
(Yes, I’ve doubted if magick was real. Everyone has, especially when we’re starting out — it’s totally natural. To my readers who ask about these thoughts, you’re not alone.)
But now, I’ve had enough successes that doubt stays where it should, contained to the one technique that actually failed, not affecting all the other stuff that works, just not quite quickly enough to demonstrate to skeptics.
How do you get there? The only path I know is to succeed in your own magick a few dozen times. I wish there was something faster for beginners, but I don’t have an answer. But once you get there, accepting failure becomes simple.
One other thing I noticed: I now have a visceral response to excuses. They just feel dishonest, like they don’t lead anywhere true or useful. I can’t follow them, and get a bit annoyed hearing them, even. It’s a mental habit I’ve developed, I think, of asking myself is an explanation is my real reason, and turning away from any explanation that’s just an excuse. Again, I don’t know how to get there quickly, but if you practice asking that question, you’ll probably develop that same mental habit.
Back to the conversation, I said, “Nope, my healing technique just didn’t work this time. It needs some debugging.” Which I’ll return to next time one of us gets sick.If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at mikesententia.com.