Why I’m Surprised that Different Systems Produce Similar Results

by Mike Sententia on May 24, 2013

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I’m writing a chapter for my book, exploring the first big question that lead me to direct magick:

“Different systems of magick have different, conflicting explanations of how magick works and how to do it, but most systems produce similar results. Why?”

I want to explain why this is surprising, and why it matters. And yet, it’s obvious to me why this is surprising, and it’s probably obvious to some of you, so I want to explain it quickly. But it’s just not coming out right.

So, I’m going to explore this for a post, and at the end of it, hopefully I’ll have my one-paragraph explanation.

First, why this is surprising.

If the world actually were how people say the world is — if people who say they’re asking a God for help actually were getting help from a God, and people who said they were channeling a universal energy actually were, and people who say you need a gold ring to do this ritual and a silver ring to do that ritual were actually right — we’d expect all those styles to produce radically different results. We’d expect that healing from a God would work differently than healing techniques from a person, and that the person building energy and sending out their intent (but not wearing the right type of ring) would produce different results than someone doing the ritual.

And yet, that’s the wrong approach to take for my book. First, because some of those styles actually do produce different results — in the 90s, everyone tried rituals to Superman and other culturally-popular archetypes, found they didn’t work as well as traditional rituals, and realized that magick isn’t actually about channeling popular memes. So, different styles do produce different results, just not in the way we’d expect them to if the explanations provided by any particular style were the way the world actually works. But that’s a much longer chain of logic to follow.

But second, and more importantly, because the real point is that there must be some singular, underlying set of mechanics that all these styles draw on. At a fundamental level, all this magick must be doing the same thing. That’s the step that’s obvious to me, but that I feel I should walk readers through.

If magick worked by many mechanisms — if Gods did fundamentally different magick than people, and if doing a ritual with the proper implements invoked fundamentally different forces than simply building energy and focusing on your intent — we’d expect those fundamentally different mechanisms to produce fundamentally different results.

And if any of the existing explanations for magick were accurate, we’d expect the other approaches to either fail, or turn out to be doing the same thing with different terms. But neither of those is the case.

When many different inputs produce the same output, that tells me that they’re all doing the same thing under the hood. And that mechanism is probably not what any of the inputs say it is, otherwise that one true approach would produce significantly better results, and before long, everyone would be using it.

Back to writing the book, I think those last three paragraphs serve as a good first draft for this idea. Thoughts?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

John W. A. May 24, 2013 at 1:58 PM

Agreed in full.

I’ve always held that belief, especially since experimenting with different Models of Magick.

I’ve actually devised a new Model of Magick meant to test all these inputs, by selectively negating some of them (like self-doubt).

http://mysticjournal.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/making-something-out-of-nothing-a-new-model-of-magick-emerges/

I haven’t fully tested it, but the idea is to put certain long-held beliefs about magick to test whether or not they are indeed necessary or not. I’m not sure what I’ll find, if anything. But, it should be an interesting experiment at the very least. n.n

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Mike Sententia May 24, 2013 at 4:14 PM

Cool. Always in favor of testing. Hope you do a follow-up post to let us know your results.

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