What Turns Intent into Change in the World?

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This is part of An Initiation into Direct Magick – Book 1.

As a boy, I had a crystal radio. It was a kit — you solder a diode and some speakers onto a circuit board, it sort of plays music. The point was to understand how a radio works: The diode picks up radio waves, the circuit board selects one station’s signal, and the speaker turns that signal into sound. I liked how you could see all the parts, and how, in principle, I could have studied diodes and transistors and speakers and truly understood how the radio functioned.

That’s the kind of understanding I’m seeking in magick: All the steps between the mage’s intent and the end result. Let me give you an example:

Imagine you want to find a better job. That’s your intent, like your intent with a radio might be to hear some blues.

You do a ritual. That’s your action, like turning the knobs on the radio. It’s not trivial — you have to know what ritual to do, like you have to know what station to tune to. And you have to do the ritual properly, which isn’t easy, either.

But we’re not done. The radio’s knob doesn’t itself play music, it just tells the diode and circuit board and speakers what to do, and they handle the rest. And the ritual doesn’t itself cause the change in the world — I simply refuse to believe there’s a special case of physics for a homo sapiens drawing lines in chalk and saying words in Latin. Like the radio, there’s some series of steps between your ritual and the desired change in the world, in a different time and place. What are those steps?

Let’s assume your job-hunting magick causes the HR person to be in a good mood when they read your resume. That’s the sort of coincidence we expect from magick, right? To do that, it has to know which HR rep to influence. It has to know how to nudge the atoms in the world to produce that result. And it has to time it right, so they favor your resume, not someone else’s.

I’ve heard mages say their thoughts “go out and act on the world,” similar to how radio waves “go out and deliver music to people.” But radio waves aren’t themselves music, they’re instructions for a complex tool (the radio), and your intent isn’t itself change in the world, it’s an instruction for some complex tool that figures out the details and causes those changes. Radio waves are important, and we’ll explore what it means to transmit your intent soon, but for now I want to know, what’s magick’s radio?

Maybe every object in the world has a spirit attached to it, responding to my thoughts, but I doubt it. First, why would the spirit corresponding to the nerves in Mary Johnson’s brain respond to my thoughts at all? Second, how would my thoughts — which are, after all, just electricity and neurotransmitters in my brain — get to that spirit? Is every spirit reading my mind, waiting for me to send it an instruction? And how would the spirit know quite what to do, when even I don’t know how my intent should manifest? I can’t prove that model is wrong, but the more I think about it, the less right it feels.

I also don’t think these decisions happen in the mage’s brain. When I do magick, I don’t suddenly know that Mary Johnson in HR will be viewing my resume at 11:47AM, and I don’t suddenly know which nerves should get an increase in serotonin to put her in the right mood. Even if I did, I don’t think my brain could conceive of the trillions of possible paths my magick might take, or figure out which ones are worth pursuing.

That scale and precision are beyond what a human could handle. I believe we can understand it, like we can understand how a radio works, or even a computer. But to actually do the magick — to select one option from trillions, figure out the specific atoms to nudge, and time it just right? I’m certainly not doing that when I do magick. There has to be something outside the mage handling those details.

My term for that something is ethereal software. We’ll discuss it soon, how to work with it, and how to do some magick without it. But for now, I want to share some questions I’m still wondering about:

  • How does the ethereal software determine which path your magick should take? Can algorithms from modern computer science help?
  • How does it influence the atoms to bring about that result? What unknown mechanisms of physics can this help us uncover?
  • What are the building blocks of ethereal software — the equivalent of the diode, circuit board, and speakers? And just like you can build a computer from the same transistors as a radio, what else could we build from magick’s building blocks?

I don’t know the answers to those questions. But they certainly seem worth exploring.

Next, the third guiding question behind direct magick. Then we’ll start on my answers.

Next Chapter

Table of Contents

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4 Responses to “What Turns Intent into Change in the World?”

  1. John W. A. says:

    Very good. Love this post.

    However, I do have speculative answers for this, at best. Because understanding how magick affects atoms is going beyond what I call the ITA-Gap, or Interace-to-Action Gap.

    Also, I’ve noticed that there’s a huge psychological component to how magick is done from the mage’s side. Not how magick works behind the curtains, but how a mage approaches said curtains. In other words, how to develops the skills to ‘do’ better magick, not how magick works behind the scenes. Because there’s a point where the human mind just can’t go any further. So crossing that boundary is the challenge, and finding a way to test and verify what’s beyond that boundary is going to be one heck of a challenge. Good luck.

    • I think of the history of science as constantly pressing against the wall of what we don’t know. Sometimes, it seems like we can’t know, like the human mind just can’t handle this new type of problem. A few hundred years ago, before we knew about nerves and electricity, the greatest minds thought we would never understand why muscles move. It took a while, but we got there, and I expect we’ll get there with magick, too. Maybe not within my lifetime, but that won’t keep me from trying to chisel out one more stone from that wall.

  2. Simon says:

    Pleased to see you progressing on the book again. Very good as always.

    Whilst I believe you have- and will continue to do worth-while work – where you have confidence in the human mind to ultimately understand these matters I remain skeptical. Its not about willful mystification:

    There’s the analogy of the cat that works out which parts of the floor are warm at certain points in the day and is able to use that kind of observation to its advantage. The cat can actually get pretty precise in its predictions. However, its all at the ‘cat’ level of things. We would not expect it to ever grasp an understanding of what central heating is, let alone any comprehension of thermal engineering and the nature of the economic system which allows for the production of central heating systems..and so on and so on. That scope of understanding is forever closed off to the cat no matter how much new information it discovers because…well..its a cat. In cat world whatever ‘hypotheses’ it comes up with about the ultimate mechanism of the warm floorboards its not got a hope in hell of realy approaching the answer.

    There’s no reason to assume that we are ultimately any more fortunate than the cat and that the limits of what the human mind can grasp are in line with the limits of the universe..

    Of course its still valuable to ask the questions as long as we have realistic expectations about how far we will really get. And we could always become ‘enlightened’ and jump from the ‘cat mind’ to the ‘human mind’ as some humans seem to have occasionally done. Or we would ask spirits to ‘down-convert’ information to a frequency we could understand and test at our level of comprehension – the ‘cat’ level. But then it will still end up being ‘warm floor patches’ instead of ‘central heating systems’ won’t it?

    • For me, it’s a matter of faith: Press against the problem for long enough, with enough smart people, and humans will understand it.

      Science has a history of incorrectly believing we would never understand something. And not just hacks and laymen: The leading thinkers of the day believed we’d never understand why muscles move, why fire burns, or what’s actually going on with quantum particles. (This last one hasn’t filtered down into lay science yet, but professional scientists are no longer mystified.)

      Every time we’ve believed we would never understand some physical phenomenon, we’ve been wrong. Every time we’ve leaned into it for long enough with enough smart people, we’ve made progress. I’m not saying I expect to crack this tomorrow, or even that I expect to crack it myself. But I believe it can be solved, and I want to move us in the direction of solving it.

      Why can we do this, but not cats? Probably a combination of abstract reasoning and communication. Your cat has no way to pass on its knowledge. But we do — this blog, for example, can expose you to ideas you’ve never thought yourself, and your writing can do the same for me. Get enough smart people together, over enough generations, and we’ll crack this. That’s why I write.

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