Right and Useless

You found my old blog. Thanks for visiting! For my new writing, visit mikesententia.com.

Today, I want to talk about exploring magick scientifically, and how not to get intimidated by how much we already know about the physical world.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned one of my long-term questions:

How does [magick] influence the atoms to bring about that result? How can that impact / advance our understanding of physics?

A difficult goal. Maybe not one I’ll ever attain. But I use it as a compass, moving toward it even if I never get there. And it’s a daydream, something to inspire me when I’d rather play video games.

I get the feeling, though, that some readers are focusing on connecting magick with physics, becoming intimidated, and that it may be hurting their current explorations of magick. For example, from John’s blog:

This means seeing how the Subconscious Mind uses magick to affect quantum particles, atoms and/or molecules, or even larger-scale objects (Newtonian scale). If that were possible, [the mage would] be able to see how those particles and objects move, interact with each other, etc. Really, he’d have Superman-like microscopic vision, pretty much. And if so, he’d be able to understand what’s really going on at such a small level; and with enough time, he’d be able to explain how Quantum particles work, how a DNA molecule splits, etc. He’d have an incredibly in-depth knowledge of how the physical and magickal world work together, possibly even being able to offer rough mathematical formulas for their interaction. Possibly even explaining how gravity interacts with the other forces, offering a Unified Theory of Physics. If so, he’d not only be the greatest mage alive, he’d be the world’s leading physicist and the greatest mind ever known, and the world’s utmost superhero.

This isn’t daydreaming, it’s nightmare-ing, building up your goal for future generations into an impossible-to-achieve mountain. It discourages you before you even start, and makes it that much harder to do useful work. And I’m sorry my daydream puts John into that headspace.

Today, I want to share how I think about these goals, and how I think about science, and what I think we can do right now. But rather than talk abstractly about magick, let’s talk about biology, since it’s concrete and we can all agree on what we’re discussing.

I’d like you to imagine that we know all the physics that we know today, but somehow, we know very little biology. Maybe there was some religious prohibition on dissecting mammals. Whatever the reason, we don’t know abour nerves, cells, DNA, or much of anything else about life.

Someone asks, “Why do muscles move?” Each of us can choose one of two responses:

  • You can say, “We know all this physics, about molecules and atoms and quarks. Just think of all the quarks involved in a muscle. Before we can explain why muscles muscles move, we’ll need to simulate all those quarks, so we’ll need supercomputers a million times more powerful than we have today. Might as well give up.”
  • Or you can roll up your sleeves and start figuring it out.

Eventually, you might try electricity, as Luigi Galvani did in 1771, making dead frogs dance. He placed electrodes in different spots and discovered that nerves make muscles move. A quark-level explanation? No. Useful? Yes.

Then you can investingate how nerves work. You can look at them under a microscope, and notice they’re long cells, connected in a line through muscles. You can investigate the neurotransmitters they use to signal, and come to understand the Potassium-Sodium reaction involved. You can interview people with brain injuries, and figure out which parts of the brain are involved in different types of movements.

None of that knowledge gets you to quarks. Even today, in the real world, I don’t think we understand most biology in terms of quarks. Indeed, the doubters are right. And when you predict that we won’t achieve the utmost pinnacle of understanding, you’ll usually be right. Right, and useless.

But understanding that nerves make muscles move, that nerves work by Potassium and Sodium and neurotransmitters, that certain parts of the brain are responsible for different aspects of muscle movement, all of that is useful, valuable knowledge. All of that advances medicine and our ability to help people. And if you’d never rolled up your sleeves and helped discover a little bit of that, the world would be less for it.

I’m sure the people who want to throw up their hands and say, “We’ll never understand magick,” will point out that we don’t have a magickal microscope to look at nerve cells, and we don’t have magickal probes to apply magickal electricity, and we don’t have all these other things. And again, they’ll be right.

But I wish they’d put that effort toward trying to invent those tools, or toward figuring out what steps the unconscious mind takes to drive magick, or toward exporing the algorithms used by the forces we channel. Because that work is useful. And I’ll take useful over right any day.

If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at mikesententia.com.

Tags: ,

4 Responses to “Right and Useless”

  1. John W. A. says:

    Well, it’s not that. The idea is that when someone claims to be able to do those kinds of things, I expect proof.

    The problem is proof more than anything else, of the claims made. That’s my issue.

    For example, let’s compare a blind person and a mage. The blind person can’t see light, just as the mage can’t really “see” energy. But the blind person can still touch objects, determine that physical objects can’t travel through them, figure out weight, density, hardness, texture, etc. A blind person can understand the difference between a wooden cutting board and a plastic cutting board. Likewise, how can someone who claims to work with healing not be able to explain how cells work?

    That’s the thing. Even without tools, the mage *IS* the tool here. The mage *IS* the “magickal microscope”. He just isn’t a very reliable or accurate one. Thus, we must use science to verify his/her claims. If the mage makes unscientific claims, we know he isn’t dealing with the physical world, but with his ‘Interface’ (aka ‘Model of Magick’), rather than directly dealing with the real physical world.

    That’s what my post was about; it had nothing to do with expectations. I know what to expect – magick isn’t glamorous or cinematographic, or dramatic, nor epic. My post was about proof and the methods of doing magick. It focused on finding tools to debunk those who make outlandish claims.

    If mages want to create a real magickal tool, and develop a level of understanding of magick comparable to science, I’ll help. But I want to make sure we make real progress. Likewise how science was held back by the belief that the world was flat, so to I don’t want to be held back by invalid/untruthful findings. There might be a way. But I’m less of a “Mage Scientist” and more in line with a “Mage Psychologist”, “Mage Mystic”, or “Mage Philosopher”, if that makes any sense. I try to understand how magick happens within the mind of the mage, not within the Physical world. (It’s all in my post, actually.)


    I stay within the Second and Third Steps, since those are where I’m most curious. I know we might be able to get to the Fourth Step, but a scientist is more fit for that job. But we’ll need mages who can directly affect the physical in a measurable way first. Until we have that, we won’t have any way to determine what’s going on. Thus, Abrupt Physical Manifestation (aka Materialization) is needed. (I worked on that for a brief moment of my life. I quit, because my results weren’t practical, nor were they that important.)

    • I’m glad you want to help build magick into a science. Excellent. Maybe we’ll get some thoughts on how to be a more accurate magickal microscope in the future? Glad to have you on board.

  2. Simon says:

    whew..this will be a bit of verbage but i’ll try to express it best as I can:

    Even though I had a previous comment expressing skepticism about how much we will ultimately understand magic I wasn’t advocating throwing of hands in the air and giving up. I do think there is an entire philosophical can of worms you open up here about the nature of science but lets put it aside for now…

    For me the ‘microscope’ that i’m interested in is the one that expands the scientist’s awareness directly- as in non ordinary perception. I think regular scientists are desperately in need of one of those too. For instance you talk about spirits as if you hit them up on yahoo messenger and there is not a shred of doubt in your tone that they are external entities independent of your own mind.

    I can’t perceive/contact spirits but have good reason to believe you’re not suffering from psychosis! Build me a ‘microscope’ so I can ‘see’ them and i’ll bite your arm off and go and do hours and hours of your work for you for no pay :-). Don’t care if it takes me 2 years of practice 3 hours a day to learn how to ‘operate’ this microscope.

    To be honest I’m not waiting for you anyway and am doing a lot of research into the controversial area of the ‘third eye’ – which appears to be a naturally occurring etheric structure (etheric muscle group?) that humans possess. Not conclusive but I would say it does seem to be there and can be used to ‘turn on’ various forms of non ordinary perceptions in a controlled manner. (of course it seems it can also accidentally trigger psychosis and/or ‘kundalini syndrome’ if you do it wrong but i’m being careful to avoid that lab explosion) I’m sure your etheric gizmo would speed my progress if I knew how rather than me having to manually work up the ‘muscle’.

    My enthusiasm for your ‘non-ordinary perception microscope’ wouldn’t be because I can get spirits to train me how to make parties more interesting or tell me what sandwich to eat for lunch though those are all fun. And it wouldn’t be that I can explain my interaction with them at the level of atoms. Mostly it would be because of the sheer fact that this aspect of reality exists…

    What are they REALLY? what is going on here? Can the ‘microscope’ allow us to penetrate further into that aspect of reality? Is it safe to even do that? That’s a science in itself like cosmology.

    Of course in these questions i’m not sure the science is that ‘young’. There’s at least the lifetime of Rudolph Steiner’s work – decades of systematic work in direct non-ordinary perception and spirit contact upon which full systems of agriculture, medicine and education developed from. In the UK the government is now taking advice from an educational organization which originated from a weird German dude who saw spirits…..but then that sort of thing probably goes on more than is advertised.

    Or the Perelandra Nature Research Institute which works in a systematic methodology with the non-physical entities that are primarily connected to the land. I’ve used their methods as a ‘consumer’ to grow crops successfully on my 5th acre plot without any fertilizers. Or the Clair-vision Foundation which has been quietly and meticulously mapping non-ordinary states of consciousness for the past 25 years. All of these methods standing on the shoulders of the Hermetic sciences and the work of Goethe etc.

    I know where many people stand on this – magic that affects the ‘real world’ is the true test and that developing ‘perceptions’ is a vague and flimsy area or are just to do with ‘spirituality’ and ‘personal growth/insight’. This is often ‘conventional’ scientists’ stance on subjective awareness and I see some magicians attempt to emulate their attitude.

    And yet, so far, anyone who has achieved anything useful in this field (including your own efforts) has had recourse to non-ordinary perception as a key practical technique.

    If you want to gather people who will develop magic rather than just use it should this not be the absolute core focus? – build the microscope that will help them communicate directly with the spirits as soon as safely possible.

    And of course I think that is where you’re basically going whilst also trying to satisfy peoples need for something which heals cold sores and gets them lucky with their job. :-)

    • Curiosity. That’s what’s always driven me, and it sounds like it’s what’s driving you, too. So we’re on the same page.

      My view is, you have to be able to see what you’re working with before you can build the kind of techniques that dramatically change the external world. So the first step is perception. For me, that’s sensory connections, along with communication, which is useful for training with spirits.

      The key, I think, is corroboration: Multiple mages all independently observing the same thing and seeing the same things. For that, two things have to happen:

      1. A working group coming together. That’s why I’m organizing this meetup in San Francisco this evening.

      2. A training manual to teach them all the same technique. Ideally, something more detailed than “close your eyes and let your mind perceive,” because even if that works, there’s not a lot of debugging we can do surrounding that technique. My books will hopefully serve as that training manual.

      I’m also considering reaching out to those other research organizations to see about opportunities to collaborate. Thoughts on that?

Leave a Reply