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Today, I’m thinking about the mechanisms behind magick, and how to reason about them.
Last week, Ananael left a typically-insightful comment on If Energy Reduces Pain… It’s worth reading in its entirety, but here’s the summary:
My post: If energy can reduce pain, it can influence nerve signaling, which means it can also help with epilepsy and depression, create telepathy, and do other nerve-related things.
Ananael (summarized): Those don’t necessarily imply each other. There are a number of different possible models under which they don’t.
(1) The Chinese have been studying infrasound for a long time as a possible vehicle for Qi.
(2 & 3) Let’s say energy only affects mood. Depression makes pain seem worse, and epilepsy may be worsened by stress. So by adjusting the subjective mental state of an individual, you could affect all three of those. Or maybe epilepsy isn’t affected by mood or stress, and cannot be influenced by energy.
(4) Under some conditions, perception of pain can be diminished. Let’s say that mechanism is all that energy affects. It could reduce pain, but do nothing for epilepsy, depression, or telepathy.
Pain in and of itself is problematic – you can’t just equate a stronger pain sensation to stronger neural signals. One recent example is fibromyalgia. Researchers have found that people with the condition do not actually receive more or stronger peripheral nerve signals, but they perceive the signals as stronger than people without the condition.
(I’m going to skip #1. The infrasound model forces healing into standard physics, and doesn’t allow for most of the magick we talk about here.)
My initial thought was, “If energy affects mood, let’s think about how that works. At some level, it has to affect the way some nerves somewhere behave, or it wouldn’t be able to do anything at all. Same with perception of pain: To do that, energy has to interact with the brain and affect how the nerves behave in some way. So, there must be some underlying mechanism that allows energy to influence nerves. If we can just figure out that mechanism, we can build all these other techniques from it, too.”
But my last sentence isn’t necessarily true. Biology is complex, and understanding how it works doesn’t always let us change how it behaves. We understand a great deal about how DNA controls cells, and we can even program bacteria to do computer logic, but we can’t go into cancer cells and fix them. We can influence neural signaling with Prozac and other drugs, but we can’t target it precisely enough to fix the brain. There is a great gap between understanding a mechanism, and being able to use it to heal a living human.
I am forced to agree with Ananael. And yet…
And yet, I also think magick will do all that and more. I can’t prove it, but I have some reasons for hope. Unlike surgery, energy doesn’t require damaging the body to reach the injury — a big deal for healing knees, and brains. Unlike drugs, energy seems able to target tissue at specific points in the body — healing a knee doesn’t affect pain elsewhere, for example. And we can already do so much, with so little understanding of how magick and energy actually function. Surely, as we understand more, our capabilities will increase exponentially.
I can’t prove it. But I still believe that the mechanisms behind magick and energy, combined with biology and medicine and other sciences, will one day heal depression, epilepsy, other problems rooted in nerves, and a great many other things. And that belief still compels me to ask, “What’s missing, that keeps us from helping all those people,” then to work on those missing pieces.
And Ananael? We’re on the same page: I think you’re correct in your base assertion that magick can work on all these things, and I’m being a bit of a devil’s advocate here.If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at mikesententia.com.