Is it Energy, or Placebo?

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

Responding to my post on energy meditation, Lorenzo asks:

How would i be able to tell if i’m feeling energy or if it’s a placebo effect since i read on how some other people feel energy? When [..] i think on how energy feels for others and i start to feel “something”.

I wrote that energy meditation post in my first year of blogging, because I felt I should have a post on how to start magick, and because I didn’t have a better answer. I remember trying to think of a better answer, one that would work even if a person’s ethereal muscles weren’t paying attention, one that would provide good feedback, and coming up empty. So, I wrote the best energy meditation post I could, and called it done.

But even then, I knew: Energy meditation isn’t a great way to start with magick. It’s a mix of hope (that your ethereal muscles are paying enough attention to respond and start awakening more) and suspension of disbelief (to keep practicing until you’re experienced enough to produce real results, and not worry it’s all your imagination). And as a scientist, I don’t like basing techniques on hope and suspension of disbelief. Nope.

A better solution would involve ethereal software. That’s why I’ve recommended doing the LBRP if your energy meditation fails, and why I’m using ethereal software for my book. Because you really do want an outside force helping your ethereal muscles awaken.

But, back to Lorenzo’s question: A novice simply cannot tell if what they’re feeling is real energy, placebo, hyperventilation, self-hypnosis, or something else. And I cannot tell you how to tell the difference.

Even experienced mages get it wrong, experiencing tingles because they expected to, rather than because of actual energy. You know how professional wine tasters get fooled by cheap wine in expensive bottles (and an interesting deeper exploration), expecting it to be awesome wine and therefore tasting it as awesome wine? It’s not that the sense of taste is a myth or that all flavors are just placebo, it’s simply that our expectations affect our senses more than any of us realize. So, you expect awesome wine and you taste awesome wine, and you expect energy tingles and you feel energy tingles. That’s just how our senses work, both ordinary and magickal. It affects everyone, at least some of the time.

Sorry I don’t have a better answer. It’s tempting to draft a post full of bravado and reassurances, but they’d be false. This is simply the nature of magick, especially when you’re a beginner.

Here’s what I can tell you: Most human effort goes toward things we believe are worthwhile, but cannot actually know. Job applications, dating, investments, charities, eating healthy, driving anywhere, all are based on uncertainty. Magick is no different. The only path is to accept this, decide if you can live with that uncertainty, and then practice anyway.

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

Tags: , , ,

5 Responses to “Is it Energy, or Placebo?”

  1. Jeffrey Le Fleur says:

    I believe that the answer to this question is experimentation and practice.

    While some people may only feel a placebo effect initially, I found early on in teaching that just continuing with the practice will awaken the necessary awareness within the practitioner.

    Also, a more full awareness of the qualities of the energies being felt can help to troubleshoot this. While feeling energy can start off as only a “tingle” there is more to it. This energy also offers resistance, and has other qualities such as temperature differences and changes in density.

    If you further question what you are feeling, just change the source of the energy. If you start with feeling your hand, and you feel “something” but are unsure, then change to feeling a plant, or a piece of furniture, the wall or whatever is handy. Also, try different objects that are made of the same material, but different colors.

    I hope this helps.

    • Thanks, Jeffrey. But the question remains: How would a novice (or anyone, really) know that those sensations are because of actual energy, rather than their own expectation / placebo? Literally any sensation that the person expects to create in themselves could be from their own expectations, rather than from actual energy. That’s just the nature of placebo, expectation, and self-hypnosis.

      The only solid answer is blind testing: Working with a partner who is also sensitive to energy, one of you builds energy, the other senses it. The receiver should close their eyes, and probably wear earplugs so they don’t hear a change in breathing, and the sender should make a point of doing everything the same except their own visualizations. I discuss blind testing here:

      But, (1) most beginners are solo (or at least, most beginners learning from a blog are solo), (2) sending and detecting energy is less simple than it sounds, and would require debugging to be at all reliable, and (3) I’ve come to believe that much of what novices feel in the initial weeks actually is placebo, so subjecting a novice to scientific rigor is likely to discourage them. Now, give me two people with a few months of experience, and I can probably get them through the exercises in the link I posted, but that’s an entirely different situation than Lorenzo was describing.

      • Jeffrey Le Fleur says:

        With students I have been teaching, I usually I have them do some “testing” to make sure that they are really feeling what they should be. The test itself is very simple to perform, and I believe that it uses some basic universal software that everyone can and does connect to.

        The test is thus. Get a couple of pieces of blank printer paper (no lines, and preferably no blemishes on it either). One does an initial scan of the paper with the palm of the hand held about 6″ above the surface, scan over the entire page. This is to provide a base reading.

        After this is done, One hand draws a basic shape on each piece of paper, a circle, a square, a triangle and a double circle (one inside the other). The novice/practitioner then scans each page again, making sure the palm passes over the shapes drawn.

        Each of these basic shapes, does a very specific thing to the energies around it, so I have the students write what they felt it did on the paper, and if possible to draw what they felt the energy did/how it changed.

        Once they do this, the looks on their faces are priceless, then we share the answers. For online purposes you would want to provide the answers on a separate page. This practice serves multiple purposes, 1. it proves to the person on what they are feeling 2. it proves to the person that the shapes we use when drawing symbols, both simple and complex are not benign things, that they actually do something/cause a change in the local energies 3. provides necessary confidence to the student.

        Obviously for the purposes of this discussion I wont provide the answers here so as not to effect the outcome of people trying this. Write me an e-mail and I can send it to you, perhaps it can become a new multipage post for your sight lol.

        again I hope this helps.

        • Thanks! I love hearing other peoples’ tests.

          Do you do this blind? That is, you blindfold the practitioner, randomly select a shape, place it on the table, say “go” (I’ll assume they can’t infer the shape from that one word), then have them tell you which shape it is. That certainly seems like a solid test, and one a novice could do with any friend, even one with zero experience in magick.

          (Prior to the blind test, you’d let them feel each one, to learn how each shape feels.)

  2. Jeffrey Le Fleur says:

    i dont go as far as blind folding my students lol. either ask them to close their eyes or to look elsewhere, after all, if they cheat, it is themselves they are cheating.

Leave a Reply