You found my old blog. Thanks for visiting! For my new writing, visit mikesententia.com.
I see mages start with metaphors. “Magick is about energy / spirits / software / whatever.” They pick a metaphor, then explain magick with it.
Don’t. It’s a trap.
When I was 16, I drew a diagram about how magick influences events. Events are like a bowling ball rolling toward some wooden blocks — each block represents one possible future, and the block that gets hit is the event that occurs. You can influence events by changing the ball’s trajectory, or by stretching the desired block. I’d visualize blocks shrinking and bowling balls rolling as I did my magick.
The “bowling ball model” was useless, of course. Sure, it let me think about events, and tell my unconscious mind which event I want, but there are dozens of ways to do that. Belief, ritual, self-hypnosis. Communicating intent isn’t enough.
First, a few assumptions: There is an actual external world we interact with. Magick is successful when it changes that actual external world. And magick operates by some actual process in that actual external world.
Those are the basic tenets of direct magick. The basic tenets of science, really. Anyone not on board for that, this probably isn’t the blog for you.
A good model should describe the external world. It should tell you about the moving parts behind magick, so you can figure out new ways to move them to produce better healing techniques, more accurate luck, or whatever else you’re looking for.
The bowling ball model failed because the ball and wood blocks didn’t correspond to anything in the external world. There’s no ball that hits an event, and you can’t expand or contract events. Useful for communicating my intent to my unconscious, but nothing else.
You cannot save a bad model. You can only kill it.
Once you pick a model, it’s either right or wrong. The moving parts either match the external world, or they don’t. No amount of belief or clever argument will change that.
Most models of magick seem to fall into that category. They pick a metaphor, then use that metaphor to think about their intent. The mage might realize that he just picked a model out of thin air, but often, he acts like his components correspond to the external world, so we’ve all learned to be suspicious when anyone tells us they have an accurate model. It’s only sensible. When readers assume that I just picked software as my preferred metaphor, then randomly chose terms and ideas that sounded good, I know the reason. And in general, there’s no reason to think that software is a better metaphor than energy, or spirits, or bowling balls.
Now, I’m not bashing models. Sure, no model is perfect, and models only approximate the external world. But pointing that out and walking away is to shirk the hard work of improving our understanding. Which is the whole point: A better understanding leads to better magick.
But how do we get a better understanding? My answer: Explore magick using empty terms. Before I strengthened “ethereal muscles,” I activated “mental areas,” simply meaning areas of my mind that are involved in magick. Before I programmed “ethereal software,” I channeled “systems,” simply meaning a set of components that performs a function. I explored magick with as few metaphors as I could, focusing on how each component actually behaved, rather than how I thought it should behave.
That’s the only way to come up with an accurate model: Start with observation. Model each part. Then make a cohesive model with metaphors.
The metaphor comes last.If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at mikesententia.com.