Overcoming Doubt through Mental Posture

by Mike Sententia on July 30, 2014

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“Be confident in your magick. Eliminate doubt.” That’s standard advice for mages of all levels.

Except, my experience contradicts it:

  • I’ve done tons of healing sessions for knees. But occasionally, instead of steeping my ethereal muscles through the full technique, I’ll just confidently think, “Heal my knee.” My unconscious should know how to do the rest, right? Anyway, I’m quite confident (because of past successes), but the energy healing totally fails. Confidence gets me nowhere.
  • I’ve also done healing sessions I doubted would work. I expect failure with roughly every new technique, because my first guess so rarely works. But, as long as I have an accurate picture of what I’m working with, these techniques work great. Doubt doesn’t hurt me.
  • I do more energy healing than manifesting, but I’ve done plenty of manifesting and expected failure. But it works just fine. And I’ve done manifestings that I confidently expected to work, and they’ve failed. Zero correlation with doubt. (Manifesting success does seem to correlate my levels of fatigue, distraction, and the types of things I’m trying to manifest, though.)

In my experience, doubt doesn’t matter. All that matters is accurately guiding your ethereal muscles through the technique. (That’s not “Doing the ritual correctly,” but rather, “Making connections to the right tissues and ethereal structures, sending energy with the right signature, and so on.”)

Why is the common advice so different than my experience? I’ve recently come to a new idea, while talking with George. But first, I want to review what I previously thought.

Years ago, I just figured the common advice was wrong. I mean, to get a success, you need manifesting plus ordinary efforts, and we all know that doubt can sabotage your ordinary efforts. So doubt would cause a failure of the overall effort, and it’s easy to see how people might ascribe the failure to the magick rather than the ordinary efforts. (For energy healing, doubt reduces the placebo effect, so same deal: Worse results, but nothing to do with the magick side of things.)

And yet, scientific-minded mages like Ananael say that doubt affects their manifesting. I trust him to consider those problems, and he doesn’t buy the “ordinary efforts” explanation. So, while it still might be true, I find it less likely.

Until recently, I figured that doubt interfered with the messages we send to the ethereal software. (That’s the force you send your intent to, or the ether your thoughts float into when you “send out your thoughts.”) When the ethereal software reads your thoughts from your mind, maybe it also picks up your doubt, gets confused, and doesn’t seek out the right things. That wouldn’t affect me because I package up my thoughts and actively send them to the ethereal software, so I can avoid sending doubts.

But that explanation hasn’t sat right with me for a while. Ethereal software has protections against harmful requests. And communication isn’t that messy — when I receive messages from spirits, I sometimes get their emotions along with their words, but I can tell the difference. The ethereal software should be able to sort out doubt from intent just fine.

Which brings us to my new thinking: Maybe doubt just disrupts communication with the unconscious.

First, it’s obviously true that doubt affects the unconscious. That’s why it interferes with placebo, and makes your body language betray you on interviews and dates. So the explanation is likely.

Second, most magick works by sending the person’s intent to their unconscious, which then sends it along to whatever forces the person channels. So I can see how interrupting the communication with the unconscious would interrupt the magick.

Third, it explains why doubt doesn’t affect my magick. One of the identifying features of Direct Magick is that we make our ethereal muscles conscious, so we’re engaging them directly. The unconscious is still in there somewhere, but it’s not at the center of everything anymore. It all seems pretty plausible.

Also, I’ve found that, if I doubt magick in general, it can be hard to engage my ethereal muscles. Because that’s the one step that still heavily involves the unconscious. Which again resonates with this explanation. So, while I’m not 100% certain (or even 90%), this is my best guess at the moment.

Why does this all matter? By understanding the problem, we can begin to fix it.

I’m thinking that mental posture might do the trick. That’s a way to consciously engage your ethereal muscles. So, rather than sending your intent to your unconscious, you would consciously engage the parts of your mind that drive magick, then send your intent to them. I can’t be sure it’ll work, but it’s the simplest solution to my best-guess explanation. So it’s worth a test.

(Also: Wow, that post is old. We’ll cover mental posture in my book soon, with much better writing.)

Want to help? Please try it out and post your results below.

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

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

George July 31, 2014 at 7:02 AM

I guess it can perhaps by summarised by:

If you doubt, then you don’t really commit.

The idea being that commitment is only required at the point where you form and transfer your intention – whether that is forming a message for a communication to software, or to sending something to the unconscious, or whatever.

So what you want to do is shift the ‘point of transfer’ to one where you feel confident and so commitment comes easily. And it’s going to be easier to feel that for something ‘solid’ where you have a defined idea of the mechanism (software etc) rather than something ‘vague’ (like ‘the unconscious will take care of it’).

In that case, adopting a mental posture is effectively adopting an ‘attitude of confidence’ for communicating (or for the possibility of communicating) with your ethereal muscles? Then the job is done.

Reply

Ananael Qaa August 1, 2014 at 11:37 AM

Keep in mind that the “doubt” I’m talking about is of a particular sort. Where I’ve brought it up on my blog it’s more as a counterpoint to the “belief powers magick” model that I don’t buy at all. I generally haven’t gone into more detail than that. In fact, “doubt” is a vaguer term than I would like to use for what I’m talking about, but so far I haven’t come up with anything better.

To illustrate, there’s a fundamental cognitive difference between the attitude of “I’m going to try this out now, statistically it probably won’t work” and that of “why am I bothering, this will never work.” That’s not a great explanation of the difference, but it’s the best way I do in so few words. The former is the regular sort of skeptical experimental attitude of “let’s see” that I take all the time, which sounds like what you’re describing above. The second has an emotional component to it that divides your field of consciousness against itself. That division is the problem.

It’s like when you’re trying to do something that on an emotional level you feel really strongly that you shouldn’t be doing, you rarely do it well. Magick is no different. So probably a more accurate way to explain my position is that doubt can act as resistance in manifesting, but as long as it doesn’t disrupt the integrity of your field of awareness past a certain point the effect is going to be negligible. I suppose you could model that cognitive division as interfering with “communication with the unconscious.” I personally just don’t use that metaphor because I disagree with some of its implications.

My most basic manifestation tests are against known probabilities like random lottery numbers, where no amount of mundane action has any effect. That’s to isolate the raw probability shift from the sort of misinterpretation you’re talking about. But you’re right that in more complex cases the mundane actions you take need to be examined as well as the magical ones. Also, given the nuances of cognition, it’s possible that there are individual differences between magicians.

There was some anecdotal evidence of such differences back in the alt.magick days on Usenet. The “belief/doubt” argument came up all the time because of the heavy chaos magick slant of online forums. Some magicians swore up and down that they couldn’t doubt what they were doing if they wanted to succeed, while others claimed that their magick worked better the more unlikely it seemed to them.

According to the experiments I’ve done I’m in the former category, at least for the type of doubt I describe above. But I agree with you that run-of-the-mill scientific skepticism doesn’t affect my results much, if at all.

Reply

Mike Sententia August 20, 2014 at 1:27 PM

Very good points. I kept meaning to reply, but I don’t have much to add.

That distinction between skeptical doubt vs despairing doubt sounds important to me, too. And it matches my experience well: Skeptical doubt has no effect, despairing doubt makes it hard to engage my ethereal muscles, so nothing works. Maybe that’s really the active ingredient, the type of doubt, and everyone gets confused because we use the same word (“doubt”) for both emotions.

Thanks!

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