From Belief to Knowledge: Teaching at Pantheacon

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Two weeks ago, I taught at Pantheacon. I was scared, not of speaking or teaching, but of testing my magick in front of an audience. And I learned just how subtle resistance can be.

The class was about belief and knowledge. If I believe in something, there’s also a doubt, often deep and unacknowledged. I can push it down, but it’s still there, still impacting me. I’ll avoid true tests, avoid situations where I might discover that my belief isn’t true. It holds me back in ways I’m often unaware of.

Knowledge is different. It’s sure, confident. If I know something, I don’t even realize when I’m testing it, because I just know it’ll work.

My goal was to help students move from belief to knowledge. But even more, it was about moving myself from belief to knowledge.

The technique was simple: There’s a sender and a receiver. The sender builds energy while thinking of a memory, either happy or excited. The receiver moves that energy into their own head, and feels the difference between the two emotions. It uses some fundamentals of Direct Magick, and can be taught in about an hour.

There are two ways to use this: Practice, and Test. To practice, the sender announces the emotion they’re using, and the receiver notices the difference. It’s striking how different the energy feels, which students enjoy. But it’s also safe — you know what you’re supposed to feel, and if you don’t feel exactly that, well, no one ever needs to know.

In the test condition, the receiver closes their eyes and doesn’t touch the sender. They can only feel the energy, there’s no non-energetic communication. Based only on the energy, they figure out which emotion the sender is sending.

I knew I’d want to demonstrate the test condition. You can’t talk about the test then not do it. That’s like a play having a rifle hanging on the wall, but never firing it.

Except I haven’t done this test in years. I hadn’t done it with anyone in the class. What if my partner messed up? I’d look like an idiot in front of the whole class.

It was a fear that came directly from not testing my magick. My lack of testing threatened to hold me back, not in an abstract way at some future point, but by flinching away from teaching the best class I could, right now.

I have a reflex: When I notice something uncomfortable, I look at it more. It’s consciously cultivated over the past decade. And I realized, I’d never really tested the technique at all.

I first taught the class in 2009. Demoed the test condition, everything went great. Taught it again a few times, demoed the test condition each time. But I never sat down with a partner, ran a few dozen trials, collected data to really prove the technique. Just never got to it.

Except I didn’t “just never get to it.” I avoided it. I could have done it anytime over the past 5+ years, but I never made the time. I hadn’t noticed, but my fear had made me avoid testing. Which is why I was still scared.

Well, the class went well. I demonstrated the test condition, it worked, everyone was happy. And I’ve resolved to test this, and many other techniques, before the end of 2015. Because I can’t do what I want to do if I flinch away from demonstrating my magick.

What about you? Do you have doubts that leave you flinching from opportunities? How could you turn those doubted beliefs into knowledge?

Other Highlights

I also taught Hypnosis for Deeper Trance. Over 30 attendees, so much fun to teach, and I’m teaching a follow-on class, “Hypno-Shamanism,” in April with Francesca Gentille. Details coming soon.

I had some great conversations with Taylor Elwood of Magical Experiments, and came away with some inspiration for my book. (It’s been in progress for over a year, partially because I haven’t found quite the right focus. I think I have that now.)

And I discussed the overlap between science and magick with Oberon Zell of the Church of All Worlds. He had some interesting ideas, and it was great to connect.

In all, a great conference, and I’ll be there again next year.

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One Response to “From Belief to Knowledge: Teaching at Pantheacon”

  1. George says:

    Sounds great. Nice observation on the shift from “belief to knowledge”.

    Belief is a tricky thing to pin down. People tend to think of it as “what you think is true”, but that’s not quite belief as I see it: that’s “something you think”.

    Belief is a deeper structure, tangled in with other assumptions hopes and attachments. It’s therefore emotionally charged. Essentially, a belief is something you’ve used as a foundation for other parts of your world without necessarily, as you’ve said, testing it out.

    That’s why people get so defensive when beliefs are challenged: They are scared to fully inhabit that structure, in case it turns out its not structurally sound and their world falls apart, and that’s what a challenge or experiment might lead to.

    Knowledge, meanwhile, is something you do inhabit, have become via your awareness, and so you directly know that it is true.

    There’s maybe an extra bit: With knowledge, you can still sometimes be scared to act upon it. I think that’s more a fear of power though. People can be afraid of their own potential abilities. And maybe rightly so.

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