Archive for the ‘Experiments’ Category

Scientific Energy Exercises with 14 Friends

Monday, February 27th, 2017

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At the first Energy Geek Meetup last week, 15 of us did energy exercises using the methods of science: Placebo controls, blinding, and the like. I’d been preparing for weeks, developing and testing my demo, but it was still confronting and scary, but ultimately amazing.

The exercise was simple: Send energy to a blindfolded partner, either to their head or their hips. The receiver says where they feel the energy. Repeat several times — like guessing a coin flip, you will sometimes get the right answer due to luck, but getting 10 correct in a row is less than 0.1% chance.

I’ve tested this with several people in the past. It’s harder than it sounds. Once the receiver can’t see you sending, once they don’t know what they should be feeling, they’re left with only the sensations produced by your energy. It takes skill, practice, and focus in both people. I knew that many attendees would discover that their partner wasn’t (yet) feeling their energy.

But I had a plan. I’d demo it first, show everyone that it was possible, give everyone confidence that energy really worked, that there was more to it than just placebo. I lined up a couple of assistants to help me demo, including an energy healer I’ve practiced with for several months. I was all set.

The day before the event, the energy healer texts me. She’s sick, can’t meet to practice the demo. The day of the event, she’s still sick. Then my other assistant texts, she’s running late, no practice time there either. I start to worry: What if I can’t make this work, and no one else can either? Will my event, designed to create confidence, instead inspire doubt?

I think through my: Social time, an intro talk, then normal energy practice (without blindfolds). Let everyone get to know one another, and let anyone new to energy work get comfortable building and sending energy, before we really test it. And (I realize) I can test the demo during that practice time. Maybe I can pull this off after all…

The meetup started at 7pm. There were 15 of us, some with years or decades of experience with energy, others attending their first energy event. (I wish my first encounter with energy had included scientific testing!) We share energy visualizations, discuss how energy feels. We partner up to practice, and the room gets loud, telling me that people are relaxed and having fun. Then the room gets quiet as people start to practice.

I grab my assistant and another friend. We test the demo, but neither feels much. At 8pm, everyone takes a break to get some water, and I grab another friend with decades of experience, but he doesn’t feel anything either. And that’s all the time I have — now it’s time for the scientific exercise, and my demo in front of everyone.

I calm myself, and speak what I know is true: “I’m going to demo this exercise. It’s not going to work — I’m in a teacher headspace right now, and I’m having trouble engaging my energy. But I’m going to demo it anyway, because the point of testing energy techniques isn’t to have a particular technique work on a particular day. The point is to get into the habit of testing energy. Sometimes it won’t work, and that’s OK. So now, I’m going to show you the procedure, and I’m going to show you it not working, so you can all see that that’s no big deal.”

And indeed, it didn’t work, and it wasn’t a big deal. Without planning for it, I’d stumbled onto just the right tone for the event. And everyone relaxed, tried the exercise, and had fun with it. I couldn’t ask for more.

About half the group got some results, and two attendees got stellar results: One woman sent to partners 15 times, and they felt the correct location 13 times, and one man felt the precise location of energy, not just hips vs head but where exactly on his back his partner was sending.

In the end, everyone had fun and increased their skill and confidence. Which was the whole point.

And after the exercises, someone asked about shielding, to block energy from other groups. (Shielding is like a wall, blocking energy from flowing.) And it hit me: I always have shielding up, to block energy from the crowds in San Francisco. Normally I open my shielding before doing these exercises. But I forgot today, with all the excitement of the event. So my shielding, which prevents energy from flowing into me, had also prevented my energy from flowing out to my partner. That might not be the only reason my demo didn’t work, but it’s certainly sufficient. Mystery solved.

Will you be in the bay area on March 22? RSVP for the next Energy Geek Meetup on facebook and meetup.

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

Building Confidence in Energy: How I Tested a Technique in 30 Minutes

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

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Anecdotal evidence has never been enough for me. I doubt: Was the result just coincidence? Placebo? I’ve always wanted the certainty that comes from scientific testing, but that sounded so hard. Daunting. Maybe impossible.

Then I tested sending energy with a friend. It took 30 minutes. It was fun, and we both came away with more confidence. Here’s how I did it:

  • The test is to send and feel energy. One person sends, the other receives.
  • The receiver wears a blindfold and earphones with white noise, so they can’t see the sender or hear their footsteps or their breathing.
  • The sender chooses a region of the body (chest, stomach, shoulder, head, etc), hovers their hands about 6″ away from that part of the receiver’s body, and sends energy. There is no physical contact. The receiver says when and where they feel energy.

The results were great. Both of us consistently identified when energy was being sent, and where it was being sent, correctly. We came out of it much more confident in our practices.

I did a placebo control, hovering my hand without building energy. The receiver (correctly) didn’t feel anything when I didn’t build energy.

And my partner did a fun test. I was the receiver, standing up so my partner could get to my front and side. I felt energy in my chest, said so, and heard her voice to my left saying, “Correct.”

I replied, “But I felt it in my chest, and you’re standing to my left, so I guess that’s a miss.”

She explained, “No. My hand is by your chest. But I’m standing to your left, just in case you’re hearing my footsteps. You got it right.” It was clever and memorable, and increased our confidence in our energy techniques.

Experiences like this are what make me so passionate about testing energy techniques and about the Energy Geek Meetup.

About the Meetup

Note: I wrote this post and the next few posts in preparation for the Energy Geek Meetup. They’re all about testing energy techniques. The testing in this post is from 2014, I think, it was one of the first close-to-rigorous tests I did.

The Energy Geek Meetup is for practitioners who want to take their energy skills and confidence to the next level. It’s the 4th Wednesday of every month, 7-9pm, at the Embodiment Arts Collective, 3490 20th Street, 3rd Floor, San Francisco (near 24th st BART). Suggested donation $5-10.

Please RSVP on Facebook or Meetup. (Popular events draw more people. RSVPing helps us grow. Thank you!)

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

Energy Geek Meetup

Monday, October 24th, 2016

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Everyone has doubts. Did that healing session work? Does energy work the way we think it does? Is energy even real?

For years, I tried to ignore my doubts, to push them down until they (almost) disappeared. But they kept creeping up, half-conscious, when I’d think about starting a healing practice or teaching a class. They made me uncomfortable and un-confident, and hobbled me as I pursued those dreams.

Far better to face our doubts, say, “I believe this energy technique works, but I’m not sure.” And then move from uncertain belief to confident knowledge by testing the technique, seeing it work, and knowing that it will work next time too.

But that’s hard to do alone. To ensure the results aren’t just placebo or self-suggestion, we need help from other people. And we need a supportive, safe community, so it’s OK if a technique doesn’t work the first time, or even the tenth time.

That’s why I’m creating this event. Every month, we’ll pick an energy technique and design a scientific test. Everyone who wants to test it will, and anyone who doesn’t want to test can watch.

Some months, the technique will work for everyone, and we can all go home knowing that energy is real and we can use it.

Other months, the technique will work for some people but not others. This is a great opportunity to improve — we’ll have found something to learn, and we’ll have people at the event who can teach us their approach and help us understand how to practice. Then next month, we can come back and verify that it’s working. Writing this, I realize I’ve wanted this supportive practice group for years, and I’m excited about creating it.

And occasionally, the technique won’t work for anyone. That’s OK. We’ll have learned something about how energy works, what it does and doesn’t do, and we’ll all be stronger practitioners for it. And next month, we’ll meet again, test a different technique, and keep improving.

I’m starting the Energy Geek Meetup in February 2017, in San Francisco. If you’re local, I hope you’ll join. And I’ll be posting notes and results for anyone who isn’t local.

Class & Webinar for Energy Healers and Magick Workers

I’m also planning a class for later in the year, covering the first few techniques of Direct Magick and how to apply them to other practices, from energy healing to ritual magick.

Topics will include:

  • Channeling energetic forces (“ethereal software”), contacting spirits, and how to communicate more accurately and precisely
  • How to feel energy and ethereal structures (“sensory connections”), how to do it precisely, and how to zoom in on particular aspects of the biofield or other structures
  • Finding and awakening the parts of your mind that drive energy (your “ethereal muscles”)

I’ll be doing an in-person class in San Francisco, and a webinar for everyone else.

I’ll also be creating a book, writing topics as the class progresses. It’ll be a tighter scope than the book-in-progress, for healers rather than engineers. (I’ll have another class and book for engineers eventually.)

Interested? Sign up for occasional emails (one a month at most) about my events by leaving a comment below saying “sign me up.” And if you want my posts by email, sign up for that via RSS.

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How to Use the Sigil

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

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Christina, trained in Reiki and other systems, asks:

When I tested your first sigil [in 2012], the response was clear to me, at least the first time. After that, not so much. And this time, I missed the mark. Why could that be?

There are several possibilities.

I want to back up and say: When a scientist says, “There are several possibilities,” he’s really saying, “I don’t know, but here’s where I’d start looking.” And that’s what I’m saying: I don’t know why it didn’t work. (If I did, I probably would have fixed it.) But let’s talk about the moving parts, what might have gone wrong, and how you can start exploring this with me.

First, the moving parts:

  • A sigil, with ethereal software bound to it.
  • These forces need to notice when you look at the sigil.
  • They need to pick up your request and create the obvious connection.
  • You need to notice the connection.

What might go wrong?

If I didn’t bind the ethereal software to the sigil correctly, none of this will work. That’s certainly possible. But I tested it on myself and it seemed to work for me. Also, this isn’t something you can test with me. So let’s assume the ethereal software is bound correctly.

What about the forces noticing your gaze? Try this: You know how to connect to someone by looking at their picture, right? The sigil uses some of the same forces. So practice connecting to a person based on their picture a few times, then do the same thing when you look at the sigil.

What about picking up your request and creating the obvious connection? This requires a bit of background. People often use multiple pieces of ethereal software. As a Reiki practitioner, you already have the Reiki software (typically called “The Universe.”) If you practice other systems, you might have other software. (You might also have ethereal software not associated with a formal system, such as for natural psychic intuitions some people have.) So, multiple pieces of ethereal software.

Usually, that’s fine. Occasionally, the ethereal software conflicts with each other. I’ve seen software that wants to be the only one working with a person. I’ve seen software that interpreted the “obvious connection” as an attack, and protected the person. Sometimes, different ethereal softwares don’t get along.

Try this: Engage your normal ethereal software. Just think about doing your normal practice, building Reiki energy or asking for psychic intuitions or whatever else you do. Then send the message (the same way you’d send a request for information, energy, or anything else): “I’m about to connect to another force, I want you to allow it to connect and trust it.” Keep thinking that while you focus on the sigil.

Before asking for the obvious connection, tell your other forces, “I’m about to have the new ethereal software make some obvious connections. Allow them, even if it seems like an attack.” Then try the obvious connection.

Also, if you shield yourself against energy or connections, try opening your shielding before doing all this.

Will this work? I don’t know. We’re debugging this technique together, thinking about what might have gone wrong, testing it out, seeing what matters and what doesn’t. I’m excited to get your results, because this is how we all learn about ethereal software and sigils and the mechanisms behind our practice.

Thanks for exploring with me.

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

Placebo-Controlled Sigil Testing: Results

Sunday, August 14th, 2016

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One month ago, I posted a double-blind placebo-controlled test of ethereal software and sigils.

Over 30 of you participated. Thank you! It feels amazing to have this community to help test these techniques.

(The rest of this post assumes you read the procedure. Summary: Two symbols. One had ethereal software attached, the other was placebo. It involved a coin flip, so I call them “heads” and “tails.”)

sigil experiment resultsToday I have the results. Short answer: The sigil didn’t work. Six of you felt the connection on heads, seven felt it on tails. On average, you felt a connection strength of 2.6/10 on heads, and 3.7/10 on tails. So a very mild preference for tails, both on strength and on popular vote. See the chart to the right, or download the file.

(Update: SVH points out, I failed to tally her clear Tails signal, so it should be 6H, 8T.)

Tails was the active sigil (heads was the placebo), but the results are too close to call it a success.

And yet, I feel good. That’s my first take-away: The point isn’t to get positive results from every test. The point is to become the kind of person who isn’t afraid to test their beliefs. Or who is afraid, but tests anyway. The lightness and liberation I felt immediately after posting the test are still with me.

The second take-away: Placebos are tremendously important. Of the 32 testers, 20 felt at least a 3/10 on one of the sigils. That’s over 60% of respondents. If I’d only posted one sigil and asked if you felt something, it would look like a success. I already knew that placebo controls are important, but seeing it first-hand makes a deeper impact.

I also learned about test design. Less than half of respondents tried both sigils. This is probably because I said to wait until the next day to do the second sigil. If I’d more clearly said to do both sigils, and only asked for a 10-minute break between them, I think we would have gotten a lot more data.

Why didn’t the sigil work? There are several components of this technique:

  • Connecting the ethereal software to you via the sigil. (This includes binding the sigil, and instructions for how to use the sigil.)
  • Asking the ethereal software for an obvious connection.
  • Creating sensations with the obvious connection.
  • Also, testers need to avoid building their own energy. If you build energy yourself, then you might feel that, regardless of what the ethereal software does or doesn’t do.

I can’t say which step(s) didn’t work, but I have plans for improving most of them:

  • I didn’t have any instructions to not build your own energy. I’m going to add that next time, along with an exercise on quieting your energy. This might reduce the sensations from the placebo.
  • I’ve returned to my work on creating sensations, with promising results. It’s such a useful demonstration, plus learning to create sensations can tell us a lot about healing techniques for pain. Once I get a solid technique working in-person, I’m going to program it into the ethereal software and repeat this testing.
  • I’m also thinking about in-person testing for sending instructions to the ethereal software. Maybe I can create a command like, “Create an obvious connection to Mike,” then have a friend use the command. That would let me verify that people new to using this ethereal software can successfully send it instructions.

In all, I feel good, despite the technique not working. Facing these fears and passing through them has been amazing. And it’s nurtured me to share this process, both the testing and today’s post about results and next steps. As a solo practitioner, I’ve never had much community, but this blog is starting to feel like a home. Thank you for being part of that.

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

Testing My Techniques: Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Ethereal Software

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

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In 2012, over 50 readers helped me test a sigil I’d made. It was amazing, tapping into this community to verify my results. So many of you helped — thank you!

That helped me move forward with confidence in my book, my writing, and my own practice. Participating and feeling the results helped many of you build confidence in your own work, too. But the test wasn’t scientifically rigorous, and as a result it hasn’t given us as much confidence as it could.

This post is about fixing that. I’m repeating the test, this time as a double-blind placebo-controlled version — the gold standard for scientific research. It’ll help me become more confident in this work, and participating will help you be confident that the sensations you’re feeling really are from energy, not from placebo or suggestion.

This post has three sections. First I’ll explain exactly what we’re testing. Then I’ll discuss today’s version, and why it’s better than the 2012 version. Then I’ll show you exactly what to do to participate. Or skip to the participation now.

Update: Results are here.

The Technique — What’s a Sigil?

A sigil is a symbol with ethereal software bound to it. (Ethereal software is the general term for the forces that healers and mages channel. Other systems refer to these forces as Egregores, The Universe, or other names.)

These bound symbols aren’t the same as symbols you see in everyday life. Company logos and family crests don’t usually have forces bound to them. But there are some examples you might know: The symbols used in Reiki, symbols from magickal systems like Golden Dawn and Enochian, along with sigils commonly used in Chaos Magick. Those symbols have power precisely because they are bound, because they cause ethereal software to connect to a person who focuses on them.

The symbol can be basically anything. I just made some lines in Paint. The lines had nothing to do with anything, they were just random squiggles. They were not specially designed in any way.

To bind my ethereal software to my sigil, I contacted another force (another ethereal software) that seems to handle this. I asked it to, “Associate this symbol I’m looking at with this ethereal software I’m connecting you to,” and it said OK. And I thought to myself, “It can’t possibly be that easy. The universe can’t possibly work like this.” That’s why I tested it.

To use a sigil, a person focuses on the symbol, and the ethereal software connects to them. How does that work? Before the 2012 test, I would have said that the person already has a connection to the ethereal software, and the sigil reminds them of that force, activating the connection. But the whole point of the 2012 test was that no one had used the ethereal software before, and it still connected to them.

Even today, I find this whole phenomenon odd. But when our expectations disagree with the results we observe, we trust our observations. That’s really the only rule of science.

That’s why I want to do a better test today.

Why Do Double-Blind Testing

In 2012, I gave readers a sigil, told them what a success would look like, and asked them to try it. The results were great: Most experienced practitioners successfully felt the connection, and some even used it for manifesting.

But… Everyone experienced what they expected to experience. How could I know it was the result of energy and ethereal software, and not placebo and suggestion?

The truth is, I can’t. The testing wasn’t rigorous.

For those of you wondering why I spend so much time on scientific testing, this is the exact reason: A good test lets me be confident of the results. A bad test leaves doubt. Scientific testing is about moving from unconfident belief to confident knowledge.

I knew all this in 2012, but flinched away from that idea. Proper testing has a brutal honesty, it can tell me I’m wrong. That’s the whole point. But that’s also scary, so I punted with a good-but-imperfect test. (That’s also why this post is a few days late.)

Here’s what I’m doing this time:

There are 2 sigils. One bound to my ethereal software, the other (the placebo) not bound. You won’t know which is which. You’ll randomly select one, try it, report what happens. I have over 1,000 readers, so we should get a bunch of data on both sigils, and we can see if they give the same results (meaning the sensations are placebo) or different results (meaning the binding actually does something). I’m excited to find out.

As I write this post (and the twitter and facebook announcements), I don’t know which sigil will be bound. I’ve created the images, but I won’t bind them until this post is entirely finished and ready to post. This ensures I don’t subtly, unconsciously suggest to you which one is bound — I can’t, because I don’t know. That’s what “double-blind” means, that neither of us knows which one is real. After this post is fully written and ready to go up, I’ll randomly pick a sigil (by flipping a coin) and bind it. (By the time you read this, one of the sigils will be bound.)

(For readers who have used my book’s ethereal software and wanted confirmation that they were getting actual results, not just placebo, this is a great time to test that. Try both sigils, see what you notice, then come back when I reveal the results.)

I’m going to leave all comments in Pending state for 4 weeks, until August 14. That way no one will be influenced by anyone else’s results.

Nothing about this is technically difficult. 99% of the difficulty is emotional. That’s often the case when scientifically testing healing and magick.

How You Can Participate

Step 1: Focus on the sigil: You’ll find links to the two sigils at the bottom of this post. Flip a coin to pick one randomly. Click the link, focus on the sigil. Look at the whole image, then focus on each symbol. Do this for about half a minute.

Step 2: Request an obvious connection: Continue focusing on the sigil and think the message, “Give me an obvious connection.” It’s OK if you rephrase it, but keep the words / concepts “obvious connection” and specify it goes to you. If English isn’t your primary language, use whatever language is easiest for you — the ethereal software responds to concepts, not the words themselves. Focus on the sigil and repeat this command for another half-minute, or until you notice the connection.

Feeling the connection: The connection should feel like an intense energy: Tingling, possibly pressure or heat. It’s tuned to be obvious to most people, so those more sensitive to energy may find it too intense, but don’t worry, it’ll stop as soon as you ask it to. (And please accept my apologies, along with my gratitude for helping with this project.)

Step 3: Turn off the connection: To turn off the connection, think the message, “Turn off the obvious connection.” This should stop the sensations immediately.

If you want to try manifesting with this ethereal software, just ask it for what you want. “Cause me to [whatever goal].” It also has commands for shielding, awakening your ethereal muscles, and more. See my book-in-progress for some ideas.

Step 4: Disconnect: When you’re done, tell the ethereal software to disconnect by thinking the message, “Disconnect from me.” In total, testing one sigil like this should take 1-2 minutes.

Step 5: Test the other sigil tomorrow: At this point, you’ve tested one of the two sigils. Maybe you felt something, maybe you didn’t. Either way, wait. Don’t go on to the other sigil yet — give the ethereal software time to disconnect. If it’s still connected, you could receive energy from it even if you’re looking at the placebo sigil. So wait. Do the other sigil tomorrow.

Similarly, please do this test as your first act of magick / energy work of the day. If you’ve already been working with other forces (such as my book’s ethereal software, channeling healing energy, doing ritual magick, etc), it’s possible you’re still connected to those forces, and they could influence the results.

After testing a sigil, please fill out the form below and post it as a comment. I’ll leave all comments in “Pending” status until August 14, so they don’t display for other readers and influence their expectations.

Thank you so much for helping me test sigils!

Here are the links. After clicking the link, you can click the sigil to make it full-screen. (Remember, flip a coin to pick the sigil, and only do one per day):

Sigil 1 (heads)

Sigil 2 (tails)

(It doesn’t matter which sigil goes with heads, but it’s important to decide that before flipping the coin. If we flip the coin, get heads, and then decide which sigil goes with heads, we haven’t actually randomized. That’s why I labeled them.)

Here’s the results form, paste it into the comment field below:

Sigil used: Heads / Tails

Did you notice a connection just from focusing on the sigil?

What did you feel when you asked for an obvious connection? (Description, 1-2 sentences)

How strong was the obvious connection? (0-10, 0 = no sensation, 4 = gentle breeze, 7 = light touch, 10 = firm touch)

What’s your experience with energy / magick / healing / etc?

Did you participate in the 2012 testing?

Other notes / comments:

Thank you!

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Ethereal Muscles, Focus, and the Brain

Friday, September 6th, 2013

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I’ve noticed something about how ethereal muscles work. The observation came as I repeatedly did communication for manifesting: Ethereal muscles use the brain for information processing.

I noticed this while packaging and unpackaging messages. That’s the step where I’ve already thought the message, gathered the signatures that correspond to those thoughts, and now I’m packaging those signatures up to send them. The brain really isn’t involved at this point — I’ve already thought the message, the message is already magickal energy, and it’s just the ethereal muscles preparing to send it.

(That’s packaging. Unpackaging is the reverse process, where I’ve received a message and I’m preparing it for my brain.)

In both of those situations, I noticed something unexpected:

  • If I consciously focus on the task, it takes about 10 seconds.
  • If I distract my mind and let my ethereal muscles do it unconsciously, it takes about 30 seconds.

This happened consistently across many messages. It happens whether I’m tired or awake, and whether my environment is distracting or calm. Within one 5-minute session, I can focus on some messages and let other messages process unconsciously, and the trend still holds. In other words, the conscious focus itself seems to be the active ingredient, and not merely my level of fatigue / distractability.

Why isn’t this expected? Well, ethereal muscles take guidance from the brain, but ultimately, they’re not part of the brain. And a lot of magick advises you to send your intent to your unconscious, then let the unconscious handle it. (With A. O. Spare’s sigils, for example, you’re specifically supposed to forget what the sigil means, so your conscious mind won’t get in the way.) And yet, from my data, it seems that conscious focus makes ethereal muscles work faster, (at least for me).

This means that ethereal muscles do not, in fact, just take a conscious intent and run with it. Or, rather, they do that, but they operate slowly. But if I keep my conscious mind engaged, the ethereal muscle does the same task faster, even though the muscle already knows how to do the task (so it doesn’t need conscious guidance to accomplish it properly.)

My first thought was, “Maybe this has to do with sending intent to my ethereal muscles.” But I know the ethereal muscle received my intent properly, because it does, in fact, do the right thing without my conscious focus. It just does it more slowly.

My guess is that the ethereal muscle is using my brain as extra processing power to help figure out all the right signatures and changes and steps to accomplish my goal. So, it can figure that out slowly on its own, or quickly using my brain. The other option I see is that ethereal muscles are naturally slow unless you apply constant conscious pressure to operate quickly. Maybe the conserve energy by default, unless you nudge them?

I’ll have to think more on how to tease those two apart, or if there are other options. Thoughts?

And 2 notes:

To my recent commenters: I have not forgotten you! Hectic couple of days, will respond soon.

This experience also relates to the idea that magick operates however the mage thinks it operates: I didn’t expect this. Just now, magick did not operate how the mage thought it operated. And if you look in your own work, I’m sure you’ll find similar data.

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

Placebo and Phlogiston

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

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There’s been an idea in the back of my thoughts lately: The placebo effect is a lot like Phlogiston*. This post is me exploring that half-formed idea.

*Phlogiston is a discredited 17th-century model of fire, saying it was caused by phlogiston. But there were no predictions: You discovered something contained phlogiston when you saw it burning, and saying “X contains phlogiston” only told you that it would burn. It has become a shorthand for a non-scientific model that only explains after the fact. More on wikipedia.

First, I’m not decrying the placebo effect in general. It is well-established that people sometimes get better, and that their expectation of getting better can trigger a perceived improvement, and sometimes an actual, objective improvement. Placebo is real.

But… One of my exercises for myself, to learn to explain my magick well, is to try and explain my results away as placebo. And here’s what I find:

  • Sometimes, placebo makes the person get better for a short time.
  • Sometimes, it makes them get better for a long time.
  • Sometimes, it causes no result.
  • And there’s no pattern to it. (Aside from the actual magick techniques I used, which, if we’re assuming it’s all placebo, shouldn’t matter.)

Now, I’m not saying this model of placebo is wrong, but it sure feels like explaining away, rather than explaining. Really, it feels a lot like Phlogiston: Once you tell me the results, I can say, “Yes, placebo did that,” but it has zero predictive power.

So, what would a predictive model of placebo look like? It would have odds. It would say, “For condition X, with a highly-believable placebo, Y% of people should feel better due to placebo, and Z% of those should have lasting results.” It would tell you how much the believability of the placebo matters: A doctor from Harvard vs the local community college, or energy healing on a believer vs a skeptic. In short, it would tell you how to design an effective placebo, or how to behave to minimize the probability of placebo. It would say a lot more than, “Sometimes, people just randomly feel better.”

Is anyone aware of research like that? It seems really useful for doing small-scale experiments when you can’t do a randomized controlled trial. Thanks!

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Publishing Your Magick: Picking the Right Technique

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

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After posting Why There’s No Published Research on Magick, lots of you wrote in about researchers who had published results but were ridiculed out of their jobs, or with warnings about threatened industries (like big pharma) drowning researchers in legal fees.

It got me thinking about how to publish your magick, and how to avoid the problems those researchers had. And I think I have an answer.

First, what they did wrong: They published the first result they found. The technique was unreliable, hard to test, and not immediately useful. Now, that’s how science normally works — you discover a tiny advance, publish it, and repeat until you develop something really cool. But it won’t work here.

The problem is, publishing magick is less about science than it is about marketing and publicity. You need a genuinely amazing result as the first publication. Something reliable, undeniably obvious, and so useful that people will clamor for the service, creating political pressure to not shut you down. Something you can do out of Africa or Eastern Europe if needed, with medical tourists flying in, so you can build the studies and successes to make it in the US. It needs to be a fully-realized product, not an initial result.

And, before you publish, you ought to have a bunch of fully-realized products. First, that lets you pick the best one for publication — a healing technique that works immediately, rather than one with a 1-month delay, for example. Second, that lets you follow up with more studies, building a stack of successes, rather than a one-off kooky publication. Third, it’s better for rolling the publicity into a successful business.


Thanks for sending me the pointers to those researchers. Seeing what they did wrong will help me do it right. Any other thoughts?

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Do Magnets Energize Quartz?

Monday, February 20th, 2012

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Continuing the quartz / orgone series. So far, I’ve found that the layered orgonite (metal + paper) was magickally inert, but that quartz is magickally interesting: It has significant, stable magickal structures, and if you put energy into it, those structures will absorb the energy and re-emit it in the quartz’s signature, which is usually more noticeable than the same amount of energy in your own signature. (That’s why people think quartz amplifies energy).

There’s one more component of the orgone generator Ananael used to charge his talismans: An oscillating magnetic field. So today, I’ll test quartz with a magnet.

Results Summary

Short story: Magnetism does not appear to affect quartz, at least in terms of magickal energy. I didn’t have an oscillating electromagnet, but I did have a powerful magnet from a fridge-mounted spice rack, and moving it near and around the quartz does not produce magickal energy.

And if that were the only story, I would’ve just tacked it onto the end of last post and called this series done. But today, I want to tell you about some errors I made in researching this, and the importance of rigorous testing.

In this post, I’ll use normal text like this to tell you the chronological story, and what I thought at the time.

And I’ll use this tabbed-in gray text to tell you what I now think was actually happening.

Initial Test: Sensory Connections

After discovering all this stuff I’d never expected — magickal structures in quartz, ice and water, and how temperature influences the structures — I was pretty ready to accept other new findings, too.

So, I held the quartz in my hand, connected to the structures, and moved a magnet in a circle over it. (A vertical circle, so the bottom of the circle was close to the quartz, and the top was far away).

And I felt something. A tingle in my palm (the one holding the quartz). And when I looked hard, I could sense energy in the quartz. I was amazed, because I never expected the magnet to influence the quartz, but it was.

I now think that the tingle in my palm was proprioception — the feeling you get when your hands almost touch. It’s a tingling, but it’s not energy. (You’ll often see beginner energy healing classes tell you to almost touch your hands so you can “feel energy emanating from your body.” But if you close your eyes and have a friend almost touch you, there’s no tingle, so clearly, it’s not actual energy.)

The bit of energy in the quartz was from my own sensory connections. Remember, good sensory connections have very little energy. But moving my hand — the one with the magnet — distracted me a bit, and made my sensory connection worse. Add in the tingling, which made me think there was energy there, and I can easily see how I would have sent a little energy along the connection, which the quartz would reflect back at me.

I also tried moving the magnet in a big circle around the hand holding the quartz, but didn’t feel any energy. At the time, I figured it had something to do with the flat verse rough sides of the quartz. (My piece of quartz is the size of a small fist, one side with flat facets, the other side broken roughly.)

What I now think happened: Moving my hand in a circle around the quartz didn’t activate the same proprioception tingling. And I didn’t send energy along the connection either because this movement was less distracting, or because, without the tingling of the proprioception, I wasn’t thinking about energy.

Proper Testing

With all my talk about scientific testing, I’d better not leave it with just my sensory connections. So I devised a fairly simple, but fairly rigorous, procedure:

I close my eyes, make the sensory connections, and tell Lisa I’m ready. Lisa flips a coin. If it’s heads, she moves the magnet in a circle just above the quartz. If it’s tails, she moves her hand in the same motion, without the magnet (which should produce the same breeze and any sounds from her shifting her weight, but no magickal energy in the quartz). In both cases, she doesn’t say anything. (We don’t want me picking up any clues from her voice). I say whether I noticed the energy before opening my eyes, to prevent me from reading her body language.

As you’ve probably gathered by now, it didn’t work. Once my eyes were closed, I didn’t feel the proprioception tingles. Depending on how hard I tried to sense the energy — which correlates with how much energy I accidentally put on the sensory connection — I’d either notice energy, or not notice it. Lisa sometimes put a bit of energy into the quartz, too, so I’m glad her hand was there in both conditions.

After a few trials, I stopped, and figured out what happened. Then I paid more attention to keeping my sensory connection quiet, and when I did, didn’t notice any energy in any of the test cases. I would still feel the tingles when my hands got close, and I’d still feel the energy if I let myself get distracted. All those senses were real, but when I tried to add them up into a story of how all the moving parts work, I got that story wrong. And that’s why it’s so important to do proper, blind testing.

Seeing What You Expect

This isn’t unique to sensory connections. If you expect something to taste good, it probably will, as long as it doesn’t actively taste bad. In a dark room, your eyes will naturally start to see spots and shapes, and if you expect to see something in particular, you will probably see it in those shapes.

The key to doing good research isn’t avoiding errors. It’s creating tests that can show you your errors, so you can accept them and learn from them. My hope is that, by showing you my errors, you’ll be a little less worried about making your own.

Hat tip to Doing Magick. His post on the importance of teachers to have humility helped me decide to post this and show you my errors.

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