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Today, I want to talk about exploring magick scientifically, and how not to get intimidated by how much we already know about the physical world.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned one of my long-term questions:
How does [magick] influence the atoms to bring about that result? How can that impact / advance our understanding of physics?
A difficult goal. Maybe not one I’ll ever attain. But I use it as a compass, moving toward it even if I never get there. And it’s a daydream, something to inspire me when I’d rather play video games.
I get the feeling, though, that some readers are focusing on connecting magick with physics, becoming intimidated, and that it may be hurting their current explorations of magick. For example, from John’s blog:
This means seeing how the Subconscious Mind uses magick to affect quantum particles, atoms and/or molecules, or even larger-scale objects (Newtonian scale). If that were possible, [the mage would] be able to see how those particles and objects move, interact with each other, etc. Really, he’d have Superman-like microscopic vision, pretty much. And if so, he’d be able to understand what’s really going on at such a small level; and with enough time, he’d be able to explain how Quantum particles work, how a DNA molecule splits, etc. He’d have an incredibly in-depth knowledge of how the physical and magickal world work together, possibly even being able to offer rough mathematical formulas for their interaction. Possibly even explaining how gravity interacts with the other forces, offering a Unified Theory of Physics. If so, he’d not only be the greatest mage alive, he’d be the world’s leading physicist and the greatest mind ever known, and the world’s utmost superhero.
This isn’t daydreaming, it’s nightmare-ing, building up your goal for future generations into an impossible-to-achieve mountain. It discourages you before you even start, and makes it that much harder to do useful work. And I’m sorry my daydream puts John into that headspace.
Today, I want to share how I think about these goals, and how I think about science, and what I think we can do right now. But rather than talk abstractly about magick, let’s talk about biology, since it’s concrete and we can all agree on what we’re discussing.
I’d like you to imagine that we know all the physics that we know today, but somehow, we know very little biology. Maybe there was some religious prohibition on dissecting mammals. Whatever the reason, we don’t know abour nerves, cells, DNA, or much of anything else about life.
Someone asks, “Why do muscles move?” Each of us can choose one of two responses:
- You can say, “We know all this physics, about molecules and atoms and quarks. Just think of all the quarks involved in a muscle. Before we can explain why muscles muscles move, we’ll need to simulate all those quarks, so we’ll need supercomputers a million times more powerful than we have today. Might as well give up.”
- Or you can roll up your sleeves and start figuring it out.
Eventually, you might try electricity, as Luigi Galvani did in 1771, making dead frogs dance. He placed electrodes in different spots and discovered that nerves make muscles move. A quark-level explanation? No. Useful? Yes.
Then you can investingate how nerves work. You can look at them under a microscope, and notice they’re long cells, connected in a line through muscles. You can investigate the neurotransmitters they use to signal, and come to understand the Potassium-Sodium reaction involved. You can interview people with brain injuries, and figure out which parts of the brain are involved in different types of movements.
None of that knowledge gets you to quarks. Even today, in the real world, I don’t think we understand most biology in terms of quarks. Indeed, the doubters are right. And when you predict that we won’t achieve the utmost pinnacle of understanding, you’ll usually be right. Right, and useless.
But understanding that nerves make muscles move, that nerves work by Potassium and Sodium and neurotransmitters, that certain parts of the brain are responsible for different aspects of muscle movement, all of that is useful, valuable knowledge. All of that advances medicine and our ability to help people. And if you’d never rolled up your sleeves and helped discover a little bit of that, the world would be less for it.
I’m sure the people who want to throw up their hands and say, “We’ll never understand magick,” will point out that we don’t have a magickal microscope to look at nerve cells, and we don’t have magickal probes to apply magickal electricity, and we don’t have all these other things. And again, they’ll be right.
But I wish they’d put that effort toward trying to invent those tools, or toward figuring out what steps the unconscious mind takes to drive magick, or toward exporing the algorithms used by the forces we channel. Because that work is useful. And I’ll take useful over right any day.
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