Modernizing Magick

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

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This post is #2 in a series. Start with the first post here.

Ask people how magick works, and you’ll hear variations of “God / The Universe / Your Soul is the source of all magick. People just channel [that infinite awe-inspiring thing].”

Sounds good, right? Now you can stop wondering. I mean, no one asks “How does God work?”

And that’s the problem: You shouldn’t stop wondering. Ever.

Why? Because continuously asking “How does this work” lets you understand all the moving pieces. Which lets you see new ways to use them.

It let us turn rocks (silicon) into computers.

It let us turn ore and oil into airplanes.

And it will let us do the same with magick.

But you can’t do that with an explanation that simply quiets your curiosity. You need an explanation that, well, explains how all the pieces work.

That’s a “systematic explanation.” Here’s what they are, and how they can modernize magick.

Systematic Explanations and Auto Mechanics

Imagine you ask Alice and Bob how cars work. Both of the explain that gasoline powers the engine, which makes the wheels turn.

You dig deeper. “How does gasoline power the engine?” Bob doesn’t know. Alice explains that injectors spray gasoline into pistons, spark plugs ignite that gas, and the explosion drives the pistons down.

Alice gave a systematic explanation. She understands how the engine works in terms of its parts. That understanding lets her simulate your engine in her head. She can tell you possible causes of a specific problem, or which parts you should upgrade for better acceleration. Predictions — X will happen if you break / change / upgrade this part — are the dividends paid by systematic explanations.

Bob doesn’t really have a mental model. He just memorized someone else’s words. They sound good, but they don’t let him fix your car.

Magickal Auto Mechanics

Ask yourself: When I do magick, and I a driver, or a mechanic?

Most mages are drivers. They direct some external force — God, The Universe, whatever name you use — that turns their words and intents and symbols into change in the world. Maybe their unconscious drives magick, but they don’t understand how. Consciously, the mage gives instructions, and some black box makes the magick go.

Most mages aren’t mechanics. They didn’t build the forces they channel. And they can’t debug it, repair it or improve it.

We need mechanics to modernize magick.

Modernizing Magick

Visualizations, symbols and rituals tell your unconscious what you want to happen. “I want to heal this person.” “I want to contact this spirit.” Etc.

They don’t tell your unconscious how to make it happen. How the energy healing works. What each part does to send your thoughts to the spirit. That leaves the unconscious to figure out the details. Which is fine for straight-forward changes, but not great for anything unintuitive.

Turning a rock into a hammer or an axe is straight-forward. Turning silicone into a computer is not.

Floating with a balloon is straight-forward. Flying on metal wings is not.

Using fire to cook is straight-forward. Using it to drive a car is not.

Here’s what I’ve found moving from symbolic magick (visualization, rituals, etc) to systematic magick (based on a systematic understanding of all the moving parts):

  • Like a software company releasing a new version, I create new, better techniques every few months. They’re often unintuitive to symbolic mages — I wouldn’t figure them out without the systematic understanding.
  • The magick is in the technique, not in my expectation. For years, I didn’t 100% believe my techniques would work, just because I naturally doubt myself. Each time, I was surprised at its success. That’s one way I know this isn’t placebo.
  • Because I understand each step, I can teach them precisely. It’s the difference between saying “Build a house” and handing you a blueprint. Once you understand the moving parts behind magick, you’ll learn techniques in a day and they’ll work right away.

I don’t know the magick analog to making computers and airplanes and cars any more than Tesla could have predicted the internet. But I hope one day, we’ll exchange and refine techniques in peer-reviewed journals, work with physicists to truly understand how magick influences the physical world, and create joint surgical-pharma-magick therapies with doctors and chemists. And I hope you’ll join me in building that world.


You have 2 options (these are placeholders, posts coming soon):

  • Want more on systematic explanations? Click here for an example, or
  • Continue to the next part of scientific exploration with Accurate Observation in Magick.
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Exploring Magick Through Science

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

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It started around 1994 with this question:

Why does magick change the physical world?

Not “This symbol means this, therefore you’ll get this result.” That’s how to use a ritual, not why it works. I wanted all the moving parts that make magick function.

Not “Your unconscious responds to symbols and makes magick happen.” That just names the black box. I wanted to understand how it “makes magick happen.”

Not “Magick works by influencing quantum probabilities.” Even if that’s true, it doesn’t explain the steps that connect a particular ritual to its results.

I wanted a thorough explanation of all the moving parts that make magick work, so I could reason about using them in new ways to do magick better — heal more effectively, get instant results, receive clearer psychic intuitions, etc.

I wanted the science of magick.

17 years later, I’ve made a good start. This series is about where I am, where I’m going, and where I hope you’ll go with me.

Science = Scientific Method

Science isn’t technology. It’s not a microscope or a computer.

Science isn’t the knowledge of a scientific field. It’s not physics, chemistry, or psychology.

Science isn’t in the words you use — trusting science-y terms like “quantum” and distrusting mystical ones like “spirit.”

Science means distilling what works, and discarding what doesn’t, through the scientific method: Systematic explanation, reliable observation, and tests that can disrupt our expectations. I’ll explain how each applies to magick in its own post.

I don’t like science because it’s fashionable or professional-sounding. I like it because it works.

How Science Can Help Your Magick

When someone asks you “how does the internet work?” they might want to know to search with Google, click links, and don’t trust anything promising “a monster in your pants.” Basic user skills.

Or they could want to know how to connect their cable to a wifi router, configure its password, and connect to the network. Advanced user skills.

Or maybe they want to know how to program a website, how movies get turned into electrical signals, and how cookies track you — the technologies that make the internet work.

Now imagine the internet doesn’t exist yet. Or it does, but in the 1994 AOL-era form, before youtube, google and facebook. Which kind of understanding helps you create today’s internet?

Hint: It’s the 3rd kind.

Moving to magick:

Knowing how to visualize energy moving won’t build tomorrow’s magick.

Knowing the symbols of Thelema, Enochian and Kabbalah won’t either.

To build tomorrow’s magick, we need to understand the technologies that make magick work — each piece that helps turn your intent into changes in the world. And science is the best tool to build that understanding.

If Science Isn’t For You

If, as you read this series, you feel like science isn’t for you, that’s fine. Lots of my posts are one-off tips — techniques I’ve developed that you can use without understanding the inner-workings of magick. Click here for a list of those posts.

And you can always come back here later if you want to try science again.

Outline of the Series

How to explore magick through science: Systematic explanation, accurate observation, and tests that can disrupt your expectations. (3 posts, read them in order).

Phases of science: How fields advance from philosophy to mature science, where magick is, and how to move forward.

Getting started: The nuts and bolts of exploring magick through science. (Probably its own series).

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