Posts Tagged ‘Doubt’

Resistance, Rational Doubts, and Fear

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

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What would you do if sure of your magick? Would you leave your job to pursue energy healing? Would you use manifesting to guide your investments? Or would it just change subtle details, like how you explain magick to the people you care about?

Doubt holds us back. Whether it’s doubt that magick as a whole is real, or that it works the way we think it does, or simply doubting we’re any good at it. Doubt certainly holds me back. It makes me flinch from the work I want to do.

I wrote about irrational doubts recently. They come from our past, our fears, our perception of what we ought to be. A deep breath, an introspective meditation, a talk with the fearful parts of yourself — we have tools to dissipate irrational doubts.

But at some point, you’ve dispersed the irrational doubts, and you’re left with the rational doubts. And those are much harder.

Rational doubts come from the world. The only way to handle them is to go out into the world and run the experiment, a fair experiment that will show you if you’re wrong.

That means creating opportunities for failure. That’s hard. That’s the last 10% of developing a solid system of magick, and it’s harder than the first 90%.

As I prepare for those experiments, I breathe through the resistance and doubt every day. That’s the work. That’s what’s next.

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When Self-Doubt is Healthy

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

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Imagine a friend has a complex medical condition. Multiple Sclerosis, epilepsy, etc. You want to help them. You research the condition, identify a change you’d like to make to the energy of a particular tissue, and figure out an energy signature to use. You do the healing technique.

What’s the chance of success?

Or more critically: How disappointed should you be if it fails? And how should you present the technique to your friend?

When we settle on a current best guess, it’s easy to idealize it. We see the reasons it should work. And it took so much effort — in a fair universe, that effort ought to produce a success.

But my first plan rarely works. I say this with the confidence of years of experience, years of debugging techniques until the third or tenth version works. The human body is deeply complex. Ethereal structures are deeply complex. And I rarely see the entire picture in my first attempt.

The effort to produce a success is 10x or 100x what feels fair. But that’s not reality’s fault for being unfair. It’s an error in my fairness-detector.

I typically assign my initial best guess 5% probability of success. For every 20 conditions I take on, I expect one technique to work on the first try. (The other 95% probability goes to the billions of options I haven’t thought of.)

My second technique draws from what I learned. It usually gets 10-20% chance of success. And my third technique is higher still.

But until a technique succeeds, I never assign it more than 50% chance of success.

This keeps me from getting too hopeful, then too disappointed. And it keeps me from over-selling the results to my friend. They should know this is going to take research, testing, refinements and even fresh starts. Knowing that going in gives us the time and chances to develop a successful technique.

And when that first technique fails, I don’t say I’ve failed. I say, “The technique failed. We haven’t found the correct healing technique yet.”

Then I get back to work.

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Overcoming Doubt through Mental Posture

Wednesday, July 30th, 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.

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The Usefulness of Doubt

Friday, April 19th, 2013

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Excellent post on the Strategic Sorcery blog recently on The Usefulness of Doubt. A few quotes:

I think that occultists could use a little more doubt in their practice. Even notice that you don’t see a lot of blog posts about spells and magical experiments that don’t work out? […] Very often I see occultists taking synchronicity and gematric coincidences as proof of their work and direction. I do not often see occultists question whether they might be buying into a texas sharpshooter fallacy or suffering a confirmation bias.

Doubt has served me well in my practice. In the 90′s I did a series of enochian workings that sparked a fairly intense and detailed spiritual communication. The spirit had apocalyptic information, it insisted that I write it and share it, it insisted that I was a prophet. I was all kinds of excited to have my ego stroked and to join the ranks of people that were channeling Thelemic Libers, but decided to take a step back and take a look at it in a month with a cooler head. I asked myself, is the information useful? NO. Is there any chance that this might be incorrect? YES. I decided not to do what the spirit said, which is good because all the predictions were wrong.

I couldn’t agree more. It’s tempting to see something that might be the result of your magick, and decide that it is the result of your magick. We all like feeling successful. But if we’re ever going to get magick to the level of a modern science, we need to separate luck and placebo from real results, which means doubting ourselves a lot more.

Here’s the good news: The more you practice this, the easier (and less painful) it becomes.

Recently, I tried a healing technique for a friend’s cold. It didn’t work. She started making excuses — maybe she would have been even worse without the healing session, maybe she had both viral and bacterial infections my technique helped with one but not the other, etc. Looking back, I think she was just being polite, feeling awkward appreciating the effort I put in while telling me it didn’t work, (and she confirmed this just now), but at the time, I thought this was her honest reasoning.

A decade ago, I would have needed those excuses. Failure would have been painful, and it wouldn’t be just this one technique I doubted, it would have been all of magick. Am I any good at magick? Is magick even real? When the doubt generated by a single failure can flood your world, it becomes too painful to doubt anything.

(Yes, I’ve doubted if magick was real. Everyone has, especially when we’re starting out — it’s totally natural. To my readers who ask about these thoughts, you’re not alone.)

But now, I’ve had enough successes that doubt stays where it should, contained to the one technique that actually failed, not affecting all the other stuff that works, just not quite quickly enough to demonstrate to skeptics.

How do you get there? The only path I know is to succeed in your own magick a few dozen times. I wish there was something faster for beginners, but I don’t have an answer. But once you get there, accepting failure becomes simple.

One other thing I noticed: I now have a visceral response to excuses. They just feel dishonest, like they don’t lead anywhere true or useful. I can’t follow them, and get a bit annoyed hearing them, even. It’s a mental habit I’ve developed, I think, of asking myself is an explanation is my real reason, and turning away from any explanation that’s just an excuse. Again, I don’t know how to get there quickly, but if you practice asking that question, you’ll probably develop that same mental habit.

Back to the conversation, I said, “Nope, my healing technique just didn’t work this time. It needs some debugging.” Which I’ll return to next time one of us gets sick.

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The Dangers of Eliminating Doubt

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

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Mages are really down on doubt. Taylor of Magical Experiments wrote recently:

Doubt is a sabotager…its that little voice that says, “You don’t deserve this.” […] those emotions will present themselves in your working and undermine your results.

I think that sums up the standard view pretty well, and I mostly agree with him.

But with all this hating on doubt, it’s easy to forget that doubt is natural. Healthy. Sane, even. If you train your mind to never doubt, you’ll wind up believing everything: That magick can solve every problem, that what you visualize actually happens, or that vampires and werewolves are real.

We need to explore doubt a bit: The different types of doubt, different ways of dealing with it, and the tradeoffs involved. That’s what I’d like to do today.

Edit: Holy cow, 1500+ words. I had no idea I had so much to say on doubt. If you just want the punchline, skip to the last two sections, “Focus” and “Believing in Magick.”

2 Kinds of Doubt

We need to distinguish “Do I want this” from “Will this work?” Here’s an example of each:

Do I want this: You’re considering  moving to a bigger city for better career prospects, but you keep putting it off. You miss your friends, and who knows if you’ll be happy in the big city. You know you could physically move, but you’re not sure about it, so you keep putting off.

Will this work: You’re using manifesting to find a new job. But you’re new to magick, have never seen a successful manifesting yourself, and none of your family believes in it. You’re going to have a hard time putting your full focus into it.

Another “Will this work” situation that comes up a lot for me: You’re trying a new energy healing, using a new technique. Will it relieve the symptoms? For how long? Based on personal experience, I can tell you that the first technique I try is often less effective than I’d like. In general, I doubt that the healing technique will work until after I’ve used it about a dozen times.

Think about one of your doubts, and try to figure out which type it is. Remember, at this point, we’re just naming different types of doubt. Don’t worry about whether it’s helpful or unhelpful, healthy or unhealthy. Just try to recognize the category.

3 Responses to Doubt

I see mages handle doubt in three broad ways: Introspection, doublethink and focus.


Taylor (and many others) advocate exploring your reasons for doubt. “Why am I unsure I want that new job?” It’s hard to argue with the idea of exploring your inner conflicts.

For me, introspection works well for “do I want this” doubt, because at the end of the exploration, I’ll have figured out what I actually want, even if it’s not what I thought I wanted at first.

But it doesn’t work for “will this work” doubt. My doubts about energy healing, for example, are a logical conclusion drawn from past experience. Introspection will confirm that the doubts are, indeed, the logical conclusion to draw from those experiences. It will confirm the doubt, not eliminate it. And honestly, most peoples’ doubts about magick are also rational, and probably won’t wither from introspection.

In other words, when the doubt is an internal conflict, introspection is great. When the doubt is a rational response to past experience or insufficient evidence, introspection isn’t the right tool. But don’t worry, there are two others.

I’ve also used introspection to have a crisis of faith: I’d gathered enough data to have a firm belief in magick, but was having trouble eliminating doubts caused by my childhood and our culture. I’ll write about it at some point. But for today, the point is, introspection won’t work for rational doubts.


I’m not a fan of doublethink, but I see it used a lot, so I want to name it and discuss it.

Doublethink is where you simply ignore your doubts, and act as if you don’t have any. You train your mind to look somewhere else every time a doubt comes up, and willfully pretend to believe until your magick works. It’s useful for getting yourself to do things, but it’s also dangerous: As you practice believing things you know aren’t true, you’re training your mind to ignore that sense that things don’t quite add up. If you get really good, you won’t be able to tell the difference between real belief and forced belief. That’s scary. One of your greatest strengths in understanding the world is that sense that something doesn’t add up, and training yourself to ignore that sense can’t be a good idea.

So, if I can’t use introspection (because the doubt is rational), and I won’t pretend to believe, what do I do?


This is the main one I use. Instead of focusing on the end result (recovering from the injury, for example), I just focus on each step of the healing technique: Altering the signatures of the various energies, connecting them to the right pathways, and so on. Kind of like how an Olympic swimmer might just focus on his swimming technique, and not think about whether he’ll win or lose the race. Just focus on the steps, and trust that, if you get the steps right, the end result will take care of itself.

It works because I know I can change the signature of their energy, and I know I can alter the pathways that energy flows through, and all those other steps, because I’ve done them dozens of times before. So doubt isn’t a problem there, because my experience shows me that I can do all of those individual steps.

If you drive magick with belief, you’re probably wondering, “What about overall expectations?” Here’s where we need to separate internal ideas from external magickal structures. Ideas are in your head. In your ideas, what you expect to happen, will happen. It’s all in your own mind.

In contrast, magickal structures exist outside your mind, independently of your ideas. Energies, pathways, mental muscles, ethereal software, and most of the other things I talk about are magickal structures, rather than ideas. The continue existing and working even if you ignore them, and even if you expect them to stop. (Magickal structures are non-physical, though, so it’s easy to get them confused with ideas.)

For anyone wondering how thought directs magick: Your mental muscles connect to your mind and brain. They respond to your thoughts. Ethereal software does, too, sometimes. But that’s because those things go to the trouble of reading and responding to your thoughts — other magickal structures that don’t go to that trouble won’t respond to respond thoughts. OK, back to focusing.

So, magickal structures exist outside your thoughts, just like physical objects like computers and baseballs. And just like it doesn’t matter what you expect a baseball to do when it’s thrown (it will always follow the laws of physics), it doesn’t matter how you expect a particular energy signature to interact with a person’s cells, once that energy signature is set. It will just follow the laws of… whatever this art is we’re developing together, and either they’ll recover or they won’t, regardless of what you expect to happen. You just have to stay focused on setting the right signature and not get distracted by doubts in the big picture, the same as an Olympic swimmer needs to stay focused on his technique and not psych himself out by thinking about the other racers and where he’ll place.

If you read the series on how doubt affects manifesting, you know it’s a bit more complex than just not psyching yourself out. But not that much more complex.

So, that’s my general response to doubt: Focus on the steps, not the outcome. It works both for doubts that a particular technique will work, and for doubts about whether you want to do something. (Though it is a good idea to explore “do I want this” doubts, in case you don’t actually want it.)

Believing in Magick

What if you can’t quite find a belief in magick in general? Well, you don’t have to do it all at once. Just work through the first exercise, which is usually an energy meditation. Maybe will yourself to believe just that much of magick — that energy is real, that visualizing it will create it, and that it will make you feel something. Then do the exercise, and see what happens. The reslts will probably confirm that belief you willed yourself into, and you’ll develop a genuine belief in energy, and the tingly feeling it gives you. (Don’t worry about other properties of energy you haven’t experienced yet, you shouldn’t believe in those until you see them for yourself.)

What if you don’t feel tingly after a bunch of tries? Then you should adjust that belief, and stop believing in magickal energy. But I have a bunch of comments from folks it did work for, and I’m pretty confident it will work for you.

Now, use that belief (in tingly energy) for the second exercise, possibly willing yourself to believe in just one more piece of magick. Keep focusing on the one thing you’re trying to do, rather than trying to believe in all of magick all at once. Just build up one belief at a time, naturally, as you experience more magick. That way, you can develop a healthy belief in magick, know why you believe each thing you believe, and still keep your rational doubts around to protect you. That, I think, is the best approach.

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Overcoming Doubt in Your Magick

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

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3 techniques to overcome doubt, each more useful than “Fake it til you make it,” and how to recognize when doubt is healthy.

Kol asks:

Most teach “fake it ’til you make it” — for success as well as many magick practices. As you stated, doubt can kill any ‘magickal’ progress… where does belief (in self) come into play as to connecting with and/or somehow manipulating energy — energy within and without?

I think “fake it ’til you make it” is an easy answer that doesn’t require much understanding of how magick works, and it doesn’t work for a lot of people. It’s a cop out.

If you are so paralyzed by doubt that you don’t do anything, then absolutely, start faking it. To succeed, you must do the work. And if your magick starts working once you start faking it, then keep doing it.

But what if you’re faking it, but the “making it” isn’t happening? That’s when you need a technical understanding of how magick works.

Belief Communicates Intent

Let’s start by understanding how doubt prevents magick. I mean, doubt doesn’t prevent you from kicking a ball, writing a letter, watching a movie, etc. (It can make you procrastinate, or not put your full effort in, but it doesn’t flat out prevent you from doing it). So why is magick so impacted?

Magick is all about communicating your intent to your mental muscles, which then drive the magick. That intent can be an overall goal (heal this injury) or a specific procedure (connect to this tissue, fill it with this signature of energy). But at some point, your conscious mind has to tell your (unconscious) mental muscles what to do.

If you imagine energy flowing to the other person and healing the cut, but you’re also thinking “this is all bunk, nothing will happen,” then your mental muscles won’t get the right instruction. They’ll respond to your expectation (that nothing will happen), and not do anything.

That’s why doubt impacts magick so much: It interferes with even making your (mental) muscles move.

Mental Posture Beats Doubt

Now that we know the inner-workings of the problem, we can see the solution: Mental posture.

Your mental posture is how you hold your mind — which parts of your mind are engaged and paying attention. Once you can consciously engage your mental muscles, you can make sure they notice your visualization, and tell them to pay attention to the visualization, not the doubt in the back of your mind.

Click here for details on consciously controlling your mental posture. (Takes a couple hours to learn).

Rituals Beat Doubt

Learning mental posture requires that you can already work with energy. What if you can’t?

In that case, you’ll need outside help. And the most readily available sources of help are the forces that ritual mages channel. (I call them “systems”). Systems respond to specific ritual actions, so doing the LBRP will make a system connect to you, even if you don’t believe in magick. (Whether you’ll notice it without any magick training is another thing entirely).

Once connected, most ritual systems will start preparing your mind to notice and perform magick. So it’s a good way to bootstrap your magick if energy meditation isn’t working.

Click here for more on bootstrapping with rituals.

Testing Beats Doubt

Once you’re doing some magick, you’ll probably still doubt yourself sometimes. Good testing can help. Here are some posts on testing:

When Doubt is Healthy

Someone who never doubts anything is just as crazy as someone who thinks everything is a dream. If you’re trying a new technique or striving to do more advanced magick, it’s only rational to doubt the outcome.

If you tell your mental muscles the overall goal (“heal this person”), and let them fill in the details, that doubt will probably impact your results.

But if you step your mental muscles through the process (“connect to this tissue, make energy in this signature, etc”), then you can still be confident in each step, even as you doubt the overall goal. Remember, doubt impacts your ability to instruct your mental muscles, but doesn’t affect how the external world behaves. So doubting the end result won’t matter as long as you can accurately and confidently guide your mental muscles through each step.

When Belief Doesn’t Help

Your mental muscles inherently know some aspects of magick, but not others. Like how babies know how to walk (even before they’re strong enough), but you need training to do gymnastics. If you’re trying to get your mental muscles to do something simple, like building energy in your body, then belief can help. But if you’re trying to get them to do something complex, like make good sensory connections, then you also have to train your mental muscles.

Click here for details on training your mental muscles.

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