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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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