Posts Tagged ‘ExplainingMagick’

I’m Becoming More Closeted

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

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I’ve decided to become slightly more closeted about magick. Not a lot, but I’m going to get to know friends better before bringing it up. My reasoning is simple: Delaying the conversation will convince more people.

When someone disagrees with you in a fundamental way, you have two choices. You can either change your beliefs, or you can believe they are wrong.

If I had never experienced magick, which scenario would I think was more likely? That’s easy: I’d think the person was wrong, probably overly-credulous and deluded by the confirmation bias, or perhaps lying, or maybe just nuts. And I would be totally rational in that belief — the problem would be my lack of mystical experiences, not any sort of faulty reasoning.

But, if I knew a person well, and knew them as a rational, sensible, scientifically-minded person, I would consider their ideas thoroughly before concluding they were wrong. I’d give them a chance to demonstrate, and give them a fair shake of it, paying attention to subtle effects and not demanding instant and unreasonably-obvious proof.

And that’s why I’m becoming more closeted, and choosing when to tell friends about magick on a case-by-case basis: Because a close friend can change minds in ways that an acquaintance cannot.


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Politely Leaving the Mysterious, Mysterious

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

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There are three ideas floating around my thoughts today.

First, a comment from Simon on a recent post:

I used to be impressed by big meaty looking books about magick and then I read ‘magic simplified’ by Draja Mickaharic which is about 150 pages and has enough work in it to keep most people busy for several decades. Was one of the points where it really hit me properly that magic about doing- experiencing- testing out not reading endless theory. I’d heard it before and thought I understood it but realized I hadn’t.

In particular, I’m thinking about the difference between doing vs endless theory.

Second, a movie from several years ago, Finding Forrester, where Sean Connery plays a reclusive writer (William) who never leaves his apartment:

Jamal: You ever go outside to do any of this?

William: You should have stayed with the soup question. The object of a question is to obtain information that matters only to us. You were wondering why your soup doesn’t firm up? Probably because your mother  was brought up in a house…that never wasted milk in soup. That question was a good one, in contrast to, “Do I ever go outside?” which fails to meet the criteria of obtaining information that matters to you.

Jamal: All right. I guess I don’t have any more soup questions.

Third, a common line of questions I get when telling people about spirits: Where do spirits live? Where do they come from? Do they know what happens when we die?

When I get questions like that, I’m torn three ways:

  • Part of me wants to reward the curiosity and explain everything, even though I know that the curiosity should be channeled into their own exploration, and that sating their curiosity will do them a disservice.
  • Another part wants to give non-answers, to be polite and give fake wisdom and keep them curious. This also leads to a much shorter conversation where we can both enjoy the wonder of the universe, rather than a long explanation of technical details of magick, which usually isn’t as fun with most people.
  • And part of me wants to tell them to focus on soup questions, though I don’t have any idea how to do this politely.

I don’t have an answer, but more and more, I’m realizing that you, my readers, can provide amazing answers if I just ask the right question. So today, I’m asking: What do you do when friends push you for the deep answers of your style of magick, ones that would normally be revealed to initiates only once they can experience those parts of magick themselves?

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Evidence-Based Magick

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

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I just figured out how to introduce non-mages to direct magick. Last night I was at a meetup with a few pagans and a lot of non-magickal folks, and I was more interested in letting everyone get to know me than in making polite-but-shallow connections. So, I tried something new:

“I do energy healing, but focused on testing and verifiable results.” Most folks asked follow-up questions and seemed genuinely interested. It went over really well. Feel free to borrow the phrase.

Based on that, I’m thinking of a new tagline (at the top of the page, below “Magick of Thought”). What do you think of:

  • Evidence-based energy healing, manifesting and other magick.
  • Results-focused magick for energy healing, manifesting and more.
  • Magick focused on testing and verifiable results.

Which do you like best? Why? Also, you can like the first half of one (“evidence-based” vs “results-focused”) and the second half of another. And feel free to suggest another phrase.


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Can You Reprogram Cthulhu?

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

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Mages sometimes say that “energy can neither be created or destroyed,” applying a principal of physics::energy to magick::energy.

That’s a computer science notation to make it clear when I’m talking about physics energy vs magickal energy.

There’s a term for this logical fallacy. Something like “arguing by terms,” where you called something energy, and then assume it has the properties of other things called energy.

I’m writing an article on reprogramming ethereal software, and I’m trying to make it clear that I first discovered you could reprogram it, then decided to call it software as a metaphor. That, even if you call it an egregore, or The Universe, or Cthulhu, it would still have all the same properties. Because the external world doesn’t care what you call it.

But words have power. They influence how we think about problems, how we use our tools, and how we explore the world.

When someone explains the properties of a thing based on “what it is” (which really means the metaphor they’ve picked for it), they’re probably arguing from terms. If they tell you “You can’t reprogram Cthulhu,” tell them “You shouldn’t name something Cthulhu if it can be reprogrammed.”

That’s why I often ask commenters, “What have you seen that makes you believe that’s true?”

The hard part is asking that of yourself. Because it’s just as easy to pick a metaphor yourself, then build on the metaphor, without doing the actual testing. In my first decade practicing magick, before learning proper sensory connections, I’d propose un-tested metaphors constantly. It really held me back.

As with most things, the key isn’t to never reason from a metaphor. The key is to realize when you’re doing it, go back, and do the testing.

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Explaining Magick to Non-Mages

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

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Taylor posted recently about being open with his magickal practice, even among non-mages, and even at work. He’s braver than I am in that regard.

I’m not going to say that you should be open about your practice. I’m not open with mine, not at work. But a question has been on my mind: If you choose to talk about magick with non-mages, what’s the best way to do it?

I don’t have an answer to that yet. But I do have a few thoughts so far:

First, there is a difference between discussing technical magick vs pagan religions. I’m not saying one is easier than the other, but they require different strategies.

When you’re discussing pagan rituals, as long as you cast them as religious rites, most civilized people will treat them with some level of deference. We’re allowed to believe unscientific things in the context of religion. (I feel for the pagans that live in rural communities. I know this politeness doesn’t apply everywhere.)

But I don’t have that recipe for discussing magick. Because to me, it’s not a religion. It’s a science. And I’m sure there’s some good way to present it, but I can’t bootstrap on the deference most people show to religious beliefs.

Second, even within the pagan community, I’ve had poor results talking about the ideas behind direct magick. If I say that direct magick is about getting results without rituals, or understanding the building blocks of magick, I mostly get a shrug. I think the approach I’m taking on this blog — talking about results I’m aiming toward, grounded in results I’m getting now — is probably a better approach.

So, for non-mages, I’m thinking to cast myself as a healer, and discussing practical projects. You could do something similar if your main work was with manifesting, and talk about divining the future. Make the discussion about concrete things you’ve done and are working toward, not the general idea of magick.

Third, everything needs testing. And practice. I’m thinking Toastmasters is a good venue. It’s outside of work and your social circle, so there’s not too much at risk if you come off as a nutter. It’s designed for practice with public speaking, so you’re guaranteed time to speak and supportive feedback (hopefully).

In the coming weeks, I’m going to try out Toastmasters for discussing magick, and write up my experiences. If you’d like to join in this experiment, there’s probably a Toastmasters in your town. If you do, write up your experiences in the comments, and we’ll trade strategies and figure this thing out.

Other thoughts or experiences in telling people about magick? Please share.

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Servitors, Minds and Maxwell’s Equations

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

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The difference between a real explanation and a curiosity stopper.

An enormous bolt of electricity comes out of the sky, and the Norse tribesfolk say, “Maybe a really powerful agent was angry and threw a lightning bolt.” The complexity of anger, and indeed the complexity of intelligence, was glossed over by the humans who hypothesized Thor the thunder-agent. To a human, Maxwell’s Equations feel much more complicated than Thor.

*Taken from Less Wrong, with light editing.

The human mind has special modules for simulating other minds. We needed them to understand tribal politics — keeping track of friends and enemies, knowing who to trust, etc. That module lets us unconsciously simulate anything as a mind with its own desires and goals, whether it’s Thor, water “wanting” to flow downhill, or the Coca-Cola corporation “deciding” what to sell.

When we hear an explanation involving an intentional agent (that is, someone or something that acts with an intent), we use that mind-simulating module. It’s unconscious, so we don’t realize how complex “Thor” is. In general, explanations that invoke intentional agents feel simple, and feel like a very likely explanation, even when they’re incredibly complex and incredibly unlikely.

I can’t tell if this flaw in human reasoning is immediately obvious. If it’s not, read this article from my favorite philosophy of science blog, then come back for the magick discussion.

I’ve been reading about servitors because I’m thinking of renaming “systems” as “universal servitors.” (Also considering “etherial software” and “intelligent forces”). The articles I’ve read describe servitors as intelligent, causative agents. Essentially, servitors are minds. You make a servitor by focusing your mind on what you want the servitor to do, imbue it with life, and send it out to do its job.

Say that out loud and you’ll feel like “How do servitors work?” is an answered question.

But try to break each step down into its constituent parts, then simulate that all in your mind, like you would a series of chess moves, the operation of a car engine, or the execution of a piece of software. I can’t do it. I can’t go from “the servitor is an intelligent agent” to a step-by-step explanation of what it does, any more than I can go from “Thor is angry” to Maxwell’s Equations.

Invoking a mind produces a curiosity-stopper, rather than a path to a systematic explanation of how magick works.

Does that matter? Well, if you just want to produce magickal results using standard techniques, then a curiosity-stopper is fine. But if your goal is to understand how magick works under the hood and create a magickal equivalent of Maxwell’s Equations, then you need to be hungry for real answers, not fake-satisfied with a curiosity-stopper.

Note: Quick post today since I’m working on a series on the essence of direct magick, which hopefully starts next week.

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The Milo Criterion

Monday, September 26th, 2011

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This post is about teaching direct magick. If that’s not your cup of tea, feel free to skip it. There’s no technical magick content.

I read post today on the Milo Criterion. Here’s the key section:

There is a saying that goes back to Milo of Crotonlift a calf everyday and when you grow up, you can lift a cow. The story goes that Milo, a famous wrestler in ancient Greece, gained his immense strength by lifting a newborn calf one day when he was a boy, and then lifting it every day as it grew. In a few years, he was able to lift the grown cow. The calf grew into a cow at about the rate that Milo grew into a man. A rather freakish man apparently, since grown cows can weigh over 1000 lb. The point is, the calf grew old along with the boy.

I call it the Milo Criterion: products must mature no faster than the rate at which users can adapt.

That post is about business, web startups, and the like. (That’s my other life). But it applies to spreading any new idea: You can’t add complexity faster than your readers can absorb it (and play with it).

Of course, the idea in your head can grow as fast as you want. And it should. You’ll develop your own capabilities faster, and also write better if you know where you’re going and what pitfalls readers need to avoid.

But you can’t write about the idea faster than readers can absorb it.

That’s simple in a book: You start on page 1 and build from there. Less so in a blog. Right now, I’m thinking of doing a series, starting at “magick is a ritual, where you send your intent out and let it manifest,” and building up to the core ideas of direct magick.

What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know.

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What I Learned from Testing My Handshake Intro

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

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In this post:

  • Results from testing my handshake introduction
  • How to use those lessons to improve your handshake intro
  • How to explain what you do after the handshake


A few posts ago, I showed you how to make a handshake introduction: A quick description of what you do that gets the other person to ask “Really?  Tell me more.”  My handshake intro was “I do magick like a spirit.”

Last week, I road-tested my handshake intro with some pagans, Thelemites and other mages while visiting Seattle.  Here’s what I learned:

  • The handshake introduction worked OK, but could be better.
  • You must have a practiced explanation to answer the “Tell me more” you just prompted.

This post will show you how to use those lessons, with examples I’m developing.  If you like my intros and explanations, and they’re accurate for what you do, feel free to use them.

My Road-Testing

“I do magick like a spirit” produces the follow-on question, but not the right emotion in the listener.  They seem confused, rather than intrigued.

Here’s why: Most mages never think about how spirits do magick.

It’s not enough for your audience to know each term you use.  They have to understand the concept or image you’re creating, and why it matters.

How To Improve a Handshake Introduction

Let’s go back to what I want to convey: That I drive magick with my own mind (rather than by channeling outside forces), that I direct each step consciously, and that this gives me better control and better results.

My first time, I jumped into wordsmithing.  First I tried a summary (which was bad).  Then I tried a simple statement (“I do magick like a spirit”).  This time, I’m going to try creating an image.

“I do magick by controlling its building blocks.”  I like building blocks.  It’s simple, lends itself to images and metaphors, and feels playful.  It’s also accurate: I work with connections, energy signatures, and the other small units that make up effects.  Now I just need a better verb.

A few tries later: “I construct new techniques from magick’s building blocks.”  The terms are simple, and the overall concept is clear even if you don’t get each piece.  It would make me curious about how the person does it.  Hopefully it will make my audience curious, too.

After the Handshake

So, your handshake intro did its job.  They asked “Really?  How does that work?”

Don’t wing it.  I’ve written 100s of pages about magick, how my style works, etc.  But without a cheatsheet, I confused my audience even worse.

I found that you need to walk the listener from your handshake intro to your explanation.  If you skip straight to what you do, you lose your audience.  Once I outlined that walk, my explanation became much smoother.

So, after preparing your handshake intro, outline what to talk about following the questions you expect to get.  Here are some examples to get you started.


Here’s the outline I learned to use following “I do magick like a spirit”:

  • Most mages channel forces or invoke spirits to do magick.
  • Those spirits drive magick themselves, without outside help.
  • That’s how I do magick: By connecting the parts of the mind that drive magick to the conscious mind.

(You would expand each of those points into a full explanation, at the right level for your audience).

For “I construct new techniques from magick’s building blocks,” they might ask about the building blocks or about how to build techniques.  Here’s my plan for the follow-on outline.

If they ask about building blocks:

  • They’re the small units of magick: Connections, energy signatures, etc.
  • Most mages focus on the big picture, using a visual or ritual to distract their conscious, while their unconscious handles the details.
  • I consciously watch the building blocks of magick and figure out how to use them to produce specific effects like [whatever I want to talk about].

If they ask about building new techniques:

  • All magick techniques work by altering the building blocks: Connections, energy signatures, etc.
  • Most mages don’t worry about those details.  They use standard rituals and visualizations to communicate their intent, while their unconscious handles the details.
  • There’s a lot you can do once you consciously direct your mind how to work with each building block, instead of letting the unconscious do whatever comes naturally.
  • For example, [whatever I want to talk about].
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