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[Opinion] Pseudo-Scientific Explanations in Magic

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I've heard some people say that magick works by "tipping the scales" i.e increasing or decreasing the likelihood of certain events. I very much dislike this idea. So those who subscribe to this idea, why not get two slips of paper, inscribe on them each pposing symbols and then invoking the symbols of one or the other? Get a kitchen scale, make sure they weigh the same and are folded in the same way to ensure a near 50/50 chance.

I absolutely despise how little thought some people seem to put into the mechanics of Magick. Many people seem to just smash things together, lead entirely by vibes and tradition, while the actual mechanics of their work seem to just be an afterthought. At this point it seems that far too many people use their hypothesis on magickal mechanics, more so as a justification for the traditions from which they draw their practice rather than as a genuine path of inquiry.

As someone really new to the practice of Magick, it gets genuinely frustrating asking experienced practitioners about the mechanics of magick, and only getting back several terrible explanations of the double slit experiment.

It's okay not to know, but I'm tired of the pseudoscience.
Sowwy
 

Promise

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It's an interesting coincidence that I was thinking along similar lines earlier today.

I think there are a variety mechanisms at play.
These include:
1) Active Meaning Search
2) Whole Brain Activation
3) Intentional State Shifts
4) Shifting to being at Cause (rather than at effect)
5) Access of dormant brain mechanisms
6) Attraction Theory, which is saying that as ideas build up associational neuro networks, other ideas are attracted to them.
7) Stimulus response associations to symbols
8) Layers of meaning
9) Multi Sensory Involvement
10) All of the above generates a depth of belief in desired positive outcomes.
11) This causes the Reticular Activating System to start to notice anything related.
12) Magical working great also give us access to different points ts of view.
13) All of this combined creates an expectation set
14) The expectation set adjusts the practitioners behavior in small and large ways which tend to create a different response from the environment
15) The shifted response from the environment feeds back into #1, causing an amification loop.

This is only a partial description, and does not take so many other factors into account, and can likely be refined much further, etc.

I think it's a good partial theory. I fully own that at very best it on describes a small portion of how it works. I just summoned it out of the ethers just now, so could have a nu.bers of thi go wrong. All that aside, seems like a new angle to look at some magical effects through.
 

Robert Ramsay

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I've heard some people say that magick works by "tipping the scales" i.e increasing or decreasing the likelihood of certain events. I very much dislike this idea. So those who subscribe to this idea, why not get two slips of paper, inscribe on them each pposing symbols and then invoking the symbols of one or the other? Get a kitchen scale, make sure they weigh the same and are folded in the same way to ensure a near 50/50 chance.

I absolutely despise how little thought some people seem to put into the mechanics of Magick. Many people seem to just smash things together, lead entirely by vibes and tradition, while the actual mechanics of their work seem to just be an afterthought. At this point it seems that far too many people use their hypothesis on magickal mechanics, more so as a justification for the traditions from which they draw their practice rather than as a genuine path of inquiry.

As someone really new to the practice of Magick, it gets genuinely frustrating asking experienced practitioners about the mechanics of magick, and only getting back several terrible explanations of the double slit experiment.

It's okay not to know, but I'm tired of the pseudoscience.
Sowwy
I can understand your frustration; the truth is that almost everything that is touted as an explanation of magic, is actually just a model for magic.

I also feel I can accurately say that I am one of the only two magicians (that I know of) who have attempted a serious scientific explanation of magic. It took me thirty years to get to this point, so it's not surprising most "explanations" end up as half-assed scientism.

The metaphor that I use is that of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. The book contains all possible versions of all possible outcomes already, but you are only capable of seeing the one route of choices that you make. There will be other versions of you that make different choices and take different paths.

The mechanism of magic derived from this is that you do not change the universe; you end up experiencing the version where it is changed.

We choose things every day; what to eat, where to go, etc. Magic uses the same choosing mechanism, but we program ourselves (with ritual, sigil, whatever) to make the choice that takes us to a different outcome purely by what state our minds are in.

If you like you can think of it as your brain being in a certain state which corresponds to you experiencing the successful outcome, which you have worked towards by programming your intent via a belief system of some kind.

I tend to sum this up as "Magic is an 'exploit' of normal human consciousness".

I would like to emphasise that the book metaphor above is ONLY a metaphor. The actual science behind it is too small to fit in this margin :D That's why I wrote a book.

I would also like to state that I do not believe in the supernatural at all in any way. Everything we call 'supernatural' is a thing that we just don't understand yet, and the fact that we call it supernatural just throws into sharp relief how little we understand it.
Post automatically merged:

It's an interesting coincidence that I was thinking along similar lines earlier today.

I think there are a variety mechanisms at play.
These include:
1) Active Meaning Search
2) Whole Brain Activation
3) Intentional State Shifts
4) Shifting to being at Cause (rather than at effect)
5) Access of dormant brain mechanisms
6) Attraction Theory, which is saying that as ideas build up associational neuro networks, other ideas are attracted to them.
7) Stimulus response associations to symbols
8) Layers of meaning
9) Multi Sensory Involvement
10) All of the above generates a depth of belief in desired positive outcomes.
11) This causes the Reticular Activating System to start to notice anything related.
12) Magical working great also give us access to different points ts of view.
13) All of this combined creates an expectation set
14) The expectation set adjusts the practitioners behavior in small and large ways which tend to create a different response from the environment
15) The shifted response from the environment feeds back into #1, causing an amification loop.

This is only a partial description, and does not take so many other factors into account, and can likely be refined much further, etc.

I think it's a good partial theory. I fully own that at very best it on describes a small portion of how it works. I just summoned it out of the ethers just now, so could have a nu.bers of thi go wrong. All that aside, seems like a new angle to look at some magical effects through.
I would boil a lot of this down to:

A belief system is embedded in the brain
Once embedded, it allows you to create expectation at a subconscious level (so that you believe the thing you are aiming for without question)
The programmed expectation adjusts what you experience (in small and large ways) until such point as you (hopefully) experience the successful outcome.

There are some other things in this list that are definitely useful, but I would hesitate to put them in sequence. I know you just jotted them down, so I'm not expecting a PhD thesis :D

I understand how it's tempting to include a feedback loop from the environment (14 & 15), but it is not required, and indeed, any feedback obtained before the completion of the magical act can actually be detrimental.

I believe that the brain mechanism we use is the reward/action loop, controlled by the striatum.

When we first develop a habit, the prefrontal cortex (where it’s generally agreed our conscious thinking gets done) is involved in the formation of the habit, but if we repeat the habit enough times, the prefrontal cortex no longer activates, leaving only the reward/action parts of the loop. This 'autopilot' functions best when the conscious mind is not involved (Try thinking about how you are riding a bike whilst riding it, and it suddenly gets more difficult)
 
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pixel_fortune

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I really strongly agree with part of what you said and moderately disagree with another part.

it gets genuinely frustrating asking experienced practitioners about the mechanics of magick, and only getting back several terrible explanations of the double slit experiment.
I don't have anything to add, just nodding vigorously, pseudoscience and in particular bad quantum physics make me so mad. (On the plus side, I now have quite a good understanding of eg quantum entanglement, SOLELY motivated by getting irritated by all the pseudoscience and being like "that's it, I am going to learn exactly how and why you are wrong, I don't care how much it makes my brain hurt." So I guess that's a bonus)

I also really hate pseudohistory - eg some atheists, in their attempt to discredit Christianity, will say Jesus is the same as such-and-such Egyptian god, and then they will tell a bunch of lies about that God to make it fit (eg they will say Horus was born to a virgin on the 25th of December or whatever). But pagans do it too.

I absolutely despise how little thought some people seem to put into the mechanics of Magick
This is where I don't agree. I hate pseudoscience, but I don't hate unscientific things that aren't trying to be science.

It is actually all the pseudoscience that made me think science was not the right model to apply to magic.

It felt to me like people were insecure in their magical practice and so desperately needed science to legitimise it. And I thought "no, magic is what it is, I'm not insecure in my practice, I don't need external validation". (I don't think so scientific approaches to magic are insecure, but when the science is BAD that's what it looks like. Eg someone quoting a study with four participants that wasn't double blind and has never been replicated as proof that remote viewing works, or whatever - you'd have to be desperate to use that as your source).

I come from an atheist background, and I was not able to practice magic for a long time, even though I found it beautiful and meaningful, because frankly it doesn't stand up to scientific testing, and never has. The only way I was able to become a magician was to decide "okay, scientific rigour is important to me, but it's not the only thing that's important to me. Beauty and meaning are important to me too. I can prioritise them in my life as well". Basically I decided to stop caring that it doesn't stand up to science, I decided it belonged to a different logic, and that opened the door for me.

I'm not criticising people who have a (good) scientific approach to magic, I'm just saying there is another valid approach, which is more about mysticism, ecstasy, beauty, etc.

It's like... If you're expecting a cup of hot chocolate and you take a sip and it's coffee, it'll taste weird and terrible, but there's nothing wrong with coffee. People who have chosen an artistic rather than scientific approach to magic are serving coffee, not bad hot chocolate.

(That said, everything I'm describing is taking a very thoughtful approach and choosing something else - not just mindlessly not caring, which is what you're talking about)
Post automatically merged:

@Robert Ramsay - I was actually just going to recommend your book, and will do so now.

@Trialectical_Materialist to be more helpful, two people who I think have made very serious attempts at a scientific approach to magic are

Scott Stenwick (creator of operant field theory - not scientific despite the name, but a model of how the LBRP, LBRH etc with together)
Here's part 1 of his series on his theory:
Please, Log in or Register to view URLs content!

and
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which has links to all the parts. I know that's a lot to read but... well, it should be, if it's taking a serious and rigorous approach!
Please, Log in or Register to view URLs content!


And then also the book Postmodern Magic by Patrick Dunn - Robert would probably say this is more of a model than science but it is nevertheless attempting real rigour and so I think you would appreciate it's approach

I haven't read Robert's book (because of my aforementioned deliberate choice not to involve science in my practice), so I can't directly recommend it, but he comes across on the forums as a grounded and intelligent person who I have never seen spout pseudoscience, so I think it would be worth your while
 
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HoldAll

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You might want to read Olav Hammer's "Claiming Knowledge: Strategies of Epistemology from Theosophy to the New Age" (it's also in the Library) if you can stomach the scholarly jargon who deals whith the phenomenon of scientism in occultism in Ch. 5:

"Scientism is the active positioning of one’s own claims in relation to the manifestations of any academic scientific discipline, including, but not limited to, the use of technical devices, scientific terminology, mathematical calculations, theories, references and stylistic features—without, however, the use of methods generally approved within the scientific community, and without subsequent social acceptance of these manifestations by the mainstream of the scientific community through e.g. peer reviewed publication in academic journals."

This and similar books (currently struggling with §Modern Occult Rhetoric: Mass Media and the Drama of Secrecy in the Twentieth Century" by Joshua Gunn) have convinced me that all such theories only employ quantum mechanics, probability calculations and whatnot as a way of convincing people (i.e. rhetoric) and not so much as proof of the supposed underlying principles of magic.

While Crowley and Dion Fortune (who worked some time as a psychotherapist) introduced psychology into magic and thus influenced generations of writers which came after them, it was not until chaos magick and Peter J. Carroll (a chemist by training) came along when the influence of 'hard sciences' made itself really felt in magical theory. For a time, every chaos magick writer was positively delirious about the perceived justification for magic quantum mechanics and chaos theory seemed to offer, and this phenomenon has left its mark, even though the general enthusiasm of the Eighties and Nineties has died down since and many authors have returned to the traditional spirit model since.

My gripe with quantum mechanics explanations is just because subatomic particles act in a weird way, this doesn't mean that everyday life could behave in similar ways if you know where to insert the right lever, so to speak. Sadly and predictably, many occultist piously bleated "So above, so below; so below, so above", as if the wave-particle duality suddenly had to apply to e.g. apples as well, you know, dude, it's a fucking Hermetic law!

Probability, however, is another matter. Everybody weighs their chances, assesses the likelihood of events occurring, says "Odds are...", and the yardstick in this is common sense. "Tipping the scales" is such a commonsensical explanation, not a description of the actual mechanisms involved, and we may have to accept that we will never arrive at one. When some random author says that winning the lottery by magic is impossible because magic would merely reduce the odds from 1:50 million to 1:10 million, I have no problem with that. It's just an illustration of the unlikelihood of a win. Does that necessarily mean that I will be 100% unsuccessful in my lottery working? Not necessarily and least of all because some supposed magico-mathematical 'law of chance'. On the other hand, any author trying to convince me that he/she has a surefire magical method of winning the lottery is a fraudster, as anyone here would agree.

As for how magic really works, we are still groping in the dark. There may be numerous models and paradigms but the old adage applies: "The map is not the territory." Equations of magical probability such as these espoused by Peter J. Carroll are just another way of proposing 'laws of magic', in itself something we might term 'legalisticism', e.g. using the venerable language of jurisprudence to vindicate an author's pet theories. In reality, all we have is empiricism - X happens when I do Y but I only can suspect that it happened for reason Z; for an explanation I might use ill-fitting analogies and respectable sounding theories borrowed from mainstream science or the humanities that are currently in fashion but it would be a folly to assume that I have suddenly a handle on all things magical.
 

pixel_fortune

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I wrote that confusingly - Scott Stenwick, who you might have heard of because of his
Please, Log in or Register to view URLs content!
, also wrote a much less famous series of blog posts on Quantum Information Theory, which does not slip into pseudoscience and acknowledges honestly the places where we simply don't have answers
 

Robert Ramsay

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In reality, all we have is empiricism - X happens when I do Y but I only can suspect that it happened for reason Z
This is why my book is called "The Engineering of Coincidence" and not "The Science of Coincidence" :D
Post automatically merged:

@Robert Ramsay - I was actually just going to recommend your book, and will do so now.
Thank you!
@Trialectical_Materialist to be more helpful, two people who I think have made very serious attempts at a scientific approach to magic are

Scott Stenwick (creator of operant field theory - not scientific despite the name, but a model of how the LBRP, LBRH etc with together)
Here's part 1 of his series on his theory:
Please, Log in or Register to view URLs content!

and
Please, Log in or Register to view URLs content!
which has links to all the parts. I know that's a lot to read but... well, it should be, if it's taking a serious and rigorous approach!
Please, Log in or Register to view URLs content!


And then also the book Postmodern Magic by Patrick Dunn - Robert would probably say this is more of a model than science but it is nevertheless attempting real rigour and so I think you would appreciate it's approach

I haven't read Robert's book (because of my aforementioned deliberate choice not to involve science in my practice), so I can't directly recommend it, but he comes across on the forums as a grounded and intelligent person who I have never seen spout pseudoscience, so I think it would be worth your while
Thanks for the recommendations - I've read Dunn, but not for ages, so maybe I will read it again. Not heard of Stenwick - will get on that right away. And thanks once again for the kind words :)
 

HoldAll

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Let's not forget Stephen Colbert's concept of "truthiness":

"Truthiness is the belief or assertion that a particular statement is true based on the intuition or perceptions of some individual or individuals, without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts. Truthiness can range from ignorant assertions of falsehoods to deliberate duplicity or propaganda intended to sway opinions." (Wikipedia)

Whole NewAge bestsellers are based on the truthiness of great-sounding ideas where again the esoteric rhetoric comes in - just because something sounds cool doesn't make it true in actual fact.

I've just uploaded a file by Dave Lee called 'Magick and Physics' y'all might want to get your collective teeth into.:):):)

 

Robert Ramsay

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I've just uploaded a file by Dave Lee called 'Magick and Physics' y'all might want to get your collective teeth into.:):):)

I haven't got past the first page and I want to punch him already.

Honestly, give a monkey a brain and he'll swear he's the centre of the Universe.
 

pixel_fortune

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believe that the brain mechanism we use is the reward/action loop, controlled by the striatum.

When we first develop a habit, the prefrontal cortex (where it’s generally agreed our conscious thinking gets done) is involved in the formation of the habit, but if we repeat the habit enough times, the prefrontal cortex no longer activates, leaving only the reward/action parts of the loop.
Oh hm so this is interesting! (I know I know, I just said I wouldn't get involved with science)

So, people with ADHD are bad at forming habits, in particular because of something wrong with their basal ganglia (where the striatum is, for others wondering why I bring it up) and either a shortage of dopamine or some issue in its uptake etc (i got the impression from one thing I read that neurons are kind of "fumbling the pass")

(It also has some weird underdiscussed effects because dopamine is related to, for eg, your sense of time)

Many things that become automatic for neurotypicals never do for people with ADHD. To use the classic example from habit literature, I have to remember to brush my teeth every night like you might have to remember to, say, take a particular object to work that you don't usually take with you. It's not difficult to remember or do, but it's not automated.

(I am generalising, ADHD is complex and multifactorial, and it is expressed differently in different people - but it is genetic and physiological)

So if your theory were correct, I would expect people with ADHD to be bad at magic. I have no idea if that's true!

The fact that I'm not doesn't mean anything, I'm a single individual and people with ADHD have different struggles. And it would be hard to separate out factors (are they bad at magic because of their broken reward loop, or because they're bad at routines and habits so they never practice or focus properly?). And it's not like we even know how to test that in neurotypicals.

Or maybe they're just as good, but as with so much of ADHD, it's just more effortful (the prefrontal cortex never gets to stop being involved)
 

Robert Ramsay

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Oh hm so this is interesting! (I know I know, I just said I wouldn't get involved with science)

So, people with ADHD are bad at forming habits, in particular because of something wrong with their basal ganglia (where the striatum is, for others wondering why I bring it up) and either a shortage of dopamine or some issue in its uptake etc (i got the impression from one thing I read that neurons are kind of "fumbling the pass")

(It also has some weird underdiscussed effects because dopamine is related to, for eg, your sense of time)

Many things that become automatic for neurotypicals never do for people with ADHD. To use the classic example from habit literature, I have to remember to brush my teeth every night like you might have to remember to, say, take a particular object to work that you don't usually take with you. It's not difficult to remember or do, but it's not automated.

(I am generalising, ADHD is complex and multifactorial, and it is expressed differently in different people - but it is genetic and physiological)

So if your theory were correct, I would expect people with ADHD to be bad at magic. I have no idea if that's true!

The fact that I'm not doesn't mean anything, I'm a single individual and people with ADHD have different struggles. And it would be hard to separate out factors (are they bad at magic because of their broken reward loop, or because they're bad at routines and habits so they never practice or focus properly?). And it's not like we even know how to test that in neurotypicals.

Or maybe they're just as good, but as with so much of ADHD, it's just more effortful (the prefrontal cortex never gets to stop being involved)
This is fascinating stuff!

I would definitely say "just more difficult" - you still have a functioning reward system, it just needs poking more often!
 

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There's a not-yet-validated exploratory treatment method that involves doing cross-body exercises and balancing (crossbody like , throwing a ball back and forth between your hands, yoga where your limbs cross your midline) because that's also your basal ganglia, and that increasing size/connections there through other means might inadvertently help the ADHD.

I should develop some sort of neurology based magic brain strengthening yoga routine then sprinkle it in extra pseudoscience and sell it on etsy
 

HoldAll

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There's a not-yet-validated exploratory treatment method that involves doing cross-body exercises and balancing (crossbody like , throwing a ball back and forth between your hands, yoga where your limbs cross your midline) because that's also your basal ganglia, and that increasing size/connections there through other means might inadvertently help the ADHD.

I should develop some sort of neurology based magic brain strengthening yoga routine then sprinkle it in extra pseudoscience and sell it on etsy
Erm... ADHD is not the subject of this thread, just saying...
 

SkullTraill

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The simple fact is that science and our understanding of the world and physical phenomena has vastly increased over the last 100 or so years. We cannot apply the same rigour and method to understanding the occult, for one of 2 reasons. Either the occult/magick was nonsense all along, and the fact that it cannot be proven or consistently observed or explained scientifically in any way means it simply does not exist, and was a mere stop gap in the constantly evolving human understanding of the physical world.

Alternatively, you can subscribe to the school of thought that the occult/magick is something that is completely beyond human comprehension, even beyond any sapient comprehension. That's an idea that is really difficult for most people to grasp, as with the aforementioned progress in science and human understanding, it's often used as a support system that at one point in the past, nothing was understood, and now in the present many things are understood, so that is taken to mean that in the future all things will be understood. That is simply not true.

There are many things which can never be understood. There are complicated examples I can give you, and there are simple examples I can give you. Humans (or any 3 dimensional intelligence) will never be able to fully comprehend or visualise higher dimensional objects. Yes, we can easily describe/measure/compute them mathematically, through which we can understand certain properties and behaviours of these higher dimensional objects, but we can never, ever visualise them or understand what they actually look like. For the same reason we can't point a finger in the direction of a 4th spatial dimension. It will never be possible for us to even imagine a dimension that is orthogonal to all 3 of our current spatial dimensions.

In the same way, we can never hope to understand what a photon (or anything close to that physical scale) would look like, because we use photons to see. We cannot bounce a photon off another photon to see what a photon looks like. Forget about the things that are smaller. So every depiction we have of a smaller particle is simply an aesthetic representation of the mathematics we use to compute the properties and behaviours of these particles.

Same goes for things like black holes, where we can never experiment or observe what truly happens behind the event horizon, because we will never be able to travel faster than or communicate faster than the speed of light. I see a lot of uneducated people cry and whine that "there must be a way to travel faster than light, there were so many things we thought were impossible in the past that now we have discovered are possible" - but no. It is simply a property of this universe that nothing travels faster than the speed of light. Our human intuition has been wrong often, throughout history, but maths has not been. We have discovered new ways to do math, sure, but really those only change what was previously uncomputable. We can already prove now that traveling faster than the speed of light through space is simply the equivalent of time travel (you can think of it like this - light already travels infinitely fast, but we observe it to travel at a finite speed because that is the speed of propagation of our universe, sort of like the speed of time itself, absent anything slowing it down).

The reason we have wave-particle dualities, singularities (infinities, black holes), imaginary numbers, objects with properties that are counter intuitive and can never be observed (like fermions having 1/2 spin, meaning they have to be rotated 720º to return to the original position as opposed to 360º) is because there are so many things going on under the hood that we are not only oblivious to, but that we will forever be oblivious to, due to them being so completely outside our plane of comprehension.

All this to say, when we perform magick, even if we follow the steps 100% perfectly, we know that we don't achieve success 100% of the time. Either that is because magick simply does not work 100% of the time, or because we don't have 100% of the knowledge to perform magick. As in, there are hidden variables, perhaps that we can never know, in the same way we can never know what a 4th spatial dimension would look like. Ultimately, the result is the same. It's a game of chance, and we have to play to probabilities either in the method, or in the result.

Maybe if we lived in a 9358.4 dimensional universe, everything would make sense. There would be no mathematical singularities or infinities, we could see inside black holes, and we would completely understand how magick works. But we don't. Most people are not equiped to handle this sort of limitation, and certainly most people who try to explain magick don't even know anything about the science and jargon they are using aside from a few youtube videos or books they read. Let alone philosophical concepts like the absolute limit of understanding that I described above.

Most newbies like you tend to demand explanations of what magick is and how it works, so many "experienced" practitioners try to hand wave it away by using their extremely limited (and sometimes downright laughable) understanding of mathematics and physics. This results in what you, I and many others hate, pseudo-science. The fucked up part is, it works for them more often than not. You tell a tiktok girlie that certain crystals vibrate in a certain way, and she'll placebo that shit right into work. And then she'll spread that, with her anecdotal evidence. Or you'll see some dude who's watched a few PBS Space Time videos hear some nutcase who's drawing parallels between some quantum physics whitepaper to magickal practice, and because this dude heard those same buzzwords in the PBS video, he'll think the guy preaching this nonsense actually has some credibility.

It all boils down to a few things:
  • Some things are unknowable
  • Placebo
  • A little knowledge = a lot of confidence
  • People who are desperate to find answers can find them anywhere
You need to understand something, though. If there was a way to objectively understand what magick is and how it works, someone smarter than you would have probably done that already. So it's my position that it's unknowable. I'm not discouraging anyone from studying magick beyond the current literature and trying to find ways to "crack the code" or improve the effectiveness. If you can do that, great, go for it, and share your findings. But I have no faith in you.

Until then, it is simply, as frustrating as it is, either:
  • Magick will do X, but only with a Y% success rate
  • Magick will increase the chance of X happening by Y%
You have no chance of finding a better or more concrete explanation of the underpinnings of magick, and you're not even remotely equipped to broaden that field of understanding. Rushing to find an answer to these questions is a fool's errand.

So those who subscribe to this idea, why not get two slips of paper, inscribe on them each pposing symbols and then invoking the symbols of one or the other? Get a kitchen scale, make sure they weigh the same and are folded in the same way to ensure a near 50/50 chance.
This type of thought process shows me that you're even less mentally equipped than those you decry.

It is trivial to dismiss your nonsense experiment by saying there is 0 probability or possibility to increase the weight of a piece of matter to any significant degree.

Or simply someone with a good enough scale can measure some nanograms of difference in the 2 pieces of paper and profess that it is a magickal result.

If you want to understand complex topics, you need to put a lot more effort into... well... thinking, than you are right now.

There is a reason we don't see flying mages wielding lightning and shooting balls of gold.

If anything, it defeats your own argument that magick is absolute and all-powerful, instead of just tipping scales (albeit in a way and magnitude that cannot be measured by a kitchen scale)

Come on now.
 

Robert Ramsay

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I must admit it was the "You won't understand it and you shouldn't even try" attitude in quantum physics that led me to study it in the first place.

So you can't predict the results exactly? Should that stop you trying to find an explanation of why you can't predict the results exactly?

I would be totally up for discussing my book with you @SkullTraill , but from what you say in your post, you wouldn't read it 😕
 

pixel_fortune

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The simple fact is that science and our understanding of the world and physical phenomena has vastly increased over the last 100 or so years. We cannot apply the same rigour and method to understanding the occult, for one of 2 reasons. Either the occult/magick was nonsense all along, and the fact that it cannot be proven or consistently observed or explained scientifically in any way means it simply does not exist, and was a mere stop gap in the constantly evolving human understanding of the physical world.

Alternatively, you can subscribe to the school of thought that the occult/magick is something that is completely beyond human comprehension, even beyond any sapient comprehension. That's an idea that is really difficult for most people to grasp, as with the aforementioned progress in science and human understanding, it's often used as a support system that at one point in the past, nothing was understood, and now in the present many things are understood, so that is taken to mean that in the future all things will be understood. That is simply not true.

There are many things which can never be understood. There are complicated examples I can give you, and there are simple examples I can give you. Humans (or any 3 dimensional intelligence) will never be able to fully comprehend or visualise higher dimensional objects. Yes, we can easily describe/measure/compute them mathematically, through which we can understand certain properties and behaviours of these higher dimensional objects, but we can never, ever visualise them or understand what they actually look like. For the same reason we can't point a finger in the direction of a 4th spatial dimension. It will never be possible for us to even imagine a dimension that is orthogonal to all 3 of our current spatial dimensions.

In the same way, we can never hope to understand what a photon (or anything close to that physical scale) would look like, because we use photons to see. We cannot bounce a photon off another photon to see what a photon looks like. Forget about the things that are smaller. So every depiction we have of a smaller particle is simply an aesthetic representation of the mathematics we use to compute the properties and behaviours of these particles.

Same goes for things like black holes, where we can never experiment or observe what truly happens behind the event horizon, because we will never be able to travel faster than or communicate faster than the speed of light. I see a lot of uneducated people cry and whine that "there must be a way to travel faster than light, there were so many things we thought were impossible in the past that now we have discovered are possible" - but no. It is simply a property of this universe that nothing travels faster than the speed of light. Our human intuition has been wrong often, throughout history, but maths has not been. We have discovered new ways to do math, sure, but really those only change what was previously uncomputable. We can already prove now that traveling faster than the speed of light through space is simply the equivalent of time travel (you can think of it like this - light already travels infinitely fast, but we observe it to travel at a finite speed because that is the speed of propagation of our universe, sort of like the speed of time itself, absent anything slowing it down).

The reason we have wave-particle dualities, singularities (infinities, black holes), imaginary numbers, objects with properties that are counter intuitive and can never be observed (like fermions having 1/2 spin, meaning they have to be rotated 720º to return to the original position as opposed to 360º) is because there are so many things going on under the hood that we are not only oblivious to, but that we will forever be oblivious to, due to them being so completely outside our plane of comprehension.

All this to say, when we perform magick, even if we follow the steps 100% perfectly, we know that we don't achieve success 100% of the time. Either that is because magick simply does not work 100% of the time, or because we don't have 100% of the knowledge to perform magick. As in, there are hidden variables, perhaps that we can never know, in the same way we can never know what a 4th spatial dimension would look like. Ultimately, the result is the same. It's a game of chance, and we have to play to probabilities either in the method, or in the result.

Maybe if we lived in a 9358.4 dimensional universe, everything would make sense. There would be no mathematical singularities or infinities, we could see inside black holes, and we would completely understand how magick works. But we don't. Most people are not equiped to handle this sort of limitation, and certainly most people who try to explain magick don't even know anything about the science and jargon they are using aside from a few youtube videos or books they read. Let alone philosophical concepts like the absolute limit of understanding that I described above.

Most newbies like you tend to demand explanations of what magick is and how it works, so many "experienced" practitioners try to hand wave it away by using their extremely limited (and sometimes downright laughable) understanding of mathematics and physics. This results in what you, I and many others hate, pseudo-science. The fucked up part is, it works for them more often than not. You tell a tiktok girlie that certain crystals vibrate in a certain way, and she'll placebo that shit right into work. And then she'll spread that, with her anecdotal evidence. Or you'll see some dude who's watched a few PBS Space Time videos hear some nutcase who's drawing parallels between some quantum physics whitepaper to magickal practice, and because this dude heard those same buzzwords in the PBS video, he'll think the guy preaching this nonsense actually has some credibility.

It all boils down to a few things:
  • Some things are unknowable
  • Placebo
  • A little knowledge = a lot of confidence
  • People who are desperate to find answers can find them anywhere
You need to understand something, though. If there was a way to objectively understand what magick is and how it works, someone smarter than you would have probably done that already. So it's my position that it's unknowable. I'm not discouraging anyone from studying magick beyond the current literature and trying to find ways to "crack the code" or improve the effectiveness. If you can do that, great, go for it, and share your findings. But I have no faith in you.

Until then, it is simply, as frustrating as it is, either:
  • Magick will do X, but only with a Y% success rate
  • Magick will increase the chance of X happening by Y%
You have no chance of finding a better or more concrete explanation of the underpinnings of magick, and you're not even remotely equipped to broaden that field of understanding. Rushing to find an answer to these questions is a fool's errand.
Seems unnecessarily harsh, but in general I agree.

Buddhism has this list of "acintya" or "avyākṛita" which were questions outside the sphere of reason, meaning questions that it is impossible to get an answer to, and that, even if you got an answer, you would have no way of knowing if it was true or not. (Eg "is the universe spatially infinite?" Or "what was there before the Big Bang?" - it literally cannot be observed)

The point of avyākṛita is that the Buddha refused to answer those questions or engage with them at all when followers asked him. His view was that, since it was impossible to ever know the answers, they were just a distraction from the work of ending suffering and becoming enlightened, and he wouldn't give people that distraction.

Of course you can't just throw everything in the avyakrita basket without trying, but it is a very useful and very challenging category to have. Challenging because it's hard to accept i won't get answers to everything. (On a personal note, I have found it useful when paralysed by indecision between two choices that seem equal but different. I have to accept that knowing which option is optimal is avyakrita, and I cannot wait for that information before making a decision)



(Re: is the universe spatially infinite,
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asked some astrophysicists, astronomers etc and got two yeses, two nos, and a maybe. Maybe Astrophysicist #2 is 100% correct! But we have no way of knowing or testing if she is or not, so hearing the truth doesn't really get us anywhere)
 

SkullTraill

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I must admit it was the "You won't understand it and you shouldn't even try" attitude in quantum physics that led me to study it in the first place.

So you can't predict the results exactly? Should that stop you trying to find an explanation of why you can't predict the results exactly?

I would be totally up for discussing my book with you @SkullTraill , but from what you say in your post, you wouldn't read it 😕
I would have thought the fact that I didn't tag or quote you would be enough to convey that I wasn't talking to or about you. I was replying to the OP specifically. However, judging by the fact that you didn't even read my post properly, I'm not really surprised.

I specifically stated that if you wanted to research or find out more about magick to improve its effectiveness or to find some deep personal satisfaction, go ahead and do it. Certainly, if you want to study science and quantum physics, do that too. You'll probably be wrong on multiple levels, but someone, somewhere, someday could conceivably make some kind of breakthrough... that's why I specifically said I don't want to discourage anyone from learning and trying.

My issue was when people rush to (especially publicly) profess an understanding of why and how magick works or what exactly it is (scientifically). I said nothing about trying to figure out why you can't predict the results correctly, in fact, my whole post was about unknowability. Personally, I don't think you'd even figure that out, really. But still, studying that would at least yield some insight into concepts of the fundamentally unknowable nature of the underpinnings of our reality.

I'm sure you, specifically, have spent a lot of time studying and thinking about this, but being upset enough to misconstrue and insert yourself into what was a dose of reality for a newbie makes it seem to me that you are either projecting or doubtful of the validity of your own thoughts.

Sometime, I might be up for a discussion with you, but as for reading your book, you're probably right... from how you replied to my post, it doesn't seem like it would be a good use of my time.
 

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Y'all get so upset when anyone mentions how scientific theories fit into their magical paradigm, and yet many of you also acknowledge the need for belief on the behalf of the practicioner.

Is it really a surprise that in this materialist age the mysteries of quantum physics create an avenue of belief for many magicians?

I would also suggest remembering the difference between theory and dogma. If you've seen a description of how the double slit experiment might demonstrate a magical effect, you've probably seen someone trying to figure it out, not preaching the fucking gospel.


In a response to my very first post here on WF Skull recommended that I don't try too hard to combine the theories of magic and science. He was right - it's a good way to run around in circles. I haven't been able to take a single solid step further than I got with the theory that very first day, but it still remains the keystone of my belief. Any time I'm slipping or losing confidence, I shut the grimoires and open a textbook for an evening to freshen my rudimentary understanding of quantum mechanics. It's worked for me every time so far.
 
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