heron61: (Dragons & Magic)
Last week, [personal profile] teaotter, [personal profile] amberite, and I went out to West Virginia to a memorial for [personal profile] helen99, someone I knew and very much liked in the otherkin community. I didn't know her well, but she was a kind, thoughtful, and generally awesome individual and I'm sad she's gone, but the memorial was very affecting and I was glad to have been there. As it true at all such occasions, this visit was also a time to reconnect with quite a number of wonderful people in that community who I haven't seen for 5 or so years and reminded me of how much I enjoy interacting with these people.

I also experienced another rarely indulged pleasure –observing truly excellent parenting. One of the unusual (and from my PoV quite comfortable) features of the otherkin community, or at least the sections I'm familiar with is that being childfree is exceedingly common, which is hardly surprising in a group of geeky, deeply eccentric, and often fairly gender non-conforming people. However, several of the people at the memorial (some of whom were part of the otherkin community, others not, but all quite geeky) had children. Most were excellent parents of the sort that I've seen before a number of times (but more rarely than I'd like).

Then there was Summer and Ashran, who were the sorts of amazing parents one might expect to read about in the rare YA novel where the protagonist has ludicrously wonderful parents (excellent examples being any of the YA novels by Madeleine L'Engle) – yes, they both (and especially Summer) seemed that good – kind, loving, endlessly patient, joyful, and deeply humane, and with 4 children, ranging in age from 5 months to 12 years. In addition to sometimes enjoying spending time around other people's children, I also very much enjoy (and am mildly in awe of) anyone who is a truly excellent parent. I react to it much as I would to seeing someone demonstrate any other impressive skill that I have neither the talent for nor any inclination to pursue. Watching Summer and Ashran with their children was especially impressive and wonderful.

On a related note, at one point, Summer mentioned that since most of the people she knew in the otherkin community didn't seem interested in having children, she was going to have to make up for that lack :) That comment got me thinking about the nature of the otherkin community. Like SF fandom and a number of other subcultures, the otherkin community is very much a subculture that people join as teens or adults rather than being born into. This is increasingly distinguishing it from the neopagan community, which as I have mentioned in the past, has, as a whole grown more mainstream as its expanded, and part of this process has involved making a place for individuals and families who are far more mainstream than most neopagans were 40 years ago.

By their nature, communities that survive far more recruiting people than by people being born into it have greater freedom to avoid mainstream norms, in part simply because (for both better and worse) raising children in a community automatically exposes the community to far more public scrutiny that it might otherwise attract. This suggests to me that while the otherkin community will definitely change over time, just as all subcultures do, the direction of that change need not be towards becoming more mainstream.

As a side-note, I and many other people I've known (including many like myself with parents who were not horrific, merely somewhat cold and brittle) have had to learn about love and trust in college and young adulthood, and it's sort of amazing to think of being 17 or 20 and already knowing these lessons.
heron61: (Dragons & Magic)
I've been thinking about magic a fair amount recently. It started with my musing on Alan Moore's ideas about magic, and then upon finding out that [livejournal.com profile] amberite would be leading a discussion about science and magic, I talked with [livejournal.com profile] teaotter with some of my ideas, which definitely helped to firm them up a bit.

I typically ignore and questions about how magic works, because it is so very easy to drift into pseudoscience and error when doing so, and I mostly do not care. I both care about what I can do and have done with magic and performing the best and most powerful and useful magic that I can, and also I am interested in what magic can do and what I have seen that magic has done. This got me thinking about the issue of what the limits of magic are. There seem to be three, or perhaps four interesting ideas about magic, and what interested me was what these sorts of ideas about magic would mean about the world.

  1. Educated Materialism: In this worldview, magic only affects the magician, these effects can be quite profound, sharpening focus, directing attention, and increasing skill and enhancing memory. However, it cannot be used to gain knowledge of some distant location of future event beyond what the individual already knows or can make educated guesses about, and it cannot be used to influence other people or objects except through the direct physical actions of the magician. A magician might bless or curse someone, but this blessing or curse has no effect unless the target learns of and believes in the blessing or curse and their mind shapes their behavior and perhaps even affects their health in accordance with this belief. In short, magic is nothing more than a useful and potentially quite powerful psychological tool.

    The World: A world in which this is the only sort of magic looks much like our own, in most or all ways it is indistinguishable from our world on all levels.

  2. Alan Moore's Realm of the Imagination: In addition to being capable of all of the possibilities of the previous option, there is also a realm of thought, dreams, and imagination where thoughts can meet and where human minds can contact and influence one another and also contact non-physical intelligences through non-physical or seemingly non-physical and so far unknown means. The dream or vision you have of someone happening to a distant person may be completely accurate, and a blessing or curse placed on someone can affect them even if they never learn of it, because the blessing or curse affects the target's unconscious, causing them to behave differently, and perhaps even causes their mind to affect their health. Under this view of magic, actual remote viewing of the sort where someone actually sees a distant location is impossible, but they may be able to perceive impressions left on objects or gain knowledge of a distant place from the mind of someone present in this location. This process is almost certainly less clear and more subjective than actually being able to see the location directly. Someone could also send a dream to a distant person or gain entirely new knowledge from a spirit. However, magic can have no direct affect upon the physical world – it cannot be used to light a fire or even to affect the flip of a coin or the path of a fall of a leaf. In contrast, it might well be able to affect the stock market or other complex human systems by affecting human minds and emotions on a large scale. This is presumably very difficult by not entirely impossible.

    It's also interesting to me that traditional magic is all about curses, blessings, love spells, healing, and spells to acquire wealth, as well as a host of spells relating to divine visions of various sorts all of which are at least moderately possible within these parameters. For example, a spell for wealth could encourage people to pay you on time or early, make mistakes when making change or writing checks, or look slightly more favorably on your job application. The result of even small changes in people's attitudes and perceptions would be more wealth. In contrast, flying carpets and physical transfigurations are far more features of myths and folklore rather than actual magic anyone was attempting to practice. In any case, for further information, here is a general overview of Moore's ideas and some of his thoughts about the nature of reality.

    The World: A world in which magic has a psychic reality, but no physical power looks essentially identical to a purely materialistic one. The only differences arise in what humans know and how they can influence each other. I am fairly certain that determining the difference between this world and a purely materialist one is very far from easy, and I do not think most people would notice if they lived in one and not the other. It's very difficult to determine why someone makes a particular decision, what the nature of subjective visionary experiences are, or all of the factors that go into someone's intuition. Unlike magic that has physical effects, this sort of magic leaves no visible traces, and can be proven solely by statistical "proofs", a situation that looks a whole lot like what we see when people attempt to investigate magic. If you also assume that it's a difficult skill that requires practice and dedication, then the results look even more our world.

    One interesting aspect of this type of magic is that this world even has room for things that seem like physical magic. No one can levitate, but a powerful magician might be able to make people see them appear to levitate. Of course, this levitation won't show up on film, and it may well work better on some people than others, but it's enough to keep people talking, since some people will see the person levitate, but there will be absolutely no physical proof of this levitation.

  3. Physical Magic: In addition to magic being able to accomplish the previous two options, it can also have direct and obvious physical effects – lighting a fire, perhaps only a small one, but fire from nothing, levitating or teleporting people or objects, bending keys, or knocking a book off of a shelf. Perhaps even cases of physical shape-shifting or animating objects. This is the realm of poltergeist effects and other séance standards that always turn out to be trickery when investigated, swift and miraculous cures for diseases, and similar wonders that always turn out to be a story that someone heard from someone else. I have encountered people who firmly believe magic can do this, but what I have not encountered is anyone claims to be able to accomplish this except for a few people who I have seen use trickery or exaggeration to attempt to enhance their credibility and perceived magical power. From anyone who I entirely trust, the best I have gotten is that they heard a story about physical magic from someone else, or saw something that might have been physical magic. I see the first as very little different from urban legends – twice or thrice-told tales easily become more fiction than reality with each new person relating events they did not experience, and eyewitness testimony is notoriously and vastly unreliable.

    The World: A world with this sort of magic must look superficially like our own, but it isn't. Instead, it looks more like the world of various urban fantasy novels and RPGs, where most people live ignorant of magic, but where a few powerful magicians can work incredible wonders. This is a world of secret magic. However, I'm an experienced occultist who has known dozens of other experienced magicians, and I've never met someone who can do any of this. If only one in 50,000 people can perform visible magic, I'd still almost certainly have met at least a couple in the pagan or otherkin community, and I haven't. I don't believe that I'm living in an urban fantasy novel, and that's essentially what it means to live in a world that looks like our own where visible magic exists. What I have seen is that small, local conspiracies can exist, but large worldwide one's don't – people simply aren't that good at keeping secrets.

  4. Affecting Chance and Subtle Systems: This is by far the most common option I have encountered among serious occultists. In addition to the possibilities of the first two options, magic can also affect subtle physical systems as well as purely psychological ones. So, magic can affect the roll of dice, the spin of a roulette wheel, the outcome of a lottery, or chaotic weather systems. Starting a fire with magic is impossible, but affecting how the fire spreads or a flame leaps is not. I honestly am not convinced that this sort of approach makes sense – magic can affect physical phenomena, but not very much. I've noticed a distinct lack of magicians earning vast sums of money playing roulette or craps. Also, the limits on magic would need to be exceptionally specific –a magician could tweak the roll of dice or cause a flame to flicker, but could not move a feather or light a tiny spark. Ultimately, I'm not at all certain that this type of magic or the world that it would require would be noticeably different from the world in option 3, and I simply don't believe in this world and have seen nothing remotely like the level of extraordinary proof that would be required to prove it.
heron61: (Dragons & Magic)
I've been thinking about magic a fair amount recently. It started with my musing on Alan Moore's ideas about magic, and then upon finding out that [personal profile] amberite would be leading a discussion about science and magic, I talked with [personal profile] teaotter with some of my ideas, which definitely helped to firm them up a bit.

I typically ignore and questions about how magic works, because it is so very easy to drift into pseudoscience and error when doing so, and I mostly do not care. I both care about what I can do and have done with magic and performing the best and most powerful and useful magic that I can, and also I am interested in what magic can do and what I have seen that magic has done. This got me thinking about the issue of what the limits of magic are. There seem to be three, or perhaps four interesting ideas about magic, and what interested me was what these sorts of ideas about magic would mean about the world.

  1. Educated Materialism: In this worldview, magic only affects the magician, these effects can be quite profound, sharpening focus, directing attention, and increasing skill and enhancing memory. However, it cannot be used to gain knowledge of some distant location of future event beyond what the individual already knows or can make educated guesses about, and it cannot be used to influence other people or objects except through the direct physical actions of the magician. A magician might bless or curse someone, but this blessing or curse has no effect unless the target learns of and believes in the blessing or curse and their mind shapes their behavior and perhaps even affects their health in accordance with this belief. In short, magic is nothing more than a useful and potentially quite powerful psychological tool.

    The World: A world in which this is the only sort of magic looks much like our own, in most or all ways it is indistinguishable from our world on all levels.

  2. Alan Moore's Realm of the Imagination: In addition to being capable of all of the possibilities of the previous option, there is also a realm of thought, dreams, and imagination where thoughts can meet and where human minds can contact and influence one another and also contact non-physical intelligences through non-physical or seemingly non-physical and so far unknown means. The dream or vision you have of someone happening to a distant person may be completely accurate, and a blessing or curse placed on someone can affect them even if they never learn of it, because the blessing or curse affects the target's unconscious, causing them to behave differently, and perhaps even causes their mind to affect their health. Under this view of magic, actual remote viewing of the sort where someone actually sees a distant location is impossible, but they may be able to perceive impressions left on objects or gain knowledge of a distant place from the mind of someone present in this location. This process is almost certainly less clear and more subjective than actually being able to see the location directly. Someone could also send a dream to a distant person or gain entirely new knowledge from a spirit. However, magic can have no direct affect upon the physical world – it cannot be used to light a fire or even to affect the flip of a coin or the path of a fall of a leaf. In contrast, it might well be able to affect the stock market or other complex human systems by affecting human minds and emotions on a large scale. This is presumably very difficult by not entirely impossible.

    It's also interesting to me that traditional magic is all about curses, blessings, love spells, healing, and spells to acquire wealth, as well as a host of spells relating to divine visions of various sorts all of which are at least moderately possible within these parameters. For example, a spell for wealth could encourage people to pay you on time or early, make mistakes when making change or writing checks, or look slightly more favorably on your job application. The result of even small changes in people's attitudes and perceptions would be more wealth. In contrast, flying carpets and physical transfigurations are far more features of myths and folklore rather than actual magic anyone was attempting to practice. In any case, for further information, here is a general overview of Moore's ideas and some of his thoughts about the nature of reality.

    The World: A world in which magic has a psychic reality, but no physical power looks essentially identical to a purely materialistic one. The only differences arise in what humans know and how they can influence each other. I am fairly certain that determining the difference between this world and a purely materialist one is very far from easy, and I do not think most people would notice if they lived in one and not the other. It's very difficult to determine why someone makes a particular decision, what the nature of subjective visionary experiences are, or all of the factors that go into someone's intuition. Unlike magic that has physical effects, this sort of magic leaves no visible traces, and can be proven solely by statistical "proofs", a situation that looks a whole lot like what we see when people attempt to investigate magic. If you also assume that it's a difficult skill that requires practice and dedication, then the results look even more our world.

    One interesting aspect of this type of magic is that this world even has room for things that seem like physical magic. No one can levitate, but a powerful magician might be able to make people see them appear to levitate. Of course, this levitation won't show up on film, and it may well work better on some people than others, but it's enough to keep people talking, since some people will see the person levitate, but there will be absolutely no physical proof of this levitation.

  3. Physical Magic: In addition to magic being able to accomplish the previous two options, it can also have direct and obvious physical effects – lighting a fire, perhaps only a small one, but fire from nothing, levitating or teleporting people or objects, bending keys, or knocking a book off of a shelf. Perhaps even cases of physical shape-shifting or animating objects. This is the realm of poltergeist effects and other séance standards that always turn out to be trickery when investigated, swift and miraculous cures for diseases, and similar wonders that always turn out to be a story that someone heard from someone else. I have encountered people who firmly believe magic can do this, but what I have not encountered is anyone claims to be able to accomplish this except for a few people who I have seen use trickery or exaggeration to attempt to enhance their credibility and perceived magical power. From anyone who I entirely trust, the best I have gotten is that they heard a story about physical magic from someone else, or saw something that might have been physical magic. I see the first as very little different from urban legends – twice or thrice-told tales easily become more fiction than reality with each new person relating events they did not experience, and eyewitness testimony is notoriously and vastly unreliable.

    The World: A world with this sort of magic must look superficially like our own, but it isn't. Instead, it looks more like the world of various urban fantasy novels and RPGs, where most people live ignorant of magic, but where a few powerful magicians can work incredible wonders. This is a world of secret magic. However, I'm an experienced occultist who has known dozens of other experienced magicians, and I've never met someone who can do any of this. If only one in 50,000 people can perform visible magic, I'd still almost certainly have met at least a couple in the pagan or otherkin community, and I haven't. I don't believe that I'm living in an urban fantasy novel, and that's essentially what it means to live in a world that looks like our own where visible magic exists. What I have seen is that small, local conspiracies can exist, but large worldwide one's don't – people simply aren't that good at keeping secrets.

  4. Affecting Chance and Subtle Systems: This is by far the most common option I have encountered among serious occultists. In addition to the possibilities of the first two options, magic can also affect subtle physical systems as well as purely psychological ones. So, magic can affect the roll of dice, the spin of a roulette wheel, the outcome of a lottery, or chaotic weather systems. Starting a fire with magic is impossible, but affecting how the fire spreads or a flame leaps is not. I honestly am not convinced that this sort of approach makes sense – magic can affect physical phenomena, but not very much. I've noticed a distinct lack of magicians earning vast sums of money playing roulette or craps. Also, the limits on magic would need to be exceptionally specific –a magician could tweak the roll of dice or cause a flame to flicker, but could not move a feather or light a tiny spark. Ultimately, I'm not at all certain that this type of magic or the world that it would require would be noticeably different from the world in option 3, and I simply don't believe in this world and have seen nothing remotely like the level of extraordinary proof that would be required to prove it.
heron61: (Dragons & Magic)
For the past several months, I've been doing nightly meditations, part of which involved inviting more magic and more joy into my life (after I do the Middle Pillar Ritual and Circulating the Body of Light), and in addition to my life generally going a bit better, things seem to be getting a bit more interesting. One of the most interesting recent events happened last night.

I had an odd and exceptionally vivid dream – it started with meeting a wizard, specifically someone who reminded me of Harry Dresden of the Dresden Files, except that he also had some odd physical characteristics – piebald skin and almost fur-like body hair that seemed remarkably dog-like and which he dismissed by saying that many wizards are (or perhaps become, I wasn't clear) physically a bit odd. He was only the first of three wizards that I met in the dream, I ended up in a car with him driving at night, until we came to a street corner where he met the other two wizards.

The next to arrive described herself as a wizard who mentioned that she had also inherited various powerful supernatural talismans and devices from her parents and now choose to be a superhero. She looked and seemed a great deal like the DC comics version of Isis. The third seemed far more like a fairly standard Wiccan woman who was clearly deeply into magic and as powerful as the other two. I don't remember seeing her do any magic, but I think she did, and I know the other two performed various actions that were clearly magical, including "Isis'" magical talismans flying through the air from a table to her hands.

In the course of talking to "Harry Dresden", I asked to learn magic – the first time I asked, he looked at me in a somewhat indulgent and dismissive fashion, until it was clear that I was going to repeat my request three times. By the end of the second time, he told me I didn't want to do that, and after the third, he looked somewhat resigned.

The three of them then parted ways, and I ended up walking with the Wiccan wizard to her house or apartment, or whatever, where there was a party, where most people were in masks and costumes of the feather mask and raggedy brightly colored cloth sort of thing people sometimes wear as costumes at places like Faerieworlds. In the dream, I knew several of people there, one being someone I knew as a child, another was an actual friend of mine from college ([livejournal.com profile] bard_bloom), and the third, a dream character that in the dream I had known briefly in college. Meeting her revealed part of the back-story of the dream, where back in college< and several other people had gone to a very strange Halloween party in a house that was put on by the same Wiccan wizard. I had never been able to find that house again, but the woman at the party had become her student. Part of this was explained to me as the fact (which in all honestly is quite true) that at the time my morality and overall level of carelessness in life was such that my learning actual magic would have been far from a good idea.

The dream was made more interesting by two other facts. The first is that I woke up briefly and was able to go back into it at a slightly later point – the people from the house were mostly still in costume, and we were all going out someplace in the daytime, at this point in the dream we were all in a large parking lot. Also, this dream was considerably more vivid and memorable that my usual crop of adventure fluff-dreams that I barely (if at all) remember, and which hang together far less well. I periodically have dreams this vivid, usually every couple of year, and they often turn out to have some meaning (often a fairly obvious one, my subconscious is far from subtle). In any case, it was both a nifty and a thought-provoking dream.
heron61: (Dragons & Magic)
Tonight, [livejournal.com profile] teaotter and I were watching the PBS show the History Detectives, and they had a segment about a faith and an individual I did not know about, the Society of Universal Friends, a late 18th and early 19th century Quaker splinter group founded and run by a very unusual individual, born Jemima Wilkinson:
In the summer of 1776, then being eighteen years old, she fell sick…she wasted in bodily strength…Jemima constantly told them of her strange visions…in October she appeared to fall into a trance state and appeared almost lifeless for a space of about thirty-six hours…To the great surprise of her family she suddenly aroused herself, called for her garments, dressed, and walked among the assembled members of the household…she disclaimed being Jemima Wilkinson, but asserted that the former individuality had passed away and that she was another being, a minister of the Almighty sent to preach his gospel and to minister to the spiritual necessities of mankind. She took to herself the name of the Public Universal Friend.
The show went on to show a portrait of this person and mention that the spirit that inhabited her claimed to be genderless and from that day forward dressed and referred to themself in an androgynous fashion, while preaching equality of the sexes and races. Both Becca and I listened to this and nodded – there is a significant overlay of a different era and a different faith, but there are also a number of elements that remind me of several people I know in the otherkin community. This individual sounds very much like someone dealing with being in a similar state, which is not to say that The Public Universal Friend was otherkin in any modern sense, but it sounds like their psychological and spiritual state had features in common.

I'm reminded of Ronald Hutton's excellent book Shamans: Siberian Spirituality and the Western Imagination [[1]], where he spends most of the book systematically demolishing the image of Siberian Shamanism as largely being a construct of colonialist "othering" and official oppression, and then briefly looks at the phenomena behind it in a more general sense, especially in the following passage: click for passage ) It seems to me that very little about us is new, and it's fascinating and (to me at least) pleasing to see other eccentrics of the sort that I know and am in other times. In this case, The Public Universal Friend founded a church of several hundred people that lasted a number of decades, which is fairly impressive.

[[1]] I'm reminded of that book, not because the Public Universal Friend seems like a shaman of any sort, but simply because Hutton's book discusses another unusual spiritual capability that seems to be found throughout our species.
heron61: (Dragons & Magic)
Thinking more on both this post about magic and Alan Moore and also this post about some of my own magical beliefs, I began thinking about spiritual beliefs and cosmology. To me, the single most fundamental aspect of being any sort of mystic, magician, or other sort of metaphysical seeker is a belief that minds, thoughts, and imaginings have some sort of independent existence that goes beyond the boundaries of a single person's head. Call it the collective unconscious, astral space, faerieland, or whatever, the overall idea is the same – there is effectively some sort of realm that is home to thoughts, dreams, creations of individual and collective imaginations, as well as various non-physical entities like gods, angels, demons, fae creatures, ghosts and other non-physical beings, of various levels of power and intelligence, and we exist at least partly in this non-physical realm and can learn to visit it more completely and become more aware of it. More musings about this here )
heron61: (Dragons & Magic)
[livejournal.com profile] andrewducker posted a link to this fascinating site with a multitude of writings by Alan Moore about magic, creativity, and being a magician. Alan Moore is brilliant and vastly eccentric, but I haven't previously read much of his writings about occultism, other than his amazingly excellent work Promethea , which is both an excellent comic and one of the best introductions to occultism that I've seen.

In any case, I read most of the links on the above page, including this page, which starts off with a poem Moore wrote about the Roman snake god Glycon that he worships, and includes an interview with Moore that is the single best descriptions that I've ever read of what being a magician is like. It's the sort of thing that I expect every other serious occultist to read this and nod along. If you want to know one part what being a magician and occultist like actually like read this passage, which I've copied behind the cut ) I completely identify with the idea of connections to gods and other powerful non-physical entities becoming more casual and informal over time. For me, entities that I first could only contact using rituals, special chants and suchlike are now things that on rare occasions show up completely unannounced and more commonly require only a bit of quiet concentration to talk to. It's definitely a strange experience to have experiences of the divine become commonplace, but with repeated exposure everything can become commonplace, and yet for all that, these experiences of (for me) dragons and angels are no less specially and wondrous.

Moore's interview also includes one of the best quotes about sanity that I've seen, and which I complete agree with:
When I started to get into magic, I said to a lot of friends "well, I'm not going to know if I go mad, am I?" So let's think about this. I want you all to keep an eye on me. If I am happy, that in itself is no indication of not being mad. You can be drawing pictures on the wall in your own shit and be completely happy. The only thing I can use as a yardstick is if I am happy and functional and productive. If I am producing more work than I did in the past, then that's a good sign. And if it's better work. Madness and insanity are two terms that are so vague and relative that you can't really apportion proper values to them. The only thing I can think of that has any use it functional and dysfunctional. Are you working as well? In which case, it doesn't matter if you are mad.
In any case, I also find Moore's discussion of magic usefully synchronicitous for two entirely unrelated reasons. The first is that I've been thinking about getting back into more serious occult practice for the last week, and reading this essay has given me a useful boost. More amusingly, three days ago, while working on on my latest RPG project I wrote a section about modern grimoires and in it described a thinly veiled version of Alan Moore and the dangerous grimoire he had written as a graphic novel.
heron61: (Dragons & Magic)
I have recently seen a somewhat surprising upsurge in atheism & more particularly in materialism on my f-list, and that got me thinking about my own spiritual beliefs and what are my most basic and solid non-materialist beliefs. In some ways, the term atheist applies to me, since while I believe in gods and spirits and have encountered both, I'm not inclined to worship anything or anyone or to let anyone, deity or not determine my morality for me – to me the only meaning that my own life has is whatever meaning I choose to give it. I also don't believe in any sort of useful afterlife – I believe that some sort of spiritual essence remains, but clearly in the vast majority of cases, nothing more than a few fragments of memories remain from one life to the next, and thus whatever may come after me is in no sense me.

Instead, the heart of my spirituality comes down to two phenomena – communication and luck.

Communication: I've talked with all manner of beings, from ordinary physical people with one or more personalities to non-physical entities with equally distinct and real personalities to individuals who have been physical and no longer are or who were once non-physical and now have bodies (generally in the form of some sort of walk-in). In my experience, all of these individuals seem equally distinct and real and are thus worthy of both kindness and respect and so I implicitly believe in all of them. For me to do otherwise would seem disrespectful and would also make my own reality poorer and less enjoyable. So, my spirituality pretty much by definition includes a belief in spirits and non-physical entities of various sorts.

Luck: I firmly believe in luck. I've known people with consistently bad luck. Some of them also regularly make poor choices, but I've also known others who made choices that seemed as good as my own, but who regularly ended up the victim of all manner of negative chance events. Meanwhile, I have, on average, exceedingly good luck. I am well aware that many of the advantages I have are due to growing up with a remarkable amount of privilege, but I've also regularly found that there have been no shortage of unlikely chances that have come my way through no effort and no privilege of my own, often when I need them most. While bad things occasionally happen to me, they don't happen all that often. I've also known a number of other people who grew up with just as much privilege as me who have considerably worse luck.

I also firmly believe in magic, but ultimately, I see magic (or at least the magic that I can perform) as being about one of two things, either communicating with various entities or manipulating luck. I don't believe for a minute that I'll ever be able to use magic to light a candle or levitate a teacup (although being able to do either would be truly awesome), but I do believe that I can shape my already quite good luck in useful ways, and can, with more effort and somewhat less reliability give someone else a bit of directed good luck.
heron61: (Dragons & Magic)
Another valuable concept when thinking about race issues or any other sorts of prejudice, which I fortunately already understood, is the concept of safe space. I've heard many people (almost always white men) declare that safe space, and in particular space limited to women or to any minority population is an inherently exclusionary & bigoted concept, no different from a white-only country club. Here's an excellent description of why this isn't remotely true in any environment where racism and similar types of oppression are common. The short answer is that spaces inhabited only by people who understand your experiences are very useful for people dealing with oppression. For a more complete explanation, here's a wonderful explanation from a recent discussion on this topic ) In addition to being valuable information, this discussion reminded me of the issue of secrecy in occultism. Secret initiations are common in various occult traditions, and talking about them it often forbidden and is in practice often quite rude, if for no other reason than that it can diminish the experience of the initiation for someone to go into such an experience knowing exactly what will happen.

However, the issue of magical secrecy goes well beyond this. I've seen no shortage of people in the occult community who enjoy keeping various sorts of occult information and rituals a secret from both outsiders and (especially) from newer and less experienced members of the occult community, because it makes the people keeping the secrets feel important, powerful, and in the know. I've also run into a large number of moderately paranoid occultists who keep various aspects of magic a secret because in "the wrong hands" magic can be dangerous – such people live in a world filled with all manner of occult threats, which ultimately, like any other form of paranoia, is once again a way to make these people feel important – if you deal in dread secrets that are inherently dangerous to work with, you must be someone important. I have absolutely no patience with any of that sort of secrecy. I once split up a magical working group that I was go running because I was utterly unwilling to only allow people who had been initiated to participate in magically powerful rituals. This sort of secrecy is IMHO, yet another example of how petty and childish many members of the occult community can be.

However, there is another side to magical secrecy, and last night it occurred to me that in a few ways this sort of secrecy is similar to the concept of safe space. Sometimes there are events that only make sense to people who have experienced them. Various forms of systemic and long-term oppression are often like this, as are a variety of the more unusual subjective & visionary states that most experienced occultists have had. In both cases, if you haven't experienced something, you aren't going to understand it nearly as well as someone who has, and the topic is sufficiently complex that it's easy for someone without those sorts of experiences to make drastically incorrect assumptions about what is going on. Sometimes it's both easier and exceedingly useful to talk about such a topic only with others who understand it, without the constant necessity of explaining the discussion to people who have no had such experiences. Obviously, in many ways the sorts of experiences involving oppression and the sorts of experiences involved in serious occult practice have little in common with one another, but in both cases there is value in spending time discussing these issues with others who understand because they have shared the same or at least very similar experiences.
heron61: (Dragons & Magic)
Yesterday, quite late, [livejournal.com profile] teaotter, [livejournal.com profile] amberite, and I got back from going to Crossing the Thresholds 4 and staying with [livejournal.com profile] tlttlotd & [livejournal.com profile] lyssabard. Air travel has gone from being deeply annoying to utterly horrid (having to pay for all beverages, including water, on board USAir planes is particularly vile), but the visit itself was a joy beyond all expectations.

Alice, Becca, and I all had a wonderful time with Lyssa and Bryce, with the only downside being that Bryce was both sick and exhausted and so we saw rather less of him that we had hoped. However, there were both wonderful conversations and equally wonderful cuddle piles. We also saw [livejournal.com profile] laurelinde & [livejournal.com profile] waterfire741 quite a bit and got to know both of them considerably and wonderfully better, as well as having a brief but very nice visit with both [livejournal.com profile] kitten_goddess & [livejournal.com profile] quorpencetta. Unfortunately, of all these wonderful people, only [livejournal.com profile] waterfire741 was actually able to go to CTT. It was a small event, with perhaps 25 people, but it was also even better than any of the three wonderful and amazing Walking the Thresholds events I've gone to (which is no easy feat). We arrived on Thursday evening and departed on Sunday afternoon. Discussions of occult & otherkin oddness follows )
heron61: (Dragons & Magic)
On Friday, the day before he left for CA, Aaron and I talked about the various spiritual communities that I belong or have belonged to and one issue about them that bothers him (especially since he is considerably less good than me at interfacing with different spiritual paradigms) – the fact that a large number people in them don't consider the world to be magical and that for many such people, only things that are hidden, isolated, and deliberately separated can be magical, sacred, or filled with wonder. more here for those who are interested )
heron61: (Space)
Charles Stross wrote an interesting short essay on why the Fermi paradox may be completely illusory. I agree with his analysis, in large part because it makes absolutely no sense to me that humans are the only intelligent technological species in the galaxy, and like Stross, I find the argument that if other older civilizations existed at least one would have already colonized the galaxy to reveal vastly more about the beliefs and prejudices of the person holding them that opinion than any actual truths.

In any case, Stross's essay also has several fascinating links. astronomer Milan M. Cirkovic's article Against the Empire is an interesting discussion of why highly advanced expansionist civilizations may well be vanishingly rare or non-existent and since only highly advanced civilizations have a hope of accomplishing interstellar travel, the fact that the galaxy has not already been colonized by one or more civilizations likely means absolutely nothing about existence of such civilizations.

However, from my PoV, the true gem of the links was the essay by futurist John Smart Answering the Fermi Paradox (which builds on the theories of astronomer Lee Smolin, discussed in his excellent work The Life of the Cosmos, and even more so, the link in that essay to Smart's earlier essay, Intro to the Developmental Singularity Hypothesis.

Calling either of these works science is stretching that term well beyond all usefulness, they are a mixture of thought experiments and statements of belief. However, what impresses me about them, and especially about the second piece is that it so closely sums up my own beliefs about intelligence, complexity, and the inner workings of the universe. Something remarkably close to the developmental singularity hypothesis is one of the core tenets of my highly idiosyncratic personal spirituality.

Seeing what amounts to a description of the core of my spiritual beliefs detailed and analyzed in this fashion was truly fascinating, especially when the various implications of the idea are explored. It will likely eventually be possible to test the Developmental Singularity Hypothesis, and (unsurprisingly) I believe it will be proven correct. However, for now it is merely a statement of belief, and but it is one that I fervently share.
heron61: (Dragons & Magic)
I've been reading a great deal of Caitlin Kiernan's fiction lately, mostly everything associated with the Threshold, Low Red Moon, Daughter of Hounds series, including a fair number of her short stories. While Threshold is a very good book, I'm impressed at how much Kiernan has improved as a writer since 2001. I'm also learning more about her writing and why it speaks to me so deeply. One of the first points I noticed is that a fair amount of it is more what I would consider dark fantasy than horror, and much of this has to do with the nature of the protagonists.

Especially in Daughter of Hounds and the stories in the same setting, characters are either insiders or outsiders regarding the supernatural. Her insiders are characters who did not just learn about the supernatural, they also have either through experience, accident, or birth a close connection to it that is effectively inescapable. These characters can be monsters or heroes, but they are very rarely victims (Dancy Flammarion being an odd exception, because she is simultaneously a hero, a victim, and a monster). However, in Kiernan's work, characters who are outsiders in the supernatural, even including ones with some talent for it like Chance Matthews or Deacon Silvey, can be quite heroic at times, but they are ultimately victims of the supernatural. Unsurprisingly, I greatly prefer stories focusing on supernatural insiders, both because of my natural inclinations in this direction, and (more importantly), because I am not as fond of reading stories where the protagonists are victims.

The primary reason I like Kiernan's writing is that the worldview so closely parallels my own, vaguely lovecraftian worldview. For me, the world is not only vastly complex, it is far more complex than our limited minds and brains can possibly understand, resulting in all manner of seeming contradictions that actually make sense when viewed from a larger perspective. I believe the world is full of all manner of wonders, terrors, and strangeness and all manner of unexpected surprises of all sorts. Not unsurprisingly, this worldview is one of the reasons I'm a transhumanist, since I believe that only by drasticaly expanding both our brains and our lifespans can we understand far more of both the spiritual and the physical world. Kiernan's writing gives me a vision of a world of near infinite complexity and wonder, where answers are not simple and often involve layers of history stretching back into deep time, and I love reading about such settings.
heron61: (Default)
After the class on energy work and bodywork that [livejournal.com profile] teriel is teaching, [livejournal.com profile] teaotter and I went out for sorbet and beverages and talked some about it (as well as other topics) and at one point Becca mentioned that when [livejournal.com profile] teriel discussed using magic picking up energy from the environment, her mind half-drifted into setting up such a thing along a nearby busy street to extract energy from passing cars.

That immediately set me thinking of how I would do that, and my first thought was of a large paddle-wheel-like energy construct, turned by cars going in two directions in different lanes. Above that, you have a generator and wires going to me. Meanwhile, Becca went on to talk about her idea of a "filter-trap", which both sounds like and is some sort of analog to methods used by various filter-feeding invertebrates. This neatly sums up a number of differences in thought. It's odd, I never particularly consider myself a technomage, because I do not relate to computers in any sort of magical fashion nor do I tend to build complex physical devices, but in a sort of Sons of Ether sense, it perhaps fits, especially if you include some 60s & 70s psi theory in that mixture. I should definitely explore this further, although how this might fit in with any of my draconic or angelic otherkin aspects is most definitely anyone's guess.

end of magical info, romantic silliness follows )
heron61: (Dragon)
In a recent exchange with a friend of mine who has recently taken up fencing, she mentioned that many of the highly experienced and dedicated fencers she has gotten to know mention in hushed and somewhat embarrassed tone stories about various seemingly impossible actions from one blade passing physically through another to visible and palpable manifestations of energy or presence. This did not surprise me at all since I have heard very similar stories from my dear friend Aaron regarding his work in physical theater, clowning, and puppetry. Both of my friends are magicians who are quite familiar with various magical experiences, but the people relating these experiences generally were not, they were simply dedicated practitioners who had observed various unusual events that were well outside the normal range of their experiences. Obviously, many similar stories can be found in both Eastern martial arts and yoga. Here's more on physical training, magic, and neopagan practice )
heron61: (Gryphon)
One definition of pastoralism is romanticizing rural (and more recently wild) environments. This feeling is quite old in western culture, the first instance I know of were in ancient Rome, where wealthy urbanites wrote at length about the beauty of farms and rural areas and the fact that people raised in these lifestyles were inherently more virtuous than jaded and decadent urbanites. This attitude endured through the middle ages, and is still very much with us. Today, the distinction between rural and wild areas is far less clear in the minds of most people than it was in harsher eras, and so now pastoralism includes a longing for wild areas and is now closely related to the the (to me) foolish obsession with things that are "natural".

As few days ago, I saw this ludicrous piece on what the author refers to as "nature deficit disorder" I'm utterly dismissive of the entire idea. It implies that children growing up in cities are innately screwed-up and "natural" environments are in some way superior to human-made ones, which from my (highly urban-centered and generally somewhat nature-phobic) POV is pastoralist nonsense written by suburbanites.

I agree that the author of this article is noticing a real problem - parents in all areas are now far less likely now to let their kids run around outside. I don't think the nature of the outside world (regardless of whether it's city streets, suburban housing tracts with vast lawns and small nearby woods, or vast and ancient forests) matters nearly as much as being able to run around, being both physically active and unsupervised. Of course, pastoralism is the cause of much of this problem, with terrified parents keeping children inside in urban and even suburban areas due to mythic and groundless fears of predators and abductors waiting behind every hedge, when in reality both child abuse and child kidnapping are of course almost exclusively things that happen within families and so the risk from strangers is negligible.

Both the above article and the problem it is really discussing foregrounds how strong the association of virtue, safety and both spiritual and mental health is in the US – I'm far less certain about the rest of the first world, but I'm guessing it is less strong in both the EU and Japan, which are considerably more urban. Interestingly, these association span the political spectrum, with reactionary bible-beating fundys, crazed gun-toting libertarians, and progressive nature-loving hippies all expressing almost identical feelings about the physical and moral dangers of urban areas and the blessings of rural or wild places. However, I think this attitude does have a political dimension, that is expressed in how much money is funneled from urban areas to farms and small towns and (especially) in both Senate and presidential elections the votes of people in rural areas count several times more than the votes of urbanites – a gross unfairness that I would love to see abolished.

As most of you know, I find both rural and wild areas alien and somewhat intimidating and most suburbs both distasteful and inconvenient and so my reaction to pastoralist ideas is rather strong - I much prefer urban streets filled with shops to dreary suburban housing tracts, rolling fields filled with crops and devoid of cafes, or inhospitable forests or prairies. However, my problem with pastoralism goes well beyond personal taste, since it is also an attitude (at least in the US) that is inherently rigid and narrow, since the racial and ethnic diversity of the US is largely expressed in urban areas, and almost exclusively the "honest rural values" mentioned by both progressives and reactionaries are WASP values. Just as problematic is the fact that pastoralism is in large part responsible for the continuing suburban sprawl found over most of the US, However, it is also far more pervasive. People with the money to do so continue to move to the far suburbs in search of some faux taste of "rural" life and escape the supposed troubles of urban life, and this produces the very urban decay they fear, while simultaneously destroying both farmland and wildlife habitat, thus causing a new wave of people to seek to get even closer to the supposedly blessed wild and rural areas by expanding out further and transforming more farms and wildlife habitat to suburban cul-de-sacs. One of the reasons I love living in Portland so much is that this city has strict laws limiting suburban sprawl, in the form of the urban growth boundary, which is a law I would love to see spread throughout the nation.

As a side-note, one of the observations Ronald Hutton makes in his brilliant work The Triumph of the Moon (by far the best history of both Wicca and the entire neopagan movement I've seen) is that the origins of what was later to become Wicca came from early to mid 19th century pastoralist attitudes by members of the British middle class, which is yet another reason for the various problems I had with Wicca.
heron61: (Default)
Here's a fascinating article about what may be the earliest evidence of human ritual. I'm naturally somewhat skeptical, both because of the rather sketchy nature of the evidence and the mention of a possible connection with rituals of the modern San people who live in this region today (and whose ancestors have lived there for well more than 20,000 years.

Archeology is as much about constructing the past as it is about uncovering it, and as in any such endeavor, it's far too easy to find what you want, expect, hope, or even fear to find. However, that doesn't mean that this site could be exactly what it is claimed to be, and even the connection with modern San myths is quite possible. This article reminds me of the most impressive story I heard in grad school.

In a class I took in 1987, on reconstructing cultures, the professor, Mark Kenoyer, talked about a dig he was on in Northern Pakistan, where some specially patterned stones were discovered in 20,000 BP (before present) Upper Paleolithic site. The stones were roughly round or square, flat, and pattered with concentric, alternating triangles of red and tan stone. They had had a prominent place in this settlement – they were placed near the center of the settlement on a series of low stones, like some sort of altar. A similar, but more fragmentary stone had been found in another site of similar age in the area and so these stones seemed quite important, but none of the archeologists had any clue about their meaning.

When they were unearthing the stone (which was broken in half), one of the locals in the area saw one of the stones and was upset with the archaeologists for breaking the sacred stone, at which point the local drew his rifle and tensions rose. However, when it was explained the stone was from a site 20,000 years old the local calmed down and instead became absolutely fascinated. He showed Kenoyer et al. the sacred stone in the local's village, set up on the same kind of alter as at the old site. To the locals, the stone represents the feminine principle Shakti and such stones are found in many local villages, or at least they were 20 years ago. I'd be very surprised if what the locals now believe about the stones is particularly similar to what the people who lived in that region 20,000 years ago believe about them, but the reverence for these stones remains the same, as does the general form of the altar used to display them. One of the useful things about material culture is how enduring it can be, and so people continue performing the same physical acts or revering the same objects, but what they believe about the objects can change far more easily.

It's worth noting that not all practices are anywhere near as enduring. Oral storytelling is a media that often changes relatively slowly. However, I remember reading an ethnography (To Hunt In The Morning by Janet Siskind). The author went to the Amazon basin and studied the Sharanahua tribe, to record and analyze their myths. After leaving for 8-9 months came back, she found many of the myths substantially different, they had the same characters and elements, but the stories were not the same ones, in many cases the entire structure and meaning of the myths were completely different. This tribe was in the process of first encountering trade with whites, money, metal tools etc, as well as many of the other goods and ills of modern life. Some practices can remain for 20,000 years, others can change in less than a year, yet more proof that there are few easy answers when looking at humanity and its cultures and practices.
heron61: (Default)
This entry is heavily filtered because it's odd even more me. However, those of you reading this are both people whose opinions I value and who will hopefully understand some of what I'm writing about.

A bit over a week ago, I stayed up far too late reading some fan-fiction of a new (to me) fandom. It was excellent, and after I went to sleep, my dreams were closely related to the story. A bit unusual for me, but not particularly strange, except that all of the dreams were from the PoV of one of the characters (the one in the story that had touched me the most). Then, the next day I found my mind drifting back to the story and (especially) to that same character - odd tuggings at my mind and strange drifting thoughts. Nothing coherent or focused, but definitely a strange and unexpected tropism. Since then, I have been somewhat nervous around stories written from the PoV of that character. My only experience with anything like this is with the sort of role-playing characters that I create who turn out to be more than simple (f also powerful) deeply immersive masks for me to wear, and instead have more of the characteristics of actual people. I've never experienced anything like this outside of role-playing and am both puzzled and deeply surprised. I also do not know if this will recur, especially since I shied away from more stories with this character.

I have three questions, one general and perhaps unanswerable except in a purely personal sense and two of a more practical nature.

1) Are there some characters that are (in a general, rather than a purely personal sense) that seem to reach out to people like that. Any thoughts (especially metaphysical ones) as to why that might be. This is an absolutely fascinating phenomenon.

2) Assuming (as I reflect and decide upon this) that I wish to see what I can make of this odd connection, how might any of you suggest I go about doing so? The most obvious answer is certainly to read more well-written and engrossing stories where that character is the PoV character, likely shortly before I go to sleep. What other suggestions do any of you have for encouraging and strengthening this connection.

3) Do any of you have any idea why such connections come about. This one hit me completely out of the blue, and other than the universe &/or gods deciding that my life and mind are simply not yet sufficiently odd and non-mainstream, I am rather puzzled.
heron61: (Default)
To expand on a comment I made to this post on magic and metaphor, while I deny that magic has a purely psychological reality (IOW, the belief that magic can only affect the magician's mind and possibly their body) I most definitely consider most of the various "laws of magic" to be laws of human psychology that are helpful (and often necessary) tools to focus one's will. However, I also firmly maintain that magic can have affects beyond the range of my mind and body.

While I have no idea how or why magic works, the "laws of magic", like the well-known principles of sympathy and contagion, are very clearly artifacts of how we think. Rather than positing that in some way our thought processes mimic some set of unknown physical laws, it seems far more reasonable from my PoV to say that these rules of magic are merely techniques with which magicians can focus will and intention on the world.

As primates with a long genetic and cultural heritage, certain ways of looking at the world and our place in it are more natural and comfortable than others. However, none of these views of the world need have any basis in physical reality - wanting something to be true may sometimes (as an act of magic) make it true, but sometimes it isn't and nothing can change this fact.

My basic theory of magic is simply using will and intention to affect the world in an unknown fashion, and while I would certainly be interested to know the mechanism, my lack of knowledge does not in any way trouble me. When discussing magic, I regularly talk about human psychology, in part because it is obviously closely connected to creativity. I essentially view magic as a creative endeavor, like art or writing. A story or painting can affect the thoughts and emotions of many others, just as a spell can affect both other people or possibly even the subtle structures of the world. In short, I regard it as an art and not a (in any fashion) a science.

My beliefs about magic and art are closely related to my belief that social science is a complete misnomer and that psychology, sociology, anthropology, and economics also are in no way sciences. Instead, I see them as subjective creative endeavors vastly closer to literary criticism or art theory than physics or chemistry.

In large part, my opinions about both magic and social science come from that fact that I am both comfortable with and in fact prefer the idea that we live in a world defined as much by perceptual and subjective rules and limits as by absolute physical laws. Most of the time I freely admit that there is a solid underlying physical reality to the universe, but I am also fairly certain that most of the time we never come close to perceiving it and instead interact with a world created as much (or perhaps more) from subjective perceptions and expectations than from solid physical realities. In this sort of world, there is room for reality to be somewhat flexible, and I am by nature a rather opportunistic, weasel-like individual who vastly prefers flexible rules (or at minimum ones that I can bend and work my way around) to ones that are rigid and unchanging. I freely admit that my worldview is one where my own desires are true, but I also believe that is true of all of us, regardless of what claims of objectivity we may make. It amuses me greatly that my view of the underlying structure of the universe is not all that dissimilar to Lovecraft's, with the obvious and rather major exception that I find the idea wondrous rather than terrifying and the idea of an unimaginable and uncaring universe means to me that I can make of both it and of life whatever I want.
heron61: (Dragon)
There are two trends in occultism that I see as closely related – attempting to create a scientific explanation for how magic works and the belief that magic is a purely psychological phenomenon that only affects the mind and perceptions of the practitioner. I see both as evidence that the person who holds them is uncomfortable dealing with magic as a real and perceptible phenomena that can affect change in the world.

The first is an attempt to justify this belief by proving that magic exists, while the second is a wholesale dismissal that magic is useful as anything other than a psychological tool. Like almost everyone raised in a materialist culture, I most definitely have moments of doubt about my own (or for that matter everyone's) occult practice, but I have never seen the appeal of either of the above options.

The first is simply not something I particularly interested in or comfortable with. As someone who came fairly close to getting a degree in physics, I am fairly dismissive of attempts by most occultists to "prove" magic, because so many of them rely largely or exclusively on pseudoscience. Many of the worst modern offenders are the various misapprehensions about quantum mechanics that general result in a wide variety of "quantum nonsense" explanations for magic that display complete ignorance of actual physics, that are based solely on popularizations of what most people think quantum physics is about.

Both magic and quantum physics are fascinating fields of study, and for all I know they may even be related. However, the vast majority of explanations for magic that involve quantum physics (as well as most other scientific explanations for magic) ill-done and based far more on misconceptions about magic. Examining some of the oddities of various sciences that might leave room for magic is not something I feel any need to do, but can be interesting. Claiming that some phenomena or other is the mechanism by which magic functions is almost always both bad science and bad occultism.

As for the psychological model for magic, I see that as a different result to the same problem that leads to "quantum nonsense" explanations for magic - a desire to explain magic in scientific terms. Some people create pseudo-science to explain and justify their use of and belief in magic. Others look to science and end up denying that magic has any affect beyond the psyche of the practitioner. Both answers seem rooted in having too great a need to explain (or perhaps more accurately, to justify) why magic works, rather than simply doing it and learning more about how it works and what it can do for the practitioner in both practical and spiritual terms.

I have found much utility in charting success with various magical techniques, exploring the similarities and differences between different magical traditions, keep track of correlations between the practitioner's internal state and the success of the ritual and using a variety of other techniques to determine how magic works. Looking at the underlying processes of magic from this PoV is exceptionally valuable. Also, various scientific (and more commonly) technological metaphors for magic can be extremely useful. While I have yet to experiment with them, I have also heard that much utility can be gained from working with various devices like biofeedback machines. I can even see value (and potentially much interest) in doing MRI scans of practitioner's brains while they were performing magic (a recent breakthrough in miniaturizing MRI devices may make this practical). However, all these questions ultimately deal with the question of how magic works

However, I have never seen anything of value come from using science to examine why magic works. In addition to this task completely eliminating all spiritual aims of magic from consideration (given that such goals are not susceptible to scientific measurement, being subjective experiences and states), I would find any possible answer to be like irrelevant to magical practice, in much the same way that attempts to quantify artistic or literary merit (beyond the most basic features of literacy) are irrelevant to the creation or appreciation of art or literature.

From my PoV, science is an exceptionally important human endeavor, but the pervasive belief that science can explain all facets of human life is evidence of the widespread mystification of science, wherein many people (including both the proponents and opponents of scientific investigations) consider it to have some mystical explanatory power. As I see it, many questions about art, magic, and religion are ultimately beyond the boundaries of science.

In addition to the obvious desire to seek reassurance about the validity of magic, the other reason I think that attempts to explain magic using either the physical sciences or psychology are so popular are misapplied metaphors. Many occultists regularly use metaphors derived from the physical sciences or psychology in their practice.

For example, seeing auras or performing energy work involves working with the metaphor that living things are surrounded with auras and "energy fields". I have found this to be an exceptionally useful and powerful metaphor. However, I simultaneously do not believe that these "energy fields" have any reality beyond the metaphor. I am firmly convinced that new scientific theories or new technology will not allow these energy fields to be measured or analyzed, because I consider them to be simply a useful metaphor.

I see such metaphors, applied in an intense, highly sensory fashion as an essential part of serious occult practice. However, I also believe that it is equally important to not confuse metaphor with reality. I feel "energy", I work with "energy", I can affect both internal and external changes with it, but I do not believe that this "energy" is some known or unknown physical force. Instead, I see it as a specific visualization that is a very useful way of accomplishing tangible magical effects, in other words, I see it as a magical tool and not as a physical phenomena. When working magic, I can see, feel, and manipulate "energy fields", and I can use them to accomplish various goals, but I do not consider them anything other than a convenient hook for my mind to be able to more easily work certain types of magic. However, I seem unusually gifted at compartmentalizing my mind and opinions from one another, and so I can easily see others having trouble with working with something as a temporary (and exceedingly tangible) reality while also intellectually dealing with it solely as completely unreal metaphor.

I think that often using metaphors derived from technology or the physical sciences creates an expectation that these metaphors represent something about the underlying nature of magic, as opposed to simply being a useful tool for focusing visualization and intent. I have absolutely no idea why magic works, I only know that for me, it produces both profound psychological affects and also changes in the external world.

June 2017

S M T W T F S
     123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930 

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jun. 28th, 2017 10:25 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios