Monday, March 10, 2008

A "Kinsey Report" on Magick

I watched the film Kinsey last night, which was quite good. It tells the story of Dr. Alfred Kinsey and the events that led up to his groundbreaking studies of human sexuality. One of the things that really struck me about the story is that Kinsey was motivated to study sexuality because in his time so little was known about people's actual practices and experiences. There had never been a large-scale scientific study of sexuality, and people kept accounts of their sexual experiences to themselves rather than sharing them with others. Magick today is treated much like sexuality was in Kinsey's time, and maybe what we really need to help us understand the practices and experiences of magicians is some sort of large-scale study done along similar lines.

One of the reasons that Aleister Crowley's work is so important to modern magicians is that Crowley was an obsessive diarist who kept accounts of all his magical operations and their results. His work gives us a good account of one magician's journey from Neophyte to Magus and brings out into the open a process that until his time had been the hidden core of the Western Esoteric Tradition. Crowley recommended that all his students do the same, but unfortunately to this day nobody has produced a magical record that is as detailed or as enlightening. Crowley was an exceptional person, but at the same time he recommeded his practices to everyone and believed that most people would get some benefit from them. I can say that this is true for me, but without more data that's really as far as I can go.

This is where science comes in - a perfect case for the application of "The Method Science, the Aim of Religion." An interview process similar to Kinsey's could produce some very informative results if designed properly. The biggest issue I see is that the sample size would be much more limited than what Kinsey had to work with. Just about everybody has sex, but only a certain percentage of the population practices mystical forms of spirituality and some subset of that group actually practices magick. Most of us analyze our own results and try to to build on them as we walk the path, but I would love to see a book that chronicled accounts of successful and unsuccessful operations from thousands of people. I don't know what such a work would do to the magical arts as a whole, but I would really like to see it happen.

Now if I can just get a grant from some big foundation I'll be in business - but there's a tough sales pitch. "See, I want to do this large-scale study of magical spirituality to help us understand the mysteries of the universe. Are you willing to underwrite my research?"
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Unknown said...

In the case you didn't know, Dr. Kinsey and Kenneth Anger visited Cefalu together. There is at least one photograph of them where is appears they are discussing something in the Chamber of Horrors. I wonder what they might have thought of the phalluses with six legs on the walls.

Scott Stenwick said...

That certainly would have been an interesting conversation. I had no idea that Dr. Kinsey had an interest in Crowley's work, or even knew much about it.