Monday, October 17, 2016

Regarding Magical Models - Part Seven

This is Part Seven in a series. Part One can be found here, Part Two can be found here, Part Three can be found here, Part Four can be found here, Part Five can be found here, and Part Six can be found here.

Moving on from spirits, this week I will be addressing the concept of magical energy. This concept gets criticized a lot primarily due to its overlap with physics terminology, but most of the alternatives that get proposed are no better. "Power" is one, except that it has a physics definition too - work/time. In fact, I just use "energy" most of the time because physics has definitions for just about any other term that I could possibly use.

At the same time, we need to be clear on the distinction between magical and physical energy. For a long time during the twentieth century, parapsychologists believed that psychic abilities had to be due to some sort of physical energy like electromagnetism. However, nobody has ever been able to come up with an experiment that shows psychic abilities are affected at all by substances that are known to shield electromagnetic radiation.

This result demonstrates that magical energy is something else entirely. The data we have suggests that "energy work" - ie. breathing exercises such as pranayama or qigong - substantially increases the effectiveness of magical operations according to some unknown mechanism. As I mentioned in my original Information and Energy article from 2011, magical operations behave as though information provides the direction and focus, and energy provides the transmission strength.

Energy work does produce physical effects in the body. It increases the amount of oxygen flowing through your system, and I am convinced that many of the "tingling" effects that you experience while you're doing it have to do with increasing the firing rate of neurons. Neuroscience research has shown that advanced meditators exhibit unusually high resting brainwave activity, and most of those meditation techniques do involve some sort of breathwork.

In China, qigong is researched alongside what we would recognize as more traditional medicine. Chinese researchers have found that qigong masters can emit concentrated infrasound from their hands when treating patients. Infrasound consists of low-frequency sound waves, likely caused by subtle vibrations in the hands themselves, which in turn can be linked back to increased neural firing "powered" by energy work.

In 2014, a group of scientists identified a key pathway that seemed to be related to the effectiveness of acupuncture. They were able to show that Interleukin-10, a molecule that reduces inflammation in the body, seemed to account for the reduction in inflammation produced by acupuncture. Crucially, they were able to show that an IL-10 blocking agent prevented the effect.

Then, in 2015, another group of scientists found that a stronger link exists between the brain and lymphatic system than was previously believed. The lymphatic system follows the map of acupuncture meridians quite closely, so my latest working hypothesis (NOT theory - I hate it when people mix those two up) is that (A) the puncture of the skin produces IL-10 at the point of penetration and (B) the lymphatic system serves to move the IL-10 from the point of penetration to where it is needed.

As the lymphatic system does not employ a pump, lymphatic fluid is moved around by body motion and vibration. So this explains how a qigong set can increase health - the various movements and postures serve to circulate the lymphatic fluid. Likewise, infrasound vibration can accomplish the same when applied to a patient. And all of this is mediated by the brain and central nervous system through this recently-discovered system that links them to the lymphatic system.

So that's a complete model, linking several of the disparate strands of healing energy work together. But what I want to stress here is that magick appears to be something else entirely from this healing modality. Reiki, for example, doesn't seem to involve any sort of individual energy work - just an "attunement" and some mudras - but practitioners claim to be able to get results without any of these processes in place.

I don't know for sure if that's true, since I have yet to see studies on Reiki on par with what I've seen for acupuncture, which has been researched quite extensively for an alternative healing modality. But as the concept has influenced some of the energy models floating around out there, it at least needs to be addresses in the context of magick. Specifically, the idea is that "something" out there is producing the "energy" needed for performing Reiki healings.

Magical healing does seems to involve different processes than the IL10-lymphatic idea. Most importantly, it can be done at a distance, with no direct interaction between healer and patient. I don't know if Reiki practitioners believe that their system can do that, but if it is a subset of magical healing my model suggests that it should work the same way. It would be interesting to test that if nobody has yet - perform Reiki on patients via magical links instead of physical presence.

I would hypothesize that if there's no result from such a treatment, Reiki is probably working by placebo - in which case the effect is being produced by the patient him or herself. Note that I don't consider placebo to be "fake," but rather an effect unconsciously produced by the patient rather than the treatment itself. However, if there are positive results, it bears looking into whether or not a sort of "collective energy" or "egregore" or whatever you want to call it might be involved.

And I'll freely admit that I'm biased here - in my own work, I have seen little evidence of "collective energy" making a significant difference in magical operations. Golden Dawn magicians often talk about the "Golden Dawn Egregore," but I can't find one example of a person who was initiated into the Golden Dawn and who then experienced an immediate boost in the effectiveness of their ritual forms, which should happen if said egregore is (A) present at all and (B) effective at all.

In fact, the couple of data points I have suggest either no change or the opposite - I received one report that after initiation, even their Lesser Pentagrams seemed to be less effective. I've found that you can accomplish this by vibrating YHVH as "Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh" rather than as "Yahweh" or even "Yeh-ho-vah," which some Golden Dawn groups teach for some inexplicable reason, but beyond that I can't see how linking to an egregore would make you a worse magician. Or, if it does, why anyone would want to bother. But to be fair, my sample size is very small, and that one individual could be an outlier. Without more data, I just don't know.

To lay off the Golden Dawn and return to my own tradition, I don't know that there's an "OTO Egregore" either. At no point during my initiations did I experience any sort of sudden increase in ability. Rather, my initiations informed my studies and all along the way it felt like my progress was a slow but steady result of my own work. The biggest "instant boost" I ever came across was the operant field, which is why I talk about it all the time. But as far as I can tell, that had to do with a change in the forms themselves, not a connection with any external entity or structure.

Mike Sententia over at Magick of Thought has been working on a collective energy model for years, which I believe was originally inspired by how Reiki seems to be able to produce healing effects without any energy expenditure from the practitioner. He uses the term "ethereal software" (he's a computer programmer like me), which is idiosyncratic but basically means the same thing as "egregore."

He even went so far as to conduct a double-blind test to see if people could perceive the difference between a piece of ethereal software that he created and a dummy version. He got a very small positive result, but one that was too small to be statistically significant. At the same time, even if he had gotten a larger result, his sample size was small so the difference would have to be quite pronounced to reach that threshold.

Regardless of the result, I applaud the work. For too long, magick has been kept in the shadows by practitioners who guard their techniques instead of sharing them. We need to share them if we ever hope to get beyond the traditional arrangement in which collected lore is never tested or exposed to peer review. Magick can only evolve if we can treat it like a progressive science and do the work. The results will speak for themselves.

At any rate, I've debated back and forth with Mike on this topic for years. One of the areas that he explores, "direct magick," is quite similar to what I would call intuitive magick, and a lot of his work in going through the various processes by which individual energy work translates into magical effectiveness is quite good. It goes into a level of detail that I have not covered, in terms of things like sensory connections, and is particularly relevant to healing.

It's the "ethereal software" idea that I have trouble with, especially as applies to the ritual magick I practice. Back when he first proposed the model for ceremonial work, he based it on the assumptions that (A) ceremonial magicians never change their rituals in any way, when we do, and (B) that ceremonial rituals could not produce physical manifestations, but rather operated by mind to mind influence only, when the data I have shows that this is likewise not true.

Still, he revised those assumptions and insisted that the model was still the same, which is a problem. Normally, you need to rethink and rework models once you have new data. The first point in particular is especially problematic for how the model was (and still is) laid out. For example, according to Mike's model, the LRP is a single "piece" of ethereal software. If that's true, the data would suggest that any change to the LRP should result in a dramatic drop-off in effectiveness - and that just isn't true.

If I were to apply Mike's model based on my understanding of ceremonial work to the LRP, I would characterize it as the following:
  1. The Qabalistic Cross is an individual energy work practice, and only connects to outside forces peripherally.
  2. Each of the god-names that accompany the pentagrams represents an individual, external source of energy. So that's four "pieces" right there. The pentagram determines whether each operates in an invoking or banishing "mode."
  3. The four Archangels are spirits, which Mike contends are different from ethereal software. Calling on them is in fact a rudimentary conjuration, whether the ritual is a banishing or an invocation.
  4. "About me flames the pentagram..." and so forth is a statement that prompts the visualization by the magician that binds these spirits and sources of power together.
  5. Finally, repeating the Qabalistic Cross reiterates the energy work that opened the rite from the perspective of the powers called.
So are there external forces? Sure. But as I mentioned above, one of the easiest ways to "mess up" the LRP that I have found is to replace "Yahweh" in the east with "Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh." That results in a significant drop-off, which implies that the godnames are "pieces" in their own right. You lose effectiveness because you are no longer connecting to the "piece" in the east, which unbalances the structure and gives you less to draw upon.

If it was one piece, though, other changes should have a similar effect and they don't. You can actually change the LRP around quite a bit and still get good results so long as you call upon the same forces and maintain the same basic arrangement. All of that implies that the ritual is more flexible than it should be if it is treated like one big piece.

And another question suggests itself as well. Are the godnames really "software," that is, mechanistic structures lacking self-awareness - or are they gods? Under my model the difference between a god and a spirit is mostly one of degree. And it is possible to contact the gods named in the LRP, and they behave as if they are independent entities. So the question there is, if we have gods and spirits, do we even need "software" to explain how these rituals work?

At this point, I would say no. But I'm not ruling out the possibility that I could be wrong. Here's the data that I would like to see in order to reconsider my assessment.
  1. Data showing that experienced magical practitioners can increase their effectiveness by connecting to this "software" comparable to the known increase we get from calling upon spirits.
  2. Data showing that beginning magical practitioners can get unexpectedly effective results by using "software." Reiki might be an example of this, but I don't know enough about it to make an informed assessment.
And then, the question becomes whether or not these software egregores are any different from spirits, and what the difference might be. Maybe something like lack of self-awareness - but given the supposition that spirits are self-sustaining structures formed from coherent consciousness as I discussed last week, I assume that any persistent consciousness structure should have self-awareness because it is the result of coherence, which maintains the field.

That calls into question the entire distinction between spirits and collective energy - as in, maybe there really is none. I would argue that even under Mike's model, the distinction between "software" and low-level functionary spirits is already quite fuzzy. It's not entirely clear to me where one begins and the other ends, and I don't know how anyone would go about demonstrating that one way or another.

So what is "energy," anyway, then? Under the quantum information model, I would propose that physical energy work stimulates the nervous system, which in turn allows consciousness to create a more "forceful" information structure to transmit to a target. The "power" of a magical operation may be thought of as the difference in probability between the original information structure and the information structure as modified by the magical operation.

Peter Carroll talks about this as P(0) versus P(1) in his original magical equations published in Liber Kaos. while I disagree with Carroll on some of the inputs to his equations, as I discuss here, the general idea is a good one. A spell that makes a 100-to-1-against event happen would have a power of 100, a spell that makes a 50-to-1-against event happen would have a power of 50, and so forth.

This is essentially a shorthand for what I believe to be a much more complex process. The energy and structure of the magical form are determined by how strongly the form can be held in your field of conscious awareness, the quality of the link between you and the target, and the form and energy of the target system. These systems can both arbitrary numbers of quantum information "bits" - or qbits, in quantum computing terms - which means that the mathematics to fully describe the process are quite complex.

Basically, you can model the thoughtform as tensor that exists as a subset of the overall tensor that corresponds to your individual consciousness, with characteristics of both shape and intensity. The target, likewise, can be modeled as a similar tensor. The link joins the two together, and the result is a new tensor for the system than can be represented as the combination of tensor(0), which yields P(0) on wavefunction collapse, and tensor(1), which yields P(1) on wavefunction collapse.

Here's what makes it really nasty - because you're combining Schroedinger functions to form your tensors, you need to account for imaginary numbers. And, because we don't have a unified theory of cosmology yet, we don't know how many dimensions we need to use to model the resulting tensor. Maybe this 2015 discovery means that we might be able to reduce it to two regardless, but I need to see more corroborating data before I conclude this is likely to be the case.

The key point is that this manipulation of the quantum information happens before the wavefunction collapse. This is essentially what I was getting at with my "extended Schroedinger's Cat" analogy from a couple of weeks ago, with the caveat I keep repeating that we currently have no way to measure whether or not such a process is happening. So this might all be a bunch of wild speculation, but that being said, it keeps proving useful to me in analyzing my ritual results.

So I stick with until that is no longer the case. I imagine that even if my general assumptions are right, the model itself will likely need refinement. The first full model of any process is usually inaccurate in some way, as the history of science shows. But I'm hoping that by putting this idea out there, people can make use of it or disprove it depending on what experimental data shows. If it does turn out to be correct, the implications for future technological progress could prove far-reaching.

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Dacia Pacea said...

I'm wondering if what astronomers name Dark Matter and Dark Energy have something to do with how magick works.

I mean they cannot be detected directly, yet they make up most of our Universe. At least that's what the equations point to.

Scott Stenwick said...

That depends on what they are composed of. One current hypothesis is that dark matter is made up of weakly interactive massive particles - or "WIMPs" - but so far no experiment has ever been able to detect one. Another is that there's a form of the neutrino out there that does have mass, which could account for it, but once more nobody has ever detected one.

I would say that they could be related to the model of magick I'm talking about if they are not composed of particles at all, but rather represent large-scale structures within the overall quantum information field corresponding to the physical universe - basically, if they are large-scale manifestations of some sort of quantum space-time curvature.

But as with the various particle models, the science just isn't there yet. Once it is, I think a lot of things including magick will become a lot clearer.

Dacia Pacea said...

One crazy thought that comes to my mind is that they're linked with (or are!?) the astral. But that's just wild guessing.

Yeah, we'll just have to wait for the eggheads to come up with something new :)

Scott Stenwick said...

I think that might be a possibility, too. What we call the astral should correspond pretty closely, or even be identical with, the field of quantum information that pervades the universe. Certainly, information we perceive on the astral is most likely obtained by connecting with an existing quantum information field, and then receiving information from it rather than sending information to it. Psychic awareness should work the same way.

Yoseqlo said...

Good point about the ritual parts difference from steps to guide the E.Software in Mike's model, I haven't considered that. Spirits it's a topic that can be quite messy, thus I usually avoid it, you have spirits, gods, some sort of nature's elementals and a strange mix that aren't really spirits nor deceased people that we call ghosts. Along those lines, Mike has mention in the past that some sort of spirits do exist, but with a less important role in the act. I think the E.Software paradigm works better like a useful metaphore, I mean, with spirits you need to talk to them (rituals, offerings) into doing magick, with Softwares you just can access them directly or hack them, thus making the debugging process faster, while in the other case you need to do more into make the spirits cooperate or talk to them about the process and explain them exactly what do you want.

A comparison about both the Direct approach and spirits will be good, to see which works better, as you proposed. Comparing the supposed Software of the spirit vs aiming to the spirit itself. I have some experience with the Direct, but little to none with spirits, as I said, they seem too dificult to model for me.