Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Specify Ends, Not Means

I was rereading the article that I mentioned about the Indonesian magician trying to jinx President Bush and realized that the magician may have in fact gotten exactly the result for which he was casting. From the article:

Pamungkas said he believed the ritual - performed around 1km from the palace - would cause Secret Service personnel guarding Bush to fall into a trance and believe the US leader was under attack, causing chaos.

This is actually composed of two statements, and only the first really qualifies as a statement of intent. The magician cast a spell with the intent of causing the Secret Service to believe that Bush was in danger. The Secret Service did believe that Bush was in danger, and as a result cut short his visit. If these events are indeed related and the decision of the Secret Service was in some way influenced by the spell, this illustratea a problem that many magicians encounter - magick gives you what you ask for, not necessarily what you want.

In some ways Medieval magicians understood this principle better than modern occultists. They operated from a worldview in which the spirits they summoned were hostile and would attempt to twist the wording of any request, so they delivered charges to the spirits that read like legal discourses. While most classes of spirits are not actively hostile to magicians, magick does follow the path of least resistance. Spirits will do their best to follow the letter of the instructions that you give them, but if there is a relatively likely outcome that they can influence that fulfills your request, they will go ahead and do it. More intelligent spirits like Enochian Seniors and Kings tend to have some sense of the spirit of what you are asking, but as you work down the hierarchy the spirits become more literal-minded. I do not believe that this reflects any sort of malice on their part, just a lack of intellectual sophistication. When working with such spirits, formulating a statement of intent is like programming a computer - garbage in, garbage out.

The Indonesian magician probably should have asked for "chaos surrounding Bush's visit" or for Bush to somehow embarrass himself or encounter bad luck and frustration during the trip. None of these were accomplished by putting the thought of danger into the minds of Bush's Secret Service staff. They cut short the trip, Bush left, and that was that. The magician cast for what he wanted under the impression that it would produce the result he desired, which is a relatively common practice that often does not produce the intended objective. Instead, you need to cast for the outcome you want, not for something that you think will create the outcome you want. You specify the ends, not the means.

Specifying means can also limit the potential of magick. In the Bush example, there are many different ways in which a visiting dignitary could potentially be embarrassed or thwarted. To specify only one of them concentrates all of the magical power of a ritual on a single, very specific set of events. If this set of events is particularly unlikely, the spell will generally fail. Instead of working against the tendency of magick to follow the path of least resistance, you work with that tendency by specifying the ends very precisely but leaving the means open. Often, there is some way in which your objective can be fulfilled that you did not think of but which is relatively easy for the spell to facilitate.

11/22 Update: One of the problems with specifying statements of intent unclearly is that the target of the spell will be hit by effects that generally conform to the spell's goal but which do not necessarily match the stated intent. Besides issues directly related to Bush's Asia summit, he, his family, and his staff have had a run of bad luck in the last couple of days.

Air Force One loses a tire on landing in Vietnam.

Motorcycles crash while driving as part of Bush's motorcade in Hawaii.

The director of the White House Travel Office was mugged outside a Waikiki nightclub.

Bush daughter Barbara was robbed in Argentina. Also, a Secret Service Agent in their detail was 'badly beaten' in an attempted mugging.

So are these events related to the spell? None of them are common occurances, though airplanes do have occasional mechanical problems and people are robbed every day, and all of them took place after the spell was cast. My conclusion here is that the spell successfully raised energy but failed to direct it with much precision. Instead of creating a big negative effect on Bush himself it seems to have had a smaller effect on Bush that extended to his staff and his family members. Then again, it still could all be an unlikely coincidence.

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