Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Operant Equation

This is an expanded comment that I posted on Magick for the Real World. Realizing that I had never actually posted it anywhere else, I figured I should probably put it up here as well.

One of the things that I have been working on over the years in my own magical research is some sort of basic model that can help you figure out how likely a given magical effect will be based on elements of the working intended to produce it. As I've mentioned before, magick at its most basic is the ability to shift probabilities and increase the likelihood of specific events deemed desirable by the caster.

I started off with Peter Carroll's equations published in Liber Kaos and went from there, but there are number of differences between Carroll's worldview and mine. The primary difference is that Carroll is coming at magick from a sort of "Freudian" perspective, that there is some unconscious part of your mind that works magick for you by responding to symbolic information. I don't believe that, and the most recent research in neuroscience supports my position.

I call my version of the equation the Operant Equation, and the version I am using now has proved to be the most successful as far as predicting which operations will succeed and which are likely to fail. It is written thus:

C = G * L * E * (1 - A) * (1 - R)

As in Carroll's equations, all of these variables range from 0 to 1. C, the result, is the Casting Value, an overall measure of how perfectly the spell was performed.

G is Gnosis, the degree to which consciousness expands and shifts. L is the the quality of the Link to the target of the spell, either by similarity, contagion, or both. These are essentially the same as in Carroll's equations.

E is the Energetic State of the subtle body, which is related to phenomena such as Chi or Qi and also energetic physiological changes such as have been observed in Tibetan and Indian yogis and Chinese Qigong practitioners. Carroll ignores this, but it's really important.

Carroll defines A as "Awareness," in that he believes a magical operation has to be forgotten in order to work. That's honestly pretty silly in my experience, but the A that you really need to watch out for is Attachment. If you are too caught up in whether or not a spell will succeed it won't. I'm of the opinion that the "forgetting" trick is how Carroll gets around attachment in his own work, but I don't find that method very optimal.

Finally, R is Resistance to the outcome of the spell. Carroll and I see this term differently, primarily because Carroll bases his work on the Freudian "subconscious mind" model that is currently in the process of being completely debunked by neuroscientists. He believes that there is a "psychic censor" located somewhere in the mind that is biased against working magick and which naturally creates R if it is not bypassed. I don't believe that, but I do believe that R is created by ambivalence about the spell you are casting. For example, a lack of belief in your magical abilities can create R, as can the belief that you are somehow doing something you shouldn't.

Once you have C for a specific operation, you then multiply it by S, Magical Strength. This value is different for everyone and is based on a combination of natural ability and sustained daily magical practice. S is a number ranging from 1 to at least 100 or so that determines the biggest probability shift an individual magician can accomplish. A value of 1 means that the person in question has no real magical ability at all in that they cannot affect probabilities. A strength of 100 means that the magician can overcome odds of 100 to 1 against if the casting is perfect. C * S yields M, the Magical Effect.

To determine the likelihood of a given magical action succeeding, add P, the natural Probability of the event you are trying to cause, to M, the Magical Effect. If the odds of something happening are 1000 to 1 against and your M is 100, the result would be 1000 to 100 against or 10 to 1 against. Your spell may not succeed, but your odds of success are greatly increased.

In a group working, calculate M for each member of the group and add those values together for the total shift, keeping in mind that usually Gnosis drops a bit in group workings simply because some attention is required to coordinate the various participants. So the overall thing looks like this, with Pm representing the actual likelihood of the event occuring and the sum compiled for all individuals involved in the operation:

Pm = P + sum (S * G * L * E * (1 - A) * (1 - R))

It gets a little complex, but magick involves a lot of factors. Some of the above terms, such as Gnosis, can be broken down into other terms but are simplified here to make the equation more comprehensible.

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Anonymous said...

Very cool. I love the equation. How do you determine the value of each of the variables? Or is this more of a guideline, to get people thinking about all the factors so they can identify which is low, without necessarily assigning a specific value to each? Either way, very cool.

Also, could you expand on this section that you said in passing:

"that there is some unconscious part of your mind that works magick for you by responding to symbolic information. I don't believe that, and the most recent research in neuroscience supports my position."

I'm not familiar with the current research on that, but I'd love to hear more about it.


Scott Stenwick said...

Like Peter Carroll's equations on which mine are based, the 0-1 values are at least to a degree subjective. It's easier to take a known probability shift and work backwards, looking at the several variables. Unlike Carroll's, my version produces a real probability value, whereas his deals only in 0-1 factors that behave like percentages. As you suggest, it's also a good analytical tool for trying to tease out the various components.

Basically the neuroscience research I'm talking about are studies refuting the idea of an "unconscious mind" as it's discussed in psychoanalysis - that is, some sort of repository of "repressed material" presided over by some sort of "censor" function that explains why you, say, can't remember everything that has ever happened to you. It's relevant here because the "psychic censor" is a fundamental component of Carroll's model that's completely absent in mine. Simply, there's no evidence that anything remotely like it exists.

Anonymous said...

Cool. Thanks!