Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Head Sizes and Reality Selection

Over the course of the last month there has been some discussion in the magical blogosphere of Lon Milo DuQuette's maxim, "It's all in your head, you just have no idea how big your head really is" along with other statements of his to the effect that all a magician changes is him or herself. Articles related to this topic have been posted by Jason Miller, Patrick Dunn, Rufus Opus, Frater Barrabbas, and a number of others. On the surface, DuQuette's statements would imply a psychological approach to magick, but at the same time he has written about various magical operations he performed that certainly seem to have produced results in the material sphere. As a result, speculation on the true meaning of "how big your head really is" abounds.

As it turns out, I'm in a good position to help resolve some of the ambiguity, as Lon DuQuette lectured on this very topic at the last National OTO Convention. Based on his comments, I can say with some certainty that DuQuette does believe that practical magick in which the material world is directly affected is for real, and that what he is proposing is essentially a discrete model of magick that fundamentally differs from those generally discussed in the magical blogosphere. To recap for new readers, those models may be summarized as follows:
  • Psychological Model: According to this model, the function of magick is changing states of consciousness at will, limited to the individual mind of the practitioner. This model does not explain the success of most forms of practical magical work.
  • Energy Model: According to this model, magick is accomplished by directing some form of subtle energy with the mind. This model works well for "energy work" systems such as Qigong, but has the problem that the supposed "energy" is hard to define and has some, but not all, properties in common with "energy" as used in physics.
  • Spirit Model: According to this model, the changes related to magical operations are accomplished by spirits external to the magical practitioner. This model explains some systems such as grimoire evocation extremely well, but is less effective at explaining operations in which no external spirits are called upon.
  • Information Model: According to this model, the changes related to magical operations are produced by an exchange of information in which magick is treated as a form of communication. The primary weakness of this model is that it does not explain the experiences of "energy work" practitioners.

My own thoughts on these models are best laid out here and here. In those two articles I think I did a reasonably good job of assembling a sort of "hybrid model" that combines the strengths of the energy, spirit, and information models and addresses their primary weaknesses.

Lon DuQuette's model is something else entirely, which I'm going to dub the "reality selection" model for the purposes of this article. According to his comments in his NOTOCON address, DuQuette's take on practical magick is that the way you change the events of the world around you is that you transform yourself into the sort of person that the outcome you want happens to. See the difference? Rather than trying to take an impersonal third-person perspective on magical operations, DuQuette directs his attention to the experiences of the individual practitioner. It's much like the perspective shift that you find in philosophy with Immanuel Kant's "Copernican turn" relative to the worldviews of Plato and Aristotle.

The idea of reality selection is a strong theme of the work of both Robert Anton Wilson and Antero Alli, writers with whom DuQuette is quite familiar. However, he explicitly takes this concept beyond the psychological realm, with the contention that you could, say, win a lottery by transforming yourself into the winner. Or, more specifically, selecting the possible future for yourself in which you will win. This idea pretty much hinges on the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics, in which every statistical possibility happens and in some manner our consciousness selects only one of those outcomes to experience.

Ontologically, this is pretty much identical with the one-world approach that I personally tend to work with. To my way of thinking, a magician builds up a desired probability shift within his or own sphere of consciousness, and then transfers that shift to the target of the operation via a magical link with or without the assistance of spirits depending upon the specific structure of the ritual. Using the reality selection model is more like looking at numerous different possible "reality tunnels" and then directing your consciousness towards one in which your objective is successfully achieved.

So by transforming yourself, you transform the world around you. Microcosm meets macrocosm. The role of spirits is not that well defined in the reality selection model, but if they are treated as beings that can help the magician guide his or her consciousness in the proper direction it seems to me that they can be integrated quite successfully. There are some oddities in terms of how you wind up having to define partial successes with the many-worlds model that I think are handled better by one-world probability shift modeling, but Lon's model certainly provides some food for thought. And it is anything but psychological, at least in the sense that the term is normally defined amongst magicians.

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Couldn't have said it better myself!
93 93/93
Rabbi Lamed Ben Clifford
(Lon Mil DuQuette