Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Regarding Magical Models - Part Two

So no, it isn't Monday. Think of this as a "Magick Tuesday" post due to the holiday weekend. Part One of this article can be found here, and I recommend that you read it over before moving on to this one.

The second part of this article starts off with a great big disclaimer. What follows is based on some of the latest discoveries in physics, but it is highly speculative. Much of it depends on theoretical measuring instruments that we do not current have, and many of my conclusions may not stand up to experiments that we eventually will perform if we ever figure out how to build them.

I find it utterly ridiculous when people assume that slapping the moniker "quantum" onto something makes it paranormal. It doesn't. The fact that quantum physics allows for a greater degree of uncertainty than Newtoning mechanics does not in any way "prove" the existence of the paranormal. One of the worst offenders in this regard from recent years was the film What The Bleep Do We Know!?, a pile of New Age twaddle dressed up with a bunch of quotes from scientists that in most cases were taken entirely out of context.

At the same time, though, if we operate under the assumption that magick can affect the physical world, it cannot be avoided that in order to do so it must in some way affect particles at the quantum level. More specifically, it behaves as if it affects fields of particles at the quantum level, in some way that is poorly understood by current physics. As I alluded to in the opening paragraph, I think this lack of understanding is the result of having no reliable instruments that can measure the effect itself, and it is profoundly difficult to investigate anything that cannot be measured using the formal scientific method.

So here's another big caveat. If magick cannot really affect the physical world, the rest of this section is a bunch of pointless speculation, and the experiences that I have had using magick to do exactly that are merely the results of coincidence and self-delusion on my part. In effect, if you are an adherent of Model 1, Microcosmic Psychological, none of this will mean anything to you or even be particularly relevant to your practice. For adherents of the other models, though, I consider much of it essential, and look forward to the day when it becomes more amenable to empirical experimentation.

Arguments from the Skeptic movement are often brought to bear against all forms of the energy and spirit models. It is true that magical "energy" does not appear to be energy in the sense that physicists mean. It does not appear to me mediated by sound, some form of electromagetism, or some sort of exotic particle. While the latter cannot be entirely ruled out, parapsychologists over the last century have deployed all sorts of shielding methods, and none of them seem to affect the results of experiments all that much.

Likewise, fraud was so rampant in the Spiritualist movement that it is difficult to determine where the fraud ended and the real paranormal effects began. It is pretty clear now that the most dramatic results achieved by spiritualists were probably faked, and if we allow for the possibility of psychic perception, just about every case where a spirit knew something that the medium did not could have simply been pulled from the memory of whoever the client happened to be.

In fact, it could be argued that real psychic perception combined with cold reading techniques would probably make a medium seem so good that no one would ever question him or her. Psychic abilities may not work all the time, but if you can cover those times with cold reading I expect you would come off as absolutely remarkable. It is even possible that some of the surprisingly large differences in ability between popular mediums, all of whom use the same cold reading techniques, might be explainable in this way.

At any rate, these Skeptic arguments against the spirit model all boil down to the point that the presence of spirits has never been measured under controlled scientific conditions, that were later found to be replicable under peer review. And this is true. Again, I believe the problem stems from the lack of proper measuring instruments, but there's no way for me to prove that contention one way or another.

At the same time, I know that if I call upon a spirit in addition to using my own magical power, my results turn out much better. The same is true of energy work. Taken together, those observations from my own practice pretty clearly suggest that there's something to both models. Because my own consciousness is part of my experimental apparatus, there's no way I can make a formal scientific case for those observations, but they do seem to hold whenever I perform practical operations.

So to summarize, based on results from my own practice and experimentation, I have concluded the following:

  1. Macrocosmic magical effects do occur. This does not support the validity of the Microcosmic Psychological Model.
  2. Macrocosmic magical effects can be produced without employing energy work or spirits. This supports the validity of the Macrocosmic Psychological Model, and does not support the validity of the Spirit-Only Model.
  3. Macrocosmic effects are improved by the addition of energy work to my practices. This supports the validity of the Individual Energy Model.
  4. Macrocosmic effects are further improved by calling upon external spirits. This supports the validity of the Spirit-Plus Model.

While it is possible that these could be belief-based effects where I observed what I expected to see, I don't think that's the case. The entire point of measuring whether spirits and energy work had much of an effect was to test it, and at the time I don't know that I was presupposed to accept either. My measurements involved hard probability shifts within systems that I could not directly control, and the effect was pretty clear.

I also can't rule out the possibility of apparently external spirits originating within some unconscious part of my own mind, except that modern neuroscience has shown that basically, an "unconscious mind" doesn't exist. There is literally about as much solid evidence for it as there is for psychic powers. The brain performs unconscious processing of things like conditioning loops, but none of that in any way resembles a "mind" as we generally conceive of it.

So essentially, to fit spirits into either Psychological Model is difficult. Energy work is a little easier to integrate, since those practices do increase oxygenation of the blood and appear to increase neural firing - which, by the way, is measurable, biochemical energy that is being expended. You could in theory do a procedure like a PET scan (which tracks the brain's consumption of glucose) and propose that the "energy" being raised is the difference in firing between a practicing brain and one that is at rest. Also, the total is probably higher, since scanning the brain alone leaves out the rest of the central nervous system.

The Collective Energy Model is a tough one for me because I have found it very difficult to validate. I've had a number of back-and-forth debates with Mike over at Magick of Thought, who is a big Collective Energy guy. It's not that I find the concept entirely implausible - I know and have employed techniques to create things that behave like Collective Energy structures. Recently he's been testing out one of these structures that he created, which I think is great from the standpoint of magical research.

My questions are mostly with regard to whether or not the Collective Energy Model applies to the kind of magick I usually work. For example, I do not think that forms like the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram represent a single Collective Energy structure. The LRP actually calls upon four distinct godnames and four distinct archangels, and as I experience it, what binds those eight elements together is the will of the individual magician and the overall geometric arrangement of the ritual, not some additional external structure.

At its based, this is a sort of "Occam's Razor" as applies to paranormal effects. I have heard Golden Dawn initiates argue that the LRP is a Golden Dawn ritual, so therefore it should work better for you if you are connected to the "Golden Dawn Egregore" by means of initiation. But I've never seen any clear evidence for that assertion. What I have seen is that initiation in general improves your practices, and I haven't seen any evidence that a Golden Dawn initiation improves your LRP substantially more than does an initiation in OTO.

And keep in mind, before any Golden Dawn initiate reading this decides I'm knocking their system, I'm not. I can't say that an "egregore effect" doesn't occur, only that I have never seen any evidence of it. Still, I do think that if it were particularly dramatic, it should easily be demonstrable and I don't know why up until now none of those groups have provided such a demonstration. In theory, the same could be said of any order including the one I belong to, OTO, but my order generally doesn't make such claims to begin with.

Last, but certainly not least, the Information Model is a kind of meta-model that includes all the others. I reject Dunn's notion that it somehow invalidates the Spirit and Energy Models, because I and most other magicians have found that both those models seem to work. Rather, I think that my reformulation of it based on information theory rather than linguistics/semiotics shows clearly how both energy work and spirits can be modeled within it.

Information theory tells us that an form of communication involves two factors: the message itself, and the strength of the signal. So as I mentioned in Part One, my proposal is that energy work effectively gives you a bigger transmitter, so that your signal can be stronger. Likewise, just like individual magicians, spirits are capable of this sort of communication as well, and can add their own strength to any operation in which they are conjured.

Notice, by the way, the underlying theme here. Models that include the concept of "only" are generally excluded by experimental research. The Microcosmic Psychological Model, basically Psychological-Only, gets ruled out by any sort of macrocosmic paranormal effect. The Spirit-Only Model gets ruled out by any sort of direct magical operation performed without spirit intermediaries. And Energy-Only Model would get ruled out by operations where adding spirits improves the results. And so on.

It never has been clear to me why, given the vast differences in magical practice, all of these different approaches couldn't exist simultaneously. Not all magick employs energy. Not all magick employs spirits. Not all magick involves sophisticated "sleight of mind" psychological techniques. Crucially, though, combining all three approaches is what produces the very best possible results. Building a unified model requires us to recognize that such a model must predict that particular result.

So what am I really proposing, then? This is where I finally work back to my second paragraph. What I am proposing is a "quantum information" model of magick. More specifically, a "quantum information field" model. Again, to reiterate, "quantum" DOES NOT mean paranormal. A quantum information model depends upon two particular principles that have never been clearly validated scientifically - (A) that consciousness interacts with quantum information, and (B) that this interaction goes both ways.

Immanual Kant's metaphysics is useful in terms of illustrating what I'm talking about here. Kant proposed that reality may be divided into two realms, the "world of things in themselves" and the "world of appearances." Magicians will recognize that division as what we call macrocosm and microcosm. Kant's model nicely illustrates how, generally speaking, our perception of the world is mediated by our senses. He proposes that things in themselves affect appearances, but not the other way around.

The magical metaphysical model, though, proposes that effects go both ways. Not only do changes in the external environment propagate into our personal fields of awareness; changes that we make internally propagate outward as well. Where models like New Thought go wrong is that they propose the propagation in both directions is equal, when magical experimentation clearly shows that it are not. Our senses collect information instantly and immediately, while interior changes propagate to the exterior world to a much lesser degree.

So in this sense, the proper term for a magical effect is "influence" rather than "control." If magick were as deterministic as physics, it would have been fully explored by scientists long ago. Instead, it represents effects that are difficult to measure and relatively weak on their own. Fortunately for the magician, much of nature seems to follow the dynamics of chaos theory, in which a small push at just the right point can create much larger effects given enough time.

Incidentally, this idea from chaos theory is where "chaos magick" gets its name. I have often found it rather disheartening over the years when chaos magicians act as if "chaos" in the magical sense means "yay anarchy" instead of the original meaning, which describes how implicit order can arise from seemingly chaotic beginnings, and how self-organizing systems can transform small probability "pushes" into large-scale effects over time.

Effectively, in order to accurately model how magick works, we must first find a way to demonstrate how consciousness and quantum information reciprocally interact. This is a challenging proposition in empirical terms, which is why just calling something "quantum" is not enough. Quantum physics works just fine whether we assume such influence is possible or if we do not, and as a result, it is no more paranormal than Newtonian dynamics or General Relativity.

At the same time I do think that there are certain ways that we can approach that sort of research, and a handful of intriguing formal studies that have been done over the last several decades that suggest a possible effect.

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Anonymous said...

I agree with your view and then some. I go by the hermetic principle "as above, so below...", so it makes total sense to me. Also, I think the microcosmic realm can end up controling the macrocosmic, not just influence it, when an individual has achieved a total god-head assumption.

PS: isn't LVX also an element called upon in the LRP? "Within me shines the 6 rates star"

Scott Stenwick said...

Here is what I mean by influence rather than control.

I have never seen a magical operation that worked one hundred percent of the time for everyone, or even everyone who has mastered godform assumption. I have never seen a magician, even one skilled in godhead assumption, who can perform even one particular operation one hundred percent of the time. That would be what I consider "control." "Influence" better implies that magick works by shifting probability. Even if you get a huge shift, it is not completely deterministic - or at least I have never seen it.

The reference to the six-rayed star alludes to the invocation of the macrocosm by means of the Lesser Hexagram, but that one simple statement does not invoke the macrocosm on its own. It's more like preparation for subsequent work. Or at least, that's my experience.

Anonymous said...

*6rayed star - autocorrect error. Yeah you're right on that. I was carried away :)

As for a god-head assumption, I believe there isn't something that's impossible, only improbable, so if one were to become what the bible says about Jesus, nothing would be impossible - just my christian side talking here; doesn't even matter if Jesus really existed or not.

I would like to make a distinction between the god-head assumption and achieving unity with the HGA. I believe they're two distinct things, the latter being a stepping stone towards the former. I think it was Crowley who wrote that no one can rise above Chokmah in their physical existence, but i think it's possible. I may have understood it wrong though.

If one were to unite with Kether that would contain both microcosm and macrocosm, and be beyond them.

Hope you'll have a good laugh at my wacky way of viewing things :D

mike said...

Interesting article..

"..As I alluded to in the opening paragraph, I think this lack of understanding is the result of having no reliable instruments that can measure the effect itself.."

No..your looking at basically none mechanistic phenomena..through a mechanistic mind set.
The problem is built around consciousness/observer effects etc ..and is not new..

"..neuroscience has shown that basically, an "unconscious mind" doesn't exist..."

Its a sort of straw man argument..the term "unconscious" has always referred/implied the subconscious..

"..The brain performs unconscious processing.."

The mind performs both conscious and subconscious processing..

Scott Stenwick said...

Yes, the problem is built around consciousness. We do not currently understand exactly what consciousness is, so we have no idea what we would need to build to measure it. If we had those instruments, magick would be much easier to investigate.

My issue is not with unconscious processing, but rather with unconscious processing that behaves like a coherent mind. It's the latter that doesn't appear to exist. The former is trivially demonstrable.