Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Click to Pray

In a new development that is literally about spiritual technology, last month the Roman Catholic Church launched a new smartphone app called Click to Pray. The app was covered by numerous media outlets, some of which considered it kind of silly. But as a practicing magician, I think the idea is good even if Christian theology is misguided on the idea of spells versus prayers.

Pope Francis launched an app Sunday called “Click to Pray,” which connects Catholics to a global network to share prayer intentions via their smartphones.

The pope opened the new app using an iPad during his Angelus address Jan. 20 and encouraged young Catholics, in particular, to download the smartphone app to pray the “Rosary of Peace” ahead of World Youth Day.

“Click to Pray” allows users to post prayer intentions and view other prayer requests in six languages. After posting on the social network, one can track how many Catholics around the world have prayed for their request.

The Android and iOS app includes the pope’s monthly prayer intentions, all of the mysteries of the rosary, and daily prayers for morning, afternoon, and night. In each of these sections, users can click a box to indicate that they have completed the prayer and view how many others also prayed.

This topic has come up here numerous times. Some Christians argue that the difference between spells and prayers is that prayers are devotional whereas spells are performed for some specific intent. That's actually a fair enough definition, and somebody who prays in an exclusively devotional manner might be doing mysticism but probably aren't doing magick. Theological issues pop up, though, the moment you start praying for something. That's when your prayer becomes a spell.

Magicians like me don't have any problem with spells. We do the techniques that we do to amplify the potential effects of our spiritual work. As we see it, prayer is just a less efficient form of magick that relies on an inaccurate concept of deity to get results. If we really lived in a universe where a single all-powerful deity could make any change whatsoever on a whim, it wouldn't really matter how you pray, just that you do it in such a way that it attracts paranormal attention.

Since you can optimize the results of your spells, the implication is that this model is just wrong. It also implies that a model where spirits do all the work is wrong as well. Deities are forces in the universe and so are spirits. Both can help you manifest what you want up to a point, but there are limits to how far probability will bend. The physical world can't be made of thoughts, like "The Secret" will try and tell you.

Our subjective experience of the world is made of thoughts because it is an experience generated by our mind/brain in response to sensory input. But that's not tha same thing at all. If you take the "all thought" model seriously, what you are doing is mixing the planes. Microcosm (subjective exeprience) and macrocosm (the physical world) do have fundamentally different natures. Anybody who has done serious magical work can tell you that when you push the physical world, it pushes back.

Since there's not much optimization work in Christianity as far as getting prayer to produce specific effects (so spells, not just devotional work), it sounds like this app is trying to mobilize the next best thing - large numbers of practitioners focused on a small set outcomes. There are something like a billion Roman Catholics in the world, and even a small subset of them on this app might be able to produce noticeable paranormal effects. That is, if it really can bind all of those intents together successfully.

So I'll be watching to see if anything weird comes from rolling this thing out to a community of users. It's not impossible that it could work, but at the same time the real results remain to be seen.

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