What are TL;DRticles? New series (or just one part, I don’t know). Has concise content, little filler, minimal sentence structure. This is how all my posts are formed in my head – I add the “in between” stuff later. May contain bad attempts at humor… just kidding, but seriously. Let’s start.
Epistomology is the study/philosophy of knowledge. “How do we know stuff?” is the gist of its focus.
Article will cover how that relates to magick, special attention given to learning “how to” knowledge.
Prerequisite reading materials:
Click here for dictionary definition. Click here for Wikipedia page. The rest of this post won’t make sense if you don’t read that stuff. Content will still be here if you pause to read.
Part I: Present Evidence, Clarified
(This part is useful later on. Later parts will build on it.)
Science tries to infer truths of the world by observation, prediction and experimentation. Scientific theories are ones that fit with the current evidence and predict future evidence on how the world works (or how people think/act, if sociology/psychology).
Magick is a “how to” system. There are no measurements, only experiences. Various mutually-exclusives models of magick contradict each other, same goes for different pantheons in different forms of deist magick. Many mages have made these observations.
An impossibility cannot exist, likewise a paradox cannot exist. If you think you’re aware of a paradox, there’s something you’re missing. Mages sometimes come up with a “theory of everything” by trying to unify all models of magick and “other things which create apparent paradoxes”, usually trying to shove all that into a modified model of magick. Result is usually larger model of magick where complexity gives rise to far greater complexity. Rarely is it simplicity that gives rise to complexity. Rarest are cases where that simplicity creates useful and efficient “how-to-do methods” that allow the mage to do magick more easily, more reliably, faster, etc.
This all assumes that magick is based on a rigid, absolute set of rules (like “Laws of Physics”, except for magick). The problem is that such predictions are usually wrong, and don’t easily account for many observations mages have noticed for decades. “The Universe (being the accommodating creature that she is), will tend to provide confirmation of any paradigm one chooses to live in.”  Translated: The universe will conspire to confirm your beliefs, practices, religion, etc. Normally this is placebo. Magick escapes this, because it predicts results that placebo (a psychological effect) cannot explain alone – it also can be used as a “how-to method” to replicate those results on demand, albeit degrees of success vary with the mage’s skill. Placebo only affects people’s perceptions, magick affects the shared world physically (whether subtle magick over time or not).
An attempt to unify all understanding of magick by building complexity and adding assumptions is unlikely to succeed, due to the number of possible variations of equally-plausible “theories of everything”. The room for interpretation is just too much, which creates those variations. Add the difficulty in testing, considering how the universe conspires to confirm your beliefs (including your magickal ones, too, like your Model of Magick or “theory of everything”), and you start to get lost in murky waters without a map in a hurry. Magick does tend to produce results that your expectations predict (including the expectation of surprise) – and although this may sound like it’s unfalsifiable, it is testable, since you can test how changes in your expectations affect how you do magick. (Underlined phrase is one of the major ideas behind this blog, and one of its main features. To help mages figure out how to do this and test it for themselves, so they can verify the results for themselves and arrive at their own conclusions objectively.)
 Peter J. Carroll, “Liber Null & Psychonaut”. York Beach, ME. Samuel Weiser, Inc. 1987 pp. 191
Part II: Epistomology And Learning About Magick
Mages learn magick at first by second-hand knowledge. They read or hear about someone having done some kind of magick – whether its the result or the “how-to-do method”. Sometimes it can also start by belief. But in all cases except being initiated by another mage (or witnessing magick first-hand), mages either have a belief in magick or they have second-hand knowledge about magick. At this stage, one isn’t really a mage, because one hasn’t done any magick yet. One would be a student or researcher.
The mage’s first successful act of magick may happen in various ways. Maybe they believed it was possible, and “it just happened”. Maybe they studied hard, tried it and earned it. Maybe there was something akin to “writer’s block”, and after a “eureka” moment (or an “a-ha! moment”) the mage had insight which helped him overcome that hurdle. Maybe it was an accident which happened by chance. Whatever the case, second-hand “knowledge of” became first-hand experience.
Usually one has to practice (at least a bit) before one has enough control over one’s magick to make it practical in day-to-day life (although many never achieve even that). Part II about learning magick after you’re done it at least once yourself.
Magick in a Model of Magick (read: theory of magick) is a series of propositions. The generic gist of it is: This Model of Magick says this collection of statements is true, and this set of rules are true. This collection of statements and this set of rules allow magick, and following this path of logical inference, you can achieve this result. Check the Energy Model and how some people use a small set of rules to create really clunky explanations for how they can justify to themselves that they’re achieving some kind of otherwise-impossible result. Or alternatively (for some laughs), look up explanations on why crystal healing works. (I can accept it as being a result of magick, sure. But the explanations of “ley lines”, “etheric energy”, “higher dimensions” and whatnot… well, let’s just say I went through that phrase and I’m glad I’m over it now.)
Logical inference means “if these two statements are true, then this statement must also be true”. An example is A = B and B = C; you can infer that if A and B are equal, and also that B and C are equal, that A and C must also be equal: therefore A = C.
Unfortunately, this also turns in on itself and creates a paradox. Mages make mistakes. Their logical inferences aren’t always true, and neither are the series of initial propositions. Because your model of magick depends on the assumption that those propositions are true and are as you described them; and even more so for your inferred propositions/statements, and you inferred sets of rules. If any critical initial propositions isn’t true, then if your Model of Magick and all you’ve done using said Model of Magick is based on bad information, then what are the odds that you would have predicted you would have achieved your results, if you knew the errors in your Model of Magick? Now consider how many mages there are, and how many variations and interpretations of magick there are. With so much room for variation and interpretation, why do mages still achieve desired results for their magick, and yet somehow the similarity of the world appearing to provide confirmation of their beliefs, religion or model of magick (as the case may be) ? (Don’t bother trying to make the case that mages are manifesting confirmation of their beliefs. Because that would have rather huge implications of the role of the mage, and the extent of his influence/power, without the mage being necessarily aware of what he’s doing or how he’s doing it. It’s also unfalsifiable.)
However the past remains. The results of magick remain. The explanations based on incorrect information then don’t appear to fit in anymore. Some mages are hit hard by this realization. Others, like myself, realize the explanation isn’t what’s making magick work. It’s how you got it to work, not the explanation (or internal justification) of why it working. Medieval sailors didn’t need to know about electrons or magnetism in order to use a compass, and neither did you when you were a kid. Newton didn’t have a full explanation as to why the world appears to be described mathematically with such elegance… and neither do we, but we can still use mathematics even if we have no explanation at the moment as to why that is.
A mage simply uses propositions (statements of truth, but also sets of rules) to explain to himself (internal justification) as to why magick works, based on his first-hand practical experience. It isn’t his explanation that gives him some special insight into how magick works, that grants the mage his power. Nor is it the internal justification he gets from his model of magick (read: those propositions made of statements of truth and also sets of rules). Instead, it’s that “this explanation makes a lot of sense” feeling that erodes a barrier that keeps people from doing magick. That barrier is one where people disallow themselves from experiencing magick because they don’t believe it’s possible. If you open yourself up to new experiences, you’ll be surprised at what you’re able to experience.
Part III: Will be about changing your beliefs to allow you to do more with your magick… coming soon, eventually, maybe.
Now available at:
“Dogma-Free Magick” – http://wp.me/p31b5Q-j9
Part IV: Ask you to try to make sense of this, fit the pieces together, try it out for yourself once it does, and arrive at your own conclusions even if they disagree with mine.
Now available at:
“Dogma-Free Magick” – http://wp.me/p31b5Q-j9
Part V: Probably a conclusion and thank-you at the end. Also a reminder to comment with your feedback.
Also, click here for a persistent baby panda for no reason. Guess that’s the end of the post. Yep. Could end at any moment.
Fun fact: did you know that people who bring up made-up facts and statistics in conversation are more likely to be interru-