a cache of usenet and other text files pertaining
to occult, mystical, and spiritual subjects.


Epistemology and Magic

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.paranormal.spells.hexes.magic,alt.pagan.magick,alt.magick,sci.skeptic
From: "Nova Solo" 
Subject: Re: Epistemology and Magic (was A question from a beginner.)
Date: Tue, 26 Sep 2000 03:25:15 GMT

Well, at least it's getting shorter.  Sorta.

nagasiva yronwode wrote in message <8qo9pm$>...
>5000925 Vom
>> It is interesting, and I'm glad to be debating the subject with
>> someone for whom I have great affection and respect.
>I've stopped debating it with you.

Glad you told me, otherwise I wouldn't have known.

>mostly I'm attempting to
>understand the points of contention so as to more completely
>assimilate the conventional extentions of the hypotheses themselves.
>you've thought about it enough to dismiss certain ideas, but not
>enough to explain effects you apparently believe occur.

That's exactly correct.  These effects are ones I believe occur.  I don't
know whether they do or not.  I don't know how full of shit I am. I'm
perfectly willing to entertain the possibility that I'm toting around
wheelbarrows full of steaming horse apples when it comes to this magick
stuff.  I willingly admit I can't explain it.  I have sliced and chopped and
pared things down until I have found the bare minimum of 'stuff' that I
can't get rid of and still have anything happen that I can credit to
something beyond coincidence.  I could still be wrong.  That's ok too.

>I've been debating it occasionally with people for years, and this
>has led me to begin taxonomizing the epistemological structures that
>surround the phenomenon of magic. at some point debating between
>knowledge systems becomes useless, since I'm not really trying to
>convince you of the truth of it so much as see where one leaves
>off and another begins. Tom seems to think that this is sophistry,
>but I think of it as good philosophy and the good foundation of
>scientific investigations.

I don't think it's sophistry, but I think you have an antagonistic way of
doing research.  You don't seem to say "I'm interested because I'm
collecting data", you say things like "preposterous!"  While the idea being
expressed might indeed BE preposterous, it's hardly going to make people
want to open up and share the intimate details of their workings with you.
If information-gathering is your goal, you might want to choose an approach
that will make people more willing to speak freely.

If it is your goal.

>>Finding reality isn't a goal, it's a necessary step in the process.  It's
>>different than saying that you need to know how much house you have before
>>you buy paint to paint it.  Or you have to know the measurement if you
>>to cut wood to fit it.  This is not mystical, it's common sensical.
>not a necessary element to magic, from what I can tell. Hermetic
>magic seems to set this up as an important element, but it isn't

There may come a time when I choose to preface everything I say about magick
with "I think", "I believe", "In my experience" or some other limiter.  This
is not that time.  However, if you feel that this limitation is not evident,
I'll consider adding a .sig so no one will get the impression that I think I
know it all.  I know precisely dick.  I suspect a great deal.  I think a
good bit more.  But I don't know much of anything.

>>> mysticism ... *n* 1 : the experience of mystical union
>>> or direct communion with ultimate reality reported
>>> by mystics....
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> "Websters Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary",
>>> 1967; p. 561.
>>> ----------------------------------------------
>>mystic: adj. 1 of esoteric rites or doctines. 2. mystical.  3.
>>ysterious.  --n. one who professes to undergo profound spiritual
>>mystical: adj. 1. spiritually significant or symbolic.  2. of mystics or
>>Webster's New World Dictionary, 1990; p. 390
>what does the same dictionary define as "mysticism"? cf. your
>definition for ---n. "one who professes to undergo profound spriitual

mysticism -- n.  1. belief in the possibility of attaining direct
communication with God or knowledge of spiritual  truths, as by meditation
2. obscure thinking or belief

>>Hence my rejection of the term.  There's nothing spiritual about it.
>even your dictionary had something spiritual, and I'd be willing to
>bet that it says something about spirituality and reality in its
>definition of "mysticism".

I repeat.  It's not mystical.  It's not mystic.  It's not mysticism.  It's
not spiritual.  It's not religion.  It's not godform.  It's not dark
mysterious hidden knowledge.  It's what I consider to be a common sense
approach.   Why is this giving you problems?  I don't understand why the
inclusion of the word "spiritual" in my dictionary's definition of 'mystic'
is important to you, when I'm rejecting both 'mystic' and 'spiritual' as
terms applicable to the way I view magick.  I get the feeling I'm missing
something here.

>my point is that there is more than one way to view magic, and
>the convention is not at all a consensus. you're representing a
>single perspective, and I'm only answering with a popular alternative.
>pretending that only one is reasonable or popular is not fair to
>those who are studying the subject. the testing of all this is one
>aspect of talking about it, but demanding tests for every assertion
>about what is traditional is ridiculous.

Don't think of it as a demand. I'm genuinely curious if it'd work under test
conditions.  If it wouldn't, no skin off my nose.  I'm not going to start
capering about and crowing.  If it would work, I'd be delighted.  Neat!

>>>> ...that's what magick is.  Fooling people.
>you're making claims here. if you want to start providing some kind
>of underpinning of testable knowledge, why don't you bolster your
>own claims? there are certainly tests for the Stage Magic hypothesis
>just as there may be for any other. I don't require it, but it seems
>hyper-aggressive to respond to anyone's conjecture with "test it!"

Does it?  I don't mean to come across that way.  I'm content to play in my
sandbox and leave everyone else to their sandbox.  My way is one I like.
I'm secure enough that I don't need to prove to Joe Schmoe that his way
doesn't work.  For my own edification, it'd be neat to test out the
inherent-power system.  I've tried it and found it didn't work for me when
the basics (see above) were removed.  As I said at the beginning of this
thread, if anyone else had asked, I probably wouldn't have responded.  I am
not, as a general rule, interested in debating which forms of magick are
"real" and which aren't.  For all I know, they could all be real.  I just
know mine works for me.

>in the meantime, why bother to try to establish one perspective as
>"accurate" unless you've got some investment in dogma? (I'm not primarily
>talking about you here, but you and Tom seem to be holding up your end.)
>I don't even mind that much the presentation of your dogma, but I'd like
>to find out more about how your favoured ideas about how magic works
>includes the effects (if you think that it works at all, that is, which
>it is certainly reasonable for participants to reject)

Is it dogma if I'm willing to chuck the lot of it and start over?  Maybe it
is.  I try not to object to the word 'dogma' for its own sake.  So many
people, especially in the pagan and magickal communities, use dogma as some
kind of club.  If you disagree with someone, you're espousing dogma and
you're a bad, bad person.  Eh.  Maybe.  I'm willing to be a bad, bad person,
too. ;>  We get to wear the cool clothes.

>>>so, by your assessment, how would such a poppet/doll work?
>>>if Poke never knew about the doll, for example, and if
>>>Tom did the spell against him, are you saying that there
>>>would be some unconscious communication between them in
>>>some way? I'm genuinely curious about how you flesh out
>>>the metaphysics here, especially if there is no further
>>>contact between Tom and Poke other than what has already
>>>happened and Tom's observation of how Poke expresses
>>>himself in the newsgroup (i.e. whether Tom likes it and
>>>decides not to torture the doll some more :>).
>> ...Tom's belief and willpower are required to enforce a
>> concept that is not otherwise active.
>where is it enforced? where is it active? if you haven't got
>your magic theory worked out, how can you be so sure that
>the conventional alternatives are incorrect?

Tyagi, don't make this more complex than it has to be.  Here.  In the world.
Not on the astral plane, not in the Etheric Whatever.  Here.  In this
consensual space-time we all agree on some basic level is what we will call
'reality'.  For more info, see below.

>> I'm afraid I don't know the "how" of it beyond that
>> unsubstantiated belief....
>so explain your unsubstantiated belief. we deal with that all
>the time here. I don't have such rigid requirements, apparently,
>as Tom, who seems to want everything demonstrated to him in
>a test before considering it seriously. ;>

All right, but if you come back and ask how I know this is true, I'm going
to smack you with the definition of "unsubstantiated belief".  This is the
quicky five-minute version.  I'll review it a few times to make sure it says
as much as it can without turning it into some kind of thesis on the

In the 'normal' state of 'reality', the concept of our hypothetical babydoll
actually affecting Poke is not valid.  It is not the commonly accepted
belief, it is not the default setting.  Tom's willpower and belief are
required to overcome the default, to instruct the world to operate on his
terms for this moment in time.  This modification may only be effective in
Tom's perceived reality.  Perceived reality may or may not be the same as
consensual reality.  Subjective reality may or may not overlap objective
reality.  Poke may or may not 'really' be affected by Tom's manipulation of
the doll.

The more closely Tom phrases his desire and aims to stay within his own
personal perceived subjective reality, the greater the odds are that his
working will be successful because delusion is easier to achieve.  To keep
himself from growing heady with the rush of success, Tom should be prepared
to acknowledge that this is a delusional state, and should be able to leave
it behind.  Otherwise, he runs the risk of being unable to accept a
difference between subjective and objective realities, and he'll never
manage to get beyond subjective.  Plus, someone will lock him up sooner or
later for your proposed 72 hours of observation.

Will the spell be successful in the default reality?  Maybe, maybe not.
Will it be successful in Poke's reality?  Maybe, maybe not.  More 'maybe
not' than 'maybe' if Poke is aware of the effort against him and works to
counter the doll. If Poke chooses to counter with another spell, then Poke's
belief in his spell may or may not outweigh both Tom's belief in Tom's spell
and Poke's belief in Tom's spell.  At this point, both have suspended belief
in the default reality where, as anyone will tell you, magick doesn't work.

It is my theory that active unbelief may be more effective than belief in a
counter-spell.  Active unbelief is supported by the default worldview of a
few trillion people, minus those who do accept that magick works.  By my
ideas of magick, that would make active unbelief as directed by will as
spell-belief is.  I haven't had the opportunity to test this out, but it
sounds way cool. If this is correct, Poke would do better to know Tom is
working with a poppet, and actively mock the idea that it could be at all
effective. He should seek out any hint of belief or fear that it might work,
and get rid of it.  If he thinks it might work, he increases the likelihood
it will.

And everything you read in this book could be wrong.

Now, I should add I don't usually go through all this thought-process when
I'm working.  I just do it.  Sometimes it's only my own reality that needs
changing.  Usually it is, actually.  Y'know, things like not running out of
gas too soon, or fixing traffic lights, or not getting soaked when I'm
trying to get the horses to come into the barn on a rainy night.  Or not run
off the road when I'm driving 70 down a narrow country road when it's
pouring out so I can get home to feed those same horses.  Did that one
tonight.  Didn't crash.  Was it magick?  Yep.  Did it actually do anything?
No idea.  I might have just been one lucky little bitch in a black car.
Will I do the same "working" again the next time I have to drive at unsafe
speeds in unsafe conditions?  Damn right.

>> I refuse to posit the existence of otherwise-unidentifiable
>> ethers, energies, or planes of existence.
>why? is this not unreasonable on your part, in consideration
>of metaphysics surrounding magic? Occam's Razor doesn't even
>cut all the way to a Nihilistic nub.

Show me a reason why it should exist, and I'll consider adopting it into my
peculiar belief system.  I don't seem to need it to function, so I don't use
it.  You can, if it makes you feel better.  I don't mind.

>> Suffice it to say that I think will and belief are both required
>> to make it work.
>this is because you have seen those who did not believe try
>spells and these spells failed? else what brings you to your

I used to do big, elaborate rituals.  Candles, pentagrams, circles, calling
guardians, special ritual tools, certain minerals, incense.  But I got tired
of doing it.  In the interests of being lazy, I began eliminating steps.
And some things still worked.  Sometimes I still enjoy the pomp and
ceremony, and I'll dust everything off and drag it out again.  But usually,
I don't bother.  If I do ritual, it's because I'm feeling the need to be
artistic and not practical.

By the way, it might interest you to know that the same is true of house
cleansing and shielding.  I don't do either and I haven't found them
necessary for years.

>>..."The definition of a fool is someone who believes his own illusions."
>>I think this isn't a bad definition of a mage, either.  The trick is to
>>know when to quit believing in them.
>for Stage Magic theory this makes a great deal of sense, sure. I'm not
>trying to disabuse you of your favoured ideas about magic, but
>maintaining that only this perspective is true seems incredibly
>one-sided to me, especially if you haven't somehow demonstrated that
>the alternatives are false.

I know I already said this, but I'm saying it again.  The Stage Magic theory
is true for me.  Another version may work better for someone else.  This is
not the only true way, but it is the only true way for me.  I think I will
make up that .sig for future postings.  I don't like being misinterpreted,
even when it's my fault by omission.


The Arcane Archive is copyright by the authors cited.
Send comments to the Arcane Archivist:

Did you like what you read here? Find it useful?
Then please click on the Paypal Secure Server logo and make a small
donation to the site maintainer for the creation and upkeep of this site.

The ARCANE ARCHIVE is a large domain,
organized into a number of sub-directories,
each dealing with a different branch of
religion, mysticism, occultism, or esoteric knowledge.
Here are the major ARCANE ARCHIVE directories you can visit:
interdisciplinary: geometry, natural proportion, ratio, archaeoastronomy
mysticism: enlightenment, self-realization, trance, meditation, consciousness
occultism: divination, hermeticism, amulets, sigils, magick, witchcraft, spells
religion: buddhism, christianity, hinduism, islam, judaism, taoism, wicca, voodoo
societies and fraternal orders: freemasonry, golden dawn, rosicrucians, etc.


There are thousands of web pages at the ARCANE ARCHIVE. You can use ATOMZ.COM
to search for a single word (like witchcraft, hoodoo, pagan, or magic) or an
exact phrase (like Kwan Yin, golden ratio, or book of shadows):

Search For:
Match:  Any word All words Exact phrase


Southern Spirits: 19th and 20th century accounts of hoodoo, including slave narratives & interviews
Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by cat yronwode: an introduction to African-American rootwork
Lucky W Amulet Archive by cat yronwode: an online museum of worldwide talismans and charms
Sacred Sex: essays and articles on tantra yoga, neo-tantra, karezza, sex magic, and sex worship
Sacred Landscape: essays and articles on archaeoastronomy, sacred architecture, and sacred geometry
Lucky Mojo Forum: practitioners answer queries on conjure; sponsored by the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.
Herb Magic: illustrated descriptions of magic herbs with free spells, recipes, and an ordering option
Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers: ethical diviners and hoodoo spell-casters
Freemasonry for Women by cat yronwode: a history of mixed-gender Freemasonic lodges
Missionary Independent Spiritual Church: spirit-led, inter-faith, the Smallest Church in the World
Satan Service Org: an archive presenting the theory, practice, and history of Satanism and Satanists
Gospel of Satan: the story of Jesus and the angels, from the perspective of the God of this World
Lucky Mojo Usenet FAQ Archive: FAQs and REFs for occult and magical usenet newsgroups
Candles and Curios: essays and articles on traditional African American conjure and folk magic
Aleister Crowley Text Archive: a multitude of texts by an early 20th century ceremonial occultist
Spiritual Spells: lessons in folk magic and spell casting from an eclectic Wiccan perspective
The Mystic Tea Room: divination by reading tea-leaves, with a museum of antique fortune telling cups
Yronwode Institution for the Preservation and Popularization of Indigenous Ethnomagicology
Yronwode Home: personal pages of catherine yronwode and nagasiva yronwode, magical archivists
Lucky Mojo Magic Spells Archives: love spells, money spells, luck spells, protection spells, etc.
      Free Love Spell Archive: love spells, attraction spells, sex magick, romance spells, and lust spells
      Free Money Spell Archive: money spells, prosperity spells, and wealth spells for job and business
      Free Protection Spell Archive: protection spells against witchcraft, jinxes, hexes, and the evil eye
      Free Gambling Luck Spell Archive: lucky gambling spells for the lottery, casinos, and races