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Philosophy of Magic

To: alt.magick.tyagi,sci.skeptic,alt.pagan.magick,alt.religion.wicca,alt.magick,alt.paranormal.spells.hexes.magic
From: (nagasiva yronwode)
Subject: Philosophy of Magic (was Proof of Magic...)
Date: Sat, 18 Mar 2000 20:16:49 GMT

50000318 IVom

"Bill" :
>>> I just have been looking for evidence thaqt is undeniable to support 
>>> the thought that the stuff works but have found none.

nagasiva yronwode:
>> there is no such evidence. one may always find a way to justify denying
>> what one wishes to doubt. there is no way around it. you can set your
>> blinders (or spectacles) at the strength you prefer. nobody else will
>> be able to affect them outside of a cult-affiliation in which you have
>> been brainwashed.

Dave Leckie :
>For those of you Math buffs out there, it's kind of like an Axiom... you
>have to accept it as true... there's no proof for it, just accept it. 
>Then everything else will make sense.

I STRONGLY DISAGREE with this. this seems to me a facet of theurgy, in
that faith becomes the precursor to success. not only does this lead
to a destruction of empiricism and graduated development of magical
ability, it allows grey areas of charlatanry and self-deception which
have resulted in the tarnishing of occultism for centuries.

I have been insufficiently clear in my assertion, it seems. I was NOT
making a comment about magic, but about the nature of "proof" and the
way which "skeptics" are prone to proceed to evaluate a phenomenon
which may in part depend upon the environment of observation. the
study of religion and magic are both degenerated by either a strong
opposition to them or a fervent belief in them. the former leads to
ignorance of the facets of value and rationality that may be present
and the latter leads one to overlook the presence of charlatanry.

compare the faith healer who "removes the illness" with a kind of
miraculous 'surgery' where some palmed item is said to have been
taken from the patient and, strangely, the patient actually recovers.
the cynic (who refer to themselves quite often as 'skeptics') will
dismiss the entirety as a fraud merely because there was deception
involved. the true scientist will keep the deception in mind and
try to find out WHY THE HEALING WORKED and whether this might be
used in other contexts.

the reason that I do not agree with your assessment is that it does
not accord with my EXPERIENCE of magical activities and objects.
I do not find that belief is necessary, that anything more than a
suspension of DISbelief is required to observe the phenomenon with
an open mind, concluding neither one way nor the other in the
course of the evaluation merely for the purpose of 'making it so'.
>Do you seriously think Mathematics would work without the Well-Ordering
>Principle or Pigeonhole theory?

I don't think I understand this. mathematics is an axiomatic system
of symbolic logic, not a symbolic system for affecting the physical
world. it is one thing to understand that, starting with certain
axioms and 'articles of faith', if you like, we wind up with 
meaningful discernments about the relationships between numbers
that can be applied in engineering in fruitful ways. it is quite
another to suggest that magic must proceed from a similar origin
and along the same lines. magic isn't just an intellectual and 
symbolic subject area. its components are often presumed to 

>The same goes for Magick.  You can't expect anything groundbreaking in
>your studies if you don't believe it.

how would you prevent self-deception based on this belief, then?
why not believe in some fanciful god that will solve all of your
problems for you and then have this happen? why not use 'the power
of positive thinking' to effectively wish your problems away?

I've been thinking about this and talking with sri catyananda
about this philosophic aspect of magic and am willing at this
point to venture into some kind of analysis of the metaphysics,
perhaps usable to defuse squabbles in the alt.magick.* newsgroups:

	discernment 1: whether the mage has in-dwelling ability/power

		this includes whether or not the mage has become
		powerful through belief in the formula or phenomena
		of magic (as above), whether she had to undergo
		magical adventures in order to secure hir ability
		(as the Hermetics), whether she was born with
		these abilities and always had them available,
		or was born with them and had to nurture their 

		the extremes of this discernment seem to be

		-- the temporary mage, who, through luck or artifice,
		   obtains ability and power beyond the ordinary
		   through a specific choice (as to believe),
		   experience (as through consumption of a potion),
		   or by acquisition of a particular item (which has
		   limited affect in time and space, as a ring that
		   allows a single magical feat)

		-- the permanent mage, born with magical abilities
		   fully developed at birth (or before), who is always
		   capable of using them without recharge or recompense

	discernment 2: whether magical objects are powerful themselves

		this similarly spans the formal existence of the
		object or its substantial materials, and may even
		depend on whether we attribute some kind of
		sentience to it. the decision depends on whether
		the object is seen to have power because of the
		material of which it is composed, that it grew 
		or was made in a certain way, that it has been
		acclimitized (either on the intention of the
		object or its fashioner) to specific aims, has 
		later been empowered with its reputed ability,
		or has in some way made itself magical.

		the extremes of this discernment seem to be

		-- the object which has power for but a brief
		   period, perhaps as a result of being provided
		   this power by choice or action (as with the
		   blessing of a weapon or tool that has limited
		   effect in time)

		-- the object forged at the beginning of time
		   or emerging from the cosmos as a powerful
		   source of magical effect, never waning and
		   a virtual reservoir or battery of power

these parameters seem to form the general outline of debate about
magical philosophy, and it may be possible (perhaps some will
attempt it here?) to taxonomize the various strata of occultists
and their tendencies in formal ways so as to understand them
and how the arguments between them arise and of what they consist.

blessed beast!
-- ; ; 
emailed replies may be posted; cc replies if response desired

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