Chapter 1

Semantics and Spells



Semantics and Spells

If once we can produce our perfect work - the Materialist Magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshiping, what he vaguely calls Forces while denying the existence of “spirits” – then the end of the war will be in sight.” C S Lewis, The Screwtape Letters


Definitions and origins of words and concepts employed in occult and New Age terminology and their relationship to science are crucial in what is to follow and so the entire chapter is devoted to these topics. Specifically, it sets a up a semantic framework that links the two fields such that people coming from a scientific background can translate what sounds like nonsense into a language they can understand. Conversely, those who are used to using words such as power, force and energy in an esoteric context can see how differently these are analyzed in modern scientific terms and where confusion arises. However, in common to all systems that defines and analyses language there is often an unspoken subtext, or theory, of how the world operates. What follows is no different and it is worth explaining here and now the spirit of the particular worldview being promoted in this work. Essentially it is one of using an absolute minimum of unprovable or untestable notions, and of sticking as closely as possible to conventional scientific explanations for various phenomena. The only major concession made is to acknowledging the strong possibility of the objective reality of paranormal or Psi effects. Even here there will be an absolute minimum of theorizing as to what is “really” going on and the emphasis will be on outlining possible effective techniques for its utilization under engineered states of consciousness. In short, this is almost a manifesto for the Materialist Magician. So, on with the semantic orientation…

Energy, Power, Force…

…Chi, Ki, Prana, Kundalini, Vril, Mana, Lifeforce, Animal Magnetism, Orgone, Bioenergy, Eloptic Energy, Pneuma, Od, Bioplasma, Subtle Energies, Universal Energy…
There are probably as many names again for a concept that has existed for millennia and spanned continents. The concept is that there is a vital “something” that pervades and underlies reality in general and life in particular and which endows it with special transcendent properties. It is often described as “energy” although it has nothing to do with anything science currently recognizes as such, for example in mechanics, electricity, or the nuclei of atoms. It is not scientifically measurable by any known instrument and is believed to be not only the source of life, but of health as well. There are no joules, watt-seconds, electron volts or Newton-meters by which it is measured and it is seemingly outside the bounds of scientific control or study. Only people with special sensitivities can channel or control it and many alternative therapies are concerned with unblocking, harmonizing, unifying, tuning, aligning or balancing it. The problem is that the above is a good description of a metaphysical theory known as vitalism, which is the doctrine that living organisms possess a non-physical inner force or energy that gives them the property of life. It is a theory that has been dead in the scientific West for over a century, for very good reasons. Yet it seems to be an article of faith amongst the scientifically ill-educated that the universe is all about such “energy”; which seems to beg the question as to whether these notions of vitalism can somehow be reconciled with modern science.
A good way to illustrate the issue is by analogy, in this case the modern metaphor for the mind, namely a computer. It is as if a person claims that it is not merely electricity that is responsible for its operation but that there is in addition some mysterious subtle energy that manifests in various ways depending on which keys are pressed. The skeptic will then point out that this is utterly wrong since no such energy can be detected, and that the operation of the computer can be fully accounted for by conventional science. It is only when there is a realization that the “subtle energies” being claimed as the underlying principle of operation of the computer are actually software programs that things become clear and all parties can agree on what is happening. Taking the analogy further the “power” and “force” of a computer comes from the execution of those programs which results in structured and meaningful changes in the data they operate upon. In other words, in the computer world power and force are metaphors for information processing. And so it is in the real world. The reason why occult energies are not detectable in a consistent consensus reality manner by scientific instruments is because they are not actually energy but information.
Information is to do with the arrangement of and change of patterns of matter and energy. It is this crucial yet nebulous essence that is really what life is about and what defines it. In particular, it is the essence of what constitutes a mind, a consciousness, a spirit or a soul however one cares to define them in either occult, magickal, religious, New Age or scientific terms. The world is not a duality of matter-energy but a trinity of matter-energy-information by which life and universe become manifest. Mind and magick are manifestations of information of which matter and energy are merely the medium.
Increasingly modern science is concerned with Information Theory in its many forms as it appears to be deeply connected with fundamental issues. For example, it is directly involved in classical thermodynamics and communication theory as well as Quantum Mechanics. There is also a limit on the amount of information, measured in bits that can be encompassed by a particular area, called the Bekenstein Bound that appears in descriptions of Black Holes. Information is also intimately related to time and its apparent direction (from past to future) which may in turn be connected with the expansion of the universe. And the reason that this universe can support life at all is because it started in a very low state of entropy (high information content). That is, it emerged in a very ordered state in the Big Bang for reasons unknown. Entropy, a measure of disorder, is another very important principle used in modern science, especially the realization that in all closed systems entropy can only increase with time. In other words, things wear out, break down, decay, cool, and get more mixed up.
Returning to more mundane matters, how can we account for the descriptions people give of, say, Chi or Prana? Well, ignoring the more obvious answer that we use words like energy and power as metaphors in contexts as varied as politics and personal motivation, it certainly feels like energy. Or, to be more precise, it feels like bodily sensations often involving tingling, heat, trembling and a feeling of flow (often along the spine) coupled with changes in consciousness and awareness as well as occasionally auditory and visual hallucinations and time distortions. The simple answer is that we all have a mental model of our body. It's why we can localize physical feelings such as temperature, pain, pressure and so forth to precise parts of our body. The body feeds data to this model, but it is not purely a one way process. Alterations to the mental model of the body, the body image, affect that model and that in turn can affect the body. It's a real Voodoo Doll that each of us has in our head. Heal or harm the doll and we heal or harm the body. The mind and body are not separate things – they interact, influence and depend upon each other to create a unified person.

Change the body, change the mind.
Change the mind, change the body.
Change the mind and feel it in the body.
Change the body and feel it in the mind.
Change the mind, change the world.
There is only information and change.
Energy is controlled by information.

As for how we can effect these changes, this is what magick is all about.

Resonance and Phase


Or more familiarly, being “in tune” which is a metaphor springing from music and more recently from radio and television technology. The notion of resonance is important for any phenomena that involves waves, vibrations, pulses and so on which, considering that all matter and energy have wave characteristics, means almost everything. The best way of understanding resonance is to use an analogy with which most people are familiar, namely water in a bath. If one starts moving a hand backwards and forwards through the water then most of the time nothing much happens besides some splashing. However, if the timing is just right so that when the wave has been reflected from the end of the bathtub the hand pushes it again it gets bigger and bigger until it rolls over the edge. This is resonance. The number of pushes per second or minute has to be just right for the size of the bath, and the wave has to be pushed on exactly the right part. That is, the frequency has to be correct and the phase just right. If the phase is wrong energy can be subtracted from the wave instead of added and everything gets damped down. Traditionally the size of the resulting wave is called the amplitude, which in music corresponds with loudness.
The reason why resonance is so important in almost all spheres of endeavor is that it is the mechanism by which physical energy is most efficiently transferred between systems. The systems can be as varied as a hand and water, light and vision, violin strings and sounds, and nuclear forces in an atom. Furthermore the same simple equations describe all of theses types of resonance no matter what their character. In general, when two systems are vibrating at the same frequency and in a particular phase energy can be efficiently moved between them even over quite large spatial separations. Indeed, it is often only by using resonance that information and energy can be transferred over large distances. Resonance is the underlying mechanism that makes TV and radio possible. When systems are in resonance surprising things can happen.

Karma…


Tao, Wyrd, Kismet, Fate, Law of Return…
These are all terms that crop up across various religions from Buddhism to
Wicca and although they are not identical concepts they are related in terms of being a perception of how the world is connected. The most famous is the Indian notion of Karma, which is a Sanskrit word meaning “action” or “doing”. It is often wrongly associated with some kind of cosmic law of retribution but in its original and simplest form reflects the fact that all actions take place in a universe in which everything is interrelated. It has also come to mean also the law of cause and effect – something that lies at the heart of modern science under the name of Causality. Karma's relation to Fate needs clarifying. It does not mean that everything is predestined, but that one cannot escape the consequences of ones deeds. However, as far as the deeds themselves are concerned we are free to choose. So a person's Karma is simply the circumstances under which they live which results from the choices they have made. Yet the idea that we inherit Karma when we are born is also true. Each of us is born into unique circumstances that are determined by the choices of others, not least our parents. The connection with the notion of reincarnation, and what it is that gets reincarnated, is examined later.
There is no universal morality attached beyond that of the natural world nor do the full consequences of those choices inevitably return unerringly to the doer except in a rather statistical manner. Every evil deed is not punished nor is every good deed rewarded. However, consistently bad or good actions will narrow the odds considerably that similarly morally charged consequences will impact the person either directly or indirectly no matter what moral system exists. It's no more mysterious than realizing that someone who engages in dangerous sports is likely to be injured at some point, that someone who is a chronic thief will eventually be caught and punished or that an honest person will be trusted. There is, for example, no mechanistic and inevitable “Law of Threefold Return” as espoused by certain Gardnerian style Wiccans, just a tendency.
More interesting from a magickal point of view is the Tao. As the famous first verse of the Tao Te Ching says: “
The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao” … in which case we will have to make do with an approximation. In some ways the Tao can be likened to the flow of a great river of events from the past to future. In this stream there are natural and easy directions of flow as well as various eddies and currents that can seem like the True Way but are in fact deceptive. These eddies can last for minutes, hours, days or occasionally centuries and often seem like the real direction because most people can only see that which immediately surrounds them. The Tao Te Ching is the text that attempts to codify this Way so that one can recognize where we are in this flow of events and define the best direction to take. In magickal terms this is very important for several reasons. Mainly the value is being in possession of the “big picture” and of clarity – knowledge is power and as the saying goes, “in the kingdom of the blind the one eyed man is king”. It can be very useful to recognize such uncharacteristic eddies in order to take advantage of them, especially if they can be recognized before we arrive at them. How this is done using a text that says things like:

A perfect warrior is not warlike.
A perfect fighter shows no wrath.
A perfect winner is not aggressive.
A perfect leader is humble.
This is the power of not-contending,
Using the strength of others.
It is called Matching Nature.

or

Tao only moves by returning;
Only acts by yielding.
All things come from being;
Being comes from non-being

and

Without leaving your door, you can know the whole world.
Without looking out the window, you can see the way of Nature.
The more you seek it, the less you know about it.
The sage knows without seeking,
sees without looking,
accomplishes without doing.

requires an entire book. However, texts on the Tao and its related philosophy of Zen can provide deep magickal insights to those sufficiently advanced.
Magickal workings should always take account of the prevailing flow of events as well as any unusual and temporary conditions. In many ways magick is like navigating on that river. Most people are carried along with the flow, but magicians can choose to take advantage of the currents if they can look ahead. Eddies can either be avoided or consciously entered. In extreme cases they can be created by magickal acts, which is magick of a very high order when those eddies persist for more than a short time. Another way of viewing those eddies are as illusions. That is, they are essentially distortions of reality if not outright fabrications that tend to entrap normal consciousness. An example is the Nazi and Communist periods where just such an illusion was created on a vast scale. In common with all such eddies, currents and illusions they eventually dissipate because they actively require energy for their maintenance. The more powerful and deep the illusion the more energy it takes and the shorter it lasts before reality once again asserts its influence and it implodes. Typically the energy either comes from either the victims of the illusion or the magician. In this sense one can define magick as Black or White. The former deals with illusion and the energy of others, the latter with reality and ones own energy. Black creates and leads into illusion while White disperses illusion and leads to reality. In these terms this book deals with technologies that can be applied to either endeavor.
The scientific equivalent of the above is called the Principle of Least Action and was first formulated in 1746 by Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis. It is one of the greatest generalizations in all physical science, although not fully appreciated until the advent of Quantum Mechanics in the 20th Century. Maupertuis arrived at the principle from a feeling that the perfection of the universe demands a certain economy in Nature and is opposed to any needless expenditure of energy. Natural motions must be such as to make some quantity a minimum. He discovered that it was the product of the duration, or time of movement within a system, multiplied by the kinetic energy. What this means is that Nature prefers to use a lot of energy for only a short time, or not much energy at all for a long time and preferably none at all for no time. Having found the quantity that tends to a minimum, Maupertuis regarded the principle as all-inclusive:

The laws of movement and of rest deduced from this principle being precisely the same as those observed in Nature, we can admire the application of it to all phenomena. The movement of animals, the vegetative growth of plants ... are only its consequences.”

In simple terms, Nature always takes the path of least resistance. Exactly how Nature knows what that path actually is only became clear with the development of Quantum Mechanics. It revealed that on all scales from the subatomic to the transgalactic Nature takes all paths, but does so in such a manner that the least efficient ones tend to cancel each other out leaving the preferred route. It's as if Nature tries out everything in advance and only chooses the best. This also generalizes to the corresponding magickal law that in any successful undertaking Nature will satisfy the requirements with the minimum effort or largest probability (another facet of information theory). For example, if you cast a spell for “some money” the most likely successful outcome will be discovering a small coin lodged down the back of the sofa! Related to this, and often mentioned in modern magickal works is the Butterfly Effect of Chaos Theory. This is used as an example of the extreme sensitivity of some systems to small perturbations in initial conditions. The idea is that a disturbance so small as a butterfly beating its wings can, over the space of a few weeks, be amplified by natural processes into a hurricane. Of course, this is a spectacular and extreme example since in reality most butterflies do not do this! A better illustration is to consider a frictionless pool table and ask how far ahead one could predict the trajectory of balls once they had been set in notion. Assuming a computer controlled cue and perfectly round balls the answer is maybe a few seconds. Anything beyond this requires more and more information being factored into the computations, for example air pressure and temperature, deviations in the gravitational field due to large nearby objects (mountains, skyscrapers), noise… and so on. Even if we could do all this, and had a perfect table and cue down to the subatomic level, we could still not predict where the balls would go for more than a few tens of seconds. To predict for as long as a minute would require us to know the distribution of matter throughout the galaxy down to the subatomic. Or another way of putting it… a single electron moving on the edge of the solar system could ultimately determine where the balls go after a few tens of seconds. Now, all systems are not so sensitive, but some are and it is these that magickal practices can target effectively by providing just the right nudge at the right time. However, this again depends on two factors. The first is that no consciousness is working against the magickal operation, and the other is allowing enough time for the operation to work, although given that some Psi1 effects appear to have an effect moving from the future into the past this is not necessarily always true. Note that for the above mechanism to work we cannot calculate the outcome of our magickal butterfly but instead have to look ahead in time to directly perceive it and choose accordingly. It is precognition as causation.
Of course, the way that events are closely linked has long been recognized not only in the East with the notion of Karma but more explicitly in Western religions, notably the Greco-Roman and Germanic. In these we have
the Fates, or Norns weaving and spinning the web of life in which no one, not even the Gods could escape. In the Germanic religion the three women are Urth or Wyrd (the past), Verthandi (the present), and Skuld (the causal connection to the future). The metaphor is always either one of cloth, with its interwoven structure with threads going from not only from past to future but being linked sideways, one to another, or of a spider's web and its more open and obvious linkages radiating from a central point. This structure is generally known as the Web of Wyrd.
A perfect illustration of this is the idea of “six degrees of separation” where it is believed that on average any two people anywhere are connected by about six “friends of friends” to each other. In 1967CE American sociologist Stanley Milgram devised a way to test what he called “the small-world problem”. He randomly selected people in the American Midwest to send packages to a stranger located in Massachusetts, several thousand miles away. The senders knew the recipient's name, occupation, and general location. They were instructed to send the package to a person they knew on a first-name basis who they thought was most likely, out of all their friends, to know the target personally. That person would do the same, and so on, until the package was personally delivered to its target recipient. Although the participants expected the chain to include at least a hundred intermediaries, on average it took only between five and seven to get each package delivered. Milgram's findings were published in Psychology Today and inspired the phrase “six degrees of separation”. In 2001CE, Duncan Watts
2, a professor at Columbia University, continued his own earlier research into the phenomenon and recreated Milgram's experiment on the Internet. He used email messages instead of packages and after analyzing data collected by 60,000 senders and 18 targets in 166 countries, Watts found that the average number of intermediaries was indeed, six. One of the important conclusions was that email has, so far, not fundamentally changed the way social ties are created and hence made the world a closer knit community. Only some six percent of the links in the chain were Net only. However, this may well change as technology progresses and higher data rate communications becomes common. By far the most successful bonds were found to be work-related ones, and messages were also more likely to reach their target if they were forwarded to someone of the same sex. One surprise was that message chains did not rely on a few highly connected individuals but were widely spread.
These are of course the causal links between two people chosen at random. Once we move into a particular field of endeavor the number of links shrinks to two or three. It does not matter what those fields are, whether magick, politics, show business, advertising, “being famous”, “being rich”... and so forth. One amusing example is the possible connection between the first President George Bush of the USA (and of course his son, the second President George W Bush), and
Aleister Crowley, the great magician. The story starts in 1924CE with a certain Pauline Pierce who was married to the head of the McCall Corporation and her lone sojourn in France, leaving behind her two children. There she met Aleister Crowley and allegedly “assisted” him (along with her friend Nellie O'Hara) in a rather special working concerning his elevation to Ipsissimus3. She returned home from Europe pregnant and gave birth to a daughter, Barbara. Barbara Pierce married George H W Bush, who eventually became the 41st President of the United States. So George W Bush the 43rd President may well be the grandson of the most notorious magician of all time!

1 Psi – shorthand for “Psychic” or paranormal, also denoted by the Greek letter (psi) Ψ

2 Science (vol 301, p 827), New Scientist 07 August 2003

3 The highest possible grade in his style of magick – and outside the scope of this book


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