Why Can’t You Teleport?

A recent comment asked some pretty good questions, which I’ll paraphrase as “if matter is just an idea, why can’t you do miraculous things like teleport or travel in time?”  and “What are the exact mechanics of magic?”

The first question is a good one because it illustrates a common misunderstanding of my first book.  I’m not saying that reality is “just” an idea, because “just” implies that there’s something more real than ideas.  I’m saying what we call thought or consciousness, and what we call matter, are the same thing.  Matter isn’t just conscious — animism — but a kind of consciousness itself.  It isn’t “just” a symbol.  Being symbolic is what makes it really real.

Secondly, as to the limits of magic — I actually have no idea where they are.  I haven’t reached them yet.  I’ve seen and even, I think, caused what could be called telekinesis, although I can’t rule out self-deception completely.  I haven’t seen teleportation, and I think it’s pretty unlikely, but probably not impossible.  The thing is, I live with a wonderful person.  Sometimes, I say “could you do the dishes?” and he says “sure.”  But if I said, “could you buy me an elephant and paint him a light mauve” I suspect he’d say “um, what?”  Hold on, I’ll try it.

Okay, bad example.  He said “sure, but it’ll have to be a little one.  Oh, and if I get you an elephant, you have to be in a parade with me.”  So that didn’t work out the way I expected — and neither does magic every time, although it doesn’t usually result in me marching in a parade.  Still, in general, likely requests, like “do the dishes” will be heard.  Unlikely requests, like “buy me an elephant,” won’t.  People get jobs all the time, so communicating the idea for a new job is easy; people don’t teleport all the time.  In information science, we say that the quantity of information of a message is the inverse of that message’s probability, and the more information a message contains, the harder it is to communicate clearly.  I think the same rule holds true for magic.

As far as the mechanism, I don’t know.  I’m not sure there is one, in the sense of a mechanical string of cause-and-effect.  Magic is, by definition, acausal, or so it seems to me.  When I ask my partner to do the dishes, my request doesn’t cause him to do the dishes; it leads to him doing the dishes, but it doesn’t cause it the way that, say, hitting a billiard ball causes it to fall into a pocket.  The mechanistic material paradigm is not one that I share; only a small subset of all possible ideas obey the mechanical logic of cause and effect.  Many more ideas obey the logic of metaphor and the pragmatic logic of language.  I suppose that’s a disappointing answer, but I really doubt that any explanation of magic that reduces it to mechanics will be very effective or helpful in the long run.

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13 Responses to “Why Can’t You Teleport?”

  1. Okay, let me see if I understand… You’re saying that magic only works as far as you can stretch your imagination, authority, and/or introspection. So the reason I can influence what I might eat for lunch through magic is because I can easily imagine receiving a ham sandwich just as much as I can imagine receiving turkey. It would be harder, however, to imagine time travel versus staying put. Is that right? Or even close?

    Saying that magic is acausal confuses me, though. If that’s the case, then wouldn’t we say that no one is really a magician? It’s more like “magicians” are simply “people who use magic in hopes of attaining something but whether they do or not is sort of up in the air”. Perhaps we say magicians for sake of ease? That, of course, seems silly. Magicians seem to know what they’re doing fair enough… Is there really no certainty that you’ll obtain what you will for?

  2. the unfamous Frater D Says:

    As far as I understand, there is no way to truly determine the upper limits of what a human could be magically capable of through extrapolation.

    Extrapolation of this nature would require an understanding of the underlying structure of the system (partially possible) and an assumption that the system is partially or wholly static.

    Because of the experiential variability of the system (assuming the universe as we experience it is a “system” at all!) [i.e. magic doesn't always work, and we don't always know why], an understanding of magic is not like the understanding of, say, SQL programming. It is much more like our understanding of people, or of language. It is something that we understand because of experiential learning, rather than because of theories.

    In the end, we must experience something in magic, and then try to understand the system, expanding our view throughout our lives.

    And that is why we don’t know if humans can use magic to teleport.

  3. Really enjoying your blog. Even if I often don’t see things quite the same way. Especially because of that, really.

    I think you’re confusing manifesting (influencing events) with what I’ll call immediate magick. Causing someone to avoid an accident is manifesting, and information is a great model for it. Healing someone after an accident is immediate magick (that is, it takes place right now, not at some point in the future), and information isn’t a great model for it. Energy (which I understand is a dirty word for you) seems to work better, though it’s far from the whole story.

    Teleportation would be an immediate magick effect. It’s not about influencing events in the future, it’s about changing the state of the world right this second. I don’t think information is the best way to model it.

    • pomomagic Says:

      I’m puzzled. Why isn’t information a good model for healing? The body is a message, polluted with noise. We heal it by telling it how it should be, to clear away the noise. Why is energy a better model than that?

      • Right, I just realized, you’re probably most familiar with energy healing explained as “Your body has an unhealthy energy signature, so here’s some good energy signature, now you’re healed.” It’s the most common explanation, and I can see where you can replace “energy signature” with “information content” and you have the same model.

        But the energy model I just described is a weak model of healing. It only pays attention to the aura or energy layer, which is only a small part of the total healing process. To get more effective healing, you need a few more moving parts.

        Before I get into that, I need to make a distinction between driving a car and building a car:

        Most mages focus on sending instructions to their unconscious mind or some external force that helps them do magick. They drive the car. If that’s your focus, then an information model is awesome, since everything you do is really sending information to a black box which does the magick.

        But what if you want to understand how the black box works, instead of just how to use it? That’s the difference between knowing how to drive a car, and being a mechanic who can build and repair and improve a car. To do that, you need a lot of different parts, with some properties that I don’t naturally ascribe to “information.”

        The “replace bad energy with good energy” model is a driver-level model. And I can see how “energy signature” could map to “information” smoothly. But if you want a mechanic-level model (which lets you create more effective techniques), you need a few more pieces than energy signature / information:

        -Energy (with a certain signature or information content) comes through paths from what I call soul, which drives the energy of the body. (These aren’t hypothetical paths, I follow them and alter them all the time). You can change the signature or amount of energy the person produces by changing those paths.

        -There’s the concept of energy pressure in addition to signature. This relates to what Ananael talked about in his signal / amount of energy post, which I mostly agree with.

        -The energy layer takes time to charge with that energy from core. Charging seems natural for energy, but not for information.

        -The energy flows through paths between energy layer / aura and physical cells. Manipulating these paths lets you focus particular energy signatures on particular cells. If you instead just put energy in the aura, you wind up with a less-focused effect that produces broader changes (bad if you’re working with nerves in the brain) and slower cell-level change (the person feels better, but it takes longer before they can use the tissue without re-injuring it).

        -Signatures have scale. A full signature as made of small-scale signatures, like a rock made of molecules made of atoms and so on. You can recognize the type of tissue — tendon, cartilage, etc — by its small-scale signature, and you can recognize its state — inflamed, healthy, etc — by its large-scale signature. I don’t know that energy scale makes any more sense than information scale, but I’m curious if you have this scale concept.

        -Energy activates whatever structures it touches. Even if you have shielding that prevents energy from passing through to you, the “heat” of the energy (I call it “activation”) can charge a certain signature of your shield, which in turn charges that signature in your mind or body. This doesn’t come up in healing, but it’s important for distraction effects during magickal fighting, something I don’t do a lot but that I’m glad to know about when I need it.

        -Again, moving away from healing, that property of energy charging structure is also important for activating the parts of your mind that drive magick (most of them are inactive in most novice mages, and even expert mages have chunks that are inactive).

        -Structure, like a magickal connection, also has signature. The connection’s signature determines what signatures it can see. I think of signature scales as larger and smaller, rather than just “different types of information,” because connections aligned to a small-scale signature will see everything larger, but one aligned to a large-scale signature won’t see smaller-scale details.

        As I’ve written this, I’ve gone back and forth with my thinking. Here’s where I’m at now:

        -You can certainly propose a thing, call it “information,” and give it a set of properties like I described.

        -But calling it “information” brings in a lot of implications. It’s unnatural to talk about pressure of information, where it’s (somewhat) natural to talk about pressure of energy. Information makes a specific analogy, and adding properties to it that break that analogy makes for a difficult-to-use model.

        -One of my main open questions is a language for energy signatures. How do you describe them? To me they have a feel, but that’s kind of useless in writing. I think using information as the language for signature could be really good. I know that’s not your intent with proposing an information model, but it helped me, so I wanted to tell you and say thanks. Thanks.

        Still with me? I know, this is a blog post unto itself. And each point really needs a more thorough treatment to be clear, so sorry if I lost you, it’s totally my fault. But hopefully that got you thinking about some interesting ideas.

        Thanks for taking the time to read and reply.

  4. pomomagic Says:

    The objections you raise about the information model are the exact same objections I would raise about the energy model: you are adding preconceptions by this choice of metaphor, preconceptions that affect what you think can be done and how. For example, why is “more” energy better? Also, you raise another objection I have with energy models: they obscure what’s going on under the hood. There’s a hell of a large “black box” when you talk about energy — after all, how does that energy actually have an effect? But if you propose, as I do, that material reality is a kind of consciousness, there’s no black box: information affects consciousness naturally. It is, after all, what it does. Of course, I do have one objection to this energy model that, perhaps, you don’t have with the information model, and that’s the obscure terminology. “Energy signature” strikes me as a really elaborate and complex way of saying “idea” or “symbol.”

  5. Thanks for the quick reply!

    Reading your reply, I kept coming back to the concept of a curiosity-stopper, from the blog “less wrong.” That’s when an explanation sounds good, but doesn’t really explain how something works or give you insights into using it better. It sounds like you object to an explanation of magick along the lines of “All of reality is energy, and therefore reality responds to energy.” I do too. In that sentence, “energy” acts as a curiosity-stopper, not a real explanation.

    If you don’t mind, let me ask you a few questions. What are the moving parts of a conscious reality? Why does reality respond to some kinds of information and not others? Are there different types of consciousness that behave differently?

    As I’ve explored those types of questions, I’ve found a concept for “Something which activates magickal structures” useful, and chosen to call it energy. That’s the key to picking the metaphor: First describe how the thing behaves, then pick a metaphor, so they match. I chose an energy metaphor not because it’s empty of preconceptions (if I wanted that, I’d make up a word, “blurble” or something), but because I find the preconceptions are more or less in line with how the thing actually behaves. Then I build a more precise model on top of them (otherwise, those preconceptions become a curiosity-stopper).

    By the way, more energy isn’t better. More energy just behaves differently. It will be better for some tasks, worse for others, but it’s an important variable to track.

    • pomomagic Says:

      That’s exactly right: “energy” acts as a bar to further thought for a lot of people.

      As for your list of questions, I’m going to have to answer them in a longer blog post, soon. They answers are quite extensive.

      The issue I run into is that in my experience magic does not work as if it is something even remotely similar to “energy.” It works by manipulating symbols, which are ways of organizing information, in our consciousness, which is a means of manipulating information. Why, then, one doesn’t want to use “information” to describe this thing that is very clearly and obviously an act of communication foremost, boggles my mind. Every objection you raise to this model is an objection I raise against the energy model. It does *not* match, as a metaphor, not at all. The preconceptions are not more or less in line with how magic works — they ignore the entire process of manipulating symbols and changing consciousness. And “more energy” I would suggest is probably a meaningless terms in context of magic: it may refer to emotional state, it may refer to authority, it may refer to clarity or complexity of the symbols used. It could mean any of these, or none of these, and thus it is meaningless.

      Let me describe how magic behaves: I wish something to occur. I take a symbol of that thing, in one of several complex or simple symbol systems, and I express that symbol in an aesthetically satisfying manner, often in a state of consciousness in which my attention is focused on that thing. For what part of that is “energy” more appropriate than “information?”

  6. Something is slowly clicking into place for me. Based on what you described as the way you do magick, yes, an energy model doesn’t make sense, and I can see why you would just use information.

    I think we focus on different parts of how magick works. Like how a physicist and a biologist both talk about the physical world, but at completely different scales. Or possibly we focus on different external phenomena entirely. Either way, I love being exposed to new ideas, so I’m excited.

    When I heal, I directly affect the energy paths to cells. It’s not an intent that I send out, it’s a process that I watch, connecting to each structure, step by step.

    I think our styles are like the difference between having something built by sending a CAD diagram to China and building something by picking up a hammer. Sending CAD to China, it wouldn’t make sense to talk about hammers, they’ll handle whatever needs to be done. But building something yourself, you need to think about hammers. That’s why energy seems so necessary to me and so irrelevant to you.

    If I write up a model of your type of magick, starting at the information level, then showing how a control of energy-type concepts can let you do it better, would you take a look and give me your thoughts? It would be much appreciated.

    Thanks!

  7. [...] From Patrick: Let me describe how magic behaves: I wish something to occur. I take a symbol of that thing, in one of several complex or simple symbol systems, and I express that symbol in an aesthetically satisfying manner, often in a state of consciousness in which my attention is focused on that thing. For what part of that is “energy” more appropriate than “information?” … If you propose, as I do, that material reality is a kind of consciousness, there’s no black box: information affects consciousness naturally. … In my experience magic does not work as if it is something even remotely similar to “energy.” It works by manipulating symbols, which are ways of organizing information, in our consciousness, which is a means of manipulating information. Why, then, one doesn’t want to use “information” to describe this thing that is very clearly and obviously an act of communication foremost… [Energy] does *not* match [my experience], as a metaphor, not at all. The preconceptions are not more or less in line with how magic works — they ignore the entire process of manipulating symbols and changing consciousness. [...]

  8. Hi Patrick, been really enjoying your blog and chatting in the comments. I just posted an analysis of your information model of magick, and I’d love your thoughts.

    Here’s the link: http://www.magickofthought.com/2011/05/3-ways-the-information-model-goes-wrong-and-why-its-still-important/

    Thanks!

    Mike

    • pomomagic Says:

      Thanks for your post. I have responded to it. I hope you don’t think my response is too curt; I am very busy at the moment but wanted to respond while it’s fresh.

  9. Thanks for taking the time to read it, and to reply. I’ve been figuring out a lot talking with you, and it’s great fun talking with another deep thinker on magick. Best wishes on the exciting new thing you hinted at in your latest post.

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