Jason’s response

Jason, first of all, you and me, next time you’re in Chicago, a cup of coffee. Maybe sushi. I’m buying. I know a good place.

Second, thank you for your comment. I’ve put some of it here, so I can address it point by point, but man oh man I do not want to get into a flamewar about this. I respect your work too much to do so, so if it goes that way, I’m bowing out.

Lets play madlibs:

The acupuncturist is using a needle to alter the flow of BLANK through a certain meridian to help you quit smoking.

Qi. Which means “breath,” not “energy.” Since it’s not literally breath, then qi must be a symbol for something else.

The Tantric practitioner is accumulating BLANK in the central channel to melt the BLANK drop in the forehead and trigger the descending bliss.

I’m not up on my Tantric terminology, but I imagine there are terms for these things that don’t literally translate to “energy.”

The Orgone Accumulator is gathering BLANK in the subject that is resting inside

Orgone. Which is probably a symbol for well-being to the person sitting in the big metal box.

When I used pore breathing to load a series of rooms with elememtal BLANK the subjects in those rooms were clearly influenced by the elemental BLANK inside.

Bardon called it “fluid.”

I think you are suffering from a bit of compartmentalizing. You are a linguist and see things through the eyes of a linguist and an academic. Lo and behold the best explanation for all magic winds up being a specialized term from the field of linguistics.

Well, okay, you saw my straw man and raised me some ad hominem. Perhaps my training in linguistics helps me understand a phenomenon that is, ultimately, semiotic in nature. That could also be the case. And I could interpret this argument as you clinging to an outmoded model. Neither of these interpretations is charitable or fair, so let’s not.

In the past you said something along the lines of “It would be good if we could find one mechanism behind magic”..l Why is that good?

Because it would provide explanatory force and help us advance the study of magic so that it might have greater effectiveness.

In the past you also mentioned something like “magic is worthy of academic study, but if it insists on using junk words like energy, it will never be taken seriously”. My response is that academics can study whatever it likes, but if academics are deliberately altering the field to make it ripe for study that is a a seriously flawed study. Its like an ornithologist killing all purple birds because there arent supposed to be any.

Did I say “academic?” I hope not. I think a university department of magic would be downright silly, and I would not want to publicly support such a thing. But it is worthy of study. It better be. I study it. So do you. And I don’t see how I’m deliberately altering the field; after all, I’m not the one translating diverse cultural concepts all with the same word.

I just don’t get where you are coming from here. Other than the few examples that you provide of very lame ass things like gathering pink energy at the heart and crystal crap you are not even attempting to deal with anything legitimate magic style that discusses energy.

No true Scotsman, eh? I’m Irish, actually.

I am with you in the ultimate sense that all is consciousness. But until you fully realize that ultimate truth, the relative truth is there as a tool. This inncludes energy just as much as matter,

Energy is matter. That’s my point. Using “energy” is often an excuse to reduce magic to a subset of materialistic ontologies. I think magic offers us a way of knowing that can exist alongside of and contribute to the scientific method, but is separate from it. When we start speaking and worse, believing, that magic is essentially a material phenomenon involving “energy,” we start to lose that way of knowing in favor of material reductionism.

As vehemently as I argue against the unthinking use of “energy” as a term, of course, I recognize that it can be a useful symbol if used mindfully. Your Bardon example is a good one above: even Bardon said it wasn’t actually an energy in the literal sense. He used terms like “magnetic” and “electric” to give people a felt sense of the process of focusing the attention on a single symbol.

By the way, you might also say that acupuncture manipulates electromagnetic energy and therefore is literally moving energy. But if that is the case, then acupuncture is not magic at all, because magic is metaphysical and energy is physical.

8 Responses to “Jason’s response”

  1. Faoladh Says:

    I really, really think that both of you (and others involved in the “energy/not energy” debate) should look at Patrick Harpur’s idea of the Daimonic for a way to understand a middle ground that synthesizes both perspectives. I’ve been seeing that concept, or something like it, emerging in several recent books on magic (such as the subtitle to DuQuette’s Low Magic, “It’s All In Your Head… You Just Have No Idea How Big Your Head Is”) and cutting-edge physics, and it is, I think, an excellent way to think about the issue.

  2. “Energy is matter. That’s my point. Using “energy” is often an excuse to reduce magic to a subset of materialistic ontologies.”

  3. inominandum Says:

    I will take you up on that coffee. Hopefully soon. I am working on maybe getting some classes together for Chicago.

    No flame war. I apologize if my comments about being a linguistic were taken as an attack, they were not meant as such.

    Qi may literally mean breath but almost all translations talk in terms of energy or force because that is what is meant by the term more than breath. Again, 4000 years ago we didnt have the great metaphors that we do now. The literal translation of qi, lung, prana, roh, etc is almost always breath. At the etheric level it is even moved and regulated by the breath. The problem is that in the spiritual-magical sense it means MORE thjan that and you know it does.

    Ok so Bardon called it fluid. My issue is not whether we call it energy or force or fluid. My issue is that the kind of work that you are describing in terms of symbols and mind alone does not adequately convey the meaning and more importantly the processes of these practices.

    I do not agree that the explanation of one force behind everything that gets called magic would help in its advancement. Think about how many things that are now science were once (and IMO are still) part of magic such as herbal cures, hypnosis etc.

    More later.

    I want to mention though that I LIKE the semiotic model rather than the information model. I just think that its a model fit for a certain level of practice is both higher and behind energy work and spirit work. Being higher than and ultimately behind however does not negate the use of those terms or the processes that they invoke.

    I would say open up something like the Six Yogas of Naropa and try to re-translate the actual instructions for Tummo or P{howa in terms of the semi-otic model.

    • pomomagic Says:

      Sounds interesting. Feel free to send me a short passage to reinterpret from the Six Yogas of Naropa. I don’t have a copy handy.

  4. inominandum Says:

    A simpler question though. What gets gathered in a fluid condensor? If it is a symbol, than why bother with ingredients like gold and chamomile?

  5. I’m just getting up to speed on this discussion, sorry if this has already been said, or since been made irrelevant:

    It seems like you’re arguing over words, not understandings. If someone observes something that flows through and activates / powers magickal structures, and calls it “energy,” that seems fine. Lots of words have multiple meanings, and you have to draw words from somewhere.

    If they then go on to claim that the thing they just called energy matches what physicists call energy, that’s called “bullshit logic.” If you see this, by all means call it.

    But, as long as you understand and define your terms, and don’t use deliberately misleading or emotional terms (calling it God tends to shut down the follow-on question of “How does X work?”), I don’t see the problem.

    By the way, thanks for the great posts. I’m hoping to see a discussion about how X (energy, power, ki, whatever you call it) behaves in various situations. Now THAT would be interesting.

  6. Before I put in my two cents, allow me to offer some credentials to support my opinion (for what it’s worth). I am an acupuncturist, and have been for many years. I work for a major acupuncture/Chinese herb company, and I blog for them. My blog is read regularly by my colleagues in the field. I also teach medical ethics at one of the major acupuncture colleges in the U.S.

    That said, let me enter the fray regarding qi. With all due respect to both authors, qi is not “energy” nor is it “breath.” These definitions, such as they are, leave a tremendous amount to be desired, and don’t really reflect just how cool written Chinese can be.

    Iconic Chinese words like yin, yang, and qi, suggest vast amounts of information. The etymological basis for yin and yang is that they represent the total experiential gestalt that can be experienced while sitting on either the shady side (yin) or the sunny side (yang) of a hill. Of and by themselves, these are almost entirely qualitative terms, and can be used to describe a culturally based “felt sense” in regard to almost anything – as I’m sure you’re both aware from working with the I Ching.

    Qi is no different. The etymological basis for qi is the qualitative gestalt suggested by steam rising and then evaporating and disappearing from a freshly cooked bowl of rice. That’s not “breath” and it sure isn’t “energy” – that’s pure poetry. The possibilities of what you can describe by using the word qi are almost limitless.

    That said, one of the most important practitioners and authors in the acupuncture world to have written in the last 50 years, Yoshio Manaka MD felt that the best way to describe qi, at least as it’s used in the context of acupuncture, was as “information.” Quoting from his book, “Chasing the Dragon’s Tale” –

    “The term ‘qi’ is used in the traditional literature in a manner that is in many respects identical to the use of the term ‘information.’ In the traditional literatures, the term qi is used to refer to both the body in its physiological stuff, and in its processes and derived properties; that is, in a quantitative-qualitative manner, and to identify tiny non-quantitative signals or relational properties that produce effects; that is, in a purely qualitative manner. In scientific literature, the term information is used to refer to the same properties. It can name the physiological stuff, various quantitative energies, and as well tiny qualitative signals which we can determine exist only through their actions. The term ‘qi’ is at the heart of the ability of traditional theory to describe the web of nature’s relations. The term ‘information’ is likewise at the heart of the ability of modern science to describe the web of interactions now known to exist within nature. The term qi is used to refer to and describe mental, emotional, and physical phenomena. The term information is also used in this non-dualist manner.” pg. xxii

    I hope this adds to the discussion.

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