Step by Step

Mike, in his recent comment, asked me to lay out what happens step-by-step between a magician doing magic and the world changing, from an information perspective. So let me take a stab at doing that.

First, let me make it clear what I mean by information. When I say that material reality is a kind of instantiation of information, what I mean is that matter is nothing but the cluster of ideas we have about. To prove this, try an old thought experiment: think of matter without qualities. Strip it of any abstract quality that you can conceive of separately. A rock, for instance: strip it of qualities like “heaviness” and “spatial orientation” and “extension in time” and “color” and “hardness” and all such abstract concepts. What you’re left with is pure matter — and of course what you’re left with is pure nothing, because matter is nothing but the configuration of these abstract ideas.

We can think of this mathematically. If you’re familiar with configuration space as a method of mathematical modeling you can see that anything that exists can be given an orientation in an Nth dimensional configuration space. Of course, every single abstract idea is a dimension in C-space, for any given object. This means that a pebble contains the C-space position of every single one of its molecules and atoms and electrons, as well as all the abstract ideas connected to that rock, as well as its interaction with all other particles and forces — each of which has its own dimension in C-space — and so on. A rock, therefore, is “conscious” in that it is constantly “thinking about” the current values of those dimensions. The more complex the system, the more likely it gives rise to emergent phenomenon on the physical level, the more conscious it is. (And now I’ll have to explain levels of consciousness, which is tricky — bah, skip it)

I’m pretty sure that’ll just be more confusing, not less. So let’s launch into the concrete example and see if I can explain as we go.

I want money. I exist in a certain C-space, in which my position is determined by the complex system of economics. Being an emergent system, economics is conscious. It is a mind — call it a Nous to differentiate from our human minds. Moreover, it is part of the universe of symbols and ideas, which is itself a Nous.

So I take symbols that rest closer to the C-space of the thing I want — money. In this case, I select some symbols that, in oen system of symbols, represent wealth. I take a blue candle and anoint it with anise oil. I wear an amethyst and say certain words, many of them highly symbolic and some of them even glossolalic to the Nous, expressing my need. In doing so, I change the deepest parts of my mind to become a different person: the kind of person who gets money. Since my identity is a number in C-space, I have simply moved my position in one or more dimensions to a narrative line more conducive to me being wealthy. At the same time, the Nous of the economic system (hopefully) takes notice and receives the message, and meets me halfway.

Now I have two changes in the world: I have changed to attain the quale of being “a wealthy guy.” The universe has changed to shift into a narrative in which I am a wealthy guy. A point (me) in C-space must move along its dimensions according to coherent rules, not all of which we know (which is why we need to communicate to the Nous as well as ourselves). The result is that any change to our position in C-space is a narratively consistent change: in other words, to our eyes it will appear as coincidence. The larger the shift, the more the coincidence seems unlikely, and the harder it is to communicate that idea (as explained elsewhere).

I get money. Some publisher in another country buys the rights to one of my books, let’s say. Or I win a prize for poetry. Or one of my investments pays out. Money doesn’t drop out of the sky, though: that’d be incoherent. It’d shift a point into a position it cannot occupy in C-space.

This is just a model, of course, of how it works, and all models are hopelessly reductive, or they wouldn’t be models. And I suspect this model is anything but clear to anyone who reads it. Bah. I can see why there’s such a current of “I hate theory” in magic.

But look at it this way: what is the mechanism for the same magical operation from the perspective of energy work? I do the same ritual, which I think of as “directing energy” and — where am I directing it? Why does it work seemingly by coincidence? What does the energy do when it gets there? If it communicates an idea, why not focus on the message and not the energy, which is clearly just a carrier?

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6 Responses to “Step by Step”

  1. Theory is good – it aids understanding and that makes it possible to apply.

    Your model reads surprisingly like a thermodynamic change, which isn’t too surprising as the configuration space ideas came from thermo. If I am following your explanation and restating it a bit – you create a situation where there is a driving force to accommodate a change in the system – if you will, there is a potential between the current state and the desired state and the system (universe) changes to the optimum desired state. In a physical system this is readily explained by a reduction in free energy (∆G) for the entire system. In computational modeling it is often the optimization of a value or a fitness.

    So within a magical system, any thoughts on what drives the changes? Entropic changes don’t feel quite right to me – very cool and really challenging to design into chemical processes (green chemistry is active in the area to reduce what are called “heat and beat” processes to ones that require less energy and make less waste). In the informational model, one very rough definition for entropy is excess information (look up what Kolmogorov was doing with dynamical systems), if I really stretch it, wasted usefulness. That said, not sure what else enters in.

    I think we have talked about this before, but it is pretty easy to turn the “magical energy” into engagement or activation along with the internal mental representation (visual, tactile, whatever…). Maybe it is just me, but I find it helpful to overlayer different models to improve my connection with what I am trying to understand.

    • I need to reread your post a few more times to get all the nuances.

      On emergent behavior. I don’t follow how emergent behavior is necessarily conscious – can you explain more? On the other end emergent behavior tends to occur from small rule sets acting over a large number of agents – this does tie into the weird informational definition of entropy. The small rule sets mean that it takes very little information for each agent which is a case of low entropy. Anyhow, so far no one has been clever enough to create systems with useful emergent behavior, it happens on its own quite a bit, but I can’t think of any examples where someone has really used it for something. I guess swarm simulation has been interesting but it was done by trying to find the rules that occur in natural swarms rather than creating something intentionally.

  2. Hey Patrick, great explanation, that clarifies a lot. It also hurt my head (in a good way) stretching to think with these new ideas. Very cool.

    I have a bunch of thoughts on this that don’t fit quite into a cohesive order, so let me bounce around a little.

    First, this definitely makes sense. I wouldn’t say that the rock “is” conscious, but I can totally see how you can model a lot of behaviors that way. And I think I can use your terminology to make models, too.

    You talk about how this magick operates by coincidence. I call that domain of magick “manifesting.” (Specifically, influencing events via coincidence, or just foretelling events). It’s in contrast with other domains of magick that don’t work via coincidence, but instead work directly, like a healing that instantly numbs an injury (Example: A friend burned her finger on a hair curler, iced it for 15 minutes, waited another 15 minutes, pain didn’t go away. I healed, pain went from an 8/10 to a 2/10 in 2-3 minutes). That’s the real reason I think the info model isn’t the right tool to model teleportation, because I don’t think teleportation would work by coincidence.

    But that’s not what I want to talk about, because I don’t think that conversation goes anywhere until run into each other at a conference and can practice together. I want to talk about the kind of magick you do, and see if together we can come up with new ideas.

    Which leads me to my question: How do you communicate that information? My understanding is that most mages use symbols and rituals. Instead, I connect the force that handles the manifesting (I call it as “system”) to my mind and communicate sentences. The system responds to normal english (really, the concepts behind the words as they go through my mind), but it recognizes some words and phrases as having a particular, special meaning. It’s like a CLI on a computer (think DOS or Unix). I’ll call a symbol-based approach a SUI (Symbol User Interface).

    I improve my results in 2 ways:
    -Increase accuracy of my communication, so that gradations and connotations come through. Inaccurate communication confuses “yes,” “probably” and “certainly.” Accurate communication doesn’t.
    -Learn the syntax. What are the special commands? How do you specify time? Things like that.

    Has that been your experience? What are the open questions for you?

    Also, please do explain degrees of consciousness. Your model is making sense, I’d like to understand more.

    Thanks!

  3. One of the things that’s always frustrated me as I try to develop my approach to magic is the number of conflicting symbol sets out there. e.g., in Carrol’s 8-color system blue represents wealth magic, whereas in Crowleyan terms it tends to be a color of the moon or saturn, which associate with different ideas. Do you think it’s more important to select a symbol which is in accordance with an established symbol system or to select one which is meaningful to you personally?

    For example, in your description of a wealth rite, you discuss lighting a blue candle, anointing it with anise oil, and wearing an amethyst. None of those things suggest wealth in an especially powerful way to me–that is, amethyst does not seem more “money-related” than any other stone, nor does anise strike me as an especially fiscally oriented scent. If I was to do a rite like this, I would probably wear a business suit, draw up a “contract with the universe”, and draw a dollar sign in black ink (the color of profit in modern accounting).

    For me this would be a much better symbolic representation of wealth. Yet many traditionally minded practitioners would tell me this is wrong, that the ancient systems depend on occult properties of particular materials or light frequencies. The same argument is made regarding vibrated god-names–I would tend to lean towards developing my own mantras, chaos-style, but there are many who insist that ancient Hindu is based on vibrational properties of sound and thus “AUM” has an inherent universal validity that my own creations would lack. A somewhat more postmodern stance is that taken by practitioners like Jason Miller, who posit that the “magical current” built up by generations of magicians utilizing a particular symbol set give those symbols an objective power.

    What is your take on this?

    • P. Dunn Says:

      Good question. Fortunately, I think I have a good answer. Just as there are lots of different languages on Earth, there are lots of different symbol systems. No one language or system is better than any other, necessarily, as long as it is coherent. The associations you describe sound like they’d work just fine. Of course, if someone were to say put together a wealth ritual involving a live squirrel, a santa hat, and a cup of fresh toenails — I think that’d work just as well as going up to someone in Spain and asking “dabo de babo cabas mio” would. In other words, it looks like symbols, but it’s not nonsense.

    • Hi Fred, rituals have 2 purposes:
      -To suggest your intent to your unconscious.
      -The forces that do the real work of magick (that respond to your intent and change the world in some way) respond to specific actions, words and symbols. Performing a traditional ritual makes them connect to you, and they can read those ritual actions if your mind isn’t set up to clearly communicate your intent.

      A DIY ritual may do the first one better, but it won’t do the second.

      If you’re already experienced with those forces, you can connect to them and communicate with them without the ritual. Then a DIY ritual should work fine. Or no ritual, since you can just connect to them and make a series of requests.

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