All right, I’ll jump on the energy talk bandwagon. Obviously, since I’ve written two books based on an alternate interpretation of magic, I’m not a fan of “energy” talk. Actually, unlike Frater R. O., I don’t have violent thoughts when I hear it, but I do tend to think it’s a bit sloppy if the person using it doesn’t recognize it as a metaphor.
For example, Frater P. O. S. (who, despite the unfortunately abbreviated magical motto, is a clever guy), posts a list of ways of “raising energy” at his blog. But about half of them have little to do with “energy” at all, and thinking of them in terms of energy is clumsy, awkward, and obscures their differences. For example, he includes things like invocation and prayer, which are so evidently and obviously acts of communication, in which information, not energy, is moving, that I can’t see what benefit speaking of them in terms of energy might have.
Imagine you’re a computer scientist, and someone comes to you and says “I need you to make me an application that will make it possible for me to communicate more effectively with my suppliers and customers.” And you say, of course, “Well, then we’ll need to up the current. I mean, to do that, you’ll have to pay special attention to what sorts of outlets you plug the computer into, and . . . ” No, of course you don’t say that. Because the way a computer manipulates information, and even the quantity of information is moves, isn’t proportional to the amount of energy. Yes, there’s a relationship — if you don’t plug your computer in or have a working battery, you’ll be disappointed. But upping the amount of electricity getting to your computer won’t make it faster; it’ll make it broken.
To those who believe in a literal, actual energy moved by thought and used in magic, let me offer you a few questions:
1) How many joules does the Middle Pillar raise? If you do the ritual of the movement of the body of light, or something similar, how many Watts can you move?
2) Energy, as Fr. R. O. points out, is really a mathematical reality, a characteristic of mass. As such, it can be transformed easily — in fact, we can think of work as the transformation of energy from one form to another. For example, if I pick up a rock and set it on a table, I’ve performed some work. I’ve taken chemical energy locked up in ATP, transformed it to kinetic energy to move the rock, and now that energy is in the rock as potential energy (minus waste heat). If I tie a string to the rock, wire a bulb to a motor, and wind the string around the shaft of the motor and let it fall, I’ll transform the potential energy into kinetic energy, and then into electrical energy, light energy, and heat energy. So here’s my question: if magical energy is energy, transform it. Move this rock with your mind. Turn on this light. Light a candle. The usual excuse for why we can’t easily do telekinesis is that it “takes too much energy.” Really? It takes a joule to lift an apple a meter. I can do that without breaking a sweat. If breaking the bonds in a few sugar molecules is enough to power that kind of motion, then what a feeble thing is magic.
Of course, sometimes people say “it’s not a physical energy.” At that point, I usually have to wonder if I want to continue talking to that person. I tend to change the conversation to something more harmless, like macrame or health reform. All energy is, by definition, physical, because energy is a characteristic of mass. (Actually, it’s the same thing as mass — look at R. O.’s post for the explanation)
“Magical energy” is a habit of thought. It can be useful, like all habits, but like all habits it can be dangerous. Can we break the habit, and start talking about what is manifestly and obviously occurring in magic: the manipulation of symbols to communicate intent?