Archive for February, 2011

Defining Consciousness

Posted in Magical Systems, Speculation on February 24, 2011 by Patrick

A commenter asked me, quite rightly, to define consciousness. Oooh, boy. What a task. And at one of my busiest times of year! grumble grumble

No, it’s right to ask me to define my terms, so I’m going to try. Please forgive the fact that this is dashed off pretty quick in my limited (and, frankly, stolen) spare time.

1. Our consciousness is not our senses; lacking a sense, we remain conscious. Lacking all senses, it’s not incoherent to imagine remaining conscious.
2. Consciousness is not our sense of continuity. Someone suffering amnesia is still conscious.
3. I do not use “consciousness” in the same sense as “being awake,” although that’s a valid definition of the word. I want to use in a narrower sense; I am still conscious even if I faint.
4. If consciousness is none of these things, it must be a quality independent of these things.
5. Consciousness, therefore, is the faculty of processing information.

6. Information is not material. We do not experience objects in our environment and create information about them; in fact, we do not experience objects at all. We experience ideas about those objects that arise in our consciousness as a result of sensory interaction with reality. Information is the relationship of those ideas to each other.
7. Matter itself processes information, whether endowed with a nervous system or not. A rock constantly calculates a wide range of values (gravitational constants, the interaction of strong and weak nuclear forces, and so on). A rock is essentially an analogue computer calculating itself. In that regard, a rock is conscious.
8. In fact, as physical reality reacts according to fundamental principles or symbolic laws, it *is* those laws, and is therefore consciousness. (I know, I know, there are leaps there — I don’t have time for them now, but will in the future I hope: they are reasoned out, though)
9. My brain is not the source of my consciousness; my consciousness is the source of my brain.
10. The consciousness underlying all reality is itself a Mind, call it Nous.
11. The reality we experience, whether physical or nonphysical, is a complex of Ideas in the Nous. Our own minds are reflections of that Nous (or, maybe more accurately, holographic parts of it).
12. Changing my mind changes itself relationship to the Nous. Since reality is itself the relationship between Ideas in the Nous, changing the relationship changes reality.
13. Material information (such as the patterns of 0s and 1s that make this post) is one way that the Ideas in the Nous are reflected in matter, but the Ideas of the Nous are metaphysical, not physical.


My Straw Man

Posted in Uncategorized on February 22, 2011 by Patrick

I’m not sure that last post fully qualifies as a straw man, as it is something that someone *is* arguing.

But yes, Jason’s argument is stronger than that. Here’s a couple disorganized thoughts about it (I can’t spend a lot of time on this; I’m very busy today. Hopefully later I can devote more thought to it):

1. The car metaphor. Good metaphor, but it makes my point. The car doesn’t work at all without a driver. Put the best gasoline in it, the best sparkplugs, the strongest battery — but no driver, no movement. The driver can also get out of the car and walk. We don’t have to think about gasoline to get to work; we can put some shoes on and hit the pavement. Because we — the consciousness of the car — is the part that really matters.
2. Qi is energy. No it’s not. The word qi more accurately translates to “breath” or, taking into account some parallel etymology, “spirit.” Similarly, “mana” means prestige or power, not energy, and “prana” is another word referring to breath and not energy. In fact, the concept we have as energy now is pretty new; you’re not going to find a pure analog in any system older than the 1800s.
3. Tumo is your strongest argument. Granting that there’s neither fraud nor misunderstanding when a practitioner of tumo melts the snow around him, that certainly looks like real energy. However, if matter is an epiphenomenon of consciousness, I would certainly expect that the kind of concentration involved in tumo could transform matter. This one phenomenon doesn’t prove to me the existence of magical energy.
4. I don’t understand how you can say consciousness isn’t involved in some of these practices, unless you think I’m using “conscious” in a very narrow sense, or you are. In fact, I would say that consciousness is involved in everything, because everything is the symbolic interaction of Ideas in the Nous.

Here’s Why Energy is Silly

Posted in Magical Systems, Speculation on February 22, 2011 by Patrick

Found on a more or less random site about healing with quartz-crystals.

The reason why crystals and gemstones are wonderful and powerful healing tools are because of what science calls its piezoelectric effect. (You can see this effect in the modern quartz watches). Crystals and gemstones respond to the electricity that is coursing through our body, and if the energy is sluggish, the constant electrical vibrations of the stones will help to harmonize, balance, and stimulate these energies.

If you think that is what’s going on in magical healing, you do not understand the piezoelectric effect. In fact, you do not understand basic physics, let alone metaphysics. (And the writer of this also doesn’t seem to understand subject-verb agreement.)

If you have to explain magic by claiming it has some scientific explanation, it is no longer magic. “Energy” is physical. Magic is about the metaphysical. What is metaphysical? Whatever is other than matter. What’s other than matter? Consciousness.

What’s the danger of this kind of error? Nothing much, other than making magic — something worthy of serious study and application — look pretty stupid. Of course, most materialists will regard it as stupid anyway. You might scare away intelligent people (like me — if I had to misunderstand physics to practice magic, I wouldn’t have bothered). Finally, you might prevent thinking about avenues of thought that could yield more practical application. Reading about the piezoelectric effect is fascinating. It won’t improve your magic, though. Reading about how the mind, symbols, and communication works will take you a lot further.

More Energy

Posted in Magical Systems on February 21, 2011 by Patrick

Jason has a well-thought out and complex post about energy on his blog. He carefully explains how material objects have “energy,” for example.

But why not just say they are conscious? Why use “energy?” It’s not physical energy by any means, and I don’t think he would suggest it is (I hope so, anyway). And it doesn’t behave at all like energy in our physical lives behaves. If I can give something “energy” by painting it with a particular herb, why not simply say I’m making a symbolic link? It gives us nothing to call it “energy,” because energy doesn’t behave that way. Call it communication, then I can think of it in terms of symbols, which is it is, rather than energy, which it is not.

I simply don’t understand why magicians throw up so many barriers and complexity between the idea that we’re dealing with the pervasively conscious nature of matter and mind. Why build all these sandcastles about “energy,” which it is clearly not, when we can talk, instead, about communication, which it clearly and plainly is. Then we can talk about how to communicate more effectively with the underlying consciousness of reality rather than trying to figure out how to “get more energy.” Eat a friggin’ sandwich if you want more energy; study symbols if you want to understand magic.

Energy Work

Posted in Uncategorized on February 16, 2011 by Patrick

In light of the current bloghaha about magical energy:

The vast majority of talk about magical energy is bullshit. That which isn’t bullshit is that in which “magical energy” is a metaphor for something that isn’t bullshit.


Back to work.

ETA: Some links to prevent confusion.