My Straw Man

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.


7 Responses to “My Straw Man”

  1. inominandum Says:

    Cool. I get what you are saying. let me see if I can communicate better and get you ti understand what I am saying because I am not sure that I have been doing that well.

    1. The car is an excellent metaphor. The driver is SUPREMELY important but it is not the only component of the car. There is a difference between driving and walking right? Not ALL magic is, can, or should involve what I am calling energy (which I am again – using as a metaphor for something non-magical. Would force be better? Power maybe?). My point is that SOME magic does involve that.

    I will even break the metaphor further in your direction. The car IS mind. the gas IS mind, the physical driver IS mind. Awareness is the underpinning of reality. I am with you on that. The difference is that unless you can actualize that truth to the level where you can do really gross feats of vulgar magic you still involve the perceptions that are formed by relative truth, which involves solid matter, and when you are working on the etheric and astral levels: energy (or force or whatever).

    2. I dig that all these things translate directly as breath but their actual use, even traditionally, is closer to energy. If you want to call it spiritus or chi thats fine, but it is no closer to actual breath than it is to actual energy or light. The chi that flows in meridians, the prana that gets released from the fingers in prana healing, the formation of illusory bodies etc.

    I understand that the use of the word energy to describe these things is pretty new and that you dont really find it until the spread of the use of electricity. I would posit that the reason it gets used is because electricity and magnetic action are BETTER metaphors than the traditional ones of breath.

    When dealing with the information or mental level we have brand new metaphors in computing that fit better than “the akashic record” does. The new metaphor opens up new ideas for practice that are very exciting. I know that I am preaching to the choir here since you are the Post-Modern guy. I just dont know why the newness of using the term energy as a metaphor bother you.

    3. Tummo does result in the release of actual Physical energy proper, and it has been studied in several universities under laboratory conditions. That said, that is NOT my argument. What happens is one level effecting another. The work of Tummo is done primarily on the etheric level and used to create and more importantly prolong an undeniable sensation of bliss and emptiness. The physical production of heat is a side issue. My point is that the process is accomplished by skilled and careful manipulation of prana or lung (wind) in the body along with meditating on certain symbols. There is something more than just consciousness and symbolism going on here. Something as real as the physical world.

    4. I NEVER SAID THAT. Ever. Never would say that. I am in fact saying the opposite. Consciousness is involved in EVERYTHING. What I am saying is that working directly on consciousness is not the only or best way to accomplish things, that there are other levels that consciousness needs to act upon.

    Going back to our car: Yes, the driver is supremely important, but when your car breaks down in the side of the road so you:
    A: Look at your mind to see how your thoughts and symbols caused the malfunction


    B: Look under the hood and work on the car itself.

    If your answer is B than we are in agreement. What I am saying is that in some operations of magic it is important to examine and act upon the material components and energetic components. Yes you act on them and perceive them with the mind, but that is not prove that the car does not exist!

    Ultimate vs relative truth man.

  2. I think Jason’s comment here:

    There is something more than just consciousness and symbolism going on here. Something as real as the physical world.

    summarizes the essence of the disagreement. At least, it’s the most interesting difference of opinion from my perspective. At the moment.

    We all can agree, I think, with some variation of the statement that when we do magic, we combine consciousness, symbol, and some physical act that produces a change in the manifestation process of the sensate realm. We can bring into our sphere of sensation the perfect lover, opportunities for success and profit, and the favor of those we interact with.

    I know that when I build up an Idea and flesh it out as I bring it down through the heavens and turn it over to the elementals, that something similar to my idea is going to pop up in my life in a short period of time. It happens regularly. My knowledge and understanding of magic, however, ends at that point where I am finished doing the rite, building up the symbolic images of it in the immaterial realm and leave it with the Intelligences and spirits to take over from there.

    I don’t know how it goes from idea to material manifestation. I don’t know what those fellows do with it to make it materialize.

    The words used for this mystical magical force that materializes our ideas are, as you’ve both pointed out, forms of the word breath or wind. That makes sense, winds just spring up into being, their source is unknown. They affect the sense realm, but are invisible. Where they come from and where they go can be theoretically modeled, but there are so many unknown variables that no model can provide more than a suggestion of what might happen to the meteorologists getting paid to divine the future from portents read in the skies.

    That’s what we’re talking about, a thing that is like the wind, invisible, mysterious, but you can feel it anyway. It’s complicated, and it can be unpredictable. It’s more predictable than the winds, so they used breath to better describe it, wind produced consciously. An invisible force that affects matter.

    It makes sense that modern people would call it energy with a high-school education in physics and all the science cable television and the internet can provide, if you’re interested. We think of energy as that invisible stuff that makes things move, whether it’s electrons, gravitational or magnetic fields, or whatever. Invisible stuff that makes stuff happen.

    It’s just that the magical force we’re talking about, that whatever-it-is that transforms matter in accordance with consciousness through symbol, is not something measurable or definable. It’s like wind, it’s like energy, but it’s not really either.

    But as magicians, it’s still fascinating to all of us. I’d like to be able to talk about it meaningfully. I’ve learned some interesting things in the 8th sphere about this invisible stuff that’s like cobwebs in motion connecting everything. There’s a connection to the Orders of the Elements, the First Order in Agrippa’s first book that is like the ideal phase of the element, the power of the element and also the gate of the element. I mean, look at this:

    “Of the first Order are the pure Elements, which are neither compounded nor changed, nor admit of mixtion, but are incorruptible, and not of which, but through which the vertues of all naturall things are brought forth into act. No man is able to declare their vertues, because they can do all things upon all things. He which is ignorant of these, shall never be able to bring to pass any wonderfull matter. ”

    That’s what we’re talking about, I think. But there’s just a hang up over the term we use. We can’t have a decent discussion on the subject because Energy Work to Jason means one thing, and to AIT it means something else, and everyone has varying degrees of high school physics mixed in that just complicate everything.

  3. Some of this discussion is a bit over my head, so apologies if my comment is based on too simplistic an understanding.
    If the Universe if made up of matter and information (which manifests as consciousness), such as in the example the car and driver both having matter and consciousness. Thus whilst the driver is steering the car, the car has sufficient matter and consciousness (information) that if the handbrake is not applied after the driver gets out that it will roll down the hill. So yes I agree that consciousness directs everything, but it’s not always human consciousness directing it.
    Is the attempt to understand how this invisible “energy” or breath affecting the universe an attempt to grasp with our rational consciousness what our psychic / intuitive consciousness experiences? And in my view it is the psychic / intuitive consciousness that influences other things in the universe to bring about certain events that people call magic.
    From what little I’ve read and understood so far there are actions on matter (such as breathing techniques) that allow a person to oscillate from rational consciousness to psychic intuitive consciousness to influence other things in the universe. What I do not understand is whether the actions done by the rational mind on matter during ritual is only to facilitate the psychic / intuitive consciousness doing its stuff, or whether the acting on matter is an essential part that facilitates the manifestation from actions at the level of consciousness to physical matter?

  4. I did a brief search through your previous blog comments and didn’t see this addressed – I’m curious how you define ‘consciousness’, which you’ve used several times during the recent energy debate. The quick comment would be to say that it seemed to me that you use ‘consciousness’ in the same contexts that other magicians might use ‘energy’, and I’m interested to understand how you distinguish these concepts. How does consciousness provide a model for the effectiveness of magical practice that is distinct from the model of energy in magic? You state that consciousness is involved in everything, but I don’t see an explanation of how you envision this taking place.

    (If this is in your book, rather than the blog, my apologies!)

  5. So I’m going to preface this post by saying that I’m a total n00b when it comes to the Art, with nothing like the experience you guys have.

    That said, I’ve been shadowing your various blogs for a while, and this argument is beginning to seem extremely circular.

    Patrick, the information model in which you operate prefers to conceptualize things in terms of metaphor and symbolic representation of your aims–if I’ve understood it right. That makes perfect sense to me, has a resonance with the Tantric Buddhist concept that the mind takes the shape of whatever it contemplates (hence the usefulness of deity visualization, etc.) However, it seems to me that “energy” is an extremely useful metaphor, kind of a Swiss Army symbol. It is already connected in our minds with a number of useful concepts: ideas of quantity, polarity, flow, action, motion, vitality, change…I could go on. It’s an extremely simple and direct way of conceptualizing the idea of a transaction–Deity X gives energy to me–or transformation–X energy causes Y to adopt a new form. Want more authority/speed/sexiness/whatever? Visualize it as a current of energy flowing into you. What could be more straightforward? You don’t have to assign it objective validity any more than you do the thousand other such concepts and metaphors you employ in your practice.

    And by the way, in my opinion it’s not such an inaccurate metaphor as you seem to think. Physical energy actually behaves much like magical “energy” in many ways. It can be carried by objects but also transferred between them. It flows from “high energy” sources to “low energy” destinations–e.g., from the heavens to the earth (this concept has an interesting resonance with your alternative metaphor of wind–which is caused by the motion of air from high to low pressure areas, or in other words, energy). It is nondual–both a wave and a particle, a field and a current. It can have a polarity or charge. And within the scientific narrative all matter is ultimately a condensed, “trapped” form of energy–just as all material existence is condensed spirit.

  6. Excellent, what a great metaphor of the ‘wind’ as the creative force we influence through any (magick) act. Thanks, RO. A really beautiful and timeless picture. It somehow reminds me of the Lou Reed compilation called ‘Between Thought and Expression’…

    It also struck me how the discussion evolved from the outside (energy, spirits, etc.) to the inside (consciousness). Personally I am ready to swallow the bitter pill that any type of human consciousness is always subjective; therefore even if any objective things – spirits, energy, information – exist they still need to ‘veil’ themselves in a subjective form for us to perceive them.

    I guess we are lucky that objectivity is a highly overrated good and has not proved to be really helpful in creating personal changes? What is helpful, however, is changing our subjective experiences and perceptions.

    As I can’t share pictures here, let me point you to this post where I tried to summarize some of the discussion in two diagrams:

    Frater Acher

  7. Christopher Says:

    “Where awareness goes energy flows”

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