How Magic Changes Configuration Indices

Have you all stopped reading my blog yet?  No?  Really?  On hiatus for a year or so, and then a long string of posts about theory?  Okay.  Well.  You’re in for it.

Have you read this book?  Advanced Magick for Beginners.

Well, why the hell not? Do it. I’ll wait.

Okay, so what Chapman points out is that magic can be reduced down to a fairly simple procedure.  To summarize, and not do it justice:

  1. Select a desire.
  2. Select an experience.
  3. Decide that experience means the same as the desire.
  4. Experience the experience.
  5. Profit!

This seems too simple, and I resisted it the first time I read this book.  I recently read it more closely, and more carefully, and conducted some experiments.

He’s right.

One hundred percent correct, at least about this.

And the thing that gets me is that the experience doesn’t matter.  I’ve been deliberately selecting absolutely nonsensical experiences.  Not sigils.  Not words of power.  No spirits.  Just things like squeezing my finger and carefully arranging cue-tips into geometrical shapes.  And it works.  In fact, it seems to work best if I pick a completely different arbitrary act each time, but I’m still gathering experience there.

There are so many theoretical issues about this, and that’s another long string of posts that’ll drive readers away, until I can finally kill this blog.  So look forward to that.

Notice there’s nothing here about mystical energy, or goetia, or the information model.  It’s just experience.  So why would that work?

Because the index of the actual world among the infinite configuration space of possible worlds is determined by our experiences of that configuration.  Moreover, I suspect that we do not all dwell in the same possible world, or inhabit a single point in configuration space, but exist in a cloud of loosely linked actual worlds.  Tying an experience to a possible world and experiencing that experience drags our index closer to that world.

Note that it’s absolutely impossible, not just theoretically or practically, but logically, for the scientific method to ever confirm magic.  The scientific method only investigates the actual world, the indexical possibility currently selected.  It’s going to see a narratively consistent smooth contour of cause-and-effect, because that’s the result of moving the index in configuration space.

It’s clear to me now that possible worlds exist.  They are arranged in a continuous configuration space as an abstract object.  We call the actual world a world selected by a deictic index (or maybe cluster of indices — we may each have our own).  We move that index through our own mundane efforts, but also through magic.  It is the selection of experience and the process of choice that impels the index.  All other trappings of magic are culture, useful for empowering experience and for aesthetic effect, but none of them are absolutely necessary, which is not to say they’re not valuable, as culture itself is valuable.

That’s my conclusion.  I’d be happy to hear your reasoned arguments or reactions.  If I’ve made an error in my logic, correct me.  If you want to help me come up with some implications and experiments suggested by this way of thinking, I’d love to hear that too.


8 Responses to “How Magic Changes Configuration Indices”

  1. Reblogged this on Agog and commented:
    “In fact, it seems to work best if I pick a completely different arbitrary act each time, but I’m still gathering experience there.”

    I’ve experienced much the same. Patrick is the first person I’ve read to confirm my observation.

  2. “In fact, it seems to work best if I pick a completely different arbitrary act each time, but I’m still gathering experience there.”

    Patrick, I’ve experienced much the same, I think. By that I mean that it’s been my experience that the first time I do a new act of magic (lacking a better word here), it works exceptionally well but the success rate begins a downhill trajectory the more I use it. I’ve long thought this is an area that needs investigation/exploration. And you’re the first person I’ve read to confirm this.

    While we explore this conundrum, recall the Talking Heads who, in one of their songs, opined “There’s a million ways to get things done, there’s a million ways to get things to work out.”
    Full lyrics here-

  3. Enjoying all these posts.

    You know from my “Facets of the Flow” that I totally agree about possible worlds and moving the index.

    I guess the problem I have with your conclusion, as we have had in the past as well, is that discovering how one type of magic works, does not discount other methods of magic working.

    This is certainly A way to do magic, and is nothing at all new. I fail to see how this negates people talking to spirits entirely within this world to effect change.

    I can see how this forms the background for sympathetic magic, but not how it negates the meaning and correspondences of certain actions beyond just what is in “your” head. In other words the noetic reality of a thing can exist beyond just one persons decision.

    I think we spoke a few years ago about the desire for finding ONE manner in which magic is accomplished. My own experiments have shown me that understading sereval mechanisms, and how they can compliment each other, is the key to improving results.

    • It seems you’re objecting to an awful lot of things that I don’t actually think or argue. I’m not discounting spirits, and I absolutely believe that reality exists outside of a person’s head (I’m an avowed Platonist). What I’m getting at here is what it means to say reality has changed because of magic. It’s not mere causation, so what is it? I think this mathematical model offers an alternative to causation that has room for most activities we lump together under the umbrella “magic.”

      Do you think that talking to spirits, making talismans, and so on share some quality that justifies us calling them all “magic” or are they completely different activities, like pole vaulting and cooking are different activities?

      • I think the thing that throws me is you wrote this:

        ” All other trappings of magic are culture, useful for empowering experience and for aesthetic effect, but none of them are absolutely necessary, which is not to say they’re not valuable, as culture itself is valuable.”

        II think perhaps I interpreted this in the light of things you previously wrote years ago, and for that I apologize. I did not mean to mis-represent your poition.

        On this technique you are writing about: I have been using it for years, and understand it to be the underpinning of sympathetic magic. I revisited it, in this open form when doing what I call Zero Point Magic experiments, and I still use it. In fact this morning I washed the dishes and decided that the washing represented washing away the residual anger and frustration from a tough morning with the kids.

        Your question is one I have thought about a lot myself. I do think that there is a shared quality that justifies them all as magic. First would be the fact that they are not currently understood by science. This is important distinction not only to delineate things, not understood, but to re-capture things that have been claimed by science and thus exited the realm of magic – a mistake for magicians.

        The other thing I think that they share is the subtle and trans-personal capacities of the human mind/body/spirit. The ability to name, communicate, assign meaning, and empower.


      • It looks like we largely agree, then. I’m talking about magic at a higher level than technique or method: more of what it is at its root. It’s hard to talk about, but I have a post scheduled that’ll address it in a week or so.

  4. Finally, a post I can understand. 😉

    I find Alan Chapman…problematic. The whole enlightened guru thing rubs me the wrong way.

    I have read his book but found it lacking in substance. Your post makes me want to give that technique a try. I’m guessing it probably works best for smaller desires? Or have you tried it for something bigger?

    Anyway, it’s good to see you posting again.

  5. I like the way you think Patrick. I share a similar philosophical approach to magic theory.

    One thing I think is missing here is intensity of experience chosen.

    For example selecting a hard session at the gym vs selecting an arrangement of toothpicks.

    Another thing is momentum or inertia through configuration space, our lives are headed in a certain direction reinforced by our daily activities and necessity.

    So personal dynamic situatedness, vector path, inertia, intensity, and horizon of personal knowledge all need to be taken into account.

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