The Enemy of Magical Study

The biggest enemy of magical study are the cognitive biases that interfere with clear thinking.  “I don’t have time to meditate,” for example, is the one that gets me a lot.  It’s the function of a mental filter that skews reality.  What it actually says is “these other things I need to do are much larger in my mind than they are in reality.”  Objects in your imagination may appear larger than they are.

Confirmation bias haunts attempts to study magical systematically.  The best cure to confirmation bias is to keep a brutally honest journal that includes every single magical act you ever perform.  I’ve written elsewhere that I’m not convinced of the value of a magical journal.  I’m coming around there, because it does serve to keep you honest, and that’s what matters.  But it can also become a downward spiral of self-reinforcing delusion, so keep it practical and concrete.

And, of course, ego.  We want to protect our ego, our self-esteem.  We’d be better off developing a sense of self-efficacy.  Then we won’t feel attacked when someone tells us our magical order isn’t the whatever the hell such people argue about.

What are your cognitive biases?  What gets in the way of your magic?

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2 Responses to “The Enemy of Magical Study”

  1. It’s such a difficult area, confirmation bias.

    Ideally, you want to keep track of how things were before you “did you stuff”, and then perform “your stuff”, and then keep track of the outcomes. However, I find that as soon as you make the decision to “do stuff”, you tend to experience some corresponding changes anyway. It’s impossible to separate out, for example, “there are now more red cars” from “I am noticing more red cars but they were always there”. Which is another way of saying, it’s impossible to separate out your experience from “the world”.

    Basically, as soon as we make the decision to do magical experiments, with or without a journal, we have forever lost an independent platform from which to view our efforts. I think the way to overcome the worry about confirmation bias probably isn’t by sturdy record keeping (although that helps generally), it’s by pursuing a result so that it becomes so ridiculous in its dominance over your experience, that it breaks your standard world model (e.g. for a whole week, every single car you see is red).

    As for avoiding delusion, I suppose the only reliable answer is to not actually care too much about specific results, the content – and instead be interested in the investigation into the nature of experience, the context. But having a life of any sort tends to work against such purity of project…

  2. What gets in the way of magic is not so much others as much as our own mind has some preconceived notion about how the world runs. It is usually a notion that doesn’t just pertains to how our world runs, but also how magic is supposed to work. For example, one might think: “I can’t get ahead”, “This magic stuff isn’t all that powerful after all.”, “Why am I staying sick?”, “That love magic doesn’t work.” We all suffer impatience with the pursuit of our goals and dreams. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Today’s construction projects can take months or years. Our goal, within magic work, won’t happen in a day either. It is important to suspend beliefs to see what will happen and we must persist daily in our rituals.

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