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Moonhunter

The Nature Of Magic

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Ellinas

I actually have some sympathy with the idea of all acts of will being a form of magic.

 

 

You have just condemned thousands of adolescents as being totally incapable, despite all their tears and longing for the love object. ;)

 

Oh, they'll get over it. Part of growing up...

 

But it seems to me that they may have demolished your argument. Unless, by 'will' you mean something other than the extended intense focus of every bit of a person's intention towards a desired outcome?

 

Actually I meant nothing more than that the idea of magic as limited to the unexplained has always struck me as a little odd. We may know how certain so called "mundane" things work - but they are still controlled by "will", which is, to my mind, quite a remarkable phenomenon in itself and worthy of a certain sense of wonder. But if we are going to put this in the realm of the longing adolescent willing his or her love object, it strikes me that we need to acknowledge a certain balance - after all, the love interest also has a will to put into the equation. Not that I'm particularly keen to raise such circumstances to the status of some sort of magical warfare...

 

There is an aspect of this that makes me wonder if there is a connection to what is often stated to be a Hindu/Buddhist type idea of "emptiness". I don't see that as "nothingness" but rather a state where the mind is concerned with "being" rather than "doing". The idea that the self and the "ultimate" are actually one and the same. In this outlook, if the mind can free itself - whether by meditation or ritual - from concentration on acting to a specific end, then it is able to access a state where there is what I can only describe as an unconscious awareness and ability to influence things.

 

I return to the point that the most effective flashes of of what I would identify as the magical were unthinking and instinctive - as if I knew without consciously knowing what was going to happen or how to influence it.

 

This is not what most magic practitioners I know do, so I find it fascinating. How do you (1) know you're doing it and (2) control it if you're not even thinking about it? How do you ensure it only happens for things you want, if it's unthinking and instinctive?

 

I understand that this might be accomplished if one links one's spiritual self with an Other - but surely that Other must be trusted to deal with the magic in the way one wishes? Or is this a matter of subjection to the Other's wishes? Or is the "ultimate" an impersonal force - if so, then all the control surely comes from the human. And if that is so, we're back to the problems (10 and (2) above. :)

 

The honest answer is I don't know how it works, and I'm trying to rationalise something I find rather strange myself. I don't think it's as simple as saying you don't know you're doing it; rather it's a formulated intention. Held with concentration. However, that concentration becomes so totally absorbed that the mind almost forgets, not so much the intent, but itself as the agency for bringing it about, so to speak. I suppose I'm postulating something akin to a trance state brought about by concentration until the intent becomes so immediate that the self is forgotten. I don't know how else to explain it. I've always had the capacity to concentrate heavily to the exclusion, for example, of sensory input (you can bellow in my ear and I won't hear if I'm really concentrating) and can slip into that state quite easily. It's an extension (I think) of that sort of state that I talk about as the unthinking and instinctive - when I become unaware even of my own attempts to achieve something because it is the thing itself of which I am exclusively aware. It's a sort of hyper concentration, I suppose

 

 

There is another aspect also - based on something I think I read in Crowley's Book of Lies. If you practice to the point that you are doing a given act unconsciously, automatically even , then you can claim to be doing it well. Again, the idea that the conscious mind can get in the way. Perhaps this is what "faith" should mean - the confidence to rely on one's instinctive knowledge rather than the mistake-prone activity of "working it out". And, of course, such a position is precisely the result of hard, arduous effort and work that magic would seem to demand of us.

 

This sounds like the modern concept of competence, which posits the highest stage as Unconscious competence:

 

the individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become "second nature" and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.

 

Although I understand ritual helping that to occur, that means the work must have been done before the ritual begins. One establishes the trance state first in which the will is honed to a narrow point of focus. This is normally done through repetitive work that does not require the brain to be engaged. However, I would not call the repetitive work performing the skill. And I've not really come across any examples of an adept being able to perform unrelated tasks while performing magic.

 

I'll have to mull over that one.

 

And (to return to what you say Ellinas), I'm not convinced that unconscious competence applies to magic, in that magic is not routine. We're back to having the focus of the magic in one's head at all times.

 

I think I've probably commented on that in what I say above. Perhaps...

 

The problem, as I say, is trying to rationalise the... odd... And I may (of course) be talking complete and utter g*bsh*te anyway...

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Ellinas

Been thinking some more about this.

 

At bottom, I'm trying to get to a synthesis that will encompass two situations which, I suspect, are actually linked and work in the same way:

  1. The magic of effort and ritual;
  2. Those odd times when something just "happens" - when things go as you would want them or you get the outcome you wish and it completely takes you by surprise as you've not really planned or consciously done anything.

Of course, either or both could be simply put down to coincidence. I just can't shake the thought that, to do the "magical", we need to attain a certain state of mind and sometimes we achieve it without knowing how.

I've come across this rather zen-like idea of "doing without trying" elsewhere. Accounts vary and it is impossible to tell whether any of them are meant to be misleading, of course. With that caveat, I've seen it in relation to a person with a claimed ability to make a needle float and spin on the surface tension of water; I've seen it in relation to persons claiming to get a distance from something that scared them with no knowledge on their part - or on those observing them - of how they traversed that distance. Assuming at least some such accounts to be true, it suggests to me that the "magical" element of the will may be accessed by hard work or by other circumstances including, on occasion, crisis, albeit that is rather hit and miss at best.

I don't think this would count as "by accident" in the sense that there is no chance about the formulated intent. It may be seen as "accidental" in terms of hitting the right buttons to cause a sort of short circuit to the required mindset.

And I have no idea whether or not that makes any sense at all.

 

Ellinas, i wonder if you dont mean unconcious like our heart beat is unconcious but something else? More like being so involved in thinking about the thing you arent thinking about thinking.. Does that make any sense?? Ha ha

 

Actually, it seems as good a way of describing it as any, with one caveat - which is actually more of a personal trip off-topic.

I don't know how common is this, though when I've described it to others it always seems to take them by surprise.

Very often, I am conscious of my heartbeat. I am now. Nothing unpleasant or disturbing. It's just there. In fact, when not so conscious, it's like being unaware of my own feet - my mind is elsewhere, I'm not thinking about them, but I'd notice if someone trod on them...

Linked to this, I am able to regulate my heartbeat if I decide to do so. I've been aware of this for many years, but some time ago when Little E was a Littler E, I got the chance to put this to the test. We went to Technoquest, where I found a machine that measures your pulse as you grasp two handles. I did so, and made the attempt to reduce my pulse. I gave up when it reached (as far as I recall) around the mid to high 30's per minute (probably took less than a minute to get to this point) and I had the choice of stopping or fainting.

So yes, seems to make sense, but I'm not sure of the precise simile you employ...

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Veggie dancer

 

Actually, it seems as good a way of describing it as any, with one caveat - which is actually more of a personal trip off-topic.

I don't know how common is this, though when I've described it to others it always seems to take them by surprise.

Very often, I am conscious of my heartbeat. I am now. Nothing unpleasant or disturbing. It's just there. In fact, when not so conscious, it's like being unaware of my own feet - my mind is elsewhere, I'm not thinking about them, but I'd notice if someone trod on them...

Linked to this, I am able to regulate my heartbeat if I decide to do so. I've been aware of this for many years, but some time ago when Little E was a Littler E, I got the chance to put this to the test. We went to Technoquest, where I found a machine that measures your pulse as you grasp two handles. I did so, and made the attempt to reduce my pulse. I gave up when it reached (as far as I recall) around the mid to high 30's per minute (probably took less than a minute to get to this point) and I had the choice of stopping or fainting.

So yes, seems to make sense, but I'm not sure of the precise simile you employ...

 

Ok well yes we can draw our awareness to our heart beat and control it up to a point but it is still an unconcious action.. You can fall asleep and stop thinking about your heart beat and it will keep on beating.

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Ellinas

Just as well - it would have been an interesting method of suicide - death by experimentation in the middle of Techniquest...

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Ellinas

Resurrecting this topic with some recent thoughts.

Again, the caveat that I might be talking utter g*bsh*te.  In any event, I'm describing something that makes sense in the context of personal experience, but which may make no sense in the context of the experiences of others.

There is a danger of confusing different ideas, or, at least, subdivisions, within the generic term "magic".

Much of what has gone before appears to assume some attempt to make a difference of some sort within outward reality, or maybe our individual sense of that reality.  That seems fair enough as an approach.

However, perhaps a perfectly valid form of magic would be aimed at the transformation or extension of the individual's appreciation and psyche.  That may be to increase confidence, to banish a perceived fault, make one more sensitive to certain forms of perception or whatever.

In that context, in saying the "magical" can encompass, a change of perception, I don't mean a change of mind as to how one views something, but an attempt to actually alter one's capacity to act in a certain way, or to be aware of the intuitive, the "unseen" even.

That, I suspect, actually requires both an attention to detail and a capacity to notice the things that generally by-pass our consciousness - i.e.a "widening" of view.  However, this brings me back to the ideas of emptiness as described earlier in this thread.  I've always found a remarkable level of detail and awareness is revealed simply by being quiet and still for an extended period of time.  Acting in this way, particularly in the open air, seems to bring a sought of hyper consciousness of all that is going on around.  I've never done this to the extent that it becomes habitual, but I can envisage the possibility of a lasting and generally heightened awareness.

Then again, maybe not...

Anyhow, it has also come more into my mind that, whether it is our personal capacity or our outward reality that we seek to influence or sense, the desire to seek to do so, by whatever means, is common to all of us.  Also, if there is an objective reality to magic (still operating on the assumption I set out when I first posted on this thread), the use of it is, likely, open to all of us.  To what extent, then, is it correct to say that everyone is a magician - it's just the level to which that capacity is exercised and the appreciation of what is being done that differs?

I did mention g*bsh*te, did I not...?

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