So the first thing we need to do is start knocking down some walls. And the first wall is the one that’s grown up between science and magick. It’s funny how easily people forget people like Alfred North Whitehead, Giordano Bruno, Wilhelm Reich, Roger Bacon, John Dee, Nikola- fucking-Tesla already!

And no I’m not talking about doing some sort of trite postmodern quantum mechanics thing, as you might see in such insipid tripe as what the #$%@ do we know or it’s sister piffle the secret. Or the endless stream of soft headed new age bunk that suggests that if you squint hard enough at your incense stick or jar of essential oils, you will be initiating a new ‘paradigm’ ( there is a slightly disturbing truth under all this, but rest assured it’s not quite what anyone thinks it is). Indeed, our biggest difficulty right now is understanding what a paradigm actually is.

To help out I will call in the big guns right off the bat, none other than the bald god of integral himself, Ken Wilber. And be at ease, as this is not really about any of those slightly sketchy wilberisms, but rather discussion of what science really is, and what it’s not.

So, to recap… real science, a real scientific method, consists of three things.

an injunction: something you do so you can have…

an experience: which is then subject to…

a conformational process: be it peer review, replication, checking against the literature, or simply an adequate interpretation, which is then used to formulate new injunctions.

That’s it. There’s nothing in there about materialism, or objectivity, or standard notions of distance or causality, or measuring it on instruments, or conforming to what the wilbernator calls the bullshit metaphysics of the current scientific priesthood. These are extraneous postulates, not science.

Sitting in meditation, doing a ritual, charging a sigil, divination, performing a metaprogramming process… these are all injunctions, when properly constructed. These are properly regarded as paradigms, which each can bring forth data, which is then subject to confirmation and review, hopefully as rigorous as possible. Any experience, be it internal, external, subjective or not, is equally valid as datum for properly formulated experiment, and is equally valid as subject for confirmation.

So what we can then say, rightly, is that good science, and good magick, are the same thing. The fact we have not regarded them as such is due to the epistemic abuses and prejudices of mainstream scientism and the general sloppiness in the method of most occultists, which is largely attributable to the slipperiness of quantifying interior experiences, as much occultism straddles the line of interior and exterior experience. But it can be done, once we clean up our own rat’s nest of assumptions, sloppy thinking and careless documentation.

So at a stroke, we can demolish the narrow science, the bullshit scientism that currently exists, and we can also shed the baggage of naive, superstitious, sloppy, excessively postmodern new age ‘magick’, and rightly walk into the court of real science, deep science, science as it was conceived and intended to be, on it’s own terms. And no one can stop us, except perhaps our own carelessness.

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10 thoughts on “Building a Better Brand: Return of the Prodigal

  1. What about ‘repeatability’ and ‘falsifiability’?

    We demand these of science, but not of magic. If the medication doesn’t do what it says on the jar, we’re likely to complain and within our rights to do so. If the Reiki Master doesn’t deliver a cure; well, we gave it a try…

    Can we really write off ‘repeatability’ and ‘falsifiability’ as part of bullshit scientism? (Agree unreservedly with your ditching of its other attributes.)

    I like mainstream science. It makes things work.

    Only trouble is, it can’t make me happy.

  2. Even though I sometimes think Wilber is a bit of a ponce, there’s no denying the guy makes ya think if you’re willing to critically consider what he is saying. If someone or something raises my hackles nowadays, I make a conscious effort to explore that feeling further ’cause I suspect that there might be some preconceived, & possibly uncritical or unconscious, notions I hold which are being challenged. Wilber does that, if nothing else… & that’s a valuable thing.

    So Zac, in a broad sense, it sounds like you’re applying Buddha-science to a modern understanding of what magic/k might be:

    “Believe nothing.
    No matter where you read it,
    Or who said it,
    Even if I have said it,
    Unless it agrees with your own reason
    & your own common sense.’

    Real ‘field work’ in living life as individuals & comparing notes may go a long way toward minimizing the trap of rigidly dualistic think that seperates ‘science’ from ‘magic/k’… in as much ‘science’ is seprated from what we (very) broadly term ‘art’.

    However, I’m not sure that those too seprate dualistic nothions may be ‘combined’ quite as simply as you conjecture. They are ultimately different perspectives for observing & interacting with the same phenomen: Life. Its not so much a question of validity, or even integration, in my opinion… so much as it is RESPECT for different prespectives…

  3. well, duncan, repeatability and falsifiabilty both fall under the conformational process as defined. I never said we should ditch them.

    quite the opposite. actually. But if we’re going to start repeating things, we need to start documenting our experiments better, and if we’re going to be able to falsify we’ll have to tighten things up in some areas, but not as many as you might think.

  4. Part of the critique of “Scientism” is that one can’t really apply the scientific method to anything that involves an interior component–that’s part of why the “social sciences” and psychology, which have both interior and exterior components, have such trouble arriving at solid interpretations of phenomena–and because scientism disregards anything that can’t be examined scientifically, it ultimately yields the exterior-only, “flatland” worldview. To measure something for its effectiveness you can only use exterior tests. No one cares what jhanna you said you reached because they can’t quantify it except to take a brainscan of some sort, and that’s not measuring the interior state (which I suggest by definition cannot be ‘measured’) that’s just looking at a possible correlate.

    Consider the resolution of certain mystical or “magical” processes. They have such a strong cultural and personal component that oftentimes talking about them is like talking about a dream–it has a lot more meaning to the dreamer than it does anyone else in almost any case. But also consider the way these things resolve themselves–their is such a personal “ecology’ to them that it’d be very difficult to untangle in a repeatable way I feel.

    That said, does anyone have an idea of a *specific* repeatable experiment that we could “conform?”

  5. the jhannas are a good example. we tend to assume that they are unquantifiable because it’s really really hard, and you can’t put one on the table for dr. seus to dissect.

    but you can quantify them and buddhists have done so for thousands of years. there are really long really dry texts that systematically list the features and factors of each jhanna, and what objects of concentration yield the desired results. so the carefully documented experiments are there, but no one in the west thinks to look for them, because of the cultural assumption that such a thing could not exist, so every one assumes they have to do it by feel, which works, but leaves some holes.

    if some one wants to verify a jhanna all they have to is follow the injunction, train the instrument and see for themselves. no one expects interior phenomena to become exterior. that’s more bullshit scientism. if someone can’t measure it, externally, that’s their problem, not yours, and not the problem of anyone who actually does the experiment as constituted. like the wilbernator says: if you don’t look through the telescope, you don’t get a vote about what’s out there. what’s become of magick is just an extension of what’s been done to all the ‘soft’ sciences. but they all still adhere to the same method, and the fact they’re ‘soft’ hasn’t stopped anyone from building a whole civilsation on top of them.

    ruaiamiaini : I think part of your concern might be that the aesthetic or sensitive elements of the magickal arts would be automatically collapsed into a scientific worldview, but that’s not really the case. It’s happened a lot, but that’s part of what I’m pointing out as extraneous baggage that science can drop.

    music is a good example of this: you need precise technical rigor to make music properly, but if you have no feeling awareness of it’s interior aspect, you music will be shit. a ‘scientist’ would create something technically precise but flat, and a flaky ‘intuitive’ musician would never take the time to learn the precise technical skills and quality controls that a fully realised artist has to do. that’s a good example of where I suggest we can go.

  6. duncan, ruaiamiaini and laboratorian: you’re practicing magicians, right?

    how did you learn about magic? no doubt you read a couple of books or someone told you about it.

    how did you start practicing? I bet you thought ‘o.k. let’s try it’.

    and why are you still practicing? because you tried the techniques and corroborated the results, not just once, but many times.

    why are we talking on this site? further corroboration with independent peers.

    I don’t mind sounding pretentious: we’re all already scientists, in the strictest sense of the word.

  7. @Alan: Actually I didn’t get much in the way of descriptions for the corrobation of results. You hear a lot of results results results results but you rarely get specifics. I’m also not sure if I could pin specifics down myself.

  8. Alan: I’m a TOTAL fuckin’ neophyte.

    I have no pretension of considering myself a ‘magic/kian’ although I may be studying & experimenting with what might be loosely termed ‘magic/k’.

    I’m still at the stage of amassing my experiences & checking results. I will be sure to share as insights may occur; to be sure, some have already… otherwise I would not be pursuing this line of inquiry, as I am rather practical by nature & not prone to engage in endeavors of the ‘fluffy’ sort. (Having said that, I acknowledge the value of ‘fluff’. Fluffy bunnies are nice. All things have their time & place.)

    Zac: your musical analogy is a beautiful & very appropriate one. I for one concur that it illustrates a valid path of inquiry as well as perscription for living. ‘Tight-but-loose,’ as a favorite musician of mine was wont to say…

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