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How Magick Works

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on April 16, 2012 | Comments (56)

One of the most common questions I receive seems to be the most basic: How does magick work? Why is it that when you properly perform a ritual or spell you get the desired results?

The simplest and most honest answer is: I don’t know. It seems weird, then, that we should literally depend upon something when we have no idea of how it works. However, we do this all the time. We depend upon gravity holding us firmly to the Earth without knowing how it works. Oh, we may know that large masses have a quality of attraction, but this really gives us no more information than knowing if we properly perform a ritual we get results. We may somewhat understand how Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity or modern quantum mechanics and superstring theory gives us an understanding of gravity, but these still don’t explain everything.

Many people reading this know how to drive a car. But do you know how things like oxygen sensors, distributors, and power steering actually work? For most people, the answer is “No,” but we still use the car.

The ability to use something even if you don’t know how it works is often called “black boxing.” You put something into a metaphorical black box and from that box comes the results you want. You push down on the accelerator pedal and the car goes forward even if you don’t know all of the intricacies that go on within the engine and gears. For the most part, a car is just a big black box.

The Black Boxes of Magick

Over the centuries, people have come up with explanations for how the black box of magick works:

Effective Ritual/Spell—>Magickal Black Box—>Desired Result

Probably the earliest explanation of what goes on in that black box is the animist explanation. This paradigm gives life and some degree of consciousness to things most today consider inanimate. The rain and water and fire are, for example, living entities. Appease them and they will give you favors. Anger them and they will respond fiercely.

The next explanation of the workings of the black box is the deific explanation. This paradigm explains the workings of magick by saying there are unimaginably powerful beings—deities—who interfere with human lives on a fairly regular basis. Appease them and they will give you favors. Anger them and they will punish you.

The next explanation of the workings of the black box is the hierarchical explanation. Imagining that the deities have qualities and limitations much like our own, it was difficult to believe that one deity could do so much on its own. Therefore, a hierarchy of beings developed. The deities didn’t do the work for or against you. They had assistants who would do the work. Often, the assistants had numerous assistants themselves who would do the work. This can be seen as having the hierarchy of an army with the commander giving orders to generals, generals giving orders to majors, majors giving orders to captains, captains giving orders to privates, and privates doing the actual work. From a magickal standpoint, this gives you a lot of entities to work with, depending upon how you want to approach the magick.

The next explanation of the workings of the black box is the demonic explanation. As formalized and structured religions developed, it was a natural evolution to remove the magick from the practice and give power to the human leaders. For example, the Roman Catholic belief in transubstantiation (the wine and wafer become the blood and body of Christ) evolved into the Protestant belief in consubstantiation (the transformation of wine and wafer is only metaphorical). So being able to perform magick outside the confines of what is considered acceptable within the structure of a religious paradigm means that something other than the deity/deities of that religion must be responsible. Thus, magick within the religious structure is referred to as a godly miracle while outside of the religious structure magick is associated with the actions of evil demons or devils.

Some practitioners of magick are bored with trying to explain to people following certain religions that no, magick is not evil and not demonic. Wiccans often begin explaining their religion (which includes the belief in and/or practice of magick) by saying that they don’t follow the devil or even believe in the devil. Unfortunately, the people they’re trying to convince of this will most often not believe them (or may simply agree to the Wiccan’s face while later claiming that the Wiccan was just deceiving himself or herself) because they so strongly believe in this demonic explanation of magick.

The next explanation of the workings of the black box is the spiritist explanation. This is the belief that spirits of the deceased somehow gain magickal powers after their physical deaths and can use them to benefit or harm.

Although the next explanation of the workings of the black box in this quasi-timeline order should be the energetic explanation, I’m going to leave that for more in-depth discussion below.

The next explanation of the workings of the black box is the psychological explanation. This paradigm is based on the idea that everything we experience comes through our senses and our senses are interpreted through our minds. Change our thinking and we can literally change our reality. There’s no need to do rituals and spells—we can just think about what we want and create it. In practice, using rituals and spells helps in this mental creation, but theoretically they are unnecessary. All deities, subdeities, and demons are nothing more than manifestations of our inner qualities.

The next explanation of the workings of the black box is the quantum explanation. People look at the world of quanta, which is so tiny it can only rarely be seen through our most powerful microscopes, and relate it to our physical world. In the world of quantum mechanics, phenomena that seem impossible on the physical plane occur normally. So we just shift to the quantum world and that is where the magick in the black box takes place, eventually manifesting back in our physical world. How this shift back and forth is made is usually glossed over or ignored.

The next explanation of the workings of the black box is the postmodern explanation. This explains magick forms of communication. By matching your communication to the communication style of the results you want, you create the results. Well, actually, its more complicated that that. A better introduction can be found in my Modern Magick, and if you want a greater explanation of this approach, see Postmodern Magic by Patrick Dunn.

So which one of these is the correct one? All of them. And none of them. These are all only paradigms: worldviews that are used to explain the theories and methods of a structured endeavor. If the paradigm explains all of the data, it is correct for the person who believes in that particular paradigm. If it doesn’t explain all the data, either

  1. The data must be explained to fit within the paradigm
  2. The paradigm has to be expanded to fit the extra data
  3. The paradigm has to be abandoned and another accepted

The black box of how magick works, in my opinion, may forever remain a black box. How we work with that black box within our paradigm determines the degree of success we have with magick.

The Energetic Theory

The next explanation of the workings of the black box is the energetic explanation. This is the idea that there is a physically unmeasurable energy (the definition of energy is simply “the ability to do work”) which can be empowered with a goal (the desired work) and achieve it. This is similar to the way a radio wave is the energy and the music or words attached to the wave is the “spell” of the radio. Indeed, 150 years ago, turning on a device and hearing music being played in another part of the world would be considered magick of the highest level!

This is the most popular paradigm for understanding magick. There are three types of this magickal energy:

  1. Internal: Energy raised from within us through any of a variety of means.
  2. External: Energy given from entities on non-physical levels of existence.
  3. Natural: The equivalent of internal energy but from physical sources outside of us. This could include the energy of herbs, gems, water, fire, etc.

In the next few posts I’ll be describing how to generate or work with some of these energies.

Where I’ll Be

The next event I’ll be attending is the Florida Pagan Gathering on May 3–6. It will be held at Camp Ocala in Altoona, Florida, part of the Orlando-Kissimmee area.

This is a beautiful site in Florida to celebrate Beltane! Featured speakers include myself, Orion Foxwood, Raven Grimassi and Stephanie Taylor Grimassi. There will be lots of music at FPG including Skinny White Chick (one of my favorites) and several rituals, including a main ritual for “Energizing Our Desires.” There will also be drumming nightly at the fire circle, a healing circle, special events for kids and teens, Celtic games, swimming and canoeing in Lake Sellers, lots of venders of Pagan crafts, and a nightly body painting tent. This is a great family friendly event and you can tent or rent a cabin bunk bed.

I’m going to be giving three workshops. The first two are connected:

Healing with Hypnosis

Part One: The Basics of Hypnosis
In this workshop you’ll learn two basic things: the nature of hypnosis and how to hypnotize. Covered will be the basics of hypnosis history, the myths and truths about hypnosis and how it works. Then you’ll learn a quick method of hypnosis as well as deepeners and fun tests to assure yourself that the person is hypnotized. Also covered is how to deal with common problems. People under 18 may attend with at least one parent. You will have the chance to hypnotize another person and be hypnotized. At the end of this workshop each person will receive a token, allowing him or her to attend part two.

Part Two: Using Hypnosis to Heal
Prerequisite: having a token from instructor. Either earn it by taking part one or talk to instructor before the workshop starts. In this workshop you’ll learn what you can do with hypnosis and what you can’t do. You’ll learn how to give suggestions that will help people permanently change behaviors. Nothing here will replace any licensed medical or therapeutic treatment, but may complement such treatments.

And the third workshop I’ll be giving at FPG is…

Mudra Magick—The Power in Your Hands
The energy flows of the body can be directed through the hands. Each of the fingers is associated with different energies, and the positions of your hands can be used from everything from calming you down and finding spiritual peace to healing your physical ailments. In this workshop you’ll learn several of these mudras or hand positions and how to use them.

If you can make it I really hope to see you there!
Here is a LINK to the FPG website.

Reader Comments

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#1 
Written By Los
on April 17th, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

You’re getting rather ahead of yourself when you start proposing theories for *how* magick works: no one has yet demonstrated *that* it works to begin with.

The fact that a ritual is sometimes followed by an event that the mind subjectively interprets as a “hit” (often defined very broadly) in no way indicates that the ritual caused the “hit.” This is what’s called confirmation bias, and no matter how many examples of it you document, it doesn’t anywhere close to establishing that your rituals are causing anything at all to happen.

If these rituals actually do cause effects, then one should be able to do a ritual for a very specific result (such as, for example, causing a particular card to be drawn randomly from a tarot deck by an impartial third party) and be able to replicate it to a degree far above what we would expect from chance.

If these rituals can’t do this – and they can’t – then no one (not even practitioners who have obtained what they subjectively interpret as “results”) has any good reason to think that they do anything at all.

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#2 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on April 17th, 2012 @ 5:22 pm

Thank you for your comment. We have thousands of years of research by hundreds of thousands of people who claim that magick works. If you don’t want to accept this extraordinary amount of evidence that’s certainly up to you.

Respectfully, all you have done in your example is to create and destroy a “straw man.” In this case, that straw man is claiming that magick must work according to your belief system. Specifically: “one should be able to do a ritual [to cause] a particular card to be drawn…from a tarot deck by an impartial third party.” Really? Do you want to say that for thousands of years, all people who practice magick want to do is card tricks? I’m sorry, but this would be the most ridiculous ritual I could possibly think of! Why would anyone want to study and practice magick for years, perhaps decades, in order to have some doofus pick a Tarot card? If I wanted to see card tricks I’d go to one of the shows at Hollywood’s famous Magic Castle, a night club for conjurors.

Respectfully, your logic seems to be that if a magician won’t waste years of study and practice only to cause someone to pick a predicted card, magick doesn’t work. Of course, in your last paragraph you’ve clearly stated that magick rituals can’t cause this elementary magic trick, so why you would want someone to try this anyway?

You wrote that I’m “getting rather ahead” of myself because “no one has yet demonstrated *that* it [magick] works.” Respectfully, why should I demonstrate to you or anyone else something that I have proved, time and again, works just fine for me?

“People who say it can’t be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”—anon.

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#3 
Written By Los
on April 18th, 2012 @ 12:02 am

You write: ”Respectfully, why should I demonstrate to you or anyone else something that I have proved, time and again, works just fine for me?”

I’m not saying that you have to demonstrate that magick works to me – I’m pointing out that you have not yet demonstrated (even “to you”) that magick works.

I understand that you *think* that you’ve demonstrated it, but I’m suggesting that the evidence that you have used to convince yourself of this conclusion is nowhere near adequate.

I’m basing what I say on what I’ve read on your blog, where you seriously maintain that recording coincidences demonstrates that magick “works.” It simply doesn’t demonstrate that at all (not even “to you”), and a person convincing himself that it does — on the basis that he only has to prove it “to him” and therefore can relax the usual standards of evidence — is putting up a major obstacle to understanding what’s actually going on.

Again — I understand that it subjectively seems like these rituals are yielding “results,” but unless you have a rigorous way to distinguish (“to you”!) rituals that work from coincidences that just seem like “results,” you’re flying blind.

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#4 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on April 18th, 2012 @ 12:49 am

I find it humorous that you don’t think the reality of magick has been demonstrated but you have no problem putting yourself forward as a mind reader! You have no way of knowing whether I’ve demonstrated magick to myself, although you claim that I have “not yet demonstrated..that magick works” to myself. You say that the evidence I’ve used to convince myself that magick works is “nowhere near adequate” even though you cannot, unless you are a mind reader, have the faintest idea of what that evidence is.

Respectfully, I don’t think you’re so naive as to think every magician posts everything they have done and experienced in their blogs!

You are making wild guesses. You have made it clear that you’ve made up your mind that magick doesn’t work. That’s fine. I have no desire to spend my time trying to prove something to you when, as you’ve stated previously, no amount of evidence will ever convince you of it.

If you want to spend your time trying to convince people that magick doesn’t work, that’s up to you. I’d rather just continue performing magick and having successful results.

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#5 
Written By G-man
on April 18th, 2012 @ 2:42 pm

@ LOS
Respectfully, do you require a light to go on or a bell to sound for measurable, tangible proof to be validated for YOU? By wanting to qualify every data bit with a preconceived self-created standard as a verifiable benchmark that the Magick performed is ultimately a success/failure?
Really..?
Sounds more like you’re trolling for a heated debate rather than truly interested in gathering any proof.

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#6 
Written By Los
on April 18th, 2012 @ 2:43 pm

You write: “You have no way of knowing whether I’ve demonstrated magick to myself”

But I do: I’ve read your explanations of the way that you come to conclusions in this matter (such as your assertion that it counts as evidence to do lots of rituals and then encounter lots of things that subjectively seem like “results”). On the basis of what you’ve written, I can form a reasonable picture of how you approach the process of verifying claims, and I’m more than justified in concluding that you think confirmation bias demonstrates (“to you”) that magick “works.” And the problem – for you – is that it doesn’t demonstrate it, especially not “to you.”

Now, of course, it could be that you *do* have a rigorous method of distinguishing (“to you”) rituals that work from confirmation bias. If you do, then you could easily explain it, and I would stand corrected.

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#7 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on April 18th, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

Respectfully, you’re repeating yourself. You’re claiming you know all about me through reading my blog posts. I clearly wrote, “I don’t think you’re so naive as to think every magician posts everything they have done and experienced in their blogs!” Apparently, I erred in that assumption.

I previously wrote, “why should I demonstrate to you or anyone else something that I have proved, time and again, works just fine for me?” Again you repeat yourself, demanding that I prove something to you even though you have not given one iota of why I or anyone else should prove anything to you. Since you elsewhere wrote that no amount of evidence is proof to you–strongly implying that you’ve made up your mind–I repeat that I’m not going to spend my time on such a fool’s errand.

To other’s reading this, I will repeat what I often say: Don’t take my word for anything. Check out all my sources. Try out what I and what others suggest. If it works for you, use it. If it doesn’t work, try something else.

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#8 
Written By Los
on April 19th, 2012 @ 10:45 am

G-Man writes: “Respectfully, do you require a light to go on or a bell to sound [...]?”

No, what I require in order to accept one of these claims (even just “to me”) is the ability to distinguish (yes, to me) between a ritual that works and a ritual that just *seems* to work (but is, in fact, just a coincidence that my mind subjectively interprets as a result).

If it’s not possible to distinguish between the two, then no one — not even practitioners — has any justification for accepting these claims (not even “to them”).

Far from “trolling for a heated debate,” I’m politely asking questions that are absolutely fundamental to this endeavor. One cannot seriously begin specualting about *why* magick works until one can reasonably determine (“to oneself”) that the “results” are really results and not just coincidences that are subjectively interpreted as results.

It’s not about “proving it to someone else” — it’s about how one goes about proving it to oneself, instead of getting fooled by confirmation bias.

DMK writes: “Try out what I and what others suggest. If it works for you, use it. If it doesn’t work, try something else.”

This is what I’m talking about: in order to follow this advice, someone would first have to be able to tell that a ritual actually did “work” and cause the result (and that it wasn’t just a coincidence that their minds interpreted as a “hit”).

I don’t think I’m being terribly unreasonable in asking how you think a person can distinguish (“to them”) between rituals that “work” and rituals that just *seem* to work.

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#9 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on April 19th, 2012 @ 11:20 am

Respectfully, your inability to successfully perform magick is not the fault of others. We can tell you that cherry pie tastes good, but until you try it and find out for yourself, you’ll never know.

And no, I don’t think you’re “being terribly unreasonable.” However, it does seem that you have set up your personal belief system as being objective when, in fact, it is highly subjective. That is, you have made up your mind in advance as to the way things must be and, as you’ve written, no amount of evidence will convince you otherwise.

In my opinion, this mirrors the conundrum faced by scientists when facing pseudo-scientists. They are sidetracked into attempting to prove something when no amount of proof will suffice. If you supply the proof the pseudo-scientist will simply move the goal posts, demanding other proof. What? You have 1,000 anecdotes proving something I don’t believe in? They’re all “nut jobs.” What? They’re all professionals and scientists? Well, they’ve all either made mistakes or misinterpreted the information. This goes on and on.

Again, the arguments of the pseudo-scientists are not about science and scientific research and discovery. They’re about defending a belief system with all the vigor and emotional drama of a fundamentalist religionist defending his or her faith.

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#10 
Written By Los
on April 19th, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

You write: “you have made up your mind in advance as to the way things must be”

Again – as I’ve been saying for posts now – I’m not asking you to prove anything to me. I’m asking how you demonstrate *to yourself* that these rituals are actually *causing* the effects (as opposed to merely *seeming* to cause the results but in fact being nothing more than coincidence).

Unless the individual has a way to demonstrate *to him* the difference between rituals “working” and rituals being confirmation bias, he has no sound basis on which to accept that they do in fact work.

I’d like to know your method of distinguishing between the two.

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#11 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on April 19th, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

Respectfully, what you’re doing is trying to establish your personal world view as the only objective way of judging anything. It is not. Unfortunately, some people who claim to be skeptics are actually so caught up in their personal world view that they cannot see anything else. But that world view is simply your personal map of the reality that is beyond all of our world views, and the map is not the actual territory.

I realize this may be challenging for some people to understand. When people are totally wrapped up in something–be it a religion, a philosophy, or something else–everything and anything that is outside of this limiting personal reality is automatically false and wrong.

It doesn’t matter what my method to distinguish between causation and coincidence is. You’ve already stated that no matter how many examples I gave you you wouldn’t accept it. So why should I bother?

I’m glad you’d like to know my methods. But they’re irrelevant to you. They’re still something that you, or any other reader would have to try to discover. I can burn my hand in a flame 1,000 times, but there’s no reason for you to believe the flame is hot until you put your hand in it yourself.

Ask any doctor and you’ll find out that if a patient really doesn’t believe he or she will get better, even if the doctor does everything right, that patient either won’t get better or their healing will take longer. From your posts you seem to have already made up your mind that magick doesn’t work. You’re not alone in this. In my experience those who have this predetermined limiting mindset will never have magickal success.

My guess is you don’t believe in prophecy, either. And yet, by admitting you don’t believe that magick works you have literally fulfilled the prophecy you created.

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#12 
Written By Mike Sententia
on April 22nd, 2012 @ 9:52 pm

Some people feel entitled to demand a particular evidence. Somehow, they never do it while offering to run the trials themselves, or pay for the effort of gathering that evidence, or anything similar. They just expect you to furnish it, after already writing books and posts with other useful information.

I enjoy how you turned the tables, and cast him in the role of pseudo-scientist rather than skeptic. Nice. I normally try to not feed the trolls, but maybe I’ll try this approach next time.

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#13 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on April 23rd, 2012 @ 1:53 am

Hi, Mike.
I specifically did not call any particular person anything, instead using terms such as “pseudo-scientist” to describe the position that the person was presenting. I do not know the poster actually believes and am grateful for people to present all viewpoints.

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#14 
Written By Stacy
on April 23rd, 2012 @ 11:52 pm

To Los, and all involved. Los continues to claim that none can prove that a ritual (and I think this means Magick or a spell…as I do not always perform magick during a ritual) worked, ie caused a desired effect, because this result just may be a coincidence that one believes is the desired or magickal result. May I ask, how many “after ritual coincidences” does it take to constitute a magickal outcome? I just wondered, since Los is willing to state that coincidences happen after ritual which could be mistaken for a magckal outcome, if this itself could be the “proof” Los is looking for? It would seem that if after every ritual a “coincidence” happens that the practitioner believes is the “magickal” outcome one would have a hard time proving what is a magickal result and what is a coincidence.
Magick is an art. One can draw repeated pictures of a cat, trying for each one to look the same, yet none of them will be identical. The same is true with magick, the same “ritual” or “spell” can be done numerous times and each time the practitioner will get a result, but seldom will they be exactly the same.

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#15 
Written By Los
on April 24th, 2012 @ 8:30 am

Stacy writes: “I just wondered, since Los is willing to state that coincidences happen after ritual which could be mistaken for a magckal outcome, if this itself could be the “proof” Los is looking for?”

Well, these “coincidences” are indistinguishable from a phenomenon called confirmation bias (unless one has a method of distinguishing them – to oneself): in short, the goals of these magical operations are often defined so broadly that one is almost guaranteed to be able to find something in one’s life that counts as a “hit.”

Take, for instance, a ritual done “to attract money.” There are hundreds and hundreds of relatively common everyday scenarios that would count as a “hit” for a ritual like that. When one performs such a ritual, one is going to be on the lookout for any occurrence that could conceivably count as a “hit,” and more likely than not, one is going to be able find such an occurrence. But that in no way means that the occurrence was caused by the ritual at all.

Look up “confirmation bias,” and you’ll see what I mean.

And that’s my point: unless a practitioner has a means of distinguishing (to him or her) “results” from confirmation bias, that practitioner has no basis for claiming that the ritual worked. It’s not about proving it to someone else. It’s about how you demonstrate *to you* that the so-called results are actually results and not confirmation bias.

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#16 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on April 24th, 2012 @ 10:22 am

LOS, your comment is valid—if, and only if, “the goals of these magical operations are…defined so broadly.” Again, the position you’re presenting is that of creating a straw man and debunking it. Your argument does this by assuming that most, if not all magickal ritual goals are broadly defined such as “to attract money.” In fact, most trained magickal people look for specific magickal goals, not these broad ones that your argument suggest. Specificity in design of magickal goals is what I have described in all of my magickal writings and during the ten years I was teaching before writing anything. Oh, for evidence of this just look at my blog post found here: LINK where I describe specificity as the first key to successful magick. And that was written close to three years ago. I am lucky enough to know many other teachers who share this concept. The hundreds of practitioners I know and the thousands I have corresponded with follow this. Some have even said they had little or no luck until they made their goals more specific.

So if the position you have presented is to attack an imaginary idea of what magick is and counter it, your argument certainly does that. I imagine both you and I could also counter the descriptions of magickal techniques in the Harry Potter series of books. It’s easy because both the Potter books and the straw man argument you’ve presented are fictional.

Years ago, when I was the Editor-In-Chief of FATE magazine, we published an article on a specific case of Spontaneous Human Combustion, including possible explanations for that case. We received a somewhat irate letter from two self-described “skeptics,” gentlemen who had written occasionally for FATE for several years, asking why we didn’t also include their explanation, a debunking of the case. I went back through their debunking article. It was filled with assumptions, ignoring evidence, and finally admitting that they had performed no actual research of the case, nor had they even visited the site. They had simply discussed it over the phone. What they had done was create a straw man—their imagined idea of what had happened that fit their predetermined model of all such cases—debunked it, and thought they had done scientific inquiry exemplifying their alleged skepticism.

We published their letter, along with my explanation of what they had done. Confronted with a true skeptical view of their “solution,” they decided to never again write for FATE. That was a shame, but it was their decision.

So let’s take some real cases. Let’s say there are ten people trained in magick and in real need of getting at least $1,000 by a specific date. If these people create and perform rituals and then achieve their goals—a more accurate version of what is likely to happen—where is the confirmation bias? Speaking of which, the definition of confirmation bias (from Wikipedia) is “a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses.” Having a confirmation bias certainly seems the technique and outcome of the two self-styled skeptics I described above. So the problem with labeling anything we disagree with as having confirmation bias is that we are also showing our own confirmation bias against any information that disconfirms our beliefs or hypotheses.

Perhaps it would be better to actually do research into specific cases and instances rather than set up straw men to knock down or defeat the purpose of research through labeling anything we disagree with “confirmation bias.”

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#17 
Written By Los
on April 24th, 2012 @ 11:17 am

DMK writes: “Let’s say there are ten people trained in magick and in real need of getting at least $1,000 by a specific date. If these people create and perform rituals and then achieve their goals—a more accurate version of what is likely to happen—where is the confirmation bias?”

Well, let’s look at it. Let’s not limit ourselves to ten people (we don’t just want to focus on evidence that appears to *confirm* the investigator’s *bias*, hint hint). Let’s say that there are thousands of people in desperate need of $1,000. Of these thousands of people, a certain percentage of them is going to somehow come up with $1,000 in the nick of time, whether they practice magick or not. And a certain percentage of them is going to fail to come up with the money, whether they practice magick or not.

Some of the people who do come up with money — whether they practice magick or not — are going to acquire it through means that seem to them like “miracles.” An investment will suddenly pay off, a loan will unexpectedly be paid back, a relative will die and leave them some money, they’ll get a tax return that’s just enough (or almost enough and can easily be supplemented by the money they have), they’ll make a long-shot wager that will pay off big, etc., etc.

The law of averages dictates that a certain percentage of these people will experience occurrences like these whether or not they practice magick. While none of those events listed above typically happens to one individual with great frequency, they are, in general, not uncommon events when considering the population as a whole: a certain number of people who *need* a thousand dollars are going to be able to come up with that money, magick or no.

What I’m saying is that if one is going to accept that rituals *cause* people come up with the money, one needs a methodology to distinguish a cause from an instance where the person in question would have come up with the money anyway, magick or no,

Having ten people need a thousand dollars and get it — in a variety of ways — after performing a ritual does not demonstrate the claim because there’s no way to distinguish these ten results from the percentage of people who would have acquired the thousand of dollars anyway. That’s what makes it “confirmation bias”: the person who wants the belief to be true (that’s the “bias”) focuses on those cases that appear to confirm the claim (that’s the “confirmation” part) but ignores putting the information in a wider context (the need to be able to distinguish these apparent “caused results” from the percentage of people who would have come up with money anyway).

That’s why I was pressing you about a method of distinguishing the two. Without it, you don’t have a basis — not even “to you” — to accept that the claim is true. I still don’t understand why you resist answering that very basic question.

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#18 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on April 24th, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

LOS, once again you are presenting a case that exactly shows what I mean about “moving the goalposts.” Specifically, you’re changing the variables. This is the same type of technique that was used by self-styled “Skeptics” and was exposed in the sTARBABY article printed in FATE magazine. It resulted in the changing of Skeptical Enquirer magazine and causing numerous supporters to leave the fold.

Respectfully, you talk about the law of averages. Fair enough. What does this “law” (which, I note, is neither scientific nor a law–it is simply a lay term) say about the odds of ten specific but unrelated people following a certain protocol and achieving the desired results? I do know that in real scientific terms that’s called “experimental repeatability” and is the basis of Western science.

On the other hand, your example changes three important variables. First, it changes the number of people. Second, it does not look at the training and experience of the people involved. Third, it takes the performing of magick ritual out of the test completely as you say that some people will get it anyway. In fact, what your example does is simply show that some people who need money will get it and others won’t. It doesn’t test for magick at all.

But why is it necessary to completely change the variables so that magick is not tested in order to claim testing of magick proves nothing? Perhaps it’s because people who might propose this have their own confirmation biases, beliefs they hold as strongly as any fundamentalist religionist, and which they’ll defend no matter how far away from real science they need to go.

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#19 
Written By Los
on April 24th, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

DMK writes: “you talk about the law of averages. Fair enough. What does this “law” […] say about the odds of ten specific but unrelated people following a certain protocol and achieving the desired results?”

The law of averages dictates that a certain percentage of the people who perform such a ritual will come up with money and that a certain percentage of them will fail to come up with the money; just like it dictates that a certain percentage of people who rub a lucky rabbit’s foot will come up with the money and a certain percentage will not; just like a certain percentage of people who pray to a god will come up with the money and a certain percentage will not; and just like a certain percentage of people who don’t do any of those things will come up with the money and a certain percentage will not.

The question is how you determine if one of those actions *causes* the outcome, how you determine whether each of those actions is distinguishable from not doing anything at all.

That there’s an overlap between some of the people who do these rituals and some of the people who come up with the money in no way indicates causation, just like the fact that there’s an overlap between some of the people who rub rabbit’s feet and some of the people who come up with the money in no way indicates that the rubbing rabbit’s feet causes the event.

You would need, at the very least, a way of determining that the rabbit’s feet or ritual or whatever caused the even.

So what is your method of distinguishing (to you) causality from simple coincidence?

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#20 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on April 24th, 2012 @ 8:36 pm

Respectfully, there is NO law of averages. That is something that is made up and represents a misrepresentation of actual scientific laws.

Wikipedia LINK

“The law of averages is a lay term used to express a belief that outcomes of a random event will “even out” within a small sample.

“As invoked in everyday life, the “law” usually reflects bad statistics or wishful thinking rather than any mathematical principle. While there is a real theorem that a random variable will reflect its underlying probability over a very large sample, the law of averages typically assumes that unnatural short-term “balance” must occur. Typical applications of the law also generally assume no bias in the underlying probability distribution, which is frequently at odds with the empirical evidence.”

Even so, the position you’re representing, depending upon the non-esixtant law of averages—only works if you change the variables. In real science, replication requires using the same variables, not changing them. In fact, scientists will change variables to see if the successful result of an experiment occurs at other times, meaning that something other than the hypothesized cause is at play.

In the example you present, if ten trained and experienced magicians do a ritual to achieve a specific goal and they succeed, it should be completely ignored! The model you present is simple: keep demanding a larger sample until the desired result is achieved. I must note that in your presentation you do not give a number of how large that sample must be. I would point out to observers that this is a frequent technique of people who are not really scientific. By not being specific, you can move the goalposts. And if people doing this still don’t get the results they want, they can move the goalposts again. And again.

The position you’re presenting is not scientific nor is it really skeptical. As the Wikipedia entry clearly reveals, you are presenting a biased position that is at odds with the empirical evidence.

My question to people reading this is why do people who follow the belief system presented by Los break all scientific practices in the defense of their belief system? My answer is that they have a quasi-religious belief system, a pseudo-religion I call “scientism,” and they will defend it with all the vigor of a fundamentalist religionist defending his or her religious beliefs.

Finally, there is another analysis that goes beyond this. The position Los is presenting is basically demanding, “Prove it to me the way I want it to be proved, otherwise it cannot exist.” To which I respond, “Who are you?”

Why should I or anyone prove to you or defend what we do to you? It isn’t affecting you in any way. Your life is not going to be changed in any way. Frankly, there is nothing I could do to change your belief system and I have no desire to do so. So to any of the pseudo-skeptics and pseudo-scientists reading this, why should I spend my time trying to convince you of something that you religiously refuse to believe in anyway? Supposing I do provide proof exactly the way you want it rather than the way the real laws of science demand. Then what? Will the world change? Will it result in world peace? Will you be forced to learn and practice magick?

Nope. There’s just no reason for me to try and prove anything to those who have what can only be called religious-like biases. I’ve got better things to do.

I do magick!

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#21 
Written By Los
on April 24th, 2012 @ 10:55 pm

DMK writes: “In the example you present, if ten trained and experienced magicians do a ritual to achieve a specific goal and they succeed, it should be completely ignored!”

No, it shouldn’t be completely ignored: it should be understood in context. That’s the point you consistently sweep under the rug.

You wouldn’t make that mistake if the example was ten “trained and experienced” Catholic priests saying prayers to St. Anthony for the recovery of objects lost by their elderly parishioners.

If ten priests said prayers and then each one had a parishioner report finding a lost object sometime thereafter, do you seriously think it would constitute good evidence that these priests have magical powers or that they really have invisible buddies who have nothing better to do than help old women find lost trinkets?

Obviously, it would seem “miraculous” to those ten individuals, subjectively, but if any of them stopped and pulled back and realized that a certain percentage of people who have lost an item are going to find it (just like a certain percentage of people who need $1,000 are going to come up with the money, one way or another), they’d also realize that they have no basis for accepting the claim that their prayers “caused” the event.

They would need a means of distinguishing prayers that work from prayers that seem to work (but actually don’t). Are you noticing a theme here?

DMK writes: “Why should I or anyone prove to you or defend what we do to you?”

You should want to demonstrate your powers to yourself, which you claim to have done (yet you seem strangely unable to explain your methodology) and – if you’re going to set yourself up as a teacher and advise others to “try it and see if it works” – you, at the very least, owe it to the people who would be your students to explain to them how to distinguish a ritual working from merely seeming to work.

So I’ll ask you again: what is your method of distinguishing a ritual that works from one that just seems to have worked?

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#22 
Written By Vinncent
on April 24th, 2012 @ 11:41 pm

Hey Kraig,

Just wanted to thank you for the article. I wrote a similar one coming to the same conclusion… but lumped most of the initial categories under “Entity” work, or the “Spirit model”. This is a good piece though, and have been referring people here in order to try to understand the concept of the various theories involved with the field.

I would go in a different direction in order to establish the objective existence of various occult abilities, however, in regards to the other commentators. “Proving it for oneself” is certainly possible, but hardly objective, as an infinite number of anecdotal evidence is still invalid anecdotal evidence.

I would ignore the term “magick” and simply argue along the lines of “consciousness’ ability to remotely interact with reality”, as that seems to be the lowest common denominator, specifics of techniques aside. To this end, saying that this has not been empirically established shows more ignorance of the ongoing research in the field, rather than an informed view of reality.

I would point people in the direction of the Noetic Institute, and research done by one Dr. Dean Radin, or even the large number of statistically significant experiments repeatedly used through random number generators under strictly controlled laboratory conditions, or even on a larger scale, the studies published by outside research groups in peer-reviewed journals in regards to the effectiveness of the “Maharishi Effect”.

It is one thing to have a valid criticism of the scientific studies done on the topic… it is another to simply ignore them and claim everything related to it to be unempirical pseudoscience without any sort of real effort of examination.

-Vinncent

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#23 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on April 25th, 2012 @ 2:51 am

You’re absolutely right. A certain percentage of people who have lost an item are going to find it. Similarly, a certain percentage of people who need $1,000 are going to come up with the money, one way or another.

But what your example is sweeping under the rug is that the experiment begins with ten people. That’s not part of a larger group, that’s the entire sample. And of this group, 100% were able to get what they needed through magick. Increasing the size of the sample–that is, changing the goalposts–is what you’re example is doing. That’s unscientific.

IF my example had started out with 1000 people but I only recorded the results of 10, you’d be correct. But that was not the example. All your version is doing is saying that if you change the variables, the test is no longer valid. And, once again, your example has refused to give any specifics and refused to put any sort of limitation on where the goalposts can be moved. Let’s say we double the sample size and include twenty well trained and experienced magicians and they’re all successful. Will a person supporting your model agree that magick works then? Of course not. Such a person will simply ask for a larger and larger sample until the result fit into a preconceived model of reality.

Further, your example refuses to say what will happen if the experiment succeeds in satisfying your unlisted variable changes. Will you donate a million dollars to my favorite charity? No, I do not have to prove anything to you, especially since the model you’re insisting I follow has nothing to do with valid scientific investigation.

I realize that people who hold that model are furious when I reveal the lack of science that people using that religious model support. I have nothing against people who center their lives around such a religion-like model. However I prefer to follow a truly scientific paradigm that does not conflict with empirical evidence.

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#24 
Written By Mark Nelson
on April 25th, 2012 @ 1:35 pm

Mr. Kraig,
Thank you for your most interesting articles on this site. I had the opportunity to meet you at one of the Pagan Pride festival in the Los Angeles area some years ago. You commented that I must have actually read “Modern Magick” (the older version) as I had so many Post It tags in it. I am looking forward to your new book(s).

I am writing principally to point out another aspect of Magick that I think is being overlooked in the above discussion. That aspect is the subjective connection to the spirit or ‘energy’ worlds. Though I have little skill, over the years I have connected with the spirit of a forest while within a tree in a vision, as an example. It appeared to me as a white glowing ball about three feet across. Another experience was that I appeared on the other side of a dark mirror and another was traveling within a crystal ball.

Some of these experiences are more real than “real” and leave one with a profound belief/knowledge that there is no death, only a change of state. The most interesting experiences that I have ever had were those that happened on their own and were not preconceived, like the above examples I cited. And, no, there were no drugs of any kind used in any of our ceremonies.

Though the experiences described are admittedly subjective and so no ‘proof’ in scientific terms can be offered, to the person to whom this happens, no ‘proof’ of any kind in required.

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#25 
Written By Los
on April 25th, 2012 @ 8:05 pm

DMK writes: “Let’s say we double the sample size and include twenty well trained and experienced magicians and they’re all successful. Will a person supporting your model agree that magick works then? Of course not. Such a person will simply ask for a larger and larger sample until the result fit into a preconceived model of reality.”

I can’t believe you fail to comprehend this simple point: it’s not about a number – it’s about a number in a context. You need to demonstrate that a representative sampling of magicians deviates from the general population to a statistically significant degree.

First we would need to study the group of people who need $1,000 every month and determine the percentage of them, on average, that manages to come up with the money. This tells us what we would expect to happen, based on random chance.

Then, we’d have to find a group of magicians who are representative of the wider group (and we’d have to talk to statisticians to be able to accurately calculate how many we need and what their economic backgrounds would have to be in order to make them representative, etc.).

Then we’d have to run lots of trials – not ten, which is absurdly low, but a number determined by statisticians that would yield results that would give us a sense of whether this group differs from the larger population by a statistically significant
margin. And then we’d have to repeat this experiment quite a few times.

If these rituals really do *cause* people to come up with the money (or at least be more likely to come up with the money), then measuring the results would reveal that the group that performs the ritual consistently comes up with the money vastly more often than we would expect based on chance – to a statistically significant degree that we could measure.

Naturally, if one were really going to do this, one would have to sit down with neutral people who study probability and statistics in order to generate the numbers and to control as much as is possible for variables.

Just looking at ten cases is absurdly myopic and tells us nothing *at all* about causality.

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#26 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on April 25th, 2012 @ 8:55 pm

Los, I do not “fail to understand [your] simple point.” I fully understand statistics and statistical samples. Statistics, both in the class and in the field, was one of the things I was required to study while getting my degree at UCLA.

However, I would point out that what you’re describing would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to begin to do, and I don’t see you volunteering any money! :-)

Beside the money there are other issues here, too. For example, you still have not supplied any suggestion as to why I should spend my time doing this for you. Further, you have not supplied even one number in your proposal. As I’ve written several times before, a proposal like this, without any specifics, is a typical approach of a pseudo-scientist because he or she can always change the numbers and say the sample isn’t big enough, doesn’t have enough controls, isn’t focused enough, or in some other way move the goalposts to prevent a challenge to the pseudo-scientist’s belief system.

As a result of my experience I’m satisfied that magick works. Some people reading this are also satisfied that magick works. Others are true skeptics and want to discover the effectiveness of magick for themselves. You don’t believe it. That’s fine. Don’t believe it. I don’t know of anyone, anywhere, who is trying to force you or anyone else to believe that magick works. It’s none of my business whether you believe it or not. Why should you, or why should any pseudo-scientist care if I know magick works? What possible difference does it make to you? How is your life being ruined knowing that there are people who accept the efficacy of magick? There are millions of people around the world who practice magick. Are you going to try to stop them all?

You say that “Looking at ten cases is absurdly myopic.” The entire science of modern psychoanalysis, as created by Freud, began with fewer cases than that. Often he would base things on just one example. Just recently a doctor reported finding physical evidence of a woman’s “G-Spot.” This was discovered through dissection of a recently-deceased woman. One woman. You can read about it here: LINK

So that sample was just one and it’s racing like wild fire through the scientific community. Ah, but some pseudo-scientists would say that psychology is only a “soft” science or not a science at all. It doesn’t count. And one autopsy proves nothing. How many cadavers do you want to cut up?

What about a pure science: mathematics? None of your examples are necessary to prove that the square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other sides. So the challenge you’re presenting isn’t valid for many sciences. And yet both you and pseudo-scientists seem to demand that it must be done your way and only your way.

Just like the way a religionist insists that their’s is the only way to heaven and if you don’t agree you must be converted…if necessary, through force. Is that what’s next?

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#27 
Written By Los
on April 25th, 2012 @ 11:25 pm

DMK writes: “you still have not supplied any suggestion as to why I should spend my time doing this for you.”

As I’ve said repeatedly, you shouldn’t demonstrate the truth of your claims for me: you should demonstrate them *for you* (or, at the very least, for the benefit of your students). If it’s true that no one’s done this kind of analysis to distinguish the so-called “results” of magick from random happenstance, then no one has any basis for accepting that these so-called “results” are actually caused by these rituals, *especially* people who think they’ve proven it “to themselves.”

DMK writes: “Further, you have not supplied even one number in your proposal.”

I’m not a statistician, so I’m not qualified personally to do a proper analysis, set up representative samples, and measure results to see if they are statistically significant. But I recognize that there *are* people so qualified, and I recognize that if magick actually can produce results, then it would be very possible to demonstrate the results in such a manner, with the help of actual statisticians.

Once more, without analyses like these that would enable one to distinguish between rituals that cause effects and rituals that just *seem* to cause effects (but actually don’t), one does not have sufficient justification to accept that rituals do cause effects, no matter how it might *seem* subjectively when judging from a sample size of one (or a handful).

DMK writes: “As a result of my experience I’m satisfied that magick works.”

So let’s review. You “understand statistics and statistical samples,” and you’ve tacitly agreed that what I propose would enable one to distinguish rituals working from rituals merely seeming to work, and you’ve also tacitly agreed that no one has done what I propose to distinguish rituals that work from rituals that merely seem to work.

Further, you’ve acknowledged that a certain percentage of people who need money are going to end up getting it, without any magick at all. If that’s true, then it follows that it’s very possible for someone to delude himself into thinking his ritual has caused him to come up with the money when in fact he just happens to be part of the percentage that would have ended up coming up with the money anyway. You further refuse to explain how a person could demonstrate – to him – that he is not one of the people deluding himself.

And yet, despite the indication that you have no sound basis for thinking that these rituals “work” (at least none that you’ve explained) and despite your implicit agreement that individuals could be fooling themselves by simply trusting how it subjectively seems, you have no problem accepting that magick works “As a result of [your] experience.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

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#28 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on April 26th, 2012 @ 2:19 am

Respectfully, if you don’t want me to prove anything to you, what is your problem? Who are you to demand that I, or anyone else “should demonstrate” proofs to anyone? Why do you care? What is your issue? What does it matter? Why are you so concerned?

As I demonstrated, there are many different sciences and different ways to have proofs within those technologies. Why do you feel it necessary to demand that they can only be proven according to your paradigm? Are you also going to denounce psychology and mathematics, neither of which fit your paradigm either?

You admit you’re not a statistician but you demand statistical proofs from others. If you’re not a statistician how will you know when the statistics prove or disprove anything? Will you simply take a statistician’s statement that “it’s true” or “it’s false?” Then why not take my statement or the statement of others who say that magick works? Is it not possible that the people who have successfully worked magick for years know more than you or me?

I have tacitly agreed that your test–which you now acknowledge you have no training to give or design–to my knowledge has never been performed. How could it be since you have stated you don’t know what it would be, would turn it over to some unnamed person or persons to do, and you refuse to fund it? However, contrary to your claim, I have absolutely NOT agreed in any why that the test you suggest would “distinguish rituals that work from rituals that merely seem to work.” How could I possibly agree to such a claim when you have stated that you have no idea what the test would be?

And further, that’s an interesting claim, trying to “distinguish rituals that work from rituals that merely seem to work.” The outcome, in either case, is that you got the desired results. So what difference does it make? Suppose a doctor gives you an injection to cure you of a fatal disease. It turns out that the drug doesn’t work for you but your mind thought it would work and ended up curing the disease. Are you going to say, “What a minute, the drug wasn’t effective so even though I’m cured I’m still going to die?” I don’t think so.

So let’s sum up:
1) You admit that you don’t know how to design the test you want magicians to perform.
2) You would want someone to design a test but you don’t know who.
3) You suggest that even though we get the desired results you aren’t happy.
4) You demand that magicians “should demonstrate” that magick works according to your belief system even though you have no idea how this demonstration should be done.
5) You haven’t given any reason why anyone should actually do this demonstration.
6) You want this desperately but refuse to fund the research.

Why? I’d still like to know what your issue is. Why does it matter to you what other people do? Are magicians harming you? Why are you so desperate to prove or disprove magick according to your terms, even when you admit you don’t know how to do it?

I have to admit that you are not alone in this type of demand. Various pseudo-skeptics, pseudo-scientists and debunkers work the same way. The reason I’m interested in your sharing the nature of your issue is so that readers here will better understand the attitude of the pseudo-skeptics et. al. Why does this matter to you?

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#29 
Written By Los
on April 26th, 2012 @ 11:21 am

“Why do you feel it necessary to demand that they can only be proven according to your paradigm?”

Because you’re making claims that – if true – would have a measurable effect on reality. If it’s actually true that performing a ritual makes it more likely that a person will acquire a certain amount money in a limited time frame, then that’s something that can be demonstrated statistically.

We can reasonably conclude that the claim you’re making is measurable, and we don’t at all need to know the exact numbers yet in order to reach that reasonable conclusion.

And as I’ve explained — and as you know, since you “understand statistics” — one cannot accurately evaluate such a claim by examining a handful of cases apart from the context of the larger population.

It’s irrelevant whether there are other disciplines that don’t make measurable claims because what you’re doing is making a measurable claim.

Don’t you agree that you’re making a claim that is measurable?

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#30 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on April 26th, 2012 @ 5:42 pm

But your paradigm is NOT the only paradigm of reality. The Tarot explains reality. So does astrology. So does Newtonian physics. So does quantum physics. And yet, they are entirely different paradigms. They are all correct within their own structure.

Yes, the effects of magick are measurable. But the statistical measurements you’re asking about have nothing to do with the results or effects.

You wrote, “It’s irrelevant whether there are other disciplines that don’t make measurable claims because what you’re doing is making a measurable claim.” However, the effects of psychology and the effects of the mind are all measurable.

The problem is actually that you are asking for statistical proofs without understanding statistics or what they show. You’ve acknowledged that you don’t know statistics.

And I would still like to know what your issue is. Why does this matter to you? How will your life be changed if you come to believe that magick is valid? What are you so psychologically attached to that you simply can’t allow people to have experiences of reality that are different from yours?

I ask this not because of you as an individual, but because I’d like to know what is the cause of the position held by people who hold the position you are presenting. As I wrote, “The reason I’m interested in your sharing the nature of your issue is so that readers here will better understand the attitude of the pseudo-skeptics et. al. Why does this matter to you?”

Finally, I would note that this is at least the third time I’ve asked why this matters to you. And you’ve refused to respond. Is there something that people who hold the position you’re presenting are that prevents them from confronting this question? So I repeat, why does this matter to you?

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#31 
Written By Los
on April 26th, 2012 @ 7:20 pm

DMK writes: “why does this matter to you?”

I’ve avoided answering this question because it’s irrelevant to the subject of the discussion: evaluating your claims. A lot of what you posted in our conversation was irrelevant to the issue at hand, and I suspect you were hoping that I would be distracted enough to lose the main thread of my argument and cease to press you on questions for which you obviously have no sufficient answers.

Since I feel that I’ve pushed you about as far as I can on the issue we’ve been discussing – and since I consider it a great victory for me that I’ve backed you into a corner that you can only get out of by appealing to laughable, paper-thin New Age platitudes – I’ll indulge your question now.

The most basic answer to “Why do I care?” is that I’m interested in the subject of evaluating claims, and I have a personal curiosity in people who make factual claims in public that they cannot support. Consider it a hobby, if you like. I enjoy talking about this subject, and – surprise, surprise – I talk about it a lot as a result.

Philosophically, my interest in evaluating claims is intimately connected with my practice of Thelema, which you can read about on my blog.

Despite your weird assumption that I want to “stop” people from practicing magick, I don’t care at all what you or anyone else does in private. My interest is solely confined to the factual claims you make in public and your ability – or lack thereof, in this case – to demonstrate that they are true.

In fact, far from wanting to “stop” the practice of magick, I myself routinely perform magical rituals. (Modern Magick, incidentally, was one of my starting texts, way back in the day). I just don’t subscribe to any supernatural explanations surrounding these rituals because there’s insufficient evidence to support said explanations, as you’ve aptly (and inadvertently) illustrated over the course of our revealing conversation.

There will be a full and possibly quite entertaining analysis of your rhetorical strategies up at my blog sometime next week, if you or your readers would care to follow along.

93, 93/93

Regards,
Los

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#32 
Written By Vinncent
on April 26th, 2012 @ 10:40 pm

I have to respectfully disagree with -both- sides of the argument at this point, with both certain points Kraig has brought up, and LOS.

In regards to Kraig; it is not enough, when speaking objectively or empirically, to say one must “prove these things for themselves”. Certainly, it is possible to both experiment and apply occult principles in ones own life and observe the results (or, lack thereof). However, unless a (many times mentioned) proper sample is taken under strict laboratory conditions, this amounts to “anecdotal evidence”, which is neither scientific, nor empirical as far as anyone else involved is concerned.

Before getting to LOS’s point, the main crux of the issue is, as Kraig intelligently pointed out in his article, the exact mechanism by which occult feats are able to take place is currently not able to be measured. The important point of that sentence of “mechanism”.

Because of this, the best that can be done at this point is “correlational studies”, and as everyone knows, correlational doesn’t imply causation. However, various phenomena of “consciousness interacting with reality” has been positively experimented on a great deal already, under strictly controlled laboratory conditions to discount any outside variables beyond conscious intent.

The problem with a typical “occult feat” is that it is -not- done under laboratory conditions. The so-called “laboratory setting” composes the entirety of reality, and often works through what a die-hard skeptic could consider “coincidences”, regardless of that incredibly improbable, statistically significant result.

And, as to the majority of LOS’s points, you imply that there have not been any positive experiments under laboratory conditions exploring the interaction of consciousness remotely interacting with reality. Most of it is still considered “fringe science”, despite sound scientific methods and results being published in respected peer-reviewed journals. The fortunate thing about science is that it is not a popularity contest as to what is a valid experiment… the results are the defining factor, which has repeatedly been proven positive.

Again, if you would like to do your own research into these sorts of phenomena, the most well-known experiments have revolved around the “Morphic Field Theory”, the “Noetic Institute”, and studies done on the “Maharishi Effect” by research groups unrelated to the “Maharishi Institute.”

-Vinncent

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#33 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on April 27th, 2012 @ 12:08 pm

Los, I have done my best to try and keep this on a philosophical level, describing the concepts you present rather than merely attacking the presentation. Now, however, the real source of the issue comes out. On one level you claim you “don’t care at all about what at all what …[I] or anyone else does in private,” but on another you say you have a “hobby” of “evaluating claims.” If so, you may be the first person in history who has a hobby he doesn’t care about at all.

This discussion has never been about me or my claims. It has always been about you and the psychological challenge of having a deep religious belief in one thing and a superficial understanding of scientific concepts to support it. As soon as I called you on that you abandoned each argument completely.

Los, the only “victory” you’ve one is a victory over being unwilling to challenge yourself and see your inner motivations. Every time I’ve called you on something you have abandoned it. I requested details and you have been unwilling to provide even one.

The bottom line remains the same. You want proof of something you will never believe in. Why should it be provided? You want elaborate and expensive proofs that you refuse to pay for, and even if you did pay for it nothing would be changed. Why should it be provided? You have a very limited view of reality and won’t believe any proof that challenges that reality. Why should such proof be provided?

You can call it a “victory” and present tired arguments to support your inability to provide any sort of guidance to the proof you want or even what actually qualifies as proof. You and your friends may have a great laugh over your repetition of the same old pseudo-arguments that have long been debunked but are still trotted out again and again by those who will never believe.

And that’s okay. You can present whatever you want. But that will never resolve the psychological dichotomy within you. In Tantric tradition there are blockages to advancement known as “kleshas.” One of those is the false ego. That’s where what you think of yourself and the world has distinct differences with what is actually real. That’s where you are now, and until you work on that no amount of proof of anything you don’t have an ersatz-religious belief in will ever satisfy you.

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#34 
Written By Los
on April 27th, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

DMK writes: “On one level you claim you “don’t care at all about what at all what …[I] or anyone else does in private,” but on another you say you have a “hobby” of “evaluating claims.” If so, you may be the first person in history who has a hobby he doesn’t care about at all.”

You do understand the distinction between what people do in private and the claims they make in public, right?

As I said, I don’t care at all what you do in private: go ahead and pretend to cast magic spells all you want. I don’t intend to “stop” you — or anyone else — from doing whatever the heck you’d like in your personal life.

My interest — the thing I *do* care about — is in the claims you make in public.

If you just sat in your house having groovy, far out trances, and believing whatever you want in private, I would never have said a thing at all. But since you appear in public, making factual claims (such as “magick works” in the manner you mean it) — and, as a result, you have a reputational and fincancial stake in these claims — I’m interested in discussing the claims you make in public.

Any time a person enters a sphere of public discourse, he opens his ideas up to reasonable criticism. I think in anyone’s book “reasonable criticism” would include pointing out that you have not demonstrated your claims to be true and that you have proposed no mechanism for determining that your claims are true.

DMK writes: “One of those [blockages] is the false ego. That’s where what you think of yourself and the world has distinct differences with what is actually real. That’s where you are now.”

Oh, so you’re saying that my thoughts don’t correspond to reality? That must mean that you have a way of determining whether your claims are real (that is, distinguishable from nothing at all).

Why don’t you tell us what your method is? I mean, I’ve answered all of your questions, and I have been asking you for some time now.

Incidentally, I do intend to respond to Vincent’s post, but I don’t know yet when I will have time. More to come later.

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#35 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on April 27th, 2012 @ 2:46 pm

Los, I understand exactly what you’re saying. Since you either refuse to acknowledge the real issues or are unaware of them—and I apologize for this, but you are presenting yourself as a representative of this viewpoint—I’m revealing what I think your issues are.
You totally miss the point that this entire discussion is about a psychological dichotomy within you. In your previous post you wrote, “I myself routinely perform magical rituals” while in this one you write that I “pretend to cast magic spells.” My friend, do you not see that this critique is splitting you open: why do spells when they’re only pretend? How can you both believe and not believe in magic? Why are you wasting your time doing only “pretend” things.
Trying to get me or other magicians to come to your confused psychological state where you want proof but refuse to (or are untrained and therefore unable) identify the specific proof you want is a waste of time for all of us. This lack of self-understanding on your part is exemplified by your continued refusal to answer a couple of simple questions: Why do you care? What difference does it make to you? How will your life be changed when proof is provided? I’m afraid that the reason you don’t answer those questions is because you haven’t followed the first dictate of any occultist: Know Thyself. It’s not that you won’t answer them, it’s that you haven’t done the work and don’t have any answer: you can’t answer them.
No, I am most definitely NOT saying that your “thoughts don’t correspond to reality.” What I’m saying is that your interpretation of yourself, who you are, doesn’t correspond to the reality of who you actually are. This is proven by your split attitude of saying you mocking magickal rituals as “pretend” but you perform them daily.
Without self-examination we can all easily get lost in false beliefs about ourselves. Crowley described this by saying there were people who thought they had crossed the abyss but actually were flung back down to the lower levels of the Tree of Life and left wandering through those paths while thinking they were among the Supernals. Los, where are you? Crowley has beginning exercises that were filled with developing self-knowledge. Have you been through them?
I really do wish you good luck on your path and with your blog. Honestly. I do. However, before you start trying to make others agree with your limiting beliefs, perhaps you should consider some introspection and resolve your internal issues. The only way out, is in.

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#36 
Written By Vinncent
on April 28th, 2012 @ 5:44 pm

I would like to hear more of thoughts on the issue in regards to my statements, LOS… as you seem to have some grounding in scientific and statistical methods, and appreciate finding counterarguments that I don’t have a valid, logical, and usually empirically supported response to.

-Vinncent

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#37 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on April 29th, 2012 @ 11:06 am

Unfortunately, Los sent a post that repeated his previous statements without responding to what I had asked. Being redundant and not carrying this further, it was not posted. He chose not to respond to you without repeating his previous comments. He has said that he invites you to view his own blog where he his posted and commented, still without answering the questions I have asked.

If Los wishes to respond to you here, of course I would post it. If he wishes to respond to the questions I asked, I would post that, too. However merely repeating the same things without actually responding goes nowhere and is useless to post here.

Los’ blog can be found here: LINK

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#38 
Written By Brad
on May 2nd, 2012 @ 11:29 pm

93

Having reviewed the debate here, it seems to me quite clear that los has been asking a perfectly reasonable question, and that Mr. Kraig has failed to answer it. Mr. Kraig has tried various ways of shifting the focus of the debate (including the infamous: “you’re not doing it right,” and the classic: “you’ve not done the work” / “you lack magical training” scripts, and even drawing upon the time-honoured: “you can’t perceive the higher levels of reality as you have limiting beliefs” chestnut, as a finale).

Presumably to apprehend the great truth of magical experience we must abandon the safe confines of our rational minds, with their pesky hankerings after mundane fripperies like hard evidence…

Vinncent, I believe ‘morphogenetic resonance’ is a pseudo-scientific theory touted by Rupert Sheldrake, who is a bit notorious by dint of his promoting wacky scientific theories. These are a big hit with the weed and magic mushrooms crowd, who are presumably suitably impressed by his brand of ‘science’ which appeals to their far-out vision of how they would like things to work – you know, resonating so much with each other that we start reading each other’s thoughts, man. Contrary to what you seem to believe, there is no reliable scientific proof for ESP, telepathy, telekinesis and the like. It’s all ‘merde de cheval.’ As the French say.

93s

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#39 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on May 7th, 2012 @ 1:13 am

Brad, I have no doubt you think that Los has been “perfectly reasonable.” Unfortunately, I would have to debate your claim that you have “reviewed the debate” here as I have never claimed that Los was “not doing it right,” had “not done the work” or in any way lacked “magical training.” My guess is that you simply read his blog and then ran over here to post. That’s fine, but at least be honest about it.

The problem is that Los’ approach has not been “perfectly reasonable.” He has refused to present any specific techniques and, in fact, admitted that he had never studied the techniques he wanted to use. Instead, what he has presented are typical pseudo-scientific approaches that allow for “moving the goal posts,” as I have repeatedly stated, so that nothing can ever challenge the position he is representing.

Most importantly of all, he has refused to give any reason whatsoever why anyone should give any proof of anything for him. He is literally attempting to set himself up as a god of what is and what is not rational and scientific, but the approach is from a decidedly non-scientific view.

So the question remains, why do some people take a non-scientific approach to defending what they think is scientific? Los has refused to say anything to this. You do not say anything to this. My assumption—and I fully admit it is only an assumption—is that some people have adopted a belief in pseudo-skepticism that they hold with with all the passion of any follower of a fundamentalist religion. Specifically, any opposition must be denounced to prevent anyone from believing in anything other than the quasi-religion that I have termed “Scientism.”

I would note that you are presenting the same type of argument. For example, your denunciation of Dr. Sheldrake contains not one iota of support or documentation. It’s just unsupported claims. The denunciation of Sheldrake you’re presenting is not different than the way some fundamentalist religionists denounce people who hold positions other than that of their own view of religion.

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#40 
Written By Brad
on May 7th, 2012 @ 8:40 am

93

Although I don’t much relish re-igniting an expired argument here, I am going to take issue with a couple of points you made.
Firstly, that I didn’t read your initial blog post and the subsequent exchange between you, Los and the others. I’m not going to make a big deal of this, but I would say that reading the post and the debate was not exactly an edifying experience, I’m afraid. And the exchange can indeed be justly truncated as per my post.
You make a ’cause and effect’ claim about the world.
You claim the efficacy of magick is well-attested by the ‘evidence’ of thousands of practitioners through the years.
You refuse to state your own methods for verifying your factual beliefs about magick, but assure us that you have a way of checking. Odd.
You accuse Los of lacking training, blocking his ‘higher self’ through limited beliefs etc etc.

Even in your reply to me you have wheeled out yet another believer script. That we are true believers of ‘sciencism’, that in this sense science itelf is ‘just another religion’. You claim our reasonable request for empirical scientific evidence makes us no better than religious fundamentalists. That it is we who are the pseudo-scientists. I’ll leave it to readers’ individual judgement to divine the truth of this claim.

As for Rupert Sheldrake, as I said, he is notorious, and it’s not possible to present his work as peer-reviewed evidence for ESP and related claims. He was friends with Terence McKenna (whom I like and respect in many ways, but who was, alas, also a pseudo-science peddler, ‘Time Wave Zero’ for example).

Why are occultists so quick to sneer at the dogma and superstition of other religions, while unable to see that their own beliefs and practices are just as open to similar derision?

Thanks for publishing my posts though

93s

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#41 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on May 7th, 2012 @ 9:22 am

Hmm. You say you don’t “relish” doing something, but you choose to do so anyway. I wonder why that is? What motivates you to do things you don’t “relish” doing? Why do you think it is necessary?

Your post strongly implied that contrary to your claim, you did not actually “reviewed the debate” as you wrote that I had stated things I did not. In your new post you admit that, in fact, you did not tell the truth. You, in fact, did not read the debate you claimed you had reviewed. Respectfully, what do you call it when someone makes an argument based on a claim, and then admits that the claim was false? I know what I call it.

Now, in your latest post, you again show that you aren’t bother to read what I posted. I never wrote that you are “true believers of scientism.” I have no way of knowing that. I wrote that you were “presenting the same type of argument.” I have no way to know if you actually believe that way or are just stating it. After all, you’ve already admitted that you’ve made at least one claim that was not accurate.

Now, you’ve simply ignored part of what you referred to as a debate. Specifically, that it was Los who admitted that he has neither the training nor the skill to design or consider any tests. Nor is he willing to fund any tests that would satisfy him. Nor is he willing to give absolute ground rules to prevent moving the goal posts. Nor is he willing to state why he deserves to have these tests done. Nor is he willing to state what he will do when the tests show that he is wrong. With all this unwillingness to cooperate, why should anyone cooperate with his demands? I leave those same questions to you.

Concerning Dr. Sheldrake, you have simply made an ad hominem attack. Not only that, but you then try to cover him with mud by saying that he was “friends” with Terence McKenna. Are you proposing that if someone is a friend of another person, they should be imprisoned or punished of that other person does something you don’t like? Hmmm. What historical country was it where you could get in trouble for your friends? I won’t name it because this is too much fun and naming it would invoke Godwin’s Law.

I am not “sneer[ing]” at anyone’s dogma. I’m merely pointing it out. If you don’t like having it pointed out that your policies and methods are identical to the policies and methods (albeit not the beliefs per se) of another group, don’t you think it would behoove you to change your policies and methods? Or perhaps the beliefs you are presenting are ones that simply favor denouncing any individual or group that dares to stand up to your particular dogma rather than actually doing things like, you know, actual scientific research?

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#42 
Written By Skye
on May 8th, 2012 @ 10:45 am

I’m sorry , but honestly I love this site and am also Pagan, If you want proof like she said go find it yourself, I assume you think Indians were quacks too yet if not for them we wouldn’t be on the land we are on. With that being said they lived many decades and many lives in a way most people have no idea about , myself I now totally understand their culture (Which is also my own heritage) and it seems to me people need to stop judging ANYONE or QUESTION a specific person/persons for their beliefs. We all are entitled to freedom of religion if you don’t like ours find your own way to whatever it is you believe in and occupy yourself with questioning your own beliefs not ours, if you feel such a great need to question anything!

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#43 
Written By Brad
on May 9th, 2012 @ 10:01 am

93

Skye, I’m certainly not questioning your right to believe in whatever you desire. A question for you though. If you contracted a serious life-threatening disease (and I hope of course that you never do), would you prefer to be treated by a qualified practitioner of western medicine, or by a native american traditional therapist? There’s a funny South Park about this very issue actually, called “Cherokee Hair Tampons”. It has Cheech and Chong guesting in it, as native american medicine men, worth a watch!

I don’t take issue with your right to believe in whatever you please, but those making public factual claims about how the world works should expect to be respectfully challenged, whether they are scientists, occultists, pagans, Christians, Jews, or whatever.

93s

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#44 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on May 9th, 2012 @ 10:44 am

Brad, thank you for your comment. I cannot respond for Skye, but I can give you my answer.

I would suggest that your question is like asking, “If you have an apple, do you want an orange or a banana?” It is a binary question (i.e., it requires an either/or, yes/no answer) when such an answer is not required.

What you call “Western medicine” (more accurately allopathic medicine) is one healing modality that is very good for certain things. The healing methods of a “Native American traditional therapist” are also very good for certain things. A self-reliant person, in my opinion, should learn the potentials and limitations of various healing modalities and choose the one best suited to the ailment. I wouldn’t stick acupuncture needles in my body to fix a broken arm, but I also wouldn’t stick a cast on my arm as a cure for allergies!

Respectfully, your question is so general (some unnamed “serious life-threatening disease,” undescribed allopathic and traditional medical practices) that a valid answer from any self-reliant person is impossible.

However, your question also inserts a very restrictive qualification, that a person can only choose one or the other healing modality. From past experience I can tell you that if I were faced again with a “serious life-thretening disease” I’d use all available healing modalities and not be limited to just one!

Finally, I would suggest that basing one’s ideas on a South Park cartoon may not indicate the highest level of rational thought. I don’t base my ideas on Ren and Stimpy, Sponge Bob, or the Aqua Teen Hunger Force either!

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#45 
Written By Random Al Askendir Xtranj
on May 21st, 2012 @ 11:29 pm

Ooooookay! Everybody take a deeeeep breath!
Donald, you have my respect as always (tho that faltered a bit as you continued to respond to LOS).

There is another paradigm for how+why+that magick works, which this entire discussion-argument has been a demonstration of:
“All perceived Reality is illusion”/ Personal Universes.

Specifically, this posits that Reality is not only perceived by the senses and the mind, it is first generated by the senses and the mind,, then perceived,, then reacted-to and generated again. This means that DMK and I (and many others) can live in overlapping Personal Universes in which we have demonstrated to ourselves that we can easily change some parts of the illusions we perceive, and we call this ‘magick’ AND LOS and several others can live in overlapping Personal Universes in which anything which cannot be measured, tested, and repeated by anyone does not exist, and they call that process ‘science’ or the ‘scientific method’. As long as all of these people believe that, just because they can communicate, they live in the ‘same’ universe, interminable arguments are inevitable, and insufficient to convince anyone of anything.
While a frog may take eternity talking to a hawk and a penguin trying to convince the hawk that it cannot fly because it is a bird, and the penguin is a bird, and the penguin cannot fly,, the hawk knows it can fly – - – why does it waste any time or energy even listening to the frog? There is no way that the frog will ever fly.

References =
“Illusions” by Richard Bach,
“Real Magic” by Isaac Bonewitz,
Ancient Hindi Beliefs (“Maya”).

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#46 
Written By Random
on May 21st, 2012 @ 11:40 pm

Something else occurred to me in the arguments…
Let’s calm down from ‘serious life-threatening disease’,,

Let’s say you have a headache.
The Western Medicine approach to ‘curing’ this symptom is administering a pill, ‘Aspirin’ (which they stole from ancient Herbalists = ‘willow-bark tea’);
90% of the time, the headache goes away;;
The Eastern Medicine approach to ‘calming’ this problem is briefly pinch the thumb-to-index-finger web of the left hand by the thumb and index finger of the right, and vice-versa;
90% of the time, the headache goes away.
This can be tried and repeated innumerable times.
Each solution does a similar thing – - – the aspirin thins the blood, allowing more oxygen to get to the muscles of the head, relaxing them; the thumb-web acupressure point sends more blood to the head, carrying more oxygen to the head’s muscles, relaxing them.
Which solution costs more? Which solution creates and supports more jobs at the expense of the patient?

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#47 
Written By mist42nz
on May 30th, 2012 @ 2:36 am

It “works” by being correlative. Action A happens (ie a ritual is done) and we notice that Result B occurs (a predicted result appears to have occured). There -is- NO inbetween created cause.

If there was an inbetween “it connects this to that”, then it would be a cause, ie a causal relationship. And we call the line of causal observations, “science” (even when only predictive or wrong).

You can’t prove the magical cause – if you can its not magic. Nothing stops you making up whatever you want, and testing it – in fact we encourage it highly (and often find it effective – until you start trapping yourself inside your own magical “reasoning”)[step 2 is learning how to get back out ;)]

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#48 
Written By mist
on June 1st, 2012 @ 1:52 am

“This is what I’m talking about: in order to follow this advice, someone would first have to be able to tell that a ritual actually did “work” and cause the result (and that it wasn’t just a coincidence that their minds interpreted as a “hit”).”

@LOS
This is where you’re making your error.
This is -your- belief structure, but it is not correct for magical work.
“first have to be able to tell that a ritual actually did “work””

Magic _does_not_have_a_causal_link_.

Understanding this is imperative to the topic at hand.
To give a parallel – we are discussing science to magic. The parallel belief structure, in religion to science would be a religious person wanting to know what scripture supported the scientists measurements.

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#49 
Written By catrenn
on July 20th, 2012 @ 5:53 pm

Can I just make a point here? Arthur C. Clarke said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Meaning, people have called magic, Magic, because they don’t know how it works. And I know of a number of magicians for whom knowing how it works would prevent their being able to do it. Having been through that caterpillar’s dilemma and out the other side, I now know both THAT it works and HOW it works from personal experience, and I have enough background in science as well that I could probably design studies in which it could be proven.

The main reason science does not know how it works is that they begin with the assumption that it doesn’t, and they refuse to look. The studies which could prove OR disprove it have yet to be done. The scientific community felt the same way about herbalism until enough studies were done to prove that old wives mostly really did know what they were talking about.

When you are talking about a science in which the human mind is the operating mechanism, and belief is one of the keys of its operation, there are a lot more variables involved than simple Newtonian mechanics. Gravity was “provable” because on Earth, every time you drop something, no matter who you are or how you do it, it goes down. Doesn’t work in space, but that doesn’t disprove the law. It just shows that there are places beyond its reach.

Put another way, if I push the button on the microwave and nothing happens (and it occasionally doesn’t), I don’t claim it invalidates the entire scientific method. Similarly, when I push the button on the microwave and it does what I expect it to, maybe that’s just confirmation bias.

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#50 
Written By deb
on October 8th, 2014 @ 9:35 am

I know I’m late responding to this… Lol
LOS, (if your still around, here in the future) the proof that magick works can be seen clearly by the fact that a person/people continue to practice it.
If it were not working, wouldn’t the people who practice it simply discontinue its use for the purpose of achieving their goals?
Do you assume that those who have been practicing their whole lives merely continue to practice even though it accomplishes nothing?
People usually do something else to achieve their goals if the thing their doing just isn’t working…
Doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results is said to be insane…
Are you suggesting that these thinking people cannot tell the difference between what is working and what is not?
Are they all crazy?
Idk… The proof is in the pudding…
Try some magick, see how it tastes to you, and go from there…
Some ppl don’t like pudding, so it can never accomplish for them what it will for those who do…
Just saying :)

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