Month: July 2017

The Meaning of “Magic”

Magic exists, life is open-ended and not restricted according to our rule-based view of it. I mean yeah, life appears to be rule-based by and large (speaking of the laws of physics and such) and that’s why we have an absolutist rule-based view of it, but that’s just a prominent pattern within the physical realm, it’s not all-encompassing or absolute. There is “room” for magic.

You could say there’s “room” for a lot of things, and why should there be something as good and wishful as magic, but the truth is that the universe is by and large an awesome and wonderful place, notwithstanding conditions in this cubby-hole we call human civilization on planet Earth.

“Magic” means a few different things though. One of those meanings thought to be restricted to being what we call the emotional. This kind of magic is mentioned, for example, in the lyrics to Duran Duran’s “Come Undone”: “Words, playing me Déjà vu / Like a radio tune I swear I’ve heard before / Chill, is it something real? / All the magic I’m feeding off your fingers.” This kind of magic is common, and people overlook it as a form of real magic because the truly magical part of it is not something that’s empirically observable.

Then there is the more acute form of magic (which isn’t so much a different sense of the term “magic” but rather carries the same spirit of the word but to a more pronounced level): actual “exceptions” to the “laws of physics.” (The “laws” of physics are ultimately just patterns of nature, and nothing, of course—not even magic—is not a part of nature.) I think this kind of magic is possible, and has probably actually happened in the course of human history, but it’s very rare.. at least right now. This could perhaps, and hopefully will, change in the future.

Some assorted attributes of real magic:

  • Magic is connective—even “impossibly” so.
  • Magic is mysterious, though not necessarily everything mysterious is magic.
  • Magic is non-mechanistic, and therefore transcends our normal models of causality and confounds our typical rationalism.
  • Magic is related to the unexpected.
  • Magic is wild and unpredictable.
  • Magic is realer than real, it is the substance that we all thirst for in life but are conditioned by cultural left-brained thinking to overlook and discard.
  • Magic is irreducible.
  • Magic is inexplicable.
  • Magic is amazing, surprising, stupendous, wonderful, often miraculous.
  • Magic is not just “any sufficiently advanced technology.” A sufficiently advanced technology may appear magical, but not all magic is necessarily technological. More accurately, probably none of it is, and the appearance of sufficiently advanced technology as being magical is just that: appearance. The phrase “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” is just meme-tier wisdom that physicalists use to flatten the entire playing field to the mundane.
  • Magic is not necessarily what’s simulated by illusionists. If something an illusionist’s trick were to actually happen for real, that would qualify as magic, but magic does not have to defy the laws of physics, or at least it doesn’t have to do it so overtly.
  • The principal trait of magic may be that it links mind to the outside world. It is when (a) the outside world behaves in ways that are more reminiscent of our internal world than what we think of the outside world or how it normally operates, or (b) when we notice an aspect of the outside world that actually has always behaved this way, or (c) when there is a connection between the inner realm—the modality of one’s mind and consciousness—and the outside world that seems to defy nature (that is, what we know of how nature works). The reason this reflection of the inner within in the outer world, or in other words the connection between the inner and the outer worlds, would result in what we call “magic” is that the mind itself—the inner world—operates magically all the time. It’s just that we don’t call it “magic” because in the inner realm it’s taken for granted; it’s too familiar; and it’s not something we perceive with our physical senses.
  • To some people, magic is a situation where fantasy—things that are too good to be true—become reality. While not all fantasy worlds and concepts are realistic (even in the magical universe), real magic as characterized above meets this very general characterization (perhaps the most general and fundamental of all characterizations of “magic”) because a lot of those elements named above are vital to life, joy, exhilaration, fulfillment, truly being alive, etc., and yet are scarce in this world, partially due to our scientistic, analytical, skeptical, left-brained cultural mindset.
  • Some people see magic as being able to influence reality with one’s mind (say, Harry Potter style). More generally, I could say it’s about uncanny connections between external reality and mind/thoughts. Even more generally it’s simply “connective,” as mentioned above.
  • Magic is easier when two or more people believe excitedly together, propping each other up.

I do not know if magic requires more than one element of the above simultaneously, or which elements or combinations of elements are necessary or which are sufficient.

Assorted examples of magic and magical things:

  • Synchronicity
  • Anything parapsychological
  • The soul/spirit
  • Ghosts, maybe
  • Miracles
  • The feeling of timelessness
  • Anything you literally feel in your heart. Not the physical heart, the spiritual heart, probably actually the heart chakra. Mine is located directly below my sternum.
  • Ki energy or kundalini
  • The electric feeling you feel when you’re excited or it’s a cold night where it’s warm most of the year.
  • “Words, playing me deja vu / Like a radio tune I swear I’ve heard before / Chill, is it something real / Or the magic I’m feeding off your fingers?” —Duran Duran, “Come Undone”
  • “The kisses of the sun / Were sweet / I didn’t blink / I let it in my eyes / Like an exotic dream / The radio playing songs / That I have never heard / I don’t know what to say / Oh, not another word / Just, la la la la la / It goes around the world / Just, la la la la la / It’s all around the world / Just, la la la la la / And everybody’s singing / La la la la la / And now the bells are ringing / La la la la la la la la” —ATC, “Around the World”
  • “All through the night / This precious time when time is new / Oh, all through the night today / Knowing that we feel the same without saying / We have no past, we won’t reach back / Keep with me forward all through the night / And once we start the meter clicks / And it goes running all through the night / Until it ends, there is no end” —Cyndi Lauper, “All Through the Night”
  • “Wrapped in the warmth of you / Loving every breath of you / Still in my heart this moment / Or it might burst / Could we stay right here / Until the end of time until the earth stops turning / Gonna love you until the seas run dry / I’ve found the one I’ve waited for / All this time I’ve loved you / And never known your face” —Lamb, ‘Gorecki’
  • “The mother, and the matador, / the mystic, all were here before / like me, to stare You down. / You appear without a face, / disappear, but leave your trace, / I feel your unseen frown. / […] / I look for you in heathered moor, / the desert, and the ocean floor / how low does one heart go. / looking for your fingerprints / I find them in coincidence, / and make my faith to grow.” —Suzanne Vega, “Penitent”
  • “Your static-bound emotion is breaking me down / I’m riding on your sound wave right over the town / Your frequency can never be tracked / Your electric feeling is makin’ me crack / Your mind phone / Is calling me up / Your mind phone / Is dialing me out / Your mind phone / Is beamin’ me into your dream” / […] / Yeah you’re aloof, but the blood is the proof / Your single dream is splittin’ in two / You hear me clearer when you fly from the roof” —April March, “Mind Phone”
  • “Somewhere I have never travelled,gladly beyond / any experience,your eyes have their silence: / in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me, / or which i cannot touch because they are too near” —E. E. Cummings
  • “I never felt magic crazy as this / I never saw moons knew the meaning of the sea / I never held emotion in the palm of my hand / Or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree / But now you’re here / Brighten my northern sky.” —Nick Drake, “Northern Sky”

I wrote more on the subject of magic here. I’ll paste it below:

One thing I’ll mention here, though (because it’s not mentioned in that article), is that the issue of whether magic is real or not may be confounded by naive conceptions of magic as looking a lot like illusionism, except being real. I believe magic exists (but rarely in this world) in the sense in which it defies the ‘laws of physics’ (as we know them), but it still doesn’t quite look like when an illusionist pulls a rabbit out of a hat.

Magic may be even closer to the core of what’s rejected by so-called skeptics than ‘the supernatural’, but perhaps not as close as ‘the paranormal.’ Either way, though, naturalists / physicalists, scientistics, rationalists, academics and so-called ‘skeptics’ aim to destroy magic in all forms by denying its existence and/or explaining it away.

I realize skeptics write such things off as ‘anecdotal,’ but I’ll mention anyway an account I’ve read of two people experiencing real magic. In summary, they were walking along next to a building or something and having a conversation about magic, with a belief that maybe it’s possible, and they started to get excited about its possibility, and then an umbrella that was leaning against the wall beside them suddenly started to pop and fizzle and turn into something of a light show before disappearing.

There are probably many stories online of people experiencing magic, some of them real and some of them not, but this one struck me as being especially realistic because the magical event didn’t happen until their minds were in a state where it was almost expected (by hyping each other up through excited conversation). This principle is fundamental to many aspects of life, parapsychological phenomena, magickal practices, spiritual principles and practices such as ‘law of attraction’ and vision boards, etc.

I’ve also had two personal encounters with magic of some kind (or more, depending on which ones you count). Once I was playing on a swinging chair with my little sister, while concentrating on manifesting some sort of magic (but I didn’t tell her I was doing this), then out of nowhere my sister told me, somewhat emphatically, that she saw a spark on the ground. (And no, magic wasn’t a topic that I frequently brought up with her—or even ever.)

The other time I was lying on the couch and decided to send a wish out into the universe to bring magic into this world, straight from the place right at the base of my sternum where I used to feel strong emotion-like feelings (I call it my heart.. it’s probably my heart chakra), and at the same instant, the box fan that was running in the room stopped. I went and checked it out and the switch was still on, it just wasn’t running. I turned the switch off and on again and it started running again. A few minutes before I did that I was wishing that the fan was off, but I was too lazy to get up and turn it off so I just let it be. Wishing for something and then just letting it be is characteristic of many other times where I wanted something but didn’t expected it to happen and then it happened somehow.

There are other stories I have that are less directly under the umbrella of what we call ‘magic’, but it’s all interconnected.

Here’s one of those other stories:

One time was I was swimming in the pool with my little sister, and she had me stay still while she dumped a pale of water on my head and I closed my eyes. You’d think there’s nothing scary about having some water dumped on your head, but for some reason that simple act entailed that I had to trust her, a kind of surrender. I think that was the key to what happened next.. I suddenly felt divine happiness in my heart (i.e. in the area of my heart chakra). It was so subtle yet so real and something that was so far from my normal miserable, empty experience.

Anyway while in this state I was watching the trees blowing in the wind, and I could actually see the happiness of the trees or their leaves being tickled by the wind and the sun, because it was the same happiness in my heart. So now I know that trees actually are spiritually alive and sensitive and enjoy life.

Sometime not too much later I overheard my mom saying that my sister had told her that a pain she’d had in her hand for years was magically gone. I think it probably had something to do with the divine presence touching my heart while we were in the pool.

The joyous feeling in my heart I had at that time felt like a living energy, like there was a kind of inner motion to it.

Another relevant story is that I noticed when I was a kid that every time I played outside in the hose, it would rain that day. I suppose this is an example of ‘sympathetic magic.’

Science Vs. Spirituality, Magic, Etc.

It’s a shame that common mentality has it that science and spirituality/the parapsychological/etc. are essentially incompatible. Nothing in science proves naturalism or disproves spirituality. There is a viewpoint or weltanschauung among the scientific community that definitively excludes spirituality, the soul, magic, the oneness of all beings, etc., but that viewpoint is not supported by evidence and the scientific method per se; it’s merely the preferred outlook of most scientists.

The underpinnings of the scientific view of the world are what we think of as the laws of physics or the laws of nature. Physical laws, inferred from physical observation and experimentation and modeling, carve out specific relationships between cause and effect within the physical universe, but they don’t show or imply that those relationships are all that exist. They’re limited to what’s observable by scientific instruments and is within the realm of testability and theorization. This means they’re limited in a few ways, such as (a) to very simple relationships between cause and effect, (b) to proximity in time and space (usually) between causes and effects (with some exceptions for exceedingly simple and obvious relationships, such as the effects of gravity), (c) to predictability based on physical control rather than less-quantifiable psychological principles, (d) to causes and effects that can be definitively, quantitatively measured, and (e) to repeatable phenomena or observations.

Because of the immense efficacy of science in predicting and controlling the world, people eventually assumed that nature must be wholly mechanistic. But without being able to predict or control absolutely everything that happens, there’s no reason to assume this.

You could say that the laws of physics leave no room for any other type of influence on events, but I’d say this is false. As I’ve said, the domains and contexts in which we surmise and verify physical theories are limited.