Magick for Materialists: An Introduction

Memetically ActiveAs Discordia’s most aneristic eristic, I sit comfortably between many worlds, much to the consternation of my fellow travellers of every stripe. My hippie friends think I’m a straightneck. My straightneck friends think I’m a hippie. My scientific friends think I’m hopelessly mystical, my mystical friends find me disconcertingly scientific. My irreligious friends find my religious interests troublesome, my religious friends worry over my lack of Faith. My Discordian friends are surprised by my serious demeanor, my serious friends suspect me of brain damage when I giggle at (apparently) random. I could go on, but I’m sure that you get the idea.

Over a series of irregularly-spaced essays here, I will attempt to show that this suspension of belief is the root of all our power. It is the essence of our humanity, and at heart is the only means of control we have over the real world. It is our magick. It might even be true. You shouldn’t not believe that.

If I’m successful, then the hard-core, mechanistic-universe-believing, stone-cold materialists out there will exclaim that I’ve just disproved the existence of all things paranormal, but that I don’t quite get it. The mages, psychics, witches, abductees, and other experiencers and manipulators of the fringe will exclaim that I’ve just validated everything that they believe, but that I don’t quite get it. The Taoists, chaos magicians, Robert Anton Wilson (and ilk) fans, acidheads and such will exclaim “no duh.” However you react, though, you will be able to use what I’ve said to effect real and tangible change in your life. Such is the nature of the slippery magickal realm we’ll be entering. It’s a result of one of the very few immutable truths out there:

There are no real secrets.

Condensed ChaosAs much as anyone can, you already hold truth and power. I mean this quite literally. Some of you already understand this, some suspect it, some think I’m full of shit… and so I am, but it’s really good shit, I assure you.

In large part, the issue is one of definitions. I hold a fantastic magickal power that is not to be underestimated. I can make anything at all proveably true, so long as I get to define the terms. What do I mean by magick? Reality? Control? Truth? That’s the crux of the biscuit, and the fact is that my ability to define terms is the primary control I have over my core power: the suspension of belief. We’ll be circling back around like this quite a lot, so try not to let it bother you.

Defining my own terms sounds like I’m cheating. And I am! That’s the whole point. What is possible or impossible for us to do depends, more than anything else, on how we define the problem. Magickal power comes directly from the realization that we can redefine the situation to make the impossible come to pass.

All affirmations are true in some sense, false in some sense, meaningless in some sense, true and false in some sense, true and meaningless in some sense, false and meaningless in some sense, and true and false and meaningless in some sense.

I’m not just talking semantics here. Mathematics, for example, provides a rich field of solid examples of this effect in action. In my younger days, I worked in a neuroscience laboratory. One of my jobs was to create highly specialized, complex sounds intended to stimulate very specific portions of the brain in very specific ways. Often these sounds were recorded real-life ones that had to be modified.

Sound in the time domainA sound is just air vibrating, and the waveforms you typically see on oscilloscope displays visually show the vibration patterns in a straightforward way. If you look at sound like this, making precise changes to it is an extremely daunting task. If the changes are complex enough then it borders on the impossible. For example, if you have a recording of speech and remove a single specific frequency from it, the waveform you get will look nearly identical to the one you started with. How can you tell what changes you need to make to remove the frequency? What about two frequencies? What if you want to interchange the two? There is a whole branch of brain-busting mathematics that address these issues. They are, to use programmer’s slang, highly nontrivial.

Sound in the frequency domainIf, however, you change the definitions you’re using then the task becomes very easy. Almost trivial. In this case, the redefinition comes in the form of plotting the sound in the frequency domain rather than the time domain. A method called a Fourier Transform lets us convert between these two definitions. The waveform of such a plot has the frequency components of the sound on the horizontal axis instead of time. Filtering becomes a snap, because you can just go to the part of the plot that represents the frequency you are interested in and directly change the number there. Transform it back to the time domain, and you have accomplished the impossible.

The map is not the territory, and it’s always a mistake to think it is. The map both clarifies and confuses our perception of the landscape. That which looks impossible when interpreted by one map becomes effortless when interpreted by a different one. The wise mystic and scientist alike do well to remember they’re looking at a map, and to know which one they should be looking at for the task at hand.