Tricky stuff, talking about how magic works these days. St. B. takes a thought-provoking swipe at it today and brings up some very interesting points that are true about how magic works, and the role of belief, confidence, and faith.
At the same time, we're in the aftermath of the chaos magic movement that spread the "meme" meme using the techniques of NLP to empower itself exponentially... and then dried up and blew away when Emperor Norton awoke to the fact that his exotic invisible symbol set and belief-system-flopping-paradigm-mind tricks weren't really there.
Just because you believe something to be true doesn't, really, grant the power to transcend all human limitations. That's a bare-bones fact that nothing in The Secret, on a blog, or in some eBook that you order off some icono-hypnosis* practitioner's cheap ass web site that promises that you'll be making five figures a month by writing ad copy for Google ads can change. If you think your mind can overcome the effects of sealing yourself in a plastic sweat lodge run by a white dude who charged you $9,000 each to come and basically COOK YOURSELF TO DEATH, you're in for a slight surprise.
But belief is a factor in the the effects of magical rituals, right? I mean, you have to believe in it to have results, and the more confident you are in your expectations, the quicker your results manifest. The stronger your will, the more precise the result matches the statement of intent. The clearer your thoughts about a situation, the better the outcome when you conjure about it. These are all facets of how belief impacts magic, and the interaction between the magician's mind and thoughts and the spirits we're conjuring. You can't pray to something you don't think is there and get the peace that comes from prayer with a being you've met, walked through the Aethyrs with, and have a long-established relationship.Belief directly impacts results...
But really, if you didn't believe in magic, would you REALLY have picked up a book on the occult? Really? Fuck no, even people who are trying to "Debunk the Superstitions of the IDIOTS," like Richard Dawkins secretly believe, or they wouldn't have started researching about it. Everybody knows Richard Dawkins is afraid that there really is a God, and has spent all his time and effort trying to disprove his existence, not so that he could free mankind from the chains of religion, oh no, he just wants to be able to fucking sleep at night without taking Ambien.
But he can't, cause he knows there's a God, and that he's going to suffer for his rejection of his Source. Everybody knows it. It's engraved in our souls to Love God and Seek Him, in whatever form he reveals himself in.
Likewise, everyone who gets drawn to magic at least secretly believes it's real already. Any doubts are just delusions, social anxiety over getting mocked or ostracized from the popular kids' table in the cafeteria because you believe in something "weird."
But people do fail at magic anyway, at first. They get lackluster results, they hear nothing, feel no spirit, and see no results at all. They go through all the motions, even by the letter of the book, and get nuttin'.
Because it's not belief that powers the magic, as much as it is confidence. Assuredness. Clarity of Mind. Jason recommends people meditate a lot. It's an exercise that teaches you to clear your mind. When people start getting good results, it's after they've done the rituals often enough to know what comes next without worrying about forgetting a step and getting eaten by Ba'al Malachimlings.** They've got the confidence to focus their intent on the conjuration, instead of the technique, and they've achieved clarity of mind. Agrippa says it's not the name of the spirit, but the intent of the magician that determines what spirit we receive. That means that if your mind isn't clear enough to focus that intent, there isn't going to be any spirit there at all. Or worse, you'll get the kind that are attracted to confused minds.***
I do agree that Magic is a way to transcend all human limitation, by the way. Especially if you can be really flexible and relativistic with the "transcend" part. See, the real secret power of Mind Over Matter is that if you don't mind, it doesn't matter."Transcending human limitation in magic" can mean landing a job you aren't qualified for, or learning why you aren't ever going to use levitation and invisibility spells to rob a bank totally un-noticed and then fly away to a country that doesn't extradite. Just in case you may have thought magic would do that for you, and that's why you really started studying this shit. Not saying I know anyone like that. Not saying it was me, nope. Just sayin'.
Anyway, that's my swipe at How Magic Works: Magic, Belief, and Mental Clarity.
* Coming soon, The Power of Icono-Hypnosis: Hypnotise your readers using occult writing techniques (as revealed by Bune of the Goetia!)
** Don't conjure the Ba'al Malachim. They are a class of spirits that I, even me who doesn't believe in evil spirits, would never consider conjuring, at all. They're a class of spirit far more insidious and dangerous than any list of demons recorded in sulfur tablets retrieved from the depths of Hell itself. They're .... completely made up, just now, by me.
*** Or still yet even more worse, you'll get eaten, eaten by the Ba'al Malachimlings! Duhn-duhn-duuuuuuuhn!