Tuesday, December 01, 2009

"Raising Energy"

Ack! Even typing it makes my fingers curl into claws in search of a neck to throttle.

"Energy" is a quick and easy term to use on the fly to talk about some of the things we experience as magicians, but it just drives me nuts. It's sloppy, inaccurate, and leads to erroneous conclusions. I hate the term "energy."

Am I a semantic nazi about this? Jason and Fr. POS used the term recently on their blogs. I know Jason uses it in his book, too. I even use it on occasion, but only when I'm being lazy. Today on Augoeides, it got mentioned yet again.

Let me explain what I mean, and you can decide if I'm just being a dick about this.

First, here's the definition of Energy from Wikipedia:
In physics, energy (from the Greek ἐνέργεια - energeia, "activity, operation", from ἐνεργός - energos, "active, working"[1]) is a scalar physical quantity that describes the amount of work that can be performed by a force, an attribute of objects and systems that is subject to a conservation law. Different forms of energy include kinetic, potential, thermal, gravitational, sound, light, elastic, and electromagnetic energy. The forms of energy are often named after a related force.

Any form of energy can be transformed into another form, but the total energy always remains the same. This principle, the conservation of energy, was first postulated in the early 19th century, and applies to any isolated system. According to Noether's theorem, the conservation of energy is a consequence of the fact that the laws of physics do not change over time.[2]

Although the total energy of a system does not change with time, its value may depend on the frame of reference. For example, a seated passenger in a moving airplane has zero kinetic energy relative to the airplane, but non-zero kinetic energy relative to the Earth.
"But RO," you may say, "that's Energy in physics, not Energy in metaphysics! I'm not talking about that."

Yeah, I know. That's my point. The idea of energy as it gets used in metaphysical discussions is based on a misunderstanding of what energy is in physics.

It's a measure of potential work or force. It's like volume, or length, or depth. It's a quality of an equation. It's not real until it acts, and when it acts, it becomes a force, or power. Would you say you were "raising depth" or "raising volume" when you did something magical? Of course not.

In metaphysics, people talk about energy flowing. Energy doesn't flow, it is transferred by becoming a force. They talk about it as if it were an invisible astral liquid that somehow powers things, in a way, like electricity, sorta, but without any measurable particles moving. But electricity is the movement of electrons, it is work being performed. What is moving in trance states? No one knows. Calling it "energy" works, but it doesn't really say anything about anything.

If you can create a force, the energy was already there, you just hadn't done the math. If you're talking about the exchange of energy between two interacting systems, you're talking about power and force. Energy only "exists" on paper, it's a measurement, a pattern that is useful for predicting results.

And that's my biggest beef with the use of the term Energy in magical operations. It implies that there is somehow less or more available to you after you've done something magical. It simply isn't true. You have the same amount of "energy" to tap into and channel wherever you go. It is neither created nor destroyed, it simply changes form. Trance states of consciousness may aid in the ability to turn that energy into a power or force that can be felt and experienced, but it doesn't add to or take away from the resting amount of potential Work that can be performed.

Personally, I advocate the use of "power" or "force," or especially "current." Like for the Druid that POS mentioned, when he says he raised Telluric Energy from the Earth, I'd say he channeled the telluric current from the Earth to whatever he aimed it at. When POS talks about raising energy by entering ecstatic states, I'd say he was altering his awareness so that he could consciously channel the forces harmonious to the type of ecstatic state he is entering. (Although grimoire magic ritual is not ecstatic, I don't care what he says.) When Jason says he mixes blue and white energy at a ratio of 80-20%, I'd say he ...

Well, honestly, I have no clue how I'd say that. Is he just thinking blue and white thoughts while he holds his hands over someone? Is he visualizing a force generated in his throat and crown mingling proportionally and then extending through his palms?

I dunno.

Still, he's activating a power, or channeling a current, or directing a force. The Energy to do so is everywhere, everywhen, but his magical activation and utilization of that energy is what matters (or what affects matter, anyway). There's got to be a better way to say it.*

*I just told my wife what I was writing about and she called me an "Energy-Power Snob." Jason totally called me a dick too. Maybe I am a vocabulary czar about this. Maybe I am the premier of patois. Maybe I am the Imperator of Idiom, or the Emperor of Elocution.

Maybe I am a dick about it.

Fine, then. I mean, I don't care, be sloppy, use the word wrong. I won't keep going on about it anymore. You can misrepresent a concept with the wrong symbol. I'll just sit here and watch the disharmonic resonance spread through your sphere, and I won't say a word, oh no, I'll just sit here not being a Sultan of Semantics, and your whole entire approach to manipulating reality using magic can be fundamentally flawed because you use the word wrong for all I care. Spend yet another incarnation missing out on Enlightenment by || this much, all because you use "Energy" wrong, I mean, really, it's your life and your choice of symbol sets, and the universe has plenty of room for everything, and you can relax, I won't be writing long-winded over-adjectived hyperbolic threats of eternal damnation because using "Energy" the way you do is REALLY the unpardonable sin that even Christ's blood can't atone for or anything like that here on this blog.**

** Honest. No, REALLY. I won't even mention that spiders will eat your brains if you use "Energy" wrong. Won't breathe a whisper about how everyone who ever died of cancer also happened to use the word wrong. Nope. I'm not going to tell you about the Illuminati cabal that powers their curses using the forces released when people use the word "Energy" wrong in metaphysical discussions, either, because you probably wouldn't believe it. There's little point in any such revelations coming into your sphere, since it's all twisted and warped because you used it wrong. So I won't bother.***

*** But don't come crawling to me when you're dead by dawn.


  1. Ooooh... re-reading that leaves me wondering if the tone really comes through the way I meant it to.

    To dispel any potential confusion, the last bit is all in fun. And the "Dead by dawn" is an Army of Darkness reference for the Sam Raimi fans. It's totally not a threat of a curse in any way shape or form. The Moon's full, and people take things weird around now.

    I should probably delete the post, but shit, it was fun to write, and it took days. I'll just trust this comment to be the mitigating force.

  2. No, it isn't fun to you. You left me an IM telling me exactly how not fun it is. If I changed my entire post to use the words you want me to use, you'd still not like it.

    I think the reason is you're 100% spirit model, even when you're not. Common trap. Many models work, employ a variety.

  3. "Current" is nice. That's one alternative term that I hadn't considered when I was putting together my article on Augoeides.

    I still stand by my assertion that "power" and "force" both suffer from the same problem as "energy," though, which is that they have specific physics definitions that are in a number of ways at odds with what they are supposed to represent in a metaphysical context.

  4. So when folks say that they're 'raising energy,' what they really mean in our 4-D space-time is that they are channeling work? Or , err, channeling \ directing the application of force? Which results in the accomplishment of work through the transformation of energy? So its like 'will?'

    Frater EH'e...

  5. Sarcasm wrapped in irony inside a purple rant.

  6. Well, what about when you're doing psychometry, or picking up on the atmosphere of a place, or examining the quality of the, er, whatever-it-is, that's been infused into something that's been consecrated? What's the word for the stuff you're feeling? There needs to be a short convenient term for that, like chi or something, because I'm not doing a clarifying paragraph every time I refer to it.

  7. Days? It took days? Not enough to do, huh?

  8. POS, it is fun to me. Which IM were you talking about? The one where I asked if you'd been taking stupid pills when you wrote that grimoire magic was ecstatic? Or the one where I said I was ashamed to have your blog on my list?

    Both were intended to be "sarcasm wrapped in irony inside a purple rant," as Scribbler put it.

    I don't have a problem with being 100% spirit model, even though I'm not. I don' think it's a trap at all. Models are just tools, and the spirit model has the most explanatory force of any model I've found. It's the most versatile tool in my box, and it's internally consistent. It doesn't have any intrinsic cognitive dissonance.

    However, the spirits have taught me certain tricks that are commonly explained using the "energy" model, like the healing ritual I got from working with EHNB. There are a lot of tricks I learned from the Intelligence of the Moon that I use frequently in Astral Magic that involve directing rays, forces, and powers to manifest specific changes.

    I found a word I like, but it's got a shady history, and it came from a sci-fi book written in the 1800s.

  9. Layo, I like "vril." It's got that nazi stigma, but meh.

    Why not just say what you're doing? If you're looking at something, what are you looking at? Its astral reflection? The currents used to consecrate the tool?

    Being specific in your terminology leads to greater understanding, imo. It shouldn't take a paragraph to explain it.

  10. SL, yeah, not nearly enough to do. I wrote most of it in one night, but I kept going back and picking at it for days trying to get it juuuuust right. Missed a little, I think, but I blame the full moon madness that comes over me. See, I used the word "energy" wrong, and now I get all persnickety at the Full Moon.

  11. .....whats wrong with LVX?=)

    "Lux"(light) has been working great for us for a while, and doesn't have all the new-agey action that straight up "energy" does.

  12. I think that was one of my favorite posts you've written and yes, the sarcasm and satire are evident. I like clarifying terms and cutting out sloppy thinking, so I agree with your argument when you articulate it like that, even though at first I thought you just refuted the mere validity of a force such as kundalini, chi or prana.

    I think it best to just pick a proper name from whatever tradition you practice and stick with it. Just as we say electricity, magnetism, light, sound... just say chi or what have you.

  13. I think this discussion can be likened to how believers relate their experience of God to atheists.

    Saying you 'believe in God' might be declared just wishful thinking. It also implies that you are not certain.

    Saying that you know of Gods existence can easily lead to the assumption that you have logically come to this conclusion, which doesen't ring true to at least esoterically inclined folks who are more prone to aiming at trancendence of logic.

    It also has the bad connotation of sounding arrogant and reducing the notion of what God is. Which we have had enough of.

    This leaves other words such as experience, communion and such. I like light or lux, like Fr. AIT pointed out. Anyway: I think it is safe to say that communication is a tricky act. Especially when you are using a language which are not your native tounge, as with myself. Some dissonance are bound to happen.

  14. I enjoyed this post. I agree with you, the terminology makes me cringe. I've been known to use the term from time to time for lack of a better word depending upon who I am addressing at the time, but I agree -- it doesn't at all convey what it's intended to convey.

    I think it's more than just word games, I think that using an improper term can and definitely has led to a large misunderstanding of this subject and others. People can go on having the wrong idea about what they're doing for quite some time.

    I agree with AIT on this one, as well -- I'm pretty comfortable with LVX, though it does require just a tad of background knowledge for it to be relevant. Current is definitely a great one as well.

    Anyway, fun read.


Thanks for your comments, your opinions are valued, even if I disagree with them. Please feel free to criticize my ideas and arguments, question my observations, and push back if you disagree.