I’m currently involved in a relatively interesting thread on Lashtal.com about a “True Act of Magick” (read it here). On this thread, I’ve been arguing that the only “true act of magick” is bringing one’s activities in line with one’s true will. That is to say, “Magick” in the widest sense of “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in Conformity with Will” can be said to “work,” merely because all actions consist of “causing change.” Under this definition, the tricky part is not causing the change (which is usually incredibly easy) but knowing which changes to make in the first place.
As a corollary to the above, “magick” in the narrow sense (that is, ceremonies designed to cause coincidences to happen by some unspecified means) doesn’t work at all – or, at least, nobody in his right mind has any good reason to think that it does – and thus a “true act of magick” cannot consist of doing a ritual to attract money and then rejoicing once one finds a friend has decided to pay back a loan sooner than expected. In a case like this, absolutely nothing indicates that the ritual caused the so-called “result” and nobody – not even the practitioner – has any reason to suppose that his ritual did cause it.
This argument should be familiar to readers of this blog, but you can find some more information in the posts "Hey, It Works for Me!"and "A Wild Ghost Chase", among others.
Read on for a description of a religionist believer script that popped up in the thread.
On this thread, obviously no supernaturalist was able to address the above argument at all, so they instead wanted to switch topics, and the thread wanders through various other topics, including what Crowley believed, what the definition of Thelema is, and even what personal experience various posters have with these practices.
Desperate to talk about anything except my argument, one thread participant, “tai” accused me of holding the positions that I hold because my “results with magick have been nil.”
[Incidentally, this “tai” character is the guy who, last year, didn’t recognize one of Crowley’s footnotes in Magick in Theory and Practice as being authored by Crowley, and who also wasn’t aware that Crowley said that attainment could occur – and, indeed, that one could be a Master of the Temple – without doing any formal magick or ritual at all. When this latter quote was pointed out to him by Erwin Hessle, he scampered off to the Temple of Thelema Forums, where he sought to make sense of the conflict between his beliefs about Crowley and what Crowley actually said]
In response to tai, I pointed out that I do magical rituals – I still do regularly engage in some “magical practices,” though not for supernatural ends – and that, once upon a time, I did do magick for “results” and indeed encountered coincidences (some seemingly miraculous coincidences) that I took, at the time, to be “results” of my magick. Naturally, upon reflecting on the situations, years and years later, I concluded that these coincidences were not results at all for exactly the reasons I was spelling out in my argument on the thread.
With this, others – well, actually, just one other poster – began pestering me for details of my previous workings – again, desperate to talk about anything but the argument I was making. Rather than actually address the argument, this poster desired to pick apart the details of one tiny piece of evidence, missing the forest for a single tree, as it were.
When I refused to indulge his weird obsession with my personal history, he declared that I had “no experience” in these matters and, presumably, promptly dismissed my argument from his mind, thinking that he had somehow disproved my argument by avoiding talking about it.
This kind of behavior is exactly what we ought to expect from “Camlion,” a risible clown who boasts loudly of his so-called “experience” but who strangely seems incapable of ever explaining anything about Thelema or magick. One has to wonder exactly what kind of “experience” it is that actually prevents someone from explaining the subject in which he supposedly has this “experience.”
Anyway, this is all a long preamble to a post. In response to Camlion’s rather pathetic attempts to dodge the issue by focusing on irrelevant details of one tiny piece of evidence, I noted the similarity of his approach to a believer script typically employed by religionists. The bulk of my response, slightly edited, follows:
During a discussion between religious wackaloo Ray Comfort and the hosts of the online show The Atheist Experience, Comfort asked one of the hosts, Matt Dillahunty (who used to be a fundamentalist Christian), something along the lines of, “So you never knew the Lord?”
[You can watch the interview here. The part that I mention above starts around the 34 minute mark]
And indeed, Matt is on record as having said in the past that he never knew God because there is no God to be known – that in the past, he thought he had “felt the presence of God” but was in fact, he now realizes, mistaken at the time.
But the (sneaky and underhanded) implication of Comfort’s question is that there is a God to be known and that Matt’s statement that he had “never known God” was, in fact, an admission that he had simply not done the right things to get in contact with God properly.
Indeed, it’s common for believers of all kinds – not just Christians, but Muslims, Jews, Hindus, occultists, and other kinds of believers – to start from the assumption that their claims are true and that non-believers can investigate and confirm these claims (but only “to them”). And according to these believers, any non-believers who have tried out these claims and found them lacking simply aren’t doin’ it right.
Comfort is famous – among the atheists who get a laugh out of how stupid he is, at least – for making claims that he can convince any atheist that there is a God in under ten seconds: all that atheist has to do is to sincerely pray, and he’ll be convinced. And if he’s not convinced? Well, he just wasn’t being sincere enough (that hard-hearted atheist!). He just wasn’t doin’ it right.
Camlion’s recent posts – along with some others on here – stink with a similar rhetoric: he says things like, “when magick fails, we want to know why they failed,” and tai says things to me like, “you [Los] never got magick to work,” etc. All of these silly statements start from the assumption that there are people who do succeed at supernatural magick and who do get supernatural magick to “work” and that poor Los – poor, profane, misguided Los – just wasn’t doin’ it right.
In other words, these posters are using a believer script similar to the one Comfort and his cohorts use: they start from the assumption that claims about supernatural magick are true and that anyone can investigate and confirm these claims (but only “to them”). Those who have tried out these claims and found them lacking simply weren’t doin’ it right: they didn’t have the right preparation, they didn’t have the right “training,” they didn’t do the ritual at the right astrological time, they didn’t do it at the right phase of the moon, they didn’t banish properly beforehand, they didn’t construct the talisman properly, etc., etc., etc.
Any ad hoc excuse that a person could think of – something must have gone wrong and the practitioner must have been doin’ it wrong because the believers all know that the claim is true.
It should be obvious that this kind of script is a device for deluding oneself because it allows the believer to never question the underlying assumption.
In essence, when a poster asks me about the details of the rituals I’ve done, it’s functionally no different than a Christian wacko asking a former Christian about the details of his prayers to God (when the former Christian was actually a Christian): the purpose is to find some kind of “flaw” in the previous prayers and thus attempt to discredit the skeptic’s valid critique on the grounds that he’s just a skeptic because he wasn’t doin’ it right.
“What’s that?” the Christian might say, “you didn’t light a candle before you prayed? You didn’t do an act of contrition first? You didn’t take a ritual bath? Oh, well, no wonder your prayers to Jesus failed…that’s why you’re an atheist. Ha ha ha, silly atheist….”
Thus, this script works by directing attention away from the valid critique (“There’s no evidence to support your claim”) by focusing on irrelevant details. As a result, it works to guard the belief from skepticism, and it’s a mechanism both to prevent the believer from questioning the cherished belief and to discredit the skeptic who is questioning the cherished belief.
My posts on that thread are attempting to dig underneath this script and question the underlying assumption: is it, in fact, true that there are people who “succeed” at supernatural magick and do get supernatural magick to “work”? What evidence is there for this claim, other than recording coincidences? How does one distinguish between an operation “working” and simply encountering a coincidence that one was going to encounter anyway, regardless of any rituals one might have performed?
These are serious questions, but there have been no serious attempts to answer them on that thread, and that speaks volumes.