I’ve heard a lot of talk this Mercury Retrograde (as with all of them, of course) about how meaningful communication between magicians about occult matters is impossible. Most of it in doses of two or three paragraphs at a time, posted on occult forums.
It sounds like nonsense in plain English. It sounds like it falsifies itself. That’s because it is, because it does, because it doesn’t scan. Word of mouth transmission was. at one point, the only game in town. Take any two jabbering users on /r/occult, or CMG, or even one of the fancy pants smart guy forums. Take Barbelith or Heruraha. These two are not, no matter how high octane they get, even approaching the word of mouth instruction that takes place elsewhere. That took place in the past before books, before forums.
Again. Independent repositories of experiences, presented unfiltered, as textual products, such as this blog, did not exist prior to 1450.At all. The social technology required to conceive of words on a page as separate from a lived and experienced and informed conception of what they meant did not exist for some years after that. How could we have magic at all today if talking about it to each other is not a useful method for conveying truth? Or even information?
Actually, that’s a better idea. Let’s not get bogged down in “Truth”. “What is truth?” Good grief, Pontius, we’re gonna be here for two thousand years at this point. No. Let’s talk about results. Truth doesn’t matter when I read the Book of Mormon before invoking Doctor Who. Results do, though. Because “some things that are true are not very useful”. And this has huge potential.
This tells us that we can sift through existing perceived truths and judge them by their utility. That we should. That utility and truth should correspond as much as possible. The best way anyone has found to do this was what Karl Popper determined in the 1940s. That you don’t want to demonstrate what is true, or measure how true it is, or even waste time building models to describe truth.
You simply prove that every other statement is false.
But a statement not grounded in or reaching towards or consisting of a description of a falsifiable idea about outcomes is nonsense. It can’t be used to say anything *truly meaningful*. It can’t be used to determine truth. These are all ways of saying the same things.
So any expression, regardless of the semiotic system used, that is concerned with falsifiable statements about outcomes is admissible when discussing magick. Because when you’re discussing magick, you’re discussing reality.
Okay, what is falsifiability? It’s not that something has been proven true. It’s that it contains a condition by which it can be falsified. All statements of magical intent contain this, right? I WILL OBTAIN THE JOB I HAVE APPLIED FOR is falsified if we don’t get the job, logically speaking. That is, it is not true. We are not concerned with what makes it true. We are concerned only with whether or not it can be falsified. And a statement of intent can meet this condition.
This leads us to a realization. A sigil is a falsifiable statement about outcomes. If we allow the idea that any symbol set in any language or mode of expression soever can be used to express these statements, a ritual becomes a form of sigil. That is, it becomes a falsifiable statement about outcomes. But if “the sky is blue”is a falsifiable statement about outcomes (and it is — the sky became blue as a result of instantaneous physical processes at or near sunrise local time — this was your outcome), then “it will rain today” is as well. This statement class, falsifiable statements about outcomes, becomes statements about facts. A fact is already settled, and it is falsifiable. So we are closing in on a comprehensive theory of magic here. That seems like a surprising conclusion, but you start making those very quickly when you hold things up to this kind of scrutiny. When you have an effective method of talking about things your power to quickly make conclusions becomes limitless. It’s a godlike high. The reason we’re actually coming to that theory is because any expression of a falsifiable statement about outcomes can be reduced or expanded to any statement about similar outcomes. I’m a falsifiable statement about outcomes, a statement of my True Will. You are. A religion is. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” This is falsifiable, within its own context. It’s certainly capable of being rejected by people who reject that context, but it is also falsifiable. It is therefore useful to anyone who finds the context meaningful. So religions are falsifiable statements.
“I will that the sky should become yellow” is a falsifiable statement a priori. Skies don’t become yellow, and if they do, please post a picture in the comments. I’m sure I’m wrong…because the other colors of the rainbow can all hypothetically dominate the local sky of a given observer. A statement that the sky should become green is falsifiable by it not becoming green. It is capable of being proven true, though. One likely cause is a tornado. I do not recommend testing this as such.
But a better example might be “cars can walk”. They have wheels. They don’t walk. If you’re making a statement about reality that requires a thing that has wheels to walk, you are making an a priori falsifiable statement. Statements like this are rarely made except by extremely delusional individuals or children. The grammar of the sentence implies a plain English contradiction, and quickly. So our brain doesn’t even parse it.
Or does it? Some statements don’t make sense right away, or require special knowledge or terms. One goal of what I’m suggesting here is to get people to try phrasing everything in plain English and see if it scans. If it doesn’t, find out why, and reject it or update it until you CAN again phrase it in plain English.
This is going to be a lot of work. And building a theory of practical magick out of “if this is true, then this follows” predicate logic is nonsense, it’s not falsifiable. But it’s a good start. And holding ourselves to falsifiable statements about outcomes only will give us some tools to do that, and a lot of practice.
In fact, there’s a conclusion we can draw from this. This was where it all cracked open for me last night. The Hieronymous Machine is a radionics machine, a form of pseudo-electronic machine (really more of a techno-shamanic talisman) that isn’t actually made of electronic parts. There’s an article depicting one here. In fact, as you can see, this isn’t really even a circuit diagram. It wasn’t in the 1940s when it was published in Astounding Science Fiction by John Campbell, who was fascinated with it. It’s not standard format at all. The various drawings of the machine in fact vary entirely. They all work, though.
No. These are sigils. These are semiotic expressions of falsifiable statements about outcomes. In fact, they’re metasigils. The falsifiable outcome they state is thus: “by using, this device, other falsifiable statements about outcomes can be expressed”.
My God, they’re *computers*. Turing Machines, in fact. If you’re not limited to symbolic logic and mathematical computation, you can run computations on any number of ideas. On Myth, on Poesis, on Allegory.
*But what must be computed is a falsifiable statement about outcomes*. A computable function, in other words.
This is huge. This is enormous. This breaks it wide open. By viewing every magical expression as a computable function, which is a falsifiable statement about outcomes, which is a fact, we can make all sorts of conclusions about magick that we couldn’t before.
Such as our thesis statement, which will also be our closing for today.
A magical statement is a falsifiable statement about outcomes. Any expression of this statement, if it is properly made, is equivalent to any other. So if we cannot speak as we create, we should not believe we have created as we have spoken. It goes both ways. As above, so below. Thus, any magical ritual might, in theory if not usually in reality, be accomplished merely by charging a sigil consisting of a plain English description of the operation and its intent.
This of course isn’t true in practice, not usually. But why? What could that tell us about magick? If it is proven theoretically true, at bare minimum, we’ve defined the mechanism by which this kind of magick can occur. Therefore we can reason about why it does not. And we can reason about many other things. The possibilities seem endless.
An important clarification that a lot of people seem to have missed, or rather two points of clarification:
- just because a statement is falsifiable within its own context does not necessarily demand that we accept that both the statement and its entire context are true. But it might. It depends on what statement is being made.
- I am not saying that you can’t talk meaningfully about magick, or that other kinds of statements are not important as means of clarification. We can obviously talk about magick, and anyone who tells you we can’t is trying to deceive you. Every day people all over the world talk about:
- the apparatus and superstructures we use to do magick
- magical results
- the arguments for and against each school of thought
- the methods we use to obtain the results
- complex discussions of whether or not they exist, or whether or not this matters
- and perhaps most significantly, we share the ability of every human on earth to in some way describe the main things magick works on. The world and ourselves.
So obviously we can talk about magick. But falsifiable statements about outcomes give us the ability to talk about magick without talking about magick as this indefinable Capital M a g i c Capital K *thing* that is, as many have noted, irrelevant and snowflakey. Magick is a noun. We can’t talk about it. But we can clearly make some surprising conclusions when we begin to talk about magick as a verb. As a thing we do to obtain results.
Leave a comment and tell me what you think. Thanks for reading! I’ll talk about this more next time. I think there’s a lot to explore, and I’d like to have a book about it soon.