As any long-time reader knows, I teach Dark Arts at the Grey School. I love teaching magick for so many reasons, but right at the top of that list are all the things I learn from my students. A few days ago a student asked me a question that touched on something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time now. What he asked me was just how much of what I teach I actually believe in and to what extent. On the surface it seems like a pretty flippant question, but in reality it’s a very good one. As someone who teaches people fantastical things like how to fend off psychic attack and how to banish monsters, yet is a stable and educated person who holds a normal full time job I actually spend a fair amount of time thinking about just how I define my reality.
Really, it’s a question that comes up almost constantly, though usually in very subtle ways. Anyone who has mundane friends who do not believe in “any of that weird psychic stuff” has probably been asked, “You seem like such a smart person, how can you believe in all that?” It’s rather like having someone with opposing political views ask how you could possibly vote for the (insert derogatory term of choice) that you like so much. I know those folks don’t mean to demean my entire paradigm, but they do. Being the obstinate sort, I like having an answer ready for my critics and sincere seekers alike. The following is what I told my student.
Yes, I do believe in magick and monsters because I've had undeniable experiences with both. That being said, how I define magick and monsters is rather particular.
In my experience magick is just the practical application of quantum physics to thought and intention. In his book Real Magick, Isaac Bonewits describes magick as atomic-psychokenesis – the ability to affect the sub-atomic world with the power of the mind. Science has proven that the human body works by transmitting electrical signals from the brain to the rest of the body. It has also proven that the human body emits certain electrical signals (like those read by CAT scans). Magick assumes that those sub-atomic particles that are naturally emitted by the human body interact with sub-atomic particles in our environment (no stretch of scientific credulity there). Magick further assumes that by focusing our minds we can subtly direct these emissions to encourage the world around us to conform to our will. That would be the bit where we’re making a bit of a leap. Quantum physics has shown us that the way sub-atomic particles behave is affect by people observing that behavior (see the Uncertainty Principle), so is it really so strange to think that what happens accidentally could be done deliberately?
Another teacher at the Grey School, Jymi X/0, looks at magick as a way of shifting the waveform of reality. In any given situation there is a bell curve of possible outcomes, those at the center being the most likely outcomes and those on the edges being the least likely. For example, when I catch the bus in the morning it’s very likely that the bus will arrive reasonably on schedule, that I’ll get on it, and that it will take me to work – that’s the center of the bell curve. There’s a less likely change that my bus will arrive and take me to the wrong place – towards the edge of the bell curve. There’s an even less likely change that I’ll get on the bus and find a million dollars in cash – the very edge. Magick is the art of using all the mundane options at your disposal plus the mind to shift the position of that bell curve to make your desired outcome in a situation more probable.
I look at magick as nothing less than due diligence – do everything you can physically and then do everything you can psychically. That’s what I believe magick is.
As for monsters, my life is occasionally weird. Really weird. Like reality bending and things knocking on walls and moving my stuff weird. I haven’t ever experienced monsters as truly physical beings. I’ve always experienced them as the metaphysical (energies and forces that exist beyond what our normal senses can perceive). There are forces that I cannot see with my physical eyes, but that I can see in my minds eye and they interact with me as if they were intelligent entities. Treating these forces as if they were particular kinds of monsters (based on what kinds of behaviors they exhibit) gives me the results I want from the interaction (usually to make them go away or at least stop being obnoxious). Does this necessarily mean that what I'm dealing with is an independent entity that identifies itself as an imp or a pixy? Nope. Could this just be my brain's way of trying to make sense of things that are outside of my experience? Sure. However, this has been going on for a very, very long time - all my life really. Over the years I've kept treating the metaphysical as various creatures and magickal forces and it keeps working. Correlation does not equal causation, but over a long enough time period 100% correlation can effectively be treated as causation.
Basically, my experience and every intuition I've ever had tells me that my belief system works as a way of dealing with the world. Do I have occasional bouts of doubt? Of course. Sometimes I feel like a crazy person and doubt everything I've ever done. But eventually something will happen that will once again show me that my way of looking at the world works and that's enough for me.