It's been almost a month exactly since my last occult research update and I've gotten a lot accomplished in that month that have informed how I think about magic and spirituality in general.
I've conducted 5 or 6 interviews (of which you've only heard 2 so far on the podcast), read half a dozen books, a few dozen research papers, and I'm starting to put more of a shape and direction to some important ideas.
I want to stress, once again, that I make no claims here about magic or spirituality. Everything I'm saying is theory, ideas, and secondhand reporting. My personal practice has not advanced at all and while I have thrown more tarot, you already knew I find tarot persuasive.
Authors/researchers sampled over this period include Dean Radin, Victor Frankl, JE Kennedy (jeksite.org/psi.htm), Terence McKenna, and a bunch of others (including the occult summaries of other books I've been funding out of pocket).
A couple of key ideas and questions have emerged here that will pave the way for better questions and more self-directed research. I also want to state that I've barely scratched the surface of any of this. My practice is minor. The literature is vast. I am like tiny bb.
First, let's talk about entheogens/hallucinogens/psychedelics. This has been a focus of my study for at least few weeks, because of my original theory that your brain state on psychedelics mimics gnostic trance that occult magick uses for spell casting.
As it turns out, this is far from an original idea. Terence McKenna and Dean Radin have both speculated similarly and suggested that it's in these altered states of consciousness that minds achieve an ability to influence reality. However, my position on this is uncertain.
It's fascinating to me that Terence McKenna also observed a ton of synchronicity in the wake of psychedelics (at times verifiable by third parties), which I just discussed with @eigenrobot and which James L Kent and I discuss in an upcoming podcast episode.
Synchronicities seem to imply minor ripples in probabilistic shifting of reality that COULD easily be echoes of a state in which you had access to this potential but it's far from clear that psychedelics ARE a path to being able to do this...
I need to read more of McKenna's later theories and watch his lectures because TBH I'm not familiar enough with how his ideas evolved over time to judge them yet... his book True Hallucinations most concerns theories he had in his mid 20s and he acknowledges they're false.
James Kent's theory of how psychedelics impact the mind and how shamanism works is very based in materialism and is appealing on that basis to skeptics, but even there are ideas that play with immaterial realms that Kent shies away from.
Correlation is not causation and while I think the mechanism of perception interruption he describes is plausible, it's not at all clear to me that the states arising from these substances exist only in your own head... I don't know. It's a very murky area.
That said, people use psychedelics all the time all over the world and most of them don't appear to be able to moderate reality at will. So it seems, right now, to me, that the primary benefit from them is in expanding your own understanding of what is possible.
Information to guide you rather than a tool for direct access. Demonstration of a plausible state in which you have a greater awareness. A map rather than a tool.
Again, IDK. I need to think about this more. I think they have value, but maybe only in an informational sense.
Next observation is the similarities between many different systems that claim to be spiritual paths or magickal paths. If you look at the commonalities in technique, they include 1) intent 2) focus 3) clarity 4) emotion.
To create change, you need to know what change you want, have complete undivided focus, have clarity of purpose and will, and a strong emotional push toward it. This is all VERY hard to do. Most of us can't even meditate for 5 minutes without a wandering mind.
So IF this works, and the parapsychology research suggests it does, it's very very hard to accomplish intentionally in a directed way and may involve some amount of natural talent and honed ability.
This is why it's not common to observe extraordinary effects even if we ARE all doing magic all the time in small ways and not noticing. By "magic" I mean "influencing reality probabilistically via attention and intent."
A claim I also see pop up a lot is that fear, lack of belief, and subconscious intents can all interfere with the clarity of purpose required to do so which is why achieving "gnosis" in a heightened emotional state is recommended in working chaos magic.
Because there's less chance for those doubts or fears to subvert your will. This is also what I think Crowley is talking about when he mentions finding your "True Will," because if you're in alignment with your real purpose it's harder to be at odds between your goal and will
Next up: People keep asking why you can't study magic or why people don't use it for military/economic reasons or win the Randi prize if it's real. These are good questions.
I've been wondering this too. This is a great set of hypotheses: jeksite.org/psi/jp01.htm
Of those, I am most persuaded by the suggestion that the PURPOSE of magic is to effect spiritual growth and that the better you understand it, the less desire you have to use it for material or personal gain.
Not only have I noticed this in myself (I've felt a weird absence of desire to try practicing for material gain) but you see this in genuinely lauded spiritual leaders all throughout history.
This is not to say you CAN'T use it for that, but note that its a distraction...
Furthermore, this makes sense because if you come to believe magic is real through direct experiential evidence, the spiritual implications of that become VERY VERY important unless you're inconsistent and not thinking straight. Philosophy becomes very important then.
I also find compelling Kennedy's idea that magic is intentionally evasive and hard to prove to increase its allure because it draws more people toward the spiritual path which is its logical end goal and intent. If this is true, stoking people's curiosity would serve that end
And without getting TOO woo, this lines up with a lot of ideas about meta-level consciousness trying to experience itself or elevate all of humanity to some better/higher state... At this point, we're really just speculating, but this would also make sense through this lens.
I also think it's really interesting that Radin makes the observation that people OPPOSE the idea of magic with an impressive level of blind zealotry. Most of the people who say it's nonsense have not actually looked closely at arguments on the other side or research data.
He cites tons of double-blind, lab-tested studies that show better-than-random chance outcomes for a variety of psi(magic) affects with significant P values that most people just ignore for a variety of reasons, most significantly that no one wants to look crazy.
Caveat: I have not personally validated his claims yet, but you can if you want to. There are only so many hours in the day.
But another realization I had is that because most people's skepticism is reflexive and dismissive, there is no test that will persuade them.
I didn't even find the data persuasive! Not because of the outcomes but because people can lie to you and lots of people say lots of different things about this.
That's why I still maintain that the only way to know the truth is direct experience.
So anyway, these are my updates. I'm starting to get to the point where I really need to start getting back into actual practice again to move this forward, as much as I'm enjoying reading theory, because I still don't know until I know. You know?
But I find all of this persuasive enough to further open my mind to possibilities here... and also I can't take reflexive skeptics seriously anymore unless they've looked at the data and can explain why it's wrong. Even then I have to ask if they're ideologically motivated.
I am still very uncertain of what, if anything, is possible here. But I believe that the people I've been reading have experienced things that led them to believe our understanding of reality is limited in ways we don't perceive at present.
More to come soon... Like I said, I've barely scratched the surface.