Thursday, 18 February 2021
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Many claim that there is a clear division between science and magic. It is a division that has been several hundred years in the making. Today, some television ‘scientists’ will mock the occult (albeit those ‘celebrities’ generally show little or no true knowledge of science or of the occult). Many of those who understand some part of the occult appear to have some fear of science (albeit many of those have no true knowledge of any science).

Is it not time that we heal these rifts?

Perhaps a principal difficulty lies in terminology and the baggage that has attached itself to various folk’s definitions and usage of terms such as ‘science’, ‘technology’, ‘engineering’, ‘magic’, ‘occult’ and ‘esoteric’ over the years.

Perhaps also it is that many humans are now so specialised in their activities and interests that they think differently to others.

Take the scientist. The scientist must be clear as to what is fact and what is opinion. The scientist might have an opinion as to the true nature of an unknown but, unless and until the scientist can prove or disprove that hypothesis by reproducible experiment, he will not assume his opinion (or anyone else’s) to be fact.

Take the artist. The artist does not have to work under the restrictions of the scientist. The artist can interpret facts in whatever medium he chooses to work in and is free to express those things as he will. Whilst others may have a view as to whether they like or dislike that interpretation, no-one would say that it is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, ‘fact’ or ‘falsehood’.

And what of the magician who may, in daily life, be a scientist or an artist or whatever else he might have chosen for his outer path. An important part of magic is to act as though it is. By that means that which is anticipated may come to pass. The wish becomes opinion and the opinion becomes fact. The opinion does not move from opinion to fact by means of proof through reproducible experiment but becomes fact by means of having been opinion and having been worked with as though it is fact.

The scientist, even if he be a magician too, is not yet able to explain that progress with today’s knowledge. If he could then that magic would be science and the science would be magic.

Perhaps the mechanism by which magic works will never be understood in a scientific way. In the meantime we can do our bit to heal the rift. Perhaps a first step would be an attempt to remove the mutual distrust that appears to have grown between some folk over the last few hundred years.
1 year ago
Some interesting thoughts to ponder, thank you. I guess we must assume that we are all - scientists, artists and magicians - ultimately pursuing the same goal. It’s perhaps not so easy however to arrive at an agreed definition of that goal! I have a feeling DF (or maybe someone else) defined magic as the pursuit or acquisition of knowledge on all planes. Is that also the goal of the scientist?

The magician’s only ‘tool’ in achieving that end, though, is to learn how to cause changes in individual consciousness, at will, in order to acquire this objective knowledge (as opposed to fantasy or delusion) on all planes. Am I right in suggesting that 'method' is the main area of difference between the artist and the scientist?
1 year ago
Peter, thank you for those comments and for the very pertinent questions that you raise.

I think you are right that we are all ultimately pursuing the same goal. At its simplest level I suppose we might consider everyone’s aim to be to muddle through this fascinating life in the best way each of us can. That entails trying to understand all that is about us and our place in it. All that is about us includes the tangible; the fauna (including humans), flora, minerals and atmosphere; and the intangible that we might encounter in whatever way it might make itself known to us. I suppose different people may have different views as to what extent they could or should try to influence what is around them with the aim of benefiting some or all. I do not think differences in that view would split along the lines of artists, scientists and magicians but that the split in view would be somewhat more random.

The role of folk who are commonly called scientists is to understand what is around us and how we might interface with it. I submit that, in that, the scientist and the magician are at one. I hesitate to suggest whether the artist has a similar aim because my own artistic skills are limited but I suggest that the artist is aiming to depict or influence aspects of our existence and, if that is correct, it surely requires an understanding of that aspect of existence and so again involves a similar aim of understanding what is around us.

The scientist uses (or should use) what is sometimes called scientific method. The first step is to define clearly and concisely what it is that the scientist wants to know. The next step is to look at what is know (the facts) associated with that issue. Then a theory must be developed. That is an hypothesis, idea or opinion as to what that unknown thing is. Then an investigatory programme is developed to attempt to establish the nature of the unknown – to determine whether the theory is right or wrong. If the theory is proved correct, in that it can be demonstrated reproducibly to be correct, then it is considered a fact.

The scientist’s investigatory programme will typically involve tests. Each test is not completely novel but is based on what is already known, using tools and procedures that are already understood so that the variables are controlled so far as is practicable in the circumstances. Only in that way can any meaningful results be obtained.

In my opinion, the artist’s approach follows similar lines. The artist aims to create something unique for whatever purpose that creation is wanted. In doing so the artist uses materials and/or instruments (tools) that are chosen by the artist as appropriate for that application, presumably based on an understanding of how they have performed before. The process of artistic creation is, in that way, similar to the scientist’s method to generate fact through tests using proven tools.

I contend that the scientist’s approach (method) is not any different from the approach used by the magician. The magician decides what it is that is desired to be achieved. The aim must be defined clearly and concisely. The aim may be slightly or greatly different from any aim that a magician has sought before but the approach used to achieve it is surely not usually entirely novel if any sort of success is to be expected. In aiming at any particular outcome the magician will usually use tools appropriate to the aim based on previous use and experience. The ritual or other magical procedure that will be used may have some unique features specific to the individual aim but will surely follow a proven general procedure/method.

It appears to me therefore that not only are the aims the same but the methodology is the same too. It is perhaps an unfortunate result of our sophisticated existence and our language, developed over many centuries, that the words we use; scientist, artist, magician, encourage divisions that do not exist in reality.

This is a fascinating and, I think, important area and I welcome this opportunity to share and discuss these ideas.
1 year ago
I came across a section in Dion Fortune's "The Training and Work of an Initiate" that seems to me to be relevant to this topic:

"Esoteric science must be distinguished from natural science by method rather than by subject-matter. It starts from first principles on the spiritual plane, and works downwards, through mind, into matter. Whereas natural science starts from the observation of phenomena on the physical plane and may - given as many aeons as esoteric science has required for its development (which cannot justly be denied it) - eventually work upwards through mind into spirit".

Whilst I do not necessarily agree with DF's views on this matter, her comments do appear to show that she saw a relationship between magic and the esoteric on the one hand and science on the other. However, she appears to consider the rift wider than do I. I am at one with Nova in believing science and magic to be parts of a continuum, possibly divided principally by the historic development of languages and prejudices.

Interestingly, in my reading of her work, Fortune does not appear to suggest that we can or should do anything to bring the two disciplines closer together. Rather, she seems to be suggesting that by waiting for 'aeons' the two may come to approach each other. It is some time since Fortune wrote those words. Science has moved on significantly in the interim through the efforts of those involved in that work. At the risk of upsetting some, I suggest that magic has not generally moved on in that period, many involved in the work appearing to be more interested in looking back and repeating the work created by those who went before, rather than using the good work of those who went before as a strong base on which to build. I wonder if, were DF aware of the science of today, she would not be looking to work with the concepts in the magic field.

With a little bit of work on the part of scientists and magicians I am with Nova in believing that we may be able to bring the two areas, and their practitioners, together more quickly to the benefit of the aims of both science and magic.
1 year ago
Margaret and Nova, you put this very clearly, thank you. I understand and agree with all that has been described above, regarding the similarities of method in the scientific and magical approaches to greater knowledge of the universe. And yet….the magician uses no tool as such, no equipment, no mechanical or electronic means of measurement or analysis, only his or her own mind with its its various aspects of imagination, intuition and psychic receptivity. The reward is a sense of greater personal integration and alignment with the energies of the universe, and a greater realisation of how indeed it is 'As Above, so Below.' The challenge is the lack of any objective means of assessment of what has apparently been learnt.

It might be said that the magician's purpose is ‘Becoming’ rather than ‘knowing.’ The magician seeks to gain knowledge of the universe through means such as meditation and intuitive realisation but I believe the main purpose of their efforts is that they should become personally changed or 'spiritually enlightened' by what they learn and experience, so that they can ‘Become’ all that they may.

The maxim ‘know thyself’ is said to have been inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi and it seems to ring true for many folk following the magical path. Would you say that ‘knowing yourself’ is equally a motivating factor in the scientific approach to the universe?

And another question....! The concept of the Soul or Higher Self is important in magical work. Would you say that this has a role in the scientific approach?
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