We Don’t Know Why

Every so often in various Pagan and magical communities I’ll see someone attempt to explain or rationalize their experiences with identity or magic in scientific terms. They’ll talk grandly about M-Theory or many-worlds interpretations of quantum as if they hold explanatory value for magical practitioners or talk about anecdotes not in terms of personal meaning but in terms of scientific weight. One person even said that their experiences journeying constituted not only evidence for M-theory, but specific interpretations of it.

The challenge is, most of the people who talk M-theory can’t discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the theory (say, as opposed to loop quantum gravity) and cannot do the mathematics which is fundamental to those discussions. Other times they make claims which are not actually feasible under the theory that they are attempting to connect.

Sometimes people will attempt to connect their experiences to the physical in other ways. Declaring that experiences should only be considered “real” or “meaningful” for others if they can be understood in a very materialistic and physical framework by the speaker, e.g., claiming that it is perfectly acceptable to talk with animal spirits while journeying, but not with trolls.

In short, they are trying to connect things to what they perceive to be physical reality and give it weight by tying it into scientific theories that they have heard about or think that they understand.

The problem here is that, fundamentally, we don’t have a why or even a what with most of magic. To take a trivial example, let’s say that I am engaged in a game with someone where I form an energy ball of a particular color (writing down that color) and hand it to someone, they then reveal the color, which matches what is on my piece of paper. I have modeled this as me passing an object (a ball of energy) over to them, but let’s look at the possibilities here:

  • I created a ball of an actual substance (comprised of possibly one of several different types of things), projected from myself, that we will call energy and that I formed a particular way and passed to my partner.
  • There exists a higher realm which I formed and shaped, gave particular properties, and which they received on that same realm.
  • I projected the impression of a ball of a particular color into their mind.
  • I put a concept of what I was doing into a shared consciousness or an Akashic Record of some sort, which they then subconsciously access.
  • They saw me writing, and inferred what I was writing (possibly subconsciously) by seeing how my pen moved and inferred that it was a ball from the shape of my hand when I passed it to them.
  • Our minds have played a trick on us because we wished it to happen, and they guessed via subtle cues (e.g., they know me) what color it was by accident.

There are probably other possibilities that I am missing, but you get the general idea. Some of these can be discerned between with a proper research protocol, but for most of them such discernment would be difficult if not impossible to realistically do.

It is ultimately an expression of the map-territory relationship: we have a map, or a model of a reality, but it is dangerous to think that this model is reality itself. You can believe something, believe something fervently, find personal meaning in it, but that doesn’t mean that it is objectively true or that anyone else in the world should accept your model as valid for them. It doesn’t mean that your beliefs or experiences give credence to a specific model over another, when both models have equal explanatory power.

This doesn’t mean that having a personal theory or belief can’t be valuable, or that you can’t derive meaning from a particular point of view. Personal mythology is extremely valuable and can be very important as a matter of identity. They can improve functioning and improve who and what you are as a person. They can help give you the will to take the next step.

Just don’t confuse the map with the territory.

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