An Improper Use Of Rulers

An Improper Use Of Rulers

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rulersIt strikes me that we can all get into trouble any time we take the measurement of magic beyond the binary.

Did it work? Yes or no.

There doesn’t seem to be any way around this problem because we are endeavouring to measure three dimensional objects with some Flatland wetware we know almost nothing about.

Anyone who has read online accounts of magicians contorting themselves into after-the-fact explanations of why a particular enchantment didn’t pan out will know what I mean. The scientific method’s reliance on replicability breaks down when applied to High Strangeness. If it didn’t, you’d be able to buy sasquatch feed at Walmart beside the birdbaths.

Perhaps inevitably, capriciousness is the defining characteristic of the weird. (The Trickster And The Paranormal, upon re-reading, has held up remarkably well. Recommended.)

Combined with my complete lack of faith in unreliable narration, this is at the heart of my suspicion of magical diaries. Just write “didn’t work” and move on. Keep a sync diary instead.

“It would be rare to find an airplane pilot who would accept using a map of Saudi Arabia when
flying over the Himalayas on grounds that “there is nothing else”—human intuitions know better.” -Nassim Taleb.

And yet, here we all are… magically flying over the Himalayas.

Let’s go deeper into why we should continue to do so and why -despite a 100% guarantee of inaccuracy- we should continue to share these experiences. In short, let’s make the case for an improper user of classroom rulers.

First, to our aforementioned wetware -how little we know about it- and some vague indications that your practice of magic could potentially improve all mankind. To Dr Sheldrake:

If memories are stored in individual animals’ brains, then anything an animal learns is confined to its own brain. When it dies the memory is extinguished. But if memory is a resonant phenomenon through which organisms specifically resonate with themselves in the past, individual memory and collective memory are different aspects of the same phenomenon; they differ in degree not in kind.

This hypothesis is testable. If rats learn a new trick in one place, then rats all over the world should be able to learn the same trick quicker. The more rats that learn it, the easier it should become everywhere else.

There is already evidence from one of the longest series of experiments in the history of psychology that rats do indeed seem to learn quicker what other rats have already learned. The more that learned to escape from a water maze, the easier it became for others to do so. These experiments, conducted first at Harvard, then at Edinburgh and Melbourne universities, showed that the Scottish and Australian rats took up more or less where the Harvard rats had left off, and their descendants learned even faster. Some got it right first time with no need for learning at all. In the experiment at Melbourne University, a line of control rats, whose parents had never been trained, showed the same pattern of improvement as rats descended from trained parents, showing that this effect was not passed through the genes, or through epigenetic modifications of genes. All similar rats learned quicker, just as the hypothesis of morphic resonance would predict.

Likewise, humans should be able to learn more easily what others have already learned. New skills like snowboarding and playing computer games should become easier to learn, on average. Of course there will always be faster and slower learners, but the general tendency should be towards quicker learning.

You ever watched a toddler play with an iPad? Find me another technology with a faster take-up rate in human history than the tablet/smartphone? That’s the largest number of people simultaneously learning something new ever. And today, babies practically fall out of their mothers with their Apple ID already activated.

A field-based explanatory model is the underlying hypothesis for chaos magic’s radical weltanschauungskrieg. It is the main justification for a frenetic spreading and experiencing of High Strangeness… the more people know about this, the more people do this… the easier it becomes for everyone and the looser the archonic stranglehold becomes. The mindwar is a real thing, kids.

John Howe depicts the moment Cthulhu finally gets His tentacles on the HMS Richard Dawkins

John Howe depicts the moment Cthulhu finally gets His tentacles on the HMS Richard Dawkins

So the world gets a bit weirder and people find a bit more humility before the Mysteries. How might this help?

Back to Dr Sheldrake:

Experimenter effects are also well known in experimental psychology. This principle was illustrated in a classic experiment in which the experimenters trained a group of psychology graduate students to administer the Rorschach test, in which subjects were asked to identify patterns in inkblots. The experimenters told half of the students that experienced psychologists obtained more human than animal images from their subjects. They told the other half of the group the opposite. Sure enough, when they administered the test the second group found more animal images than the first.

Even in experiments with animals, experimenters’ expectations can influence the results. In a classic experiment at Harvard, Robert Rosenthal and his colleagues instructed students to test rats in standard mazes. They asked them to compare two strains of rat produced by generations of selective breeding for good and poor performance in mazes. But they deliberately deceived their students. In fact, the rats came from a standard laboratory strain and were divided at random into two groups labelled ‘maze-bright’ and ‘maze-dull’. Trusting what they had been told, the students expected the bright rats to do better than the dull ones and, sure enough, they found that the ‘bright’ rats learned much faster than the ‘dull’ ones. Since the rats were more or less identical, these dramatic differences must have resulted from the students’ expectations.

Let’s scale this up from a few grad students inadvertently using woo to control rats. Let’s get very middle class and go to Burning Man… where recent data indicate that collective attention can cause deviations away from randomness.

I note in passing that Burning Man certainly qualifies as a Temporary Autonomous Zone or Free Association Area… it is a magical space. If we were, you know, measuring this then we’d be inclined to conclude that creating non-normal space may be a prerequisite for psi effects/practical enchantment.

Any explanation you want to leap to about how all these effects are achieved is wrong. Wrong, wrong wrong! Because your ruler is unreliable and appears to be counting in a system of measurement we don’t even have a language to describe. From New York Magazine:

The scientific fields that are the most exciting to today’s writers—neuroscience, evolutionary biology, behavioral economics—are fashionable despite, or perhaps because of, their newness, which makes breakthrough findings both thrilling and unreliable. In these fields, in which shiny new insights so rarely pan out, every popularizer must be, almost by definition, a huckster.

Imagine that fMRI is a primitive telescope, and those clumps of neurons are like all the beautiful stars you can finally see up close, but “may in fact be in different galaxies.” You still can’t discern precisely how they’re interacting. Journalist David Dobbs recently asked a table full of neuroscientists: “Of what we need to know to fully understand the brain, what percentage do we know now?” They all gave figures in the single digits.

In a Christmas podcast with Tim Binnall, referring to the near-impossibility of reverse-engineering tech from any hypothetical Roswell crash (which is a huge hole in the standard alien theory if you ask me), Stanton Friedman makes the point that if you gave a nuclear submarine to Christopher Columbus there would be very little useful tech he’d be able to pull from it.

Well… you are actually Christopher Columbus and you were born with that nuclear submarine in your head. As far as rulers go… it’s not great. It’s even worse if you’re trying to measure the unmeasurable.

This emphatically does not mean you should throw in the towel. As Saint Taleb says; even a wrong ruler can tell if a child is growing.

And, if all else false, you can use it to lob spitbombs at the Demiurge when its back is turned.


Add yours
  1. 1
    Andrieh Vitimus

    Well, I can mostly fully agree… mostly because I have a real bug up my but for measurement. Where I totally agree is in the Binary assessment, but where you can get into complex metrics is the binary assessment yes/no in relation to types of working as well as measuring longer term statistical analysis of those assessments. So from the one and the zero comes a system, a system which I think might give a little better indication of whether something is valid or not ( for the individual). Thats just me, and some days I like math.

    I realize thats a different measurement in this case other then a binary, well thats just probably crazy….. and trying to get the how magic work, mostly should be relegated to drunken philosophy nights, of which, we are overdue for one of those! :) Start planning it out!!!!

    I like your Sync journal Idea ;) and lobbing spitballs at the Demiurge! I poked him in the eye with one just the other day!

  2. 2
    Andrew B. Watt

    It’s interesting… I must say that a good deal of the magic that I work for myself fails to work in the way that I expect. For example, all of the drawings of the Mansions of the Moon which I’ve been working on lately are supposed to do all sorts of astonishing things, which they have, so far, completely failed to do for me.

    On the other hand, my work shows great results when set in motion for others. I drew one such image for a woman I know who was experiencing absolutely terrible pains in her legs — swollen legs, fluid buildup, and all sorts of appalling bruising internally from things getting pushed out of place, and so on. She hadn’t walked in two weeks, the pain was so bad. I gave her the image the day before the moon entered the relevant mansion, and some brief instructions on using it… and two days later, post-use, she was walking, with a total absence of earlier symptoms.

    I made a Jupiter rattle for a shop, and it shook prosperity all over someone’s store all fall; and the previous owner has passed it on to a new start-up business owner, who’s also experiencing tremendous new successes.

    So it’s funky, you know? Health and necessary wealth I have in plenty; benignant mind and memory’s increase too… did the individual magics I’ve done get me those things…? not exactly, really. I can’t point to any specific working that got them for me. But there they are.

    I’m minded of the D&D pseudo-distinction between a spell on a scroll, and a spell in a spellbook that doesn’t vanish when it’s memorized and cast. It feels like I’ve done a lot of small magics that individually you’d have to say, with some regularity, “that didn’t work.” But the overall, summative effect of those has been a life more awesome.

    So far, so good. You know?
    Andrew B. Watt´s last blog post ..20th Mansion: al-Na’am “the Beam”

  3. 3

    “the moment Cthulhu finally gets His tentacles on the HMS Richard Dawkins”… XD

    Oh, but if this ever happen, I´m sure he´ll say later that he prefers the touch of a “gentle tentacle” than using “religious” (read: non-materialistic) maps to navegate.

  4. 4

    Well, if we assume that magick is a probability modification at its core (and I still haven’t seen better classification) then binary system of measurement makes no sense, right?

    But yeah, I agree that our rulers are wrong (that sentence actually works in more levels than in this context ;)). Nowadays I don’t even bother with why or trying to tie my magickal experiences into scientific or any kind of wider worldview.

    It is what it is, no more, and no less than that.

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