A Scientist and Magician Speaks on Science and Magick
Article ID: 13665
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Once Schooled, Now Solo Mage
Posted: February 28th. 2010
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I am a scientist. I hold a degree in mathematics and have studied mathematics, physics, engineering, computer science, and astronomy at the graduate level. I am also a ceremonial magician, alchemist, and a pagan. For many, the two worlds I inhabit are discordant: How can a mathematician believe in magick? For me, there is absolutely no conflict between my scientific vocation and my personal beliefs.
As a scientist, I do not attempt to verify magick in the laboratory. I do not seek through chemistry the Philosopher’s Stone. I do not believe in spirit photography, UFOlogy, cryptozoology, astrology, or any of the other pseudoscientific areas of endeavor. And yet I practice ritual magick.
Science concerns itself with the natural world of observable, measurable phenomena and nothing more. All areas of research claiming to be science are immediately subject to the scientific method and, if they cannot pass muster with regards to this, they are to be discarded or labeled pseudoscience.
Magick, on the other hand, concerns itself with the subjective, inner world of man. It seeks to transform the perspective of the practitioner, inspire its adherents, and elevate consciousness. The realm of magick is purely subjective in as much as no physical proof can exist of its efficacy. A talisman to acquire wealth cannot be proven to work simply because one receives a $1, 000.00 windfall, although one may subjectively know that one’s talisman aided in the acquisition. Attempting to claim that the talisman brought about wealth merely elicits leers, jeers, and disbelief. This is why the Fourth Power of the Sphinx is tacere or silence.
There is no fundamental animosity between science and religion. The apparent problem arises when religion attempts to meddle with or impose itself upon scientific findings. Where science holds that the universe is roughly 15-billion years old and the result of a ripple in the underlying quantum layer of reality, religion attempts to impose some other age and cause upon the cosmos. However science has the benefit of being challenged and readily allows itself to be proven wrong in favor of a better model. When such challenges are issued to religion the result is called heresy.
For the scientist, skepticism is the rule. For the fundamentalist of any faith, belief is the guiding principal. Skepticism is not (as many think) a negative view of the world we live in. Instead, it is an outlook that demands proof of all claims and requires clear evidence be presented to validate any hypothesis. Belief, however, requires no such evidence and is entirely subjective.
The problem for many practitioners of faith, be they Christian, Muslim, Neopagan, etc. is that they desire ardently for their particular religion to be scientific. This is simply impossible. Belief is antithetical to skepticism and all religions are based on a belief in something that cannot be proven, measured, and displayed for the entire world to see. One may sincerely know Pan is present after one invokes him but such knowledge cannot demonstrated to those who do not actively seek to invoke Pan. Science accepts nothing less than hard, concrete evidence before it grants its seal of approval to anything.
And yet I do not wish to disparage religion here, or to boast that science is superior to faith. Instead, I would offer than the two domains have common ground in the lives of the individual. Man is a composite being: one part is rational, the other irrational. By irrational I do not mean out of control, paranoid, or delusional. Instead, I mean intuitive and subjective.
Many scientists over the years have used their intuition to solve difficult problems. The chemist Kekule discerned that the molecular structure of benzene was a ring after dreaming of a serpent biting its own tail. The Indian mathematician Ramanujan would encounter the goddess Namagiri in his dreams; the goddess would reveal to him apparent proofs to complex mathematical problems. Upon awaking, Ramanujan would soon discover that such proofs were often wrong but that they contained tantalizing clues to new areas of mathematical endeavor. Even Albert Einstein stated that his work in physics was done that he might know “the mind of God.”
Skepticism is a healthy trait for any person to cultivate. No one is free from belief. The two are not enemies; they are tools to be used to better our lives. But failing to recognize the difference between the two is fatal folly; wishing that one were the other is merely vanity.
As pagans, neopagans, witches, shamans, druids, and magicians we should all recognize within ourselves the dual nature of man. We who actively seek to know the mysteries of the inner world would do well by ourselves, our friends, our fellow practitioners, and our students to mark well we do not confuse the objective reality with the subjective. We may know that our magick works, that it aids us in our daily lives, but we would do well to take great care that we speak not of such matters nonchalantly nor with the uninitiated lest we be perceived as peddlers of flim-flam.
I would urge everyone reading this essay to consider honing a better understanding of science and mathematics. You may think that you’re bad at math or that science is terribly esoteric (or dull) but in truth you may discover that you’re better at these things than you realize! A decent book on astronomy is a great place to start because stargazing requires little in the way of equipment (telescopes are great but the naked eye works just fine!) A college textbook in chemistry, biology, trigonometry, or physics would also serve the adult student quite well. More important is understanding the scientific method for this is the basis for all branches of science.
The objective world of our senses and the inner world of the hidden sense are combined in the individual. When skepticism and belief are harmonized in the mind of the ardent seeker the result is an empowerment that cannot be matched.
Once Schooled, Now Solo Mage
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