It was very different when the masters of the science sought immortality and power; such views, although futile, were grand; but now the scene was changed. The ambition of the inquirer seemed to limit itself to the annihilation of those visions on which my interest in science was chiefly founded. I was required to exchange chimeras of boundless grandeur for realities of little worth. – From Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein
The most popular view of magic, the view we all started our lives with regardless of who we are, is that magic involves being able to do what shouldn’t be possible. Usually this involves the big magicks, the stuff that nobody seems powerful enough to do. Things like flying, walking through walls, turning lead to gold, resurrecting the dead, ect. Many of us enter our spiritual path believing that these things are possible, even if we don’t know how to do them. We are then ridiculed for our beliefs by “more experienced” practitioners who are still struggling with the simplest of spells.
When we first start practicing magic, the magic we’re capable of is usually pretty simple. Things like moving small strands of energy, having a precognitive dream, or lighting a candle so some cute girl will notice us. It’s about as far beneath flying through the air on a broom stick while shooting fireballs and winning the lottery as you can get. Of course logically it makes sense that we wouldn’t be doing those impossible and fantastic things at the very beginning of our magical careers. In the same way it’s unlikely you’ll teach your son how to play catch tonight and have major league recruiters looking at him by the end of the week. However a lot of people get into magic and fall into the trap of believing that these simple feats that you begin with is all that magic is capable of. This myth is than perpetuated by certain people in the community who lack any kind of magical ability and can’t even do these simple spells.
There is a new trend in magic though that tries to write these big magics off as impossible, and instead wants to focus on more useful and practical magic. This trend is being heavily promoted within certain movements such as the New Thought and Chaos Magick movements. It’s also led to a new magical model that is probably best described as probability shift magic. This model isn’t based around magic working in a cause and effect or action and reaction model, but rather as being used to bring about changes in probability.
The big magics of today largely revolve around winning the lottery, having complete mental control over others, flight, physical inter-dimensional travel, time travel, the more difficult forms of manifestation magic such as spontaneous creation, and direct physical attacks.
Over the last few decades though, as more and more people have been writing off big magics as impossible and more and more have been concentrating on practical magic something else has been happening with big magic. More and more things are now starting to be labeled big magic.
Magic that was common among practitioners a hundred years ago, things like physical manifestations during evocations, merging with your HGA, and basic manipulation magic are being labeled as completely impossible, or so nearly impossible that they’re sorts of things that are only usually achieved near the end of ones life after decades of practice. As we’ve become more and more eager to label certain elements of magic fantastic and impossible, more and more elements of magic have become fantastic and impossible. If things continue in this direction, its only a matter of time before more and more simpler elements of magic that may be a bit difficult to pick up, like astral projection, mediumship, and channeling, start being labeled as big magic.
The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible – and achieve it, generation after generation. – Pearl Buck
Argue for your limitations and sure enough they’re yours – Richard Bach, Illusions
Another big issue with labeling things impossible is once you label something impossible you almost guarantee you’ll never be able to do it. It becomes impossible for you. It’s true that even if you think it’s possible for you to fly through the air on a broomstick you may never succeed, you might not even have a good chance at succeeding, but if you believe you’ll never be able to do it you have no chance of ever succeeding at it. You aren’t even going to expend the effort to try to figure out how to fly through the air on a broomstick.
“Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star.” – W. Clement Stone
There’s also a lot to gain from attempting big magics that has nothing to do with ever succeeding at them. Take the idea of turning lead into gold. This was one of the most popular pursuits in alchemy, and yet if it was ever accomplished it was only accomplished by a select few individuals over the course of hundreds of years. The vast majority of alchemist who spent their lives trying to turn lead into gold never succeeded.
But these same alchemist, while trying to turn lead into gold, through their study, theory, and experiments created a good deal of the foundation for modern Western magical and metaphysical systems, and they were also responsible for many of the scientific advances in Medieval Europe.
Space exploration is another good example of trying for the impossible, and this is one that we as a species eventually accomplished. Whether or not you think space travel is beneficial or worthwhile, it has contributed a lot to humanity and science, and I’m not talking about the information we’ve gained through space exploration. We had to come up with new scientific ideas and theories in order to launch rockets and eventually men into space which have now been incorporated into the collective knowledge of mankind, and we had to engineer and design new technology which has practical applications and uses outside of space travel.
Succeeding at big magic is the goal, but it isn’t always the point. For the last four years I’ve been trying to win the lottery through magic. I actually have reasons for playing the lottery besides just winning it. I enjoy playing it, the 45 minute drive to the lotto store is relaxing, and I don’t spend much on it (on average maybe $10 a month). So it’s not like I’ve centered my life plan around winning.
But for the last four years I’ve been trying to use magic to see if it can make me win the big jackpot. So far I haven’t been successful. But in the pursuit of that jackpot I’ve managed to increase my understanding of prosperity and gambling magic quite a bit. These are subjects I never really looked into before that I now have a much better understanding of. That of course is the obvious benefit. Less obvious though I’ve been drawn into studying predestination and destiny magic, immortality magic, time travel theory, precognition, and I’ve made explorations into specific evocations, astral travels and channels all in attempts to figure out the secret of getting the numbers on my ticket to match the draw numbers. Even if I never manage to win the lottery, by trying to do it I’ve already accumulated a crapload of useful theoretical and practical magical knowledge, most of which I probably wouldn’t have been motivated to explore if I wasn’t trying to win the lottery.
Probability magic is a new magical model that looks at the universe as a set of probabilities, and magic as being the ability to increase and decrease these probabilities. This is different from traditional magical theory.
Traditional magical theory worked under a cause and effect theory, or action and reaction. In other words the basic idea of magic was that if you do A then B will occur, and so the point of magic was to assign something to the variable B and then figure out what A is. The problem with this model is that there are a lot of variables that affect the operation. Things like the mood of the practitioner, who is present during the operation, where the operation is being performed, the time of day, the position of the stars, and the physical condition of the practitioner can all have huge effects on whether or not a spell succeeds. So just because A worked once doesn’t mean it will always work, and just because A didn’t work this time doesn’t mean it will never work. Some magicians who are able to succeed at a spell very rarely succeed at it while others are able to get the same spell to work almost all of the time and rarely ever fail.
Probability magic tries to fix this model. Probability magic begins by supposing that all things are possible however unlikely (this is supported by mathematics and physics). Next it figures that magic is simply the act of changing these probabilities, and this, not variables which are unaccounted for, is why some magicians can only get a spell to work some of the time. Under the theory of probability magic the spell works every time, but it never brings forth the goal. The spell just makes the goal more likely to happen.
For example, the odds of a roulette wheel coming up black are a little less than 50%. If you cast a gambling spell to make the roulette wheel come up black what you’re really doing is increasing the odds that it will come up black. Now instead of maybe a little less than 50% chance you have a 75% chance that it will come up black on the next spin. This greatly increases your chances of doubling your money if you bet on black, but there is still a 25% chance that the wheel will not come up black and you’ll lose.
Probability magic systems then focus on affecting probability shifts in order to change the likelihood of outcomes. The advantage of this system is that even small changes in probability can have huge rewards. Even if you make it so a roulette wheel only has a 52% chance of coming up black instead of a little less than 50%, with a modest bankroll and a lot of time you can use that change in probability to make a lot of money. If you have a spell that increases your odds of getting offered any job you apply for by 10%, assuming you apply for enough jobs you’ll eventually find yourself in a better job than what you would have achieved based on just your own merits.
The problem with probability magic is that it works very well with things that are likely to happen, but it fails with things that almost never happen. Probability magic theorizes that the difficulty of a spell and its chance of success are both proportionally tied to its odds of occurring naturally. Using probability magic to win at 3 card monty, where you have a 1 in 3 chance of success, is going to be a lot easier than using magic to win at the lottery where you have a 1 in 72 million chance of success. If you double your odds at 3 card monty you’ve gone from winning 33% of the time to winning 66% of the time. You’ve gone from being unlikely to win to being likely to win. On the other hand if you double your chances of winning the lottery you go from a 1 in 72 million chance of success to a 1 in 36 million chance of success, which is still extremely unlikely.
Comparatively though the odds of winning the lottery aren’t that bad. After all people win the lottery all the time. The odds of you naturally being able to fly through the air on a broomstick are astronomically lower than winning the lottery. That lottery probability shift is a cakewalk compared to broom flight.
To me this is a big problem with probability magic. I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I think of magic, when I think of myself as a magician, and when I think about what I want to ultimately do with magic, it’s not making things a little bit more likely to happen and making myself slightly more lucky. I want to fly on broomsticks while raining fiery death upon my enemies! And I don’t really see the point in continuing to be a magician if I’m not working towards those sorts of goals.
I’m not saying that we should dismiss probability magic entirely. There have been a lot of advances made to magical theory over the past several decades due to the work that was done inside of probability magic, and it definitely has some very useful practical applications that can also increase our quality of life. I’m definitely all for incorporating the theories and practices of probability magic that work into my personal practice, and I’d like to see the work in probability magic continue. However I think it’s a bad idea to completely dismiss the older cause and effect model of magic in favor of probability magic and to give up attempting the big magics in an effort to concentrate on magic more likely to succeed. When we, as magicians, shift our focus like that we become really good at doing the smaller, easier spells, but we make it impossible for ourselves to ever achieve the phenomenal. We’ve traded away the heavens for small bits of the Earth.