Saturday, April 17, 2010

What is with models?

Why is everyone obsessed with models?

Spirit Model. Energy Model. Information Model. BAH!

Its like people insisting that all nutrition comes from fruit because you happen to be obsessed with Mango's! Clearly anyone that thinks vegetables, meat, or grains are nutritious are either not really getting the nutrition that they claim, OR are secretly eating fruit that they think are vegetables, meat, and grain.

Seriously. When did we start accepting the idea of Energy OR Spirits rather than Energy AND Spirits?

I want you to go to googlemaps right now and look at your home. Look at the map via, the "Map", "Satellite", and "Terrain" settings. Which one of them is your actual house? NONE OF THEM. They are all just tools used to describe certain aspects of what is really happening.

When you do not keep in mind that a map is not the terrain, you start limiting yourself in really silly ways.

You start believing that Pranic Healing is done by agencies of spirits rather than prana, because that fits your model.
You start believing that Goetic Demons are pieces of your brain that you summon up for therapy, because that is what fits your model.

Next you start to limit what you actually do because of your stupid ass model.

Seriously. Stop.

If you have a model that encourages effectiveness and experimentation than great, but don't start believing it applies everywhere to all things. You wind up completely blind to the things that do not fit your model, which is dangerous.


Patrick said...

Well, I find it an interesting topic because I'd like to figure out how magic works. I'm theory-driven. There's a strange mixture of anti-intellectualism and blind worship of reductive materialism in a lot of magical theory. And a lot of the very popular models actually don't offer much in the way of insight about how to make one's magic more effective. And yet people cling to those models as tightly as any Renaissance churchman ever clung to Aristotle.

Ekro said...

You seem to be speaking specifically about Frater U:.D:.'s models of magic. In regards to it, I agree. They are less models and more loose categorizations of belief systems within the field of magic. And in being loose categorizations, they perform poorly as models in the more typical sense.

As to models in general, I think they are highly useful. Yes, the map is not the territory. That's something to keep in mind, but it's not the point.

The point of a model is to provide a predictive framework around a phenomenon. If A happens, then reliably B should follow, unless C takes place.

Do not blame models for said person's limited ability to reason. Models are not meant to be static things applied without thought. Science would work poorly if such a thing were true.

Related opinion:

Models in magic tend to be worthless. It is typical that A, B, and C are chosen such that no one knows exactly what A is, if B happened because of it, or how to check for C.

Example: A newly crowned ritualist knows they should provide a symbolic action A to get result B. Action A is performed to the best of the ritualist's ability. Result B does not happen. Event C, the universe/god/goddess prevented result B for unnamed reasons, is blamed.

petoskystone said...

'dangerous' is a polite way of putting it. i use labels as a convenient way to communicate w/others, but to attach myself to a specific model i would have to Know a lot more than i do. as it is, models make things more confused than they need to be! to use abc as an example: if i do/speak to A for B than C will occur unless D than E will occur unless D1 occurs than it will be F, etc. ick.

Rufus Opus said...

I find your lack of faith ... disturbing.

I don't understand why you have such a problem with models. They're useful tools. It's like you're railing against the use of maps.

Personally, I use the spirit model because it fits my belief system. I'm a conjure mage, and the psychological or energy models aren't appropriate for most of my work. They don't work in context. Pick the right map for the area.

Where I live as a Hermetic magician, it's appropriate to say "The spirits are the source of the ability to perform tricks like energy work." It's appropriate because using the Hermetic Magic I already know, the way to get the kinds of results you might get from Prana training is by consulting the spirits, getting initiated, and receiving training in using the forces. I can get to what is pragmatically the same results using a map of territory I'm already familiar with. It avoids the cognitive dissonance that comes from trying to blend systems and approaches. It keeps the powers you've already got flowing in your sphere flowing clean and pure, without getting watered down by other systems that don't harmonize.

Word verification: smormic. Used in a sentence: "You must conjure Smormic to learn the techniques of Prana Bindu; a brief conversation with Smormic is the same thing as getting initiation and training in Prana from a Master with a thousand years of tradition and initiation behind him." ;)

Z. E. Accordino said...

Models can be useful to people, especially when we need them to fill in gaps in our information. But I agree they can also be detrimental at times. You might end up viewing everything through the lens of your model rather than investigating as to what it really is. If you believe in goetia demons qua aspects of your psyche and they turn out to be real, sentient entities... well, that just might bite you on the ass.

VL said...

Personally, I don't have problems with models, but what really takes me out my bounds and pisses me off, is the fact that some people keep on calling spirits "a part of the psyche".

What's wrong in accepting the true that they are entities independent of us? what is the problem of accepting the fact that they are living beings and not a part of someone's frustrations?

I really don't understand why people or magicians try to soften that reality calling or identifying spirits as part of "their psyche".

If that's true, it means that we, humans just because we are emanations from the same source, some of you are part of my spsyche? are you serious? you and I are independent living beings and we have a name. So, what is the problem on calling the spirits what they are? they are evil spirits, or demons; they are angels; they are archangels, so again, what is the problem of accepting that?.

My HGA is an independent being with his own existen outside of me; why would I prentend to say that he is part of my spsyche?

RD said...

Models serve a purpose: they allow us to understand the world, and once understood they allow us to ask additional questions about the world that further our understanding. If the goal is to create something truly new, then it seems to me working within a model will help reach that goal by providing a direction to look in.

Whether you happen to "believe" that light travels in waves, or in photons, or something else, you've got a model to work within. Once there, you can do some cool things with it (lasers anyone?). Same thing with the various models of how atoms tie together, or the physics of motion, or psychological models -- none are authoritative in any sense, but adopting one and working within it allows the practitioner to grow and points in directions where new experiments might be useful.

Models are good. Mistaking the map for the territory is bad. Lots of people do the latter, but that doesn't really say anything about the effectiveness of models themselves.

That's one of the big draws of Chaos magic -- adopt whatever model works for the moment, and don't get attached to it over the long term. After all, it's just a model.

Jow said...

Models are great, so long as they don't kill your ability to see things as they are.

I've found that people involved with formless practices and non dual philosophies like Dzogchen and what is presented in the Avadhoot Gita, tend to not be as invested in models as they have tools to see Reality in a much more naked and absolute way.

When it comes down to it, to me, models are cool things to use to transcend models, allowing you to work with much more versatility and extend much more understanding to various practices.

Argent said...

The problem and solution with models can be stated somewhat like this

"is Raphael a sentient entity, an computerprogram, the aspect of your self that is related to healing and wisdom and promoting the same in others, or is it the name given to a force?"

The One True Answer states:
- "Yes" -


Anonymous said...


The Professor said...

Why do I bother with theory? Because metaphysics really does matter.

Real breakthroughs never occur by examining what works, but through the human lust to know WHY it works. Poincaré said, “Science is facts; just as houses are made of stone, so is science made of facts; but a pile of stones is not a house, and a collection of facts is not necessarily science.”

Aristotle begins his Metaphysics with the seemingly audacious claim that “All men, by their nature, desire knowledge .” He continues, “When the objects of an inquiry, in any department, have principles/explanations [archae], conditions, or elements, it is through acquaintance with these that knowledge, that is to say scientific knowledge, is attained.” Indeed, knowledge is the abstraction of experience. I have spoken before about the need for clarity and communicability in experience, and advocated a direct and anti-mystic position on these matters. I will not speak of that further here.
The scientific method they taught you in high school is simply not the way real science works. Today, meaningful scientific progress almost always follows from an examination of the abstract theory, rather than the collection or mining of data. In order to find substantively new magics, it does not suffice to simply blindly experiment; we must abstract our knowledge in order to acquire real wisdom. It is in abstraction that nearly all modern magical “systems” fail. Experimentation and practical application are vital to any field of endeavor; but real progress can only be built on a foundation of meaningful understanding and theoretical speculation. The time has come for us to pool our data and to start imagining a structure behind it, to find the elegance behind the ugliness, and to know the mind of G-d.

“We suppose [theoreticians] to be wiser than [technicians] … because the former know the cause, but the latter do not. For [technicians] know that the thing is so, but do not know why, while the others [theoreticians] know the 'why' and the cause...Clearly then, wisdom is knowledge about certain principles and causes.” (Aristotle)
The lack of a belief in an underlying structure, the refusal to assent, not only to any particular answer, but even to the relevance of WHY as a question, lays at the heart of this "model free" doctrine. It is not only difficult, but also seems to me to be pointless and offensive to the very endeavor of magic. Herman Muller said “… that a man is made up of certain chemical elements is a satisfactory description only for those who intend to use him as a fertilizer.” Similarly, to approach magic by cataloging an incongruous collection of events and practices, unrelated by some underlying metaphysic, is as repressive and morally repugnant as Dark Age theologians (and their modern-day inheritors) who caution that true science, real knowledge of freedom , should be reserved for the gods, and not trouble the minds of mere mortals.

Not only is it more intellectually satisfying to approach magic as a unified and explainable phenomenon, but it is also more productive. My experience has always been that the more sensible and unified the explanation [arachae] behind the operation, the more successful it has been. The successful magician, like the scientist, is NOT the one who desires to advance human understanding, nor the one who researches for the betterment of mankind. The successful magician, like the scientist, is the arrogant egotist, assured of her own brilliance, who delights in solving puzzles. The magician, likewise, must not become trapped in mysticism or in nihilism. We must approach the universe with the wonder, joy, and egotism of the scientist, rather than as “reality engineers” or as mystics. THAT IS WHAT WORKS. Oppenheimer summarized beautifully, “The theory of our modern technic shows that nothing is as practical as theory.”

Miss Sugar said...

I tend to be one of those terrible magpies when it comes to models - ooooh shiny piece, works! I will weave it into my nest of other shiny things.

I'm not good at whole cloth following one particular model (even my own), it's why I disappointed my mom and left the Church!

(this is Deb, btw, Jow's SO)

Krisn88 said...

I was just having a discussion with a friend/research partner about models (in science, though). In class today we discussed how models are used to organize data, but some scientists are inundated by the volume of data we can produce with our current technology. My friend and I were discussing the importance of being able to interpret data with these models because models are never perfect--the real world is too complex (and the more complex your model is, the harder it is to work with). The important skill is being able to extrapolate information from your models. I feel this is a good analogue to the ideas you're talking about. Scientists sometimes don't know how to interpret their data because they get mired in the parameters of their models. We have to look beyond the tool to try and grasp reality.

Jason Miller, said...

KRSN88: Beautifully said!