Many people wonder if magic follows natural laws or whether it’s supernatural. If it follows natural laws, then there’s a real cause and effect correlation. Which means that it’s a scientifically plausible endeavor.
If it doesn’t follow a discernible cause-and-effect paradigm like the rest of the natural universe, it can only mean that it’s a supernatural phenomena. This is a very interesting question, and one on which there isn’t any consensus because different people have a different opinion on magic.
The Science Behind Magic
You will find that there are disagreements on this point even between experienced magicians and occultists. But in general, magicians do treat magic as a legitimate science. Aleister Crowley, the distinguished English occultist stated that:
“Science is always discovering odd scraps of magical wisdom and making a tremendous fuss about its cleverness.”
Well, that’s certainly an interesting take on the whole question. So in Crowley’s view, magic is the understanding and use of natural phenomena which hasn’t been yet discovered by science.
So in the future, science could well discover that there’s a natural explanation for voodoo for example. A voodoo practitioner on the other hand is already using what could be termed a “scientific method”. Because his magical activity is not arbitrary. There’s a step-by-step process that produces a certain effect.
In other words, a magician acknowledges that there is a cause-and-effect correlation between a magical ritual and the desired effect. If that wasn’t the case, then one could simply make up the spells as they went along and there could be no objectively plausible occult knowledge. And yet, we find that there are so many correlations between different magical traditions from one culture to the next. Between cultures that were never in contact.
Striking Similarities Between Magic in Different Cultures
So we find the expressions of the demonic in the Occidental as well as Oriental cultures. Many of these demons are similar in their characteristics, albeit disguised under different names and symbols. We find alchemy in India as well as China, Egypt and Europe.
Is it a lucky coincidence that the same alchemical procedures have been accepted as valid in all of these places? And the effects of these operations are always the same? Surely not. So there’s likely a causal, scientific method involved in magic, one that’s not derived from purely wishful thinking.
The Problem With Scientific Research of Magic
The problem however is that modern science cannot evaluate the validity of these methods because they are qualitative, not quantitative. For scientific experiments to be valid, there has to be measurable data. For example, 10 people take a pill, and then we evaluate the effects this pill has had on the 10 people. If it works, it works, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. We can extract data from this experiment quite easily.
The same is hardly the case with magic, because it’s always a personal affair. It first of all depends on the person performing the magic, and the criteria is not always scientifically plausible. Modern science can’t distinguish between a powerful magician and a less powerful magician. It lacks any apparatus for doing so. So making an experiment with 10 people where all have to perform the same magical ritual wouldn’t really work to prove or disprove magic, because not all people are the same.
Furthermore, not all situations are the same. The fact that a magic ritual is being measured by itself could make it ineffective, especially a spiritually entity is being summoned, as it could see the experiment as disrespectful and not appear. Even beyond these technicalities, there is also the fact that many magic rituals are only psychologically noticeable. A magician evokes a demon, but science doesn’t have the apparatus for making this demon appear to the scientists. The demon is visible only to the person who’s evoked him. Why would anyone else be able to see the demon if they weren’t part of the ritual after all?
So there’s no way for a scientist to prove that the ritual was an actual success or not. And yet the magician used a step-by-step ritual guide to summon the demon and it worked. In the mind of the magician, this is an entirely scientific, cause-and-effect process and yet the scientist, being unable to prove it’s effectiveness will find it sorely lacking in evidence. All of this makes the relationship between science and magic a rocky one.
Astral Projection – The Bridge Between Science and Magic
The question of whether magic is a science will therefore be answered differently, depending on who you ask. But there have been some improvements in this area. For example, astral projection has now been well-researched, and there is actual scientific data showing that astral projection is a real phenomena.
An expert in astral projection is monitored through brainwave monitors during sleep. The scientists observe the changes in brainwave activity. They also place certain objects in the other room. If the person actually performed an astral projection, he or she could see these objects in the other room and report back the observation.
The evidence does not 100% validate astral projection in the eyes of the scientific community yet, but it’s enough to have them interested in conducting more serious experiments and investing in further research. So some taboos can certainly be broken through communication between the magically adept and the science community.
But some forms of magic I believe will always remain an impenetrable mystery, especially ceremonial magic.
This state of affairs doesn’t devalue magic in any way. There’s no reason for an operative tradition that’s lasted thousands of years to be validated by science to preserve its reputation. If magic weren’t true in one sense or another, people would’ve noticed by now and let go of it altogether. And yet, the appeal for the occult and magical practices has never been stronger.
Final Word: Is Magic a Science?
Whether the power of magic is purely psychological or both physical and mental is not as important as the fact that this “technology of the Self”, as some postmodernists say, is part of human nature.
Also, the discoveries of quantum physics have proven that reality is not as 2+2 as previous generations of scientists imagined it to be. Nature is far more unpredictable and chaotic, so there could well be a “method to madness”, and that method could be magic, not science. Magical worldview has always been in line with the idea that reality is an orderly chaos. In other words, an Order that is susceptible to influence.
Science limits itself to observing laws of nature and using them to construct rational models of the Universe. But if those laws are nothing more than the acknowledgment of change, then they could well be susceptible to influence. Magic could be the scientific way of performing change and modification in a purely scientifically valid way.
The main point of debate becomes whether we have the power to manipulate reality or we can do nothing but conform to its whimsical manifestations. And this is where the qualitative distinction comes into play. Some can, others can’t is the magical perspective. Not everyone has the same potential or skill. There is a hierarchy here as in all other work and talent, and one can learn magic and manipulate the fabric of reality for his/her goals, or become its victim or beneficiary through accident.
So we’re back to investigating human nature itself, and it’s potential or lack thereof to manipulate reality. If we take this position, then magic is already part of scientific inquiry. It only depends on whether it will entice the curiosity of psychologists or physicists. Today it seems both parties are interested, and they are only yet to discover the true potentialities of the wand.