Friday, April 22, 2016

Scientific Magicians

One aspect of the modern scientific view is that if something can't be measured in some way then it isn't real. This has led to some pretty unreal conclusions that most people today in scientifically-oriented societies accept without question. Take public opinion polls as an example. When you hear that a scientifically designed poll has determined that 67% of Americans (or Germans, or Japanese, or Pueblo Indians) favor this or that policy, this or that person, or this or that flavor of ice cream you tend to accept the results as having some realistic basis. The unspoken assumption for most people is that the 67% is a percentage of the whole population, which is, of course, absurd. In any given poll there is neither the time, the money nor the technology to ask everyone in the country what they think about something. 

What happens is that the pollsters ask a few people (sometimes a hundred, sometimes more or less) what they think and give you the percentage of that group. Using complicated mathematical formulae to justify the process they pretend that what the small group thinks is what the whole nation thinks.
For a poll to be really scientific you would have to ask everyone whose opinion you wanted. Using a small group to represent a large group isn't scientific, it's magical. 

A fundamental premise of what is called "sympathetic magic" is that a small thing can represent a much larger thing to which it is symbolically connected, and that by acting upon the small thing in some way you can influence the behavior of the larger thing.

Among some Inuit Indians in the Arctic region, when a man goes out to hunt a whale his wife stays home and lays down on the floor under a sealskin. For this purpose the sealskin represents the ocean and she represents the whale. During the whole time of the hunt she stays as still as possible so that the whale her husband is hunting will also stay still and allow him to harpoon it. It is my understanding that the symbolic connection ceases the moment the husband casts the harpoon so that the wife is not symbolically injured in any way. It is assumed by the Inuit that purposely deciding to have the woman represent the whale sets up a magical (or at least decidedly unscientific) connection between her and the cretacean in which her behavior will modify that of the sea-going creature. This is an example of sympathetic magic.

In old Hawaii foot travelers would carve semi-circular patterns on lava boulders around their camping grounds in order to ward off malicious or unfriendly spirits. The pattern was in the shape of an arch called hoaka, a word that means both "arch" and "protection." The carving was supposed to have the same power as the alternate meaning of the word it represented. This was also a form of sympathetic magic.

In the USA (and increasingly elsewhere) people give and receive valentine cards on February 14th. These cards have hearts on them that represent the physical heart of the giver or that of the receiver. The physical hearts in turn are assumed to represent the affections of one or the other party. By getting the receiver to look at the card the giver intends to influence the receiver's emotional state, thereby influencing the behavior as well. There isn't anything scientific at all about this. It's purely sympathetic magic.

When a poll is undertaken it isn't being done for altruistic reasons. It is being done to influence people. The pollsters themselves are actually magicians dressed up as scientists, and their mathematical formulae differ only in form from the incantations of ancient wizards. The use of a small group of people to symbolically represent a much larger group of people is nothing more than sympathetic magic. The use of the opinions of those people to influence the opinions of the larger group falls into the same category. When you hear or read the results of polls, just remember that it's a magical result. It might also be useful to remember that, just like science, magic sometimes works.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Love, Power and Harmony

It is very clear to any serious student of society that all human beings share the same needs, desires, and, to a large degree, even symbolism, regardless of race, color, creed or culture. What every human being enjoys and wants can be defined as Love, Power and Harmony.

Love is part of our nature. It is the state of feeling happily connected to another, or the act of becoming connected. It is extending our self to include another. We do not have to strive for love unless we feel we do not have it. When human beings gather under circumstances where there is no fear, love simply happens. I have attended many gatherings in many different countries where dozens of complete strangers became loving friends after two or three days of just being together. What they did and why they were there didn't seem to matter. Merely close proximity and a lack of fear produced love without effort.

In times of danger love also manifests naturally. When there is a disaster or an accident, people who are not locked in fear automatically begin to assist the ones who need help. They don't have to be taught or instructed, except in how to help better. The desire to help, which is a form of love, arises spontaneously. This automatic love response is so great that some people will put their own lives at great risk to help another person. We call such people heroes when they jump into raging rivers to save someone from drowning, or run into a burning building to bring out a child, or do any one of a hundred other brave things to help another. And yet, few of these people think of themselves as heroes. Most of the time they say they did it because it was the thing to do, or they did it without thinking. It was a spontaneous act of love.

Doubt is the one thing that weakens the connection of love. When a person doubts the existence of love, then fear is born and love begins to die. Fear interferes with love because it is the opposite of love. Fear comes from feeling or being disconnected. When love diminishes, fear increases; and when fear diminishes, love increases. More than that, when love diminishes, so does the need and desire for love.

The need and desire to love and be loved influence all our actions and reactions to the degree that we feel a lack of love in any form. In addition to the powerful force of sexual love, we are also driven by a love for approval and recognition. Many of our behaviors are guided by the hope of approval, or the reaction to disapproval. And many are guided by a quest for recognition, however small or temporary, especially when affection and approval do not seem imminent. Great acts that benefit all of society and vicious acts that harm society may both come from the need and desire for recognition. When recognition is lacking some people will force it by seeking respect, perhaps through doing something worthwhile, or perhaps through achieving a false respect by causing fear.

When there is sufficient frustration in satisfying the need and desire for love of any kind, the result is mental or physical sickness. This happens when the fear that results from the lack of love has no outlet. When, according to the beliefs of the individual, there is nothing that can be done, the fear causes a withdrawal inward, producing great tension on the body and therefore illness.
Power is part of our nature. Like love, we do not have to strive for power unless we feel we do not have it. Power itself is the act of being effective. From the very moment of conception we are all in the process of expressing our power, of doing that which is effective for our survival and our pleasure. From then on, in every moment of our lives, we are engaged in expressing our power, more or less effectively. Physically, our bodies are engaged in maintenance, repair, growth, learning and pleasure-seeking. Mentally, our minds are engaged in problem-solving, creativity and extending our influence into the world around us. We are always powerful, but for many reasons we may not always realize it. When the expression of power is not effective, the natural reaction is to seek a different solution to a problem or to find another way of being effective. Inventors may experiment with thousands of different approaches before their inventions work; sports teams may try dozens of different strategies to win against their opponents; politicians may devise many different economic and social plans to achieve their ends. Individually, people try different healing techniques and approaches, different careers, different relationships, and different religions with the aim of being more effective in their lives.

Again, doubt is the one thing that weakens the natural expression of power. When a person doubts his or her personal power, or source of power, then anger is born and power begins to flee. As power decreases, anger increases; and as anger decreases, power increases. And, as with love, when power decreases, so does anger as well as the need and desire for power.

The most popular technique for trying to regain power while doubt and anger are still operating is control. Many people confuse power with control, but control is what people use when they are feeling powerless. Active control is used to force people to do what you want. It usually takes the form of intimidation or physical force. Passive control, also called passive aggression, takes the form of getting people to do what you want by refusing to act, or by making them feel guilty enough to do what you want. Besides being bad for relationships and effectiveness, the attempt to control causes a lot of tension in the controller.

When control isn't possible, another technique sometimes used is vandalism. A child who feels hurt and powerless may break things to display anger. This seldom works to control parents, but it does get a reaction, and that substitute for effectiveness brings a little satisfaction, at least. The child thinks, "I can't get what I want, but at least I can make someone unhappy." It is a very poor substitute for effectiveness, but it can progress from childhood tantrums to teenage vandalism to adult terrorism. And of course it brings tension with it. However, when there is no outlet for the anger and no return to real power the anger is directed inward and the result is mental and physical illness.

Finally, there is the natural inclination toward harmony. By harmony I mean the mutually beneficial integration and cooperation of people with their social and natural environment. We can see this most easily in isolated tribal groups, but it exists also in many small communities, neighborhoods, groups, clubs and associations. We may see attempts to create harmony by national governments and the United Nations, but the larger the group the more difficult it seems to be. This partly because the larger the group the easier it is for it to be more impersonal. That is, the easier it is to lose a sense of connection and personal influence. But harmony involves more than that; it really has to do with a sense of one's place and purpose in the world, and a recognition of interdependence with the rest of the world. When a person doubts that interdependence and doubts one's own place and purpose within it, then alienation is born. Instead of "you and I or we and they together" it becomes "me or us against them." Alienation, which often includes extreme restlessness, apathy, confusion and despair, creates great internal tension and, of course, mental and physical illness.

The solution for illness caused by fear is to be more loving, by giving more acknowledgement, appreciation, admiration, tolerance, mercy, caring and help to others and to yourself. The solution for illness caused by anger is to increase your knowledge, skill, and self confidence. The solution for illness caused by alienation is to first seek spiritual harmony with a higher or deeper being, and then look for that spirit in all things. If you want a quick fix, though, because of the ultra-fast pace of modern life, then simply cease to doubt. Keep a healthy skepticism whenever necessary, but refuse to doubt your own value, the value of others, and the value of the world.