The Sacred Cow of Science

Posted on October 13, 2011
Filed Under Culture, Magic | 2 Comments

I’ve written before about the tendency for some occultists to value science over magic and their attempts to apply the scientific method to magic, to the point, where they end up disillusioned with magic, because it doesn’t really conform to science (nor was it ever meant to). This passage, I think explains part of the problem as well:

An all too common perception of science is that it deals in authoritative facts – truths that are immutably recorded in peer-reviewed journals and blessed by academia. In actuality, science is a method of inquiry that generates theories. Theories are forms of metaphors that explain a body of data, although scientists often may shy away from admitting the metaphoric quality. Metaphors are rarely perfect and almost always leave a lot of room for interpretation. theories are updated, hopefully on a regular basis, to best fit the map of the world we operate from.

From Brain Magick (Affiliate link) by Phil Farber

There is a perception that science deals in authoritative facts, because of how the scientific method works, but what people forget is that the method accepts that there is no fact…it’s all theory, which means it could be changed down the line with new discoveries. As Farber puts it theories are used to explain and interpret data. And that’s really what science boils down to…a way to explain data based on repeated practices that seem to verify a consistent outcome.

Magic doesn’t work that way. I can give you a technique I’ve done and you can do it and get consistent results, but you can also modify that technique to get better results that fit your personality, nature, etc. Magic is personalized, and that’s what makes it work. We have techniques, we have foundational principles, but when it comes down to it, magic is much more of a personal experience.

Trying to fit magic into science doesn’t work so well because of that personalization. I favor the opposite. Take scientific principles and concepts and fit them into your magical work, without trying to make magic fit those scientific principles and concepts. Science is about laws, rules, and until proven otherwise those laws and rules are what people rely upon to understand the world. Magic is about breaking and bending rules. It’s about making possibilities happen even if those possibilities don’t exactly align with scientific principles.

There’s nothing wrong with drawing inspiration from scientific principles and practices, but the magician should never allow those principles and practices to dictate how s/he practices magic. Keep yourself open to the possibilities and use that to create opportunities!



Science is a way of evaluating claims. The general process is:

1. Notice some sort of phenomenon in the world.

2. Use reason and prior knowledge to come up with a possible explanation for that phenomenon.

3. Use reason and prior knowledge to come up with some consequences that would be true or false in the world if the hypothesis were true or false (you want several, at many as possible is nice).

4. Use those consequences to come up with an experiment to do one of two things: falsify the hypothesis or gain evidence supporting the hypothesis. Since the philosopher of science Karl Popper noted certain logical problems, it has generally been accepted that we need to do both, because if you only look for confirmatory evidence, it could be the case that there is another empirically equivalent but inconsistent hypothesis that is actually correct.

5. If your results of both types of experiments come out properly, and others can replicate the results, then you *provisionally* accept the hypothesis as true.

What part of this is inappropriate to magick? I would think it all applies to anything where there can be a matter of fact to discuss at all (which means, of course, matters of aesthetics don't apply, but most other things do).

Are you really referring to scientism?

Magicexperiment moderator

@NealJansons Scientism actually is an accurate description of what I'm critiquing, but with that said, I also think my point about personalizing magic applies as well. I can show you a technique and you can get consistent results from it, but you can also personalize it. There seems to be more flexibility in magical practice, and I'd like to see it embraced more than it is.