Skeptical Magick: Reconciling Science and Spirituality

Science and Spirituality– Despite the fact that this has been a topic of interest to many psychologists, scientists, and philosophers, there is a scarcity of resources for the secular witch.

What there is, is a lot of misinformation.

Even in writing this I’m cautious, and open to correction. The comments are open for people looking to add their thoughts, or read more info from fellow readers.

I have a humble B.A. in Psychology and a collection of courses on world religions and anthropological studies, but when it comes to things like physics and science, I’m at the mercy of my own ignorance. For this reason, the following analysis will be brief, and full of links.

At this time there is no concrete foolproof way to link science and spirituality. There have been many fascinating studies done on this topic, with compelling results. However, no hard scientific “proof” of esotericism exists.

Chances are, there are a variety of factors at play when it comes to the intersection of science and spirituality, and we may get an absolute unified answer one day. Until then, remaining open-minded and feeding your curiosity with knowledge is a great way to cope with skepticism when it comes to your own practice.

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A Brief Overview of Science and Spirituality

Again, this will be brief since there could be whole dissertations done on each of these. I am limited by my own knowledge. Feel free to have a discussion in the comments, but remain respectful. Discussions of both witchcraft AND science can often descend into a pissing contest with people doing little more than waving their own “knowledge” around.

The Psychology of Magick

At the heart of it, a skeptical witch believes that the “magick” of witchcraft is rooted within themselves. Your power is in your ability to raise your energy to a place where you can influence your world.

But how does this happen?

Visualization, “Manifesting” and focusing your intention and will are all common mental tools used by witches and modern spiritualists.

At the core of these practices is the belief is that the mind can influence your environment. This is achieved through symbol and ritual. This is the manner by which you manifest your reality.There will be an upcoming blog post on this topic to get more in-depth, but what I will say here is that focusing your intention is very powerful. If you write down your goals and set your intention, revisiting them often, you are essentially training your brain to keep those things present in your mind in your daily life. This influences your actions, how you are perceived by others (by way of your attitude changing), and your perception of the world around you. Neuroplasticity is certainly an interesting topic as well, especially in the context of ritual.

By using ritual, you are also relieving yourself as being a helpless observer of your own life. This is most likely the Placebo Effect at work, which isn’t belittling to spirituality at all. In fact, the phenomenon is a testament to just how incredible our brains and minds are when it comes to shaping our reality. This video by Sedna Woo from YouTube explains this phenomenon in a fairly user-friendly way:

 

Long story short, the power of the mind is incredible. This is not an attack on spiritualism, but just another wonderful angle to it.

As I stated before, this will be the topic of a more in-depth post, but for now the point is this- in the context of spirituality, psychology is a profound piece of the puzzle. No matter what, our perceptions of reality itself are bound by lens of our own brains and bodies.

(If you love this topic as well, check out some info on the Confirmation Bias and the Baader-Meinhof phenomena and try and think about these things in the context of synchronicity. This isn’t to say that synchronicity doesn’t exist, merely that there are potential psychological explanations. I’m a huge believer in remaining open-minded).

Physics, Science, and Esotericism

A lot of science as we know it grew out of things that were considered “magic” at one point. Some people will say it’s reductionist to try and boil the spiritual down to science. Some will even say you are not a proper witch if you are an atheist, or if you seek science.

In reality there is a place for everybody, and everyone should find their way to their own power by whatever method they choose. Spirituality isn’t a competitive sport.

If scientific facts help you feel more comfortable in your practice, then that’s a good thing- whatever it takes to lead you to the place where you trust your own path and feel comfortable. There is simply too much gatekeeping, thought policing, and belittling to be productive. This works either way- a secular witch should not look down on those who work with Gods, Godesses, etc.
Ultimately we all want the same result- peace, fulfilment and growth.

The following links are just some things to chew on when it comes to the nature of reality and the unknown. The nature of reality and our place in it is truly far more of a mystery than our perceptions would show.

Strange Findings in Quantum Physics

Quantum Physics and Reality

Quantum Physics and the Human Mind

These are just a few examples of “spooky” science that make you realize that scientific discovery might be more “out there” than many esoteric theories.

The point is, reality and matter and everything in between is far more complex and far LESS mundane than it appears. However, does this even mean anything at all when it comes to magick?

When you look up science and spirituality, you’ll find a lot of people linking science as “proof” of spiritual concepts without a robust knowledge of what they mean. There’s a lot of pseudoscience and biased claims. Claims that are not backed up by the scientific method (although, is this even the proper yardstick for measuring the spiritual?) or from reputable sources. People may attack you with these “facts” if you maintain a skeptical perspective.

As with anything, it’s important to stay humble, yet open-minded. You can be a rationalist, and still love the spiritual for whatever reason.

Your practice is your own. Follow what speaks to you, and scrap what doesn’t.

Science and Nature

Nature is at the heart of most witchcraft practice. It’s a connection with nature that we crave and seek, and are largely separated from in the modern world. The witch as healer, herbalist, and steward of nature is the archetype that’s commonly overlooked in modern culture.

Spending time in nature and recognizing your place in it is a way to connect with your own power as it takes you away from the modern distractions. It reminds you of your place in the larger natural world. Humans are not King in nature. We should strive to be cooperative within it.

Science and spirituality

There is some incredible research being done into the science of nature and the potential for “plant sentience”. Some interesting links on this topic can be found here:

A Biologist Believes That Trees Speak a Language We Can Learn

Do Plants Have Something to Say

The Secret Life of Trees

It will be exciting to learn more on this front, and what that will mean for the practice of the green witches among us. Hopefully more studies like these keep getting released.

Science and Spirituality- Unified yet Separate?

At the risk of criticism, I’d argue that there is no problem with separating science and spirituality if that works for you.

You can recognize that your rituals and practices help you in your life by helping you as a person. You do not need to know the method by which it works to reap it’s rewards. You can also appreciate science, having experienced “unexplainable” things. You can fall anywhere in-between.

Your worldview does not need to live up to any standards. You shouldn’t have to explain yourself to anyone.

Life is a wild ride, and curiosity and rational thought are two things that sets us apart as a species. The important thing is to keep learning, keep your mind open, and disagree respectfully.

 

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