Sermon #6 – Does Magic Really Work? (and if so how?)
Once again this week, by popular demand, we begin with another opportunity for you to avoid having to read the sermon! Ask yourself this question: Does magic really work? If your answer is “absolutely not!” you can skip the rest. In fact you can probably skip this website entirely and just go on over to www.scientificamerican.com I’m only kidding – you are welcome to stay and even send me comments telling me why I’m wrong.
OK – for the rest of you who think that “obviously magic works” or “maybe...sometimes...I hope it works” you need to read this whole sermon – no skipping to the nutshell at the end and pretending you read it either.
I’ve been preaching to you now about how you should learn some sort of religious or magical beliefs. I’ve even told you to learn more than one belief. And I’ve told you to actually practice some of it – not just book-learn it. Gee – I’m pretty demanding, huh? I actually doubt anyone has done any of this because I advised it, but just in case you are thinking about it, you may be asking the question “now why does Rev. Jim want me to do all this stuff?” You may have noticed that I claim it has benefits, like increasing happiness or making you Luckier. Or at least making it easier to deal with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to, in the words of the Immortal Bard. But still you may ask, “Why would learning and doing those things help?”
I can almost guarantee that if you practice magic you will get results. Notice I said “almost” guarantee and how I did not specify what kind of results. You may also remember that I said in Sermon #3 that “it is impossible to prove a single instance of effective Magic!” So how is it that magic ever got off square one, let alone developed into a thousand elaborate systems of practice? The reason is because that is how we are made, how we function, how we are wired.
We have evolved for survival and most of our adaptations derive from the tens of thousands of years our ancestors spent on the plains and jungles of
So too we make judgments about many things based on less than perfect knowledge and some of these rules have become magical precepts. An example is the way we mix correlation with causation. For instance we get angry with our friend and he takes ill. We then think we may have caused the illness. Our minds are constantly seeking patterns because our survival for centuries depended on such things distinguishing the way grass waves in the wind from the way grass moves when a predator is lurking.
Our ancestors refused certain unclean foods, and contact with lepers was taboo, long before germ theory was developed. This hard wired belief in contagion can be seen operating in the “magical link” that allows a spell to reach its target. These are just a few examples of ways that we have evolved to meet the demands of living in an unpredictable and dangerous world.
Of course our world today may appear tamer, but it is not. In fact, it is much wilder than life for our ancestors ever was. The sheer volume of information we are exposed to overwhelms the instinctual strategies we have to figure out what is important and what to do about it. The complexity of the modern world is too much for us who were born to live and die in a small area with a small band of humans faced with a small number of possible circumstances. Luck today is way bigger and there is a lot more of it than ever before. This is true for both Good Luck and bad, so the pursuit of happiness is more fragile than ever.
That is why the need for belief and for magical and religious practice is so great. It is our refuge in the storm and the antidote to our fear. It allows us to connect to the natural ways and use our natural wiring and the gifts we were born with.
In a nutshell: yes, magic works. It must work, because if it didn’t the burden of Luck would be too much for our poor selves to bear.
Good Luck Always,