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Skeptical Inquiry in Folk and Ceremonial Magic

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.paranet.skeptic,alt.magick,alt.pagan.magick,alt.paranormal.spells.hexes.magic,sci.skeptic
From: flufwikn 
Subject: Re: Skeptical Inquiry in Folk and Ceremonial Magic
Date: Sat, 06 Dec 2003 02:33:56 GMT

50031205 vii om

#># Claims for spiritual or metaphysical effects are not testable.

#> why not? I agree that certain tests cannot be conducted.

# The boundaries of the terms are loose enough to allow some 
# argument in particular cases.

that's what I thought, yes. not only their boundaries, but their
testability depends on what kind of data in the results you want.

for example, an individual might test another as regards knowledge
or condition, however unreliable beyond the individual's knowledge-
set this may be for further speculation. you say something similar
when you speak of the testability of personalities.

# In the lore of psychological testing, there are a large number of
# personality tests.  Are they testing a metaphysical concept?

that isn't something I'd defend. I don't know what can be supported,
logically, as metaphysical, beyond physical principles, omitting
for the moment any principles of magic we might find valuable. :>

# There's nothing vague about the study.  The vagueness comes from 
# not having sufficiently operationalized the hypothesis....

specificity is everything where testability is desired.

# Such an argument indicates to me that the orignial claim was too 
# vague to actually mean anything, since it can't be deciphered 
# sufficiently to test it.

that's why I was attempting to clarify procedures prior to 
any kind of testing: forestalling objections from those whose
perspective includes some kind of rarefaction or explication 
of the principles of the Art.

#> evidence to the contrary in *either case* should be identified.
#> a LACK of evidence one way or the other should not become a
#> platform for criticizing that about which we're ostensibly
#> gathered to discuss (whatever its actual foundation). this is
#> quite the opposite in a skeptical forum, whose basis *ought*
#> to be the focus of the forum to all unusual assertions.
# Folk magic arose in small communities, where the root doctor or the local
# variant on a shaman was immediately and repeatedly available to the people.

reasonable. one might say that ceremonial magic arose in secret 
societies and therefore be subjected to similar limitations.

# The business didn't operate on a "Let the buyer beware" basis.  That person
# didn't sell you a spell kit and let it go at that.  He or she was
# accountable and, if the remedy didn't work, then, by cracky, everybody knew
# who to blame and it wasn't the victim.

my impression is that this is far from a convention. generally, 
skill at spellcasting has probably been taken into consideration,
as well as role with respect to any kind of spiritual authority.

# How much of folk magic was inherent in that reciprocal set of social and
# emotional connections between the shaman and the petitioner?  

seems to depend in large upon the culture seeing it. sometimes the
formulae are powerful in and of themselves, sometimes they are seen
as powerful for those who know how to handle the technology, and
sometimes they're just triggers to be employed only by the powerful.

# If you delete that part, is there really any of the old folk magic 
# power left?  

natural magic seems to incorporate this, yes. Agrippa's material
includes such reservoirs. conventional Power Items include it too.

# In other words, is making the sale of folk magic items into a 
# depersonalized commercial act really folk magic?

that I don't know. it would depend on how you define the phrase.
the simple consolidation of materials into sets which have some
kind traditional usage history doesn't require a change of the
overall category of the magical act, no.

# Can you explain to me why I should finance and conduct research 
# that should have already been done....

oh I didn't mean to suggest that you *should* do it, only that
if you have an interest in that, feel free. as I said before,
running across the grain of those who already do magic by
talking about your preferred testing methods and arguing to
the contrary of efficacy, you're likely to repeat arguments
that might better be found in .skeptic newsgroups. if you do
or know someone who does this kind of test, all I'm asking
is that you center it in skeptic newsgroups and cross-post
to this forum, because I think it is valuable. :>

#># Call it "weak" if you will, but the transformation of self
#># is no trivial effect.
#> agreed. not being easily tested, that doesn't make it trivial.
# Transformations of self are as easily tested as personalities are.

in the sense I thought you were getting at above (clinical),
it seems less subject to examination, but not impossible.

#> in fact, it is THIS aim and purpose of magic which I feel is
#> most defensible and most manipulated toward personal ends,
#> obscuring real success for purposes of deception.

# It's hard to be more manipulated toward personal ends than when 
# a customer is manipulated by a dishonest salesperson.

conversion to preferred religious/theurgic bias is fairly 
manipulative, especially where it misrepresents others 
for its purpose in the project. typically the religious
are ready to guarantee (informally) the results of the
switch to novel divinity/cosmology besides, though UNLIKE
business practices, there is no legal recourse for failure.


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