Yesterday, I saw two mages, in two different conversations, make the same error in explaining energy healing. They said (paraphrasing):
“Biological cells need energy to survive. Mages use energy to heal people. So, when you heal with energy, you’re giving the cell the energy it needs.”
I’ve seen lots of experienced mages do this. I made a similar error myself this morning. Which means it’s worth talking about.
But before we can get to the magick, we need a little notation.
Scoping is a computer programming concept. (That’s my other career.)
Let’s say that Alice and Bob are arguing about whether a tree falling in the woods makes a sound. Alice says, “The tree vibrates the air. Sound is air vibrations.”
Bob says, “Sound is a subjective experience. It happens when you hear something. If there’s no one to hear it, there is no sound.”
Clearly, the problem is the two different definitions of sound. Alice and Bob mean different things by the word. But, because they use the same word, it seems like they’re disagreeing.
This is where scoping comes in. In computer programming, there’s a syntax where we say:
for Alice’s definition of sound, and
for Bob’s definition.
Now, we can accurately say, “A tree falling in the woods with no one around to hear it makes an Alice::sound but not a Bob::sound.” Scoping makes it obvious that those words really mean two different things, and it no longer seems like anything worth disagreeing about.
I got this idea from Less Wrong, though I can’t find the post at the moment.
Scoping for Energy Healing
So, let’s apply scoping to energy healing. There’s bio::energy, for the normal energy that makes cells operate when there’s no magick going on (ATP, electrical impulses, etc.), and there’s magick::energy, for the energy we use that makes you feel all tingly. And, most importantly, they are different.
Now, let’s redo the initial statement, with scoping:
“Biological cells need bio::energy to survive. Mages use magick::energy to heal people. So, when you heal with magick::energy, you’re giving the cell the bio::energy it needs.”
With the scoping, it’s clear that the last sentence shifted the meaning of “energy” under our noses. First, it talked about magickal energy, then equated that with biological energy. It’s a very common confusion, and I wish English had scoping so we could spot these shifts more easily.
Why Magick::Energy is not Bio::Energy
First, I want to point out that the presumption should be that magick::energy is different than bio::energy. You can’t simply assume two things are the same just because they share the same name, especially if that naming was done by new-agers, rather than scientists.
But, let’s go beyond that. I’m fairly certain that this model of energy healing – that the mage provides bio::energy to the cell – is inaccurate. Here’s why:
- You can kill cells with magick::energy. That’s how you heal a cold — by killing the bacteria. I don’t see how providing more bio::energy would kill a cell. (And it’s about the same quantity as you’d use for other healings, just in a different signature).
- You can decelerate a specific cellular process with magick::energy. I used this in healing Lisa’s hives, to tone down her immune response. Again, I don’t see how providing more bio::energy would do that.
- You get the best healings by cancelling the current magick::energy signature of the cell, then applying magick::energy in the new signature. This lets you be more precise with the signature, even though it means you’re not increasing the total quantity of magick::energy.
All of these make me say that energy healing works by changing the signature of the magick::energy around the cell to accelerate or decelerate cellular processes, not by increasing the amount of bio::energy to feed a cell.
Finding the Right Model
This is an honest mistake. And an easy one to make. The point isn’t that some mage somewhere got a wrong. The point is, it’s very easy to make a wrong step in modeling magick if you’re not careful with your terms.
If you came into this post thinking that energy healing worked by providing bio::energy, you’re probably thinking of clever arguments for why that’s still right. Pause for a second.
You can’t argue something into being right. If you start from an assumption based on language, and it turns out that assumption is wrong, you can’t build on it. Your best move is to discard that incorrect assumption as quickly as possible. Because no matter how many clever reasons you come up with to hold onto an incorrect belief, it’s still incorrect.
So, ask yourself, “If I were modeling this part of magic from scratch, knowing what I know now about scoping and the behavior of magick::energy, would I think that it’s the same as bio::energy?”
If the term “energy” is still tripping you up, replace the word with the definition. “Is it likely that [the magickal thing that makes you feel tingly] is the same as [the biological thing that makes cells function]? Does an increase in biological energy, like from eating lots of sugar, feel like a flood of tingly magickal energy?”
Because I promise you, even if you didn’t make this error, you’ll make a similar error at some point in your work. I’ve done it easily a dozen times, and just this morning conflated physics::energy with magick::energy. The key is to recover from these errors quickly, because we’ll never stop making them.
Also, I’ll probably rename “energy” at some point, like I did with “systems.” Any suggestions?