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Forums -> Misc Topics -> Science and magic

Science and magic
By: / Novice
Post # 1
I've been considering a brief write-up on several topics as of late, about the intersection of science and magic. So here goes:

Today, I ran across an article about frankincense. It talks about studies on how frankincense affects certain regions of the brain, leaving a person, "in an almost vulnerable state of relaxation where one can lay their mind to rest and simply perceive" -- a form of psychoactivity.

The article also mentions the medical applications of the resin, as a possible help with some types of anxiety and depression, as well as, "nausea, fever, chest coughs, hypertension, as well as driving away mesquitos and other harmful insects."

Frankincense, being a precious resin, has a long history of being used for sacred ceremony in many religions.

So what do I take from this? It's another case of, "I did some rituals involving chanting while burning frankincense. Now I feel a lot better." Even though the practitioner may credit the involved deity or entity, research is now helping to discover that frankincense resin may have more effects than we think in making these changes. Magic! (and no, that is not in any way sarcastic). The use of frankincense in its various forms can cause a change according to its properties, as the user may intend -- even though for thousands of years, we did not understand exactly why.

http://timewheel.net/Tome-Frankincense-Proven-To-Be-Psychoactive-Antidepressant
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Re: Science and magic
By: / Novice
Post # 2
The next which I have been considering a bit is the old "strange face in the mirror" trick. There's the whole 'thing' about staring at one's reflection in the mirror for several minutes -- some sources say three, five, ten, or are just vague. Eventually, the reflection is supposed to change. Well, there is an explanation.

And no: It may not fall under some people's traditions of magic, but it is not only a visual effect, but it is something used in some traditions' rituals.

When the brain is bereft of changing stimulation, it begins seeking differences, while reducing or eliminating some static elements -- especially those at the edge of the field of focus. Conversely, the brain does the opposite in times of a lot of stimulation: It tunes out what it may deem unimportant. This sorting of priorities may lead to a change in perception of the same image.

Further, limiting the amount of light gives the brain less information to deal with. It could easily be why the use of a black mirror and only a couple lit candles makes some rituals effective.

Eventually, the brain may interpret the face in the mirror in a way that it does not recognize the face. It is a strange thing to explain, but when the brain is seeking information, strange things can happen.

Some people doing this experiment -- especially with an expectation to see something -- have claimed that there is someone or something else looking back at them from the mirror. Some traditions will interpret this as being a god, a demon, or some other entity.

http://io9.com/5906432/an-optical-illusion-that-explains-the-origins-of-imaginary-monsters

http://mindhacks.com/2010/09/18/the-strange-face-in-the-mirror-illusion/

(the above references the following)
http://pec.sagepub.com/content/39/7/1007
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Re: Science and magic
By: / Novice
Post # 3
Have you ever wondered why so many ghost sightings happen to be in the middle of the night, when the person wakes up from a deep sleep? You know: The old tale of someone really had to pee, and on their way to the restroom they see a shadow or shape moving around in their house. The explanation may well be hypnagogic state hallucination.

Hypnagogic state is that mental state of transition betweek wakefulness and sleep (hypnopompia is the transitio between sleep and wakefulness, but typically hypnagogia is used to describe both states) -- when the mind may be experiencing symptoms of both sleep and wakefulness at once -- especially with dream-like elements.

Simple definition:
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hypnagogic-state

Wikipedia has a few interesting tangents (I have definitely experienced the Tetris effect):
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypnagogia

So where does this come in to magic and ritual practice?

It is a scientific explanation for many experiences with some things such as sightings of things when tired, or when in a deep state of meditation, or even during sleep paralysis. It does not disprove the supernatural altogether; rather, it could be an explanation for why the consciousness is able to experience more during a changed state of consciousness -- that is, being in a trance, or deep state of meditation.

Mild hypnagogia may even help explain some of the visual experiences during scrying (it could also be related to the 'stranger in the mirror' effect). The mind is relaxed -- usually very relaxed -- and usually in an environment of limited stimulation.

This is why so many practices begin with meditation.

Oddly enough, WikiHow has a piece on how to deliberately reach a hypnagogic state. Step 3 sounds a bit like beginning some type of journeying, as it describes a more immersive experience than just meditation.

http://www.wikihow.com/Reach-the-Hypnagogic-State-of-Sleep
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Re: Science and magic
By: Moderator / Adept
Post # 4
It is easy to use words as though the are the real "meaning" in every language. The word "witchcraft" is only the European word for the practice. Other languages have a different word. It is the same with "Magic",the word is only in English because of the ancient word for "wise" Magi!
Magic and Science have always been interchangeable.The first time that Man heated sand into glass it was "magic"; now it is so widespread that we don't think of it as magic. It's Science!
The Scientific Researchers of today are doing exactly what witches have been doing for thousands of years. Seeking new treatments,new drugs, new medicines. Mixing lotions and ointments. Of course, these people would not like to be called Witches! But that's what they are!
So is Science magic? And magic Science? Yes, it is! Read my post "The Magic Fungus".
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Re: Science and magic
By: / Novice
Post # 5
I would also recommend people interested in this intersect to read ''The Origins of Psychic Phenomena'' by Stan Gooch. The case of a past life regression was interesting. One patient believed that she was Joan of Arc in a past life, but the date she gave was wrong according to historians because a playwright got the date wrong and the drama became famous. I don't recall that the patient even read or watched that stageplay, so it wasn't a firm conclusion, but at the very least the story of Joan of Arc had immense psychological value to that patient.

''The Men Who Stare At Goats'' by Jon Ronson was too political, in my opinion, but it does make a case against Stateside psychic government conspiracies.

Carl Sagan's ''The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark'' is my favorite because he explains science as a process instead of only the results that became the social/political ideology.
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