Now according to Wikipedia physics comes from the classical Greek and refers to the knowledge of nature. In modern times it is understood to deal with the matter of matter and motion. Or the matter and energy. It could be said to be the science of what is and how it works.
Now meta has a number of meanings, all of which are valid in their specific circumstances, though I think that for us the word as used in meta-analysis, which is a study of studies. In the case of metaphysics—meta-physics if you prefer—you could think of it as the physics of physics.
Or, an understanding not of how reality is as it is, but an understanding for why reality is as it is.
With that in mind we can go on to the next post in this series.
It comes down to this,when we know we’re safer. At least we feel safer. We’re more confident in what we do, more capable. When we know we’re more able to handle things, to know what to do and how to adjust to anything unexpected.
Knowing and the confidence it brings makes us safer. Or at least to feel safer.
You get right down to it science is a way to learn. It is a technique for learning. There are sciences, but they are not science.
Science is not a matter of what is, it is a matter of how you learn what is. It is very much a matter of how you learn and how you approach what you learn. And the first thing you need to learn is that you are wrong.
In a word we are imperfect. Even worse, we can’t ever be perfect. Our world is imperfect, the books we have to use is imperfect. For one thing, we just don’t have the capacity to know and understand everything. For this reason we can never know everything.
Once thing we can do is to correct out mistakes when we become aware of them, and the first step in that is to accept that we have erred. An ECG taken at 8:45 am a week ago is not an accurate picture of the heart’s condition at the present time. At best it could be an indication of the current condition. At worst it could be a damn lie. Sometimes you need to drive the car for about 15 minutes before the engine conks out.
Science is a way to learn. Science first of all involves being able to accept that you are wrong, and that what you do know is based on assumptions. Assumptions on how things work and on why they’re supposed to work.
Science is about alternative explanations. Explanations that could be right. Explanations that could be wrong. Explanations that could be wrong and still be a lead to what is right.
In the time of Aristotle gravity was understood to be a matter of an object’s nature. That being to fall to the ground when things were right.
This thinking came in large part from Ancient Greek animism, the belief that everything has a spirit. Spirits have a nature, and apparently part of that nature is to fall down when given the opportunity.
With Newton out understanding had improved to some extent. Newton for example did not accept the idea that things had a spirit that had a nature. To his way of thinking there had to be a force that made things fall to the ground when nothing stopped them from doing so.
A force with a mechanism all it’s own, and as our knowledge of our world grew we came to see how we thought the mechanism worked.
We discovered atoms, then later sub-atomic particles. Some of these particles we came to see as the medium that carried the force in question. With gravity we call that particle the graviton.
To Albert Einstein’s thinking gravity was not so much a matter of force, much less nature, but more a matter of topography. Of how space is shaped.
One attribute of mass we now understand matters is that it bends space, as space is bent so is the path of any object traveling through that space the mass bends. And this alteration in course is, as far as we know, in the direction of the mass causing the detour.
Now you would think that Einstein’s view of gravity would replace Newton’s, but we for the most part prefer to keep what we like of Newtonian gravity and combine it with Einstein’s version. As far as I can see the two contradict each other, Either Newton was right, or Einstein is right, and from what I see Einstein is right.
At this point I’m taking a break so I can work on the next post in the series. I can give you a look at the starting assumption, at that is that the magick of fantasy worlds can be a science, because science can be applied to it. How? That I will explain later.
As far as I can see what magic is depends on what a person wants it to be. But for our purposes we do need to set a description we all can accept for the moment. So for my purpose I’m going to say that magic involves the manual manipulation of any object as to amaze and surprise an audience. What we could call stage magic.
That’s the definition Aleistar Crowley used for stage magic, choosing to spell the word magick when referring to what he called real magick. Later Wilf Backhaus of Chivalry and Sorcery made his spelling Magik, a decision adopted by his companion Edward Simbalist. Later yet Gary Gygax adopted Crowly’s spelling, saying that real magick and stage magic are two different things.
You know what, he’s right. Magic is about fooling people in order to entertain them. Magick in turn is about manipulating reality using a tool that can’t exist in our reality.
That’s what I said, it can’t exist. Not in our reality. There are somethings that are possible, and others that aren’t. Put to the test magick, as Crowley and Gygax spelled it, just doesn’t work. It can’t work, the tools just aren’t there.
The Thing Is
When something actually works, and we can demonstrate that it does work, we learn why. At the very least we come up with a reasonable explanation for it that does not involve any alternate explanation—my emphasis. That we believed in magick back in the day—or even today—has nothing to do with the matter, believe all you want, that lead weight just aint gonna float off into outer space.
And the Magical?
Oh, that exists, but in our reality it refers to things that we find magical, and what we find magical is very much a matter of perception and how we handle our perceptions.
Before the age of 10 we use a part of the brain other than the prefrontal cortex for thinking. Thus our thinking is irrational and emotional. When we turn 10 the first layers of the prefrontal comes on line and our thinking becomes more and more rational. This continues until we reach the age of 25, when the prefrontal cortex takes over the job of cognition entirely, but until then we really can’t understand completely.
We miss things, we misunderstand. We can be, and often are, overwhelmed by events. Much more often than we would be later in life. When asked what the golden age of science fiction was author Harlan Ellison replied, “12.” When things happen too fast we can be dazzled, and for the 10 year old everything is happening too fast.
In our reality that’s what magic is about, being dazzled. Being overwhelmed by our perceptions,of what we see, hear, smell, and feel. And it can happen even at quiet moments.
Being autistic I can be overwhelmed by being out in public. Things get to be too much and I can’t handle it. You could come across a lake in the forest and be overwhelmed. When I was 10 I got stopped when I realized just how being in a stand of trees then standing outside the Mount Palomar Observatory affected me. It’s what Mr. Spock of Star Trek called, “Fascinating.”
Think of terms such as “sleepy blue ocean” or “a night in the forest.” Think of your reaction to a song you first head with a person you were infatuated with when you heard it for the first time. That is what I’m talking about when I use the word “magical”. That is most often what we’re talking about when we use the word, “magic”.
Just Too Much
That’s what magic is about in reality, being simply just too much. Its anything that’s too much to handle. It happens more often when we’re young, but it can still happen even when we are truly old. Everything is magic when you’re five, and even when you’re twelve it is still very magical. Even when you’re 95 a moment can still be magic, under the right conditions—seeing a new born for example.
Magic is very much an emotional response to an event or occurance, but emotional responses are not what you’d call a reliable response.But what about in a fantasy? Can an event in a fantasy world be magical? Can magic as we understand it exist in a fantasy world?
My take is,yes. But that can wait until the next post.
Our reality is one thing, matters don’t have to be the same in a different existence.
The deal is there can be other realities besides our own. At least in our imaginations. In addition, they can be as real as ours, in our imaginations — my emphasis. This means that whatever we imagine can be as real as we need it to be in our imaginations. Which means things can work as you need them to in your imaginary world.
What it comes down to is, in a fantasy world as in Ars Magica and Mythus something like magick can and does work. In either case we’re not talking about our existence, but rather about worlds which work differently to some degrees than ours’ does. In either case something we could call magick works. Something that produces actually results and not just something we need to lie about in a vain attempt to fool ourselves.
The Thing Is
While both have magick they don’t both handle it the same way. In part this is due to their respective mechanics, but it is also due to just how developed the science has become in their respective worlds.
That’s right, I said science. Science is about understanding, in any world where a thing can work it can be understood. At least we can pretend that we understand it, and when you get right down to it we don’t really understand what’s going on in our reality, we just like to think we do. So on Ærth and Mythic Earth magick works, so we can invent reasons as to why it does. Do they work? Well enough for academic purposes.
The difference between the two lies in how old the science is in the respective settings. In Mythic Earth it got its start sometime in the 8th century AD. It’s really only been a science for about 4 centuries, so it really hasn’t had much to be developed as a science.
On Ærth magick has been a science — at least treated as a science — for a few thousand years. That means they’ve gotten more work done.
One of the biggest differences lies in their respective cosmologies. On Ærth it’s much busier; you have the mundane, the supernatural, and the entital. Each of these is further subdivided. On Mythic Earth is not so well developed.
Where magick itself is concerned on Ærth a caster can call upon other planes. On Mythic Earth the only plane available to a caster is the mundane. Only those with a connection with the Divine can access any of the outer planes, and that gives them a substantial advantage. You get right down to it, as powerful as a Mythic Europe Magus can be, he’s still very much a babe just starting to toddle about on wobbly pins.
It all comes down to just what each party has learned about their respective existences. In ArM they really haven’t learned all that much. Their model of reality is still undeveloped. In Mythus it’s quite a bit better developed, largely because they’ve had the time. Or, it could be that the model in Ars Magica is more limited because it is, and their understanding is actually more accurate than that of the mages in Mythus.
Though if the scientists—which is what they are—of either world follow the pattern of progress our scientists follow, those of Mythic Earth will find ways to complicate their understanding of things, while those of Ærth will find reasons to simplify since their understanding has gotten just a tad too complex as far as I’m concerned.
When you get right down to it, how the respective guides handle magick depends a lot on how we handle such things in our reality. We like to undertand. Or at least to think we understand. And we insist on claiming we understand when we really don’t. Not to anything like we think we do. And since ArM and Mythus are really dealing with different worlds, how reality actually works in the two need not be exactly the same.
In the Future
That depends. The magick of Mythic Earth may become more like that of Ærth, or it may become something quite different. That depends on how the people behind Ars Magica decide to take it, and that is entirely their choice. Though it would be interesting to see the magick in the one RPG take a sort of convergent development with the magik in the other.
Though I do have to ask a question: How do you see your favorite fantasy RPG handling magick?