Some Thoughts on Magic

Swami - March 7, 2014 2:02 pm

Physicalists—materialists/naturalists/atheisits—often accuse those who believe in the trans-physicalism—spiritually minded people—of believing in magic. Indeed, physicalists invoke the word “magic” as if it were a trump card in the debate they feel has long been decided. But as a trans-physicalist I believe in meaning, not magic. And unto itself there is no meaning in the objective world. All meaning derives from the subjective world, from the self. I believe in myself. I believe that the lights are on and someone is home, and that someone is myself. I believe that I am a real entity, a unit of value and meaning ontologically distinct from the physical world. As such, I am not a product of the physical world. “I” am not contingent upon it, even while many things I think I am doing and are part of me are really only part of the physical world, the functions of a brain. This means that I believe that first person experiential existence is not bound by time and space, as all manifestations of the physical world are. Thus my self has no beginning and no end. It is trans-physical.


Physicalists, on the other hand, believe that while the lights are on, no one is home—that there is no real entity we call our self. They believe that one’s “self” with all its values, sense of meaning and existence, and its qualitative experience derives from the objective world—from matter, the physical world. Like all things, it is here today and gone tomorrow, and thus meaning in any meaningful sense does not exist. For the physicalist, life has no meaning and we are automatons.


Physicalists believe that it is possible for matter to organize itself to the extent that at some point subjectivity arises. They believe that experience arises out of non-experience—that out of the objective, physical world subjective, qualitative experience, a sense of meaning and existence arise momentarily in an illusory sense. To give this context, they believe that for periods of time certain physical things of the physical world can feel, sense that they exist, and posit meaning. In other words, they believe in magic. But to their credit, they do not place much value in it. Nor do I in such magical thinking, nor in debating with a self-professed automaton.

Swami - March 8, 2014 12:49 am

I also believe that humans thrive on magic and miracles. They sense that there is something more and look for it. Facebook is full of videos of the "unbelievable." So in this sense I do believe in magic. The atma is magical because it does not conform to time and space and transcends physical laws. Yes, I believe in the impossible.

Tadiya Dasi - March 10, 2014 6:36 pm

Wow, I just saw this, Gurudeva, and loved it! "I believe in meaning, not magic." While you have certainly brought meaning (back) to my life... I also have to say that it was - and is - you who has made me a believer in magic as well :) And that kind of soul-magic does indeed inspire thriving & blossoming!

Mathura-natha Das - March 11, 2014 8:04 am

" For the physicalist, life has no meaning and we are automatons."


Those persons who really think this way, I wonder how do they deal with life? For example do they moarn when they loose a loved one? And if so, how do they think about the experience of loosing someone? Do they cry, or feel sad? Because if theres is "no one home", why even react to death at all? Or do they think that the sence of sadness is just a automatic reaction to a given event?


Swami, have you ever had a discussion with a physicalist?

Swami - March 12, 2014 4:10 am

There are millions of people who identify with the physicalist position. And this position is the dominant understanding in the science community. As I have said, it represents a talk no one can walk. And actions speak louder than words. The idea is that the self arises out of matter and ultimately does not matter. When you are dead you are dead, as they say. Nonetheless they are busy finding relative meaning and say they are content with that. My sense is that most people who identify with this position have not thought out its ramifications. The over react to religion, misunderstanding it, and want to consider themselves rational and educated free thinkers, while most of them are sheep. But there are those who have thought it out and feel that scientific data points to such a conclusion. Of course they are wrong.

Bhakti-rasa - March 12, 2014 12:19 pm

The physicalist's philosophy is their shelter, their vessel, that holds the nothingness that they experience. It makes their meaninglessness meaningful - like solving a giant rubiks cube. The task, in and of itself, is meaningless, but when you solve it, it gives meaning to the task. It doesn't matter that what they have concluded holds nothing of value - it is the act of having concluded, and having developed a system of "proofs" to substantiate their conclusions - that gives them meaning and allows them to go on.


Meaninglessness is their experience. Science, the pursuit of validating their experience, is their intoxication, their panacea, their religion - a coping mechanism, which allows them to tolerate the vast black hole of their experienced meaninglessness, all the zeros without the one in front of them.


Their actions are laughible, not laudible. For if they did walk their talk, they would neither talk nor walk. They would sit down and shut up. But they can't because they are driven to do more than "be". Misguided and puffed-up by their intellect, they miss the fact that the mere pursuit of a conclusion is the disproof of their own philosophy. They live in an Ecsher painting.