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Friday, October 10, 2008

Cause and Effect

Once again, Here be spoilers.

In Monday's post, I explained how magic works in the Curse/Or universe... except I left out one crucial element. It's all very well and good to say that Magic is what happens when an obsessed individual alters reality through sheer force of will, but that doesn't really explain why obsessive force of will can make these changes.

At the risk of bringing the wrath of physicists down upon my head, it all comes down to quantum uncertainty and the observer effect. If you don't know what these are, I encourage you to skim the articles, but for purposes of understanding this post all you need to know is that subatomic particles are affected by observation, i.e. the act of looking at something on the quantum scale actually changes it in some manner.

So in the Curse/Or universe, when an individual performs magic there is a huge outpouring of psychic energy -- obsessive amounts of willpower -- channeled through the framework of a paradoxical belief system and focused with ritual paraphernalia. And when this energy flows outward into the universe, it begins sloshing about the Quantum Structure of Things.

Physics says that if you channel energy, then you affect the world through its release. Yet, according to the Observer Effect, observing and affecting are the same thing... so if by observing you cause change, then by changing you must necessarily observe.... thus, psychically changing the universe means that you are also observing it on a psychic level as well. Magic is actually the psychic manipulation of the quantum structure of the universe to achieve a desired result.

Or, as I like to put it: "Magic does not cause effects. Rather, it effects causes."

Remember when I compared the human brain to a network? It's a psychic network, which means that it can link with other networks (thus explaining ESP, telepathy, etc), and therefore everyone, on some level, perceives magic, even if it's the archetypal "bad feeling about this" or the "someone walked over my grave" shudder.

What this means is that, perversely, magic works better when more people are consciously aware of it, which is why human sacrifice has such a kick to it: the conscious sacrificee, if awake, is providing psychic energy along with the magic-using sacrificer. (This also explains the typical "cultists surrounding the chief priest" schtick: the more people watching, the more powerful the ritual.)

Because it all ties into that damned Observer Effect. If only the caster perceives it, that effect has the power of 1 (x^1). If someone else is present to perceive it, even unconsciously, then that effect is squared (x^2), making it more real, in much the same way that an audience watching the performance of an illusionist is a willing party to its own deception ("We all saw it. There's no way he could have faked that!")

Or to put it more lasciviously: A naked woman in your bedroom is sex. A naked woman on the street is a misdemeanor. A naked woman inside a magazine is pornography. A naked woman on the front page of the newspaper is a scandal. A naked woman on national television is that nation freaking out.

So magic is also a network -- perhaps even the network, since it links humanity, and has done so since the very beginning. It adheres to the observer effect, and yet reaches across the planet. How do you define something that is both everywhere and no one place?

You call it n-dimensional. Meaning, "Fuck if I know how many dimensions it has. Probably at least 4, since it can be everywhere on Earth at once without being tangible. But on a large enough scale, "Earth" is a single point. So what else do you call a construct that:
  • Exists as a single point (Earth)
  • Is infinite in length (every human to every other human on Earth)
  • Offers instantaneous transfer of information (magic) between nodes (people) as if distance was meaningless?"
Now, how many of you noticed what I did there? If you said "Palette, didn't you just describe the internet in abstract terms?" then you get a cookie.

  • According to my system, the Internet is the biggest fucking brain on the planet.
  • If it's a brain, then it's linked (or at least is capable of being linked) in some psychic manner to all the other brains on the planet.
  • If it's a psychic link, then the Internet... is capable of performing what we call magic.
  • Of course, to perform magic, you kinda have to be a little crazy.
  • And, well, if millions of people were using YOUR brain to send spam, porn, financial scams and sorts of other crap to each other -- constantly -- you'd be a little crazy too.
So: the internet is a brain, is crazy, and can perform magic. What this means, and what happens next, is the tale that the Curse/Or novel intends to tell.

And look at that, I didn't even need to drag Kabbalah into this explanation. Lucky for you! Because things would have gotten strange otherwise.


  1. I can dig it. I have musing about confrontations, problems in perception and such, but I'll wait to see what comes next.

  2. So if the internet is a huge mad brain with a billion voices shouting within it at once and theoretically linked to each consciousness that touches it, does this mean that we are all at risk of contracting organic forms of digital viruses via the electronic impulses in our brains?
    Cos if so, not only could you make a mint selling cerebral protection software, it would explain a lot of the shit going on in the world today.

  3. To start with, your brain is scary smart. I actually feel sorry for your gaming group(s) when you DM/GM unless you intentionally take it easy on them =)

    One again I have to say that I'm loving your theory of magic/psychic powers =)

    I'd like to say something further that is witty and inspirational to such a degree as to get you to post even more often, but alas I'm working off of less than 4 hours of sleep atm, so I'll just leave you with "Keep up the great stuff". =)


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