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  • Scientific mystic

    Do all mystics see what they are doing as magick? And all Etherite/VA and technocrats view their effects as Science?

    The Hermetics are a very study, scientific method based tradition. It is said they take apprentices, from military, halls of academia and scientific communities. They have a very structured approach to how magick works and study its behaviour since the beginning of the tradition, being the first ones to classify the 9 spheres.
    While they are considered mystics, they seem to put a lot of importance in science.

    "Any sufficiently advanced science can be considered magick" and vice-versa. So, if a science oriented mystic that knows why and how his magick work and can explain scientifically his effects is a mage or a scientist? Is he doing Science! or magick? I find it hard to separate those definitions, and while I know they are the same, the rules of M20 is different for both...


    So, I have an example character that kinda blends both views. I'd like opinions where he fits better.

    He's an electrical engineer really focused in his physical development as much as his mental. He is a very determined person and somewhat competitive, even a little bit egoistic and sometimes aggressive. Before awakening, he was always perfecting his body and mind. He did that by working out and practicing martial arts to get the best of his physical abilities, and meditating/studying to keep his mind sharp, always eager for more knowledge.
    After his awake, one more goal was added to his list: to obtain as more magickal power and knowledge as possible. His paradigm is "Everything is Chaos" with a bit of "Might is Right" and maybe "Counsciousness is the only true reality": basically, he believes that Reality is unknown and changeable, product of our own beliefs. He believes that the act of believing, using your counsciousness and your Will, you can change reality according to your desire. His practices are Martial Arts, Chaos Magick and Psionics. He believes that there is an energy field, a force, not known to sleeper science, that binds everything together and is present everywhere. Much like the famous Chi, The Force, or Quintessence. This energy can be used, in conjunction of your Will, to affect the real world. How do he use it?
    With Energy, Gestures, Meditation, Eye Contact, Weapons, Books/Scrolls/Periodicals and Devices/Machines (dropped). Being a man of science, at first he tried to understand and learn more about this "Force" by doing experiments and trying to apply scientific methods to measure and describe it. He could only touch it with some devices that reacted to it. But as he discovered more about it, and the notion that Reality is changeable according to one's Will, he began to use his own body as an instrument to gather that energy and focus it according to his Will. Through research, he discovered that he no longer need any device to tap that energy (Arete 3 dropped instrument), because it is his conscience that is driving that energy into an effect. So, he rellies in his well built body to cast his spells.
    But, he didn't completely discarded his old methods. He is still a scientist and everything he does has a good scientifically explanation. Meditation/gestures change the brain and body activating certain areas that allows him to better tap that energy, etc.
    Note that while he has a scientific and logical mind, to explain his spells, he knows that he is the one making them with the help of his Will. Is he a Scientist! or a Mage?

  • #2
    He’s in really good shape, plus he’s “egoistic” and “aggressive,” so he probably either has a girlfriend or hooks up relatively often (assuming he has decent Social attributes)....

    Not being random here. You need to develop his social backstory as well as the physical and mental aspects.

    I think he sounds like more of a mage. He’s basically a pulp hero, and pulp heroes are Etherites, not Technocrats. But it’s your choice. Which paradigm (Science! or magick) most closely fits the kind of character you want to play?


    It is a far far better thing I do than I have ever done... Sidney Carton’s last line before he goes to the guillotine to save Lucie

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    • #3
      From what you've said I'd say he was more on the science side. There is a distinct manner in which he operates his awakened will, a strict way in which he connects with this energy source, and the inherent disposition to use science and his background in engineering. He wouldn't see it as mystical or as new-age mumbo jumbo (Im making assumptions here Ill admit) he sees it as science and therefore thats what it is. In his eyes all other mages both Tradition and Technocrat are simply using the same force but just not getting the idea of what it really is right.
      He's definitely very Etherite in sounding but then again Etherites are just Technocrat-lite with a dash of pseudoscience.

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      • #4
        Sounds like a fairly typical Etherite, really. There's an example character in their first TradBook who has a similar "New Thought" methodology (the description notes that, in another life, they might have ended up in the Akashics.) This fits in more with the early Etherites ("My character has One Big Theory") and less so with the radical methodological approach of Revised Etherites, but that's fine.

        "Science" is a dense word, and in Mage "Will" is, too, so I don't know that there's really going to be a tidy distinction to make. Is parapsychology more "scientific" than alchemy?


        I attack people with giant insects both on and off the court.

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        • #5
          I guess the question is, do you count Etherites as Science or magick (I always assumed magick because they were Tradition mages)?


          It is a far far better thing I do than I have ever done... Sidney Carton’s last line before he goes to the guillotine to save Lucie

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          • #6
            Thanks for the answers.

            The thing is, the char probably acknowledges himself as a mage. But he has a scientifical mind that explains magick.

            Regarding tradition, he would be a very different etherite or hermetic. Both traditions aren't known to use the instruments he uses.
            So, how would an etherite that sees himself as a mage and casting spells? Also, do Etherites believe in an enlightened Will that is making the effects?
            And how would a hermetic that see his spells with logical explanations and doesn't use symbolisms?
            Last edited by Lord Revan; 11-18-2019, 09:13 AM.

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            • #7
              The listed instruments are, again, pretty typical for a pulp hero Etherite. "I have learned esoteric secrets, martial arts, and mesmerism in Tibet, and use these subtle arts and high-tech gadgets to fight crime."

              The Etherites do acknowledge a "human factor" (i.e. Will) as being a part of what's going on, it's just that their explanation tends to hew closer to what you propose for your character - there are psychic or spiritual energies which can change outcomes. I don't really run an edition that makes the distinction M20 does (between "mystics", "technomancers" ,and "technocrats") but in that system I guess I'd peg your dude as a technomancer - there are exotic forces which mages harness, and eventually they can activate them without an apparatus.

              What's a "logical explanation"? Hermetic magic seems very practical, it's just predicated on phusikos instead of physics.


              I attack people with giant insects both on and off the court.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Five Eyes View Post
                The listed instruments are, again, pretty typical for a pulp hero Etherite. "I have learned esoteric secrets, martial arts, and mesmerism in Tibet, and use these subtle arts and high-tech gadgets to fight crime."

                The Etherites do acknowledge a "human factor" (i.e. Will) as being a part of what's going on, it's just that their explanation tends to hew closer to what you propose for your character - there are psychic or spiritual energies which can change outcomes. I don't really run an edition that makes the distinction M20 does (between "mystics", "technomancers" ,and "technocrats") but in that system I guess I'd peg your dude as a technomancer - there are exotic forces which mages harness, and eventually they can activate them without an apparatus.
                .

                I see. So, even that he only use those instruments, you don't think that's a problem for the Tradition? I mean, the char is not a genius at all, he doesn't have any PhD, he's a simple engineer that likes to have reasonable explanation for his effects. He also don't write papers or spend time in a lab. What you think?

                Originally posted by Five Eyes View Post
                What's a "logical explanation"? Hermetic magic seems very practical, it's just predicated on phusikos instead of physics
                It's an explanation that isn't so simple as "God did it" or "it works because that's the symbol of the sun", etc. He has a more detailed explanation, involving scientific concepts (like energy), but at the same time some kind of mysticism, because he acknowledges that it's him that's causing the effect with his Will.I thought an Etherite would not include the caster desire into the equation, things don't happen because you want them to happen, but because you made some thing to make it happen. For all they know, a machine could make it.

                I don't know what is phusikos... Also, how would a Hermetic that was taken from a scientific university would see the way Etherites do magick?

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                • #9
                  Not every Etherite is a cloistered academic, and if someone has discovered an undocumented energy source capable of creating supernatural effects through meditation and eye contact, they're a genius, no matter the Int score on their character sheet. Etherites admit the possibility of psychic phenomena and undocumented energies with a subjective origin and manifestation, and New Thought is all about personal energy - again, nothing you've proposed has struck me as really out of the ordinary.

                  I was being a little cute with "phusikos", sorry. Hermetic sympathetic principles are part of natural magic, itself something of a precursor to modern science (the words "physician" and "physics" are both etymologically derived from the word for "natural/physical".) It's an intricate system predicated on an internal logic, but it's paradigmatically (small P) different from its successors. Is that "scientific"? Or do you use "scientific" to mean "using terms and stakes familiar to modern scientific discussion?"

                  A Hermetic who used to be a physicist sees the science they learned in college as a mere subset of the many important physical laws which govern the cosmos. If they have a rigid paradigm (see Guide to the Trads), they likely believe Etherites have stumbled on some (but not all) of these "higher laws", and misunderstood or mislabeled them.


                  I attack people with giant insects both on and off the court.

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                  • #10
                    [QUOTE=Five Eyes;n1349468]Not every Etherite is a cloistered academic, and if someone has discovered an undocumented energy source capable of creating supernatural effects through meditation and eye contact, they're a genius, no matter the Int score on their character sheet. Etherites admit the possibility of psychic phenomena and undocumented energies with a subjective origin and manifestation, and New Thought is all about personal energy - again, nothing you've proposed has struck me as really out of the ordinary.{/quote]

                    Indeed. The feel I have is that Etherite don't have the "mage" flavour. I feel that by playing an Etherite I'm not roleplaying a mage. That is because their Science! are too advanced in general.
                    While the char do have a logical, "scientifical" explanation, I don't see him explaining his effects with all that crazy theories involving quantum-shit or "ether spectrum" babble. I feel that my char reasoning is too shallow. Maybe that's just my impression, or maybe I'm overthinking things.


                    [QUOTE=Five Eyes;n1349468]I was being a little cute with "phusikos", sorry. Hermetic sympathetic principles are part of natural magic, itself something of a precursor to modern science (the words "physician" and "physics" are both etymologically derived from the word for "natural/physical".) It's an intricate system predicated on an internal logic, but it's paradigmatically (small P) different from its successors. Is that "scientific"? Or do you use "scientific" to mean "using terms and stakes familiar to modern scientific discussion?"

                    What you mean by paradigmatically different from its successors? I use "scientific" to mean that it has an explanation that do not relly on mere symbolisms. And a practice that is based on basic scientific principles like: observating,formulating hypothesis, experimenting/testing, refining/eliminating based on the findings.


                    Originally posted by Five Eyes View Post
                    A Hermetic who used to be a physicist sees the science they learned in college as a mere subset of the many important physical laws which govern the cosmos. If they have a rigid paradigm (see Guide to the Trads), they likely believe Etherites have stumbled on some (but not all) of these "higher laws", and misunderstood or mislabeled them.
                    So, to him, the Etherites are just tripping? Do you think he would have any use for his previous scientifical knowledge in his magick?

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Lord Revan View Post
                      I use "scientific" to mean that it has an explanation that do not relly on mere symbolisms. And a practice that is based on basic scientific principles like: observating,formulating hypothesis, experimenting/testing, refining/eliminating based on the findings
                      Mind you - the Order of Hermes is very 'scientific' in the way they experiment with magick, study their findings, toss aside things that do not work, write down their reliable rituals and working symbols down in tomes by the libraryful, have a strict Mentor-Student relationship, and consider the concepts and structures behind what makes it all tick. There is a reason the Technocracy/Order Of Reason developed out of Hermes through the Freemasons

                      It's also why House Tremere freaked out when their immortality rote started to fail - it was The True Way how to do it, that had been developed and studied over ages by them. Then they developed a new theory of how they could acquire immortality through the immortal blood of vampires and an adjustment to one of their rituals.
                      The experiment failed. Very scientific

                      Of all the Traditions, the Hermetics probably have the most structued 'scientific' approach to Magick.


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                      • #12
                        Fortunately, this is sort of the game for overthinking things. But on the whole I do think you've just described a fairly typical Etherite - they discover a force, they develop some terms to bracket it, they perform experiments to explore it... that's all by the book.

                        Surely an undocumented cosmic force which responds to human mental energies and can do anything is kind of a "big theory"?

                        Originally posted by Lord Revan View Post
                        What you mean by paradigmatically different from its successors?
                        We would say that the effect of silver on a werewolf is "supernatural", having no natural/physical explanation. You could break silver down into is components and none of them would contain the "anti-werewolf" part which reacts to werewolf bodies. Natural magic would say that silver's effect is "natural", in that silver by its nature has an effect on werewolves.

                        Or, to use a more grounded example, that water and ice are very different things, with different essential properties. This is an outgrowth of being the product of an intellectual tradition which has a wider category of "physical existence" than we use, and not having the same category of non-physicality which Enlightenment thinkers and their successors were using.

                        Originally posted by Lord Revan View Post
                        I use "scientific" to mean that it has an explanation that do not relly on mere symbolisms. And a practice that is based on basic scientific principles like: observating,formulating hypothesis, experimenting/testing, refining/eliminating based on the findings.
                        I think considering any well-explored explanation to be "scientific" is overbroad.

                        "Natural magic" argues objects such as metals and plants have properties which can be harnessed to effect. Some of these are familiar and reducible to component properties - willow bark into aspirin, for instance. Some of these are more subtle, occult laws, which common folk aren't aware of. You can observe, document, and explore these properties. You can posit from past evidence whether or not something shares a property, by analogy in physical form or occult symbolism. You can test that position, and refine your understanding based on your findings.

                        Yet I'd wager most people wouldn't call Verbena herbcraft or Hermetic protective amulets "scientific".

                        Originally posted by Lord Revan View Post
                        So, to him, the Etherites are just tripping? Do you think he would have any use for his previous scientifical knowledge in his magick?
                        Well, anyone with a rigid paradigm is pretty sure everyone else has it wrong. And sure, that's part of why Flambeau recruits physicists and the Verbena recruit biologists - the mystic training they receive grows upon what they have already perceived, and gives it new meanings and properties. The Verbena don't think modern medicine doesn't work, they think there are forms of healing and types of illness normal biologists aren't aware of.


                        I attack people with giant insects both on and off the court.

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                        • #13
                          Just bringing back one subject, are you sure Etherites (in general, as a Tradition) acknowledge the power of the Will on their effects? I just took a look in the Trad book and couldn't find any hint about that. Only about using pshychic mind-power, which is not the same, nor practiced by any great number of Scientists.

                          Originally posted by Five Eyes View Post
                          We would say that the effect of silver on a werewolf is "supernatural", having no natural/physical explanation. You could break silver down into is components and none of them would contain the "anti-werewolf" part which reacts to werewolf bodies. Natural magic would say that silver's effect is "natural", in that silver by its nature has an effect on werewolves.

                          Or, to use a more grounded example, that water and ice are very different things, with different essential properties. This is an outgrowth of being the product of an intellectual tradition which has a wider category of "physical existence" than we use, and not having the same category of non-physicality which Enlightenment thinkers and their successors were using.
                          I agree with the werewolf thing, since that is not covered by regular science. But it is known that water snd ice have the same molecules, and a scientist (low case "s") from any Tradition knows that.

                          So, I'd say that an hermetic scientist only disagree with a sleeper science when it's about an uncovered subject. And that's when magick kicks in.

                          I think considering any well-explored explanation to be "scientific" is overbroad.

                          "Natural magic" argues objects such as metals and plants have properties which can be harnessed to effect. Some of these are familiar and reducible to component properties - willow bark into aspirin, for instance. Some of these are more subtle, occult laws, which common folk aren't aware of. You can observe, document, and explore these properties. You can posit from past evidence whether or not something shares a property, by analogy in physical form or occult symbolism. You can test that position, and refine your understanding based on your findings.

                          Yet I'd wager most people wouldn't call Verbena herbcraft or Hermetic protective amulets "scientific".
                          Well, they surely sre using the scientific method. I would consider that they are at least trying to use science methods to explain/improve their beliefs.

                          The thing is, Etherite Science is too much different from regular science. Etherite Science do not respect concepts like reproducibility, falsifiability or verifiability. So in a sense, their are less real life science than a mystic that separates magick from science.

                          My char was an engineer, so he followed those principles I just posted. After awakening, he understood that there are somethings that can be done that do not follow those rules. This doesn't invalidate his previous knowledge, just like quantum physics do not invalidate relativity. Theu are just 2 separate things.
                          So, as fsr as I understand, being an Etherite means that both low case and upper case "s" science must be mixed (and thus low case lost its meaning). While being an hermetic scientist means that magick is apart from science. Is that right?

                          Well, anyone with a rigid paradigm is pretty sure everyone else has it wrong. And sure, that's part of why Flambeau recruits physicists and the Verbena recruit biologists - the mystic training they receive grows upon what they have already perceived, and gives it new meanings and properties. The Verbena don't think modern medicine doesn't work, they think there are forms of healing and types of illness normal biologists aren't aware of.
                          Indeed, if hermetic is chosen, definitely house flambeau was my thougth. Being an electrical engineer he deals a lot with electricity and have great knowledge about it. I wonder how this could affect his effects, maybe adding electromagnetism in his spells and explanations...

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Lord Revan View Post
                            Just bringing back one subject, are you sure Etherites (in general, as a Tradition) acknowledge the power of the Will on their effects? I just took a look in the Trad book and couldn't find any hint about that. Only about using pshychic mind-power, which is not the same, nor practiced by any great number of Scientists.
                            Define "Will." Do Verbena believe in Will? Etherites consider personal genius/inspiration and the agonistic relationship with the external world to be essential in the process of Science. It's a necessarily subjective art - personal and internal.

                            Originally posted by Lord Revan View Post
                            I agree with the werewolf thing, since that is not covered by regular science. But it is known that water snd ice have the same molecules, and a scientist (low case "s") from any Tradition knows that. So, I'd say that an hermetic scientist only disagree with a sleeper science when it's about an uncovered subject. And that's when magick kicks in.
                            You're making a categorical distinction that a Hermetic or Verbena would not: between magical and natural law. To the view of natural magic (and by extension Hermetic philosophy), ice and water aren't the same. Their molecular properties aren't the full picture, and any Hermetic worth his pointy hat would know that Sleeper science is incomplete on the matter of, well, Matter.

                            Proposing things like "agreeing" or "disagreeing" with "science" strikes me as a non-starter, especially if you can be "scientific" about things "science" doesn't "agree" with.

                            Originally posted by Lord Revan View Post
                            The thing is, Etherite Science is too much different from regular science. Etherite Science do not respect concepts like reproducibility, falsifiability or verifiability. So in a sense, their are less real life science than a mystic that separates magick from science.
                            Feyerabend would disagree, is rather the point - real-world science doesn't operate in the idealized fashion it is often described. In any case, Etherites do care about reproducibility by their peers and perform experiments to explore and dissect their theories (this process is, in fact, what they call Science.) They even do peer review (this is what Paradigma is for). They don't believe in reduction of entities or materialism, which are heuristic elements of science and not actual rules.

                            Originally posted by Lord Revan View Post
                            My char was an engineer, so he followed those principles I just posted. After awakening, he understood that there are somethings that can be done that do not follow those rules. This doesn't invalidate his previous knowledge, just like quantum physics do not invalidate relativity. Theu are just 2 separate things. So, as fsr as I understand, being an Etherite means that both low case and upper case "s" science must be mixed (and thus low case lost its meaning). While being an hermetic scientist means that magick is apart from science. Is that right?
                            The Sons of Ether believe all models to be incomplete and contingent by necessity. Models are descriptions of real things, but our ability to approach those real things is always mediated by subjectivity (until we Ascend). They believe Sleeper (and Technocratic) science is predicated on assuming one model is "more correct", rejecting anything that doesn't fit. Etherite capital-Science tries to work in both directions - exploring models within themselves and also testing them with other, external models - not to invalidate them (which isn't really possible, because of how paradigms work) but rather to expand the knowledge base. This is discussed starting on Page 55 of their Revised Tradbook.

                            In terms of your character, the Etherites don't consider their previous knowledge "invalid", but it's not about a separate subject, either - there's no such thing as "normal physics" and "magic physics", there's just "physics", which is merely one (flawed, incomplete) way to try and explore and understand the real world. A studious Scientist would want to know (and experiment with) the "physics" explanation for how mental energy can direct Forces, but also would want to know (and experiment with) the "martial arts qi gong" explanation.

                            The Hermetics believe in an order to the cosmos, which extends both to its physical contents and its spiritual ones. Things in the world have essential natures and various properties - some Sleeper science understands, some it does not. Magic is about harnessing these properties by various technical and spiritual methods.

                            In terms of your character, a Flambeau electrical engineer knows both the basic physical laws which cause electricity to act like it does, and the higher mystical properties which govern why it has these traits. They know copper conducts, but also the occult reason why copper works as it does (its subtle properties.) The "normal physics" that Sleepers know about isn't a different type of knowledge, it's a subset of the actual rules which govern the universe - the surface knowledge. Knowing that stuff is "practical" but it's considered a stepping stone to the higher, spiritual lore (the "theory".)


                            I attack people with giant insects both on and off the court.

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                            • #15
                              By any chance, are you familiar with the Scientific Mystic/Techgnosi Merit that's fine in Book of Secrets, p.45? This is exactly the sort of stuff that it deals with. It's a very common Merit among the Etherites (in fact, the Merit was first introduced in the Sons of Ether revised Tradition Book); but the only real requirement to having it is to be a practitioner of Weird Science.


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