Modern Melting Pot

What's new in racism.

The Science of Magical Thinking

Some people are more magical than others

By magical thinking I mean the kind of thinking that uses both empirical and non-empirical sources to achieve extraordinary results.

I admit that “magical thinking” is not a great term for what I was writing about in The 2012 Election and the Super-Conscious Mind. In that post, I wrote that many people saw the contribution of magical thinking to the election victory of Barack Obama.

Magical thinking in that instance meant thinking that is not confined to seeking knowledge from the “seen” universe, but also from the unseen. By unseen I do not mean the world of emotions – love, hate, fear, etc. To my mind emotions are elements generated from the seen universe.

 By unseen I am referring to the unified field of forces that scientists now confirm that the seen universe is enfolded and entangled in, and generated from. It is the world of subatomic elementary particles -- fundamental fermions and the fundamental bosons, which are the building blocks of the seen universe, but also exist in the infinite, invisible field that engulfs the seen universe.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

 The unified field is also composed of fundamental forces --electromagnetism, strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force, and gravitation. These forces are the ways that fundamental particles interact with each other in the field. Since the seen world is part of the field (the manifested part of it), these forces act on the seen world. But we are certainly very far from knowing exactly how.

 Magical thinking is in my definition any human attempt to get at the inexact how. In this scheme, hunches, gut feelings, intuitions, and premonitions give us information on the inexact how. We cannot trust that information in the way that we trust the information that comes from observations of the seen universe; but the information is not totally useless.

 There are ways in which hunches, gut feelings, intuitions, and premonitions can even be more valuable than information that comes from empirical observation; and some individuals have greater access to useful hunches and premonitions; and they have more wisdom in how and when to use them.

 From empirical information (pre-election polls, for example) we can get information on only what has already taken place. Someone said something to a poll taker.  We then make reasonable inferences based on that information as to what will take place. But to be really creative we can also rely on hunches, gut feelings, intuitions, premonitions –magical thinking.

 When we test magical thinking against empirical data, magical thinking may prove to be reliable or prove to be unreliable; but we could not have had a creative proposition to test unless we at first did some of what I call magical thinking.

 And to some extent we can, while attempting to prove the creative proposition true, make it true.  If it is a far-fetched proposition and it comes true not wholly due to our efforts, we have performed magic. Our efforts were part of what writer El Shaddai Gebreyes calls the “confluence of impersonal forces that shape personal destiny.”

 Giving egoistic thinking up to become part of the confluence is what, in my view, prompted Obama to remark, “I’m sort of a prop in this campaign.”  It accounts for his statement, “'There's something stirring in the air. You can feel it!'”

 The key to success is having the ability to create the right uses and the right mixture of magical thinking and data-driven thinking.  In the sciences, for example, a scientist propagates a theory and then finds the empirical evidence to prove or disprove the effectiveness of the theory in the clockwork universe, the universe governed by natural law. 

 The original theory came from what I mean by magical thinking. As Sir Arthur C. Clarke, British science fiction author and inventor, said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

As I said, scientists call the enfolding, un-manifested aspect of the universe the unified field of elementary particles and fundamental forces. The super-conscious mind, integral psychologists call it; the divine source of all energy, say many Eastern religions; and a world of infinite possibilities, say spiritual self-help gurus.

In our wisdom or religious traditions we have a variety of names for the enfolding, un-manifested universe. The Kingdom of God, we call it in Christian traditions. Faith is the name we Christians give to any evidence from the unseen universe. “Faith is . . . the evidence of things not seen,” says Hebrews 11:1. What useful knowledge does faith give? Faith gives confidence, encouragement, inspiration, and optimism. This knowledge is not useless because it is inexact. As I said, there are instances when it is more valuable than empirical knowledge.

 Empirical evidence could not have indicated to someone named Barack Hussein Obama II that he could be President of the United States. Only a clear and strong connection to the super-conscious mind could have done that, only a clear and strong connection to the world of infinite possibilities could have planted the proposition that with confidence, encouragement, inspiration, and optimism he worked to prove true.

 Only the attunement to the confluence of impersonal forces could have made the work of himself and his team successful. His supporters who are attuned to data-driven thinking would declare that he is lucky. Spiritual-minded supports would say that he was blessed. Detractors like Rush Limbaugh would mock that he is “Barack the Magic Negro.” "But we can all do magic"? 

 George Davis is author of the new spiritual spy novel, The Melting Points, about three women pursued by danger as the clockwork universe melts around them. Just published is the 40th Anniversary Edition of Coming Home, Davis’ novel upon which the Academy Award winning, Jane Fonda, Vietnam War film of the same name was based.

George Davis is professor emeritus at Rutgers University. His latest book is Until We Got Here.

more...

Subscribe to Modern Melting Pot

Current Issue

Dreams of Glory

Daydreaming: How the best ideas emerge from the ether.