I am defining magical thinking as the belief that by postulating the existence of some imagined power a real power comes into existence and that by summoning that intentionally created power and propitiating it you can influence real world events. For example, a person might choose to believe that they have a spirit guide that is protecting them and therefore that they can do statistically dangerous things or even impossible ones safely and successfully, which belief gives them the power to do those things. That belief is in agreement with Saint Augustine’s famous statement, “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe,” but with magical thinking that idea is not limited to seeing what you believe but is carried forward into physical actions. With that concept, it becomes possible to convince people of unknowable and untestable assertions, and with the pomp and beauty of the church it becomes a glorious feeling to accept the faith.
It appears that most people I meet here in Bend, Oregon, believe in supernatural guiding spirits of various kinds that help them cope with their everyday lives. They are quite certain that their personal spirit works for them and are willing, even eager, to discuss many examples of that guide taking them safely through many seemingly impossible situations. I don’t have an external guide, although I do have a local garden gnome I’ve named Samumpsickle and discussed my first meeting him in a post, 2015/03/14, Confirmation bias and be careful what you wish for, where I wrote, “Confirmation bias seems to be the guiding principle for people’s lives. It seems we have such a powerful need to believe in our personal version of the way the universe works that we only accept new input of information that is consistent with our personal reality. It is comforting to believe that we are always right, because we can then proceed with our lives in an orderly way, as if things will behave as we believe they should.” When I visit Samumpsicle and ask him for advice, which he can answer with a simple smile indicating yes, no or hum, I am not asking a supernatural being, I am asking my own inner self, projected onto this smiling piece of painted concrete. By posing my question in that simple, but categorical way, it lets my subconscious answer it.
In my blog post of 2016/06/28 – “Magic and risk were discussed today,” I asserted that “When it comes to risk my goal is not to be smart but to avoid being stupid.”
My personal goal is to first see a person’s reality from their perspective, and that includes their confirmation biases, before I analyze their experience for use in my life, from my worldview perspective. That view obviously includes my confirmation biases. This last week I haven’t given much back in my conversations with others because I haven’t been able to be sufficiently into their worldview to respond appropriately. To have spoken up with my current perspective would have been to have broken the magic of the moment.
The processes of magical thinking usually do affect people’s actions in a positive way because they help people gain confidence in their actions being right and they can then act with purpose.
Magical thinking works for those who believe their spirit guide is on their side.