In my last Quantum Woo column I discussed the theory of the Multiverse in quantum mechanics. Just briefly to recap, quantum physicists theorize that we may simply be one of several possible universes that exist in multiple dimensions. Some believe that every decision that is made takes us into one possible reality out of several options. This trope has been dealt with frequently as science fiction plot material, and it’s even made it into more mainstream movies as of late. In the “Many Worlds” theory, choosing to make one decision over another leads us down the branches of a decision tree; but because we perceive time as linear we find it almost impossible to go back and choose a different path once we have made a decision. In the “quantum suicide” theory, once a choice has been made all possible realities that may have resulted from different decisions cease to exist entirely.
From our perspective it matters very little. Effectively, there’s no going back once we’ve made a choice because we, in our three dimensional reality, perceive time as linear. So it’s the point of decision that matters. One might say that nothing is impossible. To a limited extent that is true. But it’s also true that every decision we make closes some doors and opens others.
This is part of what John Beckett was talking about when he wrote his excellent article on the limits of personal power recently and what Taylor Ellwood discussed in another recent set of articles. A limited understanding of the effects of choice, free will, and the Law of Attraction can lead to victim blaming. This is a variation of the idea that people suffer because they deserve it, only many of us seem to think that people suffer because they’re “just not believing hard enough.” It’s just not true. Sometimes your only options are a matter of choosing the best of a handful of bad things, rather than just magically (in the fairy-tale sense) deciding to choose good things, because those are the only realities available to you in your current position on the decision-tree.
I believe that the role of magick is to bend the odds in your favour, and make options more available to you that lead more directly to your magickal goal. The role of precognition and psychic flashes is to give you some insight into what your best option in each given situation might be; or at least, which options might be bad ones!
It is my personal belief that what we call “psychic flashes” are a natural human ability that we all possess. Some are born with more natural facility at it than others, just as some people are naturally better athletes, artists, or mathematicians, but we can all develop it with practice. The best way to practice it is to be aware of it. I believe this to be a natural human sense like our sense of equilibrium, developed for our survival but mostly we use it subconsciously. It might be nothing more than a “thin-slice” of random information gathered by our subconscious minds that we don’t even know that we know, as Malcolm Gladwell suggests in his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. However it works, it’s a fact that full planes seldom crash, and that every time you hear about a major disaster, there will be people who recount, in breathless relief, how their intuition warned them away from the situation, and wasn’t that fortunate? I believe that this ability exists as a human survival instinct to help us to take advantage of the optimal choices in a decision-tree, and is one of the reasons we survive things in a dangerous world that by all logic should kill us. Perhaps it’s the reason that life, as unlikely as it is, actually exists at all.
I recently experienced an example in my own life that I thought was a rather effective illustration of how this works. Now, of course this could be confirmation bias. Humans are very good at perceiving patterns, and often we ascribe patterns to situations that have none in order to try to find meaning and make sense of the world. And that’s a fair observation. But in any case, as I wrote about last week, I was in a vehicular accident on the way to see a dying friend.
Obviously the first crux in the decision tree was whether or not to go at all. And there were many good reasons not to. Money was tight and it costs a little over $300 in gas to make the trip, which isn’t a light chunk of change for me. Travelling through the Canadian Rockies is always dangerous at this particular time of year as winter gives way to spring. Weather can change on a dime and there are occasional avalanches and landslides.
I admit that I had misgivings about making the trip. In this case my logical discernment worked against my intuitive sense (though that’s not always the case.) I recognized that I always have misgivings about traveling over mountains in the winter due to some harrowing experiences in the past.
Other people also had misgivings. My partners Erin and Jamie both chalked it up to the same thing that I did; as did my mother (who is also very intuitive) and my friends Steve and Jennica (or at least they said so afterwards.) I suspect our friends (Grunnar’s family) in Saskatchewan also had a tickle there, as did our friend Erin Wood, because all of them admonished me firmly to “drive safe.”
What might have happened if all the people who had a bad feeling about the trip had said something to me about it? Having experienced intuitive flashes before, and having learned not to disregard them, I expect I might have decided that their intuition justified our perfectly rational reasons for not going (money, risk) and stayed home. But not knowing of the intuitive flashes all around me I decided to ignore the anxiety, because it was important enough to me to make the trip anyway. And thus all realities that might have resulted from not doing the trip at all ceased to be options for me.
The next point of decision was what route to take. There are two major passes through the Rocky Mountains in Canada. The northern route passes through Jasper National Park to Edmonton. This is the route I usually take when heading to Alberta because I like the drive better and it feels safer. But usually I am going to events near Edmonton and it only adds about an extra hour to my total trip time. This time we were heading into southern Saskatchewan and it would have added three or four hours onto our trip and taken us several kilometers out of the way; and as I’ve mentioned, money was already tight, and so was time. Also, snow was predicted through the Jasper route, some of it heavy, along with very cold temperatures. Erin and I both had reservations about the southern route, which would take us over Roger’s Pass through Calgary, but we both thought this was just because of our preference for the Jasper route, and once again good sense overruled our sixth sense.
Would we have been able to avoid the accident if we had gone the Jasper route? It’s hard to say, since weather was worse that way than the one we did take. But at this point probably most of our chance of avoiding the accident was flushed, so all of those possible realities were also effectively flushed. Our precognition could not, therefore, get us out of the situation; so instead it tried to improve the situation for us as much as possible, and here we allowed it the room it needed to do its work.
We had enough money for three days worth of insurance. The plan was to start driving at midnight on Friday morning and, taking turns driving and sleeping between the three of us, drive straight there. We anticipated a 14 to 16 hour trip. I would start and drive until I got tired, then Erin or Jamie would take over while I slept in the back, and then I would resume sometime in the late morning,
When Erin went to get the insurance, instead of “lowballing” the RV’s value to minimize our payment he declared its actual value (which, according to the adjuster, is uncommon.) He also asked for the most comprehensive coverage he could get on a temporary permit.
My mother spontaneously insisted on sending an extra $200 with us just in case. “I have a feeling you’re going to need the money,” she said. I suppose I should have known then, but I blithely anticipated possible mechanical breakdown instead, and I thanked her and held onto it for an emergency.
I decided that I wasn’t going to take my laptop. My rationale was that since it had slipped around somewhat when I was last out in an RV trip, including taking a good fall that cracked the casing, that it would probably be better to leave it behind so that it wouldn’t get knocked around. And that was kind of the point of getting a tablet for Yule, wasn’t it? So I made great efforts to set everything up so I could work with it from my phone and my tablet for a few days rather than my computer.
We left almost precisely on time for a change and we stopped in Golden to gas up and take a pee break. This crux of decision was more interesting for our purposes because here we had four options instead of two. One was to wait a while since the weather was getting snowy, but we dismissed that because of time constraints and it wasn’t that bad at the time. The other three options were who would drive from Golden.
Erin decided that he wanted to drive from this point even though I wasn’t tired yet. I surrendered the steering wheel willingly enough; I suddenly didn’t want to drive anymore. Jamie had a feeling that he should drive but he didn’t speak up because Erin was so eager to take the wheel. Perhaps Erin had a feeling too. So it was Erin who was driving when we hit the pothole, landed on sheer ice, and basically turned into a 2000 pound pinball in the corridors of the barriers.
Of the three drivers available I was the least experienced. I suspect that if I had been driving I would have overcorrected on the skid and possibly flipped the vehicle. So I’m glad it wasn’t me!
If Jamie had been driving perhaps we’d have gone through a little sooner, or a little later. Or perhaps his military driving experience would have carried us through a little bit more easily. Perhaps that was our absolute last decision point to avoid the accident. But perhaps it would have made no difference at all.
The last crux on the tree worth noting is that once I was out of the driver’s seat I was hit by a wave of exhaustion. I looked out the window and the weather conditions made me nervous, but I thought to myself, “So what are you going to do about it? If you’re awake you’ll just stress. It’s better to have a more experienced driver anyhow.” And I forced myself to go to sleep.
So when we started sliding and hit the first barrier that took out our back quarter panel and safety window, I was sound asleep. There was therefore no time for me to tense up or try to brace myself, not even when we spun around, something heavy hit me in the back and knocked the wind out of me, and the other barrier sheered the front of the van off. My chiropractor suggested when I saw him today that this was probably why I did not experience severe whiplash or injure anything more seriously.
After everything was said and done we managed to get home by stuffing everything we could into a couple of U-haul boxes and taking the Greyhound back; which cost us $201.08. (Thanks Mom!)
Reading the possible lines of the decision tree, and being aware of the possibilities, might have allowed me to prevent the accident if I were more willing to listen to subconscious warnings. But since I wasn’t, in many cases it alleviated what could have been a truly bad situation.
What role, if any, did magick play in all of this? Well, it’s pretty much routine for me to do a warding spell on my vehicle whenever I go somewhere. Despite the stuff rolling around in the cab when the cupboards flew open I was only bruised. I was fast asleep at the moment of impact so again, no whiplash. The barrier that stopped us from sailing over a cliff had just been installed a month before. No one else was hurt aside from small bumps and scrapes. And my tablet was fine.
In a handful of universes I’m dead now. In another handful I survived but was seriously injured, maybe disabled. More universes might have resulted in Jamie’s death, or Erin’s, or all three. From the other tree we made it to Regina and we are probably now eating rice for the month but we still have a small RV and we saw Grunnar before his death.
Then again, perhaps magick helped to encourage the accident. I wanted chiropractic care and massage therapy to fix some chronic back problems; vehicular accident insurance is covering that now. And today we bought a slightly larger RV with the payout for our first one that is a little older but is more suited to our needs.
I hope I have illustrated how it is the moment of choice that shapes the universe we live in; that sometimes bad things happen that are no one’s fault; and that sometimes the only choices before us are the best of a handful of bad. That’s the limitation of magick and precognition: you can choose one of many possible worlds at the point of each decision, but most decision points do not provide you with unlimited choices.