To many people the very idea of Magical Engineering seems nearly oxymoronic. After all, engineering requires the application of scientific principles. And science and magic, as everyone knows, are not compatible.
I challenge that assumption. As a Automation Controls Engineer by trade and Mage by passion, I have found a great deal of common ground between engineering and magic. I have set out here to demonstrate that not only is magic and engineering compatible…they are at their basis inseparable.
Unknowingly, you apply engineering principles every time you work a spell. Don’t believe me? Fair enough. Lets examine a few definitions of Engineering (with a big ‘E’):
“The application of science and mathematics by which the properties of matter and the sources of energy in nature are made useful to people.”
Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary
Definition of Engineering
Nice and to the point. Now consider the following:
“The application of occult symbolism and metaphysics by which the properties of matter and sources of energy in nature are made useful to people.”
Re-Definition of Magical Engineering
See the match? Well, that is just one example. Lets try a more complicated one:
“The creative application of scientific principles to design or develop structures, machines, apparatus, or manufacturing processes, or works utilizing them singly or in combination; or to construct or operate the same with full cognizance of their design; or to forecast their behavior under specific operating conditions; all as respects an intended function, economics of operation and safety to life and property.”
The American Engineers’ Council for Professional Development
Definition of Engineering
Well, I can crack this one to. But I am going to add a few parenthesis here and there to help you understand the relationship I am drawing:
“The creative application of occult principles to design or develop structures (spells), machines (wands, amulets, etc), apparatus (homunculi or entities) or manufacturing processes (spellwork), or works utilizing them singly (solitary) or in combination (coven); or to construct or operate the same with full cognizance of their design; or to forecast their behavior (divination) under specific operating conditions (divination target question); all as respects an intended function (intended magical outcome), economics of operation (efficient spellwork) and safety to life and property.”
Longer Re-Definition of Magical Engineering
See where I am going with this? At its base, engineering is the practice of applying known principles of science in a manner that is generally predictable and repeatable. But the manner in which the engineer approaches finding solutions to their problems is a process not really understood by those who have never worked in the profession.
The engineer does not recalculate the physics of gas volume, pressure and compression when she selects a pneumatic cylinder to move a load of X grams. She does not spend time contemplating the equations regarding the deep physics that define our understanding of how gases behave in a pressurized environment. That initial work has already been done by research scientists and the engineer spends their time applying this existing research.
When the engineer is trying to find the correct pneumatic cylinder for moving X grams, she reaches for a reference work from a preferred supplier that lists their product line of pneumatic cylinders. Within this reference are simplified charts and equations that have distilled all the relevant physics equations that pertain to the specifications of their line of cylinders. These charts and equations make the work of selecting the correct cylinder more foolproof and they also save the engineer a huge amount of time in calculations.
Some of the finest electrical engineers I know would be totally lost during their hardware design phase if they did not have their engineering computer spreadsheets available to them. These spreadsheets have many mathematical equations embedded withing them that relate to voltage, current, resistance, phase, magnetic fields and other relevant properties of electrical design. With these spreadsheets, the engineer does not have to spend hours with calculus and Laplace transforms to deduce the exact amount of electrical load each component in the system will require and the most efficient type of transformer to supply the need. By checking their supplier’s component specifications and entering these into the spreadsheets embedded equations, they can determine the correct transformer in minutes or seconds.
Now that sounds too simple. Reading the section above, you might get a mental picture of engineers as a bunch of ‘monkey see, monkey do’ types with crib sheets. That is no more true with engineering that it is with magic.
Just picking up a magical grimoire from your local bookstore and following its steps exactly will no more make you a great mage than picking up engineering spreadsheets and following their calculations will make you a great engineer. You might be able to put together a working spell with the grimoire and solve a few simple problems, but the truly important work in magic can only be achieved through further education and practice. Someone with a minimum of electrical knowledge can use electrical engineering spreadsheets to construct a working circuit, but don’t expect that they will be able to design something like a television or a nuclear power station control console.
To distill this into a simpler parallel:
An engineer consults charts, tables and equations supplied by device manufacturers or by their own technical education to design their apparatus.
A mage consults charts and tables (astrology, Kabbalah, I Ching, tables of correspondence, numerology, oracles, etc) supplied by knowledgeable occult resources and their own magical education to design their apparatus (spellwork, magical tool, homunculi, divination, etc).
OK, any more cross referencing and I am going to bore myself to death. I think you understand my argument, even if you disagree with it.
Why is this parallel between spellworking and engineering of any significance? I believe that by utilizing many of the best practices of the engineering model in magical workings, we can achieve a greater accuracy of intent, better resolution in our results and better overall leverage of our magical talents.
In other words, being a magical engineering nerd can make you a more kick ass mage.
Even those who follow the shamanic path can increase their effectiveness by analyzing and refining their magical path with engineering best practices.
More to come…
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