Rationalist Magic: Initiation into the Cult of Rationatron

by wizard 4 min read7th Dec 201527 comments


I am curious on the perspective of a rationalist discussion board (this seems like a good start) on the practice of magic. I introduce the novel, genius concept of "rationalist magic", i.e. magic practiced by rationalists.

Why would rationalists practice magic? That makes no sense!!

It's the logical conclusion to Making Peace with Belief, Engineering Religion and the self-help threads.

What would that look like?

Good question. Here are some possible considerations to make:

  • It's given low probability that magic is more than purely mental phenomena. The practice is called "placebomancy" to make it clear that such an explanation is favoured.
  • It is practiced as a way to gain placebons.
  • A cult of rationalist magic, the Cult of Rationatron, should be formed to compete against worse (anti-rationality, anti-science, violent) cults.
  • Rationalist groups can retain more members due to abundance of placebons.
  • The ultimate goal is to use rationality to devise a logically optimal system of magic with which to build the Philosopher's Stone and fix the world like in HPMOR. (Just kidding, magic isn't real.)

I looked into magical literature and compiled a few placebo techniques/exercises, along with their informal instructions. These might be used as a starting point. If there are any scientific errors these can eventually be corrected. I favoured techniques that can be done with little to no preparation and provide some results. Of course, professional assistance (e.g. yoga classes) can also be helpful.

1. Mindfulness Meditation

  • (Optional) Do 1-3 deep mouth-exhales to relax.
  • Find a good position.
  • Begin by being aware of breath.
  • (Optional) Move on to calmly observing different parts of the body, vision, the other senses, thoughts, mandala visualization, and so on.
  • (Optional) Compare the experience to teachings of buddhism.
  • (Optional) Say "bud-" for each inhale and "-dho" for each exhale; alternatively, count them from 1 to 10 and reset each time.

Note that trying to focus on not focusing isn't always helpful. Hence the common technique is that of focusing on a single thing, or rather, simply being passively aware of it. The goal is to discipline the mind and develop one-pointedness.

2. Astral Projection (OBE)

  • Lay on a bed, relax.
  • Try out some of the tips from the previous exercise.
  • Stay there for 30-60 minutes until you reach the hypnagogic state (a state where the mind is awake but the body is sleeping) and try to (a) feel your astral body and grab a rope, (b) feel vibrations in your body, (c) roll out of the body, (d) (...).

Astral Projection can be thought of as a very vivid stage of dreaming. Some authors have more detailed exercises related to this[7]. It might take many tries to do this exercise right.

3. Mantras

You can borrow an eastern mantra such as "om mani padme hum", "om namah shivaya" and "hare kṛiṣhṇa hare kṛiṣhṇa / kṛiṣhṇa kṛiṣhṇa hare hare / hare rāma hare rāma / rāma rāma hare hare" or make up some phrase. Whatever works for you.

Chanting mantras is a form of sensory excitation. Both sensory excitation and deprivation can induce trance. This can be used along with exercise 1.

(Optional) Find one of these.

4. Contemplation

  • Take a moment to contemplate the harmony of the universe and/or have love towards some/all beings.

5. Idol Worship

  • Make a shrine dedicated to Rationatron, god of rationality.

This and this are possible forms of Rationatron.

6. Minimal Spellcasting

  • Make a wish.
  • Clear your mind.
  • Take a deep, long breath imagining that as you exhale the wish is being registered into the universe by Rationatron.
  • Forget about the wish.

Magicians claim it's more magically effective to forget about the wish after casting the spell (fourth step) and let your subconscious act than to use the repeat-your-wish-every-day method.

This is, as far as I know, the simplest spellcasting technique. It can be complicated further by the addition of rituals, sigils, poses[6], and stronger methods of inducing trance in the second step.

7. Deity Generator

  • Take any arbitrary concept or amalgam of concepts.
  • (Optional) Associate it to a colour.
  • (Optional) Make it a new deity.

For one reason or another, spiritualists love doing this.

This exercise can make arbitrary "powers" or "deities" for use in other exercises. For example, the association "yellow - wealth" is a "power" for exercise 6, or you might imagine yourself as a "deity" in that same exercise to induce some emotion.

8. Tulpa Making

This is a technique found in Tibetan buddhism lore[5] as one ability held by bodhisattvas and used by Buddha to multiply himself. This was adopted by communities of westerners in the internet who generally don't attribute mystical properties to the practice and made detailed tutorials (tulpa.info).

The technique uses your subconscious to create a companion. It consists in visualizing and talking to a being in your imagination until it eventually produces unexpected thoughts.

You might be asking, "can I model this companion after a cartoon?" The answer is yes.

Note: some of the following techniques might require further examination.

9. Aura Sight

Some authors[1,2,4] give exercises attributed to peripheral vision or meditation. If anyone finds out how to see auras, please confirm.

10. Invoking and Banishing Ritual of Truth

  • Imagine a circle of protection surrounding you.
  • (Invoking) "I open/invoke the powers of p, q, ¬p, ¬q."
  • (Banishing) "I close/revoke/banish the powers of ¬q, ¬p, q, p."
  • (Optional) This can be performed solely in the imagination through visualization or with more realism added to different degrees inbetween (e.g. by making a real circle, pointing a sword or your hand to the four directions).

This has been used for different purposes; as an introduction to ritual work or simply as routine.

The common formulation of this exercise uses a pentagram, holy names, the elements, planets and a bunch of other nonsense. Why do I have to remember all this roleplaying? Do they think this is D&D? Therefore, I designed a more efficient version of the technique that also replaces the magical symbolism with superior logic symbolism.

Note: these are roughly analogous[3] to the simpler placebo techniques known as shielding (imagining a shield), centering (regaining focus by being aware of the solar plexus/heart area) and grounding (putting your feet on the ground to receive/release energy from/to the ground).

11. Demonic Mirror Summoning

Call upon Dark Lord Voldemort and say the "avada kedavra" mantra 7+ times in front of a mirror in a dimly lit room until a demon pops up and/or your appearance gets distorted.

Some individuals report holding a conversation with their mirror self through mirror exercises.


What is the purpose of this?

It's about time someone made an atheist religion.

Why not follow the Flying Spaggheti Monster religion instead?

It doesn't provide placebo techniques. It only functions as a point in argumentation.

Do I have to do all of the exercises?

No, only those that you personally deem helpful. However, the first exercise (meditation) is generally recommended by health research. It's also a pre-requisite to many other exercises. Note: although meditation is generally recommended, some caution, common sense and preparation is advised (specially for exercises 2-3).

What are the teachings?

It's acknowledged that rational people can sometimes get to different conclusions. Therefore, there is no mandatory teachings. However, it uses "rationality" as a starting point to distinguish it from other cults meaning that "placebo" is used as the default model of magic and that both logic and the use of such techniques is encouraged. It can be used as a gathering of placebo techniques for atheists and as a blank slate from the dogma of already existing cults on the nature of magic.

What is the pantheon of this religion?

The "official" pantheon is that of the universe itself (Einstein's pantheism; it's used in exercises 4 and 6), Rationatron (a deity of rationality) and Dark Lord Voldemort (the opposer). They fulfill different god-roles. More gods can be created with the Deity Generator exercise or borrowed.

Can I worship Eris, Cthullu or Horus/Isis/Odin...?

Yes, see above answer.

Wait, Dark Lord Voldemort? Really?

Christianity had lazier ways to come up with their demons and nobody noticed. Zing.

Aren't some of those techniques irrational?

Only when used by superstitious people. Once used by rationalists, they become super-rational.

What about black magic? Can I cast hexes?

They aren't going to work because magic is not real.


1. frater, ud. high magick. A good overview on different kinds of magic.

2. hine, phil. spirit guides. Another overview.

3. hine, phil. modern shamanism pt1-2. Overview for shamans.

4. samuel sagan. awakening the third eye.

5. alexandra david-neel. magic and mystery in tibet. A book on buddhist lore.

6. crowley. liber o.

7. robert bruce. mastering astral projection.