Setting Notes: What Is Magic?

Working on the explanation of the nature of magic in my game world:

There is no magic. What may seem like magic is merely the skillful application of certain hard-to-apprehend deep truths about the nature of reality.

The world as you experience it appears to be something firm “out there.” This appearance is reinforced by the fact that people are largely able to agree on what seems to be “out there” – any five people can look at a horse and agree that it is a horse, that it is brown, etc. The few people who see things that others don’t can easily be dismissed as crazy and everyone can happily go about their lives as if they have a solid and unproblematic apprehension of their immediate surroundings.

It is therefore easy to remain ignorant of the fact that the world as we experience it is only a convenient presentation created by our brains – light, sound, and matter impinge on our bodies, and the raw sensations thus created are processed in our brains and organized into a coherent tapestry of perception. This presentation is generally 100% successful in allowing us to navigate our surroundings and to communicate about them. So it is easy to ignore the fact that we actually have no direct knowledge of external reality – we only have the interpretations our brains make based on the limited and discrete inputs of our sensory apparatus.

Those who are able to really apprehend the plasticity of “reality” as presented by the brain may be able to shape that reality in ways that seem magical to the uninitiated. Through rigorous training, they may be able to open new avenues of perception to see things that are normally invisible. They may learn to access the unconscious processes and schema used to organize ordinary perception, both in their own minds and in the minds of others, and manipulate those processes to astounding effect. Just as the baby is amazed when the ball “magically” reappears after it had vanished from existence when their parent hid it behind their back, so ordinary people are amazed when the initiate performs seemingly miraculous feats by applying their arcane knowledge of the hidden nature of reality.

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