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The Four Technologies of Magic: Getting Back to Our Roots

If we look at the ways that our society functions and how we are expected to act and interact with others, it’s clear (at least in the western world) that we have ascribed to a set of values that are markedly different from the way in which we evolved. These values, the ways we strive to live our lives, include things like individualism, order, and rational thinking. But if we look back in the course of human history up until very recently, we see that this simply wasn’t the way we functioned. In fact, modern society forces our brains to operate in a way that is antithetical to how our forefathers thrived in the pre-industrial era.

In this video from TedX San Diego, speaker Martha Beck leads us on a journey through her thoughts on this, including the specific ways our modern world forces us to go against our nature and what she describes as the “four technologies of magic” – those techniques or skills that we can use to bring us closer to embracing the ways our ancestors solved problems.

Let’s consider some of the themes of this video and the four technologies themselves – how can we take these lessons and integrate them into the way we approach our own problem-solving process?

First, consider the idea that we evolved from chaos – that human beings survived and thrived in situations in which we needed to be engaged with all five of our senses equally. Compare this to what senses we have been taught to give attention to, and which subjects to focus on – instead of observing the world around us openly, we have been taught to focus on one thing at a time and only through those senses that can give us information about our subject. What if, instead of trying to work through our problems with this “tunnel-vision” approach, we tried opening up our senses more fully and let our unconscious brain do some of the work? This activity is described by the first technology – wordlessness, or moving away from the rational part of our brain and allowing ourselves to perceive the things around us more fully.

The next technology, oneness, is described as the understanding that we are all connected to each other; that our bodies are bundles of energy interacting with all the other bundles of energy around us. Through this acceptance, we can start to understand that we each have a purpose in the world, and that it is impossible to attempt to solve problems individually, because we are inseparable from the energy of others.

The third and fourth technologies are imagination and forming – that we are capable of imagining something that has never existed before and actually creating it. These magic technologies are what allowed our ancestors to thrive long before the assistance of modern tools. If we can accept that we are capable of both of these and practice these skills in our own lives, we too can see positive change through them.

As an example, let’s apply these to someone who experiences anxiety. It might be tempting to talk away the anxiety, to examine it rationally. And this might be effective to an extent. But if we apply the four technologies, how might coping with anxiety be different?

  • Wordlessness: We pause and observe with our five senses the world around us, without passing the observations through our rational lens or trying to change things. This means simply feeling anxiety without trying to fix it.
  • Oneness: We accept that our anxiety is part of our energy in the present moment, and this energy is connected to all of the other energy around us.
  • Imagination: We take our observations and acceptance, and imagine a new reality – what would it feel like to not live with anxiety? How would we function? How would our days go?
  • Forming: We take the steps needed to reach that imagined reality, either by living our life the way we wish to or completing tasks that get us closer to that.

Through the four technologies, we can move closer to living life in a way that brings us a more harmonious approach to how we see the world. Try some of these and consider how it changes your perception of the events and people around you.