A longstanding belief among magical practitioners is that perception creates reality. This concept has been decried by skeptics, since perceiving oneself as a billionaire does not make it instantly so. Rather than "proving" that the concept is false, skeptics are actually proving it true, since the boring, magic-free world that they perceive is true for them. There is more to the idea of changing your reality through altered perception than merely just making a wish; there is actually some science behind this notion. The startling discoveries being made by physicists are validating what Witches and magicians have known to be true for centuries.
In quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is the name given to the discovery that the more precisely the position of some particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known, and vice versa. A related principle is the observer effect, whereby this shift is influenced by the observer. If the observer is seeking to determine the momentum of a particle, its position will be difficult to determine, and conversely, if the observer is trying to determine position the particle's momentum will be difficult to determine. Basically, at the finest levels that science has been able to reach, particles can act as either particle or wave depending upon how the observer is interacting with them at any given moment. How the scientist currently perceives the particle determines the particle's current reality.
Essentially, what it boils down to for us regular people is that how we are interacting with and perceiving the people and events in our lives determines how they in turn, relate to and affect us. Again, this is not as easy as "believing that things are perfect will make them perfect" or anything like that. It is a matter of patterns and focus. Patterns are set up slowly over time and can either be positive and fulfilling or negative and depleting. The patterns are set up by how we choose to focus in an event. If we always look to the negative and ignore the positive, the negative will be nurtured and grow, and the positive will shrivel and fade away. This is not to say that we should ignore the negative. Quite the contrary is true; we need to confront the negative and refuse to allow it in our lives. We then need to re-focus on the positive and move forward seeking to increase the level of positivity in our lives. Our perception of people and events creates a pattern of energy that conditions those people or events to what we expect to see. How many times have we read something that is actually misspelled, but we don't notice at first because we are not expecting to see it differently. Our expectations are powerful filters through which we view the world, which is why unrelenting optimists are always happy even when the situation does not support it and why eternal pessimists are always unhappy even when good things happen. Either option is fraught with self-delusion.
The most sensible approach is realism; fully embrace happiness wherever you find it, but do not deny or dismiss negative things in your life. The negative must be consciously worked through with the intent that good will come of it and also with the knowledge that you always have the power to overcome it. In this way, negativity is perceived as a tool for growth rather than an obstacle to happiness. Just this small change in perception strips any negativity of much of its power. Denying the dark and negative would be foolhardy; it is there. Don't deny the negative, to do so increase its power. Instead, it must be transformed—confronted, stripped of power, and turned to good.
Consciously directed perception is a major facet of magic in general. Magic, as I see it, is the unification of consciously directed thinking (perception), feeling (emotion), and willpower, which are then directed toward a goal. Thus, cultivating a healthy use of our perception to keep our lives focused on positivity enhances our ability to work magic in any form. Thinking is the beginning of the magical process. How we perceive the world at large (and our lives specifically) greatly influences how we think about our spells and how we envision a magical goal. If your perception is continually slanted toward negativity or fear, your magical vision (the images that you visualize of your magical goal being reached) are colored by this view even if you do not consciously visualize something bad occurring in the visualization.
How you operate in your everyday life is also how you operate magically. Magical practice and "mundane" living are inseparable because everything is recorded by and for the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind works through use of shape, color, image, and triggers/cues. If we are consciously dwelling in the negative or perceiving things as being against us, we are creating unconscious triggers that remind us of these negative feelings. For example, if you continually feel that love will never find you, watching romantic movies makes you sad and seeing red roses reminds you that you are alone, then there is a strong chance that visualizing a romantic scene of you and a potential partner and/or using red rose petals in a love spell will subconsciously trigger you to feel those emotions of lack and sadness. Even if you barely notice them, those feelings will still color the results of your spell.
The way to combat this is to first spend some time (several weeks, at least) actively trying to change your perception about the possibility of love in your life. Attempt to halt the feeling of lack and instead cultivate the feeling that your love already exists, that it is fully formed in the future. You are not currently in the future but rather you are in the present. By casting the spell, instead of drawing a random person to you, you are rather creating a link between your current self and your future self in the relationship. Instead of lack, all you have to do is walk through the time from the present to the future when you begin the relationship in linear time.
This notion is a bit complex, but seeing the result as already fulfilled takes on whole new meaning in magic when you perceive it as literal. It helps to think of time as being parallel rather than linear (which is a possibility currently being considered in theoretical physics)—that everything is occurring at once and a large part of what keeps us anchored in the present is our perception. Using this concept of parallel time is very empowering because when you feel that the goal is already manifested as soon as the spell is cast, all that is left is to move forward and claim it once it makes itself known. This removes a great deal of the feeling of lack or anxiety, which can reduce the effectiveness of your spells. In my book, Spellcasting For Beginners, I discuss the topic of magical intention and give tips of properly refining your focus for the most popular goals in magical work: love, money, healing, protection, and even the truth about bindings and cursing. There are many specifics to consider for each goal and also issues to avoid that would hinder success.
Intentionally directed perception is the catalyst for magical success. It sets up the correct frame of mind to work magic. If you perceive yourself as powerful and capable of achieving your goals, the energy currents start to flow in your favor. That change in fortune, combined with proper focus during the magical work and the bringing together of thinking, feeling, and willpower, create the spark of true magic. With everything aligned in your favor, you can't help but achieve your goals.
Michael Furie (Northern California) is the author of Supermarket Sabbats, Spellcasting for Beginners, Supermarket Magic, Spellcasting: Beyond the Basics, and more, all from Llewellyn Worldwide. A practicing Witch for more ...