Sorcery & the OODA Loop

This is really just some notes on a concept I have found helpful, the OODA Loop.

The OODA Loop was originally a way of looking at ‘what happens in what order’ during combat situations- specifically, in it’s original iteration, with fighter pilots. It has been adopted by all sorts of combat and tactical operations, as well as in business applications.

None of those things are really where I use it (thankfully!). I see it as a map of how decisions are made, for better or worse, and it can be a huge help for magical folks.

OODA is:

Observe

Orient

Decide

Act

It is a loop because it essentially never stops.

From my perspective, it indicates a few things. Your actions, and their effects, will be more effective if they are based on good information.

Observation. What is happening now? How does it relate to where you are, and whatever changes (or-non-changes) you are seeking to make? This step is highly related to your orientation. If you are ill, intoxicated, or angry you will observe your situation in a different light that if you were healthy, happy, and emotionally centered.

Orientation is where are you right now, in relation to where you are going. Are you employed? In a relationship you wish to stay in? Healthy? Depressed? How are your emotions? Are you intoxicated? Strung out? Where are you physically? In Thailand? In Jail? All of these things, and innumerable others, will effect for better or worse the quality of your decision making. Where are you trying to go, what are you trying to be or do?

Decide. You must choose a next step. As they say, choosing not to choose is still a choice. Based on the quality of your Observation and accurate Orientation, you can choose well or poorly as it relates to your desired outcome. Magically this is the question of ‘do I do a spell or sigil or rite, and if so, what will be the most effective’. The decision might be that no, you do not need to do a spell, but instead stop irritating your employer/wife/kids and applying your time and intention more wisely. Or it may be that while you love to summon demons, some simple folk magic and spiritual house cleaning is actually in order.

Act. You do something. You continue on the trajectory you are on, or you change it. Incremental change over time, like actually meditating or making offerings, doing what needs to be done in your home without being nagged, or simply choosing to make a radical lifestyle change (which often is a simple choice, it is getting through the preceding steps that are painful)- all of these are action.

And it begins again. You have acted. What has changed? (observation) Where are you now? (orientation) What will you do? (decide) Do it! (act)

In playing with this model for a number of years, I find it easier to see where I and others I watch fail miserably in all sorts of ways.

People often know what they desire. They often don’t really know what they need. The primary fuck up here, and this one is my personal pet fuck up (PPFU) is not knowing where the hell I am! I want to get to point F. I NEED to get to point F! But I think I am at point C when I all really at point A. This means every step I take that is not directed at getting me to point B is essentially wasted or actually damaging, IF my goal is to get to point F.

IF my goal is to get to point F. I repeat that for good reason. If my OODA loop is not functioning well, I may not actually have the goal that I think I do. Let that sink in. It’s important!

We are story telling creatures. We tell ourselves stories about everything. About dreams and desires, failures and slights, skills and weaknesses…and many of them are totally irrelevant, out of context, or not based in fact or reality. The stories paint a picture of ourselves and others. If the picture is flawed and inaccurate, we tend to strive to shift the information we receive to match the flaws, nor correct the picture. This is important! If we never see clearly who or where we are, we decide the path of our lives in ways that never act in accordance with reality. We never get to step C, let alone points further onward.

So using the OODA loop can help us to work towards an accurate story, an accurate picture. But this story or picture can never be static. We have to keep observing, keep orienting. If we fail to this, we move further and further away form our actual self and actual situation, and the quality of information we are able to perceive grows ever more flawed.

So what is your goal? If your stated goal is to be in great health, but you continue to make decisions and performs actions that impair your health (smoking, shooting up drugs, living on food made from things whose natures you can’t articulate easily) it isn’t actually your goal.

Your actions define your target. Your target determines your actions. This is not to say you don’t get lost, slip, etc.. You do, I do, everyone does. Your goal is the end-point of the path you are on now. As magical practitioners, as we who believe and know that we can change ourselves and the world we inhabit to a degree many people cannot fathom, it is essential we accept this reality.

Spending time with the OODA loop can help clarify these things. It can help mesh action and perception and desire and will and necessity.