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The Mystic Fog


Techniques General persuasion > Being Right > The Mystic Fog

Mystic | Fog | Discussion | See also


A way to be right is to act like a mystic, as if knowledge is arriving out of a mystic fog. This approach can be used in all kinds of other situations, but rather than having a supernatural theme, the implication can be more that knowledge is coming from deep thinking.


The principle of 'mystic' is basically magic, as opposed to scientific. This confers the significant advantage of not having to give reason, explain cause or name sources.

The mystic principle is a wonderful excuse for anything, from explaining why you are wrong to attribution of any unexpected phenomenon. The same principle is used in religion, where gods move in mysterious ways and the will of the deity is a common explanation for any undesirable event.

In a business situation knowledge can be be assumed to come from a deep understanding of the market or some other non-data intuition.


The fog principle is that knowledge is obscured as if by fog. Obtaining knowledge is not like the religious prayer and revelation but more by peering into the fog and coaxing forth the information desired.

The difficulty of seeing in the fog may be explained as a preamble, boosting the mystic's apparent skill. The process of scrying may also be drawn out, reducing the time available for potentially embarrassing forecasts and building the dramatic tension. If you are proved wrong, you can quite 'reasonably' blame the fog.

The fog also provides a useful hiding place. Even when bold predictions are made, the mystic will retreat here when they seem to be wrong. Things become not as clear as they were and have to be re-interpreted and reframed.

Fog is useful also in business 'visioning' and forecasting, where peering into the future may be excused even as it is guessed at, for example where qualifiers are used to excuse uncertainty. For example you may say 'Given the data, it looks like the market could well be in for a long decline'. While listeners hear the final statements, you can always recall the (triple!) uncertainty in the assertion.

Fog can give a reason for delay, as in waiting for the fog to clear. Mystics may start by making a statement and seeing if the person reacts positively. If not, they blame anything wrong on the fog and try other things until you get it right, then declare 'the fog is clearing' and move to other things still 'obscured'.


The mystic fog is such a fundamental thing, it is often an unquestioned and unchallenged assumption. Rooted in ancient history, from the oracle at Delphi and before, mystics have always dressed their forecasts in ritual and seemed to peer darkly into nether worlds of truth.

Tools of the mystic's trade include scrying instruments, from bones and tea-leaves to crystal balls and tarot cards. These add to the mystery and imbue the reader with apparent added interpretive skills. In business the tools of those who predict the future include graphs, charts, reports and, of course, PowerPoint presentations.

Scientists also use the mystic fog when they deliberately use complex language and dive off into side issues in order to avoid awkward questions where their research is not as definitive as one might expect. They may also talk about future research and statistical uncertainty as a natural reason why they do not have all the answers today.

See also

Uncertainty principle, Authority principle

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