A letter from a Querent

 

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Q: Do you think there is something like a magical person, Bob? Are some people really magical or is it an illusion we create?

A: There are mystics, who seem moved by the spirit of something ineffable and there are those who are so integrated with the world around them that they seem to make things happen. There are also those who have the unexplainable* show up in their lives at a greater frequency than normal. There are those people who seem to exude magic as though there is some unseen source of energy about them as well. There are yogis, gurus, shaman and just ordinary people who can do phenomenal and extra-ordinary things. I don’t think there are Harry Potter wizards and witches with wands and broom sticks, but there are those who seem to wield a form of magic.

One of my favorite writers of this kind of magic is Carlos Castaneda who wrote about a Yaqui shaman named Don Juan who I believed after three books was a real magician. Though the character was fictional, Castaneda wrote from what he knew and what he knew was truly magical and extra-ordinary. I have tried a number of the lessons taught in these books (they are novels not self-development books) and have found them useful both in my practice and in everyday life.

And this would be my definition of “magical”, the ability to produce and perform the extra-ordinary. Some people are very adept at that. Some are able to see things that the rest of us do not and are able to use what they see in extraordinary ways. Some have phenomenal talents that they are able to boggle the mind with. As you know I believe that within all of us there is a magic waiting to be unleashed. Some are closer to it than others, meaning they have fewer obstacles to its expression. What I write about is how to deal with and overcome some of the obstacles.

Keeping in mind my definitions and caveats, in my nonprofessional opinion my answer to your question is “yes” there are probably magical people e.g. people who wield magic.

*I use this word whenever I come up against a phenomenon that appears real, but is without any scientific corroboration, or explanation.

Good to hear from you again,

Bob

Magic: Prayer, incantation, meditation

 

A reader recently commented on a posting from The Dark Knight of the Soul Blog. He noted that the reduction prayer I had used at the end of the post looked very much like a 13th century magical incantation from the Liber Medicinalis (Book of Medicine).

 

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT

BE STILL AND KNOW

BE STILL AND

BE STILL

BE

From the posting on Real Magic 

 

 

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magical incantation from the Liber Medicinalis

 

Accident? Coincidence? Not really, both the incantation and the reduction prayer act pretty much like mandalas in that they focus the mind inward towards its center. It is in this center that the wisdom of our soul lays. It is from this place that magic can happen.

 

 

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Typical mandalas

These incantations, prayers and meditative practices tend to focus on the centers of our being while removing the outward directed conscious mind that is restricted in its perception of reality and opens a door to a whole new way of being and perceiving.

This is just part of what it means to wield magic. The following is an excerpt from the Dreaming Wizard website:

12 Laws of Magic:

So what have we discovered so far about magic that might allow us to practice being in it and thus allow for a different creation within our lives?

1) Magic is all around us; we are already in it.

2) Magic cannot be controlled; in fact, we must release control in order to wield it. Magic is about “being” not “doing”. Magic cannot be understood, or controlled, because the process itself is a “doing”. Magic arises on its own and not through your manipulation.

3) Magic is a way of living and not separate from everyday experience.

4) The consciousness can open to Magic when the soul is allowed to express freely.

5) We have access to magic when we don’t place limits upon our expression.

6) To know magic, watch children at play.

7) Maintain authority over your expectations/standards by remaining at choice with your behaviors and self-expression. Be what you are, not what someone else wants you to be.

8) Magic becomes available when one dissolves the separation between ones opposite aspects and recombines them into a more functional whole e.g. dissolve the internal gender differences. Aspects of the assertive, decisive, thoughtful, creative, compassionate, emotional and intuitive can exist side by side within all of us.

9) Call out your shadows and your demons, do not suppress them. Note: you are not your negative aspects; you have negative aspects, but are not them.

10) Quiet the mind. Stop thinking things to death. Magic cannot come from the “thinking” mind. Live at least some of your life in the incomprehensible.

11) Magic does not come from the rational.

12) Magic grows from the secret orderliness of chaos. Allow yourself to be confused. Thinking that you know something about what is real can be very limiting to living what is real.

 

 

“It [magic] opens spaces that have no doors and leads

out into the open where there is no exit.”

–Carl Jung

A Scrying mirror to the soul

IMG_3024.JPGSitting outside one morning watching the sun rise above the hills of the Colonial Valley and sipping from a cup of coffee cradled between my hands and warming the air around and within I looked down into the cup of dark liquid and this came to mind…

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A shadowy and bitter brew somehow satisfying some hidden emotional need.

In its liquid darkness the Daimon hid and waited to spring forward on my not fully awake soul and wrestle me to the ground demanding that I pay attention. With the next sip I paused to look inward and again found the other self.

Reflections from the dark mirror within the cup transformed into intuitive murmurs and visions from the unconscious like Scrying mirror images from the imaginal.

Suddenly, as these things always seem to come, the quiet turned to tension and I knew that it was time again to get up and confront the Daimon.

Demon visitors to dreams

 

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“Is the devil invading my dreams?” has been a worry communicated by several dreamers over the years. My likely response was always to deal with the symbolic meaning of the devil or demon mainly because each of us create our own demonic forms based on our cultural, religious, and familial influences. Though this little devil will show up in many forms his existence is an archetype from the collective unconscious of humankind meaning that it resides within the universal psyche as an expression of the antithetical and contrasted phenomena that create the reality that we see.

For example, for something to be experienced as being “good” requires a definition or experience of something being “bad”, female requires male, up needs a down, positive requires a negative, and right needs a left.

Ultimately it is Death that gives meaning to Life and vice versa. Generally speaking it’s our polar opposites that create and inform the reality that we see. It’s fundamentally this  conflict that we struggle with that enriches the experience of reality that we create.

When this contrary little demon shows up in a dream it is usually there to point out a conundrum, a paradox, an unattended to contradiction, something denied, rejected, or repressed that is causing us discomfort or driving inappropriate behaviors. Just as with all the other archetypal images the demons are there for our health and well being.

The Devil in a dream can represent our struggle with our basic urges, that which pulls us down. He (or she) can represent our fears, negative aspects and limitations though it can also represent cunning, cleverness and deception. If the devil is talking to you it can suggest that you might you be worried that certain temptations are becoming hard to resist. If you’re friendly with the devil perhaps you are talking yourself or allowing someone to talk you into something that you really don’t want to do. Dealing with the devil or a demon in any way within a dream may reflect your need to deal with an issue of morality in your waking life.

When a demon shows up as Satan itself it can be about things in the inner and outer world that you may fear or you think are out of your control. This can represent something or someone adversarial or confrontational as in an attacker or accuser or just someone critical of you or your work. Frequently people invoke this image and project it onto other people so as to justify hurting them. This happens in all wars or when one takes sides in a political controversy.

Sometimes people experience being possessed by some demon in their dreams. Being possessed is also an archetype and over the centuries people from all cultures would employ priests or shaman, even lay mediums to exorcize an individual’s devil that has “possessed” them. Today we’re more likely to consult a therapist.

But even now the old version of the primitive possessor demon lives within an unexplored psychic phenomena and acts out behaviors that are contrary to a person’s best interest. One only needs to look at how many so-called fearful “conservatives” will vote for the very issues and people that only mean them harm, directly or indirectly, to see the truth of that statement.

All too often when we deny our complexes1, our worries, and repressed fears and emotions our demons so to speak, can possess us, in that we allow another force and energy to take over our lives, both internally and externally.

But sometimes he’s just there to show us some clarity on what is good.

_____________________

1 Complex: A pattern of emotions, perceptions, wishes, or memories in our Personal Unconscious. Some of these patterns can manifest themselves somatically i.e. through the body.

Severely negative and untreated or denied emotional patterns can lead to neuroses such as obsessive-compulsive disorders including perfectionism or poor impulse control or extremely low feelings of self-worth. Both Jung and Freud thought that these unconscious patterns were the most important factors influencing our waking behaviors and attitudes.

Hate stalks us all, when it finds you look around for the light.

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“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.”

–Rumi

The corollary to the above quote might be ‘Those we hate don’t just come along, they’ve been in us all along’.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it,”

–Rumi

Love will find you if you’re open to it. It’s who you are basically.

“What you seek is seeking you.”

–Rumi

This is I believe true whether it’s love or hate that you are looking for. Hate is just the absence of love, an absence that isn’t really missing, just hidden and unacknowledged.

It’s your choice– hate is that which disturbs the body, the mind, the soul, ones peace and sense of safety. Hate causes muscles to ache, teeth to clinch and causes one to over inflate and feel helpless. It raises blood pressure to unhealthy levels, causes the mind to become irrational, adds unwanted weight and literally makes us sick physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Hate disconnects us from each other and from our own soul.

Love, on the other hand, in the form of acceptance, compassion, giving, and understanding brings with it relaxation, calmness, peace of mind, insight, and a sense of belonging and purpose. Love enhances health and connectedness.

Hate, again, blurs vision and constricts life while love opens the eyes wide in awe.

Hate may make you believe that you are right, but love makes you feel that all is right in the world. One brings hope with it while the other feeds hopelessness.

Basically hate is small while love is big. As Rumi says, “Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”

 In every soul there is both darkness and light and as Rumi also claimed “it is our wounds from the darkness that open us to the light” but only when we don’t become lost in the darkness and become blind.

Hate stalks us all, when it finds you look around for the light.

There’s a difference between Magic and magical thinking: Another take on “magic”

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Do you believe in magic? Be careful how you answer that. I have written much poetry, prose, and nonfiction musings about Magic though few readers imagine most of it as anything other than fantasy or madness*.

But for an intuitive few they see beyond the veil of modern sensibility and are able to discern the divine where humankind transcends the ego and touches the sublime.

Many physicians today aren’t as hard science as you might think either for many are quite superstitious what with surgeons needing their “lucky” cap in order to do surgery and don’t ever say how “quiet” it’s being in the ER on any “slow” day because the fates will surely punish you by bringing in a bloody mass of people. And how many of us “knock on wood” to prevent calamity?

And what about carrying around a rabbit’s foot or a good luck coin or praying to God to win against your opponent? How many of us would tempt the fates by deliberately breaking a mirror? We keep guardian angel charms, root around the grass for four-leaf clovers, nail horseshoes over the door, and hang a cross or St Christopher’s medal like a talisman on chains around our necks for protection. We burn sage to rid the air of negative energy and consult the Zodiac to see what’s in store for us for the day or as a means to strike up a conversation with the young woman at the bar next to us in hopes that we’ll get ‘lucky’. Note also the current fashion of citing Karma as a cause for negative experience or precognizance, remote viewing, astral projection and even the lauded law-of-attraction to explain the mystical.

There’s also the sacramental eating of the body of Christ and the drinking of his blood as symbols for taking in spiritual nourishment while a water baptism symbolizes the cleansing of one way of being to make room for another. Metaphor or ritual for some can be a magical reality for others. For some pagan tribes people consuming the blood or flesh of an enemy, a friend, or an animal is believed to bestow the power or bring about the union, of those individuals into the consumer.

The statement made recently by an American congressman that we don’t have to do anything about the world’s environmental problems because if God wanted to do something about global warming He would have done it. That’s Magical thinking at its best (worst?). It’s also fallacious attribution and superstition as is much of what the everyday calls magic or in some cases thinks of as truths.

We’re supposed to be modern humans grounded in the rational but magic is always creeping into our lives.

zohanimagic2.gifBefore science came and attempted to control the aspects of the world through a rigorous and rational approach there was magic. The medicine man and shaman was the father to the physician, the alchemist was the father to the chemist, the astrologer gave birth to astronomy. Magic has literally created the need for science and specifically the scientific method. How so, you might ask? I’ll tell you. How else can the shaman, alchemist, and astrologer keep their job unless they learn to study how reality works so that they would more often be right than wrong in their pronouncements?

Magic also created the need for religion as a means of understanding the ineffable, that which cannot be understood by word alone. The truth is Magic is most often a state of mind and a way of being. It is not divorced from science in that it is the ground of being that brings us awe. Nor is it separate from modern religion in that benedictions and many prayers are forms of magic inherited from our pagan forbears. Magic can just be intention made manifest and in this way our prayers are answered through a way of being with the universe.

There’s a conversation all of us are having between our ego selves and our larger divine self. Mostly it’s a conversation spoken in symbols, myth and metaphor (as with the Eucharist) of which magic is an example. In magic we draw on the collective archetypes of humankind to communicate and make sense of the numinous. Magic in any of its multitudinous forms happens when we stop using it to control or protect that is when we transcend the ego’s point-of-view and become vulnerable to the life outside it.

Bottom line, when we stop separating ourselves from everything else we become at one with the universe and magic follows.

Magic happens when we stop using intermediaries between the divine and us whether these are objects or saints. When we stop imploring our gods and invoking our talismans we will begin to manifest our true selves and will be able to live in the numinous. Magic is all around us and permeates every cell of our being but its wisdom can only bear fruit when we let go of trying to control it and our drive to control can only be transcended when we are ready to let go of the ego.

A good conversation can only happen when people listen, it is so between the human being and the divine. Stop listening to your opinions and be open to reality. Or as a friend of mine once said, “Don’t believe everything you think.”

 

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”   

~ Roald Dahl, The Minpins

 

*links to blogs on magic:

 

Mystical Experience

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Many people over the years have shared their unusual experiences, bidden or unbidden, eyes open or eyes closed and all having profound effects on their ordinary state of consciousness. All those who shared seemed to experience a deep sense of connectedness or union with others and/or the environment.

Some people have had these experiences while in deep meditation, through their dreams, or while just walking down the street. There is for all a sense of transcending the self i.e. the ordinary self identified by name and body to a place of communion with something much, much greater.

Some years ago when descending from a hilltop building toward the parking lot below I happened to look out at the dusky glow of the city as it was slowly being cloaked by the evening light. My focus went to the traffic on the street slightly below me and made eye contact with one of the drivers.

Suddenly something else looked out from those eyes driving by. It was a spirit so profound I could only imagine it to be that of God. As I scanned other drivers this same observer looked out and saw a man standing on a hillside about to descend toward a parking lot. I was both seeing them and seeing me through them. The boundary between us disappeared and the stress of the day melted away.

I continued down the embankment with tears in my eyes knowing that something had changed forever in the way I was seeing the world. As I climbed into my car and pulled out of the lot and into the traffic on the street the experience lasted for at least another few minutes, or longer, or shorter, I don’t know because time too had stopped. Fortunately this didn’t last too much longer or I’d no doubt have ended up in a fender-bender.

This is what some philosophers call a mystical experience, though others might label it a brain burp caused by some random misfiring of neurons.

The phenomenology of mysticism was summarized in Borg and Wright’s book The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (Chapter 4 page 61) where a five-part description of a mystical experience was presented.

Borg suggested that the pre Easter Jesus was a mystic and that “If one takes seriously that the sacred can be experienced, and that people who have such experiences frequently and vividly may be called mystics or Spirit persons, then it seems apparent that Jesus was one of these (62-63).”

Though Borg was describing the pre Easter Jesus he was also defining the experience of mysticism and mystics in general. Borg’s description seemed spot on with my own experience as well as those shared by the many people who have written me over the years.

Mystical experience generally involves five characteristics; Ineffability: where the experience can’t really be described through ordinary words, Transiency: where the experience is somewhat brief, Passivity: in that they are usually unbidden, received rather than achieved, the Noetic: produce a knowing of something not known before the experience i.e. a new reality. This may also include a sense of awe and joy. Fifth in the series is that these experiences are Transformative: they transform a person’s way of being in part because they see the world differently after the experience.

For me the experience on the hilltop above the parking lot was one of many I’ve experienced throughout my life all of which have shifted radically my vision of reality. Though my ego-self continues to insist that I view reality through a vision of separateness I know and am able to easily access the “knowing” that has grown from my experiences of the mystical.

I wish that I could share that there was some secret means for accessing the mystical spiritual but all of my experiences have come unbidden though my tendency to give emphasis to such things as dreams, meditations, spiritual, psychological and emotional exploration may have left me more open to them. I have often had a dream or a meditation or rumination that I thought should have produced something deep and profound only to have it reach the level of interesting but hardly awe-inspiring. It’s one of those pieces of “magic” that can’t be made to happen but can be allowed or given room to happen.

The Mystic’s Journey: A voice in the darkness can lead into the light

 

walk-dark-light-5.jpgWalking in darkness, unseen for he had never beheld the light. He didn’t know it was there because for him there had been only the night.

Walking, walking, a forest path, a city sidewalk, a sandy beach, a mountain trail, then down a slippery slope toward the parking lot something reached in and gripped his heart and stole his mind, turned it inside out and twisted his reality.

And it’s never looked the same, sounded the same, felt the same since.

In each a voice overran the mindless chatter and filled him with a sound so complete, so beautiful, and so loving that he found it hard to breathe and the world gave promise to a way of being beyond all its pretty words.

But as time passed the promise of those extraordinary moments seemed to fade into the darkening mist of the every day.

“What now?” said he, and the voice was still and his heart became darker and the black crept back into his world.

Then a soft and loving breeze came upon him and swirled about and within leaving him with barely heard but solidly felt words of assurance, “You’re on your own now. You have what was once secret but now visible to you no matter where you turn your head. But don’t hold for too long for it’s only yours so long as you keep giving it away.”

At that moment everything changed for everything became an opportunity to give it away and the promise came out of the mist and pointed the way. Giving became getting, letting go was an act of love and he walked out of the darkness and into the sunlight.

What is this darkness of which the young man spoke and what of the light that dispels it?

It is the darkness of unknowing, of the unconscious and of not wanting to know what is beyond the horizon of your mind.

The light is of the flash of knowing, and facing the legions of bogey men that hide in the dark alleys of the unexplored. It is the brilliance that dispels all dark things that go bump in the night. It is your beautiful face long unseen because you turned away too soon, listening to others and to the voice implanted by those who knew only the blackness as well. Alas, we embrace ignorance too easily you and I because it feels safer hiding here in this cave, this waking dream of a frightened mind.

Once in a while after much running in the opposite direction the light blows in and disrupts all our best intentions that often produce the worst results and shakes us to our core, scrambling the carefully built fantasy and opening us to the fearsome reality of real love. Once in a while someone awakes from the dream and can never return to the land of the dark. It is called a mystical experience and those who walk into the light of the experience can never fully return to the cave and become obligated to be of the world instead of just in it.

These are the children of the ecstatic, the modern-day mystics if you will. Often the light is thrust upon them in that they weren’t seeking it, reluctant really, but once enlightened, becoming obligated to share it.

But many times it’s the seeker that finds at their darkest moment, the moment when they have given up the search, the light will grab them and shake them awake.

May the light grab you and shake you awake before it’s too late and you have to do it all over again.