Friday, 31 August 2007

magic and prayer

What is magic? To many Pagans, magic is an awareness of the miraculous, the magical, the spiritual, the numinous as it infuses everyday life. It's about living in a one-storey universe. In Simple Magics, a new blog discussing magical awareness, the author discusses the magic of being stung by a bee, and how this affects one's awareness of one's surroundings. She suggests an exercise to increase mindfulness:
Resolve to notice and appreciate 3 new things in everyday surroundings. Small things, big things, it doesn’t matter as long as they are new. Does this make common surroundings more interesting? more alive? more immediate? more a part of the world rather than a backdrop? more inter-related?
Magic is not just about "doing spells" - it may include that, but spells for most Pagans are a form of prayer, asking the Universe (or a deity) for the desired outcome (usually with the proviso, as long as it doesn't harm anyone). Not demanding or trying to force the issue. "Spells" are simple rituals which ask for something to happen - so are prayers.

Think of the difference between the magic of Uncle Andrew (the bad magician in The Magician's Nephew who uses magical formulae and procedures without understanding what they do and is completely unethical - simply seeking power and knowledge for its own sake) and the magic of Aslan (in all the Narnia books) who is a magical and miraculous being.

But just as prayer is about far more than asking for things, so is magic. Both magic and prayer are about allowing the fullness of the Universe to infuse our awareness, and having a sacramental view of reality. The more each of them is like a ritual (involving the whole body and all the senses, and including symbols and words that stimulate our awareness of the Thou-ness of the Universe), the more effective they will be.

One of the traps of the 'spiritual life' is thinking that spirituality is only about self-development. It's not. All the great texts of the spiritual life, from the Tao Te Ching to the Bible, point out that it's about emptying yourself to become full, losing yourself to find yourself, and many another phrase to describe the same experience. It's about detachment from unhealthy desire - the desire to dominate and control, greed, "lust" (sexual desire without consideration for the happiness of the the beloved) and so on.

The magical path is often seen from outside as a desire to set oneself up as an independent power from the universe - but all magicians must eventually realise that all power comes from the Universe. If they don't, they end up burning themselves out by trying to wield their own power. It's like the difference between a lamp running on a battery and a lamp that's connected to the mains.

However, complete identification with the Thou is an advanced mystical state achieved after a long time; it's not an instantaneous result, nor is it for the faint-hearted. But notice that those who achieved this were often very individual and full of soul - Jesus, Buddha, Saint Francis, Gandhi, and so on. The rest of us can probably only manage a balance between the inner and the outer. But let us not forget that true self-development (theosis) comes only when we are in right relation to the Universe (whatever tradition you are following).


Grand Mother Crone said...

I was attracted here through your comments on The Wild Things of GOD. (I enjoy it there and have been meaning to comment there as well).

Thank you for this excellent post! Yes, prayer is another form of magick. Yet, Pagan magick involves more than praying to Deities, the Universe, the spiritual entities, or sacred sources outside one's self. Pagan magick and belief also heavily emphasizes constructive self-empowerment, deep introspection, and the use of forces inside one's self to bring about beneficial transformations. Self-actualization is a significant aspect.

Paganism covers a wide variety of belief systems and some are about the Divine Essence within, Grandmother Earth, and the spiritual forces of nature, rather than a literal belief in a Supreme Deity or Supreme Deities.

Yes, again, the rituals and tools involved in Paganism are very similar to the rituals and tools involved in Judeo-Christian religious devotion...candles, altars, invocations (prayers) etc. Which makes sense, since so many ancient Pagan traditions were incorporated into the Abrahamic faiths. Ablutions (baptism, water blessings), and even the word, Amen, evolved from Paganism.

This a great post, full of in-depth grace and wisdom. Abundant Blessings, MW (=^;^=)

PS Please open your comments up to us non-Blogger bloggers. Thanx!

Yvonne said...

Hello grand mother crone and welcome! The more I look at Christian, Jewish, and Islamic mysticism, the more they look like forms of Paganism. I was a Pagan from 1985 to 2007, initiated into Wicca in 1991 and still a Wiccan, but am now a panentheist. It seems that Eastern Orthodoxy absorbed a lot of Neoplatonist thought and drew on the Pagan mystery traditions for much of its symbolism (wine, bread, water etc).

Check out this amazing essay by Bishop Kallistos if you want an explanation of panentheism.

motherwintermoon (grand mother crone) said...

Oh yes, definitely the Big Three are heavily influenced and permeated by Paganism. I'm not Wiccan, but I am an eclectic Pagan. I wisdom harvest here, there and everywhere, including Judeo-Christian scripture and ethic. It's like panning for gold, I sift out the gold nuggets and let anything toxic fall through.

Wow. That is an amazing and powerful essay. I'm going back to read it again. Thank you! I consider myself Pantheist as well.

I'm so glad I found your cyberspace. I resonate with the Pantheist "Credo"

Thanx for opening the comments up.

motherwintermoon said...

I recently posted a couple times on the realm, purpose, and empowerment of the Dark Mother, Crone, if you're interested.

Yvonne said...

Hello MWM/GMC :)

Actually I'm a panentheist, but I think pantheism is beautiful too.

I tried to check out your blog, but couldn't access it. Would love to see your Crone post, though.