Once upon a time, the whole world believed in magic.
Okay, so it wasn’t always called ‘magic’, and perhaps a lot of that time, it may have been all tied up with gods and spirits, and sometimes with something scary.
But until relatively recently, it was certainly part of everyday human life to believe and accept that there are some things, many things, maybe even most things that we just can’t work out – things that are simply beyond our understanding.
You might say magic was ‘mainstream’.
Over recent centuries, this sort of belief has been stamped out, rejected along with fairies, mermaids and bogeymen – Magic is something they believed ‘in the olden days’ when people weren’t quite as smart as we are now, when they didn’t know everything like we think we do now.
These days, those who continue to believe in such things as magic, energies, and new-agey ideas can sometimes be dismissed as misguided, weak-minded, gullible or even insane.
On the other hand, we tend to believe the scientific and rational structures of modern society without question. ‘Where’s the scientific evidence?’ we often demand. ‘Physics will ultimately explain all.’ And if it’s not made of matter or energy, we maintain it simply does not exist.
These structures such as scientific method and rational argument create a sense of order, correctness, of right-thinkingness.
But what good has all this done?
Okay, so our children no longer usually die before the age of 5. We don’t have to fear smallpox, cholera or diphtheria. That’s all true and good.
But I’m not asking what rational thought has brought to technology, or medicine, or longevity. I’m talking about our actual, personal, moment-to-moment experience of life. Do those who value rational thought over all else have a greater sense of contentment? Our lives may be ordered, they may appear rational. But are people having fun? Do they feel safe? Are they even happy?
Happy? It would seem not.
I’m on a crusade to bring magic back into everyday life.
In fact, I want to make magic mainstream again.
And you know, I get the feeling there is a sort of unstated, unacknowledged desire to believe in magic.
Think about it: Why did the whole Harry Potter thing become so successful? It was a great story, with great language and great characters. But that’s not the only reason. I think it’s because JK Rowling tapped into something – not just in children, but in adults.
Adults loved Harry Potter because it legitimised their own belief (or at least their want to believe) in magic.
But I have other reasons for wanting to bring magic back into everyday life.
I’m talking about something far more pragmatic than just a hankering for the carefree days of childhood. And it’s not because it’s lovely and fluffy and huggy and kissy to believe in magic.
It’s because believing in magic could just give you everything you have ever wanted, and I mean everything.
In my second book, Doing Magic, I make a big deal about what I call ‘the receiving state’ – a way of being that seems to allow all your desires to flow to you with ease.
For me, the notion of magic, always seemed to sum up the nature and feeling of the receiving state, the way it worked. And contemplation of magic seemed to allow me to get there, pretty much every time.
And from this ‘receiving state’, I was able to create just about any material possession or circumstance I had ever wanted.
But that’s not even the best bit.
The notion of magic allowed me to break out of the self-imposed illusory safety of science, rationality and everyday life, and into a place of not knowing, not controlling, and hence of pure potential.
It was in this magical space, that I found all those things I had been looking for: contentment, love, belonging, safety, certainty, knowledge, and even truth.
I discovered that knowledge, certainty and even absolute truth do exist. But they didn’t live where I thought they did!
You see, I studied philosophy at university for over a decade.
It’s hugely ironic that after a decade of trying to use intellectual thought to rationalise my way to absolute truth, I eventually discover the only way to get there is by dropping rationality altogether.
So not only has magic given me the material, physical stuff. It has also given me the thing I have been seeking my entire adult life – a taste of enlightenment, a deep knowledge that, even though sometimes I can’t see it clearly, underneath, I am perfect just as I am. I am not broken. I am not damaged. I know that now.
Right now, under whatever troubled thinking might be bothering me, I’m perfectly wise and perfectly perfect.
The feeling of wellbeing that comes with this knowledge is worth more than all the diamonds and houses and cars and material goods in the world.
Everything you are seeking, (and I mean everything) is right here, right now, sitting underneath the intellectual thinking, waiting for a chance to show itself, waiting to pop up and reveal its glory.
And once you’ve seen it, even just once, knowing it’s there will change your entire world.
And where does magic come in?
Well, the truth is, although there are a bazillion techniques (many involving meditation), there’s only one fundamental route to enlightenment – and that’s through the settling, quieting or stopping of thoughts, making a little gap in the thinking, allowing that which sits beneath the thoughts to shine through.
For some people this happens through the practice of meditation, but it doesn’t work for everyone. I now realise I spent twenty years meditating ‘in the wrong direction’.
For me, ‘magic’ does what meditation never could.
It allows my thinking to settle, to shush for one flipping minute with its incessant attempts to run the show.
Magic – this indistinct, otherworldly, unfalsifiable, unscientific notion was hugely effective in settling my thinking precisely because it is indistinct, otherworldly, unfalsifiable and unscientific.
This is the great thing about magic – you can’t get a grip on it.
In fact, you’re not supposed to be able to get a grip on it… because, well… it’s magic. If you could explain it or grasp it or prove it, it wouldn’t be magic.
But, what is magic?
The whole concept of magic involves a giving up, a trusting in something beyond, something otherworldly, a higher or unseen power, something beyond our ken.
As I say in Becoming Genevieve, trusting in magic is a bit like my version of ‘God moves in mysterious ways’.
I used to think that a weak-minded, cowardly thing to say, absolving yourself of any responsibility or duty to sort things out for yourself.
But I was wrong.
Now I totally understand what is meant by it. To have the fullest possible experience of life, we don’t need to understand how everything works.
We don’t need to think our way out of every problem. We need things we can’t understand, we need things we can’t ever understand. Because it’s in that direction that the good stuff lies.
It’s a hateful contradiction but it’s by allowing yourself to ‘not know’ that you will find real wisdom. I know that sounds like esoteric mumbo-jumbo, but it’s not. It’s my attempt to describe something for which my rational mind can’t find quite the right words.
So I say, stop trying to get it.
Stop trying to understand magic. Just give up trying to work out how it works, or how if fits with other things you know. Because, in giving up, you give your mind a little rest.
And when that rest is long enough, you create a little gap in the thoughts.
And that’s when it happens.
That’s when it will bubble up – your true self, perfection, joy, wellbeing, complete wisdom, and the potential to create any damned thing you please!
After decades of fruitless meditation, it was in the end, this ‘unknowable’ quality of magic that has allowed my overly rational, overly analytical, overly busy mind to give up, to rest, to stop trying to control the whole damned universe, glimpse the breathtaking perfection of existence and create an outwardly exceptional life.
So I say: Let’s start understanding less and enjoying more.
Let’s bring magic back. Make magic mainstream again.
But for now, just try this on for size.
Think of a problem you’re struggling with – something you have been turning over and over in your mind. Just for today, I want you to just give up trying to work out the right course of action. Just for today.
Give up completely.
Relax into not-knowing, handing over the whole issue to something higher, something greater. Just decide to let magic sort it out. And just see what happens.
At the very least, it will probably cause you to feel a little lighter, a little happier, a little more hopeful.
But possibly, just possibly, something a bit wonderful may just happen…