Without thinking too hard about this, just tell me, off the top of your head, whether you feel you are a mystic or a magician. Once you’ve done that, just let that question drop away and answer another question, if you will – again don’t give this too much thought – it’s just the answer that comes to you in this moment – I’m not holding you to this as the absolute truth. In fact I’ll explain thosse terms and then ask you to answer the question again later, because you might change your mind. Here’s the next question: If you had to say whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, what would it be? Again just shoot back a comment.
In a week’s time it’s possible that thousands will have seen this video, and if everyone kindly responded we’d have a great statistical sample to work with.
But let me back up now and explain what I mean by these terms. If you’ve joined this gathering, the chances are that you are interested in magic and mysticism. But what exactly do these two words mean? Like any terms that have been around for a long time, we could spend hours debating the various meanings that have been ascribed by scholars and lay-folk to these terms. And the more scholarly we made our debate, the more ambiguities and varieties of interpretation we would discover. Now is not the time for this! We’ll avoid getting caught up in semantics or in language that is tedious. Just look at where it might take us when we first try to understand the term Mysticism: the academic Gelman writes that the mystical experience is: “A unitive experience [that] involves a phenomenological de-emphasis, blurring, or eradication of multiplicity, where the cognitive significance of the experience is deemed to lie precisely in that phenomenological feature”. Surely there are simpler ways of talking about the experience of Oneness! Let’s look at two more accessible attempts to describe mysticism and the mystical experience:
Blakemore and Jennett wrote: “the essence of the mystical experience is the encounter between God and the human being, the Creator and creature; this is a union which leads the human being to an ‘absorption’ or loss of individual personality. It is a movement of the heart, as the individual seeks to surrender itself to ultimate Reality; it is thus about being rather than knowing.”
And the mystic Evelyn Underhill wrote about the term mysticism, that it is, “One of the most abused words in the English language, it has been used in different and often mutually exclusive senses by religion, poetry, and philosophy: has been claimed as an excuse for every kind of occultism, for dilute transcendentalism, vapid symbolism, religious or aesthetic sentimentality, and bad metaphysics. On the other hand, it has been freely employed as a term of contempt by those who have criticized these things. It is much to be hoped that it may be restored sooner or later to its old meaning, as the science or art of the spiritual life.”
Here’s the definition I use: that the mystic’s main goal is union with the Divine, to experience Oneness. Whether we are talking about Christian Mystics, Sufi Mystics, or Nature Mystics, the goal is the same – to surrender the sense of the ‘little self’ and to feel at one with All Being.
The Magician might have this goal, and may therefore be a mystic, but in addition she or he has other goals. They may wish to explore other worlds, to experience altered states consciousness, to converse with any beings they may meet in other worlds. They may want to develop their powers of perception or sensitivity or intuition. They may want to transform or improve circumstances for themselves or for others. Do you see how all these goals are active? They do not require surrender, but active engagement. The mystic closes their eyes to free themselves of the distractions of this world, to return to Source. The magician opens their eyes to explore the world, to wonder and admire, to understand and grow. The magician uses certain techniques such as journeying, ritual, and divination to help them in their quest. The mystic is more likely to shun these as distractions, and will focus on meditation and prayer.
Now that I’ve given these thumbnail descriptions of the mystic and the magician, type in your answer again, and say if it’s the same as before or different!
Now why did I ask you to say whether you feel you are introverted or extroverted? I just have a hunch that there might be a correlation between this aspect of personality and the choice you have made. Perhaps introverts are more likely to be drawn to the Mystical Path, and extroverts the Magical one. Or perhaps not! If you’re not sure which is your strongest trait there are various tests you can take online now, such as this one: Extroversion Introversion Test
In a later blog post I’ll try to summarise the results of this clumsy attempt at science!
Now let’s do a meditation to connect, if we wish, with the mystic and the magician within us. Once in the Sacred Grove, sense your oneness with all around you. The earth and sky, the trees. Just let go and surrender to this sense of Union with all of Nature, with all of Being. Now become aware of being in the grove, and in your imagination, sense you are leaning forward and touching the ground in front of you with the forefinger of one hand, as you stretch your arm. As you touch the ground a flower appears. Touch another spot, and another flower grows. After doing this a few times, stop. Close your inner eyes, and then gradually let your awareness of the Sacred Grove begin to fade as you become aware of being fully present wherever you are, Here and Now.
In the first part of the meditation, when you surrender to a sense of Oneness you are opening to the Mystic Within. When you create flowers with the ‘magic wand’ of your hand, you are expressing the Inner Magician.