To ignore God or mythological stories altogether because they are not factually true is to commit a greater sin of ending spiritual development by denying that stories can actually be truer than true!
I don’t know about you, but my life as a kid life was pretty magical. All of my needs were taken care of by loving parents who saw that I never lacked for much of anything. I lived in a stable idyllic setting where my needs were met and my worries were restricted to concerns about making friends and doing fun things. Additionally, there were the magical days of Christmas, Easter, birthdays and teeth under my pillow.
I say magical because my parents encouraged me to believe that the things I received on those days were the result of my wishes and telling Santa, the Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy whatever it was that I wanted. I wished for something, I shared it, and I got it! Pretty sweet huh?
Religion was magical as well. My parents and religious teachers taught me the fantastical stories of biblical heroes. These were mostly based in moral teachings about proper behavior and obedience. Often, the stories had elements of the supernatural such as Jonah and the Whale, Moses, and the miracles of Jesus.
One of my favorites was Jesus turning water into wine. It seems Jesus was attending a wedding for friends in Cana when the celebration wine began to run low. His mother asked him to do something about it–“Hey, you got to do something for the restless natives,” or something like that. Jesus seemed to be a bit reluctant to perform a miracle but relented when his mother told the servants to do whatever he said. Jesus gave them instructions to fill a number of large ceremonial jars to the brim with water. He then told the servants to take the water, which had been turned into wine, to the person who was managing the wedding. The wine’s quality was so impressive that the host exclaimed that this wine was better than the wine that served at the beginning of the celebration! The moral of the story was that Jesus could perform miracles, always obeyed his mother and liked people to have good times.
I was taught by those, whom I trusted as authoritative, that this story was factually true and that it happened in just the way that it was written. Additionally, I learned it was part of a larger document that was also factual and true in every detail. This document, it was said, was not a product of human imagination but a message sent directly from the Supreme Creator. And that’s the thing about the “Life as Magic Stage,” everything you are told is presumed to be true. To argue otherwise is to offend God and his designated authorities and opens one to potential punishment. There is an accepted meaning of the stories that are handed down generation after generation that continually reinforces the group’s traditions and ways of life. Those who accept the accept the teachings and conclusions presented by those in authority enjoy a common culture and sense of community while those who do not must either hide their conclusions or risk banishment.
About this time of my life I was also taught how to pray. Prayer was magical. Whenever I needed something, I was to tell God what it was, and if was for a good cause He’d see that I get it. In fairness, I was also taught to thank God for all good things and to request help so that I might be a good boy and do what my parents wanted me to.
At this point, the magical and miraculous was mixed together in a supernatural and paranormal broth. At an early age, my young mind readily took it all in and all of these things were easily believed. It’s not that I was necessarily a gullible or an easily fooled kid–it’s just that I was extremely open to what my parents said and required little in the way of evidential material. Since my needs were fully supplied it all sort of made sense–until it didn’t. Then too, I believe the concept of God makes perfect sense to most kids. Some might argue that is because they have no idea of how the world works–but I would argue that they accept God because they can comprehend these and other realities in ways we cannot until we socialize it out of them.
I realize at this point that some people would add “God” to the mix of all things fanciful and magical. I can certainly understand this. I believe it is a perfectly rational and normal behavior to jettison God along with all pointless magical thinking once we learn about the con–but to ignore God or mythological stories altogether because they are not factually true is to commit a greater sin of ending spiritual development by denying that stories can actually be truer than true!
Stories are truer than true–not because they are based in historically factual information–but because they contain enormously important truths about life and living. The story of Job is truer than true–not because Job ever actually existed (he did not) nor because the occurrences of the story actually happened (they did not). Job is truer than true because suffering is a universal condition that happens to us no matter how righteous, awakened, or fastidious to our health we may be. Our job is to develop a mythological intelligence so that we might better understand the greater meanings behind these stories. At later stages of development, we broaden the stories we know as our life experience becomes more full. Even later still, we interpret our life stories using this same mythological intelligence.
I contend that Magical thinking is not bad and should not be eliminated from our lives; rather, we should transform it into wonder. The universe is a big and mysterious place, and even though we are constantly learning new explanations about its workings, it mostly remains secreted away–as a source of wonder and mystery to us. It is wonder that causes us to enjoy a great magic show, professional basketball, or a virtuoso musician–who doesn’t enjoy these? We describe their work as magical because of the wonder it creates within us. Even though we know these artists worked very hard to bring these skills about–the wonder remains.
Creativity in screenplays and storytelling often uses magic as an explanation for events and things. This type of magic is known as “pseudo or proto-science.” Many engineers of today credit the television Star Trek as the basis for their desire to study science. The cell phone we use today is very similar to the “magic” devices presented in Star Trek. I have no doubt that one day we will have a “Back to the Future” hover board. If we do, that will be another testimony to the power of creativity, fantasy, and magic that produces wonder in our lives.
Let us also not too quickly dismiss traditions that are rooted in magic–sometimes spelled Magick–such as shamanism, Wiccans, and those who practice ritual earth worship. We non practitioners may not readily understand these rites but I believe it would be a mistake to dismiss them out of hand. For those who look deeply enough, there is truth and meaning in all things.
Finally, far from eliminating magic from our lives, we should become the magic we wish to see in our own lives as well as others. Just as my parents provided me a magical existence in my formative years–so we too can do the same for others. And until that time when knowledge is complete, let us enjoy the magic about us with a childlike wonder.