God is alive, magic is afoot
God is alive, magic is afoot
God is afoot, magic is alive
Alive is afoot, magic never died
The sense of the sacred does not require any image of the gods. There will be no more gothic cathedrals built to exalt humankind to the heavens; no more prophets to lead humankind to the divine; and no more Holy Grails to entice humankind upon the Quest – we now have the sacred suffusing us en masse, manifesting as both the tangible and intangible. Our cultures are being finely renewed from the inside-out by a subtle vibration that has come to us through a myriad of emanations in different forms. Look at the conversations we are having today with each other; look at how many creative projects around the world are being instigated and led by young people. The generations before us were not discussing transcendence or the technologies of the soul so openly and publicly. Our era has brought the inner world out into the open world and into focus. The sacred is not a concept but an experiential understanding, of life beyond our limited selves – of transcendence and immersion simultaneously. Only two or three generations before us there was no inner world to explore publicly. Before the rise of the psychological sciences there was no cultural language to explore the subconscious. The inner landscape of the human being was quietly explored and navigated by the mystics, seers, adepts, shamans, and initiates that kept their traditions away from the masses – away from persecution.
For millennia the sacred arts were defiled, harassed, and discriminated against. The magical arts also fell into this tarnished category. And yet magic and alchemy are found worldwide, in all traditional cultures, in remarkably similar manifestations. Spiritual realization has never been a mass pursuit; usually pursued by those few individuals often classed as outsiders. And so the presence of the sacred in our societies has always been unperceived, operating unseen and under the radar. It has always been present and operating, only not in ways suspected by humankind. Magic too has always been present in its various guises – magic is afoot, magic is alive, magic never died. Magic, in its original form, is that which concentrates and radiates the mind; it is a deep penetrating force-field of compassion and communion. Our reality-matrix is composed of energy; everything within it is a form of energy in various states. Those states can be modified, like the fine tuning of an instrument to create a more harmonious sound. The wisdom traditions, the perennial philosophy, speak of how a human being, by their own spiritual ascent, is able to also animate and raise up the world around them. The emanation of the sacred energies furthers the spiritual realization within material reality.
Most of what is today labeled as supernatural is but the residue of the sacred which is inherent in humankind and the world, no matter how we ignore or discard it. Unbeknown to us we recreate this sense of the sacred through our pursuits and pastimes. Magic may shock the profane, yet it has existed as a core experience long before we had any sense of what it actually was. As historian and scholar Arthur Versluis notes,
The reason that magic is not in good standing in the West is that it is based upon the fundamental unity of man and cosmos and so is in conflict with the inherent dualism of the modern outlook. But magic will be in existence long after the modern era has disappeared: it cannot be otherwise, for magic is the physical expression of the eternal, inner, spiritual transmutation. 1
When it comes to the ‘eternal, inner, spiritual transmutation’ there are no absolute laws, just the continual unfolding. As human beings we each interact with the world differently because we perceive the world differently. In interacting differently we each contribute to creating a different world. The sacred reality understands that we exist as part of a participatory cosmos. It is this sacredness without a name that infuses the human condition. To be a human being is to be inherently imbued with a spiritual force that animates us in ways we are largely unaware of. And yet through this animated force we see the world around us – it cultivates our worldview, our values, and is the source of our quest for meaning. And a civilization’s worldview is its most precious possession.
Everything proceeds from this primary perception – a collective gaze of wonder…or of limitation. The basic, fundamental understanding is that we cannot observe the world without changing it. And the presence of the sacred is so crucial in our lives that without it our human status itself is in question. The sacred order of the past existed at a time when the world was different, when its needs were different. At each moment we articulate the human condition in the context of our times. The sacred energies, the spiritual impulses, are a medium – and a means – through which we come to learn of and express the human condition. And these expressions are in response to a shifting and unfolding understanding of the cosmos and of our reality-matrix. Before the emergence of structured religions the human condition articulated itself in ‘pre-religious forms’ of spirituality. Whatever the times, the sacred impulse attempts to be known. For great periods the sacred impulse was almost invisible within human societies, as we struggled with the raw energies of brute materiality ‘red in tooth and claw,’ and cloaked in mechanical rationalism. Yet now the sacred impulse is raising its head again in new cultural forms, expressions, and mediums.
Magic has a role in helping to give shape and substance to our meanings. Magic teaches us that the way forward, the way to heal the rift in our reality-matrix, is by the uniting of the spiritual and the profane, the celestial and the mundane. In our reality, each day lived is an expression of the spiritual and the sacred existing through us, invisible as a silent breath. And yet the magic never died; magic is still alive, magic is afoot (to paraphrase Leonard Cohen). For us now, ‘the greatest danger to us shall arise, not because of “magic,” but rather if true magic, true transmutation, should disappear.’2 The world is becoming an exciting, magical, and mysterious domain once again. And within this domain technology is likewise moving from its position as a brute, mechanistic hardware to a fluid, almost seamless, magical part of our augmented reality. The world is reviving its sense of being a Misterium Tremendes, a sacred place to dwell in. To live as part of the sacred is about living that which comes through us – as beacons we must pass it on as well as lighting up the way for each traveler upon the path. The truth is a spiritualizing force that actualizes through us. The sacred impulse is also the creative and dynamic force of transcendence. And yet it must be a sacred energy for our times. It must be alive and relevant, otherwise it becomes another relic to be idolized and venerated rather than lived. The sense of the sacred is of a living work.
Our physical global body – our systems and structures – are responding to this need by shifting from top-down structures to decentralized networks. As this unfolds we need to meet this transformation by changing the ways we think; by altering the ways we do things; by allowing consciousness and the sacred energies to flow into the world – to flow through us. That is, to manifest the qualities, attitudes, and our presence in the world that will most effectively receive, hold, and transmit this consciousness. This responsibility is also a part of our living work right now. The days of working in seclusion are over – the new sacred energy does not support monasticism. The sacred strives to connect fluidly between our inner and outer worlds; it is not a monastic endeavor but exists within the active avenues and marketplaces of life. High castles, priestly enclaves, guru sanctuaries, etc, are edifices of the past where a different energy was contained. The sacred revival of today is a nurturing, feminine energy that comes alive through people. The sacred revival stands as comfortable with the spandex superhero mutants on our screens as it does with the appreciative touch, the supportive word, the reassuring glance that we each can weave into our lives. This is the sacred impulse for our times – that which is a part of the living substance that comes through us. It is a living soul that holds within it the species body. As Meister Eckhart said – ‘The soul is not in the body; the body is in the soul.’
The sacred is already affecting us, infecting our thinking patterns and consciousness whether we are aware of it or not. Our perspectives on the world and the cosmos have been changing dramatically over recent years. Most of us who have thought deeply about life and the cosmos have come to the realization that we do not exist as part of a dead universe. Even our sciences, our telescopes, have begun to point their attention toward intelligent life in the cosmos. We are unfolding – slowly metamorphosing out of our cocoon of cosmic quarantine. The human being too is forced to transcend beyond the conditioned cocoon we sleep within – to continually transcend every station we reach. A part of our transformation is the recognition that the human being is a sacred particle in a sacred universe.
Enchantment has been humanity’s natural state for aeons. The innate state of humanity is to feel integral to all life. This continuity has only been disrupted for a number of centuries, whereas our state of enchantment has been with us for millennia. It is time we return to that enchantment, and to a re-connection with a source of meaning. Those streams of significance, those waters of wisdom, have always been with us. It only depended upon whether we wished to get our feet wet or not. As the poet Rainer Maria Rilke says, ‘we are the bees of the invisible’ and our task as individuals is for each of us to be a channel for the transmutation of the familiar things of this world into the transcendent. The sacred impulse works through the planet, the living species, and also each individual. As we come together, increasingly so through the medium of our technologies, we each can bring a spark into the burning flame of the living work of our transmutation. As Sri Aurobindo understood, our sacred revival (what he considered as a spiritual age) must ‘be preceded by the appearance of an increasing number of individuals who are no longer satisfied with the normal intellectual, vital and physical existence of man, but perceive that a greater evolution is the real goal of humanity and attempt to effect it in themselves, to lead others to it and to make it the recognised goal of the race.’3 The antithesis of the sacred revival, those whom attempt the reverse of leading others toward transition, seek their power in the sorcery of psychological control and manipulation, also now on a mass scale. Yet the call of the sacred impulse beats within each one of us – yet for some it is louder than others.
The sacred presence is a reflection of the individual soul as well as the world soul. The integral communion of the soul is between the inner world of the individual (the individual soul), and the physical world outside of us. It is a synthesis which gives us meaning. If we do not renew our task daily – reflect upon the soul – we do an injustice to ourselves. And yet this is no easy task. No other relationship can be achieved that is higher than the one you have with the sacred essence within yourself. Life must have meaning for us before we can bring authentic meaning into the lives of others. Maybe Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said it best when he said that sacred human becoming is not only ‘open to a few of the privileged nor to one chosen people to the exclusion of all others’ but rather is ‘in a direction in which all together can join and find completion in a spiritual regeneration of the earth.’4
Our ancestors were aware that they lived in a sacred cosmos, where the physical world existed in communion with the unseen dimension which ensouled and sanctified it. There was no rigid line drawn between what was the inner world and what was external reality, because both domains were in correspondence. The individual human soul was a part of the greater sacred reality. And just as the sacred is an instrument of the human, so the human is an instrument of the sacred. The sacred worldview is one that accepts not only the metaphysical but also the magical and the mysterious – the magnificent wonder in everything and all. As the Greek Orphic Mysteries of 2,500 years ago spoke: ‘I am a child of earth and starry heaven, but my race is of heaven alone.’
1 Versluis, Arthur (1986) The Philosophy of Magic. London, Arkana, p129
2 Versluis, Arthur (1986) The Philosophy of Magic. London, Arkana, p125
3 Aurobindo, Sri (1999/1950) The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development. Twin Lakes, WI, Lotus Light Publications, p263
4 Cited in Davis, Erik (1998) Techgnosis: myth, magic and mysticism in the age of information. New York, Three Rivers Press, p317
Adapted from Kingsley L. Dennis’s forthcoming book, The Sacred Revival: Magic, Mind & Meaning in a Technological Age, to be published October 24th, 2017.