Few today live the magical life - so few that the majority of people believe it to be extinct. Yet I believe that even in the days when belief in the Magical Life was widespread only a minority actually followed it.
This is hardly surprising, it is a demanding pursuit and there are formidable obstacles in the way. There are seven enemies of the Magical Life, each more dangerous than the last and they are subdued but not ultimately defeated by four Magical Weapons.
The first enemy is Comfort. If you are content with life why change anything? Some have even suggested that comfort is the best that any creature can hope for in life. All would agree that we should be grateful for as much comfort as we can get. Indeed if equilibrium was easily attainable this would be an inert Universe. But what stirs things up is the desire for contentment. This dominates all living things, whether they can articulate it or not, from the plant that turns to follow the sun to the civilised human being climbing into a jet and igniting tons of fossilised plants for pretty much the same motive. This is the second enemy of Magical Life - Compulsion.
Comfort and Compulsion are the two ugly sisters, mutually dependent on each other, which would govern our lives completely if we would let them. Since they are the stuff of life itself it is impossible to eliminate their influence but we can seek to balance them with the aid of the first Magical Weapon - True Discipline.
Basic discipline - simple self control - is common among all humans and some of the higher animals too. Raw instinct can produce great complexity - the spider's web for example - but much behaviour is learned even amongst what we regard as simple animals. The much maligned sheep probably has far more capacity for free-will than the supposedly independent domestic cat, but chooses not to exercise it. We despise the sheep because its behaviour is dictated by the herd, notwithstanding that it requires far more self-consciousness to be part of a herd than it does to be a solitary predator. (Typing this talk it strikes me that the English language does not distinguish between singular and plural with these creatures so much do they exemplify herd behaviour).
The sheep makes us uncomfortable because it reminds us of our own capacity to be socially conditioned. How much of our life is truly our own? We can never be certain. We are not Galileos, we believe the earth goes around the sun because we have been told that it does and under other circumstances we could be equally convinced that the opposite is the case. And the human herd impinges on more than our astronomical opinions. The food we like, the games we play, the behaviour we find acceptable, all our so-called personal tastes are often dictated by accident of birth, the climate we grew up in, rather than any preference of our own.
We can of course tinker with this - cultivate a taste for rice instead of potatoes - and even instil good habits in ourselves, often with surprising ease. But in doing this we make no fundamental change in ourselves, we simply substitute one habit for another. And of course it is usually social conditioning that arbitrates what is a good habit.
Habit is the third enemy of the Magical Life and rigid self-discipline can be its accomplice. In practising a discipline conscientiously it can become easy to forget the original aim and allow the discipline to become an end in itself. In disciplines that concentrate on the body it is even possible to slip beneath habit and be enslaved by Compulsion. Passionate exercisers can become addicted to the glow of their own adrenaline and young girls seeking to control their appetites in order to control their figures can train themselves into such an aversion to food that they starve themselves to death.
Self discipline becomes True Discipline by working in conjunction with the second Magical Weapon - True Joy. The two are mutually supportive. True Joy - the experience of happiness in the abstract - may descend on anyone at any moment. But the cultivation of True Discipline makes those descents more frequent and more enduring. The pursuit of True Joy keeps discipline at once disinterested, disconnected from any goal, since True Joy cannot be attained step by step, yet while it remains the aim discipline can never lapse into habit since it is performed consciously, as it must be in order to receive True Joy. The practise of meditation is an example of a True Discipline.
This powerful combination can be as equally resistant to change as habit itself. The relationship between the two is not under conscious control and attempts to comprehend it can breed the fourth enemy of Magical Life - Magical Thinking.
Magical Thinking is the rationale for sprinkling water on the ground to cause rain or sticking pins in wax dolls to harm others but it is not limited to those simple souls who practise such activities. It permeates all human thought through the endless ability of the mind to find connections between things and mistake them for causes. Rational minds are especially prey to it since they have such unshakeable confidence in the soundness of their foundations. For instance when someone succeeds in harming another by means of a wax doll the rational mind declares it to be psychosomatic. Under certain (unspecified) conditions it is alleged that the mind can affect the body. Really? This is not an explanation but an invocation to charm the problem away.
Those who seek the Magical Life are the most susceptible of all to the lure of Magical Thought, working, as they always must, in the dark. All magical systems are encounters with the mysterious and separate from the conditions that created them quickly become absurd, and some are absurd to begin with.
Magical Thinking lies at the root of the fifth enemy of the Magical Life - Madness. This is the most dangerous since once it takes hold there is no hope of recovery. While a victim may be cured sufficiently to cope with normal society all chances of following the Magical Life are gone forever. (When I originally gave this talk a member of the audience misunderstood me to be saying that all the enemies are the inevitable consequence of following the Magical Life, like steps on a ladder. In the words of the Apostle - "God forbid".) Madness takes hold of an individual when he or she becomes transfixed by the power of Magical Thinking and mistakes the creative play of association for actual creation, rightly understands themselves to be at the creative centre of the process but mistakenly believes this creative centre is the centre of all creation. Delusion of grandeur follow.
What lifts the follower of the Magical Life out of the mire of Magical Thinking and over the impassable obstacle of Madness is the third Magical Weapon - True Friends.
One's True Friends are not like ordinary friends. Often one has little in common with them apart from the Magical Life and some of the things they do would not generally be considered friendly under ordinary circumstances. One young woman I know refers to her True Friends as her True Family since they are an assorted bunch of individuals only bound together by one cause.
But it is the True Friends who can exert the pressure and give the support that detaches an individual from his or her accumulation of personal prejudices and into the world of potential, where the roots of power spring from.
The experience can only be understood in terms of the mundane, however. And it is a simple matter to confuse the interpretation with the experience. Since the interpretation is rooted in the real world of the potential it is compelling. But it is also limiting and the refusal to accept that it is only an interpretation leads to the sixth enemy - Conviction.
Conviction mistakes the order that it has placed on reality for reality itself and considers the inevitable contradictions as evidence of flaws in the everyday world as opposed to the Great World of the Ideal. Conviction is harmless to others and it can be beautiful and useful - the theory of music or the physics of Isaac Newton are both excellent examples of systems that work well for most practical purposes but can easily be mistaken for the blueprint of all creation rather than interesting insights. One can live very happily with Conviction but it will eventually strangle the source of its inspiration through its refusal to consider itself mistaken.
Far more dangerous is the seventh enemy - Fanaticism. Those who follow the Magical Life have genuine reverence for all organised religions. But they are also wary of being caught up and consumed by a force bigger than themselves. The Magical Life is not incompatible with religion, indeed all religions actively promote it. But to follow the Magical Life in a closed, traditional system that draw on an immensely powerful source of inspiration leads to the danger (but not the necessity) of being enslaved to it. And the Magical Life must be free because at its heart it depends on service freely given.
So one must never lose sight of the fourth Magical Weapon - True Knowledge, the ability to know one's self, know man and hence know what is beyond man.
This page, and all contents, are Copyright (C) 1995 by Saros. The material may be used freely providing the source is acknowledged.