Just a side note: I get most of my subscriptions in email, so I keep forgetting those blogs have “like” buttons. So I’m always surprised when someone “likes” one of my posts.
Over the past twenty years, there are some observations I have made on the experiences I have had concerning the nature of physical and spiritual reality which have strongly influenced the premises I wrote about in Part 1. I’ll be listing some of them here, along with my personal thoughts on them.
Early Opinions of Magic
I have never agreed with the modern Christian prohibitions against magic. Since youth, I found the restriction of the wonderful to miracles performed by God and His prophets to be far too limiting and narrow-minded. I was very fond of Greek and Roman myths, fantasy and science fiction literature, and of course movies like Dragonheart, Clash of the Titans, The Last Unicorn, The Hobbit, and Excalibur. I developed a definition of magic which would fit into my own mundane life fairly early on: a discipline which harnessed energy through the will to accomplish a task (those familiar with the works of Crowley and other occultists may find some amusement in the definition). If magic ever existed, I supposed, then it was a tool developed by God to be used in His service, not a devilish practice to be shunned and ostracized, as in Deuteronomy 18:10-12. This was probably the groundwork for questioning the Christian faith later in my life, but hey.
I’m not the only one to have considered this. Early Christian writers, including St. Augustine, praised the legendary author Hermes Trismegistus for his philosophies, which form the basis of Hermetic thought and Ceremonial Magic. The Renaissance and Romantic movement saw explosions of interest in occult philosophy, which strongly influenced the Neopagan movement of the late 20th Century. My first experiences with Gnosticism were in connection to its relationship with both Qabalah and the Corpus Hermeticum. Hel, St. Albertus Magnus and Friar Roger Bacon were both notable alchemists of the 13th Century, and alchemy contained a great deal of Hermetic philosophy and what would have been considered “natural” magical practice.
It was the experience of seeing magic performed that pushed me over the edge. At the time, I was as close to a Fundamentalist as someone who believed in magic could get – there were times in my high school years when I had several heated and involved discussions with my peers on what my beliefs on magic meant for me as a Christian. Seeing energy work for the first time was the very point of my paradigm shift, when I realized that what I had believed since puberty was true, at least to certain degrees.
Christian Double Standards
Christianity has an interesting double standard in most Protestant forms, likely born from the rationalism of the Renaissance and later. If I talk to God, it’s praying; if God talks to me, however, I must be crazy. This begs the question of the relevance of prayer in the first place. What I mean is, in the Bible, God speaks directly to several people, not all of them prophets. So, by these examples, and by the words in Joel 2:28 (mirrored in Acts 2:17), we have the occurrences of God communicating with humanity. If there is no further communication from God, why send communication to God?
The waters were further muddied by the number of Protestant sects (mostly claiming to be “non-denominational”) which not only claimed that God speaking was possible, but that it had happened many times in their churches. In many of these cases, the “speaking” was done from Scripture, and any dreams or visions that a person had were just as decried as in more traditional churches. This is found even in some Fundamentalist expressions. Then you have the Pentecostals, who, when they’re not speaking gibberish (a much more valid event, in my opinion – more on heart language later), are just as likely to spout elaborate cuss words as say anything meaningful in a foreign tongue. (Side note: This has no bearing on actual Pentecostal practice, but there is an amusing example of this in the movie Saved! where the Jewish student says, “Mah poo-see ees uh haht poo-see!” and Pastor Skip thinks she’s, “speaking God’s love language, folks!” Sound it out; it’s funny.)
Where are the visions? Where are the dreamers of dreams? Where is the experience of the divine, of the spiritual, in this spiritual practice? There is plenty of talk of Satan sending up a rocket to interrupt you during prayer, there is plenty of talk of demons and spiritual stumbling blocks, but most of those refer to morality and giving into temptations rather than spiritual practice. When it comes to “feeling” that God received your prayer and will answer it, other Christians mostly remain skeptical. When it comes to thanksgiving and praise, the rational Christian mind seems to lack a receptive target. I therefore came to the conclusion that today’s Protestant Christianity is remarkably lacking in the spiritual department. There are exceptions, of course, but a disturbing number of those exceptions are closely tied to the most reprehensible practices of Christianity in recent years, from hypocrisy to defacing and destroying the property of other religions to murder.
Science, Pseudoscience, and the Occult
Quantum mechanics have been used time and again to try to justify or explain New Age and/or Hermetic beliefs and practices. I recognize the danger of retreading that territory. However, one that has yet to be debunked is energetic theory. The basic premise is, if everything is formed of energy, including humans, than humans might be able to manipulate that energy in subtle ways. For example, electrostatic charge on a plastic comb can slightly divert the path of water falling from a faucet. The theory goes, if that is possible, is it also possible for humans to achieve such an effect with other things in the universe?
This goes back to the “Magic Works” premise of Part 1. It doesn’t matter why magic works, so long as it does, but this theory above gave part of the impetus for it. We have harnessed electricity, fire, water, even the atom. Why not suppose that since ancient times, there are those who have harnessed the latent power in their brains, as well?
I found the term “pseudoscience” to be rather liberally applied when referring to attempts to legitimize magical or psychic practice, though. In some cases, there were simple theories that were found to be lacking, and that’s fine. People can have theories. It is where those that have a theory offer it as scientific fact that the term “pseudoscience” is correctly applied.