The Pokey Finger of God

meditations on religion and culture

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Magic and Religion

October 1st, 2004 · No Comments · christianity, media, metaphysics

As promised, here’s that quote from the book I’ve been reading. Further observations to come.

These are words of a Christian mystic identified as “Father Sylvan” by Jacob Needleman in his book Lost Christianity. It’s clear through in the text that “Father Sylvan” is both a student of Gnosticism and Hermeticism, which have colored his perceptions of what Christianity is and what it can do.

One hears it said that religion, at its heart, is practical psychology. But, just because something works, it does not mean that it is comparable to modern science. True metaphysics works; true philosophy works; true mystery works. True magic works – through the phenomenon of resonance. One must know the exact words to say and one must say them in exactly the right place and the right time; and then forces may be called down from heaven.

However, to be sensitive to the law of resonance beyond the realm observed by the senses, it is necessary to bring a great intelligence to one’s petition – either that or a very purified emotional state. Or an extraordinary degree of bodily suffering, pure bodily suffering without the admixture and intensification of personal emotion

Your Christianity must have magic in it; your magic must be Christian.

Christianity shows man his helplessness apart from God; magic brings about physical results that are lawfully caused by the sacrifice of spiritual illusions.

Christianity empties a man; magic fills him with the power to act from his vital center as a being made in the image of his Creator.

All real religion produces physical results. But the question of how to be toward these results is the most easily lost element in a teaching. It is the very first thing to go when a tradition begins to disperse. But both magic and religion are necessary components of every complete teaching.

Without magic, Christianity turns man against nature, the creation of God, and eventually against God himself.

Without magic, Christianity abandons the inner physical sensations that support the forces of hope and love. Religious man may know he is nothing under God, but without magic he no longer physically tastes the goodness and the warmth of this hard truth, no longer applies it to himself out of the instincts of his heart. Instead, he applies the Truth to his neighbor’s weaknesses, and eventually he may kill his neighbor. Without magic, without inner results that can be sensed, man loses the sense of wonder before the Creation that is within himself, the movement up and down of his own inner energies. Only this self-knowledge can generate real compassion for my neighbor and real knowledge of him and a true sense of justice toward him. Those who love justice without long experience of these inner forces will never bring about anything but more violence and hatred.

Man must have results, real results, in his inner and outer life. I do not mean the results which modern people strive after in their attempts at self-development. These are not results, but only rearrangements of psychic material, a process the Buddhists call samsara and which our Holy Bible calls dust.