From time to time I am asked about the name of this blog. Some people, thinking they understand the name have even bemoaned my lack of posts on the ordinary, magical things of life, like sunsets, watching your child sleep etc. So maybe the time has come for a few comments.
The name is borrowed from Gershon Winkler’s book on ‘Jewish Shamanism‘. Pretty much all of Gershon’s later works revolve around his visionary recognition of Judaism and particularly the Qabalah as an earth based ‘shamanic’ tradition. As a western Qabalist with a strong earth based background this naturally appealed to me. If you have not read any of Gershon’s works they’re really worth getting hold of, though his view and practice of Judaism is about as far from the orthodox as Matthew Fox’s is from the Vatican.
I freely confess this blog does not contain many varied repetitions on descriptions of personal experiences of what may be called ‘the magic of the ordinary’, where the sensual world reveals a deeper and more enduring aspect beyond normal human perception and apprehension. There are plenty of other blogs out there doing this. While all of these blogs are clearly written with the best intentions, the writing is often more personally applicable than universal.
Only real poets and writers can pull these things off. I am of course blessed to know a great poet (M) so my ego will not let me produce personally meaningful anecdotes and reflections without poetic beauty. Still I am very mindful of how we all, from time to time encounter sacred truth and beauty through ‘ordinary’ things. This brings me to my next point.
The older I get the more convinced I am that even the magical moments of ordinary life leave no effective transformation without depth spiritual practice. No matter how transported we are by the sunset or the green unity of our garden, we can still stumble into destructive and selfish acts when the chips are down or even on a daily basis. This is why I am a great fan of tradition as nothing else seems to have the capacity and the down right balls to change us completely, irrecoverably and where required ruthlessly.
The ordinary magic approach, allowing regular life to be magical is best summed up by an old friend of mine, Angela. She described her spirituality to me as ‘living life, seeing friends…walking on the beach…doing it all.’ She was clear she was ‘spiritual’ and that her spirituality was right and valid for her. She read the odd spiritual book – mostly bestsellers like the Celestine Prophecy – and was peripherally aware of traditional practices and practiced Western styled hatha yoga. She was very happy she lived in a world that had grown beyond the ‘strictures of control’ which previously governed individual expression. She viewed traditional religion and indeed all tradition as outdated and destined to crumble from within as individuals found their own self-defined spiritually.
There are plenty of lovely people out there like Angela who have the best intentions but little knowledge, and as we all know a little knowledge…
For example I was speaking to someone the other day who described the difficulty she had when practicing a healing technique taken from The Tibetan Book Living and Dying. This resulted in her being in pain and very sick. In the end it turned out she was connecting her own light and emotions to the newly deceased from the recent Victorian Bushfires rather than those of a deity (as the book instructed). Fortunately she was not badly hurt, as has been the case with more esoteric practices that people have half remembered or changed to suit themselves.
Magic of the Ordinary to me is something quite different to this approach and encourages and promotes tradition. I take it to mean Magic of the Ordinary in the sense of magic as an agent of transformation – so we are changing the ordinary. Here I think the best definition of magic comes from Golden Dawn adept Florence Farr when she describes magic as “un-limiting experience”. So by the practice of magic or any traditional depth spiritual practice we are un-limiting the ordinary, our regular lives and perceptions. It is our connection, practice and adherence to traditions like magic that causes our ordinary life to be transformed and the experiences of interconnection to not only happen more often but actually change us too. Ultimately this changes the world and moves us closer to the divinization of the earth as the Christian tradition understands it.
In writing this I am once again reminded of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Here is someone beloved by so many different people, people like my friend Angela and died in the wool strict traditional Gelupa monks. His love, presence and compassion move so many people and yet his description of practice is very humble, clear and down to earth. He describes how daily repetitions of practices like meditating on emptiness and interdependence over many, many years transform our ways of thinking and being in the world. Traditional spiritual practice is slow but effective and does ultimately change us. It does bring about the Magic of the Ordinary.