Saturday, 30 July 2011

A defence of magic...

As the sun shines down on the fields, the air is filled with flies and moths – flitting here and there chased, as if for that purpose made, by the swallows that must gorge themselves ready for the long flight to the plains of Africa. A flight just a few weeks hence, a flight that some of those swallows have never made but that nature has programmed them to undertake.

This, my friends is the magic of life. Yet there remain some who are terrified of that magic – scared that to invoke such an idea if to bring evil spirits into the world. Such a narrow perspective,  such a misunderstanding of magic is found too often in those preaching an essentialist view of Christian teachings:

In the real world we know that evil spirits are able to bring about effects which cannot be brought about by any other created causes, and this preternatural activity could, if called upon, explain all that needs to be explained in the phenomena of the occult, spiritism and the like which is left unexplained by fraud. The discussion of magic in the Bible certainly suggests that the real-world necromancers, magicians, and mediums encountered in its pages are dependent upon evil spirits for whatever effective powers they may possess.

Do we know this? Or do we see the sins and evils of man ascribed to demons because it is convenient for us – an excuse, if you will. This is to misunderstand magic – indeed, it is to misrepresent magic. To suggest that it is a comprehensible, directed thing designed by devils to draw us from the path of righteousness.

Magic is as magic does – the magician does not draw on dark forces for his art but uses that which already is, the magic that is around us. Thus the wonders of nature serve us – and that is magic if we would only notice. Magic isn’t about casting spell or curses nor is it about power or control – magic is about amazement.

When the candles are lit, the incense wafts through the air and the choir gently sings there is magic present. Some would call it the ‘Holy Spirit’ but, regardless of the source we ascribe, it is magical. We are lifted, we feel able to get a deeper understanding and our hearts are lifted to the heavens. This is magic.

But that same magic is there when we stand looking out across England’s landscape – watching it grow and change. That magic is not evil spirit but the gods of the land reborn, telling us of what was before and what will be tomorrow. And man has used that magic, has shaped the land to his purpose and, in doing so, has revealed a greater wonder. A deeper magic.

The only evil is in men’s hearts – there are no demons. And magic breaks that evil by revealing the world’s beauty. And the magic works – not is the way of the book but in ways we only fathom as we look back.

Take of English earth as much
As either hand may rightly clutch.
In the taking of it breathe
Prayer for all who lie beneath.
Not the great nor well-bespoke,
But the mere uncounted folk
Of whose life and death is none
Report or lamentation.
Lay that earth upon thy heart,
And thy sickness shall depart!


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