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Monday, July 12, 2010

The Magic and the Darkness

“The universe is not only stranger than we think, but it is stranger than we can think”, said biologist J.B.S. Haldine (and don’t ask me why he called himself “JBS”). One thing that one immediately begins to understand when one sets off to explore the frontiers of life and intelligence, is that the dry mechanistic world of textbook science is a manufactured delusion. The situation reminds me of the dried butterflies stuck in old books. Beautiful in a sense, but their very life and soul has been sucked out.
The universe is an enchanting and mysterious place, wondrous and exciting and terrifying all in equal measure. The depth of the universe is simply far, far beyond the comprehension of our tiny human minds. Yet mainstream science insists that only those things which can be measured and quantified are real.
Empirical Philosopher David Hume once wrote:
If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.
It is all too easy to confuse the model with world, the map with the territory. So we get classrooms full of dry text books, and a universe of dried butterflies.
Dried butterflies do not fly. They do not fly because they are dead, reduced to the material substrate of their physical form.
Consciousness is by far the most fascinating quality and experience in the universe. Unfortunately science has made a rather belated start in attempting to understand consciousness. Twentieth century psychology didn’t help much by insisting that consciousness didn’t exist, or just wasn’t that important.
The universe is indeed wondrous, and human beings have at their avail a cornucopia of experiences which are yet to appear on the map of dominant scientiifc inquiry. In my own journey I have chased UFOs along the East Coast of Australia, soared to the serene voice of angelic messengers, and experienced far journeys out of the body.

The universe is a mystical place. There is much that is unknown, or even beyond our knowing. As surfers of the frontiers of mind (and ultimately evolution is such an adventure) it is our destiny to explore these realms. For curiosity and enquiry are inbuilt into the human psyche. In purely Darwinian terms, a species which is not inquisitive is quickly an extinct species.

Yet we can go too far in this expansion of knowledge, of boundary. 

When the motivation for mystical enquiry is not exploration and adventure, but instead the need for control, power, and certainty, the mystical journey turns to one of magic and superstition. To some degree, all philosophies contain error. When they move too far into error, it can be said that they have become delusional. Mainstream science is delusional, because, beyond its breathtaking advances in knowledge and technology, it has failed to grasp the big picture. The progress of the Concorde over a vast blue ocean may be impressive, but less so when the pilot becomes so enamored with his beauteous craft that he fails to notice that he is flying in the wrong direction.

All philosophical, religious and spiritual worldviews are similarly prone to error.

Let’s focus for a moment on the “alternative” spiritual movements, often broadly referred to as the New Age movement. In reality it is an extremely diverse group, but there are some generalisations we can make.

The New Age is replete with magical thinking. Magical thinking is defined by one overriding delusion: that we are in control of the world, and that the world will respond to our personal desires. Numerous religious and spiritual rituals are designed to gain control where the ability to control is limited or absent. In years gone by, for example, inhabitants of certain Pacific islands would engage in prayer whenever their canoes had to venture beyond the reef and out into the ocean – for the very reason that the ocean was vast, unknown, and uncontrollable. Their prayers were attempts to control the world by invoking the deity. Much prayer has the same function, across multiple spiritual practices.

Prayer has purposes beyond requests for the fulfillment of desire, of course. It can be a connection with a greater intelligence, a surrendering to forces beyond one’s control. It can be an affirmation of trust in a greater power. The irony, of course, is that at the logical level, there is often no reason to trust, given the fragile nature of physical existence.

Spiritual guidance does exist, and it is available to all people. Yet it answers not to the will of our personal egos, but to the greater “will” of the universe, and that purpose may not be something that we are privy to know at any given moment.

The human biological system contains an emotional body which in turn houses emotional energies which can be difficult to process. Anger, grief, shame, hatred, guilt, loneliness, despair and depression… the list is long. When we come into this world we are born into consciousness fields which already contain these emotional energies. You were not merely born into a physical body, but into an emotional field of energy. This body of energy, however, is no accident. It is aligned with your Soul Issues, the habits of consciousness which are ingrained within your spirit from previous incarnations. You chose your parents, with a little help from Spirit.

You are born to acknowledge, process, and grow from the circumstances and consciousness fields into which you have incarnated. Yet to do this you have to surrender to the reality of these patterns of mind. This will typically involve processing emotional energy which might be considered “painful”. It is a healing journey.

The greatest delusion of the New Age is that we can circumvent the emotional body and proceed directly to “manifestation.” In other words, the lie is that we are in control, and that by simply imagining a desired future, it will magically appear before us. Part of this error is that certain healing methods will enable us to circumvent our pain, and move to the other side of it and emerge in a blissful state. Examples include hands on healing, reiki, crystal therapy, aromatherapy and so on, which can all be misapplied to foster this illusion.

These practices have their legitimate purposes, but they will not heal your emotional pain.

To my knowledge, the only way to heal it is to feel it. We have to call home the lost child that we once were. We have to reclaim the wounded child. Depending upon our Soul Issues, this may involve the expression of much fear, grief, anger, shame and so on. It requires that we take back the lost parts of our souls that we have unconsciously given to others. Healing comes at a cost. There are no shortcuts, no magical transformations. We are not saved by the light, the deity, nor our soul mate. It’s just you and the little boy or girl inside you.

Where there are parts of ourselves trapped in the past, there can be no moving into presence. And where there is no presence, the full light of Spirit cannot shine through us.

I was speaking to someone recently who contained within her spirit a great amount of emotional pain. She was very aware of this, but was terrified of the place that she found herself in. Standing at the doorway of the abyss of her soul pain, she faced a pivotal moment in her life. How could she possibly go into that dark place, such terror did it hold for her?

About 12 years ago I had a dream, at a time when I stood at a similar impasse. I was standing on beside the parapet of a shady balcony of a medieval castle. To my right, around the outside wall of the castle, I could see another parapet of a second balcony, which was out in the sunlight. But to get to that second balcony I had to move through a dark tunnel in front of me, and into the blackness of the castle’s interior. The pitch black corridor loomed before me, and I sensed that up ahead there was a turn to another corridor on the right, although I couldn’t actually see anything, as it was so dark inside. I was frightened of that blackness, but took a step towards it. I was immediately filled with the deepest, darkest sense of terror imaginable. I awoke in intense fear.

At some point we all face that doorway, and there is no magic which can change that, no deity who can pull us through. Although we have guidance, we have to make the decision ourselves. It takes courage and dedication and faith.

The human species now faces this same choice as a collective.



  1. Great points, Marcus, and a very accurate and pointed critique of the 'Secret' approach, which lets ego in by the back door to destroy anything which spiritual focus and concentration might attain.

    But don't you think that there are ways that one can step directly from pain and separation to bliss and unity? Don't teachers like Leonard Jacobson also suggest that these states, though a million miles apart, are also right next to each other - a bit like parallel universes?

  2. The answer is no, as far as I am aware. Leonard Jacobson agrees on that point. He writes that there will be periods where emotional energy will arise spontaneously as we move more and more into the present moment. The key is not to believe the story behind the pain, and to keep moving into presence. You can be present with all emotional energy, and in this sense it is not "painful". Anger and sadness, though, are almost universally entrapped in the psyche of human beings. These scars pertain to experiences in one's personal biography and past lives - but some may be implanted energy from others who have "dumped" on you, or from groups and collectives (family, friends, soul group, race, nation, the human species).

  3. Great post, Marcus. Thank you.
    I too have looked for shortcuts or better said, methods that bypass the being with pain and in darkness.
    None have worked for me, only temporary (or temporal?) relief was felt, for while.
    However, tools such as reiki, crystal therapy, sounds & scents, breathwork etc. can assist one on the journey when applied with conscious awareness.
    Not that such tools are necessary but they can make the experience more fun and enjoyable.
    On another note, some proponents of hallucegenics, ayuaska in particular, are quite convinced about the illuminating powers of such encounters. I've been invited to partake on numerous occasion but never had any resonance with it.

  4. Good points, Karl. As I indicated in the post, I am not dissing things like reiki, crystal healing, and so on. As you point out they can be fun, and energising. The key point though is that they generally don't connect us with the wounded child. Some people do body work/massage/healing, and this brings forth trapped emotional pain, so that can be a doorway. But somehow we have to learn how to let it process without needing to run to a therapist every time.

    As for the hallucinogens and other drugs, I also have no time for them. I've never tried drugs at all, (unless you define the odd drop of alcohol and caffeine as drugs). If they become a habit, it's a big problem. Take a look at this discussion of mystic Stuart Wilde. . I certainly am no advocate of the spiteful put-downs directed at Stuart on this page, but it does describe some of the problems associated with the drugs approach. SW is very much into the drugs, esp ayahuasca. He leads tours to South America - or should I say "trips" to South America? ;-)Personally, I think SW has gone down the wrong track. The focus of the journey should not be the visions, but the here and now.

  5. I agree, learning how to be with what is, that is important.
    Your book, Sage of Syncronicity, feels to be a wonderful tool for that.

    Thanks for the Stuart Wilde link, I will have a look.
    Reminds me of a story I'd heard when SW held a seminar in HK, via the New Age shop, many moons ago.
    It was a full on production with sound. lights and dancers.
    A friend of mine was part of the organising team and told me that SW had downed almost the entire content of a bottle of whisky or brandy before geting on stage. Whatever works, I guess :-)

    For me, presence is key.
    You may enjoy Michael Brown, have a look: