By Steven Martyn
Our whole lives we are guided away from the mystery and the magic. Driven away, like sheep from a gate leading to open pasture, driven back down the narrow dark road towards the culling. This is not the way it’s always been, but for centuries now, since the so-called enlightenment, every fibre of our being has been set towards the de-mystifying of life. It didn’t happen easily either. It’s taken such a great collective effort for centuries to get to our present physical understanding of the world, because in truth all of reality is held afloat by and filled with mystery. Even many scientists themselves recognize this, but often because of their methodology they have no means through which this they can label or work with the ever present magical creative and healing force of the Earth and Universe. In all their investigations over the last century they’ve only brushed up against this magical reality a couple times. Initially, it seems there was only one able to see it, Einstein, and he called the effects of the mysterious interconnectedness, “spooky action at a distance.”
It’s hard to admit this to ourselves, but over and over we take a part of reality that is truly magical, wild and untameable and replace it. We kill, hide or brush aside the wild reality of the thing itself and then switch it with that which can be named and controlled. The first step in this process is to isolate the object or phenomena in order to label and categorize it. Then as we become more ‘educated’, we add a deeper sense of technical understanding to fill in our picture, and to fully crowd out the mystery. Every time we boldly step forward in our heroic “quest for knowledge” or in our straight-out hope for exploitation, we squash the spirit of the very thing we were trying “to gain a deeper understanding” of. And so, over time everything in reality has been replaced. To the point where not only don’t we see the magic in things but we think magic is just a fantasy.
We’ve done this switch to everything that we can physically sense for so long now there is nothing real left, for most of us. We now live in a world of pumpkins. Everything has been hollowed out and had a crude face we can recognize carved on it. The slippery truth is the spirits have been banished through a magic of our own, through our spells, through logic and scientific thought. But even logic if we look close enough, had a very different face long ago. Not carved out through reason but born from the lips of the Goddess herself.
If we happen to stop thinking ourselves out of reality, by accident or design, we find very quickly the universe is unfathomably mysterious and personal. Even the most common things like our food, buildings and clothes, chairs and tables are fully alive and have mythological origins which have been buried and forgotten. Because the inner life of the objects, that have been given to us as divine gifts, have been hollowed out, they’ve become a burden to our soul and give us little to no satisfaction. We scramble to fill that emptiness born from our deep loss of relationship and meaning that we used to have with not just the people but the objects in our life. We buy more new manufactured story-less objects, instead of finding the reality, the soul, of the objects that surround us by giving them back their mythic stories. Objects become props to fill in our own shallow narrative. But with each hollow acquisition, the promise of fulfillment quickly passes, just like after a junk food fix. Satisfying for the moment and then the empty hunger soon returns. The ghosts of reality haunt us with their hunger.
One unsettling thing we realize when begin let go of our programming is that reality is not just objectively “out there” as we are have agreed on, but rather, our perception is what creates our reality. While this last statement sounds simple, almost cliché, it is the most important seven words we could ever keep in mind. Because by using them them we can stop running our programming. Stop obsessing about physical description and comparison, and shift our energy toward watching perception itself. It is only through this shift that we may come to dismantle the old realities we’re unknowingly participating in creating. And that are keeping us stuck in this industrial/consumer reality. Green products and environmental restriction are not going to save us, what is needed is a deeper shift in our perception and experience of reality. From the seeds of our experience can grow a new ethic like the dawn of a new day.
While the authorities have consciously and unconsciously banished magic and magical thinking, we are ever fortunate because the spirits of the land and our ancestors are with us and very resourceful. In our days they reach out to us over and over, we only need to acknowledge them to open the doors to the animate world again. This is part of what we do at
The Sacred Gardener School, we train people to recognize reality and find their way back into the world of mystery and revelation. First, we need to have “cross over” experiences with nature. And then build on that bridge until we can once again fully cross over and live in connected balance once again, in a hand-made world full of animate meaning.
I’m not saying we will live naively again (if we ever did) like the mythical Adam and Eve, or like we imagine animals to be. But through clear intention and our deliberate action we can change our path and relationship with spirit. An example of this might be when we create a national park to protect an area from development. A wild spirit can be born and fostered under the protection of the very type of possessive rational thinking that created the need for the sanctuary in the first place. We can get out of this mess we’ve created the same way we got into it by using reason, but first we need to turn around and look the other way. So our reason is used to co-create and not to indiscriminately dissect and destroy. We need a new King or Queen of spirit to take the reigns of our life over and head us toward abundance and harmony, with reason and technology as their aids. This leadership we are all waiting for will not come from outside ourselves. It will only manifest in the this world when we have found it in ourselves first.
One thing I think people might ask is why would we want to go back to this animate ‘magical’ understanding of really that it took us so long to get away from? There’s at least a couple of ways to look at this. One, might be as a solution. Simply said, this way of seeing the world is the only thing that will save us personally and collectively from annihilation. When we are in this reality it changes our lives and our relationship with our ancestors and with our ‘stuff’. The massive manufacturing industry that buffers us from the cradle to the grave insulating us
from reality, from nature, is truly a horror show. The development of computers, cars, planes and many other modern things we rely on would be unthinkable to an animist because it involves too much enslavement of elementals. They would intuitively know it would cost us more spiritually than we could ever pay. The deep irony, and humour of reality, is that while we think we’re in charge ‘owning’ thing in reality it’s the objects that come to own us and not the other way around.
Environmentalists (god bless them) are trying to solve the problem from the other end of time, where it’s already too late. The exploitation starts with simply how we look at things. From the before shit happens. It starts with the denial of the Earth and everything’s consciousness and intelligence. If we were all acting in accord with the land and spirits, in accord with a higher law that is part of the land, then there would be no need for environmental protection or any laws at all. The fact is the laws don’t solve the problem, but are unwittingly enabling the abuse of the land as we hand over our inner authority to an outer authority. Our laws like everything else are just a carved out pumpkin that we’ve put on exhibit as a stand in for the universal law of the land, for the golden rule. Yet again making us believe what is most important is our description and so called understanding rather than what’s really out there.
A more direct and sensually appealing way to grasp why one might come back to the ancient ways of working with the world is that life is so full when we’re living as an animist we don’t crave material wealth. I have no desire for material wealth, being in good accord with Nature and those around me is what is important to me. Life feels full even on days when nothing much seems to happen because my encounters with the beings that surround me are four dimensional, just like they can be with other humans. I’ve given back reality its insides, its emotion/spiritual life. A flowering plant, a lake side, a mossy rock, everything once again has a secret voice and whispers a long forgotten story, when we have an ear to listen and eyes to see.
I’d like to end by sharing a specific example of what I’m talking about, a story to give you back a little bit of the magic.
Once long ago everyone knew that words were magic. They knew words created reality. Even in our biblical creation story it was understood that “First there was the word”. At times those words and the syllables they contained divinely migrated toward our cause. At other times they were begged, borrowed or stolen. But all of the sounds we’d gathered in over millennia were still somewhat wild. In time, as we came to divide up and label reality, we borrowed other living beings to use as symbols, eventually creating letters that represented the ‘spell’ of the word. But few knew how to read and lesser still knew how to write, so even then the wild letters while being fenced in and domesticated to our service, had a good sized pasture. For centuries the way things were spelled and put together had a great deal to do with the person writing and where they lived. Then, in just the last couple hundred years came the time for ‘universality’, where colonial cultures tried their best to “clean up” their languages and pin down the grammar and spelling. And in so doing they wiped out the indigenous, regional and personal part of the language. The words, our words, were then indeed trapped in very small cages with no freedom or wildness left to wander.
So, while words were was once so recognized for their magical creative nature, and for their power, that the combination of sounds needed to utter them was known as a “spell”. Now they’ve been neutered and boxed in. Phonetic spelling has replaced the idea that all words contain a spell. Then, just to consolidate the switch so there is no confusion, the old word ‘spell’ has been made into a joke, a fantasy. The spiritual legacy and power of ‘the word’ now goes unrecognized in our word cluttered world, and what was the most real part of words and phrases (their spell) is seen as superstition or illusion. In stories of evil witches and sorcerers, like Harry Potter, we are given the impression that spells and magic are something completely different from what they really are. And likewise, modern magicians do tricks as a stand in for real magic. Yet even those tricks serve to remind us that our perception is far from infallible, as we deeply believe it to be and live accordingly. Maybe something of this switch that has happened to everything is revealed in a more obscure modern meaning of the word spell, which can actually mean “to switch”. Like when we “relieve someone for a spell so they can rest”. This is what we’ve done with reality, we sent it on break but then forgot our labeling and sorting was just what we were doing to fill in. We took on the creation of reality outside and left our own inner kingdom with an accountant in charge.
I know about things like this because however caged in our words are, the magic is still hiding in them. Just as it is in the things that surround us. In deep silence, inside of time, many words and other beings have told me tales of how they came to be. Most recently I was meditating on the words Spring and Fall. Watch, feel and listen to what your mouth does when you say S-P-R-I-N-G. The sound rises up like a snake or slow leak from someplace deep underground. It clears the ground and unfolds itself outward, launching forward and ending with a lovely “ring” that carries spring all the way to ‘summer’s’ luxuriant gently rolling spell of days. Now slowly say FALL. It starts by bitting your lower lip, by cutting the flow of something off, like the summer’s been cut off. Then there is the downward sound of A-L-L, like in the words hall or hallow. And then word ends with the dull thud of our tongue pressed across our front upper teeth. Leaving us braced for the collision into the steep sharp brittle spell of WINTER.
These words, like any, have come to create and perpetuate our perception of particular things, such as spring, summer, fall and winter. And it is only through seeing their inner magic (which is different from, but may be related to a words historic or semiotic meaning) that we can begin to understand in what way the word puts a spell on us and in what way when we think or use the words we are putting a spell on the world.