Mystery vs. magic
Monday, August 18, 2008 at 7:39PM
Peter Neary-Chaplin in Spiritual, christian writing, deep magic, magic, mystery, mysticism, religion, spirituality

Much of my recent reading has focused on how to find ways to deal with the losing of religion while still maintaining the sense of wonder that seems to my eyes to be perhaps the greatest aspect of faith. I have resolutely refused to retreat into mystery because this seems to me to be just a way of avoiding the difficult questions. But the refusal of an explanation is not really a solution, and I wasn't really sure why I objected so much until I sat down with my 13-year-old daughter and watched one of the Narnia DVDs.  I can't recall which one it was, but towards the end Aslan makes a reference to the universe having a "deep magic" which underlies everything.

A little 10-watt bulb switched on over my head. It may be no more than the emotional resonances that certain words have for me, though this is not a trivial observation, since all of life is mediated to and through us by our creative responses to words and the associations they have for us. We're all a bundle of learned and unlearned meanings, most of which are created or instilled in us before we have any notion that Mummy is not-me.

But still, mystery doesn't satisfy, and somehow magic at least contains some possibilities. Mystery rebuts every effort to be known; magic swirls its skirt and flashes its ankles. Mystery is cool, still, magnificent, like a polished boulder; magic has  toeholds and blemishes you can gain a grip on. Mystery is a pillar of salt; magic is Lot's wife the moment before. Mystery died aeons ago, long enough for no-one to remember if it ever lived; magic's body has disappeared.  Mystery is certain death; magic can't be trusted to behave so properly.

So if anyone tells you "You'll never understand it, it's a mystery," try reframing the thought with "magic" substituted for "mystery."  It might work, you never know...

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