As I’ve mentioned in my last post, magic is a major theme in the four books I have written. And like yesterday’s post, I hope to be able describe exactly what I mean by magic. At least that is the aim, to attempt once again to point at a target that is allusive and multi-faceted.
The word magic is simply a label I put on an idea that is a little too abstract for easy understanding. Perhaps religion or spirituality might fit better, but any word is apt to be misunderstood. Please bear with me as I try to explain some of the ideas without getting hung up on the words that are used. As Chuang Tzu said, “The Tao that can be described is not the real Tao.” In other words, don’t worship the statue that represents God, don’t stare at the finger that points at the moon, they are merely ways of getting one to see the unseeable.
Magic is the ability to cook a perfect steak without knowing the scientific principles involved. It is knowing that certain actions can produce a given result without knowing why. Science is a wonderful thing, no doubt, but so is magic. Jimi Hendrix did not have to know the science behind sound in order to make music.
Sometimes in searching for explanations we end up killing the magic. Not because truths disprove magic but an insufficient understanding of it does. We never are really able to understand the deeper truths, it is too much for our little minds, but quite often we convince ourselves that we actually do know something. And in believing ourselves capable of understanding in any real sense, we permit our delusions of knowledge to destroy something wonderful.
Magic is the sizzle of the steak: you could explain it, but why? Magic is elusive and should be. Magic is that thing that resides in the soul of the scientist that makes him question in the first place. It flits at the edge of our consciousness but is never clearly seen.
Magic does not always jibe with our intellect, and so the intellect attempts to deny it. But if we keep our intellect humble, we can admit something exists without understanding why. After all, if a certain ritual permits a pitcher to pitch a perfect game, or a certain belief enables a forty year old boxer to become the heavyweight champion of the world, who are we to ridicule? It worked! Perhaps the reasoning they used does not fit in with reality as we perceived it, but IT WORKED. And the fact that such beliefs are passed on to others with similar results, it is not unreasonable to assume there is something to it.
There are truths our intellects will never grasp, the intellect is simply not made for some things. The intellect is akin to a sixth sense, another way for the human animal to perceive the outside world. It is quite good at a great many things, but it has its own blind spots, a great many of them, I would say. Even our sense of smell is better equipped to judge the outside world than our intellect, but the intellect is better at convincing us it is right. Think about it, if something does not seem right but our mind cannot find a reason against it, we say that “something smells rotten” or “it doesn’t pass the smell test”. And if we allow our reason to veto what our nose is telling us, we usually end up paying the price for it. For one day, abandon reason for scent and see if it does not make you happier. And in experiencing the world without believing you understand it, then perhaps you will gain some appreciation of what I allude to when I use the word magic. It is something not to be understood, merely experienced. And in experience, you will find understanding deeper and truer than anything the human intellect can ever hope to attain.