Mystical and Magical Hands

Whew, doing a little house cleaning (and sprucing, note the new theme I’m toying with) and found this one sitting in the queue. Applying the time-old test of share, delete, or revise, this one falls into the share category. I don’t think it benefits from more revision and it has enough going on that deletion seems a bit much. It’s old, though. Notice that the first link goes to a blog that isn’t even available anymore and dates from nearly a year ago. Pretty quiet blogosphere these days, no?

[Total aside: one of the big draws of this theme is its ragged edge. I liked the last theme, but it did this thing with line breaks…friend, it did not do a pleasing job of breaking a word across lines.]

Stacey linked to a post recently about the dangers and possibilities of Enochian magic and it set me to thinking more broadly. The author of that post made a distinction that I find very appealing:

A Mystic, Magician and Theologian meet an angel.
The Mystic asks to be one with God, the universe and everything. With truth. He goes away having become one with the angel.
The Magician demands to direct the power of God, the universe and everything. To create truth. She goes away having directed the power of the angel.
The Theologian asks to know God, the universe and everything. To know truth. He spends the next thirty years talking with the angel and learns nothing.
The obvious message here is don’t go to a Magician, Mystic or Theologian for answers. The Magician can give you power, the Mystic experience. The Theologian will give you answers, but you better have thirty years to spare and low expectations.—”A Mystic, A Magician and a Theologian Talk to an Angel

What if I spin that out in my own way, talk about the distinction in terms of extroversion and introversion, visible and invisible?

I know that introversion and extroversion have become banal terms due to frequent and vague use, but they don’t have to be. The difference strikes to the heart of the visible and invisible world, to the heart of what it means to possess subjectivity and awareness. The terrain can be much richer than accounts which reduce introversion to “I like to have quiet time” and extroversion to “I like being around people.”

It also helps if we stop thinking of the categories as strict binaries into which people can be divided and consider instead that they are two modes of accessing a fundamental reality to which almost all of have access. It helps if we think they are even more basic than, but akin to, being left- and right-handed. Being able to use one hand more actively, more efficiently, doesn’t mean the other hand does nothing.

Following Jung, I think the better question is always, “how am I introverted?” and “how am I extroverted?” Then, with that in mind, it makes sense to consider in which my attention and identification most easily rests. And then it makes sense to talk about other avenues for both with which I am competent, and still others with which I am not. An introverted approach opens toward the invisible aspects of experience while an extroverted approach opens toward the visible.

When we start talking about dispositions like ‘mystic’ and ‘magician,’ what we seem to be talking about are specific patterns through which patterns of introversion and extroversion work together in spiritual experience. In mystical experience, simple visible techniques anchor complex forays into invisible experience. In magical experience, simple invisible techniques anchor the manipulation of visible experience. Since both are firmly anchored in both worlds, the magical has mystical side effects and the mystical has magical side effects.

The theologian of this equation? Well, that’s the poor besotted fool who makes a small but profound error and attempts to get at the reality of the situation independently of the subjective dispositions that activate and animate experience of reality. The theologian conflates the work of the two hands, fusing concept and experience, means and end, into a single, independent thing. As soon as you start talking about angels and gods and demons independently of concrete work? You are headed down the road of theology.

The theologian has some basis for his mistake; the reality we discover and work with the two hands is partially independent of us. What’s worse, in spiritual work, that reality willingly pours itself into the shape of our egoic understanding. However, when it does, we get pseudo-speculation characterized by dressed up platitudes, overly precious conceptual formations, and ego-soothing promises. It’s like reality shoves itself into the crude glove of our ego and wriggles around, lighting up the crudest and most easily punched buttons. Hungry ghosts, for one.

This is another way to come at the question of experience and knowledge, right? Both the mystical and magical types in this schema are practicing a kind of experience-first knowledge, whereas the theologian is engaging in knowledge-first experience.

One thought on “Mystical and Magical Hands

  1. Alexandra

    I’m glad you decided to share this post after all–I think introversion/extroversion could be a fruitful model for understanding/working through these distinctions. I’ve always leaned toward the mystical end of the spectrum rather than the magical, as I lean toward the introverted rather than the extroverted; but I’ve always disliked the description of mysticism as a wanting to merge with God/the universe/everything. That is part of it, but I think it is also, as you describe here, wanting a knowledge that is based in experience rather than information. Bearing in mind the caveats that you mention about using the concepts, I would say that introversion/extroversion much better expresses my experience of the differences (and overlap) between mysticism and magic. Good food for thought!

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