“Do you believe in magic in a young girl's heart
How the music can free her, whenever it starts
And it's magic, if the music is groovy
It makes you feel happy like an old-time movie
I'll tell you about the magic, and it'll free your soul
But it's like trying to tell a stranger 'bout rock and roll”
- John Sebastian
This question surfaces constantly: “If God is good, and is all, how is it that we experience illness, depression, sorrow, evil?”
I too have asked this question of myself, of others…teachers, pastors, sages, professors…and especially of God.
At one point in my study of Christian Science, this question seemed to be all I could think about. I took Mary Baker Eddy’s route towards discovery. I “searched the Scriptures and read little else”…well, except her best-selling book on spirituality, Science and Health.
One day during a particularly intense search for answers, it was in this book that I found a clue that seemed to stand out in relief as if highlighted in yellow neon. My research had led me to focus my inquiry on a chapter titled “Animal Magnetism Unmasked” in which she explores with her reader this topic that she defines in these six brief pages, in part, as “mesmerism”, as that which “leads to moral and physical death”, “a mere negation”, “a specific term for error”, “mortal mind”, a “suppositional lie”…etc. Not a light topic. But one that seemed to have me stopped in my tracks like a deer in the headlights.
I would study, ponder and pray out from other spiritual facts, but this question seemed to loom just at the back of every question I brought to the closet of prayer. One day I was sitting in my office, once again reading through those six pages and I came across this sentence:
“Any seeming benefit derived from it [animal magnetism]
is proportional to one’s faith in esoteric magic.”
Hmm….what could be the connection between this topic of animal magnetism and magic? I spent the next year investigating that question.
And I got nowhere…slowly. I had a full-time public practice in spiritual healing as well as my parenting three children and consulting/training for an international speakers’ bureau on a broad range of topics. My plate was full, but there always seemed to be a space for that question about magic to surface.
After a year of scouring library, bookstore and “strange little out of the way magic shop” shelves for some clue as to the connection between spiritual healing and esoteric magic, I was frustrated and ready to give up. I had read LOTS, but felt no closer to something I could make my own, feel the strength of, and make practical as a healer.
I decided to give it another try one Saturday in early April. It was one of those perfect early spring days. Temperatures in the 60s, a deep blue cloudless sky, and robins singing from the trees like that deranged bird in Mary Poppins during the “Spoonful of Sugar” sequence… all assertive and cheery. But I digress…
The girls were playing happily with their dad nearby and I slipped away for an hour after the breakfast dishes were done for a cup of tea and some study at my favorite coffeehouse in downtown Newtonville, just outside of Boston. I arrived early enough to garner one of the few tables outside on the wide sidewalk, and I settled in. Soon I was more frustrated than ever. I just didn’t get it.
I was ready to resign to never getting it, this connection between magic and the practice of spiritual healing, when a man approached my table balancing his coffee mug on a book and carrying his brioche on the plate in his other hand while a copy of the Boston Globe seemed to spill from under his arm. He asked if he could share my table, glancing about as if to lead me to see that there were no vacant seats except the chair on which I had placed my small traveling library. As I reached to move the books and papers, I looked right into his face and allowed all of the frustration I was feeling about my search pour out in seven words that surprised us both.
“Yes, but it’s going to cost you!”
Normally I would never have said such a thing. I’d have met his request with a nod and then within a few moments excused myself and left for home. But this time I was so absorbed with my question that I had blurted out this demand before thinking.
I don‘t believe he could have ever imagined it coming from the benignly studious person he had approached. There I was in jeans, a white men’s dress shirt ten sizes too large and rolled up at the sleeves, a pair of old scuffed pick ballet slippers, the arms of a nubby grey sweater tied around my shoulders, my reading glasses clinging precariously to the tip of my nose, and my white hair bursting wildly from the pencils that anchored it up into a bun. I was anything but the image of a coquetteish schoolgirl flirting with a stranger. Thank goodness for his ability to process that visual information quickly enough to respond with patient good humor.
“What’s it going to cost me?” he asked with a curious and hesitant smile.
I was relieved that he hadn’t given me a “what a weirdo” look and just turned his back. I smiled and said, “You have to tell me everything you know about magic!”
I could see relief seep through the wariness in his face. As he placed his coffee and brioche, book and morning paper onto the table, he replied, “Piece of cake, I’m a professional magician.”
I was stunned, but didn’t waste precious time.
“Good, tell me about magic in three or four sentences so I understand the principles behind how it works.”
“I can tell you in one word: distraction.”
He then explained it to me.
When a magician is performing a trick he diverts your focus from watching what his hands are doing so that you aren’t aware of what is going on right in front of your eyes. He then lets go of your focus, allowing it to return to where you think it has been all along. And voila…a rabbit pops out of a hat. While he had distracted you, or pulled your focus, he had retrieved the rabbit from a box under the table, and placed it in the hat in full view right in front of you. When he released your focus and then pulled the rabbit out of the hat, you thought it was magic.
For me it was just the key I needed for unlocking an important door in my practice of spiritual healing…one that I alluded to in the previous post. Sickness, sin, disease, war, violence are just, at their roots, the suggestion that God is absent. They, like the magician, would like to be able to pull your eyes from the allness of God that is always right in front of you, off to the side where it jumps up and down and screams “God is absent…God is absent”. But at any given moment you can say “No…I have the right to see what is right in front of me. That God is present as an instance, however faint, of goodness and grace. That Love is present in some expression of kindness or affection…even if it is just the moment of loving that you bring to bear on the situation by doing something generous for another. That Mind is present in the very questioning you are doing as you search for your answers.
By reclaiming your focus, holding it on the presence of God, appreciating this indication of God’s presence, you are refusing to consent to the absence of God in any measure, degree or form. The focus, appreciation (awareness of and gratitude for), appreciat-ing (its ensuent growth in value) and acting out from this presence of God…this is living with spiritual (God-based) authority without condition or measure.
Mary Baker Eddy further supports this way of living and seeing when she asserts:
“No evidence before the material senses
can close my eyes to the scientific proof
that God, good, is supreme.”
There is never a moment when we cannot be the love “the magician” is trying to convince us is absent, or to ask the question that affirms the presence of Mind that this same trickster would try to assert has left the room.
Eddy goes on to say,
“Love is especially near in times of hate,
and never so near as when one can be just
amid lawlessness, and render good for evil.”
I left the café that day with a new friend…a magician…and a way of thinking about my work, my world, and my right to stay focused on the presence of God--the presence of good--throughout every day.
“I'll tell you about the magic, and it'll free your soul
But it's like trying to tell a stranger 'bout rock and roll”
- John Sebastian
Here's a link to John Sebastian, and the Lovin' Spoonful singing ""Do you believe in magic..."