Magic is Illusion.
The Goal is Magic.
Therefore the Goal is Illusion.
Unfortunately and unknowingly, many people seeking “the Path” are following the above logic. The promise of power, wealth and supersensuous abilities entice people to pursue what is called spiritual practice but is really just magic. In just two weekends, you will be a master of this or that; you will be free from all that prevents your utmost happiness and power. And who listens to this? The very one that has to be dismantled in spiritual practice. The very idea of an enlightened small self is a sad joke for all of us.
This is where magic comes in. Magic exists. But, as Evelyn Underhill writes, it is the wrong goal:[M]agic is a pathway to reality; a promise which it cannot fulfill, for the mere transcending of phenomena does not entail the attainment of the Absolute. Magic even at its best extends rather than escapes the boundaries of the phenomenal world. It stands, where genuine, for that form of transcendentalism which does abnormal things, but does not lead anywhere: and we are likely to fall victims to some kind of magic the moment that the declaration “I want to know” ousts the declaration “I want to be” from the chief place in our consciousness….[M]agic is merely a system whereby the self tries to assuage its transcendental curiosity by extending the activities of the will beyond their usual limits; sometimes, according to its own account, obtaining by this means an experimental knowledge of the planes of existence usually—but inaccurately—regarded as “supernatural.” (Mysticism, p. 151)
So magic at its best shows us that there is something beyond the merely concrete. The problem as I see it is that such experience becomes the end in itself. People get caught in the trap of psychic as spiritual, energy as spiritual, knowing as spiritual, and they stop there. These abilities are just that—powers—and they are never the final destination of the true seeker.
I usually explain this in the following manner. Let us suppose Boston, Massachusetts is our goal and we are in Baltimore, Maryland. We are driving to Boston, and as we go we come to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia represents “magic”. We stop there and get fascinated by all we discover and all we can do. We are so enamored of what there is that we forget our original goal and remain in Philadelphia. We then believe this is in fact the goal. So much for Boston.
We delude ourselves into believing that, since there is so much more in Philadelphia than where we have been, we must have arrived. But who has arrived? The small self has just expanded its territory. We have given nothing up. We have gained great things. And how can we delude ourselves this way? Easy. The small self does not discern; it is not pure. As the Yoga Sūtras state, the small self takes misery for happiness and the not-self for the Self. When we begin walking the path we make decisions based on what we call our “love”, our “truth”. This bottom line is not the real bottom line because it is based on the above ignorance. The vibration we are calling “love” is something else. For each of us it is different based on our destiny; but for each of us it is still twisted love not real Love. Delusion is then thinking our “loving” is the bottom line.
The truth is that Love is underneath all these other vibrations. Love is the bottom line; we just do not know the bottom line. So we come to power and magic and energy and call it love. We see this is better than what we have. However, the power, energy and magic are informed by our “loving” vibration. We swim in the vibration, so we think it is us. But the fact is, it is just a vibration that in truth has a different name. We are in fact living and loving based on illusion. Our narrative becomes something to hide behind, and we then miss the truth of life. The small self has created an illusion of love; therefore, it is the magician. It has convinced us that it is who we are. But the small self is not self-illuminative; sometimes it appears as subject and sometimes as object. Therefore there are times we can perceive it. We forgot that if we can perceive it, it is not us. And if it is not us, then it is not Love.
How do we choose to leave the magic and get back to the real goal? Using a wedge to get rid of a wedge, as Munenori says, means getting the small self to dismantle itself. By convincing the small self to practice shining a light on itself and letting go, we convince the small self it is heading in the right direction—and it is; toward its own demise. Only when it is too late, when the true Self is shining through and Love is there, does it then give up and surrender to the truth that it is not a great magician!
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