Spiritual Context: Gatekeeping the Common

Spirituality has found its re-emergence in the collective recently and with it comes a weighty expectation of how it might serve man: as subversive political undermining of the norm, as a new quick-fix healing modality, as a shift in consciousness that, should we be part of it, brings us a one-up to those still sound asleep under the spell of banality. It is, I feel, the ultimate Trojan horse of our time: a metaphysical, rose-quartz crystalline horse stuffed to the gills with the latest variety of yoga, market-places-turned-healing-retreats, and boss babe gurus. But it is not just our tendency to see spirituality as a brand; it is our elevation of what should be normalized that creates a vortex of superiority, name-calling, and policing that makes magic mandatory to be acceptable to the alternative and accessible only by way of proper expression, dictated by an ambiguous voice of an unknown source.

Spirituality, as I speak of it, is a shift of focus on that which cannot be seen and a turn from the orderly, neat, and packaged beliefs that religion—namely, Christianity—offers. When I look at spirituality of today, I am encouraged by the implementation of ritual, respect, and reverence for the land, the spirits, and the otherworldly. There’s a connection to our ancestral roots and our ties to the cyclical nature of seasons, moons, and astrological twists and turns that belies our desire for deeper connection to this place in which we exist. We see ourselves more and more as part of the whole and we take time to inject that into our daily practices, our self-care routines, our approach to life and living. It’s a beautiful re-connection to the ancient traditions of the people who once regularly participated in energetic exchange with the earth and it is, truly, a thing to be lauded and celebrated. After centuries of being only the secret ways of the downtrodden, we have finally seen the majority valuing what only a few had managed to maintain, and its rise into common channels of information and knowledge has been the lifeline to those adrift in this world, myself included. However, there comes with this a fear-driven desire to hold it tightly, name it as something ultra-sacred and untouchable, and constantly be at war with one another over not only who has ownership of it, but who has a right to even exist within it.

Its ability to shape our conscious experience of the world in which we live, a once common context to our lives, is now being elevated to a commodity, an achievement to be collected, and, I fear, a reason for us to see our natural inclination to these beliefs as an enlightened state instead of a shift in the context in which we live. What I see as this begins to take predominance in the collective is a tendency to elevate the spiritual to a state of preciousness, and less of a tendency to normalize it. I feel like this idea that the spiritual is something to achieve and not something simply to welcome back to our daily lives, into all of our lives equally and in whatever form, is creating a tendency to not only shape our ego within this structure but to see the ordinary aspects of magic to be the ultimate goal instead of a natural byproduct. From this comes the idea that 1) magic as we use it for our purposes is all that exists and 2) that only the enlightened have access to it. This completely ignores two truths of the ancient tradition of spiritual experience: that 1) magic is all around us whether we see it or not and is communicable to all and 2) that enlightenment or an elevated consciousness is something dearly bought and paid for by a particular few (this is not cliquish, but merely the idea that natural inclination of psychic gifts, etc. exists within our populace; i.e. not everyone will be an amazing computer programmer, but some will and are). It is not just a sense of being “woke” to the interconnectedness of the universe—this, indeed, should be the natural state—it is a dedicated way of life and a commitment to service. But magic as it has come to us now in the collective is a return to our foundational interaction with the earth in which we live, one without gatekeepers, without sacrifice, and without a necessary commitment. It simply is.

Once, long ago, when magic was revered, but allowed to be the context in which life was lived, we saw these routine prayers, rituals, and rites a natural part of daily life. It was only when the natural became ostracized, the holy become profane, that this approach shifted. As Tom Cowan says in Fire in the Head, “the sacred groves were cut down, the healing springs polluted, and the Green Men were turned into devils. Where pagan devotions continued unabated in the face of Christian opposition, the Church co-opted the sacred sites, turning them into Christian sanctuaries dedicated to a saint of the Church.” Earlier in the same chapter on the soul of nature, he writes, “Missionary priests…successfully launched what has been called the greatest psychic revolution in the history of the West, namely, the conversion of pagan Europe to Christianity, which (strengthened by the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century) would effectively remove any sense of spirit or divinity from nature.” He addresses these topics mainly as a look at what we lost when our reverence of the divinity of the natural world was taken away, but I think it also serves as a backdrop as to how we lost our sense of the magical in the every day and why we see it now elevated into this sort of awakened state to be achieved through the proper practice, aligned with whatever person is screaming the loudest.

My proposition is this: that we gather together as students of the spiritual, asking to be shown how our ancestors participated in this natural exchange, to accept that all paths can lead one to this connection, and that we need not be gatekeepers on something as ordinary as land-worship, seasonal ritual, and participation in the unseen. I call for the gathering of education and knowledge around the magical with the intent of accessibility rather than as scholars and critics, calling out into the void that criteria must be met to participate in a practice that was as varied as the multitudinous clans and their numerous approaches to what we all saw with singularity: the existence of the spirits of the earth and our participation with them. I call for the acknowledgement that something as experiential as the unseen must, in its own way, be allowed to be individual, but also allowed to be part of the collective, and that many truths can exist within the ultimate Truth. I call for the normalization of the magical and the idea that this movement we find so precious is only precious to us now because we have been so far removed from it and that the more participation we have in it, whether of a positive or negative variety, is ultimately bringing us back into alignment with ancient ways, bringing us nearer to equilibrium, as we allow for the natural separation of the True from the False to take place. I argue that now, at this time, we should see ourselves as a collective of people finding our way back to walking upon two legs, and that as we remember these things, gentleness must take precedence as we engage again muscles gone lax with disuse.

I speak of this as a way of cautioning against the overemphasis of the spiritual to a point where our egos define it instead of it informing how we live within the natural world. I speak of this as a way to be more inclusive on the basics of this expression of magic in our lives. I speak of this to delineate, too, between the spirituality as it can be expressed by all in whatever way they deem fit, and the bifurcated consciousness that begins to take shape as those inclined to a deeper connection with the magical realms find themselves with one foot in the Otherworld—an entirely different way of interacting with magic than in the everyday. I also speak of this to state my intent to bring more education forward on the differences between the two and what it might mean should we want to step foot upon the path toward the Other Eealm.

The integration of magic into your daily life, welcoming a divinity back into the common, is a beautiful call to our ancestors that they and the spirits that once we knew are welcome again. But the idea that magic is a precious commodity to be hoarded by only the most privileged (or under-privileged) or calling it a “state of being” that elevates it into something to be gained and not something to, simply, be with, does a disservice to the movement.

Magic is approachable. Magic is accessible. But let us normalize it as context to life—one we have simply forgotten—and allow the aspects of it that may lie beyond the veil to be the things about which we preach caution and talk of as precious. Let us see the knowledge of the unknown not as an enlightened or an awakened state, but as a natural return to our connection with this earth and participation with its energetic mysteries. And let us then caution against dipping too far into the Other Realm as something that need not be for all, but for those naturally inclined to its mysteries and willing to sacrifice themselves for it. Open the gates to the magical, yes, and let those that seek out deeper understanding know what risks they take on with such power.

In part 2, I will begin to address this othered magical practice—the magic that is known through initiatory, and sometimes damaging, experiences from which we do not return the same—and how this magic is different than what we can experience as spiritual parts of the daily life.