Sacred Ground – Where Religion and Magic Meet: Magical Realism Mediates

The overtones of magic present themselves in more beguiling hues, stretching from pagan forests where sanguinary rites sometimes are still practiced to the richly incensed halls of the Catholic Mass. Magical realism is a form of literature in which both religion and magic not only meet but reconcile their differences.

Magical Realists Ask, “What is Real?”

Magicians and magical realists perceive reality as something malleable, plastic, layered, and spirit-infused. Poet, Wallace Stevens offered a magical realist definition of reality, “Reality is not what it is. It consists of many realities which it can be made into.” While concrete realists may seek crisp portraits of immutability, magical realism delivers a world in which the fantastical exists alongside the dancing atoms of brick and mortar.

Magical Realism and the New Gnosticism

The Gnostic experience of mystical revelation, that is, the direct experience of the divine or another world to the seeker is fundamental in magical realism. Such a leap into transpersonal experience eclipses the notion of faith, blurring semantic lines, in order to perceive clarity amid the apparent chaos of a work of encyclopedic myth and religious experience. Joseph Campbell‘s lifelong research of myth, on a worldwide scale, consistently arrives at a central thesis: unity is found in multiplicity.

Although heroes and experiences may be masked differently, humans have utilized myth with its accouterments of magic and mysticism to seek a transpersonal relationship with the Divine. Magical realists have used this journey as an inspirational tool.

Magic Is Not So Alien to Mainstream Religion

Magical and mystical thinking continues to exist, and in some cases flourish, almost rebelliously, in the margins of many mainstream religions, those that still cling to mystical roots. These religions include Catholicism, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Native American religions.

Traditional Catholics might object to the use of the word “magic” in reference to their religion; however, miracles are noted to be occurrences in that system of beliefs. The notable quotidian miracle is transubstantiation, taken by the faithful as the literal changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.

The miracles of saints who achieve the consciousness of the Christos and alchemical-like abilities are myriad within the Catholic pantheon of spiritual masters. The traditional Catholic might eschew the label of “magical” as applied to her religion because of the historical connection with witchcraft and pagan mythologies. The magical realists work through historical labels to seek common human experience, which they see as mixing the ordinary with what is extraordinary, but still natural.

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