Magick and Miracles
In the frequently vexed world of paranormal manifestations there is one recurring theme and it is this: is there any difference between the magickal displays attributed to saints and other conventionally ‘holy people’ and those manifested by people such as faith healers, psychics and mediums? Why are the alleged abilities demonstrated by traditional holy men and women adjudged pure and those by the laity the product of ‘dark forces’, and probably demonic in nature? This is a considerably more complex subject than it might at first appear, because the talents of those who claim to manifest these talents, especially at will, resonates powerfully with many of the assertions made by organised religions. For reasons best known to the monotheistic faiths in particular, the very mention of paranormal phenomena of any kind outside their own narrow definition is a complete anathema and the very existence of such non-approved events is denied and rejected.
It is likely that the rejection stems from two factors: (1), the events outside the direct control of officially sanctioned religious bodies are effectively ‘extracurricular’ and cannot be regulated according to their wishes; (2), they guard their own manifestations of magick and mysticism very jealously indeed and this includes miraculous or ‘spirit’ healing and (3) it might allow their flock to actually think for themselves. The second factor applies especially to the rituals, rites and ceremonies of the Roman Catholic faith and its unswerving acceptance of, e.g. transubstantiation, where the bread and wine consecrated during the Eucharist of Holy Mass transforms into the body and blood of Christ in the solemn ritual that ends in Holy Communion. This practice clearly infers that Christ is physically present on the altar for a period of time. A close variant of this belief is also found in the Anglican faith but, in this case, it is called ‘consubstantiation’. The same concept recurs in a later chapter, but this time associated with a much, much darker context.
This interpretation sounds rather like the very similar assertion that we, the human race, are made in God’s image and likeness; when this statement is challenged the usual response is that we should not interpret it literally, i.e. in any physical sense, although some do, but that the likeness is entirely spiritual. This, of course, removes a heavy burden of proof from those who hold this view, but it is one of the most accessible examples concerning scripture and how to interpret it. In terms of religious iconography, depictions of the Christian God are almost always of some Zeus-like figure, sitting in splendour among the clouds, observing and judging what occurs in the earth beneath. It is graphic, simple, easily accessible and creates an immediate bond between the faithful and the object of that faith. It is the same rationalisation that allowed great artists and sculptors to anthropomorphise the concept of magickal creatures such as angels. This was a situation that suited the Church well, because it allowed the faithful to identify more intimately with these supernatural entities as something tangible rather than a hypothetical intermediary between them and God that existed purely on someone’s say so. It should be added that, in Islam, images of God/Allah are explicitly forbidden and regarded as blasphemy because Muslims consider Allah to be perfect and, since humans are manifestly not, any attempt to portray him is bound to be imperfect.
These are not, by any means, the only examples of anomalous phenomena to populate the canon of Church dogma. The other obvious examples of mystical and magickal occurrences within, once again, the Catholic Church, include visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM), miraculous healing, levitation, weeping statues, prophesy, bilocation and, of course, the rather disquieting phenomenon of stigmata. None of these manifestations are, by any definition, normal or conventional and must, therefore, be regarded as ‘paranormal’, or something that exists in parallel with what is considered normal. However, in this case, the Church teaches that, if the examples quoted above stem from the Holy Spirit, they are, therefore, acceptable. These events do still occur from time to time, especially examples of healing, weeping statues and – much more rarely – stigmata: i.e. the spontaneous appearance of the wounds inflicted on Christ during His death by crucifixion.
In the main these marks appear spontaneously on particularly pious individuals, although this has not always been the case. While willing to accept that events like these sometimes occur, in fairness to the Church it does demand stringent measures of proof drawn from various sources before it will even consider their validity. This is especially true when they are claimed to have happened due to the invocation of, or intercession by, a particularly pious and devout member of its flock. An excellent example of this is demonstrated on a daily basis at Lourdes when the ailing faithful (and not always Roman Catholic either) arrive in the hope of obtaining a miraculous cure from whatever ailment afflicts them.
In term of numbers, recent estimates put the numbers of sick, who go on a pilgrimage to Lourdes seeking a cure, at approximately 80,000 people per annum (excluding helpers). This pilgrimage has been occurring for almost one hundred years now and, when the maths are done, this makes for almost eight million seriously ill people who have taken part; of that eight million faithful there have been fewer than seventy attested ‘miracles’. None of these miracles have, for example, involved the re-growth of a limb or any missing or severely damaged organ and have been confined solely to medical conditions. Apart from Lourdes these events occur elsewhere and, when attributed to an individual, normally deceased, if they occur in sufficient numbers they frequently contribute to the process leading to the eventual canonisation of that person prior to their elevation to sainthood.
One of the more recent examples of this has already begun following the beatification of the late Pope John Paul II (the first step in the procedure) and another person in the final stages of canonisation is Padre Pio, a noted Italian Capuchin monk who was also a mystic and stigmatic. Perhaps it might be unfair to make the observation that people who actually do pray for relief, or better still a cure, from some medical condition and find that it occurs, might be receiving this from an as yet unknown function within the human body itself. Bear in mind that the normally sceptical medical profession does recognise that ‘spontaneous remission’ occurs when people displaying symptoms of a variety of conditions are suddenly ‘cured’, sometimes literally overnight and for no good or obvious reason. Let us be clear about instances of healing approved by the Church: although it does accept, welcome and condone proven instances of healing as a sign of God’s grace, it does so with less complacency than in earlier times. This change came about in the Middle Ages, during the plagues that ravaged much of Europe, when it became obvious that the plague was no respecter of the faithful and infected them as readily as it did the irreligious. Prayer, it seemed, was no defence against disease.
Does a spontaneous remission qualify as a miracle? The only difference, here, is that no invocation is made to higher power and, if the cure is medically verifiable, then what mechanism brought it about? Might this also mean that those claiming a cure from illness brought about by prayers to a saint, whether verified or not, may also have inadvertently triggered this self-healing function? Could this legitimately be described as magickal? Another possibility might be that, since we are surrounded by invisible and normally inaccessible energy fields, those who have experienced inexplicable cures from whatever source might even have unwittingly utilised these to effect a physical cure at the atomic level. This may even have some scientific basis because researchers have now isolated a human gene defined as ‘p21’, which appears to inhibit the ability to rebuild tissue. Deliberately deactivating this gene may eventually lead to astonishing medical breakthroughs in the natural and spontaneous replacement of human organs in the same way that newts can re-grow tails, etc.
Might this mean that, in some cases, the information encoded into the human DNA molecule can, somehow, temporarily override or rewrite its programme to effect these apparently miraculous cures, but only in a limited fashion? This, of course, brings us right back to the question of why and how? More questions with more (albeit speculative) answers, but it might mean that the human brain is able to react to specific situations, in ways that have not yet even been considered, and exert influences over the very atomic structure of the human body and the elements that form it. If this can effectively and positively be demonstrated at some time in the future would it mean that yet another brick in the edifice of religious belief has been removed? Finally, if the welcome possibility of gene-related cures at some time in the future can be ignored, could it mean that the ‘spiritual power’ to which the faithful attribute these miracles also hands out ‘freebies’ to those it considers deserving? There are no hard and fast rules here, because these cures can and do occur and the rush to ascribe them to saints etc. may be an oversimplification of what has actually happened.
Evidence of spontaneous remission aside, while belief in miracles is prevalent in all religions, it appears to have greater support within the Catholic Church, which is, of course, an extremely influential and powerful organisation with global reach. It is also an organisation that sees absolutely no dichotomy between accepting one instance of the supernatural – which it displays on a daily basis during the ritual of The Mass – and other more credible (in terms of documented evidence) examples of mystical phenomena. As if that were not enough, in keeping with the thoughts of the aforementioned Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, the difference is justified by adding the provision that anything that does not appear to originate from God (by definition good) must, therefore, stem from Satanic or demonic sources, (by definition evil). This vital difference, therefore, automatically proscribes any form of unofficial communication with the ‘other side’.
Although obviously not nearly as oppressive as in the Dark and Middle Ages when heresy was defined as anything that the Church did not sanction or approve of, at present, science, particularly in the field of DNA research, and the possibilities it holds, is still viewed with particular suspicion. This is because the way in which the Church defines the reproductive process, especially the point at which life begins, was founded centuries before the sciences of genetics, DNA stem cell search and embryology were even thought of. While on the subject of miracles, I fully accept that these fortuitous events can and do occur; it is the reasons why, however, that are open to question. It is an old cliché to attribute what occurs to some hitherto unsuspected function of the mind, but as our understanding of what the human brain is capable of steadily increases, and we continue to unlock the secrets of human DNA and the interaction between the two, perhaps this, too, will eventually be revealed. It may also reveal much about how magick functions.
There is one more factor to consider here and it is purely pragmatic: spontaneous remission or a poorly understood function inherent in the human condition? Both are possible means by which healing might occur, but there is, of course, another. If someone who is ill does respond positively to the effects generated by a prayer (or a spell, which is arguably the same thing) offered by someone they have approached for help, can they, or anyone else, be sure that this is what actually cured them? If it was only a sheer coincidence – but these coincidences became increasingly focussed around what one individual was doing – then it does tend to point to something very odd taking place, but even that does not really matter as long as this person continues to make these events happen.
The interest then automatically turns not just to the cure, but to its source. What about the person who regularly made these cures happen? If this did not involve giving any potions or pills, but seemed to occur through an act of will, then what are they doing? On one level this is a legitimate and, indeed, vital area for research and a possible goldmine of useful information, although, as with any cure, no doubt those in receipt of the benefits would not really care how it happened. But it does not answer the underlying question, why? Unfortunately this is a circular argument that always returns to the basic premise; if it is not pills and potions and it is not prayer that causes these events to occur then what unknown mechanism brings them about? Perhaps, as we venture further along this path, some answers may emerge.
One thing that should be made clear from the outset is the difference between approved ‘spirit healing’ and non-approved ‘spiritualist healing’, because the two, although they might achieve identical results, are not the same. The latter implies a link with the dead, and faith is secondary and, as such, merges with the occult; and not surprisingly it is specifically forbidden by the Church in Deuteronomy 18:9-18. On the other hand, it could also be argued that ‘spirit healing’ has nothing to do with religious belief but more about interacting with, and harmonising, the ‘life essence’ of the patient. This is sometimes expressed as ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’, yet neither description fully covers what is occurring nor describes the nature of the energy involved. As we shall see, the attitude of the Church to healing, irrespective of how it is achieved, is both inconsistent and hypocritical. Hopefully, what is contained in these pages may help demystify this, along with the other points raised, and demonstrate that the ability to alter reality, whether in relation to healing or any other manifestation of magick, on some level at least, is innate in all of humanity, provided that the will is present.
Before leaving this chapter we should consider an anomaly, i.e. the reasons why paintings and other examples of artworks depicting Christ, his family and all those associated with Him never show them as other than western and European in appearance. Depictions of Christ, especially in the cinema, have shown him with blond hair and blue eyes or dark haired with blue eyes – in fact anything other than what he would have looked like. There are few, if any, actual descriptions of Christ in scripture and those that are there are sketchy to say the least. He has been variously described as small with a hunched back and also as a cripple; certainly not as a tall, handsome, light skinned Caucasian male.
The same is true of his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, (BVM) who is always shown as a fair-skinned woman. In fact it could even be said that the various visions of the BVM reported at Fatima, Lourdes, Medjugorje and the other sites where she has supposedly manifested are invariably of a beautiful, radiant, fair-skinned woman. Does this mean that the Holy Family can appear in whatever form or colour they wish so as to more closely identity with the country in which they manifest? Or, as is more likely, is this a product of the westernised faith that Christianity has become? It is strange that these whole body materialisations have yet to occur in Africa or China or, indeed, America, but, if they did, it is a safe bet that they would conform to the accepted image. The fact is that the Holy Family were Semitic and lived in a Semitic country, therefore they would have been dark or swarthy in colour and to present them in any other way is a patently false. This would, however, not suit the western faithful who have grown up with the western version of Jesus and it would be educational to see the reaction to such an occurrence.
Publisher: White Crow Books
Published March 2018
Size: 229 x 152 mm