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Articles    H2'ed 10/10/14

Bringing Magic Back to a Muggle World

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The next weekend we did a Cherokee Bodywork workshop in New York City. Cherokee bodywork is another kind of magic, that of how energy moves the physical matter of our bodies. We practiced affecting muscular aches and pains using energy medicine tools, specifically those indigenous to the Cherokee culture. It was magic. Headaches disappeared. Back and neck pains resolved. Abdominal cramps disappeared. People experienced directly how energy can change the physical matter of our bodies. Of course, osteopathic medicine is based upon this idea. Andrew Taylor Still, its American creator, grew up among the Cherokee, Shawnee, and the Pawnee, where his father was a missionary. His ideas for healing are strongly influenced by the concepts of these cultures.

We have the same question in medicine -- how do we reinvest medicine with magic. How do we bring magic into the Muggle world of medicine? By Muggle world, I mean a world constructed in a materialistic worldview. We need to believe in magic for magic to exist. The world's stories are consistent on this point. Non-believers, skeptics, and nay-sayers have difficulty with any magic. They do what they can to overthrow magic. It never disappears, but its flame becomes very small. Only a small pilot light remains.

We need each other to fuel the flame of magic. We need to meet together in ceremony and say small enough prayers and requests that we can see them come true. When we describe these small successes to each other, our faith in prayer is built. The more faith we have, the more magic we see. Magic is fueled by faith.

Materialism has all but convinced many people that magic is a pipe dream; that it doesn't exist. We have to bring it back. Ceremony helps. Being together in a healing circle in which we tell each other our stories helps. Magic arises when we see that our relationships, our intent, and our energies influence matter. Of course, these things can probably be described and explained at the quantum level, but that is beyond most of us, so we must step back and contemplate these phenomena from a more macroscopic level at which it all seems like magic. For a powerful example of this, I refer readers to Professor Stuart Hameroff's website ( in which he explains free will from a quantum perspective (I'm still struggling to understand the mathematics).

In an article from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Megan Bang writes that how we think gives us different conceptualizations of nature and our place within it. Her research showed that epistemological orientations affect memory organization, ecological reasoning, and the perceived role of humans in nature. In other words, seeing nature as alive and conscious changes how we organize our memory, perform ecological reasoning, and perceive ourselves.

Cultural provides us with stories about how to make meaning, including beliefs about what sorts of things are relevant, worthy of attention and in need of explanation. A culture that accepts the influence of invisible beings and forces has very different stories about what matters than a materialist culture. For example, I learned in my childhood that being kind was more important than making money. This hasn't necessarily served my bank account, but it represents a difference in an indigenous or spiritual worldview and a materialist worldview. In the world in which I was raised, being kind was more valued than making money.

Megan Bang presents research showing that rural children, and especially rural Native American children, are less inclined than their urban counterparts to privilege humans as superior to the other animals. From our perspective, their universe is more magical in our way of talking about magic.

Specific beliefs about the creation of the world, its ultimate cause and function provide a lens that people may use to derive meanings for particular contexts and behaviors. Religion provides a causal framework for important events surrounding humans, such as illness, misfortune, and death.

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Lewis Mehl-Madrona graduated from Stanford University School of Medicine and completed residencies in family medicine and in psychiatry at the University of Vermont. He is the author of Coyote Medicine, Coyote Healing, Coyote Wisdom, and (more...)
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