Sunday, November 1, 2009

I Believe in Magic

By Lisabet Sarai

Here I am, more than halfway through my fifth decade of life. I'd like to think that I've learned a few important truths in those fifty-plus years. Yet faced with the question Garce asked this week—what are your core beliefs?—I fall back on something I've known since I was very young.

Magic exists.

No, I'm not talking spells and rituals, secret societies and occult books, dancing naked under the moon (though that might be fun...) When I say that I believe in magic, I mean that I believe the power of mind can change the physical world. Imagination and emotion shape reality.

I mean this in a literal sense. I am not simply talking about the fact that one's attitudes can change the way the world looks (although this is clearly true). Mind creates reality, crystallizes it out of the aether. An idea, held with sufficient conviction and passion, becomes concrete and has real world impacts. I see so many examples of this, in my own life and in society, that I have no doubt it's true.

Consider the stock market. It's a total fantasy, a collective delusion, yet it enables some people to buy mansions and costs others their jobs. Stocks are not even pieces of paper any more. They are merely bit patterns in some computer's memory. The exotic derivatives at the heart of the recent economic meltdown were purely imaginary, some clever trader's concept that managed to blow the world economy to hell.

Think about the Internet, not the servers and the cables but the relationships. A million communities that raise money for charity, create celebrities, bring down governments.

Then there's software. One of the things I do for a living is design and write software. It never fails to amaze me how a purely mental entity like a software architecture ultimately becomes a tool that can run a factory, or monitor a patient's vital signs, or give me directions for how to drive to a new restaurant.

Stories, of course, are a clear case of magic. We writers sit down at our computer with some mental notions about setting, characters, plot, and hours or days later we have a book,or part of one, a physical object that can be shared with others. With our minds, we make readers laugh, or cry, or even come.


When I was in elementary school I had a magic ring. I was quite convinced that it had the power to grant my wishes. Many winter nights I rubbed the faceted garnet (my birthstone) and wished for enough snow to cancel school the following day. Most of the time, I got what I wanted.

I have many personal stories in which, against all odds, I received my heart's desire. Serendipity, synchronicity, being in the right place at the right time: magic has woven itself into my existence. Sometimes I forget it's there, but then my passion will make something real, reminding me.

Perhaps I'm trivializing this truth by calling it “magic”. Actually, I believe this is a spiritual phenomenon, the same dynamic that underlies answered prayer (which is a well-documented scientific fact). I don't want to get too heavy on a romance/erotica blog, but I believe that there's a non-material power that animates us all, that lies is at the heart of the marvelous, chaotic complexity of the world. I could call it God, but that conjures images of an old guy in a white beard, a personality, and that's not what I mean at all. I'm talking about patterns of force, ever-renewing ideas, creativity that overflows and mutates, building and rebuilding the world instant by instant.

When we take our ideas and turn them into reality—a book, a Halloween costume, a piece of software—we are harnessing the same divine energy that materialized the universe.

This isn't an original notion. Hinduism and Buddhism both view the material world as Maya, an illusion created by the eternal Mind. Change your mind and the world will change as well. Even Jesus said, if you have faith even as small as a mustard seed, you can move mountains. My paraphrase of this is, imagine and believe, and you can make it so.

The flip side of this, of course, is that negative passions can create horrible realities. We've all known people who expect constant trouble and disappointment. That's what they often get. What we think, we become.

Mind your mind.

I realized, sitting down to write this post, that I haven't really explored this philosophy in any of my books. Characters in erotica rarely have the time to engage in epistemological discussions (though in fact during my lifetime that has been one of my favorite things to do with a lover). My poetry, on the other hand, frequently explores this theme. My poem, “Logos", which deals with a long-distance erotic relationship, begins:

the word made flesh.
electric whispers
trace the wires
speed of light
the dream takes shape.

And continues:

now we reinvent each other,
mage, apprentice, captive, lover,
fashion masks
from the stuff of Story,
words as lens
to focus longing,
vision to flesh.

That's what I mean by magic: the power I believe we all have to take our heart's desire and make it real.


  1. You are very insightful, and yes, magic does exist.

  2. Thanks for visiting, Secretia,

    Do you have the same sort of experiences in your own life?


  3. Lisabet,

    Truly magical. You've certainly made a believer out of me :-)



  4. Hi Lisabet!

    I'm coming to the discussion a little late, but what you;re saying here about magic is something I've thought about for a long time. It makes me believe there are levels of reality we don;t really know. Human beings have the ability to bend reality. I was very haunted by a story I heard on the radio about this American nun who lives among the convicts of "Los Pueblos", the worst and most violent prison in Mexico. This is the worst of the worst. She started a mission to the prisoners there, and over time she's earned their trust. They call her "Mother". There was a famous prison riot and the prisoners had weapons and were going to kill the guards and burn the place down and she stopped the riot by pure faith. She told the prisoners to go back to their cells and she would intercede for them with the guards. And they did! That's faith. I could never do that. Speaking as a very disillusioned person, I have to recognise the power of that faith. There are levels of maqic as you say, that simply can't be explained.


  5. Hello, Ashley,

    Coming from a worldly wise guy like you, that's a huge compliment!


  6. Hi, Garce,

    When you call it "faith" it sounds very mysterious, quirky, uncertain. My sense is that it is actually logical and scientific, what the Wiccans call the Higher Law.

    But it takes a certain power of will and passion of belief to deliberately "bend" reality.

    Thanks for your comments and for an interesting weekly topic.