Guest post: Mark Townsend – The Wizard Within
The Wizard Within
Mark Townsend is an ex-Vicar, Magician and Author
When Philip invited me to contribute to this weblog my initial response (apart from feeling deeply honoured) was, ‘Who on earth am I to be offering something to such a wonderful series of articles, essays and ideas?’ But then I remembered what I’ve tried to teach in pulpits, lecture halls and retreat houses across the land – be yourself and trust in your inner voice.
So here’s something on that theme – listening to the inner voice (the wizard within):
What could be more wonderful than a life of sharing your most magical experiences and deepest longings with the world? What could be more satisfying than a daily workout at the PC, where you allow your creative inner voice to make meaning out of all the mess and muddle of life? What could be more therapeutic than to be still and listen to the (usually silent) ‘wiser you’ as he or she gently whispers in your ear?
For me writing is a natural and necessary part of who I am. I do not consider myself to be a particularly good writer, but am most definitely a passionate and committed writer. I write because it is the place where I can talk to myself. I write because I am always talking inside my head, and the computer keyboard is the gymnasium through which I can release some of that mental activity. I write because I have discovered that the often confused chatterings within my head are almost miraculously sifted and sorted as they eventually find their way from my brain, through my fingers, to the screen in front of my eyes.
But what led me to the writing life in the first place? Well, the real story begins about seventeen years ago when I began keeping a spiritual journal. It was really just a scruffy old diary into which I placed any experience that I felt was meaningful or important. I was, at that time in my life, preparing for ordained ministry within the Church of England, and such journals where encouraged (I will come back to this).
I was finally ordained in 1996 and obviously had to write many thousands of words every week as part of my job: letters to the parish magazine, sermons, addresses and all sorts of other things. Over time I began to realise how much writing helped me as a person. Take, for example, my sermons. I began to see them not as me giving text book answers to questions no-one is asking but as a public conversation with myself, a dialogue within my own head on which the congregation is allowed to eavesdrop. I started to see what a privilege and opportunity it was, and my weekly periods of preparation became wonderful adventures where I could explore each and every question, problem and topic, with a view to sharing the results on Sundays. Often my talks would end up giving the congregations more question than answers but, because I was prepared to be totally open about my doubts as well as my beliefs, folk warmed to them.
A turning point for me was in about 2001 when I was asked to lead a Retreat at Winford Manor in Somerset. I came up with a retreat based on the theme of human failure and how to look at our bumps, bruises and brokenness creatively. As a magician I decided to use illusions and visual tricks as metaphorical object lessons for my teaching. I wanted the attendees to be somehow re-enchanted and plugged back in to the deep feelings of magic and wonder they would have had as children yet probably rarely experienced as adults. The title for the Retreat ended up The Gospel of Falling Down, and it was this that formed the heart of my first book (of the same title). In fact I had stumbled across something that has become a hall mark of my ministry: the combination of the theme of brokenness and the experience of real magic. I am passionate about magic and I am passionate about enabling people to live with and even love their imperfections.
Part of my preparation for the Retreat involved re-reading my entire spiritual journal to see how much my understanding had changed over the years, but as I read it something shocked me. There was a very hurt, angry and often darn right whining voice within my words, and it was my voice. The voice was extremely self-critical, negative, and highly defensive. It was as if I thought the whole world was against me. There were huge chunks of self-flagellation: “Oh God why am I such a little sh*t?” And, “Why do people hate me so much?”
A few days later I decided to read it again and this time I detected something else – another voice – a more grown up and peaceful voice. I had accidentally discovered what spiritual teachers and psychologists have been teaching for years; the fact that we all have a deeper, wiser and more mature voice within our consciousness. It’s just that we usually play out our life scenarios through the more shallow and immature self of the ego. As I read on I saw how this wiser self almost answered the brattish questions and complaints of the whining self. I now call these two voices the ‘little-me’ and the ‘Divine-Me’. The reason I am telling you this is that it is precisely the Divine-Me that I now try to listen to when I write. It is as if the very act of writing unlocks and enables this voice to be heard. So the greatest inspiration for my book was the discovery that I have (and that we all have) a natural form of inner wisdom that can be tapped into. I find it so exciting.
In my book The Wizard’s Gift, which was an attempt to build a bridge between the Christian and the Pagan worlds, I call the inner voice ‘The Wizard Within’. I am convinced that everyone can write and that everyone can be inspired because we all have that inner guide. He / she is there waiting to be discovered. Trust me; there is a Wise Wizard within you! If you don’t believe me then try this: sit down, relax, breath deeply and with pen in hand, ask him to reveal himself. Then await the inspiration!
Mark’s website is www.magicofsoul.com
Hi Mark! I relate so much to what you are saying here. You put it so well when you say writing is a place where we can talk to ourselves. I so agree, the voice of that ‘Divine Me’ that you speak of – though the process of writing – truly does start to communicate. I noticed this most when writing to my OBOD tutors – the very act of trying to communicate my experience to someone else seemed to deepen my understanding of it, expose things I hadn’t previously throught of. In writing we connect threads, see patterns but also I think that no matter how consciously we write, there is always stuff that leaks through from a more subconscious place – it can be surprising just what emerges when we put pen to paper, regardless of what our intial intentions are. I think that subconscious leakage is very much connected to the ‘Divine Me”s voice because that place ‘knows’ in a more complete and authentic way our potential, our true path and as you say, is the place of our deep inner wisdom. Also, I think that voice can be heard in what is hidden between the lines too. Writing is a fascinating process. The lovely thing is that not only do we get to have a dialogue with ourselves, we can potentially share this with others too – reading and writing are one of the most precious joys aren’t they? I love the idea of my ‘little me’ being gently guided and instructed by my ‘Divine Me’ (I think my ‘Divine Me’ must be incredibly patient – thank goodness!). Thank you so much for sharing your lovely post – I really enjoyed reading it.
I’m training as a hypnotherapist, and my teachers are constantly returning to the point that the client actually knows the answers, that there is a part of them that is the wise, nurturing, non-judgmental Self that knows the truth; we’re there to support clients in coming to understand that that Self exists and can be accessed.
How strange it is that we spend our lives building blockades around our Selves.
Thank you for your lovely comments. Sorry it took me a bit of time to reply but I’ve been flying around all over the country of late.
It’s a wonderful thing isn’t it, to discover this inner voice of wisdom.
I once set a ‘task’ for a group of fellow clergy (I was a vicar then). It was during a quiet day and I asked them all to write a letter to ‘god’ – about anything that was on their minds. They all managed to do so, but then I asked them to try and write a reply from ‘god’.
At first they freaked – but then all of them except one managed to do the exercise. Finally we all read each others letters out loud.
Each one of them had clearly tapped in to the inner voice of wisdom in their replies, because they were written as if from a totally different set of people to their original letters.
And, as you put it so well, K, they were ‘wise, nurturing, and non-judgmental’. Amazing!
One of the priests, who always had a view of god that was so angry and harsh god, and who always demanded duty and service etc, could not believe his own words when he heard them read out. He looked stunned and said, ‘gosh is god really like that?’
Love and light!