The University of Revolutionary Love and the Real Nature of Magic
Just back from a week’s retreat at Cae Mabon in Snowdonia, Wales. At the end of the week of storytelling, meditation, ritual, music, song, trekking, hot-tubbing and fabulous food, one of the participants said that it felt like a week at ‘The University of Revolutionary Love’. A few days earlier I had been given a copy of ‘Love and Revolution’ – a collection of poems by Alastair McIntosh, author of one of the best books on eco-spirituality and activism: ‘Soil & Soul’. I read the brief introduction to the collection in my little wooden cabin at Cae Mabon and was amazed by the number of powerful ideas the author had fitted into this short piece. Here it is:
I think Joseph Campbell was right when he said that all great stories share a common theme. There is the departure, when the fresh-faced hero sets out on life’s journey; the initiation, when she or he hits troubled rapids; and the return, bringing back gifts and blessings that help to sustain the community through the process of eldership.
Such is the path of any one of us who rises to vocation’s calling. We gradually open out to a life that is greater than our small, egocentric selves. As Campbell concludes: ‘The effect of the successful adventure of the hero is the unlocking and release again of the flow of life into the body of the world.’
This calls for nothing less than understanding the real nature of magic. It means seeing our activism, whether it is social or ecological, as spiritual articulation.
Guns are too callous, bombs too ruthless, and knives too blunt to cut the darkness of these times. Our activism demands a poetry that holds out for nothing less than poesis – a participation in the beauty of making and re-making reality.
Such calling is to an incarnate politics – to spirituality rendered carnal, being engaged with the flesh and fabric that forms our world. That is why love and revolution must be erotically inseparable. That is how we transcend the nihilism of Mark Twain’s observation that ‘familiarity breeds contempt.’ For this spirituality constantly renews the face of the Earth and of weathered humankind.
To work with such forces in a world that is largely oblivious to them inevitably makes one feel, as Ben Okri puts it, that one is transgressing. In writing Soil and Soul, I was somewhat able to protect myself behind careful wording and impeccable referencing. But that is less easy to achieve with writing poetry. Here, then, is the underlying naked passion unveiled. It is an offering for all who dare to tread life’s elemental ways. Lonely, perhaps, you roam the paths of love, but not alone.
To read more about Love and Revolution – Poetry of Alastair McIntosh see here.
What a beautiful excerpt you have shared with us, Philip. It’s wording is both uplifting and humbling. There is such simple ecstasy inherent in it that spurs me on to my own callings in this life. I wanted to tell you how lovely your blog is, and what a void it fills. I have only just begun listening to the Druidcast Podcast, and have really enjoyed all of your contributions. The Book of English Magic is on my Yule list–and I am chomping at the bit to read it. I doubt I can wait that long, however–I shall soon be ordering it, I have no doubt, and will need to strike it off the list! When I first heard of it, and saw its title, I couldn’t help wondering to myself of the ever erudite and exacting Mr. Norrell would consider it a book “of” magic, or a book “about” magic :^} I was very charmed as well to see that John Murray has put it out. I am so longing to actually read it! I am sure it is a vast plethora of uncanny information.
I too am a writer, and I have been inspired by your blog to begin my very own blog on the subjects of magic and the arcane. I have found it has become necessary to have an outlet for the subjects I don’t usually get much chance to speak of in my every day writing life, but that are very dear to my soul. Perhaps when it is up and running, you will feel inclined to give it a visit. In the meantime, I was wondering if you would mind if I linked to your blog from mine? I would really appreciate that. Thank you, sir, in advance, whatever your answer may be! It is good to have you back and blogging again. Even though you were only gone for a few days, it certainly felt longer. I thought I would take this opportunity in missing you to let you know hoe your impact has reached far across the globe. When you write, it seems as though you are sitting comfortably at my table, steaming mug in hand, relating a story or an anecdote from barely any expanse at all.
A sister writer and pagan in British Columbia,
This brings my thoughts back to your talk on Sat. (hope you have recovered from the toilets!). In the link here he writes of ‘the inner spirituality that integrates working for transformation in the world with the eternal search to know the passion of love in all its meanings’. Reading this, it strikes me as a very beautiful definition of magic and supports all that you were saying about magic’s power to open us to the Divine, and in doing so bring about profound change, not only within us, but in the world that we occupy – the two are so intimately linked, I feel.
I think that when we engage with magic, when we perceive ourselves as striving to be conscious participants in ‘making and remaking reality’, sending our deep selves on that quest, we cannot help but encounter love and its power to break us open, reshape us, reconnect us with life so that we might feel its beauty and mystery more intensely, and thereby want to protect and cherish it, shaping it in ways that reflect a growing and deepening relationship with it. I have increasingly felt that without this inner awakening, our political voices are shackled by materialism and the limitations of that vision and so Alastair McIntosh’s words are inspiring for me.
That unlocking and releasing of the flow of life back into the world that Campbell writes of is something that we all have the potential to do; I believe it is a gift of exchange between us and life/the Divine that we and the world needs – without it our living is a pale shadow of what it could be.
Thank you for this and thank you again for your talk – we all really enjoyed it – it was lovely to see you again.
Morríghana – that’s so good to hear, thank you. And of course I’d be very happy to be linked to your blog. What is the URL? I’d be interested in having a look!
Good luck with all you do,
Thank you, Philip-that is very kind. As soon as it is worth looking at, I’ll give you the link. It’s still just in the preliminary stages at this point, but I plan on having it up ad running very soon. Right after I’ve finished writing my grant applications this week. Yikes!