This is a very difficult subject to talk about, partly because many people have strong feelings about it but also because there are subtle truths in both sides of the argument. This will not be a balanced analysis, espousing the virtuous of both sides. Instead, the argument here is in favor of the magician. So let us first consider what the two sides believe.
First to point out, though, is that I am using the term ‘magician’ in a very general sense – to refer to a general type of belief and practice, which can also include other labels such as shamans, witches, occult practitioners, and anyone else who has the general beliefs and practices that will now be explained; and this will be in contrast to what I will term as the ‘pious’ which is, as well, a general term used here to refer to a large swath of people. It may be that some people may be insulted by the use of this term, pious, to refer to those who are described here, because this term is usually used for anyone who is significantly devout in their religious views. Probably we should instead be using the term, fatalist, which is more to the point of what will be discussed, but for now we will keep it the same for this particular discourse. Remember to not get too entangled by the labels or terms, because more important are beliefs and ideas behind these.
So on one side we have the magician’s view of reality, magician metaphysics as it were. This will also include shamans, witches, occult practitioners, and new thought metaphysicians. Already one might notice that those are dangerous and suspicious labels for the average western religious person. And many Christians will often refer to any of these as evils.
The magician believes that powers are available in the spiritual and mental realm, which can then be directed for the fulfillment of particular goals. The magician also believes that humans have to decide how to use or direct these powers. And included in such powers are the very powers of God. The magician is not thinking that s/he is using various powers in a sort of opposition to God. Rather, s/he is using God powers, or directing these, for the fulfillment or attainment of some useful goal.
In summary, the magician believes that we have to make use of our inherent metaphysical-spiritual powers, which requires of us to decide how these powers should be directed and for what goal. Thus, the magician needs to decide what is good, what is best, or at least what is better, and then take responsibility in directing the spiritual powers towards fulfilling those goals. He/she does not wait for God to make all of the decisions about what is right and what to do; nor does he/she wait for God to make the good happen. Because for the magician, he/she has to make good things happen. It is not up to God; it is up to us. God provides the powers for us to use and direct and the possibilities for us to chose; but we must learn how to best use those powers. Basically, we are all in a learning curve about the use of power.
In contrast to this magician view on reality is the religious pious view, that God is in charge and directing the whole show. At the base of all religious pious views is a belief that God the Powerful, Loving and Wise will do what is needed and use Divine Power to make things best in the world.
There are two main varieties of this religious views. One stream, the extreme unity view, believes that God is always in charge and directing everything, and there is nothing else possible. Or in other words, everything that is happening and has ever happened is manifesting the "Will of God", or some might even say that God is doing everything. The underlying logic of this is that there could only be just one supreme power, which would have to be God’s power, so therefore nothing could ever manifest or happen except for God’s Will. This extreme unity view has many problems of contradiction and illogic, which are addressed in other discourses, so mostly this discourse will address the moderate religious pious view.
The moderate view is that God will be in charge and will direct the show, unless we get in the way by trying to direct things by our own will and limited intelligence. In general, they argue against magician power, or against humans attempting to use their own powers, because they are worried about the very use of power - since any people using powers might be a force against God or spoil God’s Will. Thus in this kind of belief, God does have a will and a good plan, but humans can wreck that plan by using their own will or powers. So this is why they might say things like, "Let God do it, and don’t get in the way."
So instead of the magician’s view that power is given to us to use, their view about reality is that God has a plan and God will make that plan happen, so we should not be getting in the way by using our human magical power, for that would an attempt to challenge the will and power of God.
What connects both of the pious streams, as discussed above, is an ideal of passivity. For in fact, the people who show the greatest passivity are most often seen as those who trust the most or who have the greatest faith. In the extreme unity view, the saintly are those who sit back with faith that God is always in charge. And in the moderate religious view, the saintly are those who sit back, letting God do what is needed rather than get in God’s way by attempting any personal action.
Inherent in the pious outlook is also a worry about the human ability to discern what is right vs. wrong. There is a certain amount of stress in a view of life whereby people have to decide between right and wrong, whereby people have to make decisions about what best to do, and whereby people have exercise power to get things accomplished. If reality is this way, then many mistakes are possible in life, as well many possible abuses of power. So there is a psychological comfort in having a religious belief that God is always in charge, or that everything is part of His Plan, or that God’s Will is the only power at work. For it would be more comforting if God were deciding about the right course in all instances and if God were making this happen; rather than having to rely on people - who are of course prone to mistakes, ego-trips, and misuses of power.
So the religious faithful live in a hope that God will decide between right and wrong, in all possible cases, and THEN make the right happen; while we can just sit down and watch the scene unfold, without having to take any responsibility ourselves in making the right things happen. The highest spiritual people, those with greatest faith, are believed to be those who say there is nothing to be done because God does it all or that everything is always perfect - the way God intended.
Yet the magician doesn’t believe this is the way things work. As well, religious people do not need to simply follow either of those outlooks as discussed above, for it is quite possible to hold a religious view in parallel with the magician’s way.
The magician believes that each person must make ongoing discernments between right and wrong, better or worse, and that we cannot simply trust religious authorities and older traditions to tell us what God has decided is right vs. wrong. It is up to each person to make that discernment… and to continually develop this human power of ethical discernment.
The magician also believes that each person has a real power to make things happen. The pious worry about people having power, because they might misuse this power for bad aims; and the magician acknowledges that this is quite possible. There may be bad intentions in a magician, or there may also be unintentional mistakes in what a magician decides and does, or there may simply be evil magicians (magicians without much heart). This is all possible, from the magician’s view on reality. So it is agreed that bad outcomes may come from magicians or anyone exercising their personal power. But the magician’s view is, nonetheless, that each needs to discern and decide between good and bad, as best they can, and then act accordingly, and take action with a willful intention to produce hoped-for outcomes in life or in the world.
In other words, the magician sees that his/her spiritual role in life is to make ethical decisions and is to use one’s physical and mental powers to produce the best results possible. In this, there is no believed assumption that it is better to let God decide the best outcome in any given circumstance, nor to sit back passively in a hope/faith that God will make any circumstance better (when God decides it is the right time). The magician is not waiting with faith that God will make all the important decisions about what is best for people and the world, and then make it all happen just right.
So in contrast to the pious religious view, the magician believes that there is no other alternative but to use one’s own given powers and to take action, because to wait in faith for God to do it is to wait in vain. In other words, people have to discern and decide between better or worse actions, and people also have to exercise their powers - even their mental powers - in order to make things happen. Because the ultimate God is not going to do all of this for us.
We are not like little helpless babies in relation to God the Super-power. Rather, we are meant to be spiritual inheritors of the divine powers, and learn to make good use of these powers. And we also inherited from God the ethical power of good discernment, as based on love and respectful consideration of all others. God is not going to make everything right and good, while we sit down and watch the show unfold. No, God provides us with the resources and abilities we need to do all of this ourselves. So it is our job to see what can be better, and to make things better, and to use the powers in us and in the spiritual air to make the transformations we see as needed.
Now as a endnote to this discourse, this is not suggesting the impossibility of divine guidance and help in whatever we do. The metaphysics here is that Divine, the Power of God, can both guide and help us. But there is no absolute certainty of this - because it depends on how we cooperate with the Divine and on the extent of our own efforts. God guides and helps those who try to do what is best and who make their best efforts. So the magician's view on reality can of course acknowledge a possible guidance from God the Divine as to the highest principles of love-in-action. And the magician can also be open to and accepting of a greater possible power, coming from the Divine, for doing healing and other good in the world. Thus, the magician is not some kind of anti-God sorcerer. Instead, the magician can be a wise and powerful agent of the Divine.
Also to mention is that a person of faith, or with faith, does not need to believe that God is always making everything right, which then alleviates our own responsibility in this. That does not have to be what faith means. For a person of faith could also be a person who uses their God-given powers to help others and do good in the world, which is really what Jesus taught.
I heard a Christian teacher make some interesting contradictions. I’m not a basher of Christians, but I found this interesting. For a few minutes she talked about how God gives us the power to struggle and persevere through difficult challenges. And it felt that she was sincerely speaking from personal experience. This all feels right. God can give us a greater power to deal with challenging circumstances, or Jesus can help us by giving us strength to bear through it all.
But then next she talked for a few minutes about how we need to let go of our own attempts to solve things; and instead, have faith that God is fully in charge. So I began to wonder if this is a popular contradiction in Christianity.
What is interesting is that in the first statement she is saying how God empowers us. But then in the next statement she is saying that we ought to be passive, in a kind of humility that God is really in charge. First she acknowledged that God gives us power to move through things and perhaps change things for the better. But then she advised that we should not try to influence anything – because God is really in charge.
I think the statements of empowering and of giving people strength is the real Christian teaching; while being passive in a kind of "faith that God is in charge" is the confusion.
Martin Luther King, for example, believed that God gave him a power and courage to make personal efforts towards changing the social setup in America. He used this given power to help make good changes in society and also to inspire others in the same way. He was not merely passive with a belief that he should just sit it all out because God is in charge and will make everything just right the way it should be.
The Truth is that God gives us power to heal, to make positive changes, and to be a positive influence in the world around us. We all feel that we have some power. But right now we are talking about a spiritual power. So we are not talking about a power to beat people up or to race past others or to climb a social ladder. We are talking about a power to help people, our environment and the world, and to do good onto others rather than just try to make money off of them. So this is a special power that is beyond ordinary ego power. The Truth is that God gives us this spiritual power; though only if we are receptive and humble. It is not really for us personally; rather, it is for what good in the world we can do with it. So, if we are sufficiently in faith and receptive, God gives us a power to both change things and also to cope with things that we cannot change.
But the ideal to be passive, in the belief that God is in charge, seems quite misleading and also contradictory to the message of spiritual empowerment. This is a confused belief that faith is all about being passive -- that we ought to just trust that God has a kind of plan working out -- so be sure to not get in God’s way by trying to do anything on your own!! This kind of thinking needs to be scrutinized more thoroughly.
In a related example, there was a football quarterback who would kneel down and thank God after every score. This kind of performed gratefulness is actually quite common in sports. But what is the meaning and intention in this? One view is that the player is thanking God for the score, or for the win. "Thank you Lord for giving us this winning touchdown." Or "thank you for making us score and win," in a presumption that God either made it happen or that God willed it to be this way, meaning that God favored our team. Of course, this kind of thinking is not so unusual. During the crusades Christians often attributed any won battle to God’s Will and to God favoring them over the other guys; for as every faithful Christian believed, God loves them but not the other religious faith.
But there is another view about the sports example, another meaning, which is that the quarterback is thanking God for giving him the needed strength, ability, and calmness that was necessary in throwing the touchdown pass. And others in the team could also be thankful in such a way; that is, being thankful and grateful to God for giving the quarterback and receiver this needed strength, ability, and calmness to make a successful win. So in this sort of meaning, the gratefulness to God is for God’s givingness of strength, ability, and calmness, in the face of stress and uncertainty; and this is what produced the success. It was a success by-way-of the quarterback and receiver, and by what God gave to them so that they could make the success. It was not merely a case of God making it all happen, or of God deciding that one team will win, not the other. And so this is a nice example of how life happens in relation to God. God gives the abilities and the peace and the confidence, which then help produce success; but this all depends on the person receiving it. God throws us the ball, but we have to catch it and then run with it all the way to our goal. Whoever best receives from God and makes the best of this, and uses what is given to achieve various goals; this is the winner.