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the magician

Hi There From An Ex-Vicar Now Magician-Priest!

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Hi there Prog Christian friends of the USA. I'm from 'across the pond' and have just been introduced to the PCN Britain. I have posted an intro on their forum, so I thought I's also join you guys over here and post the same intro (hope ya don't mind).

 

 

Just a wee intro, from a Newbie…

 

Well how marvelous to have been introduced to the PCN. I was beginning to seriously consider ‘hanging up my cassock’ for good! I’m so delighted to be here!

 

Briefly, I am a C of E Priest, who served for about ten years before taking a drastic step of becoming a freelance writer-magician. I perform what I call ‘Soulful Magic’ (the use of Stage Illusions to communicate spiritual ideas) and write books that bridge the gap between the two worlds of religion and magic.

 

I have had a long term love-hate relationship to Churchianity, not least because of its current obsession with a success, perfection and narrow dogmatism. It seems to be being taken over by a culture of ‘we are the true believers’ and ‘my way is God’s way’ etc. This leaves almost no room for grace, and no room for the gift of being allowed to screw things up and get things wrong. I hold that we learn more about ourselves and more about God throw our failures than through our successes. I’ve always loved the original biblical stories of our faith because they’re all about folk who screw things up, fall, fail, sin, mess up etc. They seem to find light in the mess more than in the perfection. In fact they seem to find light and life and meaning BECAUSE of the mess. Those who follow the rules and do it all the ‘true way’ seem to have no room left for inner light – whereas the woman who weeps buckets over JC’s feet, or the boy who robs his dad and comes home in a pool of tears… well they meet the light head on.

 

Where would the prodigal son be now if his father mirrored the current church hierarchy? ‘My son you’ve returned and… well I’d really love to publically put a ring of gold on your finger, and robe you with a garment of glory, and show you the depth of my love by throwing a party for you… but… (gulp) if I do that what are THEY gonna say? After all you were a really bad boy and I need to be seen to be doing the right thing – the just thing. So you’re gonna have to work as a slave for three years and then maybe you’ll deserve the party. Ok lad?’

 

My own priestly story is a long tale of failure, imperfection and, what I call, ‘Falling INTO Grace’ (it will all be told in a book that is going to be published in Nov. this year).

 

When I walked the road of the prodigal son, and tried to clear my chest of all the garbage in my own life, I was given a gift that did not look like a gift at first… for it meant losing everything I’d worked for, lived for, and served for over ten years. But over time the inner gold of this unwanted gift began to glisten… and now I thank God for the beauty of the new life and new ministry that has immerged.

 

I have taken my magic to places far and wide… and have been able to visit places and peoples whom I would have never encountered, were I still inside the institution. I have performed for huge groups of Alternative Spiritual Seekers at Glastonbury. I have stayed with the Leader of the largest Order of neo-Druids in the world and performed / lectured to his guests. I have stood a circle of Glasgow Pagans and shared my story and magic with them and what I have learned from these remarkable encounters has been totally priceless. It has blown my tiny mind – the light and love and mystery and magic.

 

To go back to the theme of stage magic, Andy Vivian asked me to come on this forum and explain how liberal Christian magicians can, in his words, ‘retain the sense of mystery without sacrificing their intellectual integrity.’

 

Well for now I must say that, over the last two years, my naturally skeptical side (99% of stage magicians are huge skeptics / i.e. Derren Brown) has actually given way to a much more open-minded approach to genuine encounters of deep mystery / magic etc.

 

Magic tricks can do two things: they can leave folk with a puzzle to work out - thus placing them firmly inside their own rational / logical ‘left-brain’ selves, or they can evoke true wonder and enchantment - thus placing them inside their more intuitive ‘right-brain’ selves. I try to encourage the latter. This does not mean, of course, that I try to make folk gullible or un-intellectual. Far from it. Rather, I try to show people how magic is a deeply powerful tool for encouraging the very same experience we get from encountering powerful symbolism, myth and metaphor etc.

 

The trouble with fundamentalism is that it uses such myths and metaphors as if they were literally true, thus making ‘truth’ dependent on fact. Then, those who ‘buy into it’ are gradually convinced that this must be the ‘One True Way’ because it’s based on a fact. My work is about exploding these ‘facts’ and transforming them back into the myths from which they came, thus (ironically) giving them a much greater sense of power to speak, heal, comfort, challenge, breath grace etc. than they ever could as mere facts of history.

 

That’s all I can say for now as I have somewhere to fly off to. If anyone wishes to ask me any questions at all about my magic or my neo-pagan encounters I’d be very happy, and will try my best to make sense.

 

With blessings of the bright summer sun,

 

Mark Townsend

 

http://www.magicofsoul.com

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Welcome Mark,

 

Good to have your presence here. Took a brief look at your site but need more time to check it out in more detail. And yes, if it were not for failure we would not know success. Your story is an interesting one and you will find like minded individuals here who left esteemed positions in 'churchy christianity' to begin a discovery of awe and light not found in traditional circles. I think you will also find other members here from the UK such as Tariki, a Pure Land Buddhist and others. Anyway, we look forward to hearing more from you.

 

Joseph

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Many thanks for the lovely welcome Joseph,

 

I look forward to much sharing and much learning on this forum. It's truly marvelous to be able to talk about real, authentic, relevant issues within a Christian context.

 

For two years I've been 'in exile' from the Church, over which period I've made many close and beautiful friendships within the neo-pagan world (within which I now feel equally part of). Of course on their forums I can express whatever I like about faith - God - mystery etc. without fear of being told I'm 'a heretic'. So, now, to also find a open minded and inclusive Christian forum is wonderful indeed.

 

Many Blessings!

 

Mark

Edited by the magician

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Just wrote these words as a final passage in my latest book:

 

 

Yet after everything I've said, and after everything I've been through, I still love the dear old C of E... so tenderly. She had been my mother for two decades, and even unwanted children still feel connected to their parents. So, though radical and unconventional I remain an ordained member of her. This may be an embarrassment to some, but to others I know my story, and my magic, make sense. I still meet many 'Anglican Angels' on my travels, and they give me real hope - hope that a core of spiritual, authentic and open-minded energy stills pulses away, like a heart beat, just a little under the surface. Right now I don't know what the future holds. Will I remain somewhere between the two worlds of Christianity and Druidry forever? Will I gradually be absorbed back into the life of the former, but with a wider vision? Or will I eventually cut my ties and become a full blown Druid? Right now I don't know and I don't care. My only concern is to remain authentic and follow the way that the wind blows. I hate labels anyway. They only serve to ensnare us inside boxes of opinion. So, Great Spirit, God/Dess of many names, breathe upon this battered soul and send him on his way, free from any constraints, open to whatever comes.

Edited by the magician

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(snip)

Right now I don't know and I don't care. My only concern is to remain authentic and follow the way that the wind blows. I hate labels anyway. They only serve to ensnare us inside boxes of opinion. So, Great Spirit, God/Dess of many names, breathe upon this battered soul and send him on his way, free from any constraints, open to whatever comes.

 

Beautiful. I share your point concerning labels but I wouldn't personally say that I hate them, I just don't put much credence in them and chose not to adopt them for myself. Below is a recent quote of mine in a response to a post concerning labels.

 

Is it not enough to follow what we deem as the meaning of 'Christ' whether through teachings or our actual subjective experience and call ourselves Christians? Or must we defend to others a label of 3 vowels and 6 consonants as if that word could really define us in God? In my experience, labels serve more toward separation and to divide us from the 'other' then to unite us as one. So if one might be offended by my calling of myself as a Progressive Christian, I need have no such label in the kingdom of God and there seems to me nothing to defend as relates to "what is the point of being a Christian then?"

 

Joseph

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Lovely quote Joseph, and I do agree about not 'hating' labels. I'm afraid my own choice of words is sometimes a little excessive (lol).

 

And hi to you too Dutch, looking forward to sharing!

 

Mark

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Hi Mike,

 

Yep really looking forward to getting to know you and the other members of this forum.

 

Are there any others who enjoy a kind of Christian - Pagan mix?

 

Mark

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Hi Mike,

 

Yep really looking forward to getting to know you and the other members of this forum.

 

Are there any others who enjoy a kind of Christian - Pagan mix?

 

Mark

 

Are you using the word Pagan in the context of "an outsider"? The term seems to have many meanings.

 

Joseph

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I'm using the term Pagan in the context of a follower of a nature-based path like druidry, asatru or wicca...

 

To be honest I've never studied the Western pagan traditions, upon questioning Christianity my interests were immediately directed toward eastern religion. I think Taoism qualifies as a nature-based path, though. :)

Edited by Mike

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Hi Mark and welcome! I am glad you are here. I am somewhat new as well - check out my introduction here on the forum to see where I come from. I understand nearly down to the bone what you are talking about here - and it is due to my background before coming to Christ.

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Hi Faithdrivenmum,

 

Nice intro. and, boy, what a journey you've had (or should I say "you're having").

 

 

Me? Well I guess I am a very liberal and eccletic priest who now also walks the Druidic path (I'm a member of both OBOD and TDN). I never saw my role as a Vicar to try and convert. Rather I saw my place in the community as simply a 'soul friend to anyone who needed me.' If bouncing ideas off this confused and eccletic soul helped at all then I was happy. I always ended up learning far more about humanity, god/dess, spirit, magic than I was able to teach anyway!

 

I still value the mythic nature of the Christ story, and still find some of the original parables etc. to be quite beautiful symbolic lessons for humanity. I still feel an inner warmth toward the church - though cannot comfortably fit into it any more. It seems to resemble more of what the orginal thrust of the message came to challenge than model. Guess I see the 'Christ essence' as the western equivalent of the eastern 'Buddha nature' etc. I.e that inner spark of gold / magic / deity even that exists in the heart of all people / all things.

 

Now - as a kinda of eccletic eastern-minded seeker who is both still some sort of loosely connected progressive christian as well as a druid - I love nothing more than to explore spirituality on sites like this.

 

I also write books. My newest is called The Path of The Blue Raven and it is almost ready for review. It tells the messy and uncomfortable story of my journey from 'religion to re-enchantment.' It also contains a whole section of druidic faith stories - both christo-druids and pagan druids.

 

 

Here's a link to my author page on the pub's website:

 

http://www.o-books.com/product_info.php?products_id=629

 

 

Hope we can 'chat' some more...

 

With warm wishes and bright blessings!

 

Mark Townsend

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Hi Mike,

 

Sure Taoism would indeed be considered a 'nature base path' as would Shintoism. I, too, have a deep affection for eastern paths, though what I LOVE about the more western pagan paths is the very HIGH view of earth / matter / creation / sensuality / body they foster. I often find the eastern (non-dualistic) traditions to be quite earth / body / matter denying (almost like some forms of Christianity, though in a different way of course).

 

To me when I walk inside a rich green forest I am in the company of the spirits of the place - like some great natural cathedral whose congregation is made up of the energies and presences that live inside the rocks, steams, trees, flowers and other creatures...

 

Mark

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Evening Vicar!

 

Always wanted to say that! I'm C of E too, well Anglican, here in Australia, and we have Rectors and Reverends and Fathers but no Vicars, well not any more! So frustrating!

 

Anyway, welcome! Wonderful to hear from someone who seems to be living their bliss so powerfully! As for the dual-faith or syncretic nature of your theology I readily empathise, indeed, for a long time I considered myself to be of a similar dual-faith disposition, drawn mostly to the notions of the Culdees in Ireland and Scotland. I now feel comfortable with the label of Progressive Christian as it holds within it an implied embracing of all faiths, including those earth-based traditions and 'new' faiths. I have come across a book which, although I haven't read yet, seems to be very apt for this discussion:

 

http://www.amazon.com/ChristoPaganism-Inclusive-Path-River-Higginbotham/dp/0738714674

 

Looking forward to many good discussions! Sorry mate, but I have to do this, humour me...'More tea Vicar?'. Right, got that out of my system!

 

Adi

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Evening Vicar!

 

Always wanted to say that! I'm C of E too, well Anglican, here in Australia, and we have Rectors and Reverends and Fathers but no Vicars, well not any more! So frustrating!

 

Anyway, welcome! Wonderful to hear from someone who seems to be living their bliss so powerfully! As for the dual-faith or syncretic nature of your theology I readily empathise, indeed, for a long time I considered myself to be of a similar dual-faith disposition, drawn mostly to the notions of the Culdees in Ireland and Scotland. I now feel comfortable with the label of Progressive Christian as it holds within it an implied embracing of all faiths, including those earth-based traditions and 'new' faiths. I have come across a book which, although I haven't read yet, seems to be very apt for this discussion:

 

http://www.amazon.com/ChristoPaganism-Inclusive-Path-River-Higginbotham/dp/0738714674

 

Looking forward to many good discussions! Sorry mate, but I have to do this, humour me...'More tea Vicar?'. Right, got that out of my system!

 

Adi

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G'day Mayte! Ow's it going down there in Pratchett's land of XXXX (got me own back now - ha ha),

 

But seriously - really good to meet ya. And yes the book you highlighted is very good indeed. I've just read it. The Higginbothams' books are all good. In fact they are contributing to my new book - which is gonna be called 'Jesus Through Pagn Eyes'. I've been interviewing earth-based / pagan folk the world over on their views about JC. What I've been learning during the process is mind blowing. In fact, even though none of the folk I've spoken to worship or follow JC, they seem to have a much more workable, meaningful, useful and powerful view of him than most Christian Jesus books I've read.

 

Hope to hear more about your own explorations mate! Oh and if ya fancy a cucumber sandwich and pot o tea at the vicarage - let me know...

 

Blessings!

Mark

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Hello Mark, glad you found us. Although not experienced in the Druidic ways, I have had my exposure. My wife was raised pagan, in the earth-magic sense, and is still a bit of a "kitchen witch" for lack of a better term. I do feel a connection with the earth religions, but mostly due to my dissatisfaction and disgust for how the established status quo of western christianity seems to ignore our Mother Earth and the damage we do to her in the course of exercising our claim over her. My personal system of beliefs involves a fixation with our footsteps as a mark of God's presence on earth, and the need to tread lightly. I am looking forward to your input in this forum.

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