The re-enchantment of the world is a big theme for me. I talk about it a lot. I haven’t yet blogged about it much, but I’m gonna. So I probably ought to explain what I mean right out of the gate.
To re-enchant the world implies that it has been disenchanted. The concept of disenchantment appears to have been coined by a turn-of-the-century German Sociologist named Max Weber, to express the loss of mystical, magickal, or religious worldviews in favor of purely scientific, mechanistic, and capitalistic worldviews. During an admittedly quick search – because ultimately I am not so interested in where these terms come from as their ability to captivate our imaginations in this moment – I came across an article written by a fellow named Albert J. Raboteau, which sums this concept up nicely. Here’s a little excerpt:
“The world became disenchanted (Max Weber’s phrase, I think) at a certain point in the history of Western Europe — victim to the scientific revolution, the industrial revolution, the triumph of rationalism in the Enlightenment. …The world becomes flattened, surface, ordinary, spiritless. And in response we succumb to the pseudo-enchantment of addiction to entertainment, to food, to alcohol, to sex, to possessions — out of our deep innate hunger for mystery, for spirit, for glory. Like Esau, we trade our birthright. We settle for glittering treasure, dragon bait, but then the dragon wakens and eats our souls. We become the hollow men and women that T. S. Eliot described. We may not know how to name it, but we are no less deprived, impoverished, hungry. The gnawing feeling that our lives ought to be more possesses us. And we are right.”
(Note: this entire article is well worth a read and can be found at http://www.crosscurrents.org/Raboteau.htm) –
The crux of the matter seems to be that we lost a sense of magic and wonder as the scientific worldview took over. We came to trust only what could be proven. It now seems, however, that we have paid a steep price for this “either/or” thinking. There is so much that simply cannot be measured let alone proven, and many of these “unprovable” experiences appear to be crucial to our well-being.
There are a whole lot of mysteries in this word, and if we discount them simply because they don’t coincide with what we can prove, right now, we may be missing something. A whole lot in fact.
Am I betraying science, to say these things? I don’t think so. My stance is, it doesn’t have to be either/or. To give up science in favor of magic is to become superstitious. But to give up magic in favor of science is to diminish our humanity. To cut ourselves off from the parts of the world we can’t explain. And therefore to narrow our vision.
No one has a corner on the “truth” market. No matter what worldview we adopt, we are seeing the world through colored glasses. Science itself reevaluates positions that once seemed rock-solid every generation or so. As we speak, the Theory of Relativity is being called into question by the discovery of neutrinos that appear to be moving faster than the speed of light.
Rationality is very useful, and a very trustworthy mindset upon which to make decisions. But it is not everything. Intuition is a just as valid, and oftentimes proves itself to be more useful. I have frequently gotten better results solving problems by NOT thinking about them, i.e. during states of meditation.
Don’t worry, I’m not about to go all “religious nut” on you, and argue that science is false and that my God is “The Truth”. The point I am making here is, there is a whole heck of a lot of mystery in this world, and a willingness to consider the potential wisdom in relating to the world as mysterious may behoove us in a lot of ways.
Also – do we need our worldview to be “true”? Or just useful? Maybe any kind of absolute truth is ultimately unknowable. And maybe this is okay.
I am a Pagan. (well, sort of a Zen-Pagan-Buddhist at this point but that is a story for another day). Which means I have chosen to anthropomorphize forces of nature. I do this because to poeticize natural processes, i.e. science, in this way kindles something in my brain. It opens doors in my mind that make me feel inspired and expansive. I do not do this becasue I believe literally that there is some dude named Thor hurling thunderbolts down at us every time there is a storm. In other words – I don’t need Thor to be literal. But having him there in my imagination is useful to me, in ways that I don’t even fully understand. However, I don’t necessarily need to understand. I can make my peace with mystery, knowing that for whatever reason, this poeticization of nature’s workings inspires me. And an inspired mind is a creative mind, and a creative mind solves more problems than a closed mind.
What we believe shapes our experience. Our experience becomes our truth. Our truth becomes the world we live in. What kind of world do you want to live in?
I propose that we can relearn to see this world as a glittering jewel of infinite miracles. And in seeing the world this way, we begin to take actions that shape our world accordingly. What kind of person do you suppose is going to have the most positive impact on the world? Someone who beleives in infinite possibilities? Or someone who accepts only what can be proven to the rational mind?
I want to live in an enchanted world. Where fairy tales just might come true. Where synchronicities do exist. This is my great thought experiment. What will come to pass in our lives, what doors might open up, if we make it a habit to believe 6 impossible things before breakfast?
As I see it, to re-enchant the world is to shift our perception to one where we see the world as alive, and ourselves as part of a connected whole, rather than a discrete part in a mechanical world, where nothing is alive and we are separate, disconnected, and isolated. To re-enchant the world is to learn to see between the cracks of “accepted” reality into a place where there is wonder, light, beauty, and infinite possibility, to rekindle that sense of magic we had as children, to remember that our imaginations can open up windows in the mind, the soul, and in nature. And that through these windows can flow an inexhaustible energy that feeds us, inspires us, and gives us a direct experience of the Infinite.
Will you join me in keeping our minds open to the improbable, the impossible, the infinite? Will you experiment with me, and see what happens when we believe 6 impossible things before breakfast? Will you leave a door in your heart open to the infinite mystery of life? Shall we re-enchant the world together?