An ecstatic state is one in which you allow yourself to become so overwhelmed with sensation that you transcend your immediate experience and achieve fleeting awareness of the sublime. Dance, a fit of rage, and otherwise working yourself into a frenzy can achieve ecstasy but the shortest path to awareness of the sublime is through a state of wonder.
Wonder, awe; being in this state suppresses the reductive, analytical function of the rational mind in favor of total receptivity -of childlike amazement. It can be invoked unexpectedly by a beautiful landscape or a fascinating glimpse into any of Nature’s many secrets. And it is a very short distance from awe to the sublime; you only need to contemplate the incredible vastness of life to become lost in ecstatic wonder.
In ecstasy we can find an endless source of creative inspiration, of peace, and of purpose and meaning. Even a simple, almost universal, experience like a colorful dawn breaking over the ocean can hardly fail to invigorate the spirit and enrich the mind. The natural world is so full of amazing experiences that, when you look with the right kind of eyes, the transcendent is always readily apparent.
As magicians we operate in altered states, either slowing our minds down or overwhelming them, to gain access to the sublime. Either way, focusing on one thing until it fills our awareness completely, brings us into a receptive state from which we can imprint intention on the as-of-yet-unmanifest universe. The sublime is immanent in the workings of Mother Nature, her paradoxes and harmonies coexisting in the web of relationality that makes up our beautiful world.
Wonder allows us to see God everywhere we look. It both reveals the underlying sublime nature of reality and allows us to engage with it through sacred observation. Simply witnessing Nature’s profundity expands the mind to encompass greater possibility (and positivity) and increases coherence of the spirit (by becoming more aware of our relationality). To access the sublime we need only dig a millimeter below the surface of the earth, or to sit at the base of a tree and look up, or swim a natural reef -Nature reveals the divine through her myriad expressions of life becoming.
Harnessing this state for practical use (in enchantments) is not difficult, or complicated. In fact, it is the most natural way to enter into a state where magic is possible. Our greatest challenge in the pursuit of learning magic is our own limiting belief about what magic is and what it can do. Observing the sublimely magical nature of life going about its business, offers a shortcut into the state of receptive, transcendent awareness where real magic becomes possible.
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Putting Wonder Into Praxis
We can invite a state of wonder regularly, not just prior to a working. The effect isn’t like having a crystal on your altar where its presence adds an effect to your spell. Wonder is a state of mind; one that triggers a greater awareness of the cosmos and our place in it. Recognizing our relationality brings us into deeper connection with the divine and it is that connection which gives us access to magic in the first place.
Our goal is to rest in a state of wonder, in the awareness of ourselves as an extension -an individuation- of the same intelligent energy which ensouls every living / animate thing in the universe. Gentle awareness of this profound truth causes us to identify with divinity and accept our role as co-creator in the collective dreaming of reality.
When we pray to the gods, or attempt to manifest our desires, or any other expression of working our will in the world, we entreat the divine (consciously or unconsciously) to fulfill our dreams. Recognizing our oneness within the whole of the universe elevates our ability to believe our magic will work because we are both god and suppliant -both giving and receiving the blessing- from a non-dualist perspective.
Simply entering into a state of wonder, regularly, opens the perceptions and allows us to become more aware of Spirit at work. This, in turn, increases our ability to recognize the enchantment of the world and how magic works within it.
We can also bring this sense of wonder into ritual more practically by creating awe-inspiring and fantastical landscapes for journeys (meditations), bringing elements found in nature onto your altar (feathers, nuts, stones, etc), performing rituals in naturally magical settings, and so on.
Working with the elements through suffumigation, cleansing in the ocean, releasing in fire, and sowing in the earth, infuses the body / mind / spirit with natural wonder. Ritual elevates these acts from symbols to metaphors. These may be simple actions but, when taken in a spirit of wonder, they transcend symbolism to cause real, measurable shifts in reality.
How To Cultivate Wonder
As small children, we are surrounded by wonder. We can be amazed at nearly anything because it is all new and remarkable. Over time the newness fades and, thanks to the overstimulation of modernity, we are trained to overlook the sublime in favor of the immediately apparent. The path back to wonder is through the plasticity of a childlike mind, where our understanding is shallow and our ego is underdeveloped -where we can be fully receptive, and fully willing to believe anything which presents itself to us experientially.
To bring wonder into ritual, we must cultivate it like a house plant; to help it thrive in unnatural conditions by nourishing it with great care. A little natural light goes a long way…time spent outside, particularly in the sun and in biodiverse settings with an abundance of life, elevates the mood and quickly turns the mundane into magic. Observing the intricate harmonies of the natural world interweaving with subtle complexity, achieving balance as a collective through their individual being and doing, can be transcendent. Gazing up at the stars on a cloudless night, or the nightly observation of the Moon through her stations, overwhelms the mind with cosmic grandeur.
The cosmos is filled with beauty, meaning, and purpose in all its many forms, small and large, simple and complex. Bearing witness to their collective being and doing, and observing that the microcosm reflects the macrocosm, we expand our fluency in the magically potent language of metaphor in which the divine universe describes itself.
Exposure to inspiration encourages transcendence to spring forth from mundane experiences; the more we find inspiration in our lives, the more there is to discover. The trick is to be able to induce the small cascade of sublime ecstasy that causes a landslide.
The Little (Ego) Death
Wonder offers the shortest path to ecstasy and the fastest way to feel wonder is to become aware of how small you are in the vastness of the cosmos. Small doesn’t imply insignificant but it situates our experience within a much greater, and much more complex, whole. Though our contribution is meaningful, the scope of the universe is just so much bigger than ourselves -and contemplating this brings us into relation with it in a rush of transcendent awareness.
When we’re focused on the dramas of our own lives, we become less aware of the innate meaning and magic in our experience of life. Experiencing the sublime in moments of extreme awareness resets our priorities by bringing the meaning of life into sharp focus. The delusion of separation -of separateness- has us exorcizing our demons by projecting them onto others but the occasional glimpse of heaven is all we need to guide us out of this wilderness.
Every time we crest a personal mountain, a new horizon appears in the distance. The lotus flower is always unfolding. Transformative experiences lay dormant in the ruins of edifice; as the past dies, our eyes open to the possibility the future represents. A (small) ego death represents a timely prescience, a moment in which the mind / body / spirit can enter eternity together to experience ecstatic bliss -in the awareness of the divine interconnectedness of all things.
Time spent in Nature, or stargazing, or gardening, or…any pursuit which brings you into relation with the more-than-human world situates you as part of a greater, and inexpressible, whole. When nurtured, this awareness cascades into fascination and eventually awe. It is unavoidable that the whole of the universe is the wholeness we seek; we are the universe’s prodigal children. We will find our way home again through the realization of oneness, by dispelling the myth of separation, and we experience this awareness every time we allow ourselves to become lost in the overwhelming beauty and intelligence present in every little detail of the vast living universe.
Lost in the ecstasy of wonder we find ourselves wiser, more resilient, and more capable of producing miraculous effects. Magical potency can be enhanced in any number of ways but the shortest path is through this portal to possibility; through the joy of wondrous rapture.
Featured Image: Stargazing by LMnd87