Some personal accounts....
' 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 Christianity, not least because of its current obsession with 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 The Divine through 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. So I use magic now to try and communciate all this stuff! I have taken my magic to places far and wide and have been able to visit places and peoples who I would have never encountered, were I still inside the church 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 and lectured to his guests. I have stood in 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.
Re. Magic - some ask me how liberal-minded Christian magicians can 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) 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. ' Mark Townsend http://www.magicofsoul.com
' I have always been interested in faith, religion and spirituality. In my 'early' days I chose to follow my Mum's Christian faith and after deciding to get confirmed at the age 12 I became a server. However after a while I didn't feel enthused about this 'faith' thing and moved on with my life leaving thoughts of religion and spirituality behind for a while. When I started to travel Australia in my late teens I met many people of different backgrounds, faiths and religions and once again started to ask my own questions. Then on my return I started to discuss various religions and spiritual view points with friends of different religions from Anglicans and Quakers to Buddhists, Muslins and Krishnas and perhaps more importantly my Mum, who's genuine and devoted faith in Jesus was inspiring. One thing became apparent that despite knowing about these religions none of them appeared to inspire me, I didn't feel any of them could hold sway and actually be 'real'. I started to read books and much of my early to mid twenties revolved around a more 'spiritual' than religious search, taking on board much of what had been written by various authors. Then in 2007 by chance looking for an Alpha course, I came upon Jubilee Church Farnham (http://www.jubileechurchfarnham.org) and the friendly response to my enquiry and invite to a BBQ which incidentally I didn't attend gave me assurance that at least they were nice people I was to spend 10 Thursday evenings of my life with! So I arrived. And dinner was nice, the first couple of weeks passed smoothly, I didn't have to speak much and spent most of the time listening, some questions were being answered and some not and so over the following weeks I also spent a few lunches with Sean (while I ate healthy salads and he have the Cheese and bacon Burgers - honestly it was that way round, well once). All of a sudden as questions that had been floating around my head started to become answered, others became less important and some even irrelevant while new ones sprang from ideas I’d never contemplated. I came to realise that Christians weren't all stereotypical sandal wearing evangelists but normal genuine folk like me!
Over the course of my Alpha there were two key points and as I'm not Nicky Gumble (the Guy that invented it) I'm not going to even try to explain the complexities of it all, but safe to say I was shown enough irrefutable evidence in my eyes to believe that Jesus actually existed AND more importantly that he Is the Son of God. So now with the theoretical point out of the way and I was well on my way to believing that the whole concept of Christianity was true! The next major point for me was on November the 17th two days after what is known as the Alpha w/e where we take a w/e away to discuss the Holy spirit. That w/e I had been a little caught up in it all but on the way to work on that Monday morning I came to the conclusion that Christianity was the bag for me and I asked Christ to come into my life. And after this happened... well the first thing I noticed was a pure elation in feeling settled, I was no longer looking but had found, a bit like that relief you get when you think you've lost your wallet but you find it in the fridge, well maybe that’s just me, but oh so much greater. I had been looking for an answer so long and suddenly the comfort and settledness I felt confirmed it all for me. I started to see the path that Jesus had laid down for me, and how his Spirit had guided me along the way through the places I’d been and the people I'd met. Since coming to faith, I have not had any visions of angels dancing or witnessed miracle healings, but I have started to approach life with a much more relaxed approach, obstacles I perhaps made for myself seem to no longer be present and my relationships with people have become much more honest and open. God still has a lot of work to do with me as no one's perfect but I can see the way his spirit is working within me, and the people around me, and I'm so excited about what is still to come in my life. However on I did feel God touch me and while at church one Sunday morning I was overcome with an unstoppable urge to speak out and bring a word to the Church, as if God himself was spilling out through me, and on that note I feel I shall conclude and just thank the Lord, Christ Jesus for coming into my life and what he has done and is yet to show to me. ' Wyndham My Journey - A Testimony
' My working life was one of performance, solving problems and never permitting mistakes to be made. Retirement gave me the time to find poetry. My work-shaped ‘being’ slowly opened up to the beauty of the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins who found God in nature and whose poems exude the power of his belief in God’s presence in the natural world around us. Retirement led me and my wife to North East Hampshire and the beautiful heathland, commons and woods that surround our home. Cycling the bridleways on my mountain bike, I was overwhelmed by the ever-changing magnificence of this quietly stunning environment. I began inwardly to sense what Hopkins experienced. As I looked towards the South Downs on the horizon I thought of his words from various poems: ’…and the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder/ Majestic – as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet !... High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing/ In his ecstasy! Then off, off forth on swing,/ As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding...All things counter, original, spare, strange;/ Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how ?)/ With swift, slow; sweet, sour, adazzle, dim;/ He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise him.’
My very personal feeling is that nature can and does provide healing, protection and regeneration to those who (to quote Hopkins again) ‘have trod, have trod, have trod’ for most of their lives' ' Fred Robins The Healing Power of Nature
' One night I had a strange experience where I woke up to find myself looking down on my body - It was basically an out of body experience. I could see myself sitting down on my bed with my hands buried in my face crying in desperation, and I remember thinking that I could no longer go on and that I wanted to end everything. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw a flickering light in the corner of the room... It terrified me so I turned away from it, but something inside my head urged me to face it, so I did. As I did I remember almost being thrown into the light (the light didn’t force me in, it was more of a magnetic need coming from myself) .
I could then see the figure of a powerful man. He was full of love, energy and was kind, caring. Nothing but 100 % love, but it was a love I had NEVER experienced in my life. We were not speaking through normal communication, it was only through expression. I threw all my worries at him and just said "I am so worried I am so worried" He said "Don't be - everything is going to be ok" . I then said that I could not give up smoking and I remember humour and he chuckled and said "C'mon Lindsay, It's not that hard" . I said ok, and I then came out of the trance that I was in and awoke - I had the knowledge that I had met Jesus.. I did not need to ask, I just knew. It is an experience I will never forget, because also, I never touched a cigarette after that again! ' Star81 My meeting with Jesus