“Living An Enchanted Life”
The Reverend Peter Edward Lanzillotta, Ph.D.
When you hear the word, enchantment, what comes to mind?
A fairy tale, maybe a favorite production from Disney, or a magical spell … or could it be that enchantment refers to something inner, deeper… an often unexpressed delight- a feeling that invites you to linger and to savor, to long for, and to wistfully wonder… maybe enchantment is the word we can use to describe what it means to recapture that sense of truly living, living a more soulful, & in that sense, magical life…
Now to be sure, it might be considered bizarre and strange in and of itself for a Unitarian-Universalist to wax poetic and ponder mystical and magical terms such as enchantment…. but a case can be made for how it can be approached and understood…
I have come across this powerful entrancing concept of enchantment at various times during my own spiritual and personal quest. This spellbinding word seems to have tracked along my personal journeys through psychology, philosophy. spirituality and metaphysics. As I understand it, let me state it clearly, enchantment or the capacity to become enchanted IS an answer for the seeking heart. …
In recent memory, the enticing concept of being or becoming enchanted relates to many of the questions and connections we humans seem to need or desire. In trying to summarize the many ways this is possible, I will choose three from my life’s soulful excursions that span from the universal and global to those that are profoundly personal and intimate.
As Thomas More, Jungian analyst, musician and former monk writes in his book on The Re-Enchantement Of Life, “our souls have a distinct need for regular excursions into enchantment. What food is for the body, what thought is for the mind, enchantment is for our souls.”
Brian Swimme is a cosmologist whose scientific and inspirational writings focus on the origins of the universe.
He has been most closely connected to the international movement called Creation Spirituality. In explaining the physics of deep space, he naturally leads us into the consideration of the vastness of our own possibilities- moving from physics to metaphysics, pondering the laws and the causes of the Cosmos, he directs our questions toward an expanded, inclusive sense of the Divine, where the universe abides by its own self-sustaining holy laws- Laws that some of us would deem to be part of the grand and elegant design of an all wise, all compassionate Creator/Creatrix God whose laws and principles operate both within and beyond ordinary human comprehension.
In and through the process that Thomas More recommends as a necessary translation of science into awe and wonder, Brian Swimme introduces us to our capacity for enchantment with the larger world of nature and the life under the heavens.
In his first book, The Universe Is A Green Dragon, and in his preface to the more complete Universe Story, Swimme moves from a scholarly treatise to an emphasis on our human need for enchantment as a way to revitalize our vigilance for ecological justice, and to graciously accept our place in the universe as a treasure- as a gift that advocates and strengthens our human need for enchantment- to fall in love with the universe, the earth, with life! This feeling, that we are cared for and connected to the universe is a timeless way humanity can and has expressed the awe and wonder of life.
Q: Have you ever thought of it in that way?
The next time you have an opportunity to go out at night, look up into that starry sky and take a few moments to look around at the majesty, the mystery and the meaning of all that vast, inspiring beauty that you can see …
Q: Ask yourself, when were you last enchanted by a star?
When was it that you gave thanks for your place in the Cosmos?
Knowing that the universe is the largest scale of life we can grasp or even try to understand, when was it that you first realized that all the elements, all the air, dust, liquid, and space that makes up the galaxies is also a part of you- that you, too are made of star stuff???
Furthermore, when was it that you first knew that there was some kind of connection here, that both you and the universe are a marvel and a wonder, a moral lesson, and can be a heartfelt comfort for one another– That both you and the universe are a part of a cosmic design where the ultimate and the intimate are reflected and connected- and that we are privileged to partake in the grace of it all– that’s enchantment!
Another encounter with the word and the ideal of enchantment came to me from my studies in depth psychology. From those insights, I came to realize the importance of stories and dreams, the value found from awakening the imagination and from the contemplative consideration of the mythopoetic dimensions of our lives.
In what has now become a classic text, the psychoanalyst Bruno Bettleheim described the importance of myths, legends, folk stories and dreams in his book, The Uses Of Enchantment.
In those pages, he describes how humanity’s myths, can be used to unlock and reveal the workings of our own human nature.
Through his discourse, Bettleheim points to how myths and metaphors from the world’s great literature, Scripture, and
poetry, are the best way we humans have for approximating the truth– for truth is not necessarily factual nor is it logical- Instead, the truths of our being, and the realities of humankind contain within them a faith-filled, trusting dimension- a depth which has a romantic and transcendent quality within them that enchants us- that lures, tricks, inspires, and cajoles us into the truth and the soulful lesson its story line might contain.
Life is a mystery. Myths, legends and our dreams hold within themselves a key that unlocks the hidden and the previously unknown. This process of how a myth is told, how it engages you, how it grabs your attention and focuses in on its possibilities, can dynamically touch our emotions. This touch, when we embrace it, makes our enchantment with the characters, the tradition, and the lessons, an important part of our path toward greater self- discovery and toward a more complete sense of healing and wholeness. That is one of the principal reasons why I have reinvested in the stories associated with the larger, more mystical and inclusive Judeo-Christian-Islamic heritage; the Myths of Arthur, the stories in Shakespeare, inspirational poetry… these have helped me to learn, discover, understand and grow… both personally and professionally…
A third way the idea and the ideal of enchantment comes to us in our appraisal of human motivations and desires. How we decide to do anything, how we focus our wills, and develop sufficient motivation, can all tie into our understanding of enchantment.
For this approach, we are advised by Thomas More that “[the goal of life is becoming a person who is deeply and securely grounded in their delight; for one who possesses a rich imagination may be more desirable than another who is being more politically savvy, or well informed. …
That living with a sense of passion and vision, or becoming a person who possessing a zest for life, despite all its various imbalances, idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies, might be better off than limiting or constraining your sense of self to being a high functioning, well-organized robot.]”
In my delvings into spiritual teachings, I will briefly extract a short portion from a complete theory of consciousness that centers on Sufi and Tibetan teachings. This theory contains some insights on the nature of enchantment. It states that enchantment as a kind of holy curiousity, is necessary to trap the human ego into growth and change. Enchantment is an excellent motivator for any needed or necessary transformation; that enchantment can be seen as the positive, sincere expression of interest or desire in someone, something, some ideal or higher principle.
In that way, it operates as a balance point or polar dynamic opposite of addiction, because of how it invites growth and engagement- the enlargement of one’s world, one’s heart, and the courage to pursue involvement with others. When we are enchanted, by someone, something, an ideal or a transcendent hope, we invest ourselves in them; dedicating time, energy, focus and interest towards the ideal or the goal it or they represent. Such a state could be called infatuation, but that is just the short-lived expression of the earnest of a heart-centered caring that you wish to cultivate or express.
We can be sure that it is only infatuation when the demands and the difficulties of intimacy threaten it and easily compromise its ardor or intensity.
This points toward another principle of consciousness that states that time and love are connected- the capacity to give time to someone or something is a measure of its importance, affection, and value to us. Time and love are intimately linked; if one cannot give sufficient time to a person, a cause or an ideal, the passion for it erodes or become frustrated. Similarly, enchantment lives in a person’s heart and mind when there is a willingness to dedicate or devote time and energy, affection and support to whatever is beloved…
Enchantment deliciously invites us to the feast of life- it implores us to take the time to drink it all in, and to open one’s awareness to deliciously savor the wonders and blessings of being alive.
When we are enchanted, we live and love magically– we can easily lose track of time, and flow freely from our hearts.
When our lives can become too routine, mundane, and we can become trapped by efficiency and responsibility- we can negate or devalue that part of us that needs to soar- to be free- to wonder, imagine, to lift and to love… To the degree that we exclude the soul’s need to be inspired, enchanted, we are inviting a premature death or an inertia for our spirits. Instead of locking down, gritting it out, offer yourself the opportunity to become re-enchanted, as a gift… as a confirmation of the treasure you hold within and of the value that can be found in sharing it and expressing it. Then, as I have seen and felt it, life will have a restored and expanded sense of connection and meaning for you. May you and I, may we all learn to live more soulfully- Learn to live in a more enchanted world! Amen: So Be It! Blessed Be!