There was no need for a term like ‘magical thinking’ in the Golden Age of Man. There was only genuine everyday magic and mysticism. Children were not mocked or scolded in those days for singing to the rain, or talking to the wind.
Magical thinking is a common trait found among all children all over the world, between the ages of approximately two until seven years of age. This time frame is also known as the pre-operational stage of child development and it is the period in our early life when we increasingly explore our environment, and gradually learn to distinguish between ‘fantasy’ and ‘reality’. Children at this age initially have all kinds of imaginative ideas and magical interpretations of the world, in order to make sense of their external and internal reality. At this age we still believe that we can grow wings and learn to fly; or that animals can talk and sing; or that our shadow is a magical person following us around; or that the Sun goes to sleep in the ocean; that there is a man living in the Moon; or that the wind, the clouds and the trees notice us and obey our instructions.
We often also have imaginary friends at this age. The process of exploring the actual limitations of our time-space reality lasts several years. Most ‘magical thinking’ typically disappears around the time when a child finally accepts that there is no such thing as the Tooth Fairy, or Santa Clause. As our understanding and knowledge of Earth reality increases, we lose our imaginative sense of the magical and metaphysical.
Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry Potter, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real? ~ J.K. Rowling
It appears that the only reason magical thinking must fade into the background of our consciousness as we grow up is because it can become inappropriate or dangerous from a survival perspective. To live safely in our physical body on this planet in primitive times we had to recognize certain patterns in our environment. For example we had to know that certain berries or plants are poisonous when we eat them, or that we may die should we fall off a cliff, or that wild animals can cause us physical harm. Confronted with the independent forces of nature it is obviously not a good idea for frail young humans to believe that they can fly or give instructions to wild animals.
However, we never fully lose the tendency to see the magical or mysterious in the ordinary. Findings in cognitive science suggest that magical thinking is an inherent, human trait that persists into adulthood and this appears to be prevalent in all societies and cultures. It is also a phenomenon that is found in all civilizations.
Throughout recorded human history we find clear evidence that mankind has always believed that some things are sacred; that things can be cursed; that the human mind can control matter; that rituals bring prosperity or good fortune; that there is power in words and the names assigned to things; that there is justice and moral order in the Universe (such as karma or God’s judgment); and finally that the Universe is ‘alive’ or has a conscious awareness of its own existence.
The fact that these fundamental beliefs are widespread and common in all cultures is no coincidence or accident. If we accept that we are spiritual beings having a physical, human experience, our tendency towards ‘magical thinking’ and metaphysical belief makes all the sense in the world! However, many scientists attach absolutely no metaphysical or spiritual significance to these phenomena. For example, researcher Dr Eugene Subbotsky refers to it as "magical ideation" and suggests that we retain our preference for magical thinking because “it’s much more comfortable to think that your fate is written down in a constellation of stars than that you’re one of a certain group of intelligent animals who are lost in frozen space forever."
Neuropsychologist Peter Brugger, takes a more positive approach, which goes beyond the mere survival theory. He states that it is not healthy for us humans to be entirely stripped of all our magical thinking. His data seems to show that a lack of magical thinking leads to anhedonia, which is the inability to experience pleasure.
We should be cautiously open to the spiritual and non-rational, and skeptical of the more invisible magical thinking - what we might call ‘magical reason’ - pervading secular thought and experience in modern society. Science and technology are for most people a new religion, and their orthodoxies are believed with the same fervor ~ David Watson
We were never really meant to feel like ‘animals’ lost in space. It is clear that we have an innate urge or intuitive desire to find meaning and purpose in our lives, and that we derive a lot of pleasure and joy from the so-called ‘magical ideations’ we attach to random patterns and coincidences. I propose that although it is necessary for us to initially put our ‘magical thinking’ into its proper earthly perspective, while we grow up, we should not be encouraged or pressured to relinquish it entirely, for it is an expression of our original spiritual nature.
It is also my experience that a true spiritual awakening is always accompanied by the return of so-called ‘magical thinking’ to our consciousness in some way, shape or form. Without ‘magical ideation’ true spiritual awareness seems impossible. Yes, we did come here for a physical human experience and therefore we have to make do with little or no awareness of our ‘superpowers’ for a large portion of our life. It is part of the deal. One cannot expect to have a truly physical life experience bound by time and space, while retaining your full spiritual capacity. The two states of being are mutually exclusive.
In this lifetime we are like Superman who must remain disguised as the nerdy newspaper journalist Clark Kent, or Harry Potter and his friends who are not allowed to do magic while they are on holiday, away from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. We don’t mind this compulsory precondition for our current physical incarnation, because being more physical than spiritual is essential to the authentic human experience. It is after all what we originally signed up for! However, we were not meant to completely abandon our metaphysical nature and enter this time-space reality entirely ‘unarmed’ and powerless. Even Harry Potter and Clark Kent get to tap into their special powers once in a while, especially when the going gets tough. © 2012 Anthon St Maarten
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anthon St. Maarten is a psychic medium and destiny coach with a global clientele of thought leaders, business executives, celebrities, politicians, academics, and luminaries in the arts and sciences in more than thirty countries spanning five continents.
He is also a metaphysics teacher, psychic development coach, podcaster, and spiritual blogger. Anthon is a hereditary psychic medium in professional practice since 2004 and a liberal arts post-graduate with a major in psychology.
Anthon publishes the spiritual life design blog, The S Word, and is the author of Divine Living: The Essential Guide To Your True Destiny and The Sensible Psychic: A Leading-Edge Guide To True Psychic Perception.