William Blake once wrote: “As to Myself, about whom you are so kindly interested, I live by Miracle.” In the book on miracles I’m finishing I quote the above passage from Blake, and I go on to ask the question: How does one “live by miracle”? Is there, perhaps, an affective, a cognitive, an existential style that opens the way to sparking the improbable, the impossible breakthroughs in life we call miracles? What indeed would it mean concretely to live by miracle? Perhaps we could put it like this. Are there attitudes, behaviors, values that perhaps are conducive to the occurrence of miracles?
For Blake miracle had much to do with creative imagination. “Imagination is eternity,” as he put it, that is, the ultimate reality. Words like Blake’s have a wild ring of mystery, but what do they mean? Where can they take us? We might try to imagine what it would feel like to live, move and have our being from inside a miracle-friendly universe, a worldview that invites us to imagine things beyond what we think possible. Well, someone might say: just become a Sufi, study the kabbalah, practice yoga, enter a monastery, become a divine decadent.
Understood. But for many, and for varied reasons, such options just aren’t possible. So we have to find our own way, however stumbling and haphazard; probably unavoidable, in the 21st century, as things fall apart and the center that never was ceases to hold.
There is much to be said for Jung’s idea that each of us has to follow our own path to become decently evolved individuals. Scanning various accounts of the lives of miracle-makers—a motley gang, to be sure—I’ve racked up four points for my model of how to ‘live by miracle.’ In my chapter of this title, I describe the four points in some detail.
Here let me just list them, perhaps to launch one’s thought processes. The first that I discuss is the role of belief—which opens the mind to possibilities. If you close your mind to something being possible, it will never happen.
The second element to explore in the project of leading a miraculous life is introversion. You have to practice focusing your attention inward, but if all your energies are spent on purely external concerns, you kill your ‘miracle’ potential.
Third on the list is the need for goal-oriented thinking and the willingness to leave things in the hands of an alternate power, whether you think of that in terms of God, guardian angel, or your own subconscious self.
And the fourth variable for lubricating the miraculous life is spontaneity. Just letting things happen spontaneously without constant doubt, fear, hesitation, and qualification—that seems to be a critical factor for which there is much supportive data.
I’m curious to hear your responses to this model I’ve put forth, and plan to post more on this curious subject of how, like William Blake, we can learn to “live by miracle.”
I'm sure that when you believe in a positive outcome you head towards a change in health, relationships, abilities etc. But when you focus on external events, the negative voice- you get stuck in old patterns of behavior and then it is hard to perceive the world with passion, hope and miracles. Definitely best to go with the flow without second guessing ones intuition. Its harder to do in this modern world but somehow i'm learning its best to trust your inner gut and embrace the positive aspects of everything in ones life.
Piggy-backing on Unknown’s post, there is an extensive literature on the relationship between optimism and all sorts of positive health outcomes (e.g., 1). I would think that the generally positive mental state that undoubtedly underlies optimism has also been associated with success in various areas of life (e.g., marriage, work) (2) which, in turn, facilitates living by miracle. It is possible to train people to become more optimistic (3), but I have to wonder whether the extent to which such training in later life creates the type of genuine mental attitude typical of a ‘born-optimist’. I suspect that the extent to which optimism is heritable is subject to debate. My bet is that, even if the trait is mostly the result of nurture, it is something that becomes established relatively early in life and likely becomes somewhat hard-wired. So, if optimism plays an important role here, then living by miracle may be largely confined to those who are already pre-wired/raised with this personality trait.
Something is conceptually clashing in my mind regarding your second point. Yes, some forms of inward attention (e.g., hypnosis, meditation) have been associated with positive ESP performance, but so does extraversion (4, pg. 76). My sense is ‘living by miracle’ may be mediated by some sort of happy psychological medium underlying these two polar states (introversion-extroversion).
As for living things in the hands of an alternative power, that squares nicely with the notion of having an external locus of control (5), a personality correlate of ESP. On the other hand, positive health, academic, and other outcomes are usually associated with having an internal, rather than an external locus of control. So, again, there must some sort of subtle, but complex happy medium between these polar opposites that facilitates living by miracle.
4. Irwin, Harvey J. and Watt, Caroline A. (2007) An Introduction to Parapsychology, 5th edition. ISBN 978-0786430598
The two comments are much appreciated. The important thing to my mind is becoming aware of our own latent, often hidden and repressed, mental abilities. Then hopefully forming some kind of personal model we can try testing in everyday life. I think the keys we each need to open up have to be discovered in our own way. In art as in life we have to discover our own style of doing things.
I watched your interview about Joseph of Cupertina with Jeffrey Mishlove. There were a few things that stood out as maybe being a reason for his miracles. His suffering as a child and and the way his brain worked-possibly used more of his right brain. May be these were a trigger for his extreme abilities- so are we all missing a simple key to our potential. When you teach a non drawer how to draw eg-Drawing on the right side of the brain strategies. It opens up a new way of seeing the world for the once non-drawer. As a non-dancer learning how to move a partner in time to salsa was bliss but tough to learn when at first I couldnt follow the beat. And usually after some suffering in any facet of life if one can shift and move away from any negative blocks- life improves. Somehow its important to reflect and realise why the shift makes you calm and content; maybe a bit euphoric or being calm is why you could shift. Joseph's extreme nature helped him to use something we havent unlocked because we are so conditioned by our upbringing and culture.Just some thoughts.
Cheers Robbie. In the first comment- Unkown.
Or maybe all my thoughts above are about I. And being aware is all that is needed. Aware in the present moment.Aware to the truth of one. Robbie
Michael, I think the type of personalized approach you suggest is key. Our complex personalities, experiences, etc., probably prevent us from developing a neat one-shoe-fits-all approach. It's the reason why many theories in psychology, unlike their counterparts in physics and chemistry, often fall short in fully explaining the vast range of human cognitive and behavioral phenomena. But, who knows, it all may be as simple as having each of us becoming fully self-aware as Robbie suggests.
I very much groove to this approach (not that I’m overly successful, mind you). One way I leave myself open to the miraculous is a method I call ‘postcarding’. This involves taking a (metaphorical) step back and looking at the scene before me as if seeing it for the first time - as if looking at a postcard of the scene devoid of all previous mental/emotional connections. The commonplace becomes unique again. And surprisingly, its beauty magnifies as if I’ve turned up the dial to 11. On the scale of miracles, it’s no cure for cancer, but with practice you really can colourise your black and white quotidian world, if only for a minute or two.
I like the 'postcarding' idea. A great way to play a game with your emotional self and the world!Cheers Robbie
I very much appreciate the ideas explored above. The business about standing back and trying to see things from a fresh perspective is always helpful. As far as the art of tuning into our latent 'miracle' potential, I think two variables come into play, one is a powerful, persistent need and the other is a moment of total forgetfulness of that need--so as to give the psyche room as it were to perform. All this needs more research but a great deal is at stake. The data points to amazing human potentials--that much I'm sure of. Onward in the exploration. Our greatest ally is our own mind if we can learn how to use it.
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