Yesterday I heard of the story Mike Persi, a man who was once unable to walk until he was introduced to a born-again Christian yoga instructor named Mitch Menik. Apparently, through intensive yoga therapy, Mike learned to walk unassisted just as he used to, and everyone involved was thrilled and happy for him. What’s interesting is that the people involved treat his recovery as a miracle from God, while more conservative and more literal evangelical Christians, as can be expected, do not. They view yoga practice as leading directly to practicing the Hindu religion and leading people away from the Christian faith, and since they misguidedly view the Hindu gods as demons and Hinduism (like all religions other than Christianity) as created by Satan to mislead the people, they view yoga as leading to worship of Satan. So when they heard about the story of Mike being able to walk again after undergoing yoga therapy, they worried it was dark magic?
It reminded me of the ideal dichotomy of black magic versus white magic, which is found in many forms of occultism and persists in popular culture through high fantasy fiction. It also reminds me of a hypocrisy with both white magicians and religious believers in divine miracles. White magicians, religious believers, and right hand path thinkers are usually people who believe in a definite split between white magic and black magic, and that the key difference is that white magic is considered beneficent in that it is to be used to heal, protect, or do good, and often involves invoking “angelic” or white light beings, while black magic is considered maleficent in that it is believed to be used to do harm others or gain personal power at the expense of others, and involves sex magic, necromancy, and invoking demons or “demonic” beings.
The hypocrisy here is that those who consider themselves white magicians have no problem with violent magic so long as it invokes or coerces God or angelic beings (from the Christian perspective at least) to bind and destroy demons or to strike down their “diabolical” foes, yet if a black magician were to use magic for the same or similar purposes he would be condemned as evil. In Christian belief, any supernatural work that can be attributed to Jehovah, Jesus, or the saints is considered a divine miracle, and everything else is not just magic, it’s often considered demonic or associated with Satan. In other words tantamount to black magic. The problem is, how are the works of Jesus and the other saints not simply magic by another name?
While there is disagreement in the actual definition of magic per se, magic can be commonly defined as the means by which the practitioner can make things happen that would not ordinarily happen through the trained will of the practitioner. For Left Hand Path magicians, and perhaps black magicians, there is no such thing as good or bad magic, as they recognize magic as a tool for the purposes of the magician thus essentially amoral, and any moral limits are strictly based on those applied by the individual magician.
Why exactly am I talking about magic? Because that feeds into my position on miracles. One the one hand, I think miracles in the traditional religious sense might basically be just that: magic. When we think of miracles we think of things that happen out of nowhere with no scientific cause. While the latter part is true in that they cannot be attributed to observable laws of nature, I don’t think they happen out of nowhere, and certainly not in the context of so many painfully light family movies that are clearly intended just for children and the elderly. Christian doctrine might have us believe that it is God working through the performers of miracles in order to perform the miracles, but it’s possible they may have performed them on their own, albeit with some divine spirit inside them that is invoked. Effectively this makes Jesus, and the saints, magicians in their own right, possibly magicians for whom faith is a source of power.
On the other hand, say the Christians are right and miracles happen through God’s will or grace, in any case direct divine intervention. That would basically mean miracles are nothing more than borrowed power, and it is a temporary power at that. In that case, perhaps miracles are distinguishable from magic. If magic is a practice that involves the will of the magician, then miracles are not if they are ultimately acts of God since for Christians God is an external entity. If that’s the case, then no wonder Christians are averse to all things magical, even their own magic, because they are trained in the doctrine that miracles happen through the influence of God’s will or grace. This would mean Jesus and the saints perform miracles not as an exercise of their magical will or divine powers, but because God granted them powers and the ability to do so.
But let’s return to the impetus of this post: yoga. Specifically, was Mike Persi’s ability to walk a miracle or magic? I don’t think it was a miracle, in the sense that it was a sudden act of divine intervention on the part of any God. Could it be a magical act? That’s debatable. Ultimately Mike, having recovered through yoga therapy, must have recovered as a result of some effort, in a way an application of his own will to make the extraordinary happen. Saying that, however, that might be as shallow as it gets. Whether yoga can be classed as magical, or has any magical properties, is ultimately down to the individual practitioner.