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God is Not a Magician. (Now What?)


It was 1969. The world, unbeknownst to most people, had just entered the Age of Aguarius and I, unbeknownst to me, had just entered the age of reason. The NBC TV show Laugh In aired politically charged sketch comedy through our new black and white Magnavox TV, and number one hits like Crimson & Clover crooned over the radio waves. Yet I remember one day in particular from that summer, because my thoughts dwelled on something deeper.

I had been told at my Catholic school catechism class that babies in Africa didn’t go to heaven because they do not get baptized.

As I sat on my bed and looked out the window, it became quite simple to me: The idea didn’t stack up, didn’t make sense. I was heeding a strong internal compass, and my conclusion, at the wise old age of 8, was that the church got it wrong. I did not even remotely believe what I had been told, unless heaven was a country club, members only.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, I was having my first internal ontological debate and I had become a heretic (gasp!). Because of my deep inculcation into religion, my gut still knee jerks to tell me that heretics are bad people. Even now, as I type this word, it’s a word so powerful that I think of people who, to this day, are stoned to death over an idea. Yet, a heretic is simply “any provocative belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs.

One might have to admit that much of the success of religions has been due to their ability to control information. What is God? Where is God and how to I access Him? How do I fit in in the order of all things? But we are now in the Information Age (as some have coined it). Right now, at our fingertips, we can find out about just about anything, in seconds. Do we have the wisdom to use our knowledge wisely?

Recently, the head of one of the most influential religious bodies in the world, Pope Francis said something remarkable (again), this time about God. He said something that seems so utterly common sense, that it is radical: “God is not a magician” and “evolution is not at odds with spirituality”. He then added: “He [God] created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment.

The head of one of the most influential organized religions in the world has helped clarify that we are moving beyond simple superstition, letting go of that notion of a bearded father in the sky (no, not Santa). Alas, if God is not a magician, does it leave many of the faithful empty handed? What, then, is He? Or is the question better phrased, “What is It?”

As a child, my notion of God had been limited. As I now reflect on it, I realize that much of my understanding of God matched that of my understanding of Santa Claus. First, we were being watched. Second, if we were good, if we did the things we were told to do, then we would get in good with God, or Santa. He (either one) would bring us nice things, maybe, if we asked.

Maybe it’s time to let go of going to God like a Santa Claus/Father figure, and simply realize God.

As I’ve mentioned before in a previous post, searching for God is as nonsensical as the notion of a fish searching for water—as we awaken, we begin to realize that God is everywhere, generating, operating and destroying all things in the constant cycle of life.

Do we reach spiritual fulfillment by accessing the internal laws inherent to our humanity, as the Pope’s words suggest? Yogic philosophy has said yes for at least two millennia, and has taught that God is accessed from within (the inner guru/remover of darkness.) It has been said that God is closer to us than our own breath, and the Church might call this the Holy Spirit.

I can imagine a world where we all access this powerful, compassionate inner life. It’s a world where each of us is clear on expressing our own Divine, unique gifts—where we harm no one in our endeavor for fulfillment.

One of my teachers talked about God as an river, and we are part of its infinite flow. God is the ever-flowing YES energy of the Universe, and as we get in alignment with this energy, our lives open up fully. Once we tune in to this flow, we tap in to our true creative powers.

Talk about a radical idea.

Will Donnelly

Will Donnelly is a nationally recognized, certified yoga teacher and writer, and is the author of “Practical Yoga’s Wisdom for Everyday People: Essays & Inspiration for Life" (2017), a compilation of his most popular online essays now available at Will has been a pioneer in the field of yoga, developing Practical Yoga, and co-creating a yoga–reality series for fitTV (Discovery Communications, 2004). As a writer and teacher, Will encourages all students to trust their impulses and find their true voice. Will currently lives in Hawaii, where he leads weekly yoga and writing classes at Kalani retreat center. He also leads several popular Practical Yoga adventure and healing retreats throughout the year. Information on retreats, his book, DVDs and other inspiration to be found at

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