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Embracing the magic of transformation

Communications for thriving organisations and cultures


Mesmerizing experiences, unspeakable wisdoms, unexpectedturns – welcome to the realm of magic! For millenia, humans have been fascinated by what escapes our everyday logic. At a time where realpolitik,“there is no alternative”, and fatalist outlooks dominate the scene, it seems almost impossible to exit the current spiral of violence and destructiveness. In our disenchanted world of supposedly limitless and rational progress for all, magic may offer what we’ve been crucially lacking. It is a portal into re-enchanting, re-imagining, and re-dynamising our world. Magic infuses our stories, conversations, and communication practices with what makes the difference to the status quo – thus enabling new and more beautiful ways of being, becoming, and belonging.

The solutions are there, but we go nowhere

What does it take to overcome our daily challenges at work, while facing the devastating crises of today – from biodiversity collapse to climate change and wars? Whether on social media, in news outlets, or in conversations – there is no scarcity in solutions. Technological progress, sustainability, social justice, or a well-being economy offer rational pathways on issue like greening products, reducing poverty or building smart cities for tomorrow. Yet, the destructive trends are accelerating, narratives of decline are on the rise, and humanity seems at its darkest. Hopelessness, depression, and the incapacity to understand what’s going on are popular leitmotifs today.


The mainstreamed loss of meaning and belonging

If all the solutions are on the table, and unprecedented scientific progress and technologies should be able to create a bright future,why do we seem to move into the opposite direction? In Europe and beyond, the economic outlook, health of the population and natural habitats, and social inequalities are deteriorating when looking at all available evidence. How come? As a meaning-making and social species, we seem to have lost the capacity to create a common purpose, a common understanding of reality, a common narrative about the world and our role in it. Far-right ideologies, religious extremists and billionaire’s tech ideologies praising the Mars as an escape are on the rise to fill the void.

The disenchantment of modernity

To understand the gap between reality and possible futures, let’s look back at history. The modern promise of enlightenment had been to liberate ourselves from the constraints imposed by religion, nature, and “irrational” beliefs. The material world is said to be objectively understandable by our rational mind (quantum physics have however questioned this assumption) and through the scientific method of breaking things down to understand them - analysis. Little space is given to emotional, spiritual, and natural truths by their own essence. Issues are approached in siloes. Modernity has been a project to conquer the world. On behalf of progress, we have colonised other continents, enabling industrialisation, have colonised DNA, and are colonising other planets. Enlightenment’s missionaries today, such as advocates of singularity and transhumanism, promise redemption from our biological selves, to become the masters over nature, to be shaped after our image and idea.

The collapse of modernity’s certainties

"Magic is an aberrational mode of thought antithetical to the dominant cultural logic—a sign of psychological impairment and marker of racial or cultural inferiority" [1]

In this world, there is no place for magic. Following the witch-hunts in Europe, under the banner of European civilisation, all forms of knowing, intuiting, sensing, imagining that didn’t fit this tight prism were considered inferior, “barbaric” or “diabolic”. Up until today, our conception of science, politics, and life itself follows the logic of enlightenment’s ideas. We are supposedly interest-led, individual, rational agents. Yet, this image has gotten cracks – neurosciences, quantum physics, and biology have been questoning the assumptions the modern world is built upon. Furthermore, modern science often brings us back to ancient wisdoms - with a more detailled understanding than before.

Examples in science and arts
For intance, the recent “discovery” of a “second brain” in our gut microbiome has been known for 4000 years in Ayurveda already. There are many other examples where indigenous ways of knowing are being re-discovered today. Also beyond science, within a European context, art history has often portrayed Kandinsky and Mondrian as the “inventors” of abstract art. This narrative has cultivated the idea that a formalistic way of abstraction is a higher way of knowing, of a higher order. The artist Hilma Af Klint, who has painted abstract artworks before her male homologues, has challenged that logic. Her forms were not pure geometrical experiments, but organically evololving shapes, some of which resemble the interior of cells (in the early 20th century). Furthermore, her artworks were created in community by inviting the wisdom of spirits. Pure magic.

Healing the stories of separation

Against that background, how can we steer through the collapse of modernity’s narratives?  And how can we create pathways in which organisations, communities, places, and the planet as a whole can thrive again? Rather than rejecting modernity and its perhaps overemphasising focus on rationality and technology, our path may lead us to make peace with both ancestral wisdom and modern science. It is about healing our stories of separation that have created a duality and hierarchy: culture over nature, the masculine over the feminine, the left over the right brain hemisphere, the role of outer knowning (objectivity) over inner intuiting (subjectivity), and straightness over queerness. Rather than switching to the opposite, how can we learn to cultivate all these qualities, all our intelligences – cognitive, creative, social, natural, emotional, spiritual intelligences?

Bringing back magic for breakthroughs 

If we start our journey from a posture of humility, recognising that there are pluralistic ways of understanding the world beyond the Western-scientific mindset, we are able to cultivate larger perspectives that open to new potential. By broadening and deepening our consciousness in such integrative ways, we may be able to find fertile narratives, pathways and solutions that we cannot see today yet. Based on that awareness, regenerative communications explore re-vitalising, re-enchanting, re-orienting ways tocultivate narratives, language, conversations, our embodied presence, and multiple communication practices, including with the more-than human world.

Here’s where the role of magic comes in. It is what escapes our everyday ways of seeing, understanding, and doing. It enables new possibilities, through mystery, imagination, and the creation of spaces in which dynamics take the unexpected turns and lead to breakthroughs that noone could have expected. Magic, that’s the spark of transformative inspiration created in the in-between spaces. Between diverse groups of people, between our linear thinking and the mysteries beyond our ways of knowing, between humans and other species, between reality and possibility. Magic however doesn’t happen randomly: we have to invite it, welcome it, believe in it for it to unleash its transformative power.

What could be the renewed role of magic in communications?

1. Welcoming the unknown

Although our knowledge is said to double every year, this is not the case for wisdom and practically-relevant knowledge. In our Information and Communication Age, there is more and more information, but less and less meaning that connects the dots. Furthermore, the more we know, the more we become conscious of what we don’t know, as many scientists can witness. As communicators, we can adopt a more humble posture and “sit with” the questions rather than jumping straight to solutions to potentially misguiding questions.

Our stories and conversations can leave space for the unknown and open questions. This opens a field in which others can join to contribute with their perspectives and makes it possible for solutions to emerge by themselves – as under Einstein’s famous shower. Being humble also avoids to pretend telling and appropriating stories that already exist or present discoveries that actually aren’t. Instead, we can learn to co-create with those that have already started the journey around the questions we’re exploring.

2. Reenchanting our dreams

Visionaries like Mahatma Ghandi or Martin Luther King didn’t inspire millions through facts, figures or "thought leadership". They told the story of their heart-felt dream - a dream that is at the same time ambitious and practically relevant. In indigenous cultures like the aborigenes, every human project starts with a dream – and should benefit at least seven generations. Dreams integrate thewisdom of our soul, the roots we come from, and the world we’d like to see coming into being.

In today’s stressed modern societies, there are few spaces and little time for dreaming. And if there are, they are seldomly translated into a plan and action. Communications can therefore invite active imagination into personal practice, into communities and around places. Artworks and stories that incorporate the expression of the deep inner truths of our dream are what will vibrate stronglyin relevant others. They help us believe in new possibilities and encourage usto seek new ways of doing. For our brain, imagining a dream story has the same corporal-hormonal effects as directly experiencing in “real life”.

3. Creating spaces of potential

In our modern world of work, we split labour into functional departments. Nature by contrast, evolves at the edges, at the meeting points between habitats, at the interaction point between species. It is there where(bio)diversity is the largest and where complex ways of interacting create fertile, exponential dynamics. Mycelium for instance accelerates forest growth by ten compared to forests without mycorrhizal networks.

As one of endless inspirations for communications by nature, this example teaches us how to design for break-throughs. There needs to be a healthy (safe,natural, and welcoming) space in which different perspectives and communities come together. At the same time, the self-organising dynamics will reach break-throughs when we come to know our role in the bigger whole, the ecosystem. Are we cultivating the soil (e.g. narrative), growing new plants (e.g. stories), or pollinating (e.g. artworks)? Stories, conversations and workshops can help us in exploring the role we play through our communications in our ecosystem (with clients, audiences and other stakeholders).

To conclude, magic can be a game-changing aspect in re-designing communicationsfor thriving organisations, communities, and places. By daring to adopt a humbler, but at the same time courageous and creative posture, and by setting the right conditions for communications to lead to break-throughs, we can spark the light by sharing our magic with the world. It doesn’t take supernatural powers (we are all nature after all), but a firm belief in potential beyond sterile, grey, and monotonous ways of seeing, sensing, speaking and storytelling.

[1] Styers, Randall (2004). Making Magic: Religion,Magic, and Science in the Modern World. London: Oxford University Press.

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