Midweek Blog: On Enchantment

I recently finished the book Enchantment: Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age by Katherine May. The title jumped out at me because my interests around creativity and spiritual formation leave me intrigued at the idea of “awakening wonder.” What’s more, the term “enchantment” is one way that I think we talk about experiences of transcendence. Even though the author is not writing from any specific religious tradition, she talks about various experiences of enchantment through the lens of spirituality and, on occasion, muses through issues of theology.

Here is how she defines enchantment: “Enchantment is small wonder magnified through meaning, fascination caught in the web of fable and memory…It is the sense that we are joined together in one continuous thread of existence with the elements constituting this earth, and that there is a potency trapped in this interconnection, a tingle on the border of our perception…[Enchantment is] the ability to sense magic in the everyday, to channel it through our minds and bodies, to be sustained by it.”

True to the book’s topic, the author doesn’t spend much time trying to define enchantment or create a rigid taxonomy of experience. Rather, she meanders through stories of her own struggles and experiences with enchantment, wonder, creativity, and awe, while loosely structuring these stories into sections themed around earth, water, fire, and air. 

I am reminded of our Lent series “Encounters on the Way” because May describes the pursuit of enchantment as “deep engagement with the world around me, the particular quality of experience that accompanies close attention, the sense of contact that emerges from noticing.” Jesus has various encounters on the way to Jerusalem that help us see what it means to practice “deep engagement with the world,” and we are invited into that same level of noticing the image of God all around us. The contemplative practices and disciplines of Lent are all invitations to this kind of presence.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a companion on the journey toward deeper presence and wider attention to the world. Its stories and reflections can be a bit meandering at times, but so too is life.