Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Mysteries.

Written by: on November 14, 2023

The Sci-Fi novelist Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”[1] I know that quote because it’s provided the seed for many of my favorite stories, from superhero movies like Thor and Dr. Strange, to Sci-Fi shows like Star Trek, to mysteries like Sherlock Holmes, to just about anything having to do with backwards time travel.

In these narratives “magic” is simply a primitive understanding of deeper scientific truths that have yet to be discovered and explained.

In the book Spellbound: Modern Science, Ancient Magic, and the Hidden Potential of the Unconscious Mind[2], Daniel Lieberman tackles what we often call magic, and exposes its secrets, through neuroscience, to rational explanations of mysterious ways, and he provides practical tools to access those ways for our benefit.

Many of the explanations lead back to Carl Jung, the “father of analytical psychology”[3] who found significant connections between psychology and the spiritual. Jung was a huge influence on Joseph Campbell who popularized the monomyth. Spellbound is heavily indebted to Jung, and hardly mentions Campbell, but it’s not difficult to connect dots between all three.

On a different level, Spellbound reminded me of Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow[4], and Bobby Duffy’s Why We’re Wrong About Everything[5], and David Rock’s Your Brain at Work[6]. How the brain works and accesses the unconscious mind plays a big part in those books, like it does in Spellbound. They all seem to be saying that the more we understand and apply neuroscience, the more control we can have over our own wellbeing.

Whether exposing the magic, or connecting dots from superstition to neuroscience, the effort is valuable. We should learn truths that lie behind ancient smoke and mirrors, and we should learn to access the seemingly unscalable wall of our subconscious. It can be quite helpful to sometimes pay attention to that man behind the curtain when we’re trying to discern the usefulness and veracity of the great and powerful Oz.[7]

But the question I have after reading Spellbound is, when does neuroscience end, and the supernatural begin?

Don’t get me wrong; I believe in science. I think science and faith co-exist quite well. As I’ve observed, those things we rightly understand about science end up supporting those things that faith, rightly understood, has told us all along. And I fully trust those things we don’t understand yet about either will someday reveal themselves in perfect alignment.

But I’m not sure we can, or should, explain away all the supernatural as a primitive understanding of scientific truths that are yet to be discovered and explained.

For instance, here are some questions….

  • Where is the line between the deep unconscious mind and the voice of the Holy Spirit?
  • Is meditation only for changing the participant, or is there a connection to an Other that might make a real difference?
  • Are miracles simply unexplained or misunderstood natural events, or is there a transcendent God who sometimes works supernaturally on our behalf?
  • What if stories about demons, and angels, and floods, and resurrections aren’t all just myths but are actual historical events that point to a loving and omnipotent God?

I’m not trying to make Spellbound into something it’s not. It doesn’t proport to be theology, and in fact Lieberman readily admits that “the material benefits that science has provided have not been matched by spiritual benefits…when we lose sight of the boundaries of science and start to believe that everything lies within its power, we lose an important part of our humanity.”[8] As a humanistic book, I think it does a great job dispelling some of the mystery.

I’m just suggesting that maybe we still need some mystery.

Bill Waterson of Calvin and Hobbes fame, who has not published anything since the last Calvin and Hobbes comic strip ran on December 31, 1995 (I’m a huge fan), JUST released a new book called The Mysteries[9] that, of course, I ordered as soon as I knew of its existence.

The book, that is mostly gorgeous illustrations and less than 400 words, follows humanity from pre-modern times, through the industrial revolution and postmodernity and beyond human existence. The one constant is there are mysteries that, no matter how much humans have figured them out ultimately remain mysterious and unexplained, long after humans are gone.

The mysteries, it turns out, were not an anomaly in a universe of humans; humans were a blip in a universe of mysteries.

Of course, I can’t do the book justice, and I implore you to read it for yourself.

But I love the metaphor. There are mysteries that will never be explained by even the most advanced science. Mysteries that remain mysterious and magical, no matter how we perceive them.

Maybe it’s not our job to figure out all the mysteries; maybe it’s our joy to live within them.



[1] Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry Into the Limits of the Possible, 2nd Ed. (New York: Harper and Rowe, 1973).

[2] Daniel Z. Lieberman, MD, Spellbound: Modern Science, Ancient Magic, and the Hidden Potential of the Unconscious Mind (Dallas, TX: Bella Books, 2022).

[3] The Society of Analytical Psychology, “About Carl Jung”,  https://www.thesap.org.uk/articles-on-jungian-psychology-2/carl-gustav-jung/#:~:text=Carl%20Gustav%20Jung%20was%20a,a%20unique%20insight%20into%20Christianity.

[4] Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (New York: Sarrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013).

[5] Bobby Duffy, Why We’re Wrong About Everything: A Theory of Human Misunderstanding (New York: Basic Books, 2019).

[6] David Rock, Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2020).

[7] The Wizard of Oz, directed by Victor Fleming (1939).

[8] Lieberman, Spellbound, 250

[9] Bill Waterson, and John Kascht, The Mysteries (Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2023).

About the Author


Tim Clark

I'm on a lifelong journey of discovering the person God has created me to be and aligning that with the purpose God has created me for. I've been pressing hard after Jesus for 40 years, and I currently serve Him as the lead pastor of vision and voice at The Church On The Way in Los Angeles. I live with my wife and 3 kids in Burbank California.

12 responses to “The Mysteries.”

  1. mm Russell Chun says:

    Hi Tim,
    Ah Magic…supernatural phenomena etc… In Hawaii there is wide range of gods and goddesses. The short term might be animism, but if you spoke of Pele the goddess of fire, no one from Hawaii would be indifferent.

    As immigrants came to Hawaii, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism followed close behind.

    Flash forward, Meditation = the emptying of your mind. SEE “Emptying Mind: Destress And Clear Your Mind For A Better Life”(https://betterme.world/articles/emptying-mind/)

    I watched my father dive into all of this, Chi health, auras etc… He went to Japan to learn from the master…spent a bunch of money. I watched a video of his class mates, as they meditated some of them started barking like dogs. (Are you getting the picture).

    My family, apparently, is drawn to the meditation, the drawing in of Chi, blah blah blah.

    The sins of the father? Hmmm…I read Pam Lau’s blog about learning to live with darkness (perhaps I got it wrong), but I chose Christ, I accept that I am a sinner and have sinned. I accept the tasks he has set before me, but a long time ago I decided that the darkness that engulfed my life was not something that I wanted to hold on too. With the aid of the Helper, I pray that the stains of my darkness will be made as white as snow.

    For me that is transcendence.


    • mm Tim Clark says:

      I’m so with you Russell. While I recognize and embrace the Mystery, it’s in context of the mysteries of God and the supernatural as revealed in the Bible. I know there are dark places and powers that exist as well that we are to stay away from… Ultimately, I’m suggesting we recognize the reality of the spiritual realm and not just explain it away as something our deep subconscious is doing. Anyways, that’s the point I was trying to make and probably didn’t do it very well.

  2. mm Kim Sanford says:

    First of all, respect for bringing Calvin and Hobbes into your doctoral work. We have the complete set. They get daily use at our house.
    Secondly, I love your take-away that mystery isn’t to be avoided or always figured out. As you say, in time many things that seem supernatural may be explained. Or they may not. And that’s ok.
    And thank you for ending on a joyful note!

    • mm Tim Clark says:

      Calvin and Hobbes definitely live deep in my subconscious. The question is, are they the dark side or the light side?

      I started by struggling with this book and then realized I had the amazing opportunity to lean into reading something I’d probably never pick up on my own. And it made me think. I’m grateful for that. And it made me joyful. Thanks for picking that up!

  3. mm John Fehlen says:

    Tim, you gave me your copy of The Mysteries while I was staying in your back house a couple of weeks ago.

    It was stunning. What a short, but powerful little book (and the art was dark and moving). It really got me thinking. Thank you.

    The question you asked above is what’s gonna keep me thinking for the next bit of time: “Where is the line between the deep unconscious mind and the voice of the Holy Spirit?”

    Can we make a case, as temples of the Holy Spirit, that a born again, spirit-filled person might experience a synergy (fusing together) of the unconscious mind and the voice/mind of the Spirit?

    • mm Tim Clark says:

      That’s a GREAT question. And one I don’t have an answer to. But I do think both happen simultaneously often. It’s why I’m careful to rarely say “God told me” but lean towards “I sense that the Lord could be saying…”. I always want to keep the humility of recognizing that even in my strongest ‘thus saith the Lord” thoughts, there could be a hidden “thus saith Tim’s subconscious” hiding in there.

  4. Travis Vaughn says:

    Tim, you mentioned a couple of superhero movies. As one who likes marvel characters and their movies, for the critics who say that folks are beginning to have superhero fatigue at the movies (there’s an NPR article that highlights this), I’m curious what your take would be on whether there has been too much or whether there’s still room for more? And, is there more/less of a willingness to embrace mystery, wonder, and the supernatural in today’s audiences? For the record, I liked the first Ironman movie and also Black Panther.

    I loved your four questions:
    “Where is the line…”
    “Is meditation only for…”
    “Are miracles simply…”
    “What if stories about…”

    That could be a sermon series. You mentioned the reference to a transcendent God. I think that in order to understand a foundation for transcendence, one has to first understand the Other-ness of God…the transcendence of God who, as you suggested in your question, “sometimes works supernaturally on our behalf.” And there were so many times while reading Lieberman that I drew comparisons and contrast between the unconscious and the Holy Spirit.

    Great post!

    • mm Tim Clark says:

      Travis… I definitely have superhero fatigue. I was all in when my boys were 10 and 12…. ten years later, and with the advent of Disney + I can’t possibly keep up with the stories and connections anymore.

      That said, if someone reboots a franchise or character and narrows it down again, I’ll be back.

      I think there is a connection between our unconscious and the Holy Spirit (read my comment back to John, above).

      The “Otherness” of God is where i find the distinction. Somewhere, even though my sub conscience may be working overtime and the myth and archetypes strong, I still believe in an otherness…a Transcendent One outside of my own head to whom I surrender.

  5. Jennifer Vernam says:

    Juuuust ordered the Watterson book; thank you for bringing it to my attention! Thank you also for this:

    “In these narratives ‘magic’ is simply a primitive understanding of deeper scientific truths that have yet to be discovered and explained.”

    and this:

    Jason told us not to read Liberman’s work as a statement on Christianity (which you have also reinforced here) but I struggled with dabbling close to things that are part of a culture I have stayed clear of intentionally. So, your clarity on how to interpret “magic” was helpful.

    Also, I thought this was really insightful: ”
    “Maybe it’s not our job to figure out all the mysteries; maybe it’s our joy to live within them.” In our Western mindset, we want to be able to draw distinctions and put things in their right boxes. “What is God and what is me?” is an example, and maybe I need to prayerfully and humbly loosen my grip on that idea a bit?

    • mm Tim Clark says:

      Thanks Jennifer. Honestly I generally stay “clear” of this kind of stuff, too. I think here I was able to appreciate the attempt to explain it being tied to the subconscious. The rub for me is the same thing I asked in my post just from a different perspective: What is the line between the subconscious and dark spiritual forces?

      You’re going to love the Waterson book… as long as you aren’t expecting Calvin and Hobbes (it definitely ISN’T that).

  6. Adam Harris says:

    Looks like we were on the same page while reading this book. I have also wondered where one thing ends “the subconscious” and the other begins “the Spirit of God” as you mentioned. This book reminded me of a kind of dramatic example. I went to Oral Roberts for undergrad and of course we heard about the time Oral claimed God told him to lock himself in the prayer tower until he received a certain amount of donations. Subconscious maybe? However, he has also been known to know things he should not.

    Books like these are helpful to better understand what happens, but I am not ready to categorize all of these moments of insights as a product of the brain. However it all works, I believe God speaks to us and through us. Speaking of which, again, I appreciate your openness to let God speak through you at Cape town that evening!

    • mm Tim Clark says:

      Thanks Adam! I’m having a blast learning in this program. I appreciate being taught to think and process at a doctoral level and learn better how to discern and divide what I want to accept, what I want to question and what I get to reject.

      I’m grateful I was of use in Cape Town. I’m always in awe of the things God does or says through me because I never expect that I deserve that. Thanks.

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