RE: virus: Magic/Science

Schneider John (
Tue, 3 Dec 1996 02:38:02 -0500

Eva wrote [reformatted to look nice on my screen as I type]:
> Well, I don't know about David L.'s pet math system, but his
> inclusion of magic within science is in line with a goodly num-
> ber of writers on the topic (magic). Aleister Crowley defines
> magic as the art of causing change in accordance with Will, and
> thus subsumes under its heading all conscious action, but not
> habitual, random, instinctive, or otherwise unconscious action.
> I have been doing a lot of thinking about magic recently, which
> is how I ended up on this list, as well as how I ended up in the
> UU church and reading books on myth, satire, and mental illness
> (my idea of studying magic is only getting broader as I go).
> I have concluded that a successful magician is a person whose
> conscious and unconscious desires are in tune with one another,
> so that eir efforts are directed toward eir goals, rather than
> engaged in intrapersonal conflict. I think this may be the
> same thing as being Level 3.
> On the other hand, most writers treat magic as a kind of activity
> or belief system, usually distinct from religion but analogous to
> it in some important ways, such as involving 'the supernatural'.
> Frazer (_Golden Bough_) set up the canonical distinction, which
> I've now seen quoted elsewhere several times: in Religion, the
> individual is petitioning a deity for something; in Magic, e
> is attempting to make it happen emself by effectively using
> materials and forces available. Writers attempting to define
> what magic is generally get bogged down in distinguishing it
> not only from religion, but also from Science, which similarly
> works with forces at hand in the individual and the universe,
> disregarding divine intervention. Another mode of thought/
> activity that crops up in such discussions is Art. Different
> writers define them all differently with regard to one another.
> Perhaps the major difficulty is that each of the four is not
> one thing itself--each is a cluster of attitudes, beliefs,
> behaviours, and produced works, and an individual object,
> procedure, or text may have aspects of all four.

Having thought some more on it, here is the difference between
science and magic, as I see it:

- Science shows us "how to do it", then talks about theories of
"why it worked", none of which are to be taken very seriously,
since all that really matters is: "we know how to do it".
- Magic explains to us "why it will work", then talks about
theories of "how to do it", none of which are to be taken
very seriously, since all that really matters is: "we know
why it will work."

Open question: is that a fundamentally wrong way of looking at it,
and if so, then is there any literature available which actually
shows the reader "how to do magic", and doesn't frog around with
discussing the "why" until afterword?