Friday, 29 March 2019

What really is Magic?

What do you think of when you hear the word Magic?  Do you think of a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, or maybe you prefer a more sophisticated illusionist like David Copperfield?  Maybe you think of Merlin the Magician from the Arthurian legend, or Harry Potter’s fun world of magic.  You might even think of New Age subjects like Wicca or Shamanism, perhaps even esoteric and occult teachings about angels, demons or our own inherent abilities to create “magic.”

Whatever people may think of magic, it has been around for many thousands of years, and in all countries and cultures of the world.  It is probably the only thing that is as wide-spread and universal throughout mankind's history as religion and the concept of God.  (In fact, some might even say that they are one and the same).

So, if the subject of Magic is so all-pervasive throughout mankind's existence, then what exactly is Magic?  In the most basic sense, magic is something that cannot be explained by science or technology, and this is the foundation of everything we call magic today.

Imagine life not so many centuries ago, when people had no knowledge or understanding of bacteria, for example.  An air or water-borne contagion infects many people, but no one can explain how they got sick.  It is easy to grasp for the nearest plausible explanation, such as the ugly old crone down the road who despises people and therefore cast a spell to make them sick.  

Other people living close to nature came to believe that spirits guided, helped or even attacked them, and performing certain rituals could either appease these spirits or call upon them for some assistance.   There are many examples of how the idea of something supernatural and magical came to be the popular explanation for events that were not understood in the past.

Image by Enrique Meseguer on Pixabay

Myths, folklores and tales from every country, race and group of people are full of superstitions, belief in the supernatural and in magic. 

But then magic began to be deliberately practiced by an organized group of people, and magic became a belief system like religion.  The foremost example of this is Ancient Egypt, and it spread to the rest of the ancient world such as Greece, Persia, Mesopotamia and beyond.  Such organized magic made belief in such things like protection amulets, curses and supernatural powers a common and everyday thing:  maybe just like we take for granted that lights come on when we flick a switch, or we see an image on our screens, without understanding the exact nature of electricity or the functions of a microchip.

But did the magic of the past really work, like our lights and computers work in our day?  For magic and the people who performed it to flourish for centuries, if not even millennia down to our day, there must have been something to it.  Or was it because there was no other knowledge available to replace the belief in magic, according to what the priests and other practitioners of magic were saying?

Image by Enrique Meseguer on Pixabay

Magic did not seem to fade away as civilizations advanced, but rather seemed to become more established in the age of books, science and medicine.  The scientists, physicists and doctors of the Middle Ages were alchemists who studied astrology and believed they could turn lead to gold.  Some of their books still exist today, and are full of conjurations (spells) and mystical symbolism. 

The confusing language and codes were meant to protect the knowledge of performing magic from being misused or abused by people unworthy of wielding it, and this led to secret societies, initiations and masters who trained apprentices in the works of magic.

This led to the concept of hidden knowledge and activity, which is the meaning of the word occult, while the word  esoteric means something is known to only a select, elite few people.

Thanks to the Internet and an open society nowadays, most of these occult and esoteric traditions are well known, and no doubt gaining many new members all the time.  You’ve probably heard of the main ones such as Jewish mysticism called The Kabbalah or Qabalah, Hermeticism, The Rosicrucians and even the Freemasons whose traditions go back to Ancient Egypt.

The general teaching of these secret societies that is made public in many books is the

path to personal enlightenment, empowering each person to have control of one’s life and destiny.   But another much less-known theory about the purpose of these societies is that ancient knowledge must be kept secret and only revealed to a chosen few.  This ancient knowledge could contain science and technology not commonly known today, and which has been suppressed over millennia.

Whatever the case may be, magic is as popular as ever, judging by the endless variety of Fantasy books and films as well as the ever-growing range of non-fiction books about ancient magic, New Age themes, mysticism, esoteric societies and even the occult. 

But why is this so?  Do people just need an escape?   Is it an alternative to belief in a deity?  Is magic just another form of religion?  Or is there really something to it?  After all, research and study of the Paranormal has been undertaken by governments and other serious establishments, and the latest books on the subject are bestsellers!

Real Magic: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Science, and a Guide to the Secret Power of the Universe

Are these some of the ancient secrets that have been carefully guarded down the ages?  
Like many people, I have been fascinated by magic and the paranormal since my childhood, and I have based my Fantasy series on some research into ancient magic.  For instance, books 2 & 3 are set in Ancient Egypt, and Rhuna, The Star Child deals with the use of amulets, curses and illnesses believed to be performed by people with special powers.

The fifth book in the series, Rhuna, The Snow Dreamer features Tibetan lamas with supernormal abilities, as described in another popular book:

Supernormal: Science, Yoga, and the Evidence for Extraordinary Psychic Abilities

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