Science and Magic


I would say I have always loved science, but since I’m talking science, I need to define my terms. What I mean by science is the powerful urge to discover new things about the natural world. By this definition, babies are dedicated scientists, grabbing new items and putting them into their mouth, because their lips and tongue are very sensitive instruments for gathering information.

Their investigations are often misunderstood by adults, as on the day my baby girl tried to eat a tadpole. I had caught a tadpole and wanted to show her how amazing little water creatures could be, so I held it out on the palm of my hand. She promptly grabbed it and put it in her mouth. “Oh my God, no!” I yelled, startling her so much she spit the poor thing out. I rushed it back to the water where it swam off unharmed, then ran back to comfort my wailing little scientist.

For most of recorded history, science was considered a spiritual practice. God made the world and trying to discover new things about the natural world could only bring mankind closer to God. This only changed in the past few hundred years and I think it had as much to do with politics as anything.

The church was a power center and it generally used its power to support monarchs. Far from being anti-science, the church was the major sponsor of science. A huge anti-monarchy, anti-church wave was building across Europe and powerful forces sought every means to crush and minimize both. In many places, these forces succeeded in dethroning God, enthroning human reason, and denying the basic tenets of Christianity.

According to the new thought, man no longer carried the spark of God within him, and was therefore of only utilitarian value. Rather, man was just a machine, sometimes repairable and ultimately disposable. Furthermore, the new thought said that life had no meaning, humans had no will and when they died they winked out forever.

Yes, science was going to set us free from magic, which I define as delightful mysterious surprises that can’t (yet?) be explained. They promoted Isaac Newton (for one) in this venture, hiding the fact for one hundred years that Newton was up to his eyeballs in kabbalistic magic and alchemy; a veritable shaman with test tubes.

Look, we haven’t fundamentally changed much in the past 100,000 years. With God dethroned they had to raise up a new god, new priests, and new magic. Science was the new source of all truth, degrees and published papers the new qualifications for prophets and by the way-science will save us; end suffering, build space ships to take us to a new earth when this one wears out, and someday, keep us alive forever by transferring our brain into a robot when our body gives out.

Well, it had its run and will limp along for some time to come. Someday this period of human history may be called the Dead Soul Ages. As far back as archeology can go, there is evidence that humans believed in a soul that survives the death of the body and a SOURCE, whatever name and however conceived, from which all things issued. Spirituality is an integral part of human consciousness. Long live science and may it stay away from power politcs from now on.

Thought experiment: Ever try to sink a beachball in a swimming pool? It pops right back up to the surface. Human spirituality is popping right back up. It never really went away. Do you think even the most dogmatically materialistic scientist believes his wife and kids are mere matter devoid of will and meaning? That he doesn’t love them, or they him?

Undoubtedly, spirituality will pop up in messy ways. If you’ve ever witnessed a birth you know life is messy. AND magical.

Mircea Elaiade, A History of Religious Ideas

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s