Cornelius Agrippa defines magic--what *he* means by it, at any rate--in
the first 2 chapters of De occulta philosophia. In the very first
paragraph of Chapter 1, we are told:
* The universe is hierarchically ordered with intellectual elements in
the highest realm;
* Superior elements influence inferior ones;
* The wise man may ascend through the levels and benefit from these
Which might be paraphrased as: There is a deep and meaningful order to
the cosmos; it is discoverable and expressible; and it works.
And I'd venture that this is the same passion that drives scientists
today. It is the same Great Work, only with better tools.
Snow Crocus wrote:
> The definition of magic is, in and of itself, an interesting question,
> and I don't wish to sidetrack that inquiry, as such.
> But the conversation originated in a comparison of magic with science,
> and so it is apposite to also clarify what 'science' is.
> It seems to me, there are roughly three ways that the word 'science'
> is typically used:
> (1) Systematic, rational exploration of the regularities of human
> experience of the physical universe by means of empirical observation.
> (2) A certain cultural practice originating in the Western
> intellectual tradition that works by means of institutions and
> networks of practitioners to systematize, formalize, and carry out
> projects of the sort described in #1.
> (3) Faith in the results generated by #2: that they have actually been
> obtained; that they can be replicated; that they are reflective of
> some metaphysical reality. Here, the results of science #2 function
> as a sort of myth.
> Part of the difficulty that comes up in discussions of this sort is
> that, in Western culture as it is now, it is extremely difficult to
> disentangle these three meanings, when one utters the word 'science'.
> Although each of the three refers to quite different things, they are
> conflated semantically.
> The _process_ of science that we have now -- science #2, with our
> research institutions and graduate students and peer-reviewed journals
> -- although it is extremely successful, it is not the only way to
> carry out #1. Indeed, being dependent on culture and institutions --
> and, perhaps, a Kuhnian paradigm -- it is mutually exclusive with
> other implementations of #1, that are differently situated. Even
> Western science of 50 or 100 years ago is sometimes unrecognizable
> from the perspective of current concepts and institutions (cf
> especially psychology).
> There are some in the scientific world who do not believe that this is
> so. They believe that any _real_ regularity in the workings of the
> universe that a person can observe -- at any time and in any culture
> -- will also be observable within #2, and so it is meaningless to draw
> any distinction.
> I believe that this is a case of a fish being ignorant of water (ie,
> the scientist ignorant of the culture of science and its limitations
> -- some of which are deliberately self-imposed). But for this reason
> it can also be difficult to make the case, to someone who buys it
> hook, line, and sinker.
> In the case of comparison of science with magic, to the extent that
> magic engages in #1 at all (which it might or might not, depending on
> how you understand 'magic'), it operates within a cultural (or
> subcultural) context that is incompatible with #2.
> Furthermore, a person who takes #3 to excess, and believes that _only_
> things discoverable within #2 are metaphysically real ('scientism')
> may be particularly antipathetic toward a more inclusive metaphysical
> point of view.