picking on Lonnie

January 10, 2009

On a previous post, commenter Lonnie detailed some things regarding his view of paganism. I wanted to dissect his argument for sake of illuminating a couple of my own views and some facts that are misrepresented. No discourtesy to you, Lonnie, but you made some points that need addressing on the whole. I thank you for commenting.

Lonnie began by defending the idea that paganism and magic should not be defined, which is a cornerstone of pagan philosophy to this day. If we don’t revert to a solid definition of what magic is, or what paganism is, then we are possibly giving up the opportunity for any kind of unified ideals. While I’m all for the freedom of paganism, I think there are certain ideals that can be laid out and specified, and doing so will only help the greater populace.

Lonnie also included this:

There is strong evidence that magic was not seen as particularly supernatural until relatively modern times. Isaac Newton, the founder of physics, was also equally known for his explorations into alchemy. The fact is that at one point in time, there was effectively no difference between those practicing “magic” and those practicing “Science”. It wasn’t until much more modern times that Science sought to differentiate itself as a separate discipline, both as a means of weeding out unfounded superstitions, and to separate itself from religious practices.

To be honest, regarding the idea that magic and science were once on the same footing, we should not constantly hold to the ideals of our forefathers. That’s called “getting stuck in a rut.” If we did this, we would not have electronics, particle physics, relativity theory, or general health practices that we do today. To stick with the idea that magic and science are the same is a property of High Magick and Qabbalah. Magic, in a Wiccan and general Pagan sphere, is more akin to art, where rules are meant to be broken and convention lasts only as long as people like it to.

Now, regarding Houdini as a promoter that magic is not understandable, he was actually a great skeptic, promoting the idea that stage magic was merely for show, and that practitioners of “magic” in the private sector were charlatans at best. The secrets of magic are only held as a sort of real power by the most arrogant of stage performers, such as Uri Geller, who has been shown to be a fake from one end of the spectrum to the other.

The idea that magic is part of the supernatural and thus not part of the natural word violates a pretty important part of human existence. Our brains are really only able of pinning down explanations for things that are rooted in the natural. All the things that man claims are “supernatural” and “beyond true comprehension” are just that, and thus beyond the realm of true explanation and real discovery. So, at best, if it is real, it is a series of guesses and suppositions. If magic is real and is explainable, then it does exist in the natural, and will violate many of its own premises. A huge paradox.

Again, thanks for commenting, Lonnie. I want this dialogue to continue on many fronts, so keep posting, folks!



  1. Hah, I think you missed most of my point. My point was not that the terms paganism and magic should not be defined, quite the opposite… My point is that you shouldn’t allow other groups to define your words for you. There’s a significant difference there.

    One analogy might be how conservative evangelical christians are fond of saying that Catholics are not real Christians. Should Catholics just give up and choose another word for themselves? Why not?

    I’d argue that our choice to use words like “pagan” and “magic” is a way of proactively challenging societies definitions of those words. I’m well aware of the work of folks like Houdini to debunk spiritualists (and rightly so). The inadvertant damage done by him and his trade was to substitute “magic tricks” for the kind of “magic” practiced by Newton, and thus muddy the definition into something which, by definition, could not exist.

    I’m neither arguing that science and magic, as practiced by modern pagans, should necessarily be the same thing. I am, however, arguing for a concept of magic that is naturalistic and not in conflict with science and reason. I’m not arguing that we should return to Alchemy, but rather consider the idea that the natural world could be “magical”.

  2. Ha, well in that case I agree with you. I’m a big fan of keeping reality real and keeping the stuff that isn’t necessarily provable in an empirical sense separate.

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