Recently, I was involved in a conversation over the question of whether you can believe in magic and also trust in science or if the two were mutually exclusive and simply couldn't exist peacefully in the same mind.
To which I reply: Of course they can, silly.
Throughout history magic and science have been interchangeable. Magic is science. Alchemy and Astronomy has given rise to Chemistry and Astrology but there is no reason to believe that an Astronomer can't also be an Astrologer or that a Chemist cannot also be an Alchemist. Science is an exploration of the Universe based on observable phenomena and magic is an immersion in the Universe based on personal experience. Magic (and also religion) belongs to the individual and science belongs to us all. And anyway, it's a pretty poor herbalist that hasn't studied Botany and what sort of healer doesn't know Anatomy and Physiology? (Actually quite a few, I'll grant, but that's kind of terrible, don't you think?)
You see, nothing in science is real unless another scientist can follow your steps and reach the same conclusion. Thanks to science, I can take a bunch of parts and put them together in a certain way and create a thing, like say, an automobile. And you, with the same materials and the same instructions can do the exact same thing. Science is public, it's external.
Magic, however, is as real as you make it. We gain insights into our nature and the nature of the Universe through magic that we can't really explain well enough to other people for them to recreate them. And yet… and yet many people do report the same or similar experience and conclusions, they just can't explain how. Magic is about people and our inner life and it is open to interpretation, much the same way as the "soft" or Social Sciences are and Social Sciences are sketchy because it's very hard for two different scientists to have the same result from working with the same group of people because people are much too fluid for that.
If you suffer from delusions, are you suffering from a dis-ease of the spirit, or a mental illness? It is always a good idea to look for concrete physical causes for a thing and concrete cures, but oftentimes these don't work or, research has found, "magical" cures can work just as well, and in some cases better, as conventional cures for diseases of the mind and spirit. Of course, repeated exposure to the initial cause of the disease brings it right back. So, of course, medication is often the wisest course of action- the goal here is to be a functional human being, after all. We do what works. That's what our magical ancestors would have told us.
Throughout the centuries magick has been the name applied to any phenomena that we didn't understand the cause of. Many of these have ceased to be considered magical as Science has explained them. (but it doesn't make a sunrise less magical!) I am 100% confident that science will one day explain why, after I asked a bunch of local witches to help me break a drought that was supposed to last the rest of the summer, it proceeded to rain the rest of the summer. Science has confirmed that patience who are prayed over have better outcomes, but we still don't know why. It's magic.
I have never been able to understand why science and religion are supposed to be so incompatible. I met quite a few people in academia who were convinced that you must be an atheist to be a proper scientist, especially in the Social Sciences. I have never agreed with this because I have never seen a scientific theory that contradicted religious truth as I see it. I don't believe Evolution implies that there couldn't have been a conscious driving force behind it - I don't personally believe there was, I think Evolution is Chance and I think it all the more magical for it, but even without a conscious driver for that particular phenomena, it doesn't imply that a conscious driver isn't out there somewhere doing something.
In fact, the very idea that material beings evolved from single celled critters all the way up to intelligent beings implies to me that non-material beings could have evolved the same way, and the most intelligent of them would certainly be Gods to material beings that sensed them, wouldn't they? And the idea that everything that exists now (including energy) has always existed and is just recycled over and over into new things and moved around the whole universe, well.. that sounds like The All to me, and I know a lot of folks who choose to call The All "God".
As Science progresses and we start getting into the more quantum physics, the line between science and magic blurs even more. Scientists are seeing things now they just can't understand in purely scientific language, which is why we have a set of phenomena described as "spooky action at a distance1" that is, quantum entanglement which sounds an awful lot like the law of contagion, but I'm just kitchen witch.
In truth, a scientist who read this would probably be horrified, especially if they knew how much time I spent among their kind in the past. But the truth remains that magic and science are just two sides of the same coin. Both are efforts to understand and control the world we live in. One requires proof and the other requires belief. Some people won't believe without proof and that's fine; It is the people who believe in the face of contrary evidence that are dangerous. As for me, I love science and I love magic. Both fill my life with something like reverence and they live quite happily side by side. When Science has figured out how magic works, it won't make it less magical to me.
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Comments, questions, criticism?