Excerpts from The Woman Magician: Science and Academia

“This era, from 1500 to the mid-1800s, spans the development of science, the secularization of politics, the rise of nation states, and technological progress that resulted in increased communication and ease of travel.

Magicians practicing astrology and alchemy were attracted to courts and wealthy families. Scholars were employed at court also, translating late antique philosophical and magical texts into Western languages from Greek and Islamic sources. For example, Cosimo de Medici commissioned Marsilio Ficino to translate the Corpus Hermeticum, one of the first works to be printed and distributed in Europe.

This influx of antique thought gave rise to natural philosophy, the study of spiritualized nature. The church objected to this Pagan-influenced approach to science and enforced its spiritual monopoly by imprisoning and killing the new philosophers. A compromise permitted natural philosophers to keep their lives. The Church alone would remain in charge of spiritual matters, while philosophers could investigate the mechanical workings of the world. This mechanical philosophy developed into modern science. The split between spiritual life and scientific inquiry continues to have grave consequences today.

In this period, the centers of learning shifted from the monasteries to academies located in major cities. While women participated in the monastic system, only a few academies opened their doors to a handful of women. The development of women’s theology and philosophy closed down for a period of centuries. This continues to have grave consequences today.”

— ps. 48-49 section entitled,”Western Magic Timeline; Early Modern Period: Natural Philosophy”

“The women’s spirituality movement overlaps the neo-Pagan movement, but particularly emphasizes the study of goddesses and of historical women. Groups often limit membership to women only. Studies and practices coming from women’s spirituality groups have deeply affected academic research into goddesses and into the lives of ancient women, and have also affected theologians in all religions, who struggle with the revival of feminine aspects of deity.

Although these movements have affected the academy, the reverse is less true. The new movements shared an understandable mistrust of intellectualism and academic scholarship. In the modern period, academic discussion contrasted magic negatively with science and religion, terming magic a pseudo-science or a primitive precursor to religion, and postmodern academic studies continue to take a debunking tone towards the analysis of magical texts. Neo-Pagans do make use of academic research in religious reconstruction, approaching academic data as raw material for ritual use. This tendency to describe and make use of information is not always welcome to the academics who may feel that this process does not respect the terms under which they conduct their life work.

While the new spiritual movements are based partly on folk religion, personal insight, and academic research, the neo-Pagan and women’s spirituality movements imported the Magician’s Body of Knowledge in its entirety as a structuring framework. Since these movements resist academic thought-tools and privilege individual experience, the body of knowledge was not subjected to any systematic analysis or re-thinking. As a result, while feminism married postmodernism and set about to reform philosophy, Western magic has been left with a largely modern metaphysic.”

— p. 55 section entitled,”Post-modern magic; Neopaganism and Women’s Spirituality”


About Cammy

Self-employed freelance writer
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