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Nicolas de Warren examines not just a lesser-known text by Cassirer – Form and Technology – but also a symbolic form that has received little attention. This chapter reconstructs Cassirer's contribution to the animated debates about the value and dangers of technological power in Germany after the First World War. On the one hand, De Warren examines both the affinity and the differences between technical artefacts and language (as tools) and between technological and mythical consciousness (as magical), thus cutting out an indispensable role for the symbolic form of technology within the whole of human culture. At the same time, De Warren presents Cassirer's understanding of this form as indicative for his overall view of the relation between form and freedom, thus illustrating Cassirer's assessment of modern thought. Ultimately, technology is shown to have a moral status for Cassirer (only) in the sense that it strives toward the self-realization of human freedom.
In this volume, Rebekah Compton offers the first survey of Venus in the art, culture, and governance of Florence from 1300 to 1600. Organized chronologically, each of the six chapters investigates one of the goddess's alluring attributes – her golden splendor, rosy-hued complexion, enchanting fashions, green gardens, erotic anatomy, and gifts from the sea. By examining these attributes in the context of the visual arts, Compton uncovers an array of materials and techniques employed by artists, patrons, rulers, and lovers to manifest Venusian virtues. Her book explores technical art history in the context of love's protean iconography, showing how different discourses and disciplines can interact in the creation and reception of art. Venus and the Arts of Love in Renaissance Florence offers new insights on sight, seduction, and desire, as well as concepts of gender, sexuality, and viewership from both male and female perspectives in the early modern era.
This introductory chapter provides broad overviews of science, religion, and magic, placing them in historical contexts and establishing some preliminary connections between them. After a brief summary of European society around the year 1400, including the effects of the Black Plague on urbanization and feudalism, the chapter outlines four major themes that run throughout the book: the influence of classical antiquity; the relationship between God and nature; the problem of occult or hidden causes; and the interconnectedness of the premodern world.
During the Renaissance, medical practitioners embraced both magic and astrology in their efforts to heal the sick and wounded. They believed that the planets affected human health in profound but mysterious ways, and physicians routinely cast the horoscopes of their patients as part of their healing regimens. Some went so far as to harness the power of the heavens with astrological magic, crafting talismans to draw down beneficial influences from particular planets. These practices were rooted in ancient beliefs that the human body was the microcosm or “little world” that mirrored the structure of the wider universe, or macrocosm. These same ideas also informed the teachings of the medical reformer Paracelsus (1493-541), who advocated for the inclusion of astrology, alchemy, and magic in the practice of medicine. Rejecting the standard medical education, he advised instead that the physician should wander the world, seeking the hidden secrets implanted in plants and minerals by God. Nature itself was the divine apothecary, offering everything required to heal the sick, and for Paracelsus the discovery of medical properties in natural things was an act of piety and veneration.
When Marsilio Ficino (1433-99) translated the ancient Corpus Hermeticum in 1460 and unlocked the secrets of the mysterious figure known as Hermes Trismegistus, he discovered a wellspring of knowledge that promised to transform humanity’s understanding of both the world and its Creator. He and many others believed that the writings of Hermes conveyed the prisca sapientia, or ancient wisdom, once vouchsafed to Adam in the Garden but then lost after humanity’s fall from divine grace. The philosophical tradition known as hermeticism quickly spread across Renaissance Europe, alongside renewed interest in the mystical Judaic practice of the Kabbalah, another source of wisdom that sought to reveal the hidden traces of God in the universe. These traditions of learned magic inspired the archetypal Renaissance magus, the English philosopher John Dee (1527-608), in his quest for knowledge. He conversed with angels and advised some of Europe’s most powerful monarchs, but like the fictional figure of Faustus, who dabbled in dark arts and damned himself for eternity, Dee had to contend with the distrust and fear of contemporaries who believed that magic was the work of demons.
The Enlightenment was the defining cultural and intellectual movement of the eighteenth century. Also known as the Age of Reason, it is generally viewed by historians as the emergence of the modern West. Enlightenment thinkers championed rationality and upheld Newtonian science, with its emphasis on natural laws, as the preeminent description of the natural world. The rise of religious tolerance across Europe, challenges to the cultural authority of organized religion, and the emergence of rational forms of religion such as deism all combined to produce a more secular mindset among the educated classes. Those same individuals also dismissed magic as a delusion of the ignorant and superstitious, but more recent scholarship has challenged the narrative of “disenchantment” in which magical beliefs and practices supposedly disappeared as rationality increased. In fact, occult philosophies and traditions from hermeticism to alchemy had already put their indelible stamp on the development of “scientific” disciplines long before the Enlightenment began. By 1750, the complex relationships between science, religion, and magic had assumed a configuration familiar to many people today.
Witch hunts raged for almost 300 years across Europe and its colonies, claiming the lives of some 50,000 women, men, and children. At their height, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, magistrates and inquisitors tortured those suspected of witchcraft in desperate attempts to uncover their confederates and prove their fealty to the Devil himself. Many people believed that their friends and neighbors had made wicked pacts with Satan and practiced harmful magic that destroyed crops, sickened livestock, and murdered the innocent. Lurid tales of secret gatherings, where witches worshipped the Devil and ate the flesh of unbaptized infants, combined with widespread economic hardship, famine, and war to produce unprecedented levels of paranoia and anxiety that lasted for generations. Theologians and philosophers accused witches of engaging in sexual intercourse with demons, the ruling classes led brutal purges of rebels and heretics, and practitioners of folk magic — healers, midwives, soothsayers — went from respected members of their communities to suspected witches.
From the recovery of ancient ritual magic at the height of the Renaissance to the ignominious demise of alchemy at the dawn of the Enlightenment, Mark A. Waddell explores the rich and complex ways that premodern people made sense of their world. He describes a time when witches flew through the dark of night to feast on the flesh of unbaptized infants, magicians conversed with angels or struck pacts with demons, and astrologers cast the horoscopes of royalty. Ground-breaking discoveries changed the way that people understood the universe while, in laboratories and coffee houses, philosophers discussed how to reconcile the scientific method with the veneration of God. This engaging, illustrated new study introduces readers to the vibrant history behind the emergence of the modern world.
The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose (CA) owns a small but important collection of unpublished Coptic papyri and parchments. One notable papyrus preserves a unique text in which the practitioner invokes an unnamed female figure to help a woman protect her “purity,” “virginity,” and “marriage.” Although the specific context behind the text is not altogether clear and the appeal for virginity in marriage is curious and without parallel in other magical texts, one possibility is to see the text in light of the Christian practice of celibate marriage whereby a male and female entered into a non-sexual marriage.
The sixth chapter focuses on Victorian anxieties about the empire’s powerful women, as reflected in Yusuf Khan Kambalposh’s Urdu travelogue, Tarikh-i-Yusufi. Published in 1847, it records the dreamlike vision of the Lucknow Muslim captain who arrived in England on August 1837 and three months later witnessed Queen Victoria’s stately procession for the Lord Mayor’s feast. In Yusuf’s eyes, this spectacle renders Britain a fairyland, an immersive virtual world indeterminately woven with the actual and the artificial. Its wonders emanate from visual recreations like Astley’s Amphitheater, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Diorama, the Colosseum, Vauxhall Gardens, Madam Tussauds Wax Museum, and the British Museum – what he calls “magic houses” that connect disparate geographies, creeds, and languages virtually. Through his repartee with female fairies in these tourist sites, he imagines an ephemeral empire of strangers. Refashioning his masculinity in this empire, he behaves like the autonomous subject of a new female monarch who is yet to become an icon of imperial self-confidence.
A major twenty-first-century fiction, Haruki Murakami’s novel 1Q84 confirms the continuing force of global magical realism. Our analysis centers on a crucial question for magical realist texts: What does their magic achieve? This epic love story chronicles the separation and ultimate reunion of Tengo and Aomame in twentieth-century Tokyo. In its course, the novel’s 'proximate magic' uses magical events and phenomena to draw isolated people together within the city: Tengo writes a story containing two moons and then he and Aomame see two moons in the sky; Tengo sleeps with Fuka Eri and Aomame becomes pregnant, disturbing habitual ideas of space and identity as many magical realist fictions do. This interpersonal magic, together with magical intersections of separate worlds (including – on a metafictional level – the conflation of separate texts) addresses the problem of the separation between inhabitants of a megalopolis, remedying the alienation they experience. Such cultural work needs magic to overcome these strongly divisive social forces.
This chapter makes a case for the value of examining magical realism’s many intersections with religion, a topic that has been undertreated in Anglophone scholarship. While the global corpus of magical realist literature has drawn from countless religious resource bases, faith in magical realism has been thought of almost exclusively as indigenous faiths for reasons this chapter explores. In contrast, the mode has been considered as especially antithetical to Christianity, even though we can trace the latter within some of the earliest self-professed magical realist narratives, and many subsequent ones. It is in direct response to these dual misconceptions that this chapter focuses on magical realist narratives that utilize Christianity and narratives that utilize indigenous religious, showing, for example, how we might see within both the use of common narrative strategies and effects. By addressing these two poles, the author encourages an open understanding of the mode’s potential relation to any religious resource base. The chapter concludes that while the term 'magic' itself is freighted, the form can be amicable towards religious practitioners and sensibilities. We see this in a couple of ways. First, magical realism’s structural configuration can be – and is – understood as pointing to a multidimensional human world. Second, the mode can provide a phenomenological account of religion, or an experience of belief from the inside.
This chapter attempts in brief to rethink the history of magic by considering its relations with otherness. Otherness is conceived of as a relative and dynamic category, generated as the necessary result of claims to truth. The long history of the term 'magic' is characterised throughout by attempts to other it. The chapter pauses on several key moments in this history, ancient and medieval, before considering in slightly more detail the consequences of the Protestant Reformation for the imposition of a modern conception of magic. The rise of science and discourses of objectivity provide impetus for the modern othering of magic, and literature’s role in this process is examined through a focus on the rise of realism. The chapter then shows how the breakdown of consensus about the nature of reality in the early twentieth century leads to new forms of artistic expression, central among which is magical realism. It argues that throughout this long history magic, in a variety of forms, has displayed an extraordinary resilience, retaining its capacity to express important aspects of experience, society and meaning.
This chapter explores the role and function of occult forces in South Asian bazaars. Drawing mainly, but not exclusively, on material from eastern South Asia, it challenges the repeated attempts by scholars to read these forces along functionalist lines. Instead, it demonstrates that there is a substantial body of formalized textual knowledge which theorizes the nature, role, and application of these forces. This knowledge is available, in the bazaar itself, in a specialized genre of printed books. The chapter argues against mapping the knowledge produced in these books within the category of “religion,” since the emphasis on belief and bounded identities that have become germane to modern ideas of “religion” are inapplicable to the practices of the occult bazaar. The occult bazaar, it is argued, should be treated as a distinctive sphere of abstraction that is separate from, though interacting with, the more formalized and well-known abstraction of “the economy.”
While examining the theological, ideological and sociological dimensions of the Sabbatean messianic movement, and sketching its major figures, the chapter is aimed at uncovering less famous kabbalistic schools and movements in the seventeenth century. These go beyond the continued editing, formulation and influence of Safedian Kabbalah, with the philosophically oriented interpreters of Kabbalah in Italy being of special interest. Against the backdrop of the general crisis of the century and particularly the growing insecurity of European Jewry, the development of nationalistic Kabbalah, especially in Prague, especially its focus on the Land of Israel, is examined. The role played by Musar (self-perfection) literature and magic in popularizing Kabbalah, the reception of Christianized Kabbalah amongst elites in several Protestant countries complement the picture of the growing sway of this lore during the course of the century. However, the very success of Kabbalah also generated a range of critical responses, expanding from Italy into northern Europe (including non-Jews). Tellingly, these included cautions against its early study found in central legal codes.
This chapter examines modern Kabbalah’s autonomous yet continuous relationship with premodern Kabbalah. Its autonomy is attributed to various external factors such as new technologies, geopolitical and ideological shifts, vernacular developments and dramatic historical events. These factors are evident in the self-consciousness of modern kabbalists and reflected in a shift toward larger fraternal groups, as well as increasingly disseminated personal, exoteric styles of writing. The continuity is presented through a synopsis of medieval Kabbalah, which addresses a few continuous themes: exegesis, which includes a discussion of the commitment to certain sacral texts as well as its theosophy (primarily the sefirotic system), theurgy, gender and magic (albeit with some reservation). This synopsis concludes with a comparative reflection addressing medieval Kabbalah’s relationship to Christianity and Islam. The author closes by stressing that modern kabbalists inherited not a doctrine but a series of complexities and debates, which, fueled by the dynamic processes of modernity, accounts for the richness and vastness that is modern Kabbalah.
Jonathan Garb's A History of Kabbalah: From the Early Modern Period to the Present Day is a lucid and sophisticated account of the multifaceted nature of Jewish mysticism, focusing on its development from the spiritual revolution that took place in Safed in the sixteenth century until the present. Opening the secrets of the kabbalah to a wider audience, Garb judiciously argued that how important the mystical and esoteric tradition has been in Jewish history and in the cultural and intellectual life of Europe more generally. One of the more methodologically innovative aspects of Garb's book is his contention that kabbalah became a major factor in the religious life of Jews in the modern age due to print and others forms of rapid communication, a process that has magnified significantly in recent years due to the digital revolution. Informative and provocative, A History of Kabbalah will surely be of interest to a wide readership.
Upper Egyptian iconography early on equates warfare and hunting as corresponding, ritualised displays of the triumph of order over chaos. Within rituals, displays of physical prowess may represent military activity, and within the realm of actual warfare the subjugation of foreigners may take the form of ritual execrations and the ritualised display of both living and deceased enemies. In the practice of war the Egyptians emphasised manoeuvre over the clash of a shield wall, and captured enemies appear on the whole to have been given a route to acculturation through service to the pharaonic state. Literary sources reveal the use of epistolary taunts in addition to physical violence. As part of the Egyptian concept of the enemy as the opposite of Egypt and order, foreign women tend to appear in a more positive light than do male enemies, and no evidence appears for sexual violence as an element of sanctioned warfare.
This chapter focuses on the first known example of an extensive Jewish demonology − that is, the Book of the Watchers. It interprets its demonology in relation to the angelology of the Astronomical Book as well as evidence for ancient Jewish "magic."
All religions describe spiritual experience as pleasant, and the goal of the religious pursuit as profoundly joyful. But many religions also condemn sensory pleasures and the desire for objects of pleasure. In this book, Ariel Glucklich resolves this apparent contradiction by showing how religious practices that instill self-control and discipline transform one type of pleasure into the pleasures of mastery and play. Using historical data and psychological analysis, he details how the rituals, mystical practices, moral teachings, and sacred texts of the world's religions act as psychological instruments that induce well-being. Glucklich also shows that in promoting joy and pleasure, religion also strengthens social bonds and enhances an individual's pursuit of meaning.