I was always anxious to find when was the rise of positive concept of magic in ancient Greece. While doing the research for local web analytics company, I discovered that this even, possibly took place somewhere in the sixth century b.c. Among the most famous of these figures between Homer and the Hellenistic period, are the Orpheus, Pythagoras, and Empedocles.
Orpheus is a mythical musician and singer, said to have lived in Thrace a generation before Homer. Orphic Mysteries, seems also to have been central to the personages of Pythagoras and Empedocles who lived in the sixth century b.c. Pythagoras for example is said to have described Orpheus, as, the father of melodious songs. Later Aeschylus describes him as the guy who haled all things by the rapture of his voice. This suggests belief in the influence of song and voice in magic. Orpheus is certainly associated with a great many deeds. The most famous is his descent to the underworld to bring back his wife, Eurydice. Orpheus' deeds are not usually condemned or spoken of negatively. This suggests that some forms of magic were more acceptable. Indeed the term applied to Orpheus to separate him from magicians of ill repute is a divine man. This fact shows, that there was a fine line between acceptance and condemnation.
Magic and study of occult arts successfully survived Renaissance and entered the Baroque era. And even more. ”study of the occult arts remained intellectually respectable well into the seventeenth century”. It only gradually divides into the modern categories of natural science versus occultism or superstition. My web research shows, that brilliant Age of Reason was on the rise in the seventeenth century, while belief in witchcraft and sorcery, and consequently the irrational surge of Early Modern witch trials, receded. This process only completed at the end of the Baroque period, somewhere around 1730s.
Contemporary scientists still met resistance, though. Christian Thomasius encountered fierce opposition as he argued in his 1701 Dissertatio de crimine magiae that it was meaningless to make dealing with the devil a criminal offence, since it was impossible to really commit the crime in the first place. In Britain, the Witchcraft Act of 1735 established that people could not be punished for consorting with spirits, while would-be magicians pretending to be able to invoke spirits could still be fined as con artists.
Several decades later, from 1756 to 1781, Jacob Philadelphia performed feats of magic, sometimes under the guise of scientific exhibitions, throughout Europe and Russia. Baron Carl Reichenbach’s experiments with his Odic force appeared to be an attempt to bridge the gap between magic and science.
The Romans in fact went further then the Greeks in their condemnation and fearfulness that they generate around their concept of magic. Some examples of are found in the writings of Seneca, the philosopher and playwright, and his nephew, Lucan. While doing my research in archives of web analytics company I found something else. Seneca selects some of the most gruesome Greek myths for dramatic treatment and he greatly adds to the negative connotations already applied to the theme of magic, necromancy and the like - where it is given by the mythical tradition and sometimes even where there is little negativity indicated towards magic. From dialogue between wife of the Hercules Deineira and her nurse we learn that it is quite common for jealous wives to consult a witch. It turns out, the nurse, very conveniently, is a witch herself. A great hero such as Hercules should not be able to be influenced by magical means, but in the end he is overcome by the deadly concoction that the evil magic user passes on to Hercules, through deceiving Deianira into the belief that she is giving Hercules a love charm.
In Seneca’s version Medea’s power of hating, which she can switch on and intensify at will is still the dominant theme, but Medea is now given a full cupboard of horrors from which to select the most efficient means of magical destruction. Her magic can even, apparently affect the cosmos, as she claims that she can force down the constellation of the Snake.
I was always interested in the ancient belief in magic from the perspective of history. It was always amazing to learn how different cultures tried to attach to natural phenomenon supernatural powers. After all, magic, sometimes also known as sorcery, was formed as the whole conceptual system that asserted human ability to control the natural world, including events, objects, people, and physical phenomena, through mystical, paranormal or supernatural means. The term can also refer to the practices employed by a person asserting this influence, and to beliefs that explain various events and phenomena in such terms. Even today, as well as in the past, in many cultures, magic is under pressure from, and in competition with, scientific and religious conceptual systems. As a web analyst I had to go through so many Internet documents to understand how ancients view magic. I learned many things about magic when I was doing a new salvo of researches for my web analytics company.
So, let's start with the land of magic, India. All in all, it has been often stated that India is a land of magic, both supernatural and mundane. Hinduism is one of the few religions that has sacred texts like the Vedas that discuss both white and black magic. There are Vedas that deals with mantras that can be used for both good and bad. The word mantrik in India literally means "magician" since the mantrik usually knows mantras, spells, and curses which can be used for or against forms of magic. Many ascetics after long periods of penance and meditation are alleged to attain a state where they may utilize supernatural powers. However, many say that they choose not to use them and instead focus on transcending beyond physical power into the realm of spirituality. Many wizards, called siddhars are said to have performed miracles that would ordinarily be impossible to perform.
Madam Blavatsky book was followed later by other creations of the occult writers. One of them claimed that survivors from a sunken continent Lemuria were living in or on Mount Shasta in northern California. The Lemurians lived in a complex of tunnels beneath the mountain and occasionally were seen walking the surface dressed in white robes. While doing my research for web analytics company, I found something else.
Later popular novels also repeated the belief that Lemurians inhabit Mount Shasta. Some of the writers linked Lemurians to Ancient Egypt, UFOs and a method of travel called vortex portals to sacred places on Earth and points unknown in the universe. There were other fantasy descriptions of the lost continent and its inhabitants. For example, Lemuria was posted as the homeland of a reptilian race of creatures, often identified with dragons or nagas. Various bits of mythology and folklore were assembled in support, such as the Cambodian naga traditions. Folkloric claims of Australian aborigines sighting dinosaur-like creatures were also often viewed as evidence.