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The Old and the New Magic

The Old and the New Magic
Title: The Old and the New Magic
Release Date: 2018-05-01
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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THE OLD AND THE NEW MAGIC,
by Henry Ridgely Evans.

MIEUSEMENT, phot. à Blois;LECESNE, éditeur
ROBERT-HOUDIN
THE OLD AND THE NEW
MAGIC
BY
HENRY RIDGELY EVANS
ILLUSTRATED

D’rum hab’

ich mich der

Magie ergeben!

INTRODUCTION
BY
DR. PAUL CARUS
CHICAGO
THE OPEN COURT PUBLISHING CO.
KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH, TRÜBNER & CO., LIMITED. LONDON
1906
COPYRIGHT 1906
BY
THEOPENCOURTPUBLISHINGCO.
CHICAGO

SKETCH OF HENRY RIDGELY EVANS.

“Henry Ridgely Evans,journalist, author and librarian, wasborn in Baltimore, Md., November 7, 1861. He is the son ofHenry Cotheal and Mary (Garrettson) Evans. Through hismother he is descended from the old colonial families of Ridgely,Dorsey, Worthington and Greenberry, which played such aprominent part in the annals of early Maryland. Mr. Evanswas educated at the preparatory department of Georgetown(D. C.) College and at Columbian College, Washington, D. C.He studied law at the University of Maryland, and began itspractice in Baltimore City; but abandoned the legal professionfor the more congenial avocation of journalism. He servedfor a number of years as special reporter and dramatic critic onthe ‘Baltimore News,’ and subsequently became connected withthe U. S. Bureau of Education, as one of the assistant librarians.In 1891 he was married to Florence, daughter of AlexanderKirkpatrick, of Philadelphia.”—National Cyclopedia of AmericanBiography.

Mr. Evans is an ardent student of folk-lore, masonic antiquities, psychicalresearch, and occultism. Many of his writings have been contributed to theMonist and Open Court. He is the author of a work on psychical research,entitled “Hours with the Ghosts,” published in 1897, and many brochures onmagic and mysticism, etc.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

PAGE
Introduction by Dr. Paul Carus ix
History of Natural Magic
and Prestidigitation
  1
The Chevalier Pinetti 23
Cagliostro: A Study in Charlatanism 42
Ghost-making Extraordinary 87
The Romance of Automata 107
Robert-Houdin:
Conjurer, Author and Ambassador
123
Some Old-time Conjurers 160
The Secrets of Second Sight 188
The Confessions
of an Amateur Conjurer
201
A Day with Alexander the Great 215
A Twentieth Century Thaumaturgist 237
A Gentleman of Thibet 254
Magicians I Have Met 271
The Riddle of the Sphinx 318
Treweyism 331
THE OLD AND THE NEW MAGIC

INTRODUCTION.BY DR. PAUL CARUS.

The very word magic has an alluring sound, and its practice as an art willprobably never lose its attractiveness for people’sminds. But we must remember that there is a difference betweenthe old magic and the new, and that both are separated by adeep chasm, which is a kind of color line, for though the latterdevelops from the former in a gradual and natural course ofevolution, they are radically different in principle, and the newmagic is irredeemably opposed to the assumptions upon whichthe old magic rests.

Magic originally meant priestcraft. It is probable that theword is very old, being handed down to us from the Greeksand Romans, who had received it from the Persians. But theyin their turn owe it to the Babylonians, and the Babylonians tothe Assyrians, and the Assyrians to the Sumero-Akkadians.

Imga in Akkad meant priest, and the Assyrians changedthe word to maga, calling their high-priest Rab-mag; and consideringthe fact that the main business of priests in ancienttimes consisted in exorcising, fortune-telling, miracle-working,and giving out oracles, it seems justifiable to believe that thePersian term, which in its Latin version is magus, is derivedfrom the Chaldæan and is practically the same; for the connotationof a wise man endowed with supernatural powers hasalways been connected with the word magus, and even to-daymagician means wizard, sorcerer, or miracle-worker.{x}

While the belief in, and practice of, magic are not entirelyabsent in the civilization of Israel, we find that the leaders oforthodox thought had set their faces against it, at least as itappeared in its crudest form, and went so far as to persecutesorcerers with fire and sword.

SAULANDTHEWITCHOFENDOR.(After Schnorr von Carolsfeld.)

We read in the Bible that when the Lord “multiplied hissigns” in Egypt, he sent Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh to turntheir rods into serpents, that the Egyptian magicians vied withthem in the performance, but that Aaron’s rod swallowed uptheir rods, demonstrating thus Aaron’s superiority. It is aninteresting fact that the snake charmers of Egypt perform to-daya similar feat, which consists in paralyzing a snake so as torender it motionless. The snake then looks like a stick, but isnot rigid. {xi}

JESUSCASTINGOUTDEVILS (After Schnorr von Carolsfeld.)

Symbolizing Christ’s power even over demons, according to the view ofearly Christianity.

CHRISTWITHTHEWAND.

From a Christian Sarcophagus.†

† Reproduced from Mrs. Jameson’s and Lady Eastlake’sHistory of our Lord, London, 1872, Longmans, Green & Co., Vol.I., pp. 347 and 349.

{xii}

How tenacious the idea is that religion is and must be magic,appears from the fact that even Christianity shows traces of it.In fact, the early Christians (who, we must remember, recruitedtheir ranks from the lowly in life) looked upon Christ as a kindof magician, and all his older pictures show him with a magician’swand in his hand. The resurrection of Lazarus, thechange of water into wine, the miracle of the loaves and fishes,the healing of diseases by casting out devils, and kindred miracles,according to the notions of those centuries, are performedafter the fashion of sorcerers.

The adjoined illustration, one ofthe oldest representations of Christ,has been reproduced from Rossi’sRoma Sotterranea (II, Table 14). Itis a fresco of the catacombs, discoveredin the St. Callisto Chapel, and is datedby Franz Xaver Kraus (Geschichteder christlichen Kunst, I, p. 153) atthe beginning of the third century.Jesus holds in his left hand the scriptures,while his right hand grasps thewand with which he performs themiracle. Lazarus is represented as amummy, while one of his sisters kneelsat the Saviour’s feet.

Goethe introduces the belief in magic into the very plot ofFaust. In his despair at never finding the key to the world-problemin science, which, as he thinks, does not offer what weneed, but useless truisms only, Faust hopes to find the royalroad to knowledge by supernatural methods. He says:

Therefore, from Magic I seek assistance,
That many a secret perchance I reach
Through spirit-power and spirit-speech,
And thus the bitter task forego
Of saying the things I do not know,—
That I may detect the inmost force
Which binds the world, and guides its course;
Its germs, productive powers explore,
And rummage in empty words no more!”
{xiii}
MOSESANDAARONPERFORMINGTHEMIRACLEOFTHESERPENTSBEFOREPHARAOH
(After Schnorr von Carolsfeld.)
THEEGYPTIANSNAKENAJAHAJEMADEMOTIONLESSBYPRESSUREUPONTHENECK
(Reproduced from Verworn after Photographs.)
{xiv}

Faust follows the will o’ the wisp of pseudo-science, and sofinds his efforts to gain useful knowledge balked. He turnsagnostic and declares that we cannot know anything worth knowing.He exclaims:

That which we do not know is dearly needed;
And what we need we do not know.”

And in another place:

I see that nothing can be known.”

But, having acquired a rich store of experience, Faust, at theend of his career, found out that the study of nature is not auseless rummage in empty words, and became converted toscience. His ideal is a genuinely scientific view of nature. Hesays:

Not yet have I my liberty made good:
So long as I can’t banish magic’s fell creations
And totally unlearn the incantations.
Stood I, O Nature, as a man in thee,
Then were it worth one’s while a man to be.
And such was I ere I with the occult conversed,
And ere so wickedly the world I cursed.”

To be a man in nature and to fight one’s way to liberty is amuch more dignified position than to go lobbying to the courtsof the celestials and to beg of them favors. Progress does notpursue a straight line, but moves in spirals or epicycles. Periodsof daylight are followed by nights of super­sti­tion. So it happenedthat in the first and second decades of the nineteenthcentury the rationalism of the eighteenth century waned, not tomake room for a higher rationalism, but to suffer the old bugbearsof ghosts and hobgoblins to reappear in a reactionary movement.Faust (expressing here Goethe’s own ideas) continues:

Now fills the air so many a haunting shape,
That no one knows how best he may escape.
What though the day with rational splendor beams,
The night entangles us in webs of dreams.
By super­sti­tion constantly ensnared,
It spooks, gives warnings, is declared.
Intimidated thus we stand alone.
The portal jars, yet entrance is there none.”
{xv}

The aim of man is his liberty and independence. As soonas we understand that there are no spooks that must be conciliatedby supplications and appeased, but that we stand in naturefrom which we have grown in constant interaction between ourown aspirations and the natural forces regulated by law, weshall have confidence in our own faculties, which can be increasedby investigation and a proper comprehension of conditions, andwe shall no longer look beyond but around. Faust says:

A fool who to the Beyond his eyes directeth
And over the clouds a place of peers detecteth.
Firm must man stand and look around him well,
The world means something to the capable.”

This manhood of man, to be gained by science through theconquest of all magic, is the ideal which the present age is strivingto attain, and the ideal has plainly been recognized by leadersof human progress. The time has come for us “to put awaychildish things,” and to relinquish the beliefs and practices ofthe medicine-man.

The old magic is sorcery, or, considering the impossibilityof genuine sorcery, the attempt to practise sorcery. It is basedupon the pre-scientific world-conception, which in its primitivestage is called animism, imputing to nature a spiritual life analogousto our own spirit, and peopling the world with individualpersonalities, spirits, ghosts, goblins, gods, devils, ogres, gnomesand fairies. The old magic stands in contrast to science; itendeavors to transcend human knowledge by supernatural methodsand is based upon the hope of working miracles by theassistance of invisible presences or intelligences, who, accordingto this belief, could be forced or coaxed by magic into an alliance.The savage believes that the evil influence of the powersof nature can be averted by charms or talismans, and their aidprocured by proper incantations, conjurations and prayers.

The world-conception of the savage is long-lingering, andits influence does not subside instantaneously with the firstappearance of science. The Middle Ages are full of magic, andthe belief in it has not died out to this day.

The old magic found a rival in science and has in all itsaspects, in religion as well as in occultism, in mysticism andobscurantism, treated science as its hereditary enemy.It is now {xvi}succumbing in the fight, but in the meantime a new magic hasoriginated and taken the place of the old, performing miraclesas wonderful as those of the best conjurers of former days, nay,more wonderful; yet these miracles are accomplished with thehelp of science and without the least pretense of supernaturalpower.

The new magic originated from the old magic

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