What is Magic?

This was originally posted on my Patreon page back in October 2020. I’ve adjusted the formatting to repost it here.

In delving into witchcraft, tarot, and similar topics, I had to separate myself from the preconceptions I’ve had in my head of magic since I was old enough to be told “magic isn’t real.” I was taught witchcraft was people using bits of science mixed with folk wisdom or traditions to try to make things happen, all while waving sticks in the woods and asking for power from forces that may or may not exist. So, starting out my new exploration of the concept, I wrote that sentiment down and decided to reevaluate it once I’d found some answers.

After looking through the introductions to a half dozen witchcraft books, I wasn’t satisfied with what I was finding. I realized I wanted a more clinical, outside starting point. So… I turned to the dictionary. Merriam-Webster has multiple definitions for the word ‘magic’ but I’d like to draw your attention to this one:

magic – noun – an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source

A fun thing I like to do is to take any tangentially connected word in a definition and search that definition as well. So let’s look at ‘supernatural’:

supernatural – adjective – attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature

So in combining the two, you’d get “magic is an extraordinary power or influence that can be attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the known laws of nature.”

This sounded familiar to me. After some searching, I rediscovered an old phrase I’d fallen in love with years ago. It comes from British sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke, who is known for three adages regarding the nature of technology, human discovery, and the future. The third of which has been heavily referenced and adapted to other scenarios over the years, but the original reads as such:

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

There is only so much in the universe we can explain with science and technology as it is now. Our methods aren’t precise enough for everything in the universe. That’s why concepts like string theory exist; we just have to rely on theory for the things we can’t prove or disprove yet. Anything in the realm of technology and science of sufficient advancement, thereby pushing the limits of what we can explain, has to be attributable to a force or law of nature beyond current scientific understanding. When we become able to explain such phenomena, that which we had to take on faith becomes explainable, and a new horizon of faith is drawn further down the line of knowledge.

You know what this means? At some point, it’s all magic. At some point, no matter how much we learn, we are going to have to trust in patterns and theories, just like we trust the sun will rise in the morning. Sometimes, you just have to wave a magic wand and trust. The forces beyond human control or understanding could be any number of things, depending on how you want to see them. Whether you are right or wrong doesn’t change the fact that they are there, waiting as we slowly get one step closer at a time towards understanding.

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