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Brittani Castle Science Magic and the Occult TH 2:00-3:15pm Professor McEvoy The Relationship between Christianity and

Magic There are important and undeniable similarities between Christianity and magic. In Fact, Christianity has its roots in magic; it started off as a Gnostic cult based on certain magical ideals. This cult combined several schools of philosophical thought: Stoicism, Zoroaster, and Manichaeism. The stoics, also thought of as optimistic Gnosticism, connected nature with the divine. They organized everything into forms based upon a pervasive entity, the pneuma, rather than outside forms; they believed that the material world was not the real world but rather the real world was the pneuma as a whole and its presence in everything in the universe. They had the idea that you could find God by living in the world in a certain way; if you lived right you could get closer to God and or get to know God. Both Zoroaster and Manichaeism can be thought of as pessimistic Gnosticism, with Manichaeism being the more extreme of the two. Here the thought was that the nature world is evil and was not created by God; rather it was created by a bad deity, a bad god. They thought there were two principles, good and evil, and that they were irreducible, they exist equally with one triumphing over the other, good over evil. This lead to the idea of a good god and a bad god; the main thought was that the bad god created the material world so it must be a punishment, one that irredeemable. When the Gnostic cult of Christianity started around the second century B.C. they combined a lot of the views of both sides of Gnosticism, however later Christians began rejecting pessimistic Gnosticism, calling it heresy, in favor of a

modified view of the world, one where the material world was still fallen, but they say it as redeemable, thus creating a middle ground between the optimistic and the pessimistic of Gnosticism. Christianity was first seen as an evil cult, and Christ viewed as a powerful magician; the irony is these ideas attracted rather than repulsed the common people of the time. Early Christians enforced their magical beliefs with ritualistic healings, exorcisms, and divinations. As they struggled against the outside world, the pagan gods of the past became the demons of the Christian religion. Many pagan rituals centered in magic were incorporated into the church: the Winter Solstice became Christmas; Samhain (Halloween) became All Souls night and all saints day; etc. Christ became seen as a fertility God, the Virgin Mary a fertility goddess. In addition to adopting pagan magical ideals, the Christian also created their own magical rituals for comfort and as a source of protection: pilgrimages, the Mass, holy water, relics (the Holy Grail), protective signs and symbols (the cross; rosary). The mass became so important that it lead to distinguishing miracles from magic. As Christianity caught on an a medieval Christian Europe rose from the collapse of the roman empire, the church fathers began to reject many of the magical ideals that the religion had been based upon. While they accepted the existence of magic they were clear that magic could not exist without the devil (the bad God of old). There are also similarities between part of Christianity and the Numerical Analogies. In the philosophical believes that are the basis is magical ideals three

is a very important number. There are three levels in simplified version of the Great Chain of Being: animal, vegetable, and mineral; three parts to a person: body, spirit, and soul. In Christianity there are three divinities: Father (God), Son (Christ), and Holy Spirit; and three people in the holy family: Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. There are also similarities between the Geocentric Cosmos and the Christian organization of the universe. There was the idea that there are two realms the terrestrial and the celestial. Beyond that was nothingness. The terrestrial realm contained the earth and its contents; the celestial contained the stars, thought to be fixed, and the sun, as well as the other planets. The universe was believed to be finite with earth as its center. This lead to the creation of the Christian-Aristotelian synthesis; in this model, the center of the earth at the center of the universe became Hell, the place of the devil. This is done because earth is the fallen, the imperfect world, the terrestrial realm; therefore the devil is at the center of all imperfection. The heavens then replaced the nothingness that was beyond the celestial realm, beyond the finite universe. The angelic orders were placed in the celestial and man is placed on earth close to hell but still within sight of the heavens. This plays on the fallen but redeemable idea adopted by early Christians I see this conflict as a recurring but necessary theme throughout history. Every religion, every superstition, every belief, has to be based off of and or be a modified version of an earlier one. Our world relies on and revolves constant change. There is always going to be someone or some group who has a new idea

that they think supersedes all other previous beliefs. All modern religions started off as cults, a group of people with a radically new ideal. In my opinion the behaviors of the church upon successful implementation of Christianity was a natural one. Any movement that gains popularity is going to modify their views just enough to distance themselves from the very notions and ideals they build upon. Its a way of ensuring that the competition for followers decreases. If there are two religions that are very similar to each other then people are less apt to choose a certain one, after all there isnt a real difference is there? If one of those religions starts to modify itself just enough to denounce the teachings of the other create doubt and conflict in the peoples minds then you gain a better following. This method does not even apply strictly to religion, it is at its core simply propaganda. You find a way to turn traits of the opposition into some sort of benefit for your own agenda. Peoples thoughts and opinions constantly change, the more proactive you are, the more successful in your campaign you are. As such, the church is always going to fight anyone who challenges their hierarchy. The pagans, the first magic believers, were polytheistic and nature based, they found magic all around them; when you compare this to a religion built entirely upon the idea of monotheism and the fallen mans redemption you are going to have conflict. If the church allowed the idea of magic to continue then that would detract from their God; it would allow people to contribute and or do things for and to others that the Christians saw as reserved for god. They explained magic away as miracles, something entirely from God and separated

from the clergy, even if it is their hands that accomplish said miracle; He was working through them. Rather than seeing magic in everything around them, they saw God; everything not tangible or currently explainable was attributed to God. In a way Christians turned God into the ultimate, and only, magician; the Bible states that God said let there be light, and there was light; is that not magic? The Church still preforms exorcisms and healing rites today, much like their pagan predecessors. However, the church has limited who and when an exorcism can be performed, needing prove of possession before they will step in; does this not sound much like the superstitions of the pagans, using rites and rituals to their gods to rid themselves of perceived evils, that which they do not understand. And what is prayer but a healing rite; we pray for a sick friend or loved one to be cured; we pray for the souls of the dearly departed and the wicked; we pray for those in need. Healing is not only physical, it can be mental, it can be emotional. If healing rites and the beliefs behind them were not still valid, why do people wait hours outside the Vatican and during Papal visits just for the chance to have the Pope pray for them or someone else; why do we have faith healers, and why do people flock to them? Whether or not the church recognizes it, even while denying its pagan ancestry, the church embraces it, changing the name of rituals and rites to suit their needs. I think that much like Christianity and Protestantism and Catholicism today, early Christianity and paganism both attract and repel each other, each is

needed so that the other may survive; much like the battle between good and evil, both are equally important, even when one eventually triumphs over the other.

Works Cited Burton, Dan and David Grandy. Magic, Mystery, and Science. Indiana University Press. Indiana, 2004. Pages 123-6; 133-42. McEvoy, John. Topic 2: Magic in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds. McEvoy, John. Topic 3: Hierarchical Cosmology: Philosophical Background to Medieval and Renaissance Magic